Design Studio

Posted in Grunt,groan,sigh, Photography, Travels and Adventure on October 3, 2008 by shiying86

One of the exciting highlights of my semester is doing a design studio with Glenn Murcutt, arguably THE most famous architect in Australia. The course entails a trip up North to Goolawah Reserve, part of a national park. The site is 3km down south from the famous surfing site, Crescent Head Beach.

As a testament to his influence, Murcutt was awarded the Pritzker Prize. In the words of the Pritzker Jury: “In an age obsessed with celebrity, the glitz of our ‘starchitects’, backed by large staffs and copious public relations support, dominate the headlines. As a total contrast, [Murcutt] works in a one-person office on the other side of the world … yet has a waiting list of clients, so intent is he to give each project his personal best. He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art.”

Pritzker Prize is like an architecture nobel prize if I’m to describe it. Murcutt is the only Australian architect to have ever won it. But he is also awfully down-to-earth and genuine compared to the stereotypical snobbish architects in the industry.

We’re designing a research lab on swamp. We went on a 3 day camp for a site visit, it was tiring but a great chance to bond with my course mates. Another first this sem, is that I actually get to know them better. I realized that no one ever puts a barrier between you and another person, only yourself. As a friend said, I always looked like an ice queen and so others are afraid to approach. While I on the other hand, thought they never ever want to make friend with someone like me. 

 

 

There is so much good memories to it. Working in the swamp by day; poker by night. Some of the highlights was watching the Olympics with a whole crowd and waking up early to watch sunrise with 3 boys. It was fun, exciting and inspirational. 

I’m more than half-way through the course, so the initial inspiring excitement has given way to a whole lot of stress and tears. Learning from the best comes at high price, believe me. Having the best tutors, long studio ours (read:8 hours), and yet I am afraid, a lot of fear between me and my work. High expectation which I feel suffocated by. From who? Myself, and I know that. Complicated is not easy, but its easy complicating things. Learning to let go and simplifying things, and yet retaining that singular concept consistently and masterfully is something I have yet able to comprehend and perform.

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Big Spender

Posted in It's my life, Thoughts and Musings on October 3, 2008 by shiying86

That refers to me, thy, mua.

I have quite a bit of indulgence this semester, though if I may call them investments.

I enjoy every bit of it, and here, I very much like to make an Oscar speech of thanking my mum for her generosity. She came down about 2 months ago and in my opinion, have been an awful daughter. There was much struggle for me as much it is for her to reconcile my life here with hers. 

After spending almost 3 years in Sydney without my parents, having one around during semester was never my idea of fun. So when everyone went gushing, “Oh my, That is SO NICE!.” and before you go ” You unfilial bitch.” I must say both comments apply. 

It was great having my mum around and finally having a glimpse of my REAL life, though I have to clarify it’s her 5th time here-essentially for work and a few days extra for me. But as a parent, it’s never great waking up at 3am to find your daughter still in Uni, nor is it comforting to know that she wakes up before you do (note: mum’s an early riser) and sleeps way after you’ve started snoring. 

Not in any way do I lie to my mum about my life either. Though I must say, there is always a tad more complaining, whining and dramas on my part. But for her to see what I do, how I live is really, sad for me. I tried my best to cover up, I threw tantrums to hide real feelings, act tough so she stops worrying but at the end of the day-I know she knows me best. She always wants the best for me, I know, and I wished she would have a better time here.

What did I learn? Seriously, just let it be. If I didn’t try to fight away those emotions and pretending so hard that I have time to spend with her plus those unnecessary worrying, I could have better enjoyed however little moments there were. To side track, I also learned to navigate through Sydney City in car, terrifyingly bold experience, I must say. In short, Mummy I love you. I’m sorry for being such a bitch and I miss you. I miss you fussing over me, I miss you nagging and thank you for letting me go and learning that my freedom comes with responsibilities.

I came to realized as I grow older, that our parents age too. Sounds like a bimbotic statement, but how many of us really feel like our parents may just die any bloody day? Well, they would. On this note, I pray that Lionel, your Dad will get well, enjoy every single moment with him and don’t look back.

IMG_5810.jpg picture by mettamorph

From top left: Jo, me, Vivien and Lionel on his birthday

Friends of the same age or slightly older, have lost their parents just this year, shows that nothing stand against time. Old age and sickness just happens. Life is indeed impermanent. When that happens, what you wished for was to have spent better time with them, even when you are physically away from one another. I count my blessing stars, for those who have theirs alive, and that mine is healthy and leading a life of their own. Blood does run thicker than water.

Enough sentimentality, otherwise it might seem my emotions are spent instead of money.

2-1.jpg picture by mettamorph
My newly arrived table (only this morning!) after loads of hiccups, iPhone, 22-inch monitor screen, my-oh-so-sexy MacBookpro, the latter from my mum. XD
Yes, I am a new mac convert. What’s up with this new addiction? Design and apple= marriage made in heaven. I’m not going to provide a review on any of it, but i’ll say the table is solid as a rock and my Mac serves me perfectly well. Thanks to friends helping me set up and providing me with program installations while I flapped around aimlessly with a new OS.
1-1.jpg picture by mettamorph
They are so pretty, they deserve some cam-whoring.
3-1.jpg picture by mettamorph
My old phone contract expired almost the same time this baby came out. I was lucky to only have to wait 4 hours in line (when I just happen to hop into the shop) on the 3rd day of its release, no camping out the day before for me.
I’m a visual person. I like seeing aesthetically pleasing items with minimalist design and beautiful+intelligent interfaces. So they work well for me. But I must say I am not using them to the full potential, just jumping on the apple craze bandwagon? Not without assessment and my rusty-judgement.
Now that I have everything I need, seems like time, I start focusing on my studies. I’m dreading it. I have inspiring courses but I feel like I am going downhill cos of my inability to simplify and clear shit outta the way. Literally and metaphorically.

MIA

Posted in It's my life, Life's simple pleasures on October 3, 2008 by shiying86

MIA=missing n action

Something I’ve been practicing diligently, if I would shamefully proclaim. Why? Cos I happen to both be lazy and busy, if those two ever happen to coexist, it’ll be with me. To better illustrate this, I will confess that I only check out facebook once in 2 weeks. Yes, I don’t have a social life and No, I am not suffering from depression. So bugger off now.

Thus, in an attempt to revive the blog and my life, I will blog again in an upside down manner, from most recent to future. Which brings me to this:

Distortion of scale:Valley or puddles of water?

Image taken at Maroubra, with Cheng Hiang’s super-uber cool macro lense.

And, no, I will not get one cos I’m too poor and too lazy to carry it around.

Which brings me to say that, I have not been taking photos myself, the baby(my trusty Canon D500) is old and dusty. I’m poor cos I’m a student and I currently using my very expensive recent purchase as large as my bed. Does this mean I have to take another photo to illustrate this?

Oh well, I’ll divert it to pretty images taken off the coastal walk along Maroubra Beach and half-way attempt to Magic Point:

Sun rise; Image courtesy of Cheng Hiang Lim

The Girls; Image courtesy of Cheng Hiang Lim

The Colours of Spring; Image courtesy of Cheng Hiang Lim

The group radiating at sun rise, From left: Mandy, Khai Yi, Me, Lucky, Vickey, Ian, Mei Ling & Serene

Vickey & Me; Image courtesy of Cheng Hiang Lim

Faking the moves-I insist that I was forced to do this!;Image courtesy of Cheng Hiang Lim

“I beg you please, let me move in with you!”

“Yea..whatever..”

And that was how it happened, in a short version of my story. Voila! May I introdue to you my new housemate-Khai Yi:

One Happy Family, oh wait, where’s Rosie?

Images courtesy of Cheng Hiang Lim

P/S:It’s amazingly fast to upload photos and actually update my blog now! I love my new.. oh wait, that deserves another post eh?

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

Posted in 1 on August 4, 2008 by shiying86

I’m awfully lacking in updates. Due to laziness and busy-ness. In short, I had a marvelous holiday, plunged my head in Bodhi Nite 2008, coping with a new semester of Design Studio with one of Australia’s greatest architects. 

But for now, munch on this:

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, delivers her Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Source:http://harvardmagazine.com/go/jkrowling.html

Full text:

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.
Thank you very much.

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.

The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world’s best-educated Harry Potter convention.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International’s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’s godparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I’ve used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

Best of Winter Retreat 2008

Posted in 1 on July 15, 2008 by shiying86

Snippets of some of the best moments captured…

Group Photo at Sunnataram Forrest Monastery 2008

There was hard work…

Photo by Cheng Tuck

More hardwork…

Very hard work…

Mingling with nature…

Majestic Monument…

Another group photo…

Dana-The Act of generosity and giving; Alms round…

yummy food..

We attempted ‘mountains’…

Climbed to the depths of valleys…

Explored caves…

Campfire…

The oh-so-funny sketch…

Tai Chi…

Cleaning the mess…

Laughter…

Simple joys…

Unexpected tears…

Some a lil’ frightened..

Some Tree lovers…

Sharing…

For friendship…

For peace…

For Tranquility…

Learning…

For inner growth…

Kamma: Bring Your Own-Do It Yourself

It was an amazing journey for myself, I hope it became an unforgettable and invaluable experience for all…

Intention

Posted in Architecture, Art/Inspiration/Creativity, Reflections, Travels and Adventure on June 27, 2008 by shiying86

Sunnataram Pagoda

Photograph by Cheng Tuck Lim

I have always been awed that it took inexperience monks a total of 5 years to built this monument from scratch. It is indeed a building thats stands for greatness, time and strength. Like an architect I met there said, “Even if you laid one bloody stone up there, you will still feel proud to be able to say that ‘I helped built that.'” To be able to built an ancient pagoda with today technological advances gives no suprise to anyone. But to understand that this came by with limited funds, inexperienced designers and monks as builders, is enough to make any person swoon. Not to forget this pagoda is not a off-the-shelf copy. In order words, its is unique.

However, my recent trip there, I learned from a monk with no prior design experience that architectural design like everything else, begins with a pure and good intention.

 

Photograph by Cheng Tuck Lim

 

The intention of wanting to do good.

Sounds too simple to be true, but every single detail, idea concepts is about the intention you have and the action you make, the steps you take and the end results produced.

All determined simply by that sheer power of intention. Certainly, I have no intention to say that, once the intention to built something great is there, hocus-pocus it happens- but rather, the importance of this intention. I have often complain how hard architecture is, and sometimes its not about the amount of work involved, but rather how it messes up your head.

All the intentions that one may have, not necessarily, it can be realized. Adjustments to be made, expectations to be crushed. It drives me crazy when I start pondering the purpose of me doing this, changing that, altering this, and designing that. Why? How? What? There are so many paths to reach the same goal, which one am I choosing? but before that, how do I even determine my goal?

This is where I learn how important intention is. The strength of a good intention lies in how bloody badly u want that intention to be good. Sounds wrong? Case in point is the Gratitude Pagoda. There could have been many ways to built it-they could have raise enough money to get builders to do it, they could have just copied off some pagoda in Thailand (Who would care anyway?) or simply, build an easier, simpler one-like the usual concrete cement ones coated in brilliant gold paint. BUT it is a self-designed sandstone pagoda. Something you can only find in NSW with its abundance of sandstone, a signature that this monument will stand against time and tide. 

Photograph by Cheng Tuck Lim

The intention to give something back to the Buddhist community produced a masterpiece. The greatness does not merely lie in the aesthetically pleasing monument, as the outcome of wanting to built a pagoda to house the Buddha Relics; but it is also to bring people together to help built this monument. When a visitor approaches it, His ears pleased by the chiming of the bells when blown by wind; His eyes marvel the timeless stone structure; His heart feels peace with it sitting among nature, both palms just naturally come together as he breathes in the essence of spirituality. This is the effect that how architecture can effect one person. But to deepen on that concept, to understand that the number of bells were used not only for that reason but it is also etched with blessings on it. Every single one of them, so when the wind blows, may the blessings fall upon everyone. The eight turning corners to represent the noble eight fold path. And much much more. This is one building that people want to study, to admire, not just for its beauty, the multiple meaning it embodies.

Not one to appreciate architecture? Well, that intention to spread goodness is in every stone, sweat, and time invested in the building. What proves to be great, is not the greatness itself, but the ability to inspire others to do great things. 

“When others look at the building, they see how beautiful it is. But I see the beauty in it because of the Metta (love and kindness) and willingness of many different people coming together to help built it.” 

This strikes me that-it is for the simple intention of spreading goodness to building a pagoda that one realizes that it all clicks. The determination of staying true to the right intention, allows the building to inspire others to actually help realize the goal and also inspire them to have similar intentions. The intention slowly unfolds into inspiration and has a domino effect and many different people-to when it is being built extending to the future to when it becomes a ruin. If you are able to see and understand the underlying workings of buildings as such, or create that inspiration in others, the satisfaction is indescribable.

Architect’s Perspective Drawing

Getting good marks on a project I work my ass off one whole semester definitely did not give me as much satisfaction as help throwing gravels down to form the foundation/mixing cement knowing that my efforts would actually make a difference in someone else’s life.

 

Here in My Home

Posted in Life's simple pleasures on June 17, 2008 by shiying86

This makes me miss Malaysia, and the the beautiful parts of it..