12/25/2016 12:11:00 pm

List 1: Things I like about December

Merry Christmas!

December, the last month of the year. In some places, December means winter. In other places, it means summer. But for me, living in a tropical area with summer weather almost all year round, December just means more rains and cool weather. It's also semi-monsoon season. Physical conditions aside, December is also a month of less work, less stress, and more breaks. No school, no schoolwork, no classes.

Things I like about December
  • Mumbo
  • rainy days
  • cool weather
  • Christmas decor [on the streets] (even though my family doesn't celebrate Christmas)
  • no school + homework
  • hoodies
  • the year ending
  • School holidays
  • meetups with friends

12/24/2016 02:29:00 pm

Five Tips to Surviving Online School

Even though I am not currently attending online school and taking any online courses, I did take 2 academic years of Geography, 3 years of English, 1.5 years of Physics, Chemistry and Biology online. Here's a few things I picked up along the way:

1. Pay attention.
I know it's difficult sometimes to focus on what you teacher is saying, especially when the teacher is halfway across the globe sometimes and droning on and on, and you can't see their face nor other classmates, but refrain from going on the internet or doing something else (besides taking notes).
True, the teacher can't see you, but it's for your own good to focus in class and absorb as much as you can.

2. Even though your teacher is not physically there in front of you, you still should complete and submit your assignments in time, because a. it's for your own good, and b. your teacher will probably chase you afterwards for uncompleted assignments, and if you still don't do it, your parents will be notified.

3. You can have food while in class, to keep you awake or just because you crave it. Even better, you can have your classes (online ones, at least) in a cafe or restaurant.

4. Sometimes it's going to feel very lonely and isolated when you see your friends in public school hanging out with their classmates and friends, and your classmates are all across the globe, and you don't even really know them that much. But it's alright, you should make friends with people around you too.

5. Because you're staying in front of the computer a lot of the time, do spend some time away from technology. Go out, breathe some fresh air between classes, exercise your body and rest your limbs. Give your eyes regular breaks.

12/24/2016 12:22:00 pm

Post O-Level List: December Updates

It's been awhile since I ticked more things off this list. I'm honestly slightly disappointed that I couldn't complete the tasks as anticipated, mainly because I've been packing, planning and going on more activities than I thought I would. Namely, there was a day trip to a leisure farm with a couple with friends, plus a 6-day Hong Kong trip with my Aunt. I'm currently in the process of going through my photos and picking out the ones for a blog post, so they'll be up sooner or later.

Here's what I've completed since the last post

 1. Mumbo
 7. Volunteer work
 10. Pet therapy (help out there)
 13. Have blackball
19. Get a tripod for my DSLR (earn some cash first!) 

Current list:
◼ 1. Mumbo
 2. Go to Coney Island
 3. Get fairy lights from IKEA
 4. Make a timelapse of sunrise/sunset
 5. Start tutoring (children)
◼ 6. Watch Pink Panther with (friends) (20 Nov)
◼ 7. Volunteer work (help out at a children's christmas party for underprivileged children)
 8. Watercolour
 9. Resume choir practices
◼ 10. Pet therapy (help out there)
 11. Photography trip
 12. Play with & watch fireworks
◼ 13. Have blackball
 14. Eat +/make cake
 15. Swim total 10km
 16. Run total 15 km
◼ 17. Stay up through the night (21-22 Nov)
◼ 18. Sleepover (14-15 Nov)
◼19. Get a tripod for my DSLR (earn some cash first!)
 20. Make 20 lists
 21. Pick up a new skill
 22. Make 99 origami stars (process will be vlogged)


12/21/2016 11:10:00 pm

Thank You

Thank you
for being my first best friend
Thank you
for brightening up my childhood
 jumping on trampolines
Thank you
for always making me laugh 
with the inside jokes
and puns that i'd facepalm to
Thank you
for making me who i am today
for if you weren't there
i'd be a quiet introvert
Thank you
for being my school buddy
those weird fish mummy-fyng experiments
volcano eruptions
and DNA and cell candy
I will always remember 
Thank you
for letting me understand
the concept of
'someone i used to know'
Thank you
for all the memories.

12/21/2016 11:10:00 pm

What do I fear losing?

What do I fear losing?
How is it portrayed in the photos I take?
I fear losing memories, that's essentially what I fear.
That's why I try to capture every moment possible.
I fear losing nature.
Hence I try to capture the large majestic trees, the dainty beautiful flowers, furry moss
I fear losing my childhood
That's why I love to capture photos of children and their genuine beaming smiles.

12/18/2016 09:07:00 pm

Post O-level List #17: stay up all night

21 Nov evening - 22 November morning

The last time I stayed up all night (excluding camp activity), at home, was during my PSLE (Primary School national exam) preparation days, when I just... couldn't sleep. I took a book out and started to read, and occupied myself until the next morning. 

Yesterday I was really tired, so I slept at 1am-ish and woke up at 11am-ish, so hopefully I can stay up all night. Also hope that my mum/dad doesn't notice that I'm awake in my room and make me go to sleep, because I really want to complete my post-o level list.

10:00pm : ate oats and milo plus 2 cups of ice milo (homemade). Then watched Taiwanese talk shows. But wifi is almost nonexistent up here, so it’s frustratingly slow.

11:00pm: took a shower, changed into long pants 

12:30am: Still here. Decided I’ll tick #17 off post-O level list (POL) : stay up all night, since I don’t have anything on the next day and I might not have this opportunity another time.
12:52am: I’m feeling a bit tired, but I think I can hold it till the next day if I occupy myself. Right now the wifi’s still slower than the snails, and I feel bored and my brain feels that sleep is a good option. Maybe I'll fold some origami stars and film the process (but I only have 40ish stars?). Also pre-load some youtube videos so hopefully I don't have to wait for the loading.

12:55am: Tasting blood in my saliva... is it okay? (Don't panic first, I just had a tooth extracted)

1:02 am: Chatting to a friend online who's a night owl plus pre-loading some youtube videos.

1:15am: me right now ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1:20am: finished the third 45min tv talk show episode for the night, starting the fourth (preloaded) one. Later when I fold the 40ish stars, should I use my phone (time-lapse mode) or DSLR to video (increase speed)? Thought the second option would be aesthetically better but am worried that the battery would run out before I finish folding them stars.

1:48am: preparing for star-making time-lapsing project now, googling which option is better for time-lapse (phone or dslr). Also, testing the time-lapse feature on my phone. It's built in with the camera, I use Asus Zenfone 2 Laser.  I'll also have to do some post-recording processing for that time-lapse video, maybe that would also be done tonight/day. Figuring out how to set things up, where to put the light and camera and stuff etc. 

2:05am: started making stars and filming.

2:25am: took a break as the 8GB sd card couldn't hold more than 19 minutes of recording so have to transfer the video to this computer, empty the SD card and resume star-making. Also water break.

3:15am: finished filming, transferred video to my laptop, going to start editing that video.

4:42am: finished editing the first 2 parts (45 stars, couldn't do 99 because lack of paper). Tired eyes, tired brain. But determined to finish this task (of staying up all night).

5:36am: still watching videos to occupy myself, but the brain is tired...

6:30am: using my phone to timelapse the sky changing colour (from inky black to white). Why are there roosters crowing? Where are they coming from? Also the cool morning wind is very pleasant. Love it.

6:45am: either there is more than one rooster or the lone rooster is very keen to wake everyone in my family up. Usually, I won't take much notice of it (since I'd wake at about 7 or 8am), but today is different.

7:30am: found this interesting drama series (Taiwanese) to watch. Then started my post-O level day of doing nothing much.

12/06/2016 05:14:00 pm

兜风 Night Drive

Cruising through the highway
Early morning
Late at night
Silhouettes of buildings
Lights like stars

In Chinese there's a term for 'taking the car for a spin', but in lesser words: 兜风 dōu fēng. Directly translated it means to 'catch the wind' because when you drive, you can let the window down and let the wind caress your face and lift up your hair (that is, if there's no air pollution around, else please don't wind down your window). I think it's a pretty cool description.

12/03/2016 10:05:00 am

Sometimes I Can't Breathe

Somedays when I'm feeling a bit more stressed than usual, 
I'd find myself consciously breathing.
Breathing is supposed to be an involuntary action taken by your body.
I would try to take in deep breath, but it doesn't seem to 'catch'
Like when you take in a large breath and you feel like that's a full breath.
So I get frustrated and try again
Try to breathe deeply
Sometimes it takes 4 or 5 consecutive breaths for it to 'catch' once.
When I get even stressed and try to focus on the breathing,
The OCD inside me insists on achieving full breaths
My brain also tries to help by making me yawn.
My lungs say "too much carbon dioxide is lost! we must stop her!"
My airways are constricted to reduce carbon dioxide loss'
I feel a lump in my throat and my airways feel constricted
I try even harder to breathe
They get even more constricted
It just feels horrible.

So this is how anxiety shows itself to me. I'm not sure whether it's bad enough to call it an attack, because sometimes this happens for a few days straight, sometimes it just comes and goes within a few hours.

The doctor has prescribed me an inhaler and ventolin tablets, but the tablets react horribly in my body because I have side effects like insomnia and palpitations, and though the inhaler helps me 'catch' my breath for the next 5 minutes sometimes, the other times it has absolutely no effect and sometimes makes it worse. So I'm turning to non-medication stuff to help.

I've come up with some things I can do to distract myself and also relax my body at the same time. Hope these help.

Short (0-5 minutes)
1. Blow bubbles
2. Breathing exercises
3.  S.A.M (App, Android | iOS)
4. Crossword puzzle/colour
5. Drink water
6. Eat nice things (healthy)
7. Listen to Matt Kearny’s Breathe In Breathe Out or 'Breathe In Breathe Out' playlist
8. Rain sounds (or any other white noise you'd prefer).
9. Ruffle my brother's head (in your case, any younger sibling who doesn't mind and has nice soft hair, or a furry pet).
10. Make lists. Like this one.
11. List down what’s stressing me and what makes me happy
12. Do some random interactive stuff on websites - Drawing abstract stuff http://weavesilk.com/ https://29a.ch/sandbox/2011/neonflames/
13. Fold paper stars/origami
14. Play with a rubix cube or anything hands-on
15. Light a candle (scented or non-scented)
16. Use essential oils (lemongrass is my favourite)
17. Have a sweet, good if it's a herbal one.

Medium (5-15 minutes)
1. Tidy desk/room/closet/shelf - this is to reassure your mind that you have control over some things.
2. Shower.
3. Play piano (or any other musical instruments)
4. Talk to good friends
5. Watch youtube

Long (15+ more)
1. Take an off day.
2. Excercise- swim, cycle, jog, walk
3. Read a book or watch a movie
4. Immerse in nature
5. Play with small children/animals
6. Take a nap

http://www.rainymood.com/ (with thunder and heavy rain)


If there are any other methods you find relaxes you, do share below! I'll be updating this as I discover new stuff.

11/24/2016 01:55:00 pm

Lensventures two years back | Fraser's Hill |

All photos taken by me back in 2014 when I went to Fraser's Hill with my family.

this had a secret-garden-y feeling... the gate was locked though

the infamous landmark of Fraser's Hill

the cool thing about Bukit Fraser- it is located on the border of two states- Pahang and Selangor. So I could stand on the border, one foot on each state and say I was at two places at once

The last day was filled with a zorbing experience- I shared one of those hamster-like balls with my brother and filmed it.

11/21/2016 11:08:00 pm

BRACES 2: Eight months later...

Eighth-month braces update...

I had my fourth tooth extracted today. Usually for people doing braces, their teeth would be extracted all at one go, but for me my first three was extracted in my second orthordotic visit, and at the same time my braces (brackets and wires) were put in, and the dentist said to wait for the teeth to shift to a certain position before the fourth tooth could be extracted.

By right, the tooth was ready to be extracted in August, but I happened to be running/or just recovered from a mild fever, so the dentist decided not to go ahead with the extraction, just in case, because my body has to be healthy to be ready to fight any infection in the case that one occurred after the tooth was extracted.

Come October (appointments were 1 month - 6 weeks apart), my exams were nearing so dentist and I decided to postpone the extraction because the post-extraction process would be quite unpleasant and I would be unable to focus on studying.

It's been awhile since I updated on my braces progress (eight months actually).

During this time,

  • I had my braces tightened regularly, 
  • changed rubber band colours (but stayed within light blue, dark blue, purple, grey [ didn't dare experiment with other funkier colours] ), 
  • learnt to eat harder foods like apple (still has to be sliced, but the slices in the beginning were tiny as compared to normal slices I eat today), 
  • abandoned and lost my small single-bristle brush (while moving house), 
  • became more and more confident of my smile and smiled more,
  • continued to eat normal foods (candy, chocolate)
The extraction procedure itself was surprisingly fast. Having experienced the anesthetic procedure before, I had mentally prepared myself for the needle and the pulling out tooth process, but it was not that bad. Afterwards,  the dentist told me she saw the look on my face like I was preparing myself for the anaesthesia needle as well as the extraction part, so she got it over and done with quickly.

Also, my dentist upgraded her rubber band colour collection - I found light teal which I didn't recall seeing during my previous visits (or else I would have picked that colour) which I was quite happy about.

The worse part about extraction is actually not extraction itself, but the post effects. First hour was okay, I just bit on the gauze as instructed (the pressure reduces bleeding) and did some doodling at home. The second hour onwards it just hit me... it was not pain, but rather this fidgety feeling with irritation and annoyance and simply plain misery. Plus I was super hungry, and seeing my friend's snapchatting their dinners made it worse (I couldn't eat for the first hour and only cold foods for the next 24 hours). Moaning and groaning relieved that misery by a little bit, and I tried to distract myself by watching TV shows on my laptop.

I kept hydrating myself, and four hours later my stomach really could not stand it any longer, so I made myself oats with Milo (chocolate malt powder) and popped it in the freezer for awhile to cool it.

And now I'm typing this blog post with no gauze in my mouth, six hours after extraction. The misery has disappeared (finally)!

11/19/2016 08:18:00 pm

Fascinating Languages

Languages are really fascinating.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."
‒Nelson Mandela
They are the barriers between us and the people in another country, say China. But when you get a grasp of that language, it turns into a tool, and a really useful one too.

For example,
In Chinese we usually say 'jīa yóu'. The literal meaning of 加油 (jia you) is 'filling a machine with petrol" , so as to have more power to run longer, but it is kind of like saying "go for it" or "you can do it".

I do know that in Japanese they say 'ganbatte', it literally means, “Do your best”. It's interesting how the English phrase is sort of spiritual and wishing for some good luck to be brought to you, like 'Good Luck' or 'God Bless', whereas the Chinese and Japanese version emphasizes your own efforts.

And 'jia you' can be used in a lot of situations- before exams or tests, as a form of encouragement; when someone feels tired, like during a camp where everyone is drained out, as a morale booster; during a competition as a form of a cheer...

Come to think of it, there are a lot of words in Chinese that are really interesting when directly translated. Cobra is 眼镜蛇 which literally is 'eyeglasses snake'; owl- 'cat head eagle'; kangaroo- 'bag mouse'; lizard- 'wall tiger'; giraffe- 'long neck deer'... there's almost an endless number of words that are really interesting when directly translated to English.


  • shredder: 碎纸机 'smash paper machine' 
  • lobster: 龙虾 'dragon prawn'
  • alien 外星人 'out star person'
  • everyone 'large family'
  • mobile phone 'hand machine'
  • computer 'electric brain'
  • suffer: 吃苦 'eating bitterness'
❝To have another language is to possess a second soul.❞
I guess this is really true, since a language portrays a culture and perspective on life. In my O level English exam paper, there was a comprehension passage talking about this topic. In the English language, when commiting an act, the agent was emphasized, whereas the Japanese did not mention the agent (for example, when they were showed a scene where a boy named Jack broke a vase,  at a party. When asked, the English-speakers could recall the person who broke the vase, whereas Japanese speakers could not remember.

Also, the language you use influences your thought.

For example, [also from that exam passage but since it was submitted with the answer I can't refer to it] in (can't remember the tribe/cultural group name), instead of saying 'how are you', the people would say 'where are you going' as a form of a greeting, and the response would be to give directions, for example 'I'm heading northwards'. So in this case, having a sense of direction is a norm in that culture.

Another example would be the Chinese greeting, "你吃饱了吗?" (nî chī bâo lè mā?)(Did you eat yet/have you eaten/are you hungry?), instead of "How are you" like in English language. It doesn't necessarily have to be used before meal-times, just a general sign of politeness, the same way you ask 'how are you' as a sign of politeness and not necessarily want the other person to spill all of his problems (especially if it's during a formal encounter).

Sometimes if it's family members or close friends, if they receive a reply "(I haven't)", they would offer some food. Notice the word 饱 bâo, which means full, is used. Yes, you may have had a bite before I asked you, but are you still hungry? It seems like Asian parents especially are afraid that their children would starve. That instant when my grandmother heard my brother saying he was hungry, she'd go to the kitchen and find food for him to eat. I guess it's also a different way of showing concern. After research, I found out that this greeting became common after a long history of famine during in ancient China. Imagine replacing 'how are you' with 'have you eaten' in English, people would think you are weird!

Wong Fu Productions' video 'What Asian Parents Don't Say?' illustrates this perfectly, the contrast between Asian and Western ways of showing concern.

Also, the Chinese have different words for 'you', depending on whether the other person is more senior than them in terms of age or rank. German and French 'gender-ify' (my own word) their objects. For example in German, 'the' when addressing a man or masculine noun would be 'Die' (pronunced dee), a feminine noun would be 'der' (deer) and a neuter noun would be 'das'. 

In English it's just 'the' for everything. We use 'he' 'she' and 'it', also 'him' and 'her' to address things. On the other hand, in Chinese, it's either 他 (general, male) 她 (for females) 它 (objects and animals), all pronounced tā. If it's plural, the word 们 mén is added, whereas in English it really depends (insert all those grammar rules, e.g. if it ends with x add es like in foxes, if it ends in y replace the y with ies....)

The number of specific terms to address a family member also reflects how important they view the terminology of relatives, and how much they emphasize on social status. For example, in English, your mother's brother would be called your uncle, your father's brother would also be addressed in the same way, same as your mother's cousin, or your mother's sister's husband . But in Chinese language, there are specifics for every relative, for example:
  • older sister: 姐姐 jîe x2
  • older brother: 哥哥 gē x2 
  • younger sister: 妹妹 meì x2
  • younger brother: 弟弟 dì x2

Maternal side:
  • mother's brother: 舅舅 vs uncle
  • mother's brother's wife: 舅母 vs aunt
  • mother's sister vs aunt 阿姨
  • mother's sister's husband 姨丈vs uncle
  • mother's sibling's daughter (older than you) 表姐/ daughter (younger than you) 表妹 / son (older than you) 表哥/ son (younger than you) 表弟 vs cousin
Paternal side:
  • father's older brother 伯伯 vs uncle
  • father's younger brother 舅舅 vs uncle
  • father's sister 姑姑 vs aunt
(Refer to this video for more terminology if you're interested.)

Imagine visiting your relative's house during Chinese New Year, and having to greet every single one of your relatives, including your grandparent's siblings and their children who are your parent's cousins!

Also, in Chinese culture the younger (in age) will have to address the seniors and tell them to eat, in order of seniority. For example, one would say "Grandma eat, grandpa eat, Uncle eat, Aunty eat, Father eat, Mother eat, (older cousin A) eat, older cousin B eat, older brother eat, older sister eat." Usually the children would take turns to say (meaning the older grandchild will call all of the relatives to eat, then the second oldest grandchild would do it, then the third oldest...) The youngest person on the table would be very tired because he would have to tell everyone to eat, individually! This is because filial piety is emphasized in the culture. Nowadays not many families would practice this culture (my family doesn't, really), but some of my friends' families do.

 There is simply too much to write about this topic, and whilst writing this blog, I did some research on how language reflected the culture, and I must saw I am hooked. Maybe I'll write another post about this topic soon!

11/15/2016 01:00:00 pm

Things I would Tell My Secondary One Self

Dear 13-year-old Zelus,

How are you? I know a lot of your friends from primary school are in secondary school, and you are constantly asking yourself if you have made the right choice to stay homeschooled. But rest assurred, it is the right choice. Your 16-year-old self will tell you that it is the right choice to homeschool. 

Homeschool, she'd tell you, gives you the flexibility in time to experience many things, and the freedom to pursue whatever interest you want. For example, if you went to school, next year (in secondary 2) it will be your 'streaming year', where you'd probably be rather stressed because your end of year exams will determine what subjects you're 'eligible' for. From what I know, to take triple science  (physics, chemistry and biology), pure humanities (geography, history and literature), higher mother tongue (not necessarily all combined), you have to be the cream of the crop and in the top few classes. You choose what subjects you want to take in 'O'-Levels (IGCSE/GCSE equivalent), and your grades have to be of a certain standard, for you to be able to take that subject. And if you struggle in a subject (for example A Maths aka Further Maths), you may be told by your teachers to 'drop' (abandon) that subject because it's pulling you down. And as someone who has unexplained setbacks in studies in the early days, I'm glad I'm can study whatever subject I want and not be told to drop any subjects because I'm not doing well in that subject.

*The above is what I understand of the Sg secondary school system, if I have made any incorrect statements please correct me and let me know what it actually is.

However, as a homeschooler, you can essentially choose what you want to learn. Besides the 'exam' subjects, you want to learn a third language? Sure. A particular subject you are interested in and want to learn more in-depth? Sure. An unconventional school subject, like Journey to Narnia? Sure. As long as there are courses out there, your choices are unexhausted. And even if the topic you want to learn is not offered as a course online, you can take it upon yourself to teach yourself, using the materials online and in libraries.

Of course, with that being said, your parents can also chip in some stuff into your curriculum, such as faith study and Chinese history, stuff that they would like you to learn.

Don't stress too much on studies, it's only the first/second year. Just be consistent in your work and you'll be fine.

Find the study method that works best and find ways to beat your own system-procrastination, lack of motivation etc.

Have a lot of fun and do whatever you can. Volunteer work, play with kids, hang out with friends, babysit, tutor kids, go for events, just to it while you have the time.

Sleep. Seriously, get enough sleep. sure you can stay up all night once or twice just for the fun of it, but otherwise get at least 9 hours of sleep, and be consistent with your bedtime. Preferably get into bed by 11. You'll grow taller. And learn better the next day.

During this time, you'd also find a lot of friends slipping out of your grasp. Those friends you've known since childhood may slowly feel like strangers. Don't worry too much about it, because new people will also come into your life. Just cherish whatever moments you have with them.

Don't care what people think too much, because at the end of the day what matters is yourself. Really, it is not worth it to force yourself to be someone you are not, because it is really very tiring. I know this is going to be a bit of an oxymoron and also hypocritical, but you should allow yourself to grow by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, be a better version of yourself. [I know, I know. First I say not to be something I'm not, but then I say to push myself out of my comfort zone.] Now you're probably Zelus 2.0 (Zelus 1.0 would be the much younger, kid version) but constantly upgrade yourself, to be Zelus 2.1, 2.2 .... 3.0, 4.0. And even though you may be quiet, it doesn't mean that you're useless. Being quiet means that you carefully filter through your thoughts and select the ones to share with the people around you, it (sometimes but not always) doesn't mean that you have nothing to say.

Also, lots of changes are going to be happening, in your life, around the world. You are going to be exposed to the reality of life, where you will see the harsh world and unpleasant events, but don't lose faith in humanity.

I know you have lots of dreams and ambitions. Don't give up on them, and don't lose hope just because thing 1 didn't go as you wished, focus on thing 2, 3, 4. Look forward.

All the best, you can do this.
From your older, and hopefully, wiser, self.
10 Nov 2016, Thursday.
[Edited and published on 15 Nov 2016, Tuesday]