Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

A recap

My one month trip back to Msia turned out to be one full of surprises. My internship didn't start untill the end of my 2nd week home and it only lasted for 2 days. A visit to a doctor turned out to be a surgery and a 7-day hospital stay. In between that, I hosted 3 couchsurfers and one girl we met in Zouk. Ryan's from Hong Kong, Colin's from Sarawak, Jeff is from Kelantan and Felicia is from KL. They reached Ipoh at about 3 am [Sunday], then we went to get supper at a mamak, chilled for a while, drank some Southern Comfort, and then Ryan wanted to catch the sunrise. So we drove up to Gopeng, had breakfast and went white water rafting. It was all totally unexpected! We had lunch then came back to Ipoh. Rested till about 6 p.m., went to have dinner/Guinness Draught at MP. We got our supply of booze and headed back to Gopeng for a full night of drinking and smoking some legal herb... good times.

The next day, we spent some time dry abseilling, singing along to songs like "Belaian Jiwa", "I'm yours" and "Hotel California" while the staffs at the resort strummed the guitar... before leaving, we took some great shots at the waterfall. We had an amazing and cheap dinner [our first meal of the day] at Lawan Kuda. We've been drinking beer since we woke up, and had more beer during dinner. Jeff and Felicia took the bus back to KL while Ryan and Colin headed up to Thailand and got there at 11:30 p.m., and spent the night on the beach in Songkla. Tomorrow's a big day - the surgery.

My hospital visit was a pleasant one. The surgery went well, the food was great, the nurses were kind, I had my own TV with StarMovies on 24/7 and my MacBook[I was on FaceBook almost every minute of the day... for 7 days!! lol] and my mum brought me a huge stack of movies.

After getting discharged from the hospital, I decided to just take it easy and rest at home for the day. The next day however, for the entire week I spent every night drinking at bars like Krave, Barbeza and Barroom. Yeah, every evening/night. It was rather exhausting I gotta admit. But it felt good spending time with some of my friends... reminds me of my worry-free days. It reminded me again why I left my life in the U.S. and spent 30 hours traveling halfway across the world, twice!! You guys know who you are and you know I'd always have you guys in my heart no matter where I am and what I do or how long it will be until we get to hang out and be crazy again.

During my last week in Malaysia, I spent that Monday in Penang with Sneha, Matt, and the rest of the group.... 10 of us.. on an impromptu trip... we took the boat out to an island.. fooled around... had fresh coconut and mangosteen!!! yumm..!!! I don't think we get mangosteens here in the U.S. I guess we all didn't feel like leaving but we had to. Mat had a 10 p.m. bus to Singapore. Sneha sped 140km/hr all the way back and we were 5 minutes late. I think his mum was pretty pissed, so was everyone else in the bus... oh well!

The next day, Sneha and I went to Pangkor for a 2-day reunion trip. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect. There were 9 of us, from the same highschool. I knew some of them since I was 13, some even before that. I haven't seen most of them since we graduated high school. It's been 4 years and to add to that, we're extremely different from each other, from our personalities, background, college experiences... I'm glad to say it turned out quite well. It was good to see them again, regardless of our differences back in high school. We made a pact to have a reunion again, 4 years from now, in Europe!!

We came back on Wednesday night and I met up with Sze-Ryn, one of my best friends and I haven't seen her in about 2 years!! I had so much to talk to her about... I wanted to know all about her life in Dublin and I wanted her to know all about my life in the U.S. But things got a lil awkward, not that I mind the presence of her friend, but it did change the way things turned out. Anyways, we went out for drinks... and more drinks... and let's just say it was an interesting night.

Thursday was really just more drinking and packing!! Oh, and I met up with some of the girls from my Ballet class.. and I haven't seen them in more than a decade!!! isn't that crazy? They're all over the world now.. one is married in the U.S., one is in London, one is in Scotland, one is at a university in KL... crazy how time flew...

My parents and I left for KL on Friday. My mum and I went shopping at The Garden and someone unexpected met up with us. I was so sure Kee Loon would have so much fun shopping with us! lol..

Later that night, I met up with a couple of my closest friends and some of their friends as well at Republic. We had beer, shots, cocktails, and it went on... and on and on... untill about 3 am, we went to Ben's house to hang out.

I looked at the clock, "oh shit" it's 5.15 a.m. I'm supposed to be getting ready to leave to the airport. My dad's calling. I had to leave. It was surprisingly hard this time. Since I left for the U.S. 3 years ago, I've only been back once a year, 2 weeks at the shortest and 2 months at the longest. Goodbyes for me are not supposed to be hard anymore. And yet this time, it was emotional, even from the least expected person. I'll miss them, for sure, even more than before, perhaps because my life is even more uncertain now than ever before, now that I'm graduating, or maybe we realize we're all growing up, we're not who we were 4 years ago.

On the way to the airport, I got a phone call. One of my best friends got into some serious trouble. And I was helpless...

The 30-hour journey was rather uneventful. The food was great, so was the service. I slept a whole lot and watched tons of movies... again! =)

I reached at midnight, and went straight to my old house for the 4th of July party!! It was great to see Jenna again and to meet the new housemates. It's good to be back...

now back to reality...

graduating soon - check
homeless - check
unemployed - check
car is officially a junk - check
officially broke - check

Life is good! =)

Here is my article from my 2-day internship stint in Malaysia

Merona is nursing college’s Best Outgoing Student

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Drug test result "mix up" in Malaysia

posted in - General, - Palmdoc |

Recently a patient of mine was held in a police lock-up for alleged ingestion of illicit drugs. He happened to be at a pub at the wrong time when he as “picked up” and his urine test for opiates and THC (cannabis/marijuana) was allegedly positive. Well he happened to be taking DF118 at that time (a codeine analgesic) so we could write a medical report stating that the DF118 was responsible for the false positive opiate drug test. We could not explain the THC positive result and the police sergeant kept pressing the patient and the family on this issue. A bit of Googling (as an aside, I Googled using the mobile version, direct from my Treo 680, as I happened to be having lunch in a coffee shop when the call for help came in) showed up this page:
Medications & Substances Causing False Positives
Apparently even NSAIDs like ibuprofen (which can be bought over the counter) can cause a THC false positive test so I advised the family to double check carefully what other medicines he has been recently taking. The story had a happy ending though as the police cocked up and there was a “mix-up” in the urine sample. The unfortunate young man spent two days in a police lock-up although he was completely innocent!
I don’t know how much our police farce force are aware of the wide scope of false positive results in urine drug testing. I doubt they will even be convinced that there are legitimate medical uses of marijuana!

Drinking and driving in Malaysia

The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is measured by the content of alcohol in a person’s system. In Malaysia, the legal limit is 0.08 per cent which means 80mg per 100ml of blood.

Risks and real dangers that comes with the job...

Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan -- David Rohde, a New York Times reporter who was kidnapped seven months ago by the Taliban, escaped from a compound in Pakistan by jumping over a wall, the newspaper's website reported Saturday.

Rohde, 41, recounted to his wife shortly after gaining his freedom Friday night that he and interpreter Tahir Ludin escaped their captors in the North Waziristan region but that their driver, Asadullah Mangal, opted to remain behind.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Saturday, 9 May 2009

My answers

Jit Murad, Playwright and Actor

What things about us seem unfair to you?

Although not all, the "older generation" would judge us just by the way we look, act and talk. If we don't fit the stereotype of your typical "good kid," we're usually not taken seriously or looked down upon.

Ivy Josiah, Executive Director, Women’s Aid Organisation

How can we educate men to stop committing violence against women?

Instill the values in both men and women while they are still young that violence is NEVER the answer. Teach them to value every single human being, no matter their gender, race, religion, nationality, background, etc.

Zainal Abidin, Singer

What is the definition of an artiste?

An artist must be able to strike a chord in the eyes of his or her audience through their work. It has to shock, move, disgust, calm or anger, show a different perspective, changing the way they think and leaving a stamp in their minds forever.

Shebby Singh, Football commentator/pundit

There are many things that can motivate us, but that is different from what our own motivation is. What is your motivation, and why?

My motivation? Be the change I want to see in this country.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Writer/activist

What do you really think of your parents (and no need to be politically correct and only say nice things!)?

My parents have raised me the best way they could possibly have. They offered me support when I needed it, they let me fall when I needed to learn and would always be there to offer a shoulder to cry on. However, my radical thinking and decision-making scares them sometimes, and they would discourage whatever "crazy" ideas I have just so I fit the norm; out of fear, or perhaps that was how they were taught to live, I don't know.

Anas Zubedy, Managing Director Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd

What do you think about yourself?

Far from perfect or where I want to be in life. I will get there some day though, in the meantime, I'm taking one step at a time, learning about life, discovering new things about myself every single day.

CW Kee, Cartoonist - Kee’s World

What drives you crazy?

Stubborn and narrow-minded people.

Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, CEO Air Asia

What will it take for you as the youth to think ‘Malaysian’ first and Chinese/Malay/Indian next?

The question is what will it take for YOU, the older generation, the leaders of this country, the people who drive the economy in this country to think of us as MALAYSIAN, and forget the second part of the question. Go ahead ask the rest of the Malaysian youth, they would give you the same answer, we're all Malaysians.

Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, Transport Minister and MCA President

What do you understand by “youth empowerment”?

Stop being indifferent to the world, to our country. Use our voices to make a difference, make a change for the better.

Lee Khai Loon, Secretariat Member of Youth for Change (Y4C)

What will make politics more interesting to you?

When politicians and leaders of the country start to respect one another and start tackling real issues we've been facing as a country, ask us again.

Datuk Misbun Sidek, National badminton coach

What does it take to become a champion?

To understand that being a champion is not about getting the trophy or the recognition. It is measured by how well you played the game and if you've played it to the best of your ability.

Datuk Dr Jemilah Mahmood, MERCY Malaysia President

How important is it to you to put aside time for voluntary work in the community, whether locally or globally?

VERY important. That should be on everyone's top priority list. I think one of the biggest challenge is the funding and the mentality among some Malaysians that if you're not working for financial benefits, then, you're wasting your time.

Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Women, Family and Community Development Minister

Are you ready for gender equality?

Heck yeah! About time!

Lim Guan Eng, Penang Chief Minister

If you were the Penang Chief Minister, what is the one policy action you would take to the people?

I wouldn't just decide on one policy action. I would hold a series of forums/Town Hall sessions/etc. and listen to what the people have to say.
J. Anu, Artist

What are you reading?

Tom Brokaw's "Boom."

Datuk Yasmin Yusuff, Artiste

Do you believe only the young can speak to the young?

Michael Wong (Guang Liang), Singer-songwriter

How will your lives be different if music ceased to exist?

I would rather not live.

Francesca Peters, Singer

Is there more to you than money, money, money, the rat race, finding a rich partner and “scoring”?

Yes, living life, believe it or not, our generation, while we know the importance of being "successful," we know it's just as important to just stop, watch the sunrise, breath in fresh air, listen to good music, drink good wine, have good conversations, travel the world and value everything we've experienced and given in the good life that we've lived.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, Former De Facto Law Minister

Do you care who your leaders are?

Do you care who your youths are? Like really know who they are, what they're like, what moves them, what angers them, what matters to them?

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Immediate past president of the Malaysian Bar

Do you feel disconnected from the politics of Malaysia and in this regard how much do you value your right to vote?

I don't feel disconnected from the Malaysian politics at all. Even from the United States, halfway across the world, I still hold political conversations with my friends and family members and receive news updates. I think my right to vote is extremely valuable and one vote DOES make a difference.

Khalid Samad, Shah Alam MP

What are the characteristics of good governance and what is your role in ensuring that these characteristics are truly embodied by the government of the day?

Leaders who make decisions for the good of their people, and not politically-motivated or to benefit their "own people," whatever that means. As a youth, we can be the watchdog of the government. Voice our concerns through the right medium. If that doesn't work, take it to the streets.

Khairy Jamaluddin, Umno Youth Chief

When you look into the mirror, do you see a member of an ethnic group (Malay, Chinese, Indian etc) or do you see a Malaysian?

I see a Malaysian, no question about it.

Camelia, Singer

What do you think is a good age for a young person to leave home?

You'll never really leave home till the day you die. Physically, leave home when you're ready, whenever that is.

Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, President Limkowing University of Creative Technology

Do you feel that creativity (or freedom to express oneself creatively) is sufficiently encouraged in this country?


Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Deputy Prime Minister

How would you like to see Malaysia in the future?

To be a developed country, to have a democratic government, to see that freedom of press is practiced, to be one of the country with the lowest crime rate, to see people in authority be corruption-free and lastly for the citizens to be seen as MALAYSIANS, no matter our race, religion, color, background, accent, etc.

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

If, as a young person, you are able to lead this nation, how will you seek to build a Malaysia where there is greater consciousness of being Malaysians first?

Talk to the youth and let the nation know how they feel. I truly believe we may be the only ones in the nation to think that.

Patrick Teoh, Actor

Why are so many young Malaysians apparently so apolitical?

Look at our leaders.

Winnie Loo, Hairstylist

You all are so blessed with everything lay on your table whether is technology, transportation and even communications, but what do you see yourself 10 years from now? Can the world be a better place with your new generation knowledge?

Our new generation knowledge would be nothing compared to what we'll have 10 years from now. The technology will accelerate probably 10 times more and it is hard to imagine how life would be then.

Yasmin Ahmad, Film director

What is the best thing about being in a multi-racial country?

We're multi-lingual and we learn from young that "we," meaning people with the same color, background, religious beliefs and culture are not the only people on this earth. We learn that at a really young age and learned to live with acceptance and tolerance.

Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Historian

Do you think lecturers in a university should learn to be more effective teachers?

Lecturers or educators from any level should always strive to be more effective.

Jeff Ooi, Jelutong MP

How would you like to see Malaysia become in 10 years time?

To be a developed country, to have a democratic government, to see that freedom of press is practiced, to be one of the country with the lowest crime rate, to see people in authority be corruption-free and lastly for the citizens to be seen as MALAYSIANS, no matter our race, religion, color, background, accent, etc.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Transparency International Malaysia president, Centre of Public Policy Studies chairman

Do you feel that you have got a good deal as a Malaysian citizen?

Depends on what a "good deal" encompasses.

Aznil Hj. Nawawi, TV personality

How can we become a developed nation without sacrificing our local and traditional values?

Yes we can.

Azean Irdawaty, Actress

What does being grateful to your country mean to you?

Travel the world and learn as much as we can from other parts of the globe and come back to our own country and use all the knowledge and experience to contribute to the country.

Eddin Khoo, Writer and traditional arts activist

What do you think you are all about, really?

Want to know? Ask us, and more importantly, listen.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

15 years later, Rwanda remembers the massacre

Story Highlights
Candle-lighting ceremony marks 15th anniversary of 100-day massacre in Rwanda

An estimated 800,000 were killed during 1994 conflict

U.N. Secretary-General reflects on "horrifying scene"

Monday, 30 March 2009

Prop 8

and then...

Things you don't think about...

In the rural villages of Honduras:
Most of the people drank one to two glasses of water every day.
The average age for first-time mothers is about 15 years old.
By the time the women are 25, some have more than 5 children.
Some die from fatal diseases, while some, from the most minute problems such as diarrhea.
Some New-born babies stop getting breast milk after a few weeks old and were fed coffee or soda.
Some of them think that any kind of pills would cure their sickness. One woman told us she takes antibiotics every time she had a headache.
Most of them have lice and scabies because there's no clean water for them to shower with and most couldn't afford soap.
A boy drew a watch on his wrist because he couldn't afford a real one.
Even though we know the water those people are drinking makes them sick, we tell them to drink it anyway to stay hydrated.

this is a lil dated... but whatever!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

''One patient at a time' - unedited version

La Esperanza, Honduras - Being up close and personal with scabies, lice and other infectious diseases, not being able to brush your teeth with tap water or consume any fresh fruits or salads, hardly sounds like an ideal spring break to some.

But last week, a team of 34 volunteers — some students, some faculty and some alumni — in one way affiliated with UT, got together as a group and headed to Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Central America, leaving the bounds of their comfort zones for a week.

The team, made up of mostly medical students, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioner students, students majoring in Spanish and faculty members, spent months preparing for the trip, with their activities ranging from manually counting and repackaging thousands of capsules and tablets to fundraising projects.

The leader of the trip, Richard Paat, Students for Medical Missions adviser and clinical associate professor of medicine at UT, said this was the biggest mission team he had led and with the most diverse members.

It was his 33rd medical mission, and he said he expected to achieve no less than before.

“We’ve got, I think, a very outstanding faculty,” he said. “We’ve got faculty from the College of Medicine, pharmacy and nursing as well as [a] BGSU [Spanish] instructor, so we have a multidisciplinary faculty that brings a lot to the teaching environment, and they’ve all been down here before, which adds more credence to what’s happening,” he said.

The positions for students were limited and competitive, he said.

“I reviewed everybody’s résumés, and I knew that they were top-notch in terms of where they were in classes, but in terms of humanitarian experiences, they’ve volunteered in the past,” he said of the medical students.

Diane Cappelletty, an associate professor in pharmacy, said the medical supplies come from two sources.

“The College of Pharmacy students have a fundraiser to help [offset] the cost of those meds, and this year they raised just under $1,900,” she said. The medical supplies are ordered through St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, Ohio, where Paat is the chief of staff.

The other source is donations from King Pharmaceuticals.

“They collect meds from various companies throughout the country, and they ... will distribute to medical missions on a basis of request and what they have in stock,” she said.

Products donated are usually close to the expiration date, she said, although the team is careful not to accept expired medications.

“It was close to, at least probably close to, $5,000 worth of medications [for this trip],” she said. In total, including supplies, hygiene packs and other miscellaneous products, the team had about $8,000 to $10,000 worth, all packed in 24 duffel bags.

However, the estimated retail costs for the medical supplies were about $250,000. The team had more than 150 types of medications, which were divided into 15 categories, ranging from antibiotics, to de-worming tablets and vitamins.

The game plan

The Lion’s Club, the host for the team, chose five different villages for the team to visit, a different site every day. The site’s school buildings and classes were cancelled on the day of the visit. The team had to use the school desks and chairs to set up a triage station, where the patients register their names and ages, and for children below the age of 12 had their weight and height measured. Then, there were usually about five to 10 clinic stations set up, a pharmacy area and a private room for the obstetrics and gynecology. Most members of the team had the chance to hold different roles throughout the mission.

A typical day for the team started at about 8 a.m. and ended as late as necessary; some days the team members resorted to using flashlights to see their patients.

Day 1

The team loaded up the bus with duffel bags full of medicines and supplies, piled in a bus and a van rented by the Lion’s Club and traveled to a village called Quiaterique in Intibuca.

The team was greeted with excited school children, seemingly fascinated by the strange-looking group of people taking over their school. Ryan broke the ice with showing the kids how to do the "La rocka" followed by the explosion.

“It’s my first time writing my own prescription, take a picture!” said Amanda Mure, a first-year medical student, who saw a patient with guidance from Paat.

I saw an 87-year-old woman, who reminded me very much of my late grandaunt as she tries on a pair of glasses and wanted to make sure it complemented her features. She got really excited when I filmed her and she was obviously pleased with what she saw.

The first day consisted of a lot of running around, especially for Paat and Ann Reed, professor of pediatrics and medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, as most of the medical students had limited or no clinical experience prior to the trip.

The Spanish-speaking members were popular as well because a majority of the team was not fluent in the language. Two Peace Corps volunteers, Matt and Tommy joined the team, serving as translators.

One of the cutest patient I saw was Ronmel, a two-year-old who lost two fingers to a machete accident a year ago.

Most of the locals who showed up at the site were seniors who either showed up alone or with their grandchildren as most adults were out working in the fields.

We had a pretty chill night. I got into some ethical discussion with the med students. Personally, I think health care providers [i.e. doctors, nurses, etc] should not judge/have opinions when it comes to their patients. Their job is to treat them, nothing else. Almost like journalists, I think, it's not our place to judge or inject our own opinions.

While we were having this intense discussion, of course the "seniors" were downing shots of Honduran Rum, probably reminiscing previous mission trips or whatever it is they talk about these days.

Day 2

The site for the day was El Cemane, in Yamaranguila, about an hour away.

The team was really excited at the cleanliness of the toilet. There was a roll of toilet paper, which was rare at the sites and the cubicle smelled like potpourri. The experience was almost ... pleasant.

My role today, is measuring the weight and height of kids 12 and under. I had a lot of fun. And as always, I had my bag of Skittles handy, it can almost silence any screaming children!

At the end of the day, Josie Hardy, a nurse and medical missions veteran, gave out colored crayons and papers to the children, which they quickly rolled up and held tightly in their hands, as if not knowing what to do with them.

I took a little girl's paper and drew her name on it, and drew some other "artistic" stick figures, in a way encouraging her to express her creative side. That started the ball rolling. She, [Laura] and her galpal, Duniya started drawing, and drawing, and drawing. Following me around at the same time, anxious to show off their masterpiece.

Day 3

The team was in Candelaria, San Francisco, Opalacaon on Wednesday. I was assigned to work with Marnie and Carolyn at one of the clinic stations.

Marnie Wagner, a first-year medical student, performed her first wart removal surgery with the guidance of Carolyn Snarkis, an intern at INOVA Fairfax Hospital. The patient had about 10 warts on her right hand and had them since she was young. The process took about one hour.

*I was there to film it all, it'll be posted some time this week.

At the end of the day, a group of children sang the national Honduran anthem, which was followed by shouts of “Gringos,” pointing at their “white” audience. Ryan Squier, a third-year medical student; Joshua Evans, a Spanish instructor at BGSU; Billie Sewell, a nurse practitioner and Jonathan Berger, an intern at the National Naval Medical Center happily accepted the challenge and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” with all their might and their right hands firmly over their chests.

** Look out for the video.

Right before the team left the site, a young girl pulled my hand and said, “Que le vaya bien,” which Sarah Parker, one of the Spanish major students, explained that it meant “Best wishes to you.”

The Lions Club prepared a Cultural Night for the team at the terrace of a hotel. Most of the team members took advantage of the little time we have to freshen up for the night. Some of us however, have something else in mind, something much more important of course. Matt and Tommy took us to a bar a couple blocks from the hotel.

We had a traditional appetizer called Anafres. Essentially, anafres is a refried black bean and cheese fondue, served hot over coals in a clay pot. Tortilla chips accompany the anafres for dipping.

At the bar, we met a bunch of people from all over the world. Suzanne, who's part of the group said she works construction but there are others who teach, work with water sanitary, etc. all brought together by a organization call Eye to Eye.

At the Cultural Night, a group of dancers entertained us with their traditional Honduran number. I think most of us had a little too much Honduran rum in us by the end of the night. No one's complaining though.

*ps. My glass just flew out of my hand, I swear! I wasn't THAT drunk!

Day 4

The team started the day with a two-hour bumpy bus ride to Ojo de Agua, San Francisco in Opalaca. I had to sit on the pile of duffel bags the whole way there!

The team was greeted by a loud, “Good morning,” which was a surprise to many of the members, as that was the first English words that came from a young Honduran. Marlon Gonzales shouted out loud and used dramatic hand gestures. His classmates followed suit. It was really amusing. As if enjoying the attention he got, Gonzales went on with randomly shouting “Nice to meet you” and “See you later” at us.

The village, according to Paat, was possibly the poorest among the sites that the team visited.

At about 10:30 a.m., the children were lining up with cups in their petite hands, waiting to get some mid-morning snack, “leche de harina,” an oatmeal-like texture made of corn and sugar. It has a really bland taste to it.

Paat explained that for an actual meal, in most cases, only sponsored children through programs like World Vision would receive a meal.

** Check out how you can adopt a child at www.worldvision.org, you'll be surprised at how little it actually costs.

Towards the end of the night, Katrina and Jon performed a "surgery" on a girl who had chopped off part of her fingernail in a machete accident about 5 days prior, and had gotten the wound infected.

I think it was a pretty exciting moment for Katrina as it's her first time doing this.

It took Tommy and Chris [peace corp volunteers], Aileen, and a couple other people holding her down and consoling her. I think at one point she stopped crying after the World Vision volunteer told her that she wouldn't wanna be known as the girl who cries in that village.

I can imagine it can be rather daunting with a crowd of maybe ten people or more with flashlights, camera flashes and video cameras surrounding her.

Later that night, we met up with Suzanne and her group again, at the same bar and had a couple "cervesa." Apparently it's the law for bars to close at 10 p.m., so we went next door and got a shady, VIP room, thanks to Tommy. That was a night of many shots of liquor and cans upon cans of beer.

At about 3 a.m., a herd of cows walked by the hotel, it was definitely a priceless experience. It's amazing the way they move, as if the leader of the herd knew where to go, which turns to take.

Day 5

We went to a town about 5 minutes away from our hotel, which is really close to the city. The group had mixed reactions about the choice of this site.

Some thinks it's a PR move on the Lion's Club part, some said they had rather the team return to the site from the day before, saying that our help is much more needed there.

There are others who think that their help is as needed here than the other sites. Just because health care is accessible [close to a hospital], it doesn't mean that those people can afford to get the treatment/medication they needed.

Right as everyone piled up into the bus and van to head home, a woman came limping towards us. She had a broken ankle. The team offered to give her a ride to the hospital but she refused, saying that her son is waiting for her at home. She was given a leg brace instead.

On the way back, some opted to walk and enjoy the warm night, breathing in the fresh Honduran dust in the air. At one point, Tommy decided to pull a little "act"

He went in front of the bus and dropped his pants, yeap, showing off his pale, white butt cheeks. Lydia documented the moment forever with taking tons of pictures.

*I'll have to post them at some point.

At the end of the night, the team had dinner at the Lion's Club building. Each group of students performed a skit and the nurses won the first place.

The night ended with almost every member of a team breaking out their dance moves. Even Dr. Paat did the worm at some point.

Day 6

It took us almost 6 hours to get to Copan from Las Esperanza. The ruins site was pretty sweet and it costs us $15 to get in. That very night, there was a huge party outside out hotel.

We went to the Red Frog Bar and almost all of us took a shot of Uterus Shot. It burned. Not the best shot I've had. Then, Zach, Attaya and Kristen tried the Man Shot: Snort salt from the back of your palm, take a shot of rum and squeeze lime in your eye. Yeah, insane!

Towards the end of the night [midnight], some were still at the bar, while some were dancing the night away at the street party. I was just by the pool, enjoying the warm night with bottles of Salva Vida [Honduran beer] and Beaumont [Honduran ciggs donated by Andrew, lol]

At about 2 a.m., I decided, why bother going to bed? We had to leave at 5:30 a.m. anyways. So, Paige got permission from the security guard for us to swim. So, Nate, Paige and I excitedly hopped into the pool.

At about 4 a.m., I guess the locals decided to entertain us with "fireworks" that sound more like gunshots. Nonetheless, it made the night even more romantic, in an odd way. We talked about everything, from Nate's travel to gossiping about the "interesting dramas" during the trip, to the possibilities that lie ahead of me after graduation [this summer!! yikes!]

I returned to my room at 5 a.m., with wrinkly fingers and toes, and smelling like chlorine and to find Katie and Lydia just about waking up.

Right before we landed in Houston, Texas, the pilot made an announcement. "Congratulations to Jon and Carolyn!!" Jon proposed to Carolyn with a plastic ring he bought from Honduras... how sweet!

We all decided to celebrate with shots of "godknowswhat" and the delicious Fat Tire Beer. Jon and Carolyn are off the D.C., while Ann Reed and Josie to Minnesota and Linda, back to San Diego.


“By No. 1, hands down, some of the most common cases we saw were kids with big bellies full of worms,” Paat said.

“The public health system we have here is somewhat lacking, so when your team comes, even though sometimes we can’t solve every problem here, sometimes the referrals that you make especially to Las Esperanza really do help the people and every small things that we do [here] have a big impact,” said the President of Lion’s Club Maria Mejia, who is also a practicing doctor, as translated by Sarah Parker, a Spanish major student in BGSU.

Some of the patients had to travel on foot for about three hours to seek treatment from the team. By the end of the trip, the team saw about 1,800 patients.

“In five days, you see an exponential growth, and you see how much students were able to learn in five days [and that] they would never be able to experience anything like this in the U.S.,” Paat said.

“We can’t cure the world, but we can help one patient at a time, and I think we were able to help 1,800 patients [this time],” Paat said.

“The other important thing about these missions is the exposure to the students,” he said “That’s important for the future — maybe not so much, maybe not this week, but it’s a stepping stone, especially for the students to get them actively involved in international health in developing countries.”

** It was definitely an eye-opener experience for me, from a journalist's point of view. I learned a lot more about the medical field, working with med students, etc., the Honduran culture and just how lucky I am with all I have.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The start of my final Spring Break 2009

3 a.m., which was really 2 a.m. because of daylight savings time, about 30 of us met up at St Luke´s Hospital in Maumee, on Sunday Morning.

The first flight was at 6 a.m. from Detroit to Houston, Texas. I got upgraded to first class, which was pretty sweet. Breakfast was great and plenty of legroom.

After that, it´s about 30 mins of layover in Houston at about 8:30 a.m., then about a two-hour ride to Honduras.

The weather was amazing, it was warm and sunny, what a contrast from the weather in Toledo, Ohio. It felt kinda weird. I almost forgot how amazing it felt to be under the sun and loving the breeze against my face - unlike the cold wind in Toledo that actually hurts your face.

IT was about 12;30, and our bus arrived, and it was about four and a half hour bus ride to our hotel in Las Esperanze.

I was assigned to room with Lydia and Katie, both 3rd year med students at UT. A bunch of us walked around the hotel and checked the town out for a lil bit before dinner at 6:30 p.m.

Dinner was interesting. We were given two pieces of white bread, cheesy mashed potatoes, spicy barbeque chicken and steamed vegetables. It was different, but tasty. That was all that matters and I was starving anyways.

At 7;30 p.m., we spent about an hour unpacking the medicines and supplies that we packed in duffle bags before the trip. It was kinda chaotic. All 34 of us in a small room, yelling out categories of the medicines/supplies/soft toys and throwing them in the air, over our heads, across the room, you get the picture.

After thst, Dr. Richard Paat, the leader of the team briefed us on the next day. He spent almost 45 mins just going over what we expect to happen tomorrow, who´s assign to what station, which team, etc.

To end the night, the students were each assigned to research and make a short presentation on a certain medication/disease. I left right when they got started to take a shower. You have no idea how gross I felt.

I was told...

... some new mothers would stop breastfeeding, and they didn´t know any better, and fed their baby with Pepsi...

... do not brush your teeth with the tap water... use bottled water...

And we figured out the conversion rate is about $20 = 380 Lampiras

Friday, 6 March 2009

Show support for our fellow student publication!!!!

Daily Emerald officially on strike until further notice
Controversy stems from new publisher who would have control over student editor...

An ordinary afternoon...

What started off to be an ordinary day turned... a day I would probably remember for a long time...

I realized the deep relationship I have with my roommates when I got home at 4 a.m. and found Jenna and Kelly up studying [again] and being silly and crazy... like they always are...

...waking up at 8:30 p.m. to Bailey, our black Labrador [well, technically Haleigh's] wagging her tail in a my face...

...sitting in my macroeconomics, listening to Mike Dowd, my professor giving his normal lecture with his usual fire and passion... thinking to myself... it sounds lame... I know.. but I'm learning so much in this class, I'll be able to remember all this when I turn 90, all old and wrinkly thinking of Dowd's words...

Then, I headed over to the Student Annex, where students were encouraged to spray paint graffiti and were given sledgehammers to take a whack at the building before they tore it down.

... pretty crazy... I started talking to an administrator, whom I've met through my assignments for the IC and also my other job [catering]. We started talking about my life goals, his crazy college life... and pointed out the fact that this is my time... I can't turn the clock back... I have the chance to do whatever the hell my heart tells me too...

and that, is one advise that NEVER gets old...

now, time for a beer...

Look at how far we've become...

Here is some history of a place where I've learned so much and grown from... the times spent here and the experiences I've gotten from it will be with me forever... no doubt about it...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Malaysia: Woman legislator quits over nude photos

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A prominent Malaysian opposition legislator resigned Tuesday after photographs of her sleeping naked were circulated to the public by cell phone, an embarrassing disclosure that she slammed as a plot to discredit her party.

Whoever's behind the distribution of the picture will keep doing this to whomever they wish to. The legislator should not resign and throw in the towel. Keep doing what you do and fight back. I'll be surprised if her political party, friends, family and the rest of Malaysians will not back her up.


Officials talking Marijuana...

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

New Orleans : Locals prey on foreigners

NEW ORLEANS — They are the men still rebuilding New Orleans more than three years after Hurricane Katrina, the head-down laborers from Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala who work on the blazing hot roofs and inside the fetid homes for a wad of cash at the end of the day.

But on the street, these laborers are known as “walking A.T.M.’s.”

Olympic-sized bong hit

The question of whether Michael Phelps was using pool water in the bong he was photographed smoking is a joke that has surely been overplayed. What I am wondering is, did he use water from the Olympic pool in China where he earned eight gold medals? Smoking pot might not be the smartest move for a role model, but if he was doing it as homage to his Olympic performance, maybe we can let this one slide. In reality, smoking chlorinated pool water would probably be unhealthy, if not deadly.....

The best Valentine's gift ever

Morning's light turns sleep to sight,
As her black curls rest gently in the bend of my arm.
The taste of liquor stains my sigh of contentment,
As the needle skips softly across its worn vinyl path.
Its subtle gritting dance,
No longer emitting the tunes of lyrical geniuses.
As I close my eyes once more,
I can hear the songs from the twilight hours of yesterday,
A soundtrack to strained breaths,
And delicate fingers on my chest.
Their voices stitching together our two beings,
Like the seamstress who sewed the mountain of sheets that contain us.
What cosmic titan bestowed upon them
The ability to embody life's purity?
My thoughts quickly disperse,
As her deep exhale warmly blankets the skin around my neck.
I dare not continue my inquiry in fear that she may wake,
And morning's ecstasy will fall victim to the day's agenda.

~~ From J.G.

Friday, 13 February 2009

3rd article published by The Star Paper [Malaysia]

Making the cut


IT'S 2am on a Monday, and I'm still in my university's student newspaper office. I've been here all day since 10am on Sunday...

Economic stimulus package

Faculty supports stimulus aspects

Here's additional information that was supposed to go to print with the article.

A closer look at the Economic Stimulus Package:

Jan. 28 House passed $819B Stimulus Package
Feb. 10 Senate passed $838B Stimulus Plan
Feb. 11 Both House and Senate came to an agreement of $789B Stimulus Package

Breakdown on differences between House and Senate’s Stimulus Package in education
-Similar aid to states and school districts;
-$21 billion for school modernization;
-$16 billion to boost the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350;
-$2 billion for Head Start.

-$79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cuts in education aid and provide block grants; -$26 billion to school districts to fund special education and the No Child Left Behind K-12 law;
-$19.5 billion for school modernization;
-$14 billion to boost the maximum Pell Grant by $400 to $5,250;
-$2.1 billion for Head Start.
Source: CBS news

Sources projected:
A final vote by the House as early as Friday, with the Senate to follow, clearing the way for President Obama to sign the bill by Monday.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Spring Break 2009 [March 08- 15]

This time around, I'll be in San Pedro Sula for a week. I'll be putting my journalistic skills to test, in this real world experience.

Dr. Paat, the leader for the Students for Medical Missions trip to Honduras decided to give me the opportunity to tag along. I will be doing an article for the Independent Collegian and a video package for The Palestra.

Hopefully, I'll be able to capture the motivations behind the people who paid almost $1,000 to be on this trip, work from dawn till dusk giving out medical supplies and treating patients, and what kept them going back.

You'll get to see why students on the trip would give up Spring Break Partying to work their ass off for zero dollars an hour.

I know the language barrier might be a problem, but I'd really like to interview the locals about their culture, the highs and the lows, and what it takes to be a Honduran.