Visa and So Much More

US Embassy Logo (Courtesy of US Embassy)

I woke up very early in the morning trying to beat the KL traffic rush to reach the US Embassy in time for my visa. What amazed me was that even though I was an hour earlier than my appointment time, there is already a line of people waiting although their appointment time are later than mine.

I’m amazed by how the things inside the US Embassy works. They are very efficient yet, why is the waiting line so long? However, that which give me a good impression of US is the service they provide. The people at the counter is always the first line of defence for an organization. They set the first impression for the customers and should be ready with an answer for anything that may be thrown at them. The person at the counter should always be smilling and greet you with cheerfully.

Personally, I view my interviewer with a great first impression. Because someone up the line before me cannot communicate in English that well, she took the pain of trying to communicate in Chinese. Although the pronunciation is not that accurate, it’s a great job on her behalf.

I also meet a couple person from international school. Is it because of their education background that allows them to be more sociable and independent, or is it just a trait of a typical KL-ite?

After the interview, I wander all the way to KLCC. Claire, at least you are wrong on this. It is possible to travel to the US Embassy through public transport. All it takes is just to walk a bit further.

In KLCC, I saw a lot of students with their school uniform around. Some are following school tour, while others, just hanging around. An interesting sight I usually saw in shopping malls such as KLCC is that the foreign visitors and youths are the dominant sight in places like this, whereas the older generation are hardly in sight. A shopping mall is easiest place to notice a trend or behavior of the future generation because with the presense of such a large and specific population of youths.

True to my money-pinching nature, I didn’t buy anything from any of the shops again except for my lunch. Although I been going out the whole week, I didn’t have any material addition into my possession. The only thing which burns a hole in my pocket is the transportation cost. Perhaps, I should cut down on travelling to save cash. Then again, I’ll be going out again shortly to another shopping mall.

Time is Money

Time is money. Or so goes the age old saying.

Unfortunately, for my case, it literally means money! For those who know me really well in these past year, they can tell that I procrastinate a lot, up to a point where I have to admit that I am very lazy. I’m trying to remove this habit of mine.

I procrastinate when about going to the bank to settle my visa application fee, I arrived just when the bank is about to close down. Not only did I lose 1 working day for the bank to process my request, I put strains on my tightly packed plans for the week. Coupled in with some unwanted misfortunes at the moment, I’m trying to juggle my schedule so that I could squeeze just enough time for me to accommodate everything I have now. Sigh, I wasted money on transportation without achieving anything I intended to do in the first place.

I misscalculate the inefficiency of the local train service, KTM which cause me to doubt if monopoly is really the way to go for a service like this. A presence of competitor might be a wastage of resources but the appailing services of KTM should be improved for the benefits of its customers.

The next day, I was supposed to meet up with other people for some gathering or so. But because of the irregular train service (KTM again!) and a little bit of procrastination on my side, I missed the supposed time by a mile. I may missed out on a great learning opportunity on the gathering, but my trip with Jason to Lowyat Plaza serves as an adequate compesation for it.

The downside to all my travel is that I wasted time and money getting on the move twice for something I could accomplish in one trip. I’m really upset with myself because of this.

Strike! No Oil!

Hmm, I just received a very disturbing news from my mother. It seems that rumors are flying are that the petrol kiosks around the state are on strike – refusing to sell precious hydrocarbons to customers. I don’t know how long this strike will be as unconfirmed sources estimate it to be from one to three days. For all that I know, the line for the petrol kiosks are just as long as when the government recently announced the hike in fuel price. People really do respond for the slightest incentives they can find.

I’m not sure if the strike is a nationwide protest against the recent fuel hike, or just a local movement. I hope it won’t esclate when I am going for my visa interview in a few more days. No fuel on sale means no means of transportation for me to go to the embassy.

Medical: Of Bureaucracy and Professionalism

This week, I went to a private hospital to perform my medical check up. It got me to wonder, should this country encourage more private hospitals or build more state operated ones.

I went to a government hospital for my medical check-up last year. I was able to compare differences between these two type of hospitals. In the state owned  hospital, services are much slower and there are no interpersonal touch involved. Here, I had to do everything myself. Going from room to room to get different tests done. Everything is paperwork and the bureaucracy is deep within the institution.

Whereas, in the private hospital, the services are top notch. I am ‘processed’ within half an hour of signing up for the medical check-up. Everything is efficient and there is a nurse to help us around. Still, I need to travel around the place into different rooms. Paperwork is almost all eliminated because the hospital officials recorded it down without even going through me.

It seems privatization really does promote efficiency. By privatizing, the hospital has to compete with other of its same kind, thus providing incentives to have a better service. The state own hospital can always rely on its steady stream of patients and thus, do not really need to provide service with a smile. After all, the doctors and nurses’ paychecks are guaranteed from the government whereas in in private hospitals, the doctors and nurses’ depend on their services to attract customers. Their paycheck depends on the hospitals business. No patients means no income. It is that simple.

Plus, private hospitals need to match up with a very powerful weapon of the state owned hospitals – subsidized medical fee. I could have faint when I received the bill because it cost so much for just one medical check-up. There are no competitors nearby to compete with to provide incentives to lower the fee of the medical bills. In a clash between social welfare and social efficiency, perhaps it is only fair that there are two type of hospitals on the board, one to cater for services and efficiency while the other for welfare so that all can enjoy basic health services.

Still, I had something I dislike about private hospitals, it is their sense of professionalism. In the medical report, I was suppose to have an x-ray of my chest to look into my lungs condition. I tried to bargain my way out of it but the doctor insist on maintaining the hospital’s integrity. So, I had to do it anyway. What happened to the customer is always right?

To the Minister of Health, if you are reading this, consider this few words of mine. I would like to request exemption from all x-rays report in future medical check-up because  I believe that any disease one may found from my x-ray is not justifiable to any of the diseases which the x-ray will cause on me. Notice the  “may” and “will” in that sentence.

Of Ironing in Supply and Demand

Tomorrow, there’s supposed to be an award presentation for university’s high achievers. And with such formal occasion requires formal clothing, which means, ironed and pressed long sleeve shirts and slacks.

Suddenly, I found myself facing requests from the guys to borrow my iron. Being the only male specimen in the whole block who iron his clothes, they can only turn to me for the iron. The demand is high, and yet supply remains only one. I do not have much incentives to borrow them the iron except for some threats of physical injury. I should charge them rental for the usage of my asset instead.

Hmmm, business is good when I have the monopoly power. Then again, the tradeoff for charging rental is far higher than the profit I could gain from it. The prospect of facing a pack of angry males is far daunting and unnerving, even for one who has background in martial arts.

USA for Students – Coming Up!

Might as well give this a little shout out here. The USA for Students is going to be held tomorrow.

The details are as following:

Saturday June 14, 2008

10:00AM – 4:00PM
Dewan San Choon – Wisma MCA
163 Jalan Ampang,
Kuala Lumpur

Don’t miss it out if you are planning to go US to further your education. It is the largest place of information where you can obtained first hand experience from all your seniors who had successfully entered into US universities. The seminars they gave are worth all the time you spent there. If not, at least you still have a consolation price of meeting me. I’ll be manning the booth besides the FAQ section. So, see you all there.

Children Camp 4 – Part 1

Last weekend, LEO Club organized its annual Children Camp event. Boy, was it tiring or what. I need to go to meetings and practice some group dances the week beforehand. Even worse, the night before the big day, we all stay up so late to do last minute work till I overslept the next day.

During one of our preparation nights, this is an orientation for the facilitators to get to know each other.

Here, Julia is still trying to teach us the morale dance for the camp.

As a facilitator, we are all supposed to gather together at 8am sharp on the big day. But sleepyhead me went on and sleep past the 8 am even though my alarm clock has been ringing for more than 1 hour. Sigh, after brushing my teeth, I went running to the Sports Hall with a slice of bread as breakfast. I will regret this extremely light breakfast afterwards.

By 9 something, the kids start to roll in. Since they were only a handful at a time, I go on and talked with the closest one to me. Two boys, younger one is very chubby and outgoing while the older one is a bit quiet. It is nice to talk with them. Then, I found out, they are cousins. Not only that, we then bring them together with another group and found out that there are 3 pair of cousins out of the six children we are talking to. It means, every two child there are related by blood.

The first pair of boys I talked to. The ones behind us are just extras and came in just for the picture.

After that, a big group of children arrived. They are from Rumah Ti-Ratana. Hence, a committee come and break up our merry group, asking some of the facilitators, including me to entertain the newly arrived children.

I went to the registration desk and they assign me with three siblings. Considering my quiet and passive personality, I hope that I won’t bored them to death. Luckily, two other facilitator decided to join in the fun and they also talked them as well. Overall, it is very entertaining with them and I wanted to extend the time I spend with them but then again, we need to separate because the opening ceremony is about to start.

The three siblings under my care. Luckily, these two charming ladies kepo in and help me.

Trust Dr. Sia to be late for the opening ceremony and thus, forcing the committees to stall for time punctual for events like this and to officiate the ceremony in a sweaty sportswear tasteful costume. In fact, Dr. Sia has such a joyful face at the sight of meeting the children. After giving a small speech along with the INTIMA Exco, they quickly exit the building.

Now, I was assign to Group I with three other facilitators – Gary “Superman”, Shirley and Iris. The first two facilitators are superb. They juggle betweens their duties as facilitators as well as being committees.

After the opening ceremony is ice breaking session where the facilitators get to know with the children. Each child is supposed to received part of a heart shape when they registered. This pieces are then matched together to form a heart. Unfortunately, some of the children decided that it is good to tear up the pieces to give to their friends. Since each group’s heart is of different color, they exchanged teared up pieces with their own gang to create a colorful collage. Sigh, no matter how many times we tried to piece them up together, but it was to no avail. So, we just quickly pasted up everything and hope someone can identified that it is a heart shape use or genius and figure the shape out.

And we are supposed to think of a group name and group slogan by then. Since we are running out of time, we simply chose one of the names nominated out. Sadly, democracy did not work, and the name “I love you” group is formed. Don’t even let me started on the slogan. I will let your imagination figured out how Group I Love You slogan turns out. We then have to go on stage and cheered out the slogan for everyone else to hear again.

Next, we have lunch (not really full, must sneak out to buy additional lunch) and some indoor games. Just what where they thinking. Some of the games are fine and dandy but some, I was so scared that the children, especially the younger ones will get hurt in them.

This is another group. They seem to be happy playing dodgeball. But, I fear my little young ones on the receiving ends of it.

Still, everything was not that bad lah. The facilitators can also participate in some of the games.

After games and games and games, they all had games again in the swimming pool! (Can’t they think of anything else to entertain the kids?). One of my children, yes, my children 😛 cannot swim and I piggyback him all over the pool, splashing water at other people and trying to escape when they splashed back at me.

After this is the poolside games. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy it much because my group keep on losing (what do you expect since most of my group members belong to the younger age group) and one of them almost fainted during the games!

Ah! Water balloons!

My little group “I love you”. Don’t know what I am looking at that time.

Then, it is bath time. Gary, my head facilitator and I bring the boys to the bathroom to bathe. Since he literally didn’t sleep in the past 24 hours, I let him catch some shut eyes by the youngest group member while I look after the other two, trying to search for an empty bathroom for them to shower.

Then, it’s dinner time (also not satisfying) but for kids, enough lah. After dinner is Treasure Hunt. There, we are supposed to go to few stations according to a map and solved the games there. The first station is about finding recyclable waste hidden around the BBQ pit in the dark. Were they good or what, my group managed to find stuff more then what is hidden by the committees. They found beer bottles, cereal boxes and even bring in used tissues as recyclable stuff. Wah, so creative. In fact, one of the older children, Carol, told me that this is not a game at all. It is our way to trick them into cleaning up the places for us :P. In fact, I had something of the same idea too. A few stations where not that eventful until we reached the folding clothes station. There, the children are supposed to fold the clothes in the quick Japanese style. Wow, May Chee (did I get the spelling correct?) was smiling with glee at this. She wasn’t kidding, she is so used to it that she folded up all the dirty piles of clothes in a jiffy.

But due to some unforeseen incidents, Group “I Love You” still ended up being in the last place.

By that time (around 10 pm), the committee show the movie “Ice Age 2” but the kids don’t want and replaced it by “Waterhorse”. So, while they were munching on snacks and drinking Milo watching the movie, I went to help the committees moved down the mattresses and laid them into position. We are going to have an en mass sleepover tonight.

This child is really lucky. His name is Teh Bin Kit (less I forget about his name) and his facilitator is Mathew (the one wearing red). He cares so much about his child. Bin Kit is 8 years old and look really frail. So, his facilitator decided to share a bed with me so that he can be beside him and look after him. Girls, if you need a potential husband candidate, Mathew is a wise choice.

While we are all asleep, guess what the committees are doing? Some have to stay up all night to make sure the security of the children.

And that concludes Day 1.

Oil for International Business

This world runs on black gold (Courtesy of HowStuffWork)

When I was applying to Wharton for my undergraduate studies, I did thought of taking international business as a double degree to complement the course I was intending to study. Since this is old news, it didn’t cross my mind again until a few days ago when the Malaysian government announced a shockingly huge hike in the price of fuel. I still remember the time when petrol was just RM1.20 a liter a few years back when it skyrocketed to the RM2.70 a liter today.

It makes me wonder, is it a sign that fuel is running out? Or that global demand has exceed what global production can usually supply. How will the world market be when the world’s oil depository dried up in the next twenty or thirty years in the future. Will the term international business still hold at that time when there is no fuel to allow the mobility of goods. Then, does comparative advantage has significant benefit over the cost of transporting the goods. Can the airlines still function to carry all the executives around the world? I shudder to think of how our world will be like when it runs out of oil.

I believe those at Wharton or any other school who intend on international business are taking a gamble for themselves with the uncertainty of the availability of the black gold. Perhaps, there will be alternative fuel or the world will revert back to coals and wood. However, wealth and luck usually side with those who took risk. After all, the global market is still the most lucrative stage there is today.

What Do You Think of Me?

Sigh, I need to write how do I want people to remember me by as part of the leaving student profile. Growing up, I have a few distinctive traits, but is that how I want people to remember me by?

So, I type this question through MSN to a few random people on my list. It’s hard to find people on my list who are still online since it’s the weekend. I asked :”What do you think of me?”

And here are the respond they gave me.

Julia Chua: The one who smiles.

Daniel Yeo: Genius boy who needs to play more.

Crystal Khu: A smart person doing extraordinarily smart stuff.

Su Lin: Sabah (My nickname in INTI) – sweet, helpful and innocent-looking but don’t be deceived by that cause he has a mind of his own and is not afraid to question what he feels isn’t right.

But the magazine want in 10 words or less lah.

Su Lin: Or rather- Sabah the swimmer!

Jason Paul: Laughing Buddha (This what my friend in primary school used to call me)

Kelvin Kong: You’re smart, friendly, jovial and best of all considerate. Special characteristic: Like Pokemon.

Yu Shiong: Own a superb thinking that no one could reach the same level of it.

Jia Min: A very innocent guy who likes to bet with me though he never win once. I like his company as he is quite funny, cheerful and comfortable to talk to.

Sigh, looks like I need to wait for more people to be online to get their responses. So, how do you think I should be remembered by?

LEO Trip to Malacca – Part 3

Old Malacca – Where it all began.

This is the final part of my trilogy about my trip to Malacca. The first order of the day is to get breakfast/lunch because we all overslept that day. Too tired and lack of sleep from the day before equals me who cannot be woke up by alarm clock.

So, we went on our planned trip to taste Malacca Chicken Rice Ball. When we reached there, a small restaurant in Jonker Walk, the place was jammed pack with people. Even though we had reservations, it still took us some time before they could find enough seats for us.

The rice balls are finished very fast. I was only about to take this picture when the food arrived when several forks and spoons reached out and hey, where’s the food? Truthfully, I don’t know what is so special about this restaurant. Sure, the rice taste good and is shaped like a ball. The chicken flesh is also smooth and delicious. But, most chicken rice stall also the same wah. I don’t really understand why people would wait in line just to eat this stuff? But all things said, I will still give thumbs up for the food.

But not for their attitude though. As soon as we finish eating, the lady of the shop asked us if we are finish and straight away chased us out. What type of attitude is this? I know you want business, but that is not a valid reasons to ask us out and said “Next!”. At least, asked us politely about it. I don’t know if you gain any extra profit by kicking us out that early. But I am sure you will lose me as a long term customer, which means, you won’t earn anything from me!

We then proceed to the Stadhuys’s building for some sightseeing. But with these guys, they are the one worth more seeing.

The Handsome Guys RULE!

See, this is why the guys are better sights than some monumental building which I can view in the Internet everyday. If anyone objects to the obscenity of this picture, I will take it down straight away. 😛

After that, we are supposed to go to Malacca Parade to do some shopping. But, when we reached the foot of St. Paul Hill, we take a long detour so that we can visit A Famosa on the way.

The group next to St. Paul Church.

Inside St. Paul Church, it has nothing except a few stone slabs. I think they are tomb stone. Perhaps this is where Seong Gee got the idea for my eternal demise here.

After walking around with nothing interesting to do except to sprinkle coins into the dungeon and taking some photos, we headed down the hill to the remains of A Famosa.

Just a small piece of it left. I really wonder how big the whole fort really is in the fifteenth century.

Some of the more insensible things I do. I would had been a goner if there is a loaded cannon ball inside.

Here’s the group photo for most of the members in the trip. The objective here? Kick Albert especially on the head to get him out of the picture. 😛

Once we completed our trail on A Famosa, we headed to Dataran Pahlawan and Malacca Parade to shopped around. Since we missed out Tan Kim Hock to buy some delicacies because we overslept, I headed to Giant and bought some dodol there. Hey, it also has the same Tan Kim Hock brand too.

After that, we all board the bus back to the hostel where unfortunately, I missed out on most part of the Kaisouki Matsuri held that day, since the grander celebration is in the morning.