Short Story from My Way Home

faithinhumanity
Retrieved from Google on 22 March 2018. All rights reserved.

Couple years ago, when I was still living at home, close to my family, I always go everywhere by car. My parents will always make time to drive me safely to my destination and pick me up after I am done with whatever business I have. Later, my friend also took the duty to pick me up from my home and return me back safely to my parents. But when I left my home country to pursue my study, I have no choice but to take public transportation. It is pretty convenient but no where near as comfortable as my private car (I don’t think I need to explain why). As time passed by, I got used to life with public buses and trains and have my own way to enjoy the ride. Sometimes I listen to music and lip-sync-ing like nobody’s around (where in fact it’s a full bus), sometimes I read books and most of the other time, I just let myself to be lost in my own world. One thing I realized is everyone is also doing the same thing as me, make themselves as comfortable as possible and give very little care to whatever is going on in the bus.

Since I started to work and became a regular bus commuter, I changed my attitude a little. I started to observe my surroundings a little bit more. Normally everything is very repetitive, the same guy sleeping and snoring, old couple on the priority seat chatting lively, so on and forth. But there are days in which I was able to observe events that made me regain my faith in humanities. So here, let me share the story from this evening.

It was nearly a full house in the bus, I stepped in with my not-so-small bag while hugging my laptop but since there is so many people, I was unable to move in the bus and thus need to stick by the door. At the next stop, some people got off the bus and so I squeezed myself into the middle section of the bus and found myself a hand handler to hold on. So imagine yourself in the middle of a moving crowd, both shoulders carrying a bag, one hand protecting your laptop and the other hanging on the ceiling handler. Does not sound so comfortable right? But, I was feeling moderate, neither like it nor hate it. Then a middle aged woman next to me, she poked me and told me to take her spot instead–so in a bus, of course everyone with a chair can sit down but those who stands, there are some sweet spots in which if you stand there, no matter how bad the bus is trembling you are most likely to be ‘secured’ (not being squeezed by others or basically just able to stand your ground)–. Yes, this woman’s spot is one of the sweet spot I mentioned, and she gave it to me because she saw me having trouble with my laptop and bag. She really took me by surprise (also note that she stood beside me for pretty long time, meaning her stop was not close but she offered the place to me) because this has never happened, especially in this society where kindness is rarely use to describe them, I felt so grateful.

There is more. When the bus stopped for the fifth time (fifth stop I think), there are some elderly who have a hard time getting off the bus (because again it is full). However, in normal circumstances, they will still able to get off one way another. But in this bus, I saw people are opening the way to let these grannies passed. Some even got off the bus and then lend a hand to help the slightly overweight grannies step off the bus. Not only that, a lot of people (in the bus) also told the grannies to walk slowly, move carefully and take care. The bus stopped for something like five minutes but no one (as far as I heard) complained about it. I feel warmth when I witnessed the scene. In the current world where so many hate crimes, gun shots etc etc, I am blessed to be able to be reminded on the kindness of humanities.

Faith in humanity restored.

 

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Wonder and Honesty

Retrieved from Google on 18 March 2018. All rights reserved.

Have you watched the movie “Wonder”? It is about a boy who was born with genetic disease that affecting his appearance. He went through so many surgeries which helps but his face still looks very different from his peers. You might be able to guess what the story is about and how it ended, hence thought the story is so typical. But let me just try to present you another perspective which you might have missed.
The movie incorporated a good mix of people from different races, dynamic gender interaction, family and love problem that we face in real live (though with exaggeration). And what really caught my interest is they told the story from many people’s perspectives. This kind of setting gave a rich feeling to the movie. One story told by different people might become an entirely different story, but this is not apparent to the other parties.

After I watched this movie, I reflected back to my own life. I realized that I often make assumptions on what others think, which cost me a lot of emotions and sometimes misunderstanding. I understand that I should ask rather than assume because no matter how good I am in reading other’s faces, I would never accurately predict what is on their mind. But when I put myself in other’s shoes, I will not be willing to share some of my thoughts honestly with others. It might be due to various things but most likely it is pride. Pride deter me from honestly show my emotion because I do not want to be labelled weak, it prevents me to speak up because I am afraid of making mistakes or being stupid, pride sometimes also make me exaggerate on one thing and understated others. But in the recent years, I started to learn to be more honest to myself and others. But it is hard, pride is not the only problem; negativity is also hindering an honest relationship. Even when I am honest, I think others might not. I started to have doubt and being restless. It is like a never-ending loop and it sounds more complicated when I try to write it down. So, sorry if I confuse you.

My final thought: How nice will it be if everyone just be honest.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

where-do-you-see-yourself-in-five-years
Retrieved from Google on 8 March 2018. All rights reserved.

A lot of website says it is a typical interview question but actually no one has ever asked me this before. Nevertheless, I always try to prepare an answer preceding any interview, just in case. I remember my first answer was solid and clear, “I see myself working in an multinational financial corporation, handling finance related work on the management level”. That was around three years ago, preparation for my first internship. Today, the very same question yielded a totally different answer. It is a short but sure answer: “I don’t know”. Of course I never say this in any interview, firstly because I was never asked, secondly because I was serious about finding a job. But why did I regressed?

Just like gaining knowledge, the more we learn, the more things we realized we don’t know. Initially, I was young and naive and I did not really invest any time to think about it; as long as it sounds like an answer the employer like to hear, then it should be good enough. Later, more interview opportunities came by and it let me think about this question over and over again. I realized that my life was built on a set of surprises, no long term plan I made had ever comes true. When I was in high school, I was sure that I will study in local university and major in math. But I ended up abroad. When I decided to go abroad, I changed my major choice to finance, but I ended up studying economics. Then I thought I will have internship in bank hence it will helped me in job hunting later on. But in reality, I ended up doing IT job in a conglomerate. I also always thought that I will study, graduate and work directly, but now I am considering to pursue further study thus, where will I be in five years? Maybe only God knows.

My point here is, we can plan our life to be whatever but life is what happened. It is full of surprises and the future is looking more like a black box than a crystal clear ball. I understand why sometimes company ask this question and I am grateful because it got me thinking. But on the other hand, I don’t understand what they expect for an answer or how will they evaluate my answer. If I can’t see myself anywhere because I go with the flow of life and because I believe in fate, is that a big minus to my profile?

Ageing Population, Problem or Opportunity?

In the midst of the popular topic of #MeToo movement which advocates for more gender equity, there is a less prominent but equally important social issue that not discussed as much; the ageing population. If you are from developing countries especially in Africa continent, you might not yet feel the “ageing” effect, but still look at the graph below and maybe you will want to take a second and think a little about it.

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Retrieved from 2015 World Population Ageing page 24. All rights reserved.

As the name suggest, ageing population is a phenomenon in which the community demographic shifted such that the proportion of elderly increased significantly. This might be due to lower birth rate, higher life expectancy, high mortality rate for younger population or everything happened simultaneously. The government deemed this issue problematic because reasons including, work force shortage and future elderly care. Despite many policies that had been introduced to encourage fertility, especially in Japan, world’s number one country with ageing population problem, the problem persists until today.

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Retrieved from Google on 27 Feb 2018. All rights reserved

That was one most common perspective of ageing population, I have another view on this matter but before I explain myself, recall some facts known today: Human population has been proliferating in an unprecedented rate especially in the middle of 20th century (baby boomers); resources are scarce and might be approaching to its limit (biggest factor that causing this arguably is human consumption). A famous theory of population growth by Malthus

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Retrieved from Google on 27 Feb 2018. All rights reserved.

(Malthusian Theory of Population) argued that unlike population which grows exponentially, food supply growth function is more linear. As the consequence, food supply will not be able to catch up with the population at some point. We might have arrived at that point. According to World Food Program, in 2015, one in nine people sleeps hungry (link) and according to Food Aid Foundation one in three people suffers from malnutrition (link). Assuming the one third of wasted food are nutritious and could be transported to those people, we were only able to break even (meaning population curve intersects the food supply curve). I cannot deny that this argument is not very strong but take a moment and think about the way we consume these days (see my previous post); it made me believe in myself.

 

So let’s go back to the other perspective. If I succeeded in convincing you that currently there are too many people on earth and that the world may unable to take more than this (or maybe it’s more like we should stop hurting our earth and exhausted all possible resources). Then ageing population can be a starting point to re-structure the population. Explicitly, fertility encouragement is unnecessary, just let the growth to be minus thus we will have less people after the generation passed away. This initiative require a lot of patience and may hurt the society in the short run. But these threats can be alleviate, i.e. for labor shortage, low populated area could be more open in accepting foreign workers, encourage labor migration; while future elderly care can be leverage to teens who are looking for volunteering position (inspiration from the Dutch) or enhance the quality of life of the elderly such that even as a senior, they can take care of themselves just as well. Of course these suggestions are just for convenience because there are other factors to be considered such as political and maybe resentment from the elderly population. My point is, ageing population might be a problem or not depending on which perspective was used to assess it.

Question: any idea how gender equality campaign correlated to ageing issue?

Shame on You, Indonesia

I have no grudge towards Indonesia so far, in fact, I never care about them before. But due to the recent occurrence, I am now bending to the hate side. Here is what happened:

So one day, my sister arrived in Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Everything was nice, until the baggage check point. As usual, all luggage must be scanned through the scanning machine, and she complied. However, after the scanning, the officer approached her and asked which one of her luggage is the heaviest (there was several bags). So this by itself does not make sense because they just scanned it and nothing abnormal was found. But anyway, she again complied and told him. The officer asked her to open the bag and so she did. Again, after messing the content, tossing things here and there, NOTHING was found; just clothes and some snacks. The officer pointed at one of the snack in the biggest package and asked what is it. “It is just a snack” (still untouched, sealed perfectly). Guess what, he asked my sister to give it to him because HE WANTS TO TRY IT. Though annoyed she decided to share the snack with him, but what did he do? HE TOSSED THE SNACK TO THE FLOOR (basically throwing it) and just went away. Ah ya, he mentioned no photograph, I guess because he doesn’t want his idiocy documented.
The story above was not the only incident, another relative who went to Indonesia through Soekarno-Hatta airport was asked to hand in money (RMB 100), else they will not let them pass the immigration.

Disclaimer: True story from my sister and relatives, I was not present hence the story might contain underestimation. (read some other cases)

cgk-soekarno-hatta-terminal-2
Pretty on the outside, trashy service on the inside, uselessly pretty. Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, retrieved from Google on 20 Feb 2018. All rights reserved.

Airport is the first door for foreigners when entering a country. First impression to the country’s infrastructure and services. In Soekarno-Hatta case, while the facilities had improved significantly in the recent decade, the service quality is still as trashy as ever. While I was trying to think about the reason, a thought suddenly dawned to me. I remember someone asked me why despite being a great nation in the past, Indonesia never really able to develop. I got a possible answer: It is because the PEOPLE.

One of the most influential entity towards shaping a person mindset arguably is the education he/she attained. In Indonesia, the education quality is rather poor, where teachers are not a respectable job and the presence of bribery is a public secret. In this kind of environment, it is not hard to imagine what kind of officers are those in the airport. Someone tole me before too that people who are working in government-related entities (so called the “real Indonesian”) are prone to be corrupted (and some are fanatic towards their religion and Indonesians are one of the easiest society to be provoked by fake news, but we will leave this to another post) . One VERY important thing to note, I am NOT saying that Indonesian are all bad and corrupt, I know a lot of smart and bright Indonesians, I am just saying things in general.

I don’t really want to say it but it seems like this crooked behavior had become part of the culture hence no matter how Indonesia wants to improve, if the fundamental is not strengthened, they are deem to fail. By this I mean if the mindset of people does not change, the behavior is not straightened, Indonesia will be like an apple with rotten core; good facilities but trashy people culture. It will not stay pretty for long.

PS: For Indonesians or whoever who read this, feel free to let me know if you disagree, be careful if you go plan to go to Soekarno-Hatta airport because they might want you to bribe (especially if you are Chinese).

Shame on you, Indonesia.

Sequel of Problem in Education System

On my very first post, I heavily criticized the standardized education system that had been practiced for centuries. I remember feeling unhappy, angry even, because this system is arguably very detrimental to the students. Not only they are forced to master all subjects and judged unfairly, it also discourage youngsters to learn and attain knowledge. It make them prefer to memorize whatever on the book and train themselves such that they become the best in answering questions. Remembering this issue does not feel nice, but I brought this up again because I realized another grim reality apropos to this topic.

yep
Retrieved from Google on 9 February 2018. All rights reserved.

To start of, since I was young, I was blessed with lax parenting practice in my family. My parents never asked too much from my academic field. As long as I can graduate, then good results are the bonus. So I am used to take it easy on my study, in fact I only study at school and play at home (homework was something I did in school too). Then I was dragged back to the earth when I attend university. I noticed people around me study extremely hard, and it made me nervous so I started to study harder. Long story short, I was told that people are studying very hard because of the fierce competition in the society. Moreover, this competition does not start in university, students from junior high school have to start working hard already, to get accepted in good high school which subsequently will open wider opportunity to get into top universities. This is applicable in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the worse case in mainland China.

After learning this, I became more attentive to information related to this and I found some disturbing statistics. More than 15,000 secondary school students were surveyed last August and at least half of them showed symptoms of depression (read here). One every three primary to secondary school’s students are prone to suicide (read here) and suicide is the second most common cause of unnatural death for those under 18 years old (read here). The primary driver of the stress was …….. (as you might have guessed), academic related stress (i.e. university admission, test scores, etc). While this facts are new, the problem has persisted for quite some time, but I did not give too much effort to understand it. So, why a change of heart now?

Recently, I started a tutoring job where I have to interact with secondary school’s students. I have just started and had taught in less than five sessions but I am able to sense the stress they are experiencing under the face of different exams (IB, HKDSE or IGCSE). I teach economics and mathematics and to accommodate them better, I always asked them about their learning method. Most were caught off-guard by this question but later the majority mentioned memorization. So I see the culture has not change since my time. This saddened me but it is nothing new, the new finding from this experience was parent’s role in driving their child (and me) nuts. Well, maybe just me and not the child but anyway; Remember that my parents are very lax, so I never know that parents could be so oppressive. So apparently, there was this mother who packed her daughter’s schedule with various tutor classes after school. She is also the one who decide what her daughter should ‘learn’ on the session and she stressed fully on the importance of the exams. NONE at all mentioned about her daughter’s understanding (except she said that her daughter knows perfectly the concept, but she was not able to apply it in the exam). I started my session with that assumption (that the daughter understand everything) but…. again you can guess, the daughter memorized some materials, but when being asked another question which is similar but in another context, she struggled.

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Retrieved from Google on 9 February. All rights reserved.

Well, call me lamenting on this special case, but before you judge me, try to search the net. This problem of autocratic parents are a real issue. If the parents always stressed on the importance of the test only, not to the understanding, the child will almost automatically also have that perception. When the child did not have strong memory, they might struggle and stress built up. Children also become less responsible to their own study, and curiosity ceased. Even though these are very important attributes for learning. I was speechless when everything came together in my head, but finally I managed to type it here and share it with you all.

The point I want to bring here is, eliminating standardized test is arguably simple. But when the citizen has this test based mindset instead of knowledge based mindset, the abrupt elimination of standardized test could be detrimental. Maybe people will start being relaxed and lazy since they will graduate anyway. So more important point is to culture the right mindset which incorporate thirst of knowledge. This way, hopefully even without standardized test, youngsters (and adults too) will be motivated to learn different things for the sake of knowledge.

Bonus: movie recommendation – I Not Stupid (2002) and I Not Stupid Too (2006), old Singaporean movies but they are worth your time.

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Retrieved from Google on 9 February 2018. All rights reserved.

Just an Opinion of an Article

I want to dedicate this post to Warren Buffett for his article posted in TIME on 4 January 2018. You can read it through the link there before reading this post because I don’t want to give a false perception to the article. I wrote this under my interpretation thus this might not directly related to what he meant to share.

“I have good news. First, most American children are going to live far better than their parents did. ” – Warren Buffett

There goes his first two sentences. It instantly caught my eyes and I disagree with this statement. Apparently, he knows that I am not the only one who disagreed. In the subsequent paragraphs, he acknowledge that these days, not as many people are as optimistic as him. But the he did some calculation that includes real GDP growth and population growth. Assuming 2% real GDP growth and 0.8% net population growth, he infers:

“In 25 years–a single generation–1.2% annual growth boosts our current $59,000 of GDP per capita to $79,000. This $20,000 increase guarantees a far better life for our children.” – Warren Buffett

The first time I read this, I was nodding my head because the reasoning sound plausible. But, I noticed, he had a strong assumption: the growth are equally divided to everyone. I guess we can all agree that this assumption does not hold. Just do a simple search in Google about wealth and income inequality and some amazing statistics will greet you (i.e. this one); none shows equal distribution. That being said, with the calculation in the article, we can be sure that some children will be better off than their parents but I argue that majority (if not all) of the children in this group will be from the wealthy family or in other words the minority. The other might strive as well but they need arduous effort to be achieve it. Best scenario, of course the one Warren Buffett shows; but it is highly unlikely. Second best scenario, children will be as well off as their parents. I am not trying to be pessimistic but the truths are pointing to that dark side (he did mention this issue in the later part of the article).

I do not entirely disagree Mr. Buffett, especially in his point of innovation and productivity and market economics. Because of innovation that transformed the industry, ways of production, labor and capital, arguably everything today are done differently than decades ago. A lot of people lost their job, some jobs disappeared and new jobs were created. Those who cannot adapt due to lack of skill or opportunity were left behind while those in the upper social class tried their best to absorb as much wealth as possible. Some people called it greed but I say it is human nature. Anyway, getting back to the point, this will increase the probability that more people will have worse prospect that their parents.

“These devastating side effects can be ameliorated: a rich family takes care of all its children, not just those with talents valued by the marketplace.” – Warren Buffett

He mentioned this point just before he concluded his writing. As a parent, it is a very nice advise. All children should be treated the same in hope that they will get the same opportunity to success. But the word ‘rich parent’ made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Does this means that only if rich people care equally to their offspring that the “devastating side effects” i.e. leftover people due to specialization can be lighten. I am skeptical that doing so could make much change. Most of leftover people came from lower proportion of the society, so maybe it would be better for the rich to care for their lower counterpart as to donate or provide opportunity?

Anyway, I am not an American and this has very little impact to my life. I just came across this article by chance and while reading it, I found some odd points which are peculiar to me. Maybe he meant it differently or I interpreted it wrongly, seems impossible to get his answer. However, I just want to share my opinion and the seriousness of our -might be doomed- future.