Hey everyone!

I’ve received a couple of emails from people who have found this blog through googling for the KaosPilots. So I thought I’d post an update.

No, I’m not applying again. Not for a while. I haven’t really kept up with what KP is up to – honestly, the last rejection threw me in such a loop that for a long time I didn’t want anything to do with KP. I still keep in touch with some friends from there, but mainly because they’re cool people (rather than their KP connection).

I’ve finished my degree. Who knew this day would come?! I used my final semester for work placements, which was a good option (though there were a few dramas towards the end!). While there’s been a holdup with my grades, I’m generally done, and should be graduating by March.

Right now I’m doing some Vacation Research Experience with QUT CI – it’s for students who’re looking at doing post-grad work (or, in my case, because I like doing things). My project is to look up and summarize resources for the Disability Resources Wiki, full of stuff about disability and the arts. I just started but it’s pretty cool so far. I’ve also been involved here and there with local things.

My KP experience, as well as the experiences of the past year, have given me a new (early New Years) resolution: apply for all the longshots and be surprised. Instead of pining my hopes on the one thing, I’ll just apply for anything that looks interesting and see where that gets me. If I don’t get that exact thing, I would at least have known what was out there.

I have my eye on the Sauve Scholars, a one-year research fellowship sponsored by McGill University in Montreal where you can research any topic you want. It’s a bit over my head but having a year to work on whatever (in my case, youth engagement) would be awesome. And it’s fully funded, so no money worries!

There’s also Seth Godin’s Alternative MBA, which is basically 6 months work experience in NY with his company. Logistically I can’t do it – it starts in January and I can’t get a trainee visa in a month. besides, I’ve got stuff to do for the next couple of months. However, I’m still putting in an application, in case Godin or other people have other opportunities open. Also, the process is helping me develop content for my professional website, which was under hiatus for a while but hopefully will be launched in time for New Years.

I’m looking for something that makes people go “AWESOME”. Creative, socially conscious, cool, fun, flexible. Whether that’s study, work, my own venture, random travel, whatever. I’m in a new phase of life, I’m a different person, and I want to explore that difference.

Contact me if you have any ideas, or just wanna chat. KP folk can email me too – no hard feelings.

take care!

I have not been invited back for Team 2 of KP NL.

I haven’t heard about my status for KP NL yet – it’s still the weekend over there, after all. We’ll all know by around this week.

In the workshop I talked about how, if I don’t get in this time, I probably won’t try again for a while. This isn’t necessarily because I’m giving up on the idea of being a KaosPilot. Rather, it’s because I feel that if this attempt doesn’t work, it’s time to let go and have a break.

The process is extremely draining. The application form is highly personal – though often questions are recycled so it can get a bit tedious to be explaining yourself over and over and over. The creative project can also be a challenge – while I’ve found it fun, it can also bve really difficult if the project is something resource-intensive (for instance, the video set by KP Aarhus).

If you get admitted into the workshop, you need to rush to get your transport sorted. This is extremely tricky for someone like me who lives far away and has a troublesome passport that requires visas for everywhere. (While in Dordrecht I heard from a friend in Burundi who had been shortlisted but could not afford to come.) Admission workshops are expensive for a non-European! Even those in North America don’t have it quite as hard, because it’s relatively closer.

Once you sort out the logistics and actually get there, you face two days of emotional turmoil. The workshop process is extremely challenging and testing, and I reckon that trying to go through it more than twice in a year (there are quite a number of people who apply multiple times) would be way too much on your soul. Even with the foreknowledge of what’s coming (the content doesn’t change a lot), you still face challenges to your mind and psyche. There’s a lot of reflection on yourself and the team, including exercises that bring to the fore all sorts of hidden thoughts and concerns. Even now I still start crying remembering parts of it – it’s very very tough.

A lot of the KaosPilot process is luck of the draw – who else is there with you? In the workshop they said that they’re choosing for the best team; just because you didn’t get in this time doesn’t mean you’ll never function as a KaosPilot. It just means you weren’t as effective with this particular mob. While we were all pretty chummy by the first night (before the workshop), after we had been separated into our groups we pretty much spent all our time with our groups. There wasn’t much of a chance to interact with the other applicants who were in other groups. In my last entry, I wrote about how I initially felt out of place in my group; I may have been more accepted in another group, but there’s no real way of knowing for sure.

If I don’t get in to the KaosPilots this time round (third time lucky?), I’ll likely give it a rest for a while. I may revisit it in a few years – the newer schools would have more footing, and there may be more schools in other places (a KaosPilots in Brisbane would be AWESOME). I would also have more financial capacity, and hopefully even a better citizenship/passport. I would also possibly be a lot more grounded and be able to recover from the emotional ruckus better – at this stage, I only have had a few months in between to process everything.

As odd as it may seem, it’s actually logisitically easier for me to be a KaosPilot than my other options. Being a student is relatively straightforward – the school manages the paperwork and there is a set visa. If I wanted to stay in Brisbane after my degree, I would have to try to fit myself under highly restrictive visa rules. As it is, I don’t qualify for General Skilled Migration (I don’t fit any of the needed skillsets) nor the 18-month bridging visa (the minimum salary is about $41,000/year, which is management level and way more than I’ll ever get at this stage unless I work as a porn star). Getting a job-sponsored visa would be tricky as the companies/organizations I’d work best in may not be able to afford sponsoring me. There is the option of continuing study; however, I am already burnt out with academia and it’s hard enough finding more project-based schools like the KaosPilots.

My dream job is to work with Up with People; I may pursue that option if nothing else works out. There isn’t an opening in Road Staff that suits me yet, though other office-based jobs sound interesting. Again, given that this is a US-based organization, visa issues would be tricky. But at this point I’m already used to tricky visa issues.

The Scholar Ship has shut down, so that option’s gone. I might apply for Sauve Scholars but it’s just as competitive and possibly more academic than I’d like.

I could always go back to Malaysia and work there, I suppose. I’d like to be Spidey’s assistant (the woman keeps thinking it would be an insult to ask me to be her PA. Despite me telling her a gazillion times that I’d be more than honoured to work with her. She probably finds it awkward to ask me to work for her.) Jobs in Malaysia for my capacity are limited though – there aren’t that many organized options for youth work and creative community development. I also have my projects that I want to start, but I do need to live off something, and I’d rather not have to depend on my parents.

So what shall I do, if KP NL doesn’t work out? Should I just try again anyway?

I’m waiting at the Golden Lounge (as an Enrich frequent flyer member, though I did have to pay in miles) for my flight to Johor Bahru. It’s nearly 7 in the morning and my flight leaves just before 11.

I got upgraded to Business Class on the flight from Amsterdam (which involved a surly hostel receptionist, no breakfast, missing a train, being stuck in a checkin line for an hour, having to board immediately, and not knowing my seat number until seconds before boarding because the flight was overbooked). For all the stress, the relaxation I got with better seats and better food eased all of the other worries. It was also lovely to see and hear Spidey in the MAS videos at the beginning and ending of the flight – it was like having her by me.

For confidentiality reasons I can’t exactly divulge what went on at the workshop (for those of you who’ve done it before – it’s pretty much similar). It was an emotional rollercoaster and really pushed me to all sorts of emotional limits. There was one person, however, that turned things around for me and made a big impact on my workshop experience.

Steini in his usual crazy modeA rare candid non-hammy photo of Steini

Steini is from Iceland and is best friends with Inga, the lovely lass that had been taking care of all the TestPilots. He is utterly flamboyant, sparkly, bouncy, loud, energetic, flaming, screaming, drama queen – one of the biggest nutcases I know (and I know quite a few nutcases!). We were pretty similar, in a way; we both had boundless energy and didn’t quite know where to focus it all.

Steini was a hit with our group and became our “class clown”, cheering us up whenever things got dour. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel as welcome. I knew that I had a tendency to be unwittingly overwhelming (no matter how hard I try to reign myself in) and I worked hard to keep calm and give everyone a chance while still contributing. However, this meant that I often lost out in group discussions as one or two people would dominate the conversation and make it a two-way between themselves – that was seen by the rest as leadership. The only way I could get a word in was to nearly force my way in, which was seen by the rest as overwhelming. Body language was telling – the person next to me sometimes turned his back towards me to concentrate on others, and when I raised my hand to indicate that I would like to say something, I was signalled to put it down, as though I would barge in (then my raised hand would be ignored and they’d just have their two-way).

There was an exercise to show who helped you the most and who hindered you the most. No one thought I was helpful; half the group thought I was a hindrance. Overwhelming, loud, won’t listen. I didn’t think that was fair. I did listen, and made a strong effort to connect ideas together and relate them to our end goal (we had a major assignment and I was very strong and vocal on making sure we kept to the spirit and goals of the assignment and not get lost in being “young, hip, and cool”). Just because someone may have beaten me to my thought, or because I never got around to saying anything, doesn’t mean I didn’t care. I thought some of the comments were hypocritical (I certainly wasn’t the only supposed domineering character) but I was not given a chance to defend myself.

The exercise was already making me physically ill – I remember doing it in Stockholm and even though I fared much better there I still found it unbearable. Myself and Katherine, another girl that was getting the brunt of the criticism (including from me and herself!), broke down in tears. Katherine tried to laugh it off; I just sobbed.

Earlier in the day, not knowing of this exercise (or maybe he did, from Inga), Steini pulled me aside and told me that some people were feeling uncomfortable around me. I hate being pulled aside for any reason (even if it turns out to be something good) and this didn’t make me feel any better. So I was quite surprised when Steini, who had been sitting across from me watching me cry, jumped over to me and held me. He tried to cheer me up, telling me that I will be a KaosPilot, that we would live together when that happens, that I am a good person. I wasn’t feeling any of those (I particularly felt that my chance of being a KaosPilot was over, and can’t shake it off till now), but I really needed that comfort.

We were also meant to tell the group what we ddi positively and negatively, and what we learnt. Time was up before myself and Raha (another group member) had our turn, and the group decided that we could finish it off at lunchtime. In that space I talked about how I worked hard at keeping the big picture (our assignment) in mind, that I didn’t feel like I contributed anything useful, that I have been holding back a lot and still it was overwhemling and I don’t know how else to not be overwhelming without shutting down, that I was loud because my mother has hearing problems and I had adapted to speaking louder so that she could hear me (I only worked this out a week ago despite being told off as “loud” for ages).

Something in the group changed. Everyone told me about the ideas and thoughts I’d contributed, the things I’ve said that has made a big impact. The guy who said I didn’t listen retracted his words, saying I do listen in a different way – by making the ideas bigger. Steini, sitting next to me, reaffirmed the importance of me reigning everyone in. As we worked to finish our assignment before presentation hour, I found a focus for my energy – my contributions were being appreciated and things were actually getting done. Our presentation rocked.

Somewhere along this day he told me that Inga had a similar experience in her Aarhus workshop (she was rejected there and moved on to Rotterdam). She didn’t receive any positive or negative feedback, and felt quite ignored and unappreciated. Steini said that experience affected and changed her a lot, and that he could see that I was going through the same thing.

Later that night we had an afterparty at a bar in the city. I’m not a big clubber (bars and clubs are not my favourite places in the world) and I was very drained. However, I didn’t want to be completely anti-social. It was cold outside and I didn’t bring my jumper as it was reeking of cigarette smoke (from sitting in another bar watching Euro 2008 and waiting for our group to finish). I kept moving from bar to outside area, keeping my distance from everyone, not knowing whether to join in when I had no alcoholic beverage in my hand.

Steini kept pulling me to him; at one point he asked me to sit next to him and said “don’t feel like you don’t belong”. He saw that I was cold and gave me his sweater and jumper. Before our first cab came at twelve, he told me that he really cared for me, that he saw all my potential and thought that the KaosPilots were the right thing for me, that he wanted me to be in the school more than he wanted himself to be in it, that I have so much capability to do great things in the world. He told me about how he used to fear and deny his sexuality (he’s gay, possibly bisexual) and had faced a lot of depression and loneliness – but then he found a channel for his energy through being cheerful and making other people happy.

I asked him why he cared so much about me. After all, we had only met two days ago, and it’s not like I did anything particularly important for him. He told me that I reminded him of Inga.

When I was feeling completely alone and unappreciated. Steini broke through all my barriers and reached out to me. He gave me comfort and healing when I needed it the most, without any concern or worry about compensation. He gave his love to me unconditionally – not a romantic love (not going to happen anyway), but one of companionship and humanity. When I was lost and lonely, Steini kept me company.

Thank you so much, Steini. I don’t know if I’ll see you again, but please know that you mean so much more to me than you’ll ever realise.

Hey everyone,

Internet is really expensive and the days are long, so I can’t really write much. However, I just wanted to say hi from Dordrecht, a city east (i think) of Rotterdam where we’re all placed for the two days.

There’s about 26 of us from US, UK, Denmark, Norway, Argentina, Canada, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Iceland, and me. Pretty small group but we’re all getting along great.

Photos to come, though I can’t really disclose what exactly goes on at the workshop due to privacy issues (we’re been sworn to secrecy, really). But it’s been pretty good so far.

I’ll probably update when I get back in Malaysia. Talk to you later!

Just before I leave for Rotterdam:

What are your travel tips?

My visa’s been approved, and right now my passport is with one of Dad’s employees who was in KL. I’ll get the passport back tomorrow before my flight.

Here are the details:

KL to Amsterdam – MH016
Departing: 17/06/08 23:55
Arriving: 18/06/08 06:35

Amsterdam to KL – MH017
Departing: 21/06/08  12:00
Arriving 22/06/08 06:05

I’ll be bringing my laptop, camera, and webcam; hopefully I can get some video blogs up here.

Still need to work out how to get to the StayOkay hostel from Amsterdam, but I should be good.