Next great voyage: Columbus in space

At first, we had our great ancestors who roamed the whole world, having ventured from East to West, from North to South, within an eon known to be over thousands, even hundred thousand, years long. Afterwards, as time went by, we heard tales of the fearless sea-farers, incidentally having a ‘reunion’ with the people they met in the new worlds they discovered having sailed through vastless seas and oceans, who in unbeknownst, perhaps shared the same ancestors thousands of generations prior. As civilization advanced better, which grows to serve the timeless need of human thirst for curiosity, we had conquered the air, thanks to the invention of airplanes.

Now, our next frontier – and perhaps our last – is the timeless, endless space itself. Within centuries, or to a lesser extent, a few decades – we are getting readier to have our first Columbuses having wandered around celestial bodies up in the sky, no matter what the obstacles it may take, even if it takes an inter-generational odyssey – and an everlasting spaceship – to reach the new worlds out there. This is what the Pentagon is envisioning; a grand scheme of 21st century. Even if, given that we utilize current technology to equip the spaceship, 80,000 years may be the minimum time to reach Alpha Centauri, ‘only’ 4 light years from our Sun.

 

Read it at BBC Future.

Advertisements

A slice of China’s future begins in Tianjin

As we know, or as we are engineered by media to know it, China has been consistently on the top, having pushed America to second, as a ‘second-to-none’  in terms of carbon dioxides produced by its rapidly expanding industrial activities. Despite the billion-tonne excess, China has also been unparalleled in terms of growth in green businesses, renewable energy in particular. Now, there is one new field Chinese government attempts to approach: to build a billion-dollar futuristic city, with spacious, lush green spaces and multitudinous skyscrapers, and energy-efficient electricity system. Based in Tianjin, this prototype will serve as a catalyst – among some others already established, such as Songdo in Incheon, South Korea and Masdar in Dubai, UAE – whether going ‘green’ is sustainable with increasingly expansive urban growth in parallel line.

Read it at BBC Future.

Creator of Mother’s Day: I hate Mother’s Day, at last!

It would be hardly difficult to observe any obedient, benevolent children who may like to grant opportunities for their mothers a full day’s off. Treat them in a romantic dinner, prepare whatever dishes she favors the most, bake specially-decorated cakes or macaroons,  or simply reward their tireless work with brand-new flowers, are a mere of countless stuff we can do to commemorate those who have  put us in confinement. In contrast, however, were the inventor of globally honored Labor’s-Day-equivalent alive, she might have sworn to do her best to put what she had tirelessly made, in total jeopardy. Anna Jarvis, possibly more egregious than her populist, well-known mom, was a little-known case of slight notoriety, but worth seeking for. She might have one thing she deeply angered of: excessive commercialization.

Read it at Washington Post.

Another outreach. Completely done.

 

Call it a sequel of my previous note about our third outreach. We still headed to the same subject (orphanage), of the similar background (set up to accommodate many children from Nias who fell prey to 2004 Aceh tsunami), and of the same religious denomination (Christian), but exactly of a distinct location (though quite near), different owners, and undoubtedly for sure, different name. This time, we paid a visit to Yayasan Terima Kasih Abadi.

The outreach held on 29th April was perhaps the most rumbustious one compared with the others. In average, in every session that we conducted, the maximum number of participants ever involved was no more than 30. But this time, it was at the point of 50. Unfortunately, our coach, Pak Supian ‘the motivator’, was not able to make it given that he had been invited to give a fundraising speech in the church he is used to doing his hebdomadal visit. Thus, as a resolution, all the tasks he was supposed to complete were substituted by Evando, a newly-appointed head of Project Division.

 

 

This time, quite many participants in this outreach were non-SEALNet members. Some of them had recently been faced with National Exam, some others are my classmates, while the rest are currently studying in University of North Sumatera (thanks to JA’s – nickname of Jesselyn Angellee – efforts in persuading her friends to join with us). In addition, it also appertained mentees from Tuesday class (fewer mentees from Tuesday class join our outreach as frequent as those of Saturday’s).

The orphanage itself we visited gathers approximately 115 children and teenagers, from various places in Nias, and some rural areas throughout North Sumatera. Talking about gender, the people out there are dominantly boys and young men (83 versus 32). From the age perspective, almost half of the populace are currently Primary-class students, while the rest are in Secondary levels. Around 4 of them are at the moment collegers.

Anyway, let me describe further about what we had experienced almost the whole day, before, during, and after the outreach.

 

 

It started with a minor problem: school gates, through which we were supposed to gather, were intentionally locked. Eyeing through the keyhole, we found out at least 4 security guards were sitting, perched on their chairs, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and playing chess game. I knocked the door, and the guard refused to open. My dad, at the same time carrying carton boxes of Yeo’s Chrysanthemum tea, called upon the guards. 5 minutes had passed, and still the gates remained stiff. Two drivers whose buses we rented for the sojourner also helped us in continuously knocking on the gates. Probably having succumbed to the loud rataplan, they did happen to unlock the gates. There was some minor debate, though, but having explained to the guards that our teacher-in-charge, Pak Supian, was not coming, and again having shown them his phone number, they allowed all of us to get in, but only in the school’s front areas, while only me and the duo drivers who were permitted to come to one of our mentors’ class, to carry some behemoth cardboards, all stuffed with hundreds of school textbooks, and second-hand clothes (matter-of-factly speaking, one of the donators bequeathed mini-skirts). The Gummizeit soon followed. Originally scheduled to have hit the road at 12 pm, we instead managed to make it half an hour later.

The trip was fairly smooth, but as we approached nearer to the orphanage, I was distracted by the exact route into the location when asked by one of the drivers. How poor my memory storage was. Having surveyed the place 3 months prior, I was almost completely oblivious regarding the position. After 15 minutes of itinerating throughout the surrounding roads, we managed to reach there (and I remembered vividly that coping with a very narrow gangway was a struggle reaching it, but I had forgotten exactly where the gangway was precisely). Time showed 1.10 pm when we boarded off the buses, 10 minutes behindhand the scheduled time.

 

 

We came into the orphanage. Almost all the people there were present, including boys and girls, kids and teenagers. And a fierce-looking lady with a rattan wood on her right hand, organizing the rows and columns of populace being seated on the marmer floor. We were offered seats on the chairs, facing the kids directly. I asked myself: wow, must it be that formal? We are not government officers, nor are we over-the-top businesspeople. Having sat only for a while trying to figure out what we would do during the outreach, we decided to divide them into three groups: one aimed for primary-class students, another for junior-high-school students, and the rest for senior-high-school ones, and university students. We played one different game for every group. The most junior team were seated in a circle, over the chairs, together with mentees, volunteers and mentors, and they played fruit salad (more friendly version of Jumanji game (to know further, please read ‘the days I had in SEALNet’). At around 2.15 pm, we stopped the games, and distributed drinks for the buddies out there. Originally, we intended to hand out snacks as well, but given that students from SMA Sutomo 2, all third-graders, were also present at the same time and had previously dispensed each of them with a colorful pack of snacks, all of a sudden we decided to allot them only after we had accomplished everything in the outreach.

 

 

Having stopped the games and rested for a while, we went on with doing activities, at a more serious pace. Firstly segregating all the persons into two groups, one supposedly for primary-level students and the other for high-school- and university-equivalent, each group was afterwards given a different activity to do: all the juniors would be asked to draw their future in the papers we had distributed, while the seniors had to answer the questionnaire given in so-called ‘interest quiz’, sort of.

What the high-school students and collagers aspire to be in the future sound fairly good, as told by one of the mentors supervising the test, Lily. All of them, in general, do seem to embrace quite high expectations, such as of being a successful entrepreneur, well-known fashion designer, critically-acclaimed novelist, reknown poet, professional, over-the-top accountant, et cetera. Quite many of them opt the former, on being able to employ rather than to be employed. Talking about reality, nevertheless, seemed to be overtly burdening for them to overcome. This is the fact, though this might be pain-staking: in spite of the superb facilities they offer, ranging from projectors to musical instruments to the well-built multi-function hall, they even had not enough numismatics to pay for these students’ registration fees for selection tests to state-owned universities (Seleksi Nasional Masuk Perguruan Tinggi Negeri, abbreviated as SNMPTN). Out there, it was almost raining cats and dogs, before the sky again turned out plain white. The rain was like a brief, metaphorical reminder of the difficulties facing the populace in this building.

 

All of the teenagers were trying to figure the interest-quiz well.

The next activity was some kind of IQ test, hosted by Nico. As shown in projector, he presented all the questionnaire, one by one. It took more than 30 minutes, before Evando proceeded the schedule by hosting a motivational speech. Throughout the motivation session, we filled the time interval by playing out 5 videos, one about a Mongolian orphan singing in full commemoration of his deceased parents in China’s Got Talent, another about a blind beggar, the next about handicapped athletes, and the other two about Nick Vujicic, the miracle-man, who without hands and feet, could still be able to set the world on earthquake, through his magical, invisible, and sizeless limbs.

 

Evando

 

Nico

 

We ended the overall outreach by singing a Christian-themed song (only to entertain the buddies). As the sky ended up darker than before, we rushed by quickly handing out all our donation to the staff in charge of the orphanage. As the wind blew more boisterously, all of us swiftly made rows, and we had our last moments captured in front of the cameras.

Honestly, we do not expect the next outreach to be visiting another orphanage. As Mauren, one of the mentors, had told me: we had had it enough 3 times of visit to different orphanages, but the feeling remains the same.

What if we make a forest trip our next outreach?

What the Buddhists really believe

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

 

It is up to you to believe or not to believe in it, but at least, this is all about everyone’s perspectives. Written by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera, ‘What Buddhists Believe’ offers us a chance to comprehend deeper about Buddha, and what contributions his thought has helped in shaping the world, spanning for millenias. Agree or disagree with the contents, nobody forbids, given that everybody has their own distinct mindsets, which are at times true and at times false. Enjoy.

Source: http://www.viet.net/anson/ebud/whatbudbeliev/main.htm