fall travel series – boston & delton

14917116_10154035878769117_8335156081100326499_o

8 years ago, when I was 15, I made my first trip to the U.S. The first city I ever saw was Boston. I had the privilege of being introduced to America through this charming community and remember good times. 8 years later, I realize I didn’t remember much about the city as much as I expected, mainly because I was trying to take in the overall vibe of the US. This time, I went back with a purpose. Let’s see the historic city and get some lobster while I’m at it.

Boston
boston_freedomtrail

Boston is probably as historic as it gets with the US, alongside companions like Philadelphia.  One of the best ways to see how “New England”, which was essentially colonized America, broke away and became independent is to follow the Freedom Trail, a 1.5-3 hour walking trail that brings you through not only most of historical Boston, but also major food and cultural attractions as well. I learned so much about the US’s major independence leaders through this trail, starting at the Boston Commons.boston_union

One of my favorite stops was the Union Oyster House. Union is the oldest restaurant still running in the whole of the US and by extension is not only part of the Freedom Trail, it’s also a major US relic. The restaurant is still alive and well, and I had the pleasure of being their first customer of the day and getting a place at their historical Oyster Bar. I didn’t grab oysters this time, but apparently the shuckers here are in the Top 3 for Oyster Shucking nationwide annually.boston_quincy

Another one of my favorite stops on the trail was the Quincy market area. Sam Adams stands adjacent to the area, and invites you to partake in the delectable offerings of the market behind him. From fried oysters to Thai food, the market is quite the sight. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see street performances on the walkways, which are definitely worth stopping a while for.

Continue on the trail and you’ll reach North End, which is essentially the Italian Village in Boston. This was by far one of my favorite parts of Boston because of its rich heritage and affordable food. You feel like you’re immersing yourself in this new world when you pay close attention to people, architecture and mannerisms all around. boston_harbor

And of course, the harbor. Boston is famous for many things, but its port was what made it functional. The view is beautiful from the Waterfront and you feel the same calming vibe of Boston just pronounce itself clearly here.boston_samadams

If you have more time in Boston, there’s definitely neighborhoods you can visit too. Cambridge is a natural choice, and I explored it with my host pretty extensively. South Boston is also increasingly recommended as a site to go to, and if you want something laid back, Jamaica Plains is where you should look. I went to check out the Sam Adams Craft Brewery in JP and it was definitely one of my favorite Brewery tours I had been on. The tour guides are very entertaining and the tours provide  a lot of knowledge on one of the US’s oldest craft breweries.

Now, food. Boston has a lot of great food options. Seafood is definitely on the plate, but so is Italian, and a growing New American scene. It’s an exciting time in the culinary world for Boston.boston_lobsterroll

I was insistent on having one of the best Lobster Rolls in Boston. After all, I could get Lobster imported in Chicago, but if I was in Boston, I only wanted the best. I couldn’t go to Neptune Oyster, which apparently had the very best roll, but James Hook and Co wasn’t far off at all. This small shack by the Waterfront is unassuming and a really good value for money deal, given the amount of lobster meat they put in the roll. I was blissful after this meal.boston_mikes

Another place that was highly recommended was Mike’s Pastry. Mike’s is in North End and it sells a variety of Italian Baked Goods, but primarily Cannolis.boston_cannoli

There’s really not a lot I can say about this place other than that it definitely meets the hype. These are some of the best damn cannolis I’ve had in my life, aside from the ones I ate in Rome, and the variety of flavors really don’t make it easy pickings. I had to eat my one cannoli in two servings because it was well stuffed and full of flavor.boston_chowda

Clam Chowdah is a Bostonian classic, and the Union Oyster House serves bowls up at a regular rate. Creamy, chunky and delicious – I definitely enjoyed this mid-day slurp with my beer. You can probably order other seafood here too, but the chowder is a staple.boston_jplicks

For some reason, almost 70% of the recommendations I was given for Boston were dessert recommendations, so I had to check some of them out. JP Licks was my choice and I wasn’t disappointed by both the rich flavors and wholesome satisfaction of the ice cream. A lot of ice cream these days tend to be empty, but JP Licks definitely gives you your money’s worth.delton_aldenharlow

And finally, in my effort to discover more of New American cuisine, which focuses a lot on farm to table and locally sourced food, Alden & Harlow is in bougie Cambridge and does exactly that. The brunch here was such a delight with new twists on traditional breakfast items. Their famous burger (of which they only make 30 a day!) was the star though, with a unique beef blend and a soft potato bun. I really want to come back here.

Nightlife in Boston is actually pretty huge, mainly because Boston has the most amount of students per residents in the US and probably the world. It’s unique because a lot of the hot spots also happen to be old taverns that are attempting to rebrand, which provides a very unique proposition to your night plans. Irish bars are definitely worth visiting too, because Boston just has so many of them.boston_derrick

Derrick was my host in Boston and I loved just being able to spend all this time seeing my bro fall in love with his passion here at MIT, and see a part of his life here. Thank you for hosting me and making me so comfortable.

Thank you Boston, for never stopping to be special to me.

____

Delton, Michigan

For Thanksgiving, one of my best friends, Jacob invited me to visit his hometown and see a new part of the U.S. When he said that, I definitely wasn’t expecting what Delton was – rural and beautiful. I haven’t been to a lot of countryside towns in my life, and Delton isn’t necessarily one of them, but it certainly an adventure to get to.

delton_forest

First of all, you must be prepared to drive through dirt tracks and forests to get to your friend’s or family’s place . Second of all, you must get used to the fact that hunting rifles and crossbows are common household appliances, and that it’s just a way of life here. I honestly wanted to participate in some mock hunting myself, but we couldn’t find the time. Lastly, you must love nature and the ability to create out of what you have in front of you. I always saw that in Jacob in college, but coming here, I definitely saw how that evolved.delton_trail

I think my time traveling has always been biased to cities, mainly because I love culture, history and good food and they tend to centralize there. But coming to Delton just blew my mind on what I had been missing out on if I don’t aspire to see more parts of the world outside my comfort zone and immediate peripheral vision. 15235397_10154127493854117_4056201537452086465_o

I must give so much thanks to Jacob and his family for taking me in and making me one of them. I got a lot of mom and grandma hugs, which can never makeup from embraces from my own folks, but definitely made me feel better after the tough quarter. I had good food, a great experience and a more nuanced perspective on the US and the world from this.

Thanks Delton.

hooah.

Advertisements

the singaporean mystery

tumblr_mka5v2FZQv1qag60to1_1280

It’s a curious time here in Singapore. 50 years have passed (now going on to 51) and every time I talk to someone, the same question has popped up. What does it mean to be Singaporean? Why should I be proud to be here? It’s such a captivating mystery for so many reasons, the most prominent being that we’re becoming politically more active and our guiding principles for voting are starting to shape.

This question is very much tied to another question : Do I love Singapore? For some, knowing the answer to the first question helps provide the response for the second. For me, they’re independent. I know I love Singapore, but in a more adult way. As a kid, you love as a kid. You love without prejudice, and without reservation. But as an adult, your love is tempered. You choose to love because of all the reasons you choose to put over the reasons that would push you away. You choose to accept the problems and the blemishes. This consideration is important, because while I do not know yet what it means to be Singaporean, my love for Singapore remains. Because I as I continue to try to discover the Singaporean spirit, I’m presented with both the attractive and ugly sides of my fellow people and I choose to continue to love them because we have a shared identity somewhere. I wouldn’t call this so much nationalistic as much as I think it is simply in preservation of what I feel strongly to be home.

I have come to some interim conclusions though. Some conclusions based on recent history and some based on history as we know it. I think these are important conclusions to accept, lest we face a Trumpesque bigotry or a Brexitesque xenophobia.

The first is that Singapore isn’t homogeneous. Who we are is simply not tied to the 8 defining characters of personal identity: Ability, Age, Ethnicity, Race, Religion, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Socioeconomic Status. John Cena recently conducted a video for Americans on the 4th of July (Link Here) asking them to close their eyes and identify a typical American. Where most people would identify a white able-bodied straight male in the U.S., I asked myself what we would answer in Singapore. Do we accept that we no longer just have Malays, Indians and Chinese as Singaporeans? So what if they’re the majority races, why do we not include the rest in our conversation of Singaporean representation? Do we accept that the Singaporean narrative cannot be a patriarchal one, about how men have built this country and that women are allowed to be oppressed through institutions that do not stop sexual assault and allow casual statements on rape and a gender hierarchy? Do we accept that we do have people who are not heterosexual, and that regardless of our religious views that they exist and consider themselves Singaporeans too, that they have gone through NS or school with us and deserve rights just as much as anyone else? These are not Western ideas, these are humanist ones. Singapore isn’t the same fishing village that we started off as that could be easily segmented. No, we’re nuanced, we’re diverse, we’re richly different and we need to find our common spirit away from the social identifiers.

The second is that being Singaporean is an attitude. Think about it, when you picture the ‘What does it mean to be ________’ for most developed countries, you picture an attitude rather than a physical trait. And that’s good, because while it’s important to celebrate diversity and provide spaces for people to celebrate their identities, the political question of ‘Why am I proud to be here’ must be tied to a secular, neutral but values driven aspect of being Singaporean. Is it that we overcome adversity, because hell yeah we do. Is it that we pack more of a punch that it looks like, because this little red dot has done so much for its size. Is it that we celebrate all, because that would be amazing. Finding something common and innate is difficult. But it must be done, for being a Singaporean is a mighty title these days, and it must stand for something.

Finally, the answer to my questions is not stuck in the past. One of my biggest grievances is that some of the biggest campaigns to find the answer to the questions has involved rehashing stories from the ‘good ol’ days’ and making us look to our forefathers. Yes, we’ve done great stuff to come where we are, and we should learn from them. But for all the great strides that we made in the past, we also took steps backwards in arenas of social progress and political maturity. And we’ll continue to make strides forward, and some steps backwards. That’s the way things are, that’s how societies evolve. History teaches us not to emulate the past but to grow from it. Is our future so grim (hardly, based on the work I’ve been seeing at EDB) that we need to be constantly reminded of our past in a form of propaganda to soothe our uncertainty? We need to look at everything: past, present and especially the future and realize that there is a continuum of experiences, each playing an important role in shaping our national identity, and that all must be appreciated to truly answer the questions.

I’ve provided some conclusions to what it is NOT to be Singaporean. I haven’t really given any more clarity into what it actually is, but the danger I’ve seen is that people fall into the traps of the incorrect conclusions way too often and that provides only problems for the country. The answer won’t be some major announcement, nor some big statement. It would be something that’s said once, maybe twice, and it will echo in the hearts of every Singaporean. The truth of the matter is that we’re getting closer to the answer and we must keep talking. We must keep discussing issues of importance; political, social, interpersonal, all of them. We will form a truer representation of who we are through that, and then we can finally demystify the great mystery. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to finally say what it means to be Singaporean?

hooah.

where the sunset kisses the night

Recently, I’ve wondered about the difference between a soldier and an officer. It’s a subtle distinction, neither are completely exclusive of each other, but there’s a clear focus on a particular skill-set for each role. A soldier focuses on the operational execution of the task. His job is to do what must be done, and to do it right. He thrives in the heat of action, making judgement calls that are intuitive and based on experience. He is about the mission. The officer, on the other hand, thinks about the mission less in its particulars and focuses on everything else. He focuses on ensuring partners are informed and coordination is done. He ensures the front and back are covered, and that the big picture is in view. The officer leaves the fighting to his men; he can do it and he probably will be involved but he commits himself to the intellect of strategy.

There’s definitely an absolute advantage of one over the other – the officer gains more prestige because his attributes are more cerebral. He is the face, the point of contact. Yet, I wonder if the soldier ends up being the one who lives a more pleasant life. I’ve shyed away a lot in the past year from roles that are largely administrative (mostly student leadership positions) , because I’ve gained a lot more joy from being in an operational/strategic role. I can do things, get into the heart of the matter, solve things and create possibilities. I derive satisfaction from being the driving force; the pulse in the heat of things that is causing a shift in perspectives. Where the officer gets bogged down in the administrative catch-up game, the soldier pushes on doing what he knows is good.

Again, neither role is completely exclusive of each other. Every soldier needs to think like an officer, and the better soldiers in fact are officers in all attributes but name. Therein there lies a dilemma. A soldier’s hope is to do his job well, uninterrupted and to the best of his ability. Yet because he insists on leading based on influence and respect, he refuses positions where leadership is based primarily on the prestige and administrative prowess of the office. He must therefore ensure he that leads him has his best interest at heart.

It gives rise to a new paradigm in society. Politicians, leaders of all kinds, CEOs have to keep themselves in check because of their dependence on the people that follow them. If the people you lead don’t like you, you’re out. But what if the power is unbalanced? What if the person , aware of more of how the world works, decides the person in charge needs to be able to lead the way that he ‘feels’ is the most appropriate. He wouldn’t do it himself, because he’s a soldier. The burdens of the officer aren’t for him. But he’ll be the kingmaker and he’ll decide the king.

That’s my fascination. How can the world we live in, be controlled not by the kings, but by the kingmakers? These people with money, influence and sizable authority put in power kings, who are in all respects officers, that help them, the soldiers, gain more advantage. People like Murdoch and Daley who run their societies without prejudice have to be complimented for their cunning.

Is this a problem? I would argue so. How would you fight it? Current models fight for systemic change, changing the way systems work so that people in power can do their jobs without the burden of being beholden to the kingmaker. But that takes time, and the people in power are incentivized to fight these efforts. Instead, I prefer a more Batman-esque approach. You fight the darkness by using it against itself.

What if people who had the best interests of everyone at heart were kingmakers instead? They knew what the countries and organizations would benefit from, and ensured the right person got in power. It’s a tricky line to walk on. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and in this position , if successful, power is again held unevenly. There has to be hope though, absolute strength of belief in what is right and good. What is necessary for the future. Discussed through discourse and hammered through experience, and most importantly not veiled for another agenda.

Kingmakers and kings, a tremendously fascinating phenomenon that continues to permeate through society in every way without us even knowing about it. Can we turn it on itself?

geronimo.

there’s something special here – Singapore turns 50

This country is and will continue to be the most successful city in the world. It’s almost weird to think that , assuming that I’ll live a healthy life, I’ll be 72 at SG100. I’ll be the next ‘Pioneer Generation’ . I hope to God I look good when I’m old, because I want to continue kicking and building society. During the National Day Show today, someone said a line that really hit home for me. She said ‘We grow with this country’ , and it’s probably the truest thing I’ve heard in a while.

We’ve been on a journey. Most countries have epic stories embellishing their history, but very few cities in modern history can claim to build a democracy while holding a siege mentality, and still supersede most large economies around them. Very few can claim to continue to produce people of superior caliber and an attachment to the country that is recognizable worldwide. Yet , you see, that’s our claim. We were presented with a nearly insurmountable problem, and we overcame it. The more I watch various presentations of history, from the veiled propaganda (which isn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ word) of the media, and the alternative interpretations of the deferred, there’s still one uniting tone – our pioneers were committed to bringing Singapore out of the Third World.

This National Day, this SG50 , we’re called to do two things – to remember this journey made, almost symbolically pronounced by the passing of founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and to envision our collective future, probably marked by the General Elections rumored to be in September.

You don’t have to look to the media for the truth , people are genuinely proud of the journey made.Naysayers will always exist, but they cannot reduce the pure joy experienced by people for making it to this point in the history of the world. We’ve made it. We’re here, a sovereign country defined by our own rules and aspirations – not anyone else’s.

But it’s perhaps the second call to action that’s more nerve-wrecking. What does the future mean for us? We’re facing our own set of problems. Starting The Hidden Good has given me the platform to interact with people from all sectors of society – youth, elderly, rainmakers and kingmakers; ministers and businessmen; the marginalized and the privileged. I challenged my generation to be an active force in shaping our own future, and not to let it be privy to the whims of the noisy and caustic minority online  (http://thehiddengood.com/2015/08/07/we-are-our-future/). Yet beyond that, I’m still conflicted on how our future should shape out. Solutions aren’t as straightforward as they used to be, and the uniting direction seems to point towards building a more inclusive and affirming society. We’ve built a society that is starting to , very slowly, fracture at the weight of the diversity it’s so proud of.

Creating a plan to solve that requires a lot more involvement from society than ever before, but there’s one thing I know almost definitely. We have to carry these problems with us and grow with them. Just like overcoming the pioneers gained resilience because of the problems they overcame, we can gain a deeper understanding into the human condition by trying to solve these problems. We became a successful city by the definitions of this day and age, but in the same line, no one’s a successful city yet by the definitions of the next age. We have that opportunity , but we have to commit. We have to commit to home, to Singapore. We have to commit to finding novel ways to contribute to the solution in our own capacities as businessmen, civil servants, students, families etc. , instead of contributing only to the noise around the problem. Let me be very clear – gone are the days when governments are the sole providers of solutions. Yes they hold the main onus, but it’s backward to expect capable people to be only present there. We , the people, hold the ability to shape our society.

I honestly wonder how I’ll be in 50 years time, but I hope to say lines similar to those shared by our forefathers. We did all we could, so that the generations after us could have a good life. We grew with Singapore.

After all, we are Singapore.

geronimo.

 

 

kingmaker or king?

A few weeks ago I posted a blog-post on my initial impressions coming back, and I got some interesting responses to it. Like I mentioned , it was more of a thought in progress than anything conclusive. My summer break is divided into three main trips – my time in Singapore where I’ve built a home and to rekindle the friendships I’ve made here, my rediscovery journey to India where I hope to identify more with my roots and learn more about my supposed culture, and finally my discomfort journey to China and the Orient where I hope to put myself in probably one of the more foreign environments I could be in. Three very different kind of experiences, but distinctly important for me to develop my own sense of self and understanding of society.

I’ve had the benefit of having a few experiences in Singapore these past few weeks. I was able to host friends of mine from the Czech Republic and therefore be a tour guide. I was able to integrate my understanding of systems and societies from overseas to deepen my analysis of Singaporean society, and have rich , developed discussions with some of my friends about the future of Singapore. Perhaps most importantly, I was able to spend quality time with old pals and mentors and I guess express my value for their presence in my life.

The time I’ve had here therefore allowed me to think about three distinct points about Singapore. The three points exist on a continuum of sorts – I begin by appreciating what we have, and then end with wondering about our future.

  1. We’re able to squeeze a nation onto an Island

We’re a small country. That’s probably the most important face about Singapore, and the starting point for a lot of the conversations we have about national policy and culture here. Yet, we’ve been able to have squeeze so magically, both old and new Singapore into an island. We have the tropical jungles of Ubin, and the urban jungle of the Marina Bay area.

I’ve been travelling so much in the past year and while I’ve been able to see the same kind of city planning elsewhere, I’m impressed by how we’re able to maintain that dynamism here. Trees are bountiful on the streets, and while we were taught on how uncommon that is in other cities, I only appreciated it after coming back. We have such a diversity here, that you’re able to find most of the world in this country.

It’s beauty then arises from it’s ability to find points where you can bring together those worlds – like the Henderson waves, where the busy roads of Alexandra are connected to the forests flanking them by the modern architecture of the bridge which in itself is naturalistic.

The best part about all this is then that because we’ve squeezed all of this into our country, no trip is ever too long to truly complain that it’s impossible to do whatever you want. I haven’t had to travel too far to see something completely different. I’ve been able to have visit the country’s biggest Starbucks and go fishing in the jungles all in the same day.

Singapore definitely doesn’t let down with lifestyle options. Or maybe I just know the ins and outs of this country well.

2. We’re definitely in a transition moment

Picture by Jerome Lim

It’s obvious that as we turn 50, there’s a lot at stake. We’ve built a nation, but at what costs? As some countries let themselves stumble into the state where they’re at , they faced adversities at every possible turn.  Yet these adversities were opportunities for the country to decide its values and priorities. The people had to come together as one.

Perhaps it’s interesting then, that when we talk about Singapore which was perhaps engineered from the Merger forth, that we realise we’ve had considerably less adversity. Am I hoping we had more problems? Far from it, but it’s a worthy consideration that we’re 50 years in with a very large spectrum of personal values that don’t necessarily resonate with national values ‘prescribed’ by the government.

We’re at crossroads now, where we’re thinking about issues like population and identity. Yet, what’s interesting to observe for me is the conversations that we’re having. There’s no one leading these conversations , they all seem disparate and inconclusive. We’re supposedly an educated population but the conversations degrade because of anger and frustration. I take back what I said before in my previous post – we do care about issues, and yes that concern is seen through the vehement and activism of groups both online and offline. But there’s no solution being proposed.

Suppose a special interest group (SIG) wants to propose a repeal of a certain law in order to achieve its progressive goal (in its own view of bettering society). Perhaps instead of protesting which granted is also a valid way of garnering attention, it should recognise its ultimate goal is to solve the ‘problem’  the law tries to ‘address’. Does it involve starting discussions, does it involve having open forums? There’s a problem solving strategy that definitely would work more effectively.

I’ll continue to insist that solutions to today’s problems need to come from an intersection of the government’s overview and the community’s crowdsourced proposal. If the community wants to be more participative in politics, then we have to be smarter. In all aspects , all causes and all needs. That’s where we’re moving as we transition, and works need to be done on both sides to garner this new model of governance.

3.  Do we still have talent?

This part of my post could possibly rub people the wrong way, so let me premise by saying I’m focusing on a future regardless of the present.

Elections are coming up , all the signs are in the air. Perhaps it’s ideal that SG50 aligns so well with the four year cycle, but the rest of the political signs are there. Quality of life measures are settling in (road blocks , anti-vice runs etc.) , GST vouchers are being issued and talks are getting louder.

I started thinking about the quality of leadership and started becoming slightly worried. Not for the immediate future, but about the future ahead. See, Singapore’s biggest boast was it’s human talent. We had limited land, limited resources but we could always bank on our human capital to leverage us. That assumption held strongly in the forming years, and the Pioneer Generation deserve everything they get these few years, but I’m not too sure about the kind of talent we’re prioritising in the future.

See, Singapore was built on the back of politicians, economists, justices and businessmen who knew how to adapt and innovate. They had a strong mandate – bring this country from third world to first. Goh Keng Swee did a fantastic job, stripping away the assumptions of pundits and innovating how Singapore should develop. Yet, as we continue to grow, I notice less innovations in how we develop. We’re becoming more conservative,  because there’s a lot more at stake, and the population is a lot quicker to point its fingers. But courageous leadership requires a strong mix of technocratic intelligence and political charisma to communicate those plans.

We’ve become pretty comfortable in trusting our leadership, but we should be holding them accountable in every aspect. Not in the sense where we stifle their ability to govern by keeping them restricted, but by encouraging them to do their job – to build a society, strong in identity, stable in growth and protected from harm. But all those things require movement, not stagnation . How about our judicial system? How many of us actually know our Constitution? There should be more feverous , fact based discussions on what the law means to us online , rather than hypothetical blabber on what the law should look like. We’ve built this country on our constitution, and no matter what, the constitution is what should uphold the rights of the people.

Our leadership needs to evolve. We need to go back to innovating, thinking from Singapore outwards, not from the world inwards. Yes, we’re a lot more globally connected, but we’re also proven more than once, that we prescribe our own policies based on our own situation. The world cannot limit us.

Courageous leadership. It’s a loaded term. Will we allow it, is the more important question.

___

I’m starting to travel again next week, and I’ll be posting more thoughts as I go on. Again, I don’t claim to be a political pundit, just a youth passionate about his country and societies. Singapore has so much in it, it’s definitely a place to be. But to fully appreciate being a citizen, we have to carry its burdens with us. That’s what I’m keeping in mind as I vote this year. We make or break this country.

geronimo.

 

ugh, feelings

It’s almost the end of the quarter. Winter turned out to be a lot more fulfilling and meaningful than I hoped.

Aside from the weather, which has become a lot more of a metaphor than anything else to be honest, the quarter was packed with friendships strengthened, experiences encountered and ambitions fulfilled.

Let’s start with the beginning. I walked into the quarter having completed #77breaths and coming back from Europe with two of my best friends. I was looking for something when I went to Europe ; I was looking for the person I thought I was before I came to college. College broke me slightly – I was shocked by how much I underestimated the age gap and at the same time I was disappointed by the bubble that people seemed to be trapped in. I had campaigned against the bubble when I was in Singapore, and here I was slowly seeing myself being trapped in it. I had decided to be a slightly different person coming into college, but after Europe I realised I was comfortable with the person I always was.

With #77breaths under my belt, I knew again the value of grit. I came back, ready to make some big moves. I continued in the same spirit – not a single weekend was left unscathed by some event or another. I was enjoying the process of meeting my newly made brothers in Lambda Chi Alpha and eventually ran for the position of Vice-President (External) with the value of my experience and my earnestness to help the house. When I was elected , the affirmation of who I was continued to manifest in the reception I got. Aside from rapidly expanding my social circles and experiences, the house has definitely given me an important platform from which I wish to do more in my life.

I struggled initially with taking five courses to meet EDB’s requirement for me to graduate in 3 years but I got on track again once I started figuring out the tricks of the trade. With the help of my friends and faculty I was able to quickly navigate the school and make use of its resources while again expanding my social depth in the school.

Probably the most significant thing of the quarter has to be the pure variety of experiences. From going to Dayton, Ohio for a triathlon to planning one of the country’s largest student run festivals to purely hanging out with friends from all kinds of backgrounds ; I never had a week without the feeling of exhilaration. #77breaths had spoiled me – I wasn’t going to settle for the mediocre.

And that taught me to shave off the mediocre from my life. Anything or anyone that did not seem to add to the person I wanted to become or to the world as a whole, were quickly reconciled and kept away. Be nice, do what needs to be done, but do not subject yourself to unnecessary mediocrity.

I discovered love in all its forms – from family, friends, and the weirdos who care about me more than it makes sense.

The quarter isn’t nearly done – there’s Dance Marathon , a few other Fraternity events, elections for NUSAF (the Singapore Association) , and so many more meetups. Of course Finals as well, but we’ll get through that. I’m already planning for Spring Quarter and I’ve filled up half my weekends already.

Do I miss home? Yes, dearly. My family especially. But I’m learning to live, and I’m glad my family and friends are able to be a part of that through social media. I’ll come back, I say. Till my last breath, I won’t forget you all; the ones who made my life magnificent.

I’m eating giants for breakfast.

geronimo.

living from a suitcase – a story

“Are you sure it’s here?”

“I’m pretty sure, I came back here a week ago just to check it out”

“Alright, just that it’s getting pretty dark ”

“You don’t have campfires in the day, Rovik”

The four guys emerged into a clearing , surrounded by elk trees and moist air.

“Do you see it now?” Francis said as he walked towards the log around the smothered campfire,

“Alright, alright , I’m sorry I doubted you. It’s just been too long” Drew replied , placing the backpack on the bed of leaves collected in the clearing.

“Way too long. I’m glad we did this” said Prince. He reached his arms over the shoulders of the other guys and pulled them in for a huddle.

The guys held each tightly and just let the sound of the forest moderate their own breaths.

“Nobody can take this from us” Rovik said finally, breaking the silence. “Alright , let’s start the mix. Prince, why don’t you get the ingredients and whip us up the special stew , the rest of us will start the fire. ”

” You know I got it . I’ve been wanting to cook this up again for a long time” Prince replied.

The tall muscular figure walked over to the backpacks and rummaged through for the food.

“It feels so good to be out of the office. People get so irritating sometimes” Drew said over the crackle of the fire that had just formed.

“Isn’t that why you ran for office? To serve the people?” Rovik said, warming his hands now.

“People don’t know what they want. All they care about are themselves” Drew said

“Amen to that. Fuck People… except you guys, I love you guys. But fuck you all too.” Francis said, breaking into laughter.

Rovik smiled and walked over to Francis, and gave him a friendly slap on his shoulders.

“How have you been man? Last I heard you had quit the P.D. What have you been up to?” he asked .

“Probably screwing around with his girlfriends” Prince said cheekily. “Food’s almost done guys”

“Well yes. I couldn’t take the hypocrisy. Memorandums and proceedings… it was just too much for me. I’m not a political creature , I can’t navigate that jungle.” Francis replied, ending his statement with a sigh.

“Come on, you’re a born leader. I remember people would wait for your word when you walked into the room. Even I couldn’t make a decision without consulting you.” Rovik commented.

“Thanks Rovik. But I’ve moved on. I’m much happier now, running a steelworks place down on Smith. ”

“And it’s the best steelworks place around, isn’t it? These are the hard workers that deserve our country’s appreciation.” Drew shouted across the fire, smirking.

Francis stared at Drew for a while and smiled. “Thanks Senator , you’ve got my vote… buddy”

“Alright, enough with the love story. Food’s ready to be devoured by you fiends. This may be my best stuff yet.”

The men grabbed their bowls and walked to the pot over the fire. As the night grew darker, and the wind blew colder, the men poured the hot stew into the bowls, admiring the glossy surface as it settled.

“Prince, my man. You seem to have outdone yourself again.” Drew said. He took a spoon of the stew , blew on it slowly to cool it down, and placed it  in his mouth. “I’ve never felt more like a man. Beef Stew, out in the forest, here with my men. All we need is a bear to wrestle”

“Don’t prophesy now. The night is still young.” Rovik said, laughing .

“You’re a great person, Prince. I’m sorry about what happened between you and…” Francis began.

“Don’t say her name. I haven’t completely moved on” he said, staring at his bowl.

The campfire went silent for a while. “I’m sorry I brought it up” Francis said, breaking the silence.

“No, it’s fine. If there’s anyone I’d want to to talk about this to, it’s you guys.

She broke my heart. I gave her all I could. I gave her a house, I loved her every night, I even told her every day how beautiful she was. But she just wanted something else and she decided to fuck her colleague instead. I asked her why she did it and she said that she can’t let her happiness be inhibited.

Didn’t she realise that she wasn’t thinking about how I felt? Did she really not care for me at all? ”

Prince continued staring at his bowl. He placed it on the log he was sitting on, got up and looked at the group . “Give me a minute , guys.” he said and walked into the forest.

“I never thought she was such a bitch” Francis said.

“I saw it. You tend to meet certain people in life who want to be destructive rather than constructive. The people who want to break things as they move through life, rather than heal the brokenness. ” Rovik chimed in.

“Well it’s a lot harder than you think to keep wanting to heal. Thinking about yourself only keeps the world a lot easier to understand.”  Drew said.

“I’m surprised you’re saying that Mr Senator. Isn’t it your job to serve your people? That’s what you ran on …” Rovik said, and then stood on the log, getting into pose. “I am You are Me. If I didn’t care about you, I can’t say I care about me” he bellowed, impersonating Drew.

“Fark off , and get your ass down from that log” Drew shouted, clearly angry.

“Hey, chill… I didn’t know you really felt so different now” Rovik said, slowly stepping down.

“Well, get off your high horse Rovik. Just because you travel all around the world, get yourself into all these romantic misadventures and make stories around yourself doesn’t mean you get to expect the same of us. We live real lives, lives that are defined by the hurt and reality of this world.” Francis said, pointing his finger at him.

“Woah woah, those are some sharp jabs. My life isn’t all roses as well. I’ve been living out of a suitcase the past few years.” Rovik said, defensively placing his hands on his hips.

“And what about all these sweet little things you seem to always have on your hips. It’s a different girl in every country, a different fuck every time. Tell me you don’t think you have a better life than any of  us.” Drew chimed in.

Rovik stared at Drew, and then stared at Francis. His eyes started to burn. They had seen this side of him before. It was a cold burn, a flash and then a shade. And it would hurt.

“I’m a romantic, I draw stories about love and life and all that jazz. But I am not a hedonist… I’m not in this for the carnal pleasures a much as I am for the pleasures of the soul. What do you think I desire more? Lips on my dick every other night , or a soul to bond with. If you even think you know me, you’d know it’s the latter.” Rovik said, his voice almost chill.

The campfire went silent for a while. The three men sat , looking into the campfire.

“Maybe this was a bad idea… We’ve all grown up way too much apparently” Drew said.

“Nonsense. This is exactly  why we need to meet. If we can’t open up to anyone else, it’s to each other”

The three men turned around. Prince was back.

“Listen, brothers. We’ve been through tough times. We’ve seen each other through hell and heaven. We can’t be afraid of each other now. ” he continued.

“You’re right” Drew said. “I have a confession to make”

He picked up a twig from the floor and started twirling it around his fingers. His eyes were glued to it, intense.

“I’m stepping down from office next week. I’ve decided I can’t be Senator anymore.”

“What??” Rovik said, immediately. “But why? And what are you going to do ?”

“He’ll be joining the property business with me” Francis chipped in. “We’re going to re-develop our town and bring back the wealth that’s rightfully ours”

Prince walked over and sat next to Francis.

“That’s funny, brother. I actually did hear you were going into the  property business. But I heard something else too” he said, looking at Francis.

Rovik looked at the pair, intently. “What was going on? ”  he thought to himself.

“You see, Rovik.There’s a reason why I tried to get everyone here. I know you’d be able to talk to these guys.” Prince said, pointing to both Francis and Drew.

“Francis quit the  police force and formed his own mob crew. He’s been running rackets around the city, impoverishing the hard workers and keeping things under his belt. Drew here, has been supporting it”

“How do you know all of this Prince?” Rovik asked, calling him out.

“Because after my wife left me, I wanted to come back and make a life back home. And that’s when I found out someone was destroying its very essence. It killed me to find out it was these guys” Prince replied.

“Is this true?” Rovik asked the pair.

Francis stood up from his log and walked over to where Drew was sitting.

“Yes.”

He sat down next to Drew and pulled out a cigar, which he started to light up.

“I told you this world was going to the shits , Rovik. You inspire me a lot, but this  is not one of those times. It’s time we tell  you about the reality of this cold miserable world.  And maybe then, you and Prince will join us. Who else to share the wealth with than our brothers?” Drew said, a smile now appearing on his face.

“I don’t want any part of this. Have we all let our losses affect us so badly?” Rovik appealed to the group.

“It was never a loss. It’s just the way things are. Our elevations were the inconsistencies, they were random occurrences that happened but could never be sustained. This form of living, selfish and cold , is the kind that will keep us breathing at the end of the day. It’s survival.” Francis said, and then offered the cigar to Rovik.

Rovik stood up and walked over to where Francis was sitting. They were now sitting across each other : Francis and Drew on one side, Prince and Rovik on the other.

“Tell us a story, Rovik. Tell us one of your beautiful stories.” Prince said, putting his arm over Rovik’s shoulder.

Rovik stared at the fire, letting it warm his soul up again. He felt the heat, and his nerves tingle with excitement.

“Alright, I’ll tell a story.

Milan has a beautiful history. There’s so much to see and do in the city, but the one thing that captured me most about this city was this girl. We’ll call her Sofia. I met Sofia on the steps of the Duomo, a large Gothic church near the centre. She was feeding the pigeons and I asked to join her. She then invited me to get some gelato, and I convinced her to spend the day with me. I took her to dinner, and then took her back to my place and we made love.

The next morning, I was ready for her to say good bye, but she decided to stay. She played with my hair, and stared into my eyes. What are you doing, I asked her. Falling in love with you, she said. I laughed back, and asked her if that was too fast.

We’re Italian , she said. Life’s too short to not want to fall in love. I stared back into her eyes, and then kissed her deeply. We spent the whole day in, making love multiple times and watching Italian soap operas. I had a flight booked for the night to Barcelona and hadn’t decided whether I wanted to leave or not.

I told her about it, and she kissed me. Stay, she said. I will, I lied. I couldn’t believe I had reached here. Was I falling in love? I wanted to find out what was wrong with what I was seeing. I started trying to find flaws in her, to ask her about her history and her background. Who are your parents? What’s your job?

She started getting annoyed, and by the end of the night she asked me to go catch my flight. This was silly, she said. This was stupid, I said. I walked out, got onto my flight, and then felt the weight of my arrogance settle. I ruined the moment, by refusing to believe in the good. I was looking for what was wrong so much I forgot to factor in the beautiful.

It’s been a while since the incident. I’m not sure if I’ll ever find Sofia again… I hope I do. But I know what was possible. I knew it was real, I knew I was a force of action and that I was doing something. I was living. I could never deny that.

So I keep believing. I keep hoping. I don’t lose hope on the good. And you shouldn’t too. This world needs more believers like you guys once were. We need to heal this world. We just need to.”

The campfire was silent. The brothers stared into the fire once again. Every moment crept back on them … the stories their lives had been built on. They had done great things, they had build legacies. They had truly lived.

“What would you think if I sang out of tune?” Prince chimed in.

Francis and Drew looked up. Rovik looked over to Francis, and smiled.

“Would you stand up and walk out on me?” he chimed in, walking over to Drew.

“You’re my brother. No matter what you’ve done, we’re in this forest again. We’re safe here and we can decide to move forward. ” he said to the pair.

“Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key”

Rovik  sang, and then gestured to them.

“You know I can’t resist” Drew said.

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends”

Francis and Prince joined in.

Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

And the forest was filled with music, just like it was meant to be. In the darkness, they had found the light that they thought they had lost. And with a little help from their friends, they were back where they were supposed to be.

We all need somebody to lean on.

geronimo.