Friday, October 28, 2016

Point of View

It wasn't too long ago that I was going through the dreaded yet needful job search, seeking opportunities at workforce agencies and career fairs; and following up on job applications.
This month I will be completing half a year at my job, which also marks the end of my probation period. It is longer and different to past probations that I have experienced.

It gave me ample time to reflect on my progress and development, both in career and personal. I am surrounded by colleagues who have qualifications and skills that exceed my own leaving me wondering if I am, by the definitions and standards of a meritocratic Singapore (and other societies), successful at this stage in my life.

I could look back into the past and wish I did things differently, focused more on my goals, heck, even maybe undertook further studies in a completely different field that I may be better at (read my first blog about my first career aspirations of being a journalist/ writer).

It came down to one thing. I'm just too grateful. Too grateful of the life I've been given to ponder too much about what could have and should have been. Also I am not one to conform to the standards of society.
Everything I have been through in the past has led me to where I am today. My past supervisors have seen my true potential and given me opportunities for progress.  I have been involved in industries related to my passions where my efforts and strengths have been appreciated, trusted and commended.
Hence I believe it's no different to this new job. At least I hope.
I have goals of my own which I know I will achieve provided that my point of view is unwavering and focused on being the best I can be, whichever path I choose to step on. That has always been my motto.

Let me leave you a quote for you to ponder.

"Failure is a point of view but so is success. So change your point of view." - Nahil Hilal Faraj.

Yes, by none other than my wise husband.
So if you find yourself in doubt, change your point of view today! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Where are you from?

Ever since being back I have been questioned by my fellow locals "Where are you from? " or "Are you local?". I'll only betray myself if I said these questions did not make me feel the least bit offended. I expected them to recognise my unmistakably Malay features. Perhaps its the many years spent abroad that changed my accent and demeanour, sparking their curiosity. Also with the rise of expatriate population in Singapore who emigrated from countries that are members of ASEAN, these expatriates have facial features akin to Singaporeans. These expatriates and Singaporeans have mistaken each other as one of their own. God knows how many times Filipinos in Oman have thought I am a "Kabayan" i.e. fellow country person.

I claim to be a third culture kid who embraces diversity and enjoys meeting people from all continents. Therefore I should be acclimatized to the idea of being perceived as a foreigner, wherever I go then, right? No, not when this happens in my own home country. That sense of belonging disappears.

Then recently a video was shared on social media which made me think hard about my feelings, recalling what I have learnt through research and readings that my mind seemed to have blotted out. The people in this video were given the opportunity to question who they really are by doing a DNA test that reveals how much more in common they have with other nationalities than they think.

I need to think and act differently towards those aforementioned questions and take them as a compliment. I believe we all need to think and act differently too.

There's no one pure race. We're all biology linked somehow. Scientific studies on DNA has now proven what the Quran had stated thousands of years ago. No I'm not here to preach, though I will state on the amazement of such a holy scripture during a time when science and technology were in infancy. The verse may sound so simple yet truly profound. One does not need to be a believer to appreciate knowledge from a divine revelation.

"O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you." [Surah Al-Nisaa 4:1, Al Quran]

Moreover this video has also made me realise that my race, as officially stated in my birth certificate is Malay but my racial background is much more than that. I have been told that my ancestral background is Indonesian, which is related to Malay, as well as Chinese and South Indian. But who knows how much more lies within my DNA? Whatever it may be, I feel that this mixture makes me a unique and truly multi-racial Singaporean. Perhaps one day I'll take a DNA test to discover more. The Malay race might have been adapted by my great grandparents for assimilation into a culture that they were able to closely relate to for survival when they migrated here. There are countries I have travelled to that have brought familiarity even though I have never been there before. It could be a slight deja-vu of sorts caused by a small percentage of my mind, body and soul that may be reconnecting with a distant past in the now foreign land that was once home many years ago.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Returning Citizen

I have to admit, I was anxious about moving back to my homeland after residing abroad for more than half my lifetime. There were uncertainties lingering in my mind, particularly with employment and work-life balance. Singapore is among those countries that is rated with the longest working hours in the world. Due to this it is a high possibility that working professionals have less quality time to spend with family, friends and on other pursuits. Of course this depends on the occupation, the company rules, the boss and one's effective time management skills.

As soon as I touch down I was eager to assimilate rather than alienate myself. Twenty minutes after landing my eagerness met with reverse culture shock (RCS). I casually walked into the airport's toilet cubicle the way I do in Oman, but displeasure sank in seeing no water hoses, only toilet paper. You must understand that this equipment has been a part of my cleaning ritual ever since I can remember. It feels so much better than using only toilet paper or wet wipes when one has the choice. (If you don't use water and think EWW WEIRD then stop there. We don't do it the way you think and cleaning our nether bits doesn't sound as dirty as you think. I can go into this debate and I assure you that I'll come out victorious but I'll only stray from the subject of this blog hahaha!)
The RCS hit me like a ton of bricks, as if also declaring that I'm no longer in the Middle East. I shrugged it off quickly and kept a mental note to bring an empty water bottle whenever I go out.

I know many who upon leaving their hometowns to migrate have embraced the other culture so much that they have forgotten the basics of their own. Years away didn't do that to me though, or at least I'd like to think so. I did wonder if I had changed greatly that a local would think I'm a foreigner. I mean, I have retained knowledge of the whereabouts here so I don't ask for directions (also thanks to Google Maps). I'm not hao lian (arrogant) enough to forget the Colloquial Singaporean English, famously known as Singlish. It may sound odd to a foreigner, but it can be useful when conversing with locals particularly with elderly shop keepers.

So here I am happily acquainting with my people as familiarity sank in. Then I met a fellow Malay girl who thought I was Pinoy i.e. Filipino. Great, not again. I thought this would be left in Oman? I have had enough of people assuming I'm Filipino. I have nothing against Filipinos and those who know me well know that I like making friends from all over the globe. It's just that the world is BIGGER than you think. Apparently it wasn't my looks exactly that caused her to think so, but my accent that wasn't very Singaporean. So my face plus foreign-ish accent equals Filipino.
The incident that truly surprised me was with a shopkeeper at the printing store. She attempted to read my full name and said, "You look like a Filipino. Are you a Filipino?" Darn it, lady, you just read my full name with "Binte" in it. You're supposed to be Singaporean and know Malay people! (Side note - 'Binte' means 'Daughter Of' used by Malay Muslims here. It is derived from the Arabic word 'Bint' for 'Daughter)
Mustering dignity I firmly replied, "No. I'm from here. I'm Malay."
She didn't look apologetic and went on. "You look like Filipino."
Okay, I'm not sure what her point is, but I was going to make a point, and one that will be an eye-opener to her.
"Yes, I do. Malay people look like Filipino, but do YOU know that there ARE Filipinos who have Chinese features and look Chinese? You could look Filipino too, with Chinese background."
She looked at me and "Hahaha".
"No, seriously," I said.
Perhaps the influx of foreigners here in the last few years, whereby Filipinos make up a large percentage, has changed the sentiments of locals here. If she did not recognize my obvious Malay name, then maybe she is a foreigner herself. If she is local then she's ignorant of people in her own country. Pity. Whatever it is, I am proud to be a citizen of our multicultural Lion City and am looking forward to a new beginning with my Kenyan-Arab husband.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hopes and Dreams

I still recall vividly the first time a composition I had written in Malay was published in a daily Singaporean Malay newspaper 'Berita Harian' when I was in Primary 6 (Grade/Year 6). The piece was inspired by the events of an unexpected flood that occurred in the area I was living in then. It earned me SGD $20, and back then that amount was enough to make me feel like a millionaire author.

When I was in Primary 3 I discovered that I had a penchant for reading and writing. During oral reading tests I would score full marks for good pronunciation and intonation. My writing compositions attained A or B scores. These traits probably lead to continuation of good writing composition admired by teachers in secondary school, as well as future participation in performing arts, public speaking and leadership roles. By Grade 9 I dreamed of becoming a journalist. My mother supported this dream wholeheartedly by purchasing learning materials for aspiring writers. After sitting for 'O' level exams I went back to Singapore with a solid plan to matriculate at one of the local Polytechnic schools, intending to undertake a Diploma of Mass Communication.

Alas, this would be how I learnt my first important young adult lesson that plans fall through. Despite my good results my prerequisites were insufficient as I was told I did not do my Mother Tongue 'O' Level exam. At that time it is compulsory for Singaporean students to be bilingual and learn a Mother Tongue in school. When my mother decided to take me to Oman to reside with her permanently I guess neither of us had considered that this could have been an issue if I attained an international 'O' level qualification. With a heavy, disappointed heart I left Singapore to Oman again to continue post-secondary education, which I felt was not to my advantage as my request to undertake the 'A' level English subject as a private candidate at the British Council was rejected by the school principal who said I was not allowed to do so. It was even more disheartening to discover that a year later the Mother Tongue prerequisite was removed for certain Polytechnic courses where Mother Tongue languages have no relevance. 

I changed my career aspirations, focusing on something scientific to undertake at university level. I don't really regret it since I do love Science too. I also continued to participate in performances that I am suited for, and occasionally write opinions online for friends to read. I believe that the choices and back up plans I made in the past has led me to where and who I am today.

A few years ago I met a Kenyan gentleman, who later became my husband. Dreams can become a reality when you are determined and believe in yourself. He is my dream come true. This year we made a big life decision to move to Singapore to create more dreams together to come true. He inspired me to write a blog, reminding me of my strengths and attributes which shouldn't be idle. I love that he sees the best in me and is very supportive of my dreams, as I do his. 
I dedicate this first blog to my darling husband, my Caramello Hubby Boo, Nahil Faraj.