My friend's birthday~ That friend was the dude I met while hiking up Mount Kinabalu last year. This year, he asked if I wanted to h...

The Chung family

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My friend's birthday~
That friend was the dude I met while hiking up Mount Kinabalu last year. This year, he asked if I wanted to hike up again, and I said yes!!! (lol macam proposal)

This was us last year

And this was us this year - 23rd October
(which was also his birthday hence the first photo)
Clearly, not much has changed except for our hair maybe. 

Thankful for Xiangxi for helping my friend and I organise everythingggg, right down to the accommodation. Eventually, we hiked all the way to Laban Rata hut, BUT didn't get to summit Mount Kinabalu because of bad weather. That also means I may need to come back YET again because I haven't had the perfect experience climbing this mountain.

BUT.

I got to see amazing views this time around
And I count my blessings.
When I reached Laban Rata, I even said that if I didn't get to go up to the summit, I'm grateful enough because of the views I was given.

The point of this post isn't about my climb though - 

It's about Xiangxi's family.

This year, his siblings joined him on the hike - three others. He has two sisters and a brother. 

I'll leave you to guess which ones are his siblings.
They all have very distinct looks.

This was them celebrating his birthday for him up on the mountain. The rest were his friends.

What's special about their family is the fact that... they're still hanging out and doing things together as a unit even at this age. How many of us still do that?????

Having spent a few days with them, I felt the warmth and colour of his family. They were so open and caring to each other, as well as to others like me. Above all, they were happy.

While we hiked, they would sing. While we ate, they would bicker (endearingly). And while we talked, they would always have something to joke and laugh about. They were one of the closest families I had ever seen and whose company I had the privilege of revelling in. I enjoyed being with them very much.

I remember one day before our hike, their eldest sister had to catch a midnight flight from KL to Sabah and all three of them made sure to keep some food for her, and helped with her check-in. Things like that were simple, but it's usually the tiniest of gestures that reveal a lot about people.

I even got to meet their father. He too, was very open, friendly and kind.

What's amazing is that their father exposed all 4 of them to outdoor sports very early on in their childhood. They climbed Mount Kinabalu once as a family when the children were still in primary school and he showed me beautiful family pictures when I stepped into their beautiful home. I felt comfortable the moment I stepped inside their house. Yknow how sometimes a person wouldn't feel at home since it's someone else's? I didn't get that feeling at all. I felt instant familiarity.

I could see how love within the family helped raise the children into becoming secure and confident adults. 

I'm sure many factors played a part, but I strongly believe sports played a very big role in their upbringing.

I witnessed that when I went snorkelling with two of his siblings one day at an island.
It was my first time snorkelling, but for them - they've been exposed to this since they were kids! They're experts at diving.

I could see how relaxed, and confident they were out in the sea. And it reflected in the way they carried themselves in life. They were so in touch with nature and with themselves.

Which is what's lacking in Singapore... our kids don't go out to play that much. We stay indoors most of the time, especially so for kids of today. And our sense of worth is tied to academic grades and the schools we go to. Sure, we get the grades, but are our kids truly living?

I attended a talk recently about parenting, not cuz I'm expecting or anything, it was a talk about raising children since I was volunteering with an organisation for underprivileged kids. There was one part of the talk that said the Singapore government is still puzzled when it comes to refining the education system. 

The speaker said, "Our education system has form, but no substance".

We've got it. The form is there - the recipe to good degrees and graduates. But there is no joy for learning - there is no spirit in our children. There is no true love for learning that comes from within. Everything so far has been rote learning and our kids may seem knowledgeable but their brains aren't actually developed holistically - emotionally, socially, physically. And it's quite sad because what kind of adults are we grooming our children to be? What are they pursuing in life? Worse still, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety are on the rise among our youth. 

Something's got to give.

Which was why I was truly inspired by the Chung family. They're very confident individuals and very street smart. Something a lot of Singaporeans are lacking in. And I strongly believe it's developed through play. A LOT of playing. Our kids don't play anymore. Maybe on their phones, which only stimulates a small part of the brain.

The importance of 'play' became such a eureka moment for me. Again, I saw that through Xiangxi and his friends. 

I met some of them again this year

They were all high school buddies and Xiangxi happily chirped, "and friends forever". I know he means it. 

To him and to them, their friendship is solid and as I spoke to them, they recalled good fun times at school - where they played pranks on one another, where they made teachers cry - I felt their bond. It wasn't out of loneliness that brought them together, it was out of pure friendship. I loved listening to their stories and they were amazing. I wish I were their friend in Sabah too!

Malaysia may not have made it top in the PISA rankings, but I don't see my friends any less bright than I am. 

I am not saying the Singapore education system is bad. In fact, I think it's world-class and I would never want to study anywhere else if I had to go through it all again. I had the best education at NTU. 

I also do not see any sense in all play and no study. That's stupid. We still need to be intellectually stimulated by what we read in textbooks and have a vast breadth of knowledge about the world around us.

It's just that... our children are not developed in other areas that are necessary for survival. There is also a lack in character development.

If anything, that's my wish for the young people of today... and if ever I have the opportunity to effect such a change, it would be this: play more, live a little. I wish I had the chance to when I was in primary/secondary school/jc.

Having figured this out, it has helped me and the children I've taken under my wing.

I used to wonder how to inspire them to work hard in life. Do I bring them to the library? Make them read loadsa books? What can I do? 

But I realise... no, I take them to places where they can sing, jump and laugh a lot. That's what will breathe life into them - learning from their natural environment... 

where trees grow, fishes swim and flowers bloom


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