of soaring & dreaming

August 31, 2008

A Dream for Bangkok

Filed under: Events,Sustainable Communities Course — carnationzky @ 4:06 pm
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issues, stakeholder analysis & interactions

Group output re: issues, stakeholder analysis & interactions

During the Sustainable Communities training I attended for two weeks in August, our group was assigned to work on a case study re: Bangkok’s transport system. The other groups had their own case studies, such as the coastal erosion in Bangkunthien, urban planning in Chiangmai, and tourism in Chiangmai. During the last day of the training, all groups had to make a presentation of the group outputs, i.e. our dream relevant to the topic and any innovative solutions we could suggest.

We were told about the details of this major presentation a few days prior to the presentation itself. So all groups, except ours, started their meetings to discuss and prepare. As for our group, we just told each other to start thinking about it and then we would just meet the day before the presentation to discuss and finalize. We had less than a day to prepare the details and presentation materials as we started around 10 am. Then in the afternoon we still had a session which was sort of diverted us from our case study preparations. After the session we had maybe a couple of hours to resume, then we left for Ayutthaya for our farewell dinner. So it was only after we came back that we again resumed our preparations (about past 9pm) and finally dispersed at nearly 1 am of the following day.

Anyway, we were able to organize our presentation in such a way that we enjoyed both the preparation and the actual presentation itself. We had both the serious and fun stuff, as well as a creative way in our presentation. We presented our dream as we had discussed in previous group sessions, and then we also asked the other participants to draw their dream for Bangkok in year 2020. Then we had an interactive game containing vehicles, non-motorized transport and arrows to be played by different stakeholders. We ended our presentation with a rap-song rendition entitled, “Bangkok, City of Smiles”. The words are written below:

Bangkok, city of smiles

You bring happiness to our lives

Waking up in the morning

We can hear the birds singing

We can smell the air so sweet

We can face life, without any grief.

Stepping out into your streets

We feel clean, we feel free

No more sickness, no more worries

Enjoying life with friends and families.

Safety and protection

Energy conservation

Efficient, effective transportation

Sustainable for all generations.

Kids, youth, adults, elderly

Students, tourists, workers, employees

Working together, everybody

Making Bangkok a livable city. © ANS

A better Bangkok … for them…

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August 28, 2008

Ballet in Singapore

Filed under: Events,travel — carnationzky @ 12:43 am
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me, Marlyn, Kate and their friends at Changi Airport

R-L: me, Marlyn, Kate and their friends at Changi Airport

The major reason for going to Singapore last July was to watch my niece, Kate Jimenez, perform and compete in the 10th Asia-Pacific Dance Competition, held at the NAFA 3 Lee Foundation Theater. And of course to meet up with my sister (her mom). Kate’s dance school, Shirley Halili-Cruz Ballet School in Quezon City, Philippines, has been a regular competitor and major winner, giving all the other schools from the region (those who also join) a run for their money. Thus competition is so stiff to the extent that parents and teachers are even more stressed than the dancers. We went there to watch and be entertained. But we didn’t really expect to sense the competitive spirit, but it was there, and strong. The Halili School garnered most of the awards and prizes, and came out the over-all winner, as in previous years. Congratulations to all of them for all their hard work.

Some other countries who joined were China, Thailand and of course, Singapore. A couple of schools each from China and Thailand joined. Majority of the schools are from Singapore. We enjoyed watching all the dances and the various forms of creativity expressed in the actions and steps. There were classical, modern, and retro styles, and the costumes were also very nice. There were solo dances, of which Thailand had a lot of entries. Most of the Thai dancers were already in their mid-teens. They also danced well.

During rehearsals ...

During rehearsals ...

The amazing ones were the group dances, and by the younger kids, especially the below 12 age group, where my niece belongs. She is 11. I could just imagine how hectic their schedules must be, as they balance their regular schooling with the grueling dance practices. But I guess it has some benefits such as learning discipline, order and organization at an early age. But to what extent? Ballet is an expensive hobby and talent, so to speak. I remember my sister and brother-in-law commenting before that with their daughter attending ballet classes, it seemed like they have an additional child based on the expenses.

It is well-known that only the rich families can afford it. No wonder some ballet dancers can be a pain, i.e. spoiled brats, as what we have also observed in some of the kids there. Uh-uh. But there are some middle class families who are working hard just to send their kids to ballet school. It depends on the parents and teachers to instill in their students’ minds to value the ability to dance and to enjoy the glamour that goes with it, and not to forget that success comes through working hard, really. I hope that all the dancers will continue to have this dedication, not only in ballet, but also in all other aspects of life, and in the profession they will eventually choose.

On Orchard Rd for last minute shopping!

On Orchard Rd for last minute shopping!

Getting ready to fly back.

YMCA lobby - getting ready to fly back.

August 27, 2008

The Shack, a good read

Filed under: Life stuff,Spiritual — carnationzky @ 3:02 am
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Finally, I finished reading The Shack, a book which I bought last July in Singapore. It took me some time to finish it as it is not just an ordinary novel. It is something that touches the heart deeply, and more. When we were in Singapore, we wanted to go to a Christian Bookstore but were not able to. We were at the Raffles Center when we saw the sign for a bookstore, just a general one. Bookworms as we are, we could not resist going into a bookstore whenever we see one. Harder still is to resist not buying, but alas, every time there is always one interesting book we could not stop buying. So there we went to the basement to check this one out. And I was hoping that it would be just like the mainstream bookstores in the Philippines where they have all the genres, even Christian books. Thus I found this book, The Shack, displayed at the entrance. What perked my interest was the comment on the back cover that this book could be to our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was to his, according to Eugene Peterson (Translator, The Message).

Reading The Shack brought tears to my eyes and challenged and affirmed my own belief in God. I was touched with so many scenes and situations described in the book. They were written in such a way that made me think of my own life and convictions. It was able to emphasize the very nature of God, a loving Creator, personal, detailed, all knowing.

For more about this book, please go to http://www.theshackbook.com.

August 26, 2008

Field trip to Bangkok

Our first field trip during the recently concluded training on Sustainable Communities was to explore Bangkok using the different public transportation modes, especially the modern ones. First we went to the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) Transportation Division, then later to the Metropolitan Rapid Transport Administration (MRTA) Office. In both offices we met AIT alumni both from the older (70s and 80s) and recent batches. We were shown what they are doing regarding mass public transport and their plans to better the situation in Bangkok and nearby areas, regarding transport system for the public. It was nice to listen to their dreams and they really are sincere in trying to make things better. It would be good to have a seamless transport system in Bangkok and we do not have to drive our cars but just hop on at the nearest train or bus station near our home. We were shown the plans of BMA for a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System and hope this will be successful. Also MRTA’s expansion plans which include going even to AIT/Thammasat. Wow that will be the day, when we do not have to drive, with the train station just next door and we can go all the way down to Bangkok. That will be good also to the environment, and our pockets.

Smile! We were all camera crazy inside the train!

Smile! We were all camera crazy inside the train!

After the meetings, we went to the nearest MRT station, at the Thai Cultural Center. All of us were excited, even me, as I do not use the subway really. The last time I used it was a long time ago. If I have a choice I would use the sky train. But actually I did not have any qualms using the same thing in London, Manila, Netherlands, Singapore, Tokyo and Toronto . Except here because of some safety issues. But maybe it is better now. We used the subway to go to Chatuchak Market/Mochit Station so we could transfer to the BTS/sky train. We were quite a big group and so it was quite a worry maybe for the guides in case some of us got lost! It was quite easy in the subway as there was not much crowd there. So we got to the Chatuchak Station and we went up to connect to the sky train. We noticed immediately that the two stations are not connected as one has to go out to the road to get up to the sky train station. It would have been better if a connection from the inside goes directly up to the sky train. With our big group joining the outside crowd, it was hard keeping up. Some of us were already up in the BTS station while the others were still walking on the road trying to catch up with the first group. Anyway we finally got together and my, what a crowd! We waited for the card tickets and some of us were given the coins to experience the use of the card machines. Nice. Some went to the mini-mart nearby to buy some cold drinks and gum. Another convenience. We were on a field trip so we had to observe these things that will make transport system in Bangkok more efficient and effective. Once everyone had the card, we went up to wait for the train.

)

Some of us had to stand. Some were shy to look at the camera 🙂

There was one waiting already but we did not take it. So we just moved to the side to wait for the next train. Unfortunately those in our group who came up last thought we were already in the train, and so they ran into the train. The train was about to leave and there we were, shouting, “come out! come out!” They had to hurry to come out or else they would not know where to go once they were on the train, and they would probably not know how to contact us. If that happened, probably they would just go shopping! Anyway, one of them said that the way we were screaming “come out! come out!” was so frightening!!

When the next train came, we got on. It was good to get seats and a relief as inside was so cool. Even cold. We got off at the Victory Monument, where we really felt lost in the crowd. We had to keep our eyes on our leader, Amorn, a PhD student. But after some time we lost him. But I knew we were going to look at the Victory Monument and the transportation dynamics there, so I just kept on. The others followed. After that we saw him again so we knew we were on the right track. We continued also to take photos. It was fun for me to be in Bangkok and not in the car for once. I get to see and experience some other different things. Anyway, time was up and our vans were waiting under.

Traffic was ok at this time but could get worse during rush hour and heavy rains.

Traffic was ok at this time but could get worse during rush hour and heavy rains.

Our next stop was the canal for the boat transport in Pratunam near the Central World. It was a short drive and surprisingly there was no traffic in Petchburi Road. We got off our vans and walked up to the bridge and observed the boats with passengers. At first we thought we would ride the boats but we just observed it. Even looked around as there were many other things to see, such as the sidewalk vendors and the pedestrians. It seems the water in the canal is cleaner than before and there was not much smell. Anyway, it is surely a cheaper and faster means of transport but people can get wet from the water spray.

We did not try the buses, taxis, motorcycles and tuktuks, but I bet that everyone had a chance somehow to experience them during other times, esp. when they went out to go shopping!

Didn't get on the boat this time.

Didn't get on the boat this time.

After the trip we went up to cross the flyover to go to Central World to have our dinner. However, for me and two friends from Kenya (Edith and Lillian), we crossed back again to go to Big C, where food and other stuff are cheaper. We had about 1.5 hours before we got back to AIT. We had dinner at the Food Center and they were quite impressed with the taste of the food and the price, which was quite cheap. They ordered Thai fried rice which cost 30 baht per plate. For me I ordered Pad Thai. Then we bought drinks and our dinner was less than 100 Baht per person. One of them said that food was cheap, and wondered why the previous night they paid more than 1,000 Baht for their dinner. Probably they had it in a posh hotel? We then moved around the hypermart and grocery section to buy some stuff.

View from the flyover between Big C & Central World

Then off to the meeting place in front of Arnoma Hotel. It was a long wait for the vans to arrive due to traffic (as usual). It was indeed a long day and we arrived back at AIT at around 9 pm.

View from the flyover between Big C & Central World

August 22, 2008

Training ended

The past two weeks had been very hectic. I was so busy with my participation in the Sustainable Communities Course that I had no time at all to write in this blog. I was planning to make a training diary but I did not have the time. And time just flew so fast! And today we had our closing ceremonies. Prior to that we had our presentation of our group case study. Our group used a variety of styles in presenting our message – our dream for Bangkok’s transportation and energy situation. We had a brief reporting, then some interactive activities with the other participants who role played as the stakeholders. We had them draw their own dream for Bangkok’s transport system, how they see it in year 2020; then there was a game similar to snakes and ladders, but this time it could be called, vehicles and arrows! We had the whole group engaged in doing these activities and it was really fun! Then our finale was a song and rap presentation of a poem yours truly wrote. Will post that here later. We sang the chorus to the tune of Happy Birthday so that it is easy to remember the music. Then the verses we rapped or chanted them. We had bongos and Indian drums with us. I have to look for photos of today’s activity and post them here. The media unit was there to video the proceedings!

We had an evaluation session later after lunch and then the certificate ceremony! Two weeks have passed and new friendships and networks have been formed. We hope we can continue to exchange and discuss issues affecting our places and communities and learn from each other! Au revoir!

August 12, 2008

Training on Sustainable Communities

I enjoyed Singapore's public transport system.

I enjoyed Singapore's public transport system.

I am currently attending the International Continuing Education Course on Sustainable Communities: Bridging the Gap between Research and Action. The course is conducted at the Asian Institute of Technology Conference Center in Pathumthani, Thailand. It started on 11 August and will run until 22 August. The organizers of this training are AIT (Urban Environmental Management Program), Helsinki University of Technology, UN-HABITAT and UNEP. Major funding is provided by the Government of Finland. The Opening Ceremony was held yesterday, 11 Aug, and was attended by Mr. Lars Backstrom (Ambassador of Finland to Thailand), Mr. Toshi Noda (Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UN-HABITAT), Ms. Dechen Tsering (Deputy Regional Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP) and AIT dignitaries such as Prof. V. Wuwongse (VP for External Relations) and Prof. S. Kumar (Dean, School of Environment, Resources and Development). Dr. Edsel E. Sajor, the Local Organizer, emceed the Ceremony.

There are 28 participants from Asia and Africa, coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but with a common goal in mind, to know more about how to make communities sustainable. Some of the issues and points mentioned by the speakers during the Opening Ceremony are highlighted below:

Prof. V. Wuwongse spoke on behalf of AIT, welcomed all the participants, guests and organizers, and informed the audience of AIT’s commitment to sustainable development. He also acknowledged the financial support from the Government of Finland.

Prof. S. Kumar spoke on behalf of SERD, saying that the topic is timely and necessary. He mentioned that it is a great challenge to bring research results into action. He also shared what AIT is doing to contribute to the global economy and development, and confirmed AIT’s commitment to contribute to sustainable communities through education, research, training, outreach, etc.

Ambassador Lars Backstrom said that he was glad to know that the topic on sustainability is being followed or pursued, which has a huge interest for the future of the planet. He said that his government is happy to finance this course to be able to reach a wider range of people so that they will know more about sustainable communities. He emphasized the need for closer cooperation between academe/research and practitioners. He cited Bangkok as a complex city and it would be good for the trainees to know more about it through the exposure from this training. He commented that Bangkok can do with a public transport system, and it has moved forward with providing such system but it has least space for streets compared to other cities in the world. He further added that there is a huge amount of cars but there is no space to accommodate them. Major issues faced by cities include pollution in Chiangmai and vulnerability in Bangkok, i.e. it is only 1.5 m above sea level so it will be affected by global warning. However, there are some who say that there is no proof of it. In Phnom Penh, the poor are being driven out of the city and their land is being taken away from them. Finland is helping them to have claim on their land, with about 6 million titles to be given out.

Mr. Toshi Noda thanked the organizers and the support and assistance given. He also welcomed the participants. He went on to talk about UN Habitat activities, on housing issues and their aim to promote socially and environmentally sustainable cities. He mentioned that cities are growing at rapid rates with both good and bad issues to tackle, and that by year 2050, 6 billion people will be living in cities. Urban areas generate wealth and opportunities but at the same time also crimes and other social problems, thus sustainable urban development is one of the greatest challenges. This is directly related to the MDGs to improve lives of city dwellers (esp. targets 7, 10). We can’t reach this goal without collaboration and cooperation with local communities who need to participate and take action by themselves.

Ms. Dechen Tsering noticed that participants come from different backgrounds and we need this diversity to network beyond our own. She asked a question: what do sustainable communities mean to us? Asia’s cities will increase but it is also home to a large % of poor. There are issues of climate change, housing settlement problems, green house emissions, impacts of increase in global temperature and food security, among others. There are many challenges, with cities as the major source of emissions. There are many issues affecting sustainable communities, including refugee situation and other conflicts, vulnerabilities of climate change and dramatic transformations. She said that political leadership and will to change are important factors. She mentioned that UN is implementing sustainable clean and green initiatives. It is important to have partnerships with other UN agencies, civil society organizations and other groups to expand networks. She also noticed that there are good practices but they are not upscaled or replicated in a manner that other cities can follow; we need to know what are the gaps and barriers to avoid and how technologies can be shared.

The speeches given by the guests were very useful and good starting points to get us started thinking re: how this training can be useful towards processing some of the issues affecting our own communities, work and studies. I will be writing in this blog about this training and my experiences whenever I find time.

More links:

http://global.tkk.fi/Continuingeducation.html

http://www.unhabitat.org/

So many urban related issues facing most cities ...
So many urban related issues facing most cities …

August 10, 2008

Olympics Opening Ceremony

Filed under: Events,Sports — carnationzky @ 8:58 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It was absolutely amazing! Only the Chinese can do them! I was so touched by how much dedication each and every participant in the event put into their performances and responsibilities. One could really see it although things must have been so hard. But they. were able to do it. The show was spectacular, including the fireworks and other high tech things and shows. China can afford to have lots of people and do all those things using many materials. As they are the producers of cloths, fireworks and the like, of course it has to be all out celebration and show! I wonder what the people were feeling … they must be proud to showcase their rich culture, arts and talents. I myself felt good also to see my fellow Asians capable of staging that amazing opening ceremony. It is indeed a tribute to the ingenuity of the Chinese. Congratulations for a job well done! It is also a great feeling that for at least a few hours people forgot their problems and just watched the amazing display of colors and techniques! I had goose pimples to watch them running with the olympic torch and the special effects on the screen! I even got a bit misty eyed when I watched all those athletes parading, all with hopes of making history or just to experience how it is to be in the olympics! Especially I was waiting for my fellow Pinoys as they paraded. I saw Manny Pacquiao waving the flag. I did not recognize anyone else but I am glad that despite our country’s problems, they are able to go…and I wish them all the best!!

August 6, 2008

The Right Footwear

Filed under: Events,Life stuff,travel — carnationzky @ 9:23 am
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Good old comfy Kito sandals travelled with me to Toronto

Good old comfy Kito sandals (left) travelled with me to Toronto

Wish I brought the right ones when I was in Singapore last July. I was not able to wear then my favorite and comfy Scholl sandals which would have been perfect there. Since my friend told me that it was raining there everyday, I did not want to soil this nice pair. So I chose another pair of step-in which later on I found out was not suitable for Singapore. Especially because they were not meant for walking. And walk a lot we did! As a result, my leg and feet muscles suffered from all the strain of walking and running and climbing. I kept wishing I brought even my older rubber Kito sandals instead of this nice gold, shiny, very flat step-in, which are good only for fashion and short-term wear. My feet had to exert more effort to hold on to the shoe surface because it was so slippery there was no traction on the surface. Until we came back to Thailand, I still felt the pain. So the next day (good I was still on leave), I went to Future Park to have a foot massage. And wow! It was so relaxing and I felt much better.

This shoe experience reminds me of the question my husband used to ask me (a long time ago): “Why do you need so many pairs of shoes?” My answer to him was: I need to have shoes for every occasion. I do not have that many actually compared to some, especially you know who! But I have enough pairs which I can choose from to go with the occasion or with what I am wearing, with my mood or with the weather. When traveling, I always bring at most two more pairs of footwear in addition to what I am already wearing. Just in case. But during this Singapore trip we were using a budget airline so our luggage space was limited.

Anyway, lesson learned: never sacrifice comfort with convenience. Does this make sense?

August 4, 2008

Papers…waste not!

Filed under: Environment,Work life — carnationzky @ 6:46 am
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wonderful ... let us do our share in keeping the environment clean!

wonderful ... let us do our share in keeping the environment clean!

We use lots of papers in the office…for printing documents and the like, as well as cc’ing to relevant people. Everytime I print pages and pages of paper and photocopy more of them, I can’t help thinking about all those trees that have been felled, and the effect on forests and the environment, in processing and disposing them. One way to assuage my guilt of using lots of paper is to reuse them, i.e. if they can be reused. And once both sides have been used, what next? They go to a box next to my desk. Once full, I would carry them to the general junk shop to sell them. But it is still not efficient enough. We still use lots more. The best way is to reduce all the printing and keep the files electronically. I do that if it’s something I can control. But if it involves others and especially if required by the system, what to do? Gotta print them still.

August 2, 2008

have time? will travel …

It was in June when my sister in Manila informed me that she and my niece, Kate, will be going to Singapore towards the end of July. My niece, who is a student at the Shirley Halili-Cruz Dance School in Quezon City, is joining the school group for some ballet competition (the 10th Asia-Pacific Dance Competition). I was so excited to hear about it and immediately I started to check my calendar. It would be nice to meet up in Singapore, it being nearer and easier to go to (from Bangkok, that is) than to the Philippines.

Fortunately, I had so many days of leave credits which I need to use up before my contract ends in August. As the case here at AIT, as a fixed term contract worker, we could not carry over our leave credits to the next contract period, even if it is within the same project. And it could not be converted to cash either. So if you do not use them, you lose. After all the hard work … hmmm… It was also a surprise that I accumulated that many leave credits because there was no official announcement from our HRO that the monthly leave credit was increased from 1 to 1.5 days. I dunno even when it started. Am just so happy to learn that but I wished I knew earlier so I did not have to take leave without pay a few months earlier (in April) when I went home to Philippines for my holiday. So now I am left with about 10 days leave with barely 2 months to go in my contract. And with a 2 week training program to participate in the following month (August), I have few remaining days to work and so how can I use them up?

So there, the opportunity came up to travel. And I can choose to go as long as I want but it’s not only my own sked to consider. My DH has to come, too, and we have to check his sked whether he could take leave. Fortunately again, that period in July is graduation time at the university where he is teaching. In Thailand, graduation ceremonies take days to complete, so there is basically no work to be done during that period. Which means he is free to take leave as well and travel. So schedule wise, we are ok.

Now the time to check for flights and accommodations. We know that flights to Singapore from Bangkok have a wide range of prices and choices of airlines. Sometimes they really have cheap promos but during this period, there was none. So we had to check the budget airlines and we were able to book one with Air Asia. That’s ok. Next comes the accommodation. So expensive in hotels, that’s out of the question. In the meantime we contacted our dear friend, Lailin and she offered to find one for us among her friends. So that was solved.

So everything was set, we just had to wait. In the meantime, excitement is building up. We do not normally travel just for a holiday. Except for the visit to home in the Philippines, the travels we often do are work-related (professional) and with the ministry. And in times of economic difficulties, work related travel is a good enough chance to travel as a tourist as well. So no need to plan for expensive holidays.

I will be writing blogs on varied topics related to our Singapore trip in the following days. So stay tuned!

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