March 2008


Hi all, I’m Mark, Tiara’s boyfriend. I’m just letting you know that Tiara just found out that she was not short-listed for Team 15 in Denmark.

Her reaction broke my heart. She’s been striving for this, dedicating her life to it since she found out about it. I don’t know how they chose, but it wasn’t based on effort. Tiara’s quite upset, this is a cruel blow.

It would be great if you guys could lend her a hand. Support, well wishes, however you can. Please be positive, this is a time for backing her up. It would be great if some of you could help her out.

Mark C-F

On Thursday I was reading City News (a free weekly paper in Brisbane) and there was an article about Virgin Blue’s new headquarters in Brisbane. In the article, when asked about whether Sir Richard Branson was going to come to the opening:

A Virgin spokeswoman said while the entrepreneur would regularly drop by the headquarters, including a visit this weekend to the existing headquarters, his schedule was full for the mid-year opening.

(emphasis mine)

Thursday night it occurred to me that if Branson was going to be in my neighbourhood, it could be possible for me to meet him. I’ve admired the guy since I read Let’s Not Screw It, Let’s Just Do It last year and figured he would be quite an interesting fellow to talk to. (Also: hello EducateDeviate interview and KaosPilot mission.)

I look up Virgin Blue’s contact details and find Colin Lippiatt, who is their Public Affairs Manager. I mull the idea over with Mark, who thinks it’s crazy, but still worth a try.

Friday morning I call up Colin. Told him that I read that Richard Branson was coming over, could I have a meeting? He told me he didn’t have Branson’s schedule, but gave me the number for Danielle Kieghery at Virgin Management – the woman with Branson’s schedule.

Aha!

I ring up the number and get her voicemail, which helpfully provides a mobile phone number. I debate whether to call the mobile. I leave a message, saying I’d like to do a short interview for EducateDeviate, my youth blog. After a few minutes I call up her mobile number, and reach her.

The background is noisy; turns out she’s in the middle of an interview. She tells me that Branson’s schedule is super full so she can’t really slot me anywhere, but I can send her an email over. Before I get her email address though, she has to leave.

I Google her name (and find that I’ve been misspelling it) and find her email address. I shoot off five quick questions and thank her semi-profusely for talking to me and giving me the opportunity.

I haven’t received a reply or a call-back, and I’d be quite surprised if I get either. But at least I am now one degree closer to Sir Richard Branson. The weekend’s just started, and if I wasn’t so busy today (Saturday) I would have stalked their Fortitude Valley office (thank you Yellow Pages) and just hung around until Branson and crew showed up. I’ll only need 10 minutes, after all. It did work for Astrid. Perhaps by Monday this story would have a pleasant ending.

I was expecting to be asked a lot more questions and be interrogated over who I was and what I wanted, so I was surprised that I was let through really easily. Tim Ferriss (he of the 4-Hour Work Week, which I just bought yesterday, damn my book addiction) had a challenge to contact some of the most prominent people around, and I think I did a pretty good job. This guy’s got a whole blog dedicated to meeting Richard Branson; I wonder if he’s been successful.

Who else should I contact? I’ve been trying to work out how to talk to Sir Ken Robinson after this brilliant TED talk, but his website’s under construction. And there’s Oprah Winfrey, whom I’ve been emailing for years without success (perhaps it’s because I am not American). If Anita Roddick was still around I’d like to talk to her too.

I’ve been successful with a few others – Dad led me to Jack Sim, who runs the World Toilet Organization (and whose email I really should reply to), and Uffe Elbaek, who formed the KaosPilots, is surprisingly approachable, quick, and very friendly. Then there’s all the fantastic people I meet by accident – I didn’t know how great they were till I met them and got to know them better. (also: hola, spidey! Really my best story of this kind, though now she’s not a celebrity to me but a dear friend and sister. Love you.)

There’s a few other people I’d like to swap ideas with – not just in relation to KaosPilots, but in general about life, education, making the world a better place, and being alive. Some of them aren’t quite as famous as others, but they’re still all inspiring and awesome.

What’s your story? Who did you get to meet under extraordinary circumstances? Also: if you can control Sir Richard Branson’s schedule, can you slot in 10 minutes for me? 😉

I had a go at creating a logo for future use on my KP stuff (the website, merchandise, etc). It was created very quickly on Adobe Illustrator, and as you can tell, I don’t really have all that much experience or skill with design:

Flying Through Kaos logo

It’s meant to be two paper planes with a dashed path between them. the bottom left hand corner of the path is a loop; the “Flying Through Kaos” caption should ideally besitting next to it, not on it. Also, I was thinking that the bottom paper plane (going towards the right) should be in side profile, so you can see the bottom bit of the plane.

Anyone want to try redesigning this logo? It would be greatly appreciated!

I’ve just returned from a Leads Club meeting – the idea is that business owners get together, promote their business, and share leads (potential clients/partners). A couple of people also speak up about something related to their business; today it was sub-prime lending and trends in mobile phones. Some of the members are really good with leads, and some have received good business from there.

If you’re in Brisbane and you’re interested, do drop by for a Thursday morning meeting. You’re allowed to come to two as a guest without having to make any commitments.

I’ve received some ideas and advice, and maybe I’ll get some leads out of there too 🙂 It was a bit more formal-business-oriented than I’d prefer, but at least it was a great way to put the word out there about my KaosPilot venture.

(I have a feeling I may have already written about this, but no matter.)

I’ve just been browsing through the Denmark community on Livejournal and there have been a few posts alluding to Denmark’s prejudice against Muslims and Middle-Easterns. Apparently the current government wanted to block them from coming into the country through their open-door policy, but because they’ve signed treaties that say “don’t discriminate”, they’ve had to apply the policy to everyone. So now all the first-worlders (i.e. US, Canada, Australia) are crying foul because they’re finding it hard to migrate.

As much as I empathise with their struggle, because immigration  is a right pain in the arse, I can’t help but be amused at how naive they are. “I’ve stayed in Denmark for a year! That should count, right?” “I have British permanent residency! Why wouldn’t they consider that?”

Dude, immigration anywhere is hard. You don’t necessarily get special privileges based on your past experience. Just because you went there on exchange, you think you should get a free pass at migrating? Ha! I was born in Malaysia, raised in Malaysia, educated from kindergarden to pre-tertiary in Malaysia, represented Malaysia everywhere…and I am still not a citizen. So what hope would a really short-term stay be? As for permanent residency – being a permanent resident myself, it’s pretty much like being in a perpetual in-between state. No one really knows what to do with you. There’s clear rules for foreigners, clear rules for citizens…but PR? You might as well be dealing with space aliens.

Immigration isn’t really the crux of my concerns, though – I’m not looking to migrate permanently to Denmark, and they’ve changed the system so that it’s the school that makes the first move anyway, so it’s a little less hassle visa-wise. What I am concerned about, though, is the Danes’ perception of “brown people” – anyone that looks vaguely Muslim.

It seems the main issue Denmark has with Middle-Easterns is that they don’t want to integrate with the local culture. They won’t learn the language, they won’t take a job, and they’d rather stay in their own communities. That is not the Danish Way, and so we must limit immigration.

Well, from my experience, it’s pretty hard to integrate when your culture is looked down upon and everyone thinks you’re up to no good. I remember being bullied by both teachers and students alike (more the teachers, really) in primary school just for being Bangladeshi. Hardly anyone wanted to be friends with me genuinely because I was this “other”; particularly an “other” that was getting press for “robbing our houses and stealing our women”. I could speak Malay better than many Malay people, but that just made me even more a target for ostracization – “how dare you be better than me in my mother tongue?”. (and yet, when you speak in your own tongue or some other language, they get upset because you’re “not embracing the national language”. Go figure.)

Learning languages is a hard skill as it is, anyway. I’m on my 4th week of learning Danish and so far I can tell you what goes in a house, who some of your family members are, what sounds animals make, and what I think about things (either “smuk” or “grim”), and maybe count to a thousand. But I still have to refer to my homework (hjammelbaejder!), and my accent (which is either Indian, British, American, or Weird depending on who you ask) will still be obvious. Try having to pick up enough to survive a week the first day you arrive in the country! I didn’t even get to practice my Swedish when I went to Stockholm because everyone just responded in English anyway. What if they just never found anyone to practice with? What if no one wants to communicate with them in the first place? I admire anyone that is able to pick up a strange second language, particularly one so different from their own, especially if they had to learn a whole new writing system together with that. It’s damn difficult.

So now you’re in a weird land, you’re experiencing massive culture shock, you can’t talk to anyone and no one wants to talk to you anyway because they think you look funny. Who would you turn to? The ones who’ve done it before you – the other people who moved from your country to here. They understand you best. They can help you through it. They can help you get used to the local culture, while keeping your roots. They’ve been there, done that, started T-shirt factories. Instant community. Instant knowledge. Massive support. It’s not surprising, then, that you’d spend more time with the people that understand you best – and who just happen to come from your same neighbourhood back home.

As it is, Danes (and oddly enough, Brisbanites) have this reputation of being insular – they hardly become close to anyone they haven’t known for ages. And they think the migrants aren’t integrating enough?

I’m all for integration; I love diversity and feel that multicultural societies are a great thing. However, there is a difference between integration and assimilation. Integration allows people to be themselves; they are accepted for who they are and yet still allowed to participate fully in the community. Assimilation, on the other hand, demands that participants conform to a certain expectation and that they leave their own cultural values behind, because it is “irrelevant” or “inferior”. Many of the people who complain about immigrants’ non-intergratedness are really calling for assimilation – “our culture is so much better than theirs anyway, why won’t they change? Oh, they just aren’t compatible”.

If you want people to integrate into your society, accept them as they are. Don’t make them give up their core selves just so they can fit in.

Hmm, I’m learning Danish, I’m learning how to cycle, and my values are pretty similar to the Danes. However, I still have some Asian values I hold on to. Do I have to get rid of them to be “integrated”? Or will I never be integrated into Danish society anyway because my skin is brown and my last name is Arabic?

a.k.a. Malaysian Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines, the two airlines I thought would be the biggest help with getting me to Aarhus next month.

If they can’t even help me, who can? How am I supposed to scrounge up $2300 in less than a month? I can’t even get a decent job (decent as in non-dodgy).

😦

GiveMeaning is a website where people can put fundraising proposals up online and get support & ideas on how to make their fundraising efforts effective. They can also help collect funds for you.

I have put up my WBAKP proposal online and I need 100 votes by April 21, 2008 (a month or so away) for it to be active on the website. (I suppose this is to weed out spam and frivolous proposals).

Vote for Wanna Be A KP on GiveMeaning!

I’ve also applied for a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellowship. Theoretically, someone else is meant to nominate you (and if you want to, go ahead! ;D) but there wasn’t anything saying you can’t nominate yourself. Fellows get all-access paid participation to the Pop!Tech conference in Maine in October, as well as a leadership/skills development workshop aimed at developing big strategic programs, and year-long access to mentorships and networks. They’re particularly looking for those under 35, and those outside the US. Hey, I fit both criteria 🙂

Firefox is annoying me with its constant crashes. It’s just as unstable as IE before I switched over 4 years ago. I think I’ll be switching to Opera.

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