Why I wake up in the morning

(or more accurately, late afternoon)

and give a shit about the world

123, 4, 5


Wun Min sums it up perfectly:

I was reminded over the past few days how lucky I am to belong to the US Malaysian gang. The summer mamak Friday nights, the enthusiasm and selflessness of everyone in sharing their college application experience, the bitching and hyperness during essay reviews, the bonding we share over email spamming. It has been amazing; I couldn’t have asked for a better set of friends. :’)

I’ve written about the loud and obnoxious US contingent, but really, this is from the heart.

I said this at the workshop, and I’ll say it here. I think US > UK. For various reasons. And for the simplest and crudest of measurements, you almost never see anyone from the UK or Oxbridge coming back to promote UK/Oxbridge education. (The Oxbridge debates are a top-down thing lah, not student-spearheaded.) I think the US gang is special, if only because they’re (read: Chen Chow) so much more enthusiastic about sharing their experiences/spreading knowledge. Somehow I feel that US people just exude more energy: they are more vibrant and vivacious; excitement just emanates from what they do.

I think Zhi Wei — who (like Emily) is going to the UK but has an American soul — shares my views after meeting the US contingent at the US Apps Workshop and the Better Malaysia forum, eh? 🙂

I love you all.

When you have dinosaurs (Nat that means you) hanging out with kids it means that the kids quite happening lah. 🙂

Our essay thread alone had 296 emails, most of which were gossip/bitching.

I want to put screenshots of emails/feedback from the participants as well, but that wouldn’t be proper. 😦

But I very itchy.


I thought that the third day of the workshop was very honest: I loved how the faciliators opened up and shared their stories and became vulnerable and human. I loved how the participants opened up when asked to do the 25 random things meme that was all the rage on facebook a couple of months ago. From now on I shall write in vague, ambiguous terms (i.e. kid) so as not to give away anything that was revealed in confidence.

But I’m still very itchy. Ah, the perils of the internet.

I think I was very lucky: I’ve had two amazing groups in two weeks. While initially my group was hesitant in sharing, after a while the atmosphere really warmed up as people started to interject and ask questions and go off on tangents. Loved it. In the end some kids who didn’t do the 25 things meme/weren’t prepared/shy were actually volunteering to speak. So cute! We talked about bananas and teachers and cockroaches and gender and identity and love and ants and Cambodia and bribes and girls and Japanese models and replacing daughters and accents and screaming and tomatoes, and it was fantastic.

My favourite part of the workshop was the mock interview session. We got a couple of kids to come out and grilled them with questions. Chen Chow was quite scary, actually. 🙂 I particularly loved the dynamic between a couple of kids who were asked if marijuana should be legalized. This issue was brought up as a possible interview question two weeks ago, and John thought that it would be an excellent idea to see if the kids had actually gone back and done some research. And we were vindicated: the kids expounded on pertinent, major points, the issues progressed as if it were a real debate, and I was smiling ear-to-ear.

One other kid was also very impressive: he was in favour of not lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 on the basis of maturity. When asked why one could smoke and drink (alcohol) and watch porn at 18 but not vote until 21, he smiled and used the very important delaying tactic: “that’s a very good question.” Hahaha. But he would come back within two minutes with grace and aplomb: his acceptable rebuttal was that while kids under 18 were more concerned with education policies, kids at 21 would be more exposed to policies in other spheres as well, making them more informed voters.

Anand asked the most provocative question of all: why is the audience today predominantly Chinese? I loved the courage of the kids in facing uncertainty: they knew that they were going to be bombarded with controversial questions, but they still rose up to the challenge. Especially the kid who answered this question.

So my one biggest regret when applying to US colleges: not knowing Chen Chow. 😦 Kids nowadays so lucky. 😦

A blogpost is not kamil (Arabic: perfect, full, complete) without a rant, so here goes. While we all know that I’m uber judgmental, I think I have a soft spot for kids outside of KL-PJ. If you are from the Klang Valley, if you are richer than me, if both your parents are professionals, if you go to a school that I know is good, I expect you to know shit. You’ve had all the exposure and opportunity in the world: I expect you to have done something with it. Don’t come to me with vague, generic questions like “how ah?” or “what activities can i do ah?” I want to see that spark in your eyes, that fire in your heart, that piercing inquisitiveness that emanates when you talk to me about yourself and what you care about and what you want to do.

Conversely, I cut kids from outside KL-PJ (and maybe Penang and Kuching) some/a lot of slack. I think that it is already amazing that they’re bucking the system and looking at US universities. I think the KL-PJ centricity of everything Malaysian is unhealthy, and I will support diversity in representation to undermine this Klang Valley hegemony.


Another love moment was Su Ann’s answer to a kid’s question: pinkpau said that we might not be the most qualified people to talk about (something) since we were having existential crises. 🙂 How true —  but that is for another post.

Related tangent: I liked this comment about Hafiz’s article

The thing is, your article could’ve been published a decade or two ago, and bar the linguistic innovations since then and the more contemporary issues, would not have been out of place.

Waves and waves of young idealists have felt the way you do, that this wave is different etc. etc., and then slowly merged into the ranks of the pessimistic “older generation” you speak of.

Perhaps as an analogy, the idealist colliding with the reality of the complexities of the system on which he wants to impose his ideals on is akin to your enthusiasm for carbon trading colliding with the intricacies of its economics – they end up being messed up and lost.

Also, be wary that you, and numerous idealists as well as those who patronise more progressive publications such as this one are urban middle-class folks, who are not only not monolithic in its public opinion, but much more minuscule in the great patchwork of societies that is Malaysia. Our impact is thus far less than we’d like to think it is.

Perhaps what is a bright spot is that unlike previous generations of young people, we are a product of a much larger population boom and hence we constitute a relatively larger force than previous young generations.



And thus at the end of the day I was very tired, but very fulfilled.


Filed under Blogroll, Education, Events, I like, Rants, Swarthmore

12 responses to “USApps2009

  1. caramel.nut

    There’s no ‘I like’ button in WordPress. 😛

    Why is Chen Chow teddy bear btw? And I think we have more than 296 emails if we add up all the email threads (workshop, essays, etc etc). Haha.

    • i know they really should add one yah? and on plurk as well.

      chen chow is teddy bear because hes so cute and cuddly and you can never get mad at him!!!! plus he never gets mad at you. which is a good thing unless youre a stupid parent or student who calls him at 4 am –> and in this case i will personally scold you for chen chow.

      if we add them all up we probably have 700 emails man.

  2. Andrew Wong

    Wah…I’m feeling kinda left out. I’m also part of the US-based Malaysian contingent. But how come I’m never in the loop? Tak syak lagi…ini diskriminasi.

  3. flory

    only regarding 28 days, i think – the amount of musical trash i have on my computer is kind of embarrassing >.<

    yeah chen chow for teddy bear!

  4. carol


    i miss you all lor 😦 😦 😦

    i miss the email threads boohoo forget me oredi la 😥


  5. D.

    facebook messages, gchat all also kena copy pasted here. oh andrewww. how true, how true ❤

  6. andrew was hafiz writing about you guys in the second half of the article? 🙂

  7. Pingback: US Apps 2010 « Ironic Paradox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s