Author Archives: bhaga15859@gapps.uwcsea.edu.sg

Kahaani: Investigation and Preparation

Kahaani is something that I look forward to every year. I see it as a celebration of my incredibly diverse culture and it is something that is very close to my heart. I signed up for it last year and I knew I would sign up again this year. The cause it supports (to empower the blind and raise funds of Voice of World) is also something very important and impactful.

This event is a dance showcase, which meant that I would be doing something a bit unfamiliar to me. I was a little apprehensive at first especially because I would have to perform in front of so many people but I wanted to challenge myself through this experience. I wanted to gain more confidence and also develop a new skill. This was why I was quite happy that I was assigned to a dance with all of my friends; they helped me overcome a lot of my nervousness about performing on stage.

The initial stages of rehearsing were quite tedious. I was put into the back line of the dance and I found it hard to keep up with steps as I was quite short and not noticeable. I was also finding it hard to keep up with all the new moves being added every session.

Here is one of our very first practice sessions as a group:

Yoga (Season 2)

LO4: Show commitment to and perseverance in CAS experiences.

Yoga was one of the new activities that I tried this year and I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. Finding motivation to exercise is quite challenging for me and I tend to make excuses not to do anything. By signing up for an activity with a time commitment, I managed to find motivation to consistently do yoga every week. I also signed up with a friend and we ended up pushing each other to go when the other didn’t feel like it. This was another key reason I was able to maintain my motivation and commitment.

The activity also helped me develop new relationships since the yoga group consists of many approachable and friendly people. I found myself growing quite comfortable with the people around me since everyone was incredibly kind and supportive as we developed our skills together. Despite everyone having different levels of mastery of yoga skills, we made sure no one was left behind. A lot of this was also due to the teachers incorporating different levels of yoga poses (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). As of now, I have lost a lot of the self-consciousness I originally had when I started the activity.

This safe environment, the friendships I made, and the physical progress I was making (e.g. becoming more flexible) really helped me strengthen resolve to continue to do yoga and start doing it outside of school as well.

The Siege

Does familiarity with literature itself provide knowledge and, if so, of what kind – knowledge of facts, of the author, of the conventions of the form or tradition, of psychology or cultural history, of oneself? 

There is a fundamental difference from the knowledge literature can provide us and the knowledge science can. The understanding we gain from science explains how things happen in the physical world and how we can model that. Whereas, literature gives us insight into why things happen and what effects they have on the people around us and ourselves. Literature is the translation of human thought and emotion into a text. Familiarizing ourselves with it helps us understand core human beliefs and values while also pushing us to question our own nature as individuals. It also weaves together many different aspects of human life and society within it. “The Siege” by Helen Dunmore, a literary work of historical fiction, is a prime example of this. When I read it, I noticed that it gave me much insight into a few key areas of knowledge: cultural and political history, and human psychology.

Image result for the siege helen dunmore book cover

The Siege is set during the Nazi siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in the winter of 1941. The most factual knowledge the novel provides us with is through the context of the narrative. The book opens with a letter from the German Naval staff who write, “The Fuehrer has decided to have Leningrad wiped from the face of the earth.” from Berlin in 1941. This letter makes allusion to Hitler and his hostile political relationship with Soviet Russia. Throughout the book, although never explicitly mentioned, there are multiple references to Stalin and the Communist Party. Anna refers to him as “Koba” which was one of his many nicknames and resentfully talks about the many privileges his party members received such as more food, warmth, and better salaries. This political context is key in establishing the general social sentiment in Russia at the time. These interwoven details are also important to understand Anna’s actions and why they are emotionally compelling. They are also useful in giving us perspective of the societal and emotional impact of historical events that are normally studied analytically.

Another way this literary work provides us with knowledge is through the emotions of the main character and how she deals with the situations she is faced with. It gives us an understanding of human psychology, especially into the fight-or-flight response described by Walter Bradford Cannon. Although it was originally proposed as a physiological response, it is often used to describe emotional responses as well. Throughout the book, Anna is portrayed as facing the most dire, dismal, and hopeless of a situation. She tries to survive the Leningrad winter under German blockade with barely any money and food, an asthmatic brother, and a bedridden father. The burden of surviving falls almost entirely upon her. But even under this pressure, she consistently perseveres to make the most of the situation and somehow make do. Whether it is saving a “quarter slice of bread” every day for her brother, going to a black market to acquire a “burzuika”, or walking through unforgiving weather conditions just to find wood to burn for warmth, she never gives up. She tells herself that she will fight to survive and she does. This inspiring narrative of human determination helps us gain knowledge into the incredible resolve we are capable of. Since it is such an emotionally compelling piece of writing, The Siege makes us question ourselves regarding our own resolve and willpower, helping us discover more about ourselves too.

 

 

Wuthering Heights

Everyone warned me that this would be a challenging book to read. My dad told me to get used to the language and writing style as soon as I could. My friend told me to draw a family tree every time the book offered new information. I didn’t take their advice at the start, which is something I regret.

I’m not going to lie, but this was one of the most difficult books I have read. I realised that the biggest mistake I made was to start reading this during the busiest weeks of school. Because of this, I was only able to superficially skim the pages whenever I got time. I only really started to immerse myself into the story when I was able to sit down for an extended period of time and read thoroughly. It took me about fifty pages to really understand Bronte’s writing style and what was going on. However from this point onwards, I found it easier and easier to keep reading because the story was so intense and captivating.

One of the most surprising scenes for me was Catherine’s mental degeneration after Isabella and Heathcliff’s marriage. Her “condition” was already foreshadowed when she loses her temper with Edgar at the start of the book, but this sudden breakdown and brain fever just confirmed how emotionally volatile she was. Although her hysteria and attention-seeking behaviour was something that I found was quite common amongst Victorian era protagonists (e.g. Lydia from Pride and Prejudice), I didn’t expect it to be this severe.

To me, I think it was because Catherine had not changed from when she was a child. Even after being married to Edgar, she yearned for her childhood at the Heights and with Heathcliff. In most books, authors explore the idea of how people change as society/life changes around them. Here, Bronte was able to show the dangers of not growing up and forever remaining trapped in a certain mental stage of life.

Another way I found this book differed to most classics was through Bronte’s characterisation of Heathcliff. When I first started the book, I thought Heathcliff would be the romantic hero of the story. Despite his cold and cruel behaviour, I genuinely believed he would come around would somehow end up with Catherine. But I was surprised once again when this was so far from what happened. The author ruthlessly destroyed every notion of him being the romantic protagonist and instead portrayed him, more brutally, as a man consumed with his own vengeance.

I thought this was one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while and really enjoyed myself despite it being so challenging.

 

 

ITP (Season 1)

LO1: Identify strengths and develop areas for growth

This is my third year doing ITP singing. However this year I decided to do my grade 8 exam for singing which is definitely going to be something unfamiliar and challenging.

I love singing and I work quite hard at it. My strengths are my creativity and my ability to immerse myself in any song that I sing. Despite this, I genuinely need to work on managing my time and making sure I get enough practice before each lesson since this exam will demand a lot of work.

This half term, I got a very good idea as to how much work I need to be putting in and I realised that I needed to make time for singing practice, just like I had to for piano. This was my major struggle but I hope to change that next term by using my free blocks to practice in the music rooms as well as practicing at least three times every week at home when I don’t have activities after school.

 

Piano Lessons (Season 1)

LO2: Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process.

Piano has always been a significant part of my life. I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old. Over the years, I’ve always been pushing myself in terms of my ability with the instrument.

My target for the next two years is to complete my ATCL (Associate of Trinity College London) recital and learn repertoire that I wouldn’t traditionally choose. When it comes to music, it’s easy to play what you like. I think that a true test for me would be to play something that I don’t enjoy that much but still play with passion.

Something that scares me is the recital I’m going to have to do at the end. I’ve always struggled with stage fright and nervousness and I end up letting those feelings cloud my performances. Although I worked on it throughout iGCSE music, performing on stage is one of the biggest risks I’m taking.

So far, I’ve just begun learning the pieces and I’m faced with a piece that I wouldn’t normally like to play (a Mozart Sonata) as it is very technical. In order to make it less daunting of a task, I’m making sure to practice small parts of the larger piece whenever I get time with a metronome in order to keep track of my progress. However time management is definitely difficult. I barely get enough time to do anything outside of my schoolwork since I have taken quite a heavy IB package.

In the future, I need to work on making time of piano. Starting next week, I’m going to try and fit my piano practice into the time I take breaks from work.

Memoirs of a Pioneer Generation (Visiting the Location)

LO2: Demonstrate that challenges have been undertaken, developing new skills in the process.

We started visiting the location this week and I met the lady I was going to be interacting with for the next few seasons.

As I had anticipated during the planning stage, she was one of the elderly who couldn’t speak English. The language barrier was one of the biggest challenges we faced. Even though the centre had provided a translator, he had to attend to everyone else as well. This meant that in the short time that I could actually ask her questions, I had to make them relevant, specific, and engaging. I also had to be quite sensitive when wording my questions since a lot of the people there didn’t have family and I didn’t want to make any unintentionally rude or emotionally insensitive comments.

Something that really benefitted my in the most recent week however was partnering up with one of my friends who could speak Mandarin. Although this was a short term solution, since her partner would return again next week, it was the most informative session I’ve had so far. She helped me ask all the burning questions I had and I learnt so much more about the lady I had been interacting with. Keeping in mind that this was only a short term arrangement, I asked as many questions as possible. I noted down everything I found interesting about her and even asked her to draw something for me in order to connect with her more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For future sessions, I asked her what she would like to do and she said that she would love to try something like origami or something more hands on. I’m going to try and find some more arts and crafts for us to attempt together while the translator makes his rounds so the session doesn’t go to waste.

Memoirs of a Pioneer Generation (Planning Sessions)

photo taken from: lionsbefrienders.org.sg

LO1: Identify their own strengths and develop areas for growth.

The heart of a country is in its people, their experiences, their thoughts, and their stories. For this reason, it was very important to me to sign up for this service again. I wanted to connect with the local community in Singapore directly through its pioneer generation. This service will definitely be a way I learn about the rich culture and history of Singapore.Over the course of the last two weeks, I started my local service, Memoirs of a Pioneer Generation. I already did this service last year and thoroughly enjoyed it which was why I signed up for it again. This service is about visiting old-age homes in Singapore, interacting with the elders there, and writing their stories. I found it so unique and interesting when I did it last year. To me, it was a way to give a voice to the people who shaped Singapore.

I left the first session looking forward to all the work we are going to do. Although there were some minor changes (such as the location we would be visiting) to the service, the fundamental part of the service which entails capturing the stories of these people stayed the same. In the second session, we began to develop our skills as interviewers and journalists.

These couple of weeks were so important in gaining foundational skills to start visiting the location next week onwards and I definitely learnt a lot. I became more conscious of how sensitive we need to be around the elderly since many of them would have dementia or we would have a language barrier between us. However I also learnt that this was part of challenging myself to find connections with people without even having to say anything. I’m very excited for this week.

SEAMC (Planning + Implementation Season 1)

LO3: Demonstrate how to initiate and plan a CAS experience

For the past two years I’ve been helping coach students to go to the annual South East Asian Math Competition. This year, I was appointed to the leadership position of vice-chair. I was quite nervous going into this position because it entails a lot more responsibility than I had before. I was confident about the planning since organisation is one of my strengths but executing these plans was quite challenging.

I had to create a short term plan until October break which would involve the different rounds of the competition, challenging math, and open ended problems designed to challenge participants. However this is much easier said than done. The first step in order to do this was to clear out the SEAMC google drive folder in order to access various resources. This took me almost three days to do since it was so disorganised before.

After this was done, the next step was to plan what we would do each session and we did this through a presentation with individual slides outlining what we would do each week. An example of how a session would look is below.

 

What proved most challenging was executing this plan. Due to a combination of my introverted nature and the size of the group we were meant to be guiding, getting people to listen was extremely hard. Especially since half the people present were older than me, it was hard to gain their respect. This made us realise that we had to make our sessions much more individual activity based rather than collaborative until we split them up after October into their skill level groups. It was important that I had flexibility in my plan and was able to draw upon resources when asked rather than pre-planning. It helped me realise that for the future, we would have to get to know the group dynamic before planning any activities or training.

Over the October break, we are planning on splitting up the large group into smaller groups based on their skill levels and designing a custom plan for each group as we felt that this would work better.