I’m assuming it has become customary for animebloggers visiting the Holy Land to announce their upcoming pilgrimage and elicit the envy of their readers.
Therefore, I shall take this opportunity to announce that, HEY I’m going to Japan! The story of how this came to be is pretty strange, and I shall humour you guys by revealing it below. Just keep in mind that at this point, it appears that airfare and lodging are provided and it’s set to be a period of two weeks.
I applied to go on a summer exchange for 6 weeks to UCLA. That, to non-Americans, would be the University of California, Los Angeles. The only impression I have of that place is students riot after winning and losing sports games. Anyway, unlike in the arts faculty, exchange slots are pretty rare for science students and there are interviews where we have to pass. It was a group interview along with 4 random others. We were told that there were 80 applicants and 30 slots.
So the other random girls (they were all girls except me and my guy friend) started talking about their achievements and club activities, which the interviewer asked for. Strangely enough, 3 of them said the exact same thing, that they were conservation ambassadors for the Singapore Zoo. One other girl said she wanted to go to LA as there was good dancing there and she loves dancing and teaches people at the YMCA how to dance. My guy friend said he once participated in a sign language course. Note "once participated", lol.
When it came to my turn, I said I have been a docent for the zoo for 4 years now (the 3 girls joined a similar organisation just recently or something). Since the interviewer was a life sciences professor, he had heard of the zoo docent organisation unlike the other ambassador one. He also found my dedication to conservation a good point, since for the first 2 years of volunteering I was actually in the army as well, so he assumed that I sacrificed my personal free time on army leave to volunteer for the zoo. Technically, that is very true, but as we all know, my free time isn’t as scarce as some of the other real soldiers. Nevertheless, I neglected to correct his assumption of course. More interestingly, I said (this is exactly what I said) "I am also the founder and head of an organisation called the Research Institute for Unicultural Visual Arts, and my employees and I basically write and publish articles and editorials about Japanese culture."
That above line is exactly as I said it. My friend had to stifle his urge to laugh. The interviewer appeared surprised and then asked if I could speak Japanese, to which I answered yes. He then said he would be meeting me the next day at the same location for another interview, one regarding an exchange programme to Japan instead of UCLA.
Now, I showed up the next day without any preparation. There was no information whatsoever about this new exchange programme, except that it was to Waseda University and involved "sustainability and biodiversity". The professor was like "You know Japanese right? You want to go overseas right? OK come for the interview!"
It turned out that the same professor was present, along with another higher ranked life sciences professor. This time, it was all content-based as the other higher-ranked prof did all the asking of questions. The first one he asked was "What do you think of sustainability?"
I can’t remember what I said, I vaguely recall talking about not being an idealist, and that the world needs to work as one (Gundam 00 style of course) for this to succeed. And since everyone is driven by self-interest, sustainability would only be possible if it is driven by economic reasons. I remember saying something about nations being a barrier towards this, and developing ones like India and China spew out lots of pollution and use lots of resources, but how can the developed nations tell them to stop when they themselves did it, just a century or 50 years ago?
He asked me to comment on Singapore’s policies towards sustainability, to which I talked about the vehicle registration system here, which I know quite a lot about thanks to my dad’s company. I mentioned Bolivia, which is dying due to a total lack of vehicle importation restrictions, while Singapore has the spanking new cars since it’s not economically viable to drive cars older than 3 years here. It’s amazing that every car on the road here is spanking new really, which means they are more fuel efficient and produce less emissions. The COE and high price of cars also deters many from buying, keeping our air clean and roads less congested. I said Singapore’s strategy for sustainability should be to showcase policies and technologies that can help in this area, since our small size means any cutbacks on pollution or whatever isn’t going to affect the world at all, so our purpose is mainly educational.
There was some talk on food issues, since the progamme is supposedly for life sciences majors only and I was the only Food Science major on the shortlist. I recall saying that any form of farming here in Singapore is a waste of time and space, since food is such a low value product. Farming here is just for show, to provide some meat to the notion that Singapore can sustain itself without imports. I went with the idea that it’s far better for us to just focus on the high-tech bioindustry of synthesising food with microbes and fungi or cell culture.
The discussion then switched to topics on biodiversity and that got me convinced I wouldn’t make the cut, because I only have elementary knowledge of it. More than most people on the street, but far less than the average biology major. I said something along the likes of Singapore doesn’t really need its biodiversity. It’s just too small to make a difference, all our animals can be found in Malaysia anyway. I said the reason why we shouldn’t just cut away all our forests is to set a good example of how cities can coexist with forests. Singapore has a shit load of trees, mostly planted, these don’t really support much biodiversity though. Our primary forests consist of pretty much just one or two areas. It would be really hypocritical if we were to cut down all our forests for development, and then tell other countries to save their forests and not develop so much. Therefore, to set an example, Singapore should show that it is possible to develop economically and still have forests remaining. Ok basically that’s quite a bunch of crap I made up on the spot, so I thought I wouldn’t get in.
After a week, most of my friends who applied to the UCLA programme made it in, except for the sign language guy. Poor guy. My name wasn’t in the list for UCLA, so I was pretty annoyed that I failed BOTH interviews. Then I received the letter that I got chosen for the Waseda Global College Honours Program 2009.
So whoopie! Then I learnt it was only 2 weeks long, compared to the six weeks my friends were going to the US for. Ugh. Then I learnt that airfare and accomodation was free! Whoopie! Then I realised this means my plan of going a couple of weeks earlier and spending a month in Japan was ruined, since Waseda would have tickets for the whole group.
In the end, I’m really glad I’m going. It’s an academic program, with seminars and conferences and all that I suspect. Details are sketchy. I wonder if we get to eat whale meat. I’m sure some idiot white guy would shout "NO WHALING" only to be killed by the local ninjas. This was a really long and boring post though. I’ll try to ask if I can go early so I can travel around first. Time to hit the soaplands eh?
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