7 Major Moments of My 2013

Now that 2013 has almost come to an end, and I reckon a follow-up entry of “10 Worst Things I Did in 2012” would be much necessary just in case I suddenly wake up with amnesia forgetting the great things I once did haha!

This year has been a year of spiritual change and personal growth. As much as I still wish to be doing as many crazy and random things anyone in their early 20’s would do, unfortunately I find myself slowly losing the drive for it. Sometimes the things I used to regard as outrageous or cool, are no longer as outrageous or as cool to me.

These top seven moments are in no particular order of importance.

1. Celebrating Thaipusam and almost going bald

Well, spending the Thaipusam holiday (that is, if you stay in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang, and Selangor) at shopping centers is one thing, but participating in the festival definitely makes it more meaningful.

Thaipusam Malaysia

This year, I outdid myself by joining my friend Magen and his family to participate in the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves. Together with a million other devotees, we made our way up the 272-step staircase around midnight in order to pay respect to Lord Murugan.

Thaipusam Malaysia

Though I was tempted to shave my head bald before going up the caves (head-shaving is a symbol of purification and one of the important rituals during Thaipusam), I didn’t do it. I only picked up the courage ten months later, when I did it for another event.

2. Backpacking from central to northern Vietnam in ten days

I know, my own “longest trip” absolutely paled in comparison with the amount of time other backpackers spent on their backpacking trip. But that was my (and also Cat’s) longest yet!

I almost puked when a couple told Cat and I that they were sick of backpacking and going budget. Also when another hardcore solo traveller said he was “taking a day off from travelling.”

Vietnam backpacking

Due to the nature of my work and the limited number of annual leaves I had, a ten-day vacation for me already spelt blessed. As much as I had wished to be able to travel longer, I was and still am thankful for the ten days that I had.

It is just kind of rare an average working Malaysian will be willing to, or can afford to have a holiday longer than two weeks – unless one quits his or her job.

Hue, Vietnam

Met a dozen of amazing people during our ten-day journey in five major spots in Vietnam: Hoi Ann, Hue, Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Sapa. Also met Huong, the hospitable travel agent who runs Hanoi Family Homestay, and two of her wonderful sisters. And our jaws dropped to the floor after arriving in Sapa to be mesmerised by its beauty.

Sapa, Vietnam

3. Travelling solo to Burma

My most random and most spiritual trip yet! The impact of this trip is so much so that several months after coming back from Burma, I officially became a Buddhist.

Botataung Pagoda, Yangon

Through this trip I learned about giving. With 99% of the population being Buddhists, I noticed the Burmese are such a generous lot. Majority would go all out to put the Buddhist beliefs into practice.

Bagan, Burma

Donation boxes could be seen everywhere along the streets without anyone stealing them, and people would place clay water pots along walkways for needy pedestrians to quench their thirst.

Waterpot, Yangon, Burma

Don’t know to get to a certain place? Just ask anyone and they will be more than willing to point out the directions without wanting anything from you in return.

I had had no fear whatsoever wandering around the dark streets in Yangon alone at night. In fact crime rate in Burma is so minimal it is almost negligible.

Burma Bagan

I got to visit more than a dozen pagodas, some of which were built some 1,000 years ago. For 1,000 years, about 50 generations would have passed!

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma

Would I go back again? Hell yes, anytime!

4. Officially becoming a Buddhist

In November, I participated in the refuge- and precepts-taking ceremony led by the founder of Fo Guang Shan Monastery – the respectable Ven. Master Hsing Yun, and witnessed by with some 10,000 others.

Buddhism

Through that ceremony, I officially became a Buddhist.

5. Receiving my Buddhist name in Pali

During a Kathina event, I approached one of the monks and asked for a Buddhist name in Pali. I was thus given by Ven. Mangala, a foreign monk who looked Indian and could speak some Mandarin, the name of “Kusala”, which I really like.

Buddhism

“Kusala” came from the original words “kusalatā” and “kosalla”, which means “wholesome deeds”. Ven. Mangala said this will serve as a reminder for me to do more wholesome deeds in order to benefit the society and also myself. I couldn’t be more appreciative.

6. New website

mrdefinite.net

Well, maybe not exactly 100% new.

Basically im.mrdefinite.com got relaunched as mrdefinite.net, which is the platform you are reading on right now. As I’m crazy about travel, it consists of my travel logs plus some opinion pieces.

7. Getting done with my Master’s Degree

Like, finally, after so many years. Phew!

I sincerely thank my wonderful supervisors Mr. Rad and Ms. Cyn, as well as others who got me through the journey of completing my Master’s. The process has been such a long ride, and lots of headaches. But then again without all the hardship, it wouldn’t have been called a Master’s Degree, right?

P1290370

To be frank, it just got to me every time my friends or my mom or dad asked when I would be completing my Master’s Degree. I knew very well my own progress, I knew what was going on – it hadn’t been easy juggling juggling a full-time work, my postgraduate research, and, of course, my constant travelling, which also leads to things in between, like writing and blogging.

But unless one has some experience in doing academic research, it can be difficult for one to relate to the fact that research work is a mentally-draining task. Sometimes you just feel like wanting to take a good rest and not think anything after a full day at work. And then when you’re feeling the drive to resume your research work, you may realise you have forgotten some of the things you have compiled or written. The process is simply tiring and time-consuming.

As an optimistic individual who loves travelling and freedom, I always upload pictures of when I travelled to my Facebook page. It just isn’t my nature to spread negativity, or post work-related stuffs on Facebook. People often think I live a good life, but they have no idea how much effort I put into perfecting the things I do.

They have no idea how serious a person I am when it comes to my job. They also have no idea the amount of time I had invested in  writing, rephrasing, editing, and re-editing my thesis for the past four years, to the extent that I now feel a little sick reading it. Yeah, I’m a perfectionist. It isn’t necessarily a good thing sometimes, but I’m learning to overcome the obsession.

Happy 2014.