And so, my heart aches:
For people never seen,
For places never been.

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Of Arrivals & Departures

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.” -Leonardo da Vinci

And oh, I so dearly long to return.

To be suspended in flight, far above the earth.

To cross oceans and cities, people and memories.

In search of new stories,

To behold.

Dream Unlocked

*** NOTE TO SELF:

Anything’s possible. Keep striving.
Serve and give back.
Leave the world a better place than when we entered it. ***

I’ve been busy the past few weeks and I just came back home. I flew to the other side of the world, after being given an opportunity to do so. I grabbed the chance and got more than what I expected. (Truly, Alhamdullilah!)

All I aspired for then was to seek funding and support for a socio-civic project that I had in mind. What I received though was far more than that. I had the chance to unlock one of my childhood dreams which is to visit the United Nations Headquarters in New York . I never thought that I would be able to do just that at this very moment–when I’m still fresh from college and as young as now. I NEVER THOUGHT that I’d be able to set foot in such a distinguished venue, and even be recognized–along with other young social entrepreneurs! I really never imagined that happening–not now, definitely not as early as now.

Yet, it did happen. It happened for real! :’) 

At the United Nations HQ, New York, USA

At the United Nations HQ, New York, USA

Of course, there are many other notable events that happened right after (such as being awarded by a New York State Senator–whoa!) but that–the visit to the U.N. and the Recognition Ceremony that happened–is perhaps the most vivid memory that I would keep dearly cherished in my heart. It would serve as constant reminder for me to consistently take on greater heights and conquer new obstacles in life–all in the style of honor and excellence.

As such, for all that has happened, my heart is now bursting with immense gratitude.

Gratitude

And

Desire

Desire to be better in life. To be stronger. To be more capable and qualified to both lead and serve.

I feel like I owe so much to God and the world that I have to work harder and more passionately in giving back hope, growth and opportunity to the people around me–especially those who are in need. A great leader is one who also paves the way for other people to achieve greatness themselves. As I once said, in a speech I gave out during the gala ceremony, “I am merely an INSTRUMENT of change.” I am an agent who ought to share, deliver and maximize all opportunities, as well as successes seized, for the betterment of others. 

This is just the start of many more things to come. From one dream to another, let us carry on!

Destinations Missed: India and South Africa

They say that once an opportunity passes by, we should “always” grab it. Not all opportunities come by so easily, and sometimes they only come once.

Months before today, I’ve actively worked for achieving two specific “opportunities.” MAY 2013 was supposed to be a month of immense discoveries for me.

One opportunity that was handed out to me was the chance to travel to India, on a sponsored trip by the Asian Development Bank. I could have been a social media correspondent, who actively engaged in the discussions and who learned from the different sessions being held. I could have met several inspiring individuals and groups, and gained many worthwhile memories along the way. I could have also explored India (with some college friend/s), and could have visited these places in person:

India’s Taj Mahal (Photograph by Apratim Saha)

Agra’s Red Fort Temple (Photography by Martin Bauer)

Henna Hands (Photograph by Petra Warner)

Random memory: When I was in Malaysia last year, I met a friend (she’s from Bangladesh) who made henna art on my hand. It was a simple design, but lovely nonetheless. When I headed for the airport that night and checked-in, one of the airport crew asked me whether I just got married! Haha. I guess, since he saw my henna, he might have thought that I attended a special wedding ceremony. (Marriage? Noooo! Too young for that! Haha.) That was my first and last time to have henna on my hand. I wonder though how it would be like, to have one done by a seasoned artist in India. 

Amber Palace and Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur (Photograph by Patitucci/Aurora Photos)

The other opportunity that was also due for this month was the chance to participate in a prestigious youth leadership event. Apparently, I was the only one selected from my country. Around 26 young leaders and change-makers, from around the world have been selected to participate in this event to be held in Durban, South Africa. When I found out that I got admitted, I was definitely excited. I imagined myself attending the trip in India first, and then flying over to South Africa a few days after. I just wondered how much I could learn from this event, especially in terms of developing the socio-civic idea that I had in mind. By being able to network with more people and organizations, I was optimistic that many people could help me fuel my idea. I was also very eager to join in and be part of a bigger network of youth, who were all actively engaging in various socio-civic and political endeavors. I believe that the passion that these young individuals brim is infectious.

Of course, the thought of landing in South Africa thrilled me too. Aside from Durban, there’s Cape Town and Johannesburg–some places that I would love to see, during this lifetime.

Durban’s North Beach (Photograph by Stuart Fox)

Cape Town: From an Aerial Tram (Photograph by Roger de la Harpe)

Cape of Good Hope: Touchdown (Photo from http://www.rgbstock.com)

Cape of Good Hope (Photograph by April Badilles)

Johannesburg’s Lion Park (Photo from TripAdvisor)

Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum (Photo from TripAvisor)

The photos look amazing, right? I bet being able to see such places in person would dazzle us all the more. Imagine living through these photographs by actually being there.

Unfortunately though, I’ve let these opportunities pass. I’ve missed them.  There are many factors that poured in, making me miss these opportunities. I guess, this is not the right time yet for me to avail of these opportunities. I don’t know if I would be able to come across such offers in the future, but I still remain hopeful. Part of me believes that this isn’t the only chance that I’ll come across.

I fervently believe that in the future, once all my priorities and resources are set out straight, then I could grab hold of similar opportunities. There are others to come, I believe.

All I’ve got to do now is make sure that I spend this month well enough. I must be productive and disciplined, knowing that I’ve given up such opportunities for an important commitment that I must focus on. The drive to fulfill this commitment must be consistent and strong. I cannot let petty distractions (no matter how appealing they may be) shatter my drive to focus and deliver.

I’ve let go of these opportunities, in exchange for a lone commitment that I believe, upon fulfillment, will open up more doors for me.

Hong Kong: Hustle and Bustle

Whenever I travel to another country, I always take photographs. My digital camera’s with me, and I try to snap at any interesting sight that my eyes lay upon.

Weirdly enough though, I’ve lost that eagerness to snap photos in Hong Kong. It’s Day 3 here, and my memory card’s still barely filled with any worthwhile photo to remember. All I have so far are images of streets crowded by shops, people, and well, by more shops again.

If you’ve been here, you’d realize how consumerism is at its all-time high. Areas like Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok, for instance, seem to endlessly thrive upon a cycle of constant selling and buying of various goods and services. HK, with its small territory, manages to cramp up thousands of shops along streets and shopping malls. Billboards abound in every corner, creating and heightening the need for material goods. High-end brands populate nearly every street and the drive to spend, spend, spend, is always there. There are other famous recreational areas of course, but most I believe, are artificial–such as HK Disneyland or the Ocean Park. Of course, this is not to say that HK doesn’t have its own culture and heritage. Hong Kong’s cultural facets, which are encapsulated by a greater China, are not undermined. It just so happens that from a tourist’s perspective–specifically, from my perspective–it seems as if consumerism outshines all the other facets in this city more, just like how a bright pink and white Sasa billboard catches one’s eye amidst all the other competing sights.

Take note though that this is not my first time to visit HK. I’ve been here a couple of times before, usually as a tourist. I’ve been here as an exchange student too, but only for a quick period. I guess those prior experiences seem to have made me “complacent” about my current stay here.  I’m not really that excited to roam around here. I love to keep on walking–entering different streets and bustling through the MTRs–but my zeal to explore around seemed to have depreciated.

Maybe, if I get to visit HK again with a friend or more, my level of eagerness would change. However, that’s just because the thought of touring with a group of friends to a different place (well, to any foreign place actually) is always exciting. I suppose I’ll bring up this travel proposal to a friend or so, once I get back.

Now, I’m just wondering how my experience would be if I just pursued that trip, sponsored by ADB, to India. If not for the timing of events and other prior commitments, I would have grabbed that trip instead. I would have attended the Asian Youth Forum as well as the ADB Meeting, reported on the events while making a sideline tour of New Delhi instead. I’ve seen photos from some of my debater friends who are currently there and it seems like they’re having a grand time. Oh, well. There’s always another next time (I hope!).

Signing out again to plunge myself in this crowded arena.

Somewhere in Tsim Sha Tsui