Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Active Child Aid

Just caught a documentary on the Australian channel. It was about Russian children living in sewers and train stations. Some were kicked out of their homes, others left to escape abusive parents. A few died. Many are still there.

Help if you can.

For donations, click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Singaporean Checklist to Studying in Australia*

I was thinking since I need to make a list of things to bring back to Brisbane, I might as well make a blog out of it. Sometimes I get people asking me what to bring, how to do this, where to get that. I figured this informal guide might be useful for people who care to ask me. Anyway, I don't guarantee that this is going to be up-to-date so you make your own judgement and don't come blaming me when you realize they don't sell your favorite sambal chilli there!

Accessories (Fashion)
Certain parts of Australia are really shopping paradises. I heard about the malls in Sydney, the streets on Melbourne and the factory outlets scattered across the continent. But there are some things that are very expensive in Australia though they are still made in China. The stuff I found I really cannot bring myself to get there are hair accessories, especially those tiny but oh-so-important black elastic bands and hair pins.

Other than that, there are stunning earrings and bags to be found there. For the latter, I think you should bring a bag for school for a start at least. You can’t go shopping the minute your plane lands and their DFS may not be as well-stocked as Singapore’s.

Where are you going to go when you first reach Australia? Bunking at a friend’s place? Staying on campus? Need temporary lodging while searching for a new pad? These are some of the options opened to you. It is not hard to find places to stay so long as you don’t have too miserly a budget. The easiest way to search for accommodation is through www.realestate.com.au. Check on the tab for rental and you’ll soon be on your way. You can also look around your school for posters looking for housemates/room-mates. Likewise, your school may provide accommodation services so you can explore its website. On-campus colleges are possibly the best places to mingle with the locals and would be good for those who don’t know anyone there. But be warned, they don’t come cheap and are not for those who cannot stand a bit of noise on Wednesdays and Fridays. Also, apply early because it can be competitive and sometimes you need references to get places.

Personally, I’m not very comfortable with sharing spaces with people I don’t really know. I would recommend trying on-campus accommodation first then making friends to really find out who won’t be the housemate from hell. You don’t want to wake up with a knife on your throat do you?

Another piece of advice is to pour over the lease before signing. Like my law lecturer said, the smaller the print, the more wary you should be.

Bank accounts are essential for those who do not want to pay exorbitant transaction fees to your local banks. There are a number of choices such as Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and Suncorp. I was scared I would spend all my money at one go so I had two accounts. Certainly something to consider.

Just find out which are on campus and have handy ATMs nearby. Interest rates can be considerably higher than Singapore’s too.

Find out from your landlords whether bed sheets are provided. My mama said the higher the thread count, the smoother the material. The trade-off is that high thread-count sheets wrinkle easily. But who cares so long as comfy right?! Anyway, Australia sells these of course. Just that you need to search a bit longer if you are price-conscious.

March is time for summer sales so relax! Winter clothing are way way way way way way way nicer over there. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you not to get those frumpy, bulky winterwear here. Not too much of it anyway. If you are going during Feb/March, you certainly have no need for jackets and sweaters other than a very thin piece for cold lecture theatres. For those reaching in July/August, winter clothing would be essential if you arrive at a time where the shops will be closed. Otherwise, just stick to one thick sweater (especially if your destination is Canberra, Adelaide, Tasmania or Melbourne). Please! Winter stuff are cheaper there and a godzillion times prettier.

My peacoat from Australia costs A$29.95 only!

But I would really recommend that you get long bottoms from Singapore if you are below 1.7m for girls and 1.8m for guys. Most pants/jeans/trousers over there are way way too long for the Asian build and it’s not easy to find a seamstress. Certain shops offer tailoring services for a fee. Still, I prefer my bootcut jeans to remain bootcut after alteration and not change to straight cut.

Contact information
Mr. Cabby doesn’t know where's Carmody Road in St. Lucia. What can you do now? I’m sure they have street directory but what if you cannot find “No. 30/56”? This is where it is important to know who to contact should you fail to locate your new accommodation.

I think you should also note down the campus security number. And the emergency no. for Australia is 000. Not 911 or 999 or 995. For the first few weeks, at least carry a piece of paper with important contact information such as your new address, telephone numbers (yours and your landlord’s/housemates).

Remember that some of your important local numbers may be stored in your soon-not-to-be-used Singtel/M1/Starhub sim card. Make copies! Also take down contacts of Singapore embassy(s), your credit card company(s), your local bank(s) and your insurance agent(s)/company(s).

Passport, e-visa, medical history, insurance policies, identification card, certificates and university acceptance letter are some of the important paperwork you should have with you at all times. Photocopies of these should be kept in a separate luggage and a set be given to your parents/guardians.

This is a long, long list:

-Blank discs
Can get there but cheaper here. I don't use it much though.

The plug used in Australia:

3-pin ok! 2 also can but I prefer 3.

Once I went to Sim Lim. I saw this Auntie asking the cashier whether the plug she's holding was for use in Australia. Being the kind-hearted soul I am, I directed her towards the right one. She looked at me in suspicion and I said, "Auntie! I think I should know since I study in Australia wan." After that, I shrugged and as I walked away, I heard her on the phone, "Ah boy ah! I ask you ah... The plug you asked me to buy..." Her "Ah boy ah" is so lucky! Get his mother to do all the dirty work. Very independent! +_+

You are spending so much so might as well make a photoblog!

For whatever you bring there.

Not many options in Australia and warranty usually requires you to travel quite a bit to fix things.

Skype is cool. Save on telephone bills though if you get calling card, it’s not so expensive.

One is not enough. If possible, bring two. Many people I know suffer a faulty phone in their final semesters.

-MP3 player
For long road-trips across the country when your buddies are playing that awful song for the nth time.

Don’t know the exact term for this but a picture says it all:

With this, you need less convertors!

-Thumbdrive/external hard-disk:
Recommended if you don’t want to lose your 10k-word thesis or simply have too much crap in your laptop.

For fun.

Australia sun puts you at a higher risk of cornea cancer. Get a sturdy pair of sunnies or buy one there. If you have less than perfect eyesight, remember getting spectacles/contact lens in Australia requires prescription. That would amount to quite a lot. Bring extra spectacles and contact lens if possible. Contact lens solutions are more expensive there so you have to make the strategic choice of whether to lug some over.

Flight ticket

Australia customs require you to declare food items and they are strict about live products such as plants. I think don’t bring is the best. There are Asian supermarkets there where you can get almost anything. If you cannot survive without granny’s chilli, bring it and make sure you tell Mr. Custom you have it.

No lack of these in Australia. Imagine my shock when I saw A$69.90 “Made in China” shoes being thrown into bins and declared as sales items. What’s more is that they are not my type. Anyway, my new babies are all coming with me! Muahahaha…. I think you should bring more flats because the universities are usually not very new and have slopes, hills, valleys and mountains. A pair of trainers would be good. These you can get at the local factory outlets too though it might be hard to get your size. It can be a daunting take for females size 5 and below to search for footwear.

But pray buy your boots in Australia. Many options cheaper and prettier than those sold in Far East.

In the event of scary housemates.

Those of your suburb, city and campuses. Very fun to explore places so long as you have their graphical representations.

黄熊熊 says, "I is want to take 412 to go to the city for my adventure!"

Needs to be declared. I’m not sure whether you need doctor’s prescriptions to be presented but would be good just in case. You can get Panadols and those common stuff there and chemists are all over the place. So relax.

Basically, stuff you cannot live without. Pillows are common, as are stuffed toys. I like to bring lots of photos and tiny gifts. Again. The strategic choice of fitting everything into my luggage, taking into consideration the number of shoes I’m going to bring. :(

Very expensive there. Check local stores for pricing. Sometimes even if you ship them over, it’s still cheaper.

Before you go, start noting the exchange rate. Usually it will rise in July so it’s a good idea to buy some Australian currency when the rates are low. Other ways of bringing money over would include bank drafts and money transfers (Western Union, or local debit bank account). Something else called the cashier order(?) but not sure how that works.

Credit card would come in handy, not for frequent usage but for emergencies. You can possibly apply for one at your Australian bank. Make sure you know your credit limit. Rejection from the visa machine very malu. Otherwise, Australian banks also offer EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) cards. Just ask.

Of expensive items, such as laptops and other electronics are needed. I cannot remember the reason but I know you must bring them.

If you are anal like me and only can use G2 0.5 pens in blue, Stabilo highlighters, Omni frozen eraser, Zebra name pens and Ozone foolscap, you got to head down to Popular to get them! Speaking of foolscap, those in Australia are very expensive and usually too thin to be used on both sides. Noted?

Again, if you are anal and not sure whether they sell your brand there, check your skincare/beauty care/hair care product website. For cosmetics, I think girls should bring concealers and foundations over because you don’t know whether they have products for Asian skins. Anyway, I know they sell Biotherm skincare there but not the beauty care and Kosé is MIA. I also noticed that Australia beauty counters do not like to give free gifts and seldom have loyalty programs. Hmm… Think about it huh?

Easy to find in Australia but these are stuff you usually need in the spur of the moment and would not buy if you have the choice. Swiss blades, screwdrivers (especially those for spectacles) and basic sewing kit are those I consider useful.


Wah! That's a long long list. I don't know if there are more things to add to this but if you can think of any, let me know so we can share the information ok? If what I wrote does not apply to the Australian state you are in, drop me a comment too! Anyway, overseas study is a good experience. Enjoy it! :D

*This post is based on my experience in Queensland. Got errors or state differences don't blame me!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tribute to biology

Under my long, naggy encouragement, S took up a biology elective in university. Not that a design student need to know about the DNA and mutated drosophila to churn out stunning prototypes. This whole thing had to do with the education system and I guess that's digressing too much. Anyway, I digress.

So there we have, S in a class, all by herself. Luckily, she thought some me-time was good. S was telling me about the lab work she had to do for the class and boy was she excited:
"I can see the cheek cells clearly! I even helped someone else adjust her microscope!You remember last time we had this same experiment in secondary school? I couldn't see the cells but I can see it now!"

I wondered aloud:
"Wah! Imagine last time you could see the cells, you might have been very interested in bio! Your life would be very different now!"

Sometimes, a meander along the way changes our lives forever.


Once, we had to do some stuff to a blade of leaf so we can look at it under the microscope. I was very interested in bio, and did exactly as told. Imagine my surprise when I looked into the microscope and actually managed to see chloroplasts moving from one cell to the next!

Naturally excited (with a bit of hao-lianness thrown in), I tugged my nearest bench partner to see. Soon after, the whole class started gathering around my bench and exclaiming in wonder as they looked into my microscope, my slide. Then, this guy, Q who could not quite believe that I actually made it to a pure-science class, unhurriedly peered into the lens and proclaimed that the whole class must be starry-eyed from the light and no frikking chloroplast was anywhere.

Sadly for him, Mrs. X gave me a pat for an experiment done well. The same Mrs. X who much later asked me if there was something wrong with me just because I laughed loudly at jokes. Oh dear me! I didn't know we were supposed to laugh softly after lessons when something funny was said.

This reminds me. When I was in primary school, Mrs N gave me a slap across the cheek because I was gesturing to Y who was sitting behind me. No words. No warning. No fair treatment for only I got slapped even though Y was as enthusiastic about signing during the boring nth assembly talk.

My favourite textbook!

I was am a hardworking student!

Additional notes like these were strewn all over the book!


Fast-forward to first 3 months in JC. I chosen one that was near and suitably placed on the JC standings. But it was hell on earth. I took the Chem-Bio-Econs-Maths C combi. and had classes till 5 pm every other day. Oh no! No JC crashing for me because my lovely form teacher would demand this and that if we were missing and the school enjoyed random spot-checks.

Bio was taught by this effeminate male who enjoyed nothing better than to inform us that he didn't know why he was bothering with the class at all. I wish he didn't bother. As you can guess, he could not bother to use other words to re-re-re-re-re-explain a concept, merely proclaiming it as being "so simple".

Bio died that day.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Top 3 things I do during CNY. A lot.

3. Say "HUAT AH" a lot.

2. Eat these a lot:

Mee suah gives you long life!

Steamboat for all kinds of reunions! No need to cook! Yay!!!

Loi Hei for climbing up whatever ladder!

1. Look at these a lot:

Lots of new year goodies! Do you realize that the best ones are probably home-made? Yum!

Happy new year all! May you HUAT AH!