Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The trip that started it all (15th July to 1st August 2002)

I think it may be a good idea to put all some of my older trips so this will be the starting point, the trip to Canada in 2002. Its my first trip overseas without my parents unless you consider going over to Malaysia to climb Mt Ophir as the first. Anyway this is an NCC sponsered trip under the International Air Cadet Exchange. I had previously participated as a host when I was 14, my first guest was from New Zealand, Andrew he was 13 then. SubsequentlyI hosted another from India, Ricky and yet another from Hong Kong, Gary.

Background of the trip:
  • 2 weeks (yes its in the middle of the semester)

  • 80 participants from 14 different countries

  • 2 province Ontario and Quebec
I am the one on the left and the right is my buddy Ian Soh and the bottom left is our escort officer LTA (NCC) Liza and the right hmmm is a representative of the Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS) to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). We took this picture when we visited the ICAO which is like the United Nations but specifically for civil aviation matters.

Our flight took more than 24 hours taking us from Singapore to Tokyo, Tokyo to Vancouver and finally from Vancouver to Ottawa. Well for someone who have not taken long haul flight it was one hell of a ride and we wanted to get off the plane so much that when we finally did, me and Ian just simply forgot to bring our CD player and Nintendo game box, which was in the pocket of the seat down with us. But if you think its bad, my friend Tim who was from Perth had a 36 hour flight, haha. I apologise for the wordy contents and the lack of photos but well 2002 was the time when digital cameras were still new and printing photographs were still very expensive. If I have the time maybe i will scan more photos.

The one on the extreme left is Jacqueline yah and the 3rd from the left is me. The thing here is most of the participants are from either their armed forces or air force trainees with the only exception of Singapore and Hong Kong. There are even F16 pilot trainees which made me wonder how come we are placed together haha when the best thing i have flown is actually a remote control plane... But ya, there are a lof of stuff you can learn from these guys. Beside me, the two guys are from Israel and the thing is they have to jog 10km every morning before they go for breakfast (which reminds me of the Indian NCC). At that time, I just thought they were crazy haha. While we were there, we stayed at different places including University Hostel, Hotels, Military hotels and with local host in their homes so we get a taste of everything but the stay with the local host is excellent cause you get to see what the local people do and immerse in their culture. The picture above is taken at the Military hotel in Trenton, let me tell you something its better than Holiday Inn. You got big beds, iron and ironing board, swimming pools, washing machines and dryers and the thing is this is military accommodation. Anyway, as you can see from the picture its a bit like the Pasa Malam here, all the cadets were taking out their badges, caps and everything they have looking for a good exchange. As all good Singaporeans do, i came prepared with lots of badges and looking for the best deal and indeed i got some of the best deal including a huge chunk of those ribbons you always see on the generals and a Swiss knife.
So these are my clique of friends, from the left we have Carlos, from the United States, in the middle Mehmet from Turkey, then there is me. The one at the back who is the big friendly giant, Torben from Sweden. The first two from the left Jacqueline from hong Kong and Amihai from Israel. Sadly, without msn and with the technology then it was hard to maintain contact.
This is a photograph taken outside the Canadian Parliament, believe me we had a lot of perks that are not given to ordinary tourist. I will elaborate on one later.
This is the Canadian tower and let me just highlight basically we don't pay anything.

Some people had the wrong concept that I was there for training, in actual fact it was for interaction and having fun. This picture was taken at some disco bowling centre. the balls are palm size and they turn off the light and play disco music hence the name.
Obviously as air cadets, we are suppose to have aviation related activities including this helicopter ride and a glider session (unfortunately cancel due to bad weather, damn...) This photo is taken at the Niagara Falls. Beside me is Joseph, later on he email me with his new email and guess what he said he like his new email address and i took a look and i was like wAo... princeton.edu.sg and he said he wanted to go Yale for another degree after that.
This photograph was taken with my first local host, Captain Jeffrey. He took us to this posh restaurant beside Niagara Falls and that night when we were there, there were fireworks splashing across the sky just beside us and it was simply fantastic. The special thing about Captain Jeffrey is he was also the host for my senior Mdm Ong Pei See, who is now a pilot with jetstar, and my junior, Ahmad. I mean what are the odds that he always seem to be the one taking care of the AMKSS cadets.

Later on, Capt J took us to have a try at changing the lights of the Niagara Falls at night and yah this is one of the special perks we had. In other words, the tourist taking photos had to bear with whatever colour we chose. It was awesome. Introduction again, Torben from Sweden beside me, Nicholas from UK and Tim from Australia. I later visited Tim when i was in Perth on attachment. This is my second host family. they are french speaking Canadians and sometimes we had to go back to the ancient way of trying to express ourselves. Their daughter, Catherine spoke English so sometimes we rely on her to help us translate. Their family stayed besides St Louis river and guess what we saw a Otter in the river and the last time the host saw one was over 20 years ago so i guess we were pretty lucky. Oh one thing, the pizzas are really huge, our large is probably their medium and drinks come in jugs and not cups so well if you are there don't make the mistake we did cause we almost died eating pizzas.

There are many other highlights that would take me far too long to upload and explain so let me fast forward to the farewell dinner. Dress in our official attires, each country had to send someone to address the group and after some debate, I represented the Singapore delegation for the farewell speech and Ian wrote the report. So here we were, the delegates from Belgium, Turkey, Hong Kong, USA and Singapore before the commencement of the dinner proper. I forgot to talk about our meals, be assured they are the best. Let me quote a few examples, we had buffet style meals almost for every meal. In the military hotel at Trenton, we can even get the cook to prepare omelettes and pizzas of our choosing. We had buffet lunch on a cruise boat after white water rafting and you basically choose the meat and someone will bbq it for you. I have never felt more like a King then when i was there and yah there was the palm size Oreo ice cream with 2 pieces of Oreo biscuit. Not a nicely taken photograph but well this was taken with my first generation 1.3mega pixel camera with 16MB in built memory so don't expect that much.

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