Well, I have been longing to write this entry since I touched down in Malaysia from Thailand. But of course, time constraint and assignments, assignments, assignments have never failed in keeping me away from my keyboard.
I have been so blessed to be given the chance to attend a youth seminar on social development and drug abuse prevention in Chiang Rai, Thailand end of March. It was actually a 7 day workshop attended by youth leaders from ASEAN countries and China where we exchanged strategies and experiences on issues and the roles that could be taken by youths in handling these issues. Each country has sent 5 representatives, consisting of a mentor and 4 participants.
To be honest, I was quite nervous to attend such activities for it was my first time attending an international seminar, and what more to be addressing in front of an international crowd. But of course, it is never too early for the first.
You could not just ignore the scent of awkwardness feeling up the air. The ice breaking session was as if we were meeting Martians who are on an official visit to earth. But, the vibrant colours of their unique traditional attire created a more friendly environment suitable for making acquaintances. Maybe I put my hopes too high on this seminar, but it was to my disappointment that a considerable number of the participants do not have the English proficiency sufficient in addressing heavy issues as those that would be discussed on the seminar. I pointed out this to the Singaporean and Malaysian mentors, but they told me that I would learned something very valuable from it; and trust me I did.
One thing that was very evident, and also very interesting about the seminar was the differences of culture from different countries converging at one point. At first, we did encounter some problems when our believes, thinking, and managing system collided which has stirred up some conflicts and confrontation. But of course, at the end of the day, we realized that differences are not weaknesses, but it is actually an asset that could unite and strengthen us all. To me, the differences of cultures and believes are not meant to be discarded or prevented, but they are meant to be celebrated. I would love to quote what the Singaporean mentor addressed to us in the mentor’s closing speech “Overall, the greatest and best consensus that we have reached is to agree to disagree’. Try to read between the lines…
Being elected as the chairman and the overall manager was a defining moment to me, and of course it brought along a huge responsibility. I have never imagined myself gaining an overwhelming support from other countries. I don’t know what I did to deserve such respect from these people, but I always believe that in order to gain respect, you need to respect others first. Acting as the overall manager, I was to organize and facilitate a ‘drug prevention day’ which will be attended by 50 international students. Sounds easy, but there’s a twist…. It would be a formal event, attended by some Thai big shots, and I was only given one day to set everything!! To me, it was not just a test of my managing skills as the president of my college, but it was for the good name and pride of the Malaysian name. The pressure escalated, and it was just hard core. I even did not take my bath the whole day as I had my mind on this thing. There were a couple of conflicting ideas and managing system that came into the picture, such as my managing approach deviated from Thailand’s conventional approach, the choice of venues between China and Brunei. In times like this, I realized that democracy has its limits and it must be balanced up with an authoritarian approach. Soon, we managed to reach a consensus on the blueprint and it was executed well. Alhamdullillah, everything went well, and I was grateful to have friends from Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, China and my county mates who has been my greatest allies and support throughout the whole ordeal. But despite the tantrums and quarrelling, we manage to bury the hatchet, stand on common ground against common enemies.
But the one thing than transcends culture and language was the friendship forged between all the participants. In the early period of the workshop, the bilateral issues which brew up between Malaysia and its neighbours somehow affected my cold perception on the people of that particular country. I might not need to go into details, fearing it would become seditious, but to be honest, their top politician’s stands and views does not reflect the good people of the country, and they are actually very nice people. Throughout the whole 7 days, we laughed and cried together, and we became very close and fond with each other. I actually don’t know how to put into words, but the 7 days we spent together has created a lovely and wonderful friendship between us all. We partied, dance, and had fun together, and we have become one huge family. I still remember when we were to depart to the Suvarnabhumi Airport, all of our friends were waiting for us at the lobby early in the morning, just to say their goodbyes to us. A lot of red eyes were seen, and I was not excluded from the emotional drama. I still remember how we hug, and had a group hug together; a sheer sign of the friendship we cultivate throughout the whole 7 days there. Puktan, our close friend hugged me so dearly, and it as quite some time before she let me go. It was such a tear-shedding moment, but of course, it would be one of the hardest things that you could take place in a friendship. It’s true that it takes a second to make a friend, but it takes a lifetime to say goodbye.
All in all, it has been an unbelievable and extraordinary experience for me to be attending the event. It has benefitted me a lot in so many ways, and it is an experience that I would not trade in for anything, even a million dollars. It is those moments which is worthy to be in my most memorable moments in my life, and it has created a new me and shifted my paradigm to the better. Love you all my friends! Youth leader rox!!!!