Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Still sick....

I just took a last trip to Blackebergs Gymnasium to thank the wonderful people there who have helped us to make SMUS possible. Per, Marie, Ismo and Hussein - thank you! This camp would not have been possible without your generosity and help!

Entering the building, I couldn't help but feel a sense of attachment to the place. Strange, because we spent just 3 days there. (the organizers slept over the night before, to prepare for the camp). But it felt welcoming, familiar and comfortable. And it brought back lots of lovely memories to mind. I miss the SMUSies - creative, enthusiastic and fun! We had an afterparty last weekend at my small cramped corridor, where we simply spent time talking and laughing. (And, for Therese, a good time shopping for food and baking lussebullar!)

Thank you, SMUSies, for these beautiful memories!

And to my SMUS team, Diana, Amelia, Charmain and James, THANK YOU! I loved the times we spent together, no matter how stressful they were. Thank you for your understanding, support and hard work. I will miss you guys.

And so, it seems like I've yet to recover from my SMUS-sickness....

Time is like fine grains of sand. Not matter how hard you try to grasp it, it still slips through your fingers...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christians are elitists - That's why we speak 'Christianese'

Chris Tilling posted this up on his blog, and I felt it was a sad depiction of the Christian community, but true.

Just like geekspeak, Christians also seem to have their own lingo that we *must* use, not realizing that we often shut out other people in the process.

Remember the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee?

Do we speak 'Christianese' because we are self-righteous?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Suicide bomber fail!

So yes, I know I'm not supposed to make light of the suicide attacks in Stockholm. I am, actually, rather shocked that this happened, because Stockholm has been such a peaceful city. Well, I suppose that with all the ruckus churned out by Sverigedemokraterna, Sweden's ranking on the hit list just had to rise by a few notches.

My first thought when I heard about the news (while having dinner with the awesome SMUSies during our afterparty) was - oh wow! My post "There's a bomb in Stockholm!" turned out to be a 'prophesy' after all..

And Volkswagen has even churned out a YouTube clip about the bombing attacks in record time! hahaha.. You gotta love these advertising people - They never fail to leverage on all the horrors happening in the world :P

And now, I've gotta try to clear my emails before getting to work, so friends and family know that I'm alive and kicking....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Define good and evil. And while you're at it, don't bother to be 'good' unless you're a Christian.

This was the opening theme song for The Unbeatables 3 (双天至尊3), one of Singapore's 'homemade' TV series that I grew up with and am actually very proud of. I mean, the series was first filmed in 1993, and the story line, cinematography and acting standard was actually what I deemed on par with many international films! Sadly, it seems that Singapore's acting scene took a turn for localized comedies, and local TV series have sort of lost its appeal to me nowadays.

But this song stuck with me through the years. Here's a little translation of a part of it:
I used to think that if things were not good, it's bad;
That if you weren't in the limelight, you'd have to exit the scene
Don't you think that if things weren't black, it's white
Because there simply is a grey region

My friend and I were having a mini debate over this several months back. What did one define as 'black' or 'white'? Who's to say that killing is wrong? Why is lying considered 'bad', and truth valued? What is the standard for right and wrong? Who set these standards?

I came to the personal conclusion that, for many (if not all) of us, religion is what sets the standard. Even if you're an atheist with no belief in God, the 'rules' of religion are what still governs many of us. It's what our laws are based upon, if not for the sake of 'going to heaven', then at least for the sake of maintaining peace within a society.

Having been born in a devoted Christian family, I've had the opportunity to learn about Christianity from a young age. As a kid, I had the warped impression that only Christians were good people - All other religions were bad, and it was our responsibility to be the 'salt of the earth' and spread the Good News to them about God's love. I'm ashamed to say that my behaviour wasn't exemplary (and still isn't today), but that my 'superiority as a Christian' simply resulted in me being a complete snob.

And what happens to those who those who are good but aren't Christians? Another friend once said "I have a wonderful grandfather. He's kind, caring, generous, honest and loving. But he's not a Christian. When I asked my pastor what happens to him when he dies, my pastor told me that he'd go to hell. It's just not right!"

It's because of this that my friend doesn't wish to believe in Christianity and hopes instead that the Bible is wrong - he simply doesn't want to believe that his grandfather cannot possibly be saved. After all, if he is a good man, has led a long and fulfilling (and some might even say blessed) life being a Buddhist, why should he even consider turning to another religion?

Julie's post, Wasted Love, brought me to recall this short story, for which I've not been able to fully find the answer to. In her post, she also remarked that

Obviously many of these people who are serving and laying down their lives for others are not “believers.” After all, they didn’t say the sinner’s prayer and they don’t go to church on Sunday. So here are my questions:
Is their extreme love for mankind a waste?
Will God still punish these people with the wicked?
Does God turn a blind eye to their love and refuse to reward them?
Did those who died in service of humanity give up their short lives in vain, only to be lost forever?

I have one more question to add - Is doing good a complete waste if you're not a Christian, since you'll just die and go to hell anyway? Who is it that defines 'good' and 'evil' anyway?

What do you think?

Does the bible not say :"There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? " James 4:12 [comment by Megan on Julie's blog post]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I've contracted a serious illness :/

RAWR! I just typed a whole post out when my laptop died, and took the entire post with it :/

But yes, I was typing about a serious illness that I've recently contracted - SMUS withdrawal symptoms.


Have you ever spent every waking hour thinking about something, and when it's finally over, an emptiness fills your heart and you're left wondering what is it that's so empty about your days?

That's what I've been feeling the past 2 days. SMUS has taken on such a huge role in my life over the past 3 months that now, with the camp over, a huge gaping hole has been left in its place.

To the wonderful SMUS participants - You guys rock! I loved your cheerfulness, your determination, your creativity and strength. You were the ones who made SMUS possible, who kept that energy and joy pulsing throughout the entire camp :) And you made every single second of organizing this event worthwhile. You inspired not only me, but all the helpers who followed you guys through the streets of Stockholm as well!

So what have they done to impress me this much? Well, let's take a quick peek at what each team did:

Team 1: Bambibjörnarnas
Now this team is a fantastic, talented, creative and absolutely wonderful team! Their idea was to sell customized bookmarks, in line with the spirit of Christmas. Throughout the night, they made preparations for the challenge, and set off early on Sunday morning with 11 bookmarks already sold on their online sales! When Jenny's sms came in telling me that they sold their first bookmark, I was so excited I couldn't sit still! (I was sadly unable to follow the teams on their challenges through the streets of Stockholm, and instead stayed in Blackebergs receiving all the juicy updates from our wonderful participants and helpers) Unfortunately, although their idea was fantastic, their street sales didn't flourish as well as hoped. But they didn't give up! Instead, the talented and creative team started selling Julmust and Pepperkakor to entice families to approach them and purchase their bookmarks, and sang and danced their way along the streets to attract all the passersby in Stockholm city center! In the midst of it all, the team bonded tremendously, and got to have lots of fun :) (at least, it seemed like you guys had fun - did you?)

Team 2: 2Cool
Oh yes, their idea really was too cool! They blew the judges away with their fantastic presentation skills, where Therese and Gustav ended up finishing each other's sentences 'like an old married couple' :P And their idea was so very simple - All they did was to sell ribbons which people could stick on their Christmas gifts to add a nice finishing touch to their presents. But these ribbons had a special meaning - all of the profits from the sales of the ribbons were donated to UNICEF. Yes, you heard me right there. All. The team didn't keep a cent - They took all they earned, and sent it straight to charity. I was touched, and very much impressed by this team. By the end of the challenge, the team had sold all 20 ribbons that Therese had painstakingly spent the night sewing for the challenge, and arrived back victorious. It was a pity that their last team mate, Malin Doyon (I have to mention the surname - there were 4 Malins at the camp!), fell sick and was unable to go out for the Challenge. But she camp right back during the evening, just to support her team and watch them at the final presentation! <3>

Team 3: Pental and Team 5: Little Masters
Both these teams came up with the same idea - They saw the snow (and there was a lot of it!), grabbed their shovels and said that they were going to shovel away for the entire challenge. And boy, did they shovel! Unfortunately, Pental lacked the luck (and girls!) that Little Masters had, and was unable to 'bring in the dough' after their days exhaustion. Little Masters, on the other hand, returned to Blackebergs Gymnasium shivering from the cold, but with their heads held high in triumph! After knocking on countless doors and trying different sales tactics, they finally emerged winners when they brought in a whopping 695kr after 5 hours of non-stop, back-breaking snow shoveling. The team initially started off requesting for a mere 50 kr for their services, but later went on to adjust their pricing strategies, and sold their hard work for as much as 175kr per customer. Kudos to both teams, for the hard work and raw energy that they poured into the Challenge! :D

Team 6: The Rockers
I love this team :) Not that I love any of the other teams less, mind you, but this team inspired me greatly with their hard work, determination and perseverance. And I loved their idea! The team came up with a nifty idea of being tour guides for tourists, specializing in the Gamla Stan region. But what was so special about their idea was the personal touch that they added to this tour - They wanted to give their customers a closer look behind the touristy glitz, and instead include their personal experiences and anecdotes of Stockholm as part of the tour! Personally, I'm someone who doesn't like to see the 'touristy sights', and would rather spend more time trying to absorb the culture of the place. So their idea really appealed to me. But their passion overwhelmed me. Close to midnight on the 4th Dec, I saw Felicia and Malin Friberg hard at work on the computer terminals - They were doing research and preparing brochures for their Challenge the next day. With all the professionalism that they could muster within the short timespan, they came up with a company logo, beautiful brochures, did their research and even had time for a quick Simpsons night before they went to bed! The next day, they marched the streets of Gamla Stan umpteen times, devised new strategies and sales techniques, and persevered all the way! Unfortunately, the weather made it difficult for them to sway customers to remain in the cold and participate in their tour - they ended up joining forces with Bambibjörnarnas and selling kanelbullars at the very end. But through it all, they impressed their facilitator and the judges, and were a great inspiration to all who heard about their efforts :) Don't give up guys! I still think your idea was fantastic, and you should try again during summer! :P

All too soon, though, the Challenge was over and the tired teams returned back to Blackebergs for their final presentation. To be honest, I didn't care that much about the amount of money they brought back - I cared about the learning journey that they had just been through. To my dear SMUS participants, I sincerely hope that all of you learnt a little bit more about entrepreneurship, made new friends, had new experiences and had fun during the 36 hours that we had together. Some of you have wonderful dreams and goals - Go out and make them reality, because I know you can! I hope that this camp has touched each and every one of you in a special way, and that all of you have built wonderful memories of the time we spent together. Keep in touch, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all again at the after party! :P

Through all of this, I have much to thank. Utbildningsförvarningen, for their constant support and wonderful partnership, Södra Latins Gymnasium and Blackebergs Gymnasium for their generous hospitality and kindness, as well as Swebus and Vitamin Well, for their generous support and for keeping the participants healthy! :P And of course, the facilitators, without whom the Challenge could not possibly have come to fruition!

But I also have one special group of people whom I want to thank - Thank you, SMUSies, for putting in so much work into organizing SMUS with me. It's been a joy working with all of you, and each of you have been vital in the success of SMUS. Thank you, for tolerating my high demands, my bad tempers, my crazy requests. I know I've not been the easiest person to work with, and I truly thank you for being there, for sharing this experience with me. Thank you, for supporting and uplifting this entire team. Thank you, for filling in for me when I could barely hold myself up anymore. All of you were wonderful and amazing, each so talented in your own special way. Love you guys much <3>

Although I've been an extreme critique of Christianity on this blog, I still have Him to thank for SMUS. Perhaps, if I were a better Christian, I would have been a better leader. Perhaps, if I was truly God's child, this event would have been a resounding success - far better than what I could ever imagine. But I still could not have done without His part in this event. Thank You, for putting wonderful people to surround, support and inspire me. All this was not mine to have or to give - I know that I'm worthless. But thank You, for making all this possible.

Pictures up when they are finally sorted! :P

Saturday, December 4, 2010

StartMeUp@Stockholm - Day 1 complete!

The big day has finally arrived!!

The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of activity, but oh, ever so worthwhile!

Lugging in their overnight bagpacks across the snow-blanketed at 8.30 on a Saturday morning, with sleep still in their eyes, the SMUS participants trundled into Blackebergs Gymnasium - I was soooo impressed :) After several bites of breakfast, they got into their teams and started to discuss the ideas that they had collected over the week. Mikolaj Norek then set the camp off with a cool 2 hours of 'planning' activities, taking their ideas and solidifying it, turning them into feasible solutions that had the potential to be executed during the 20 hour challenge.

Then came an inspiring series of talks by Love Sahlin, Ted Valentin and Annika Lidne! Love's insight on how he started his business at 18 made me wish I'd spent those years of my life more wisely, and Ted Valentin's input on how to keep businesses simple was nothing but inspiring. Annika, Sweden's top female social media entrepreneur, complemented the mix with her vast knowledge and expertise while offering her sound advice to the group. Their experiences, combined, sparked off a series of questions from the young audience that was eager to learn more about what they should look out for when starting their own companies during the Q&A session. I never realized how stressful it was to be the moderator of a panel discussion, but I truly enjoyed the experience! I got the opportunity to catch Annika for a quick interview after that, and will post that up as soon as I can get the raw files into my computer :)

After a fika break, we were launched into an intensive 4 hour workshop by marketing and branding consultant, Stefan Melljö. It was amazing. During these 4 hours, the teams were swept through the basics of marketing and branding, and worked extensively with their ideas to arrive at interesting, exciting and creative business plans! All (including Stefan!) were left brain dead by the end of the workshop, their heads buzzing with ideas and stuffed with loads of new information. A good dinner soon revived their spirits, however, and before I knew it, the teams soon launched into self-initiated group discussions where they continued to build on their ideas!

As I took the time to talk to the teams and listen to their ideas, I couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement building up within me. It was amazing - Their creativity, enthusiasm and zeal were infectious, and kept all of us going past midnight. And in the midst of it all, they never failed to have fun :P The last I heard, one of the teams was about to have a short 'Simpsons night' before they drifted off to sleep! In just a few hours, they'll be up and about again, executing their ideas on the streets of Stockholm! :D

So here I am, 4.30am, recounting the day with what energy I have left. This post ain't well written, and it lacks what little linguistic abilities I usually try to display. But I wanted to pen down (or in this case, type down) these feelings before they evaporate into the few hours of sleep that I have left.

To the wonderful participants of SMUS 2010, THANK YOU for coming! I hope you enjoyed today, and I wish you the best of luck for your Challenge! I'm looking forward to your presentations tomorrow already! *keeps both fingers and toes crossed*

Before I end off this post, I'd like to make a special mention to the wonderful people at Blackebergs Gymnasium, without whom this camp couldn't have gone so smoothly. It was past office hours when we finally reached Blackebergs Gymnasium on Friday night (the SMUSies stayed over since Friday in order to get the place in shape for the event), yet the staff - Ismo and Hussein - waited patiently for us to get there, and took pains to run through the entire school system with us when we got there. I personally couldn't be more grateful! Thank you, Marie, Ismo and Hussein! :)

*excited for tomorrow*

Watch this space for more updates!!! :D:D:D
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