After taking almost a year off, I thought my life will resume back to normal… apparently not! I’ve been home for close to 12 months now and I’m finding myself leaving, again!
I’ll be away for 3 months!
The Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)
SSEAYP is an annual programme sponsored by the Japanese Government & supported by the member-countries of ASEAN. The programme brings together about 320 youths from ASEAN countries providing them with the unique opportunity to interact on board the ship. The purpose of this program is to promote and strengthen friendship and mutual understanding among the youths of Southeast Asian countries and Japan, as well as to broaden their international viewpoint and to cultivate the spirit of international cooperation.
These goals are promoted by providing the participants with an opportunity to live together and carry out various activities on board the ship, to visit the participating countries, and to be engaged in such activities as visits to various institutions and goodwill exchanges with local youths.
2012 is the 39th edition of SSEAYP. More than a thousand Malaysian youths applied this year through the Youth and Sports Ministry, out of which 300 were shortlisted to attend a selection camp and only 28 were finally selected to represent Malaysia. It’s a youth exchange program whereby we will all act as “youth ambassadors” for Malaysia.
I attended the selection camp back in April and totally forgot about it until I received the confirmation letter in May. It was a letter from the government and it didn’t occur to me that it would be to inform I’ve been selected for this program! Ecstatic on one hand but also lots to be sorted out, especially my job! I guess I’ve been very lucky that the agency has been very supportive of my involvement in this. So, no, I didn’t have to quit my job this time around.
We will be spending 53 days onboard the Fuji Maru cruise ship sailing from Japan to Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta, Brunei and back to Tokyo. Some of the activities onboard include discussion sessions, cultural performances and traditional games while we will participate in institutional visits in countries we dock in and homestays to experience the local culture.
The 39th Malaysian contingent consists of 1 National Leader and 28 Participating Youths from all walks of life. There’s a good mix of university students and working adults, all with different backgrounds which make us a melting pot of 1Malaysia. It was pretty exciting when we met for the first time in Kuantan for our Pre-Departure Training 1. We were all strangers but after spending the last few months together, I can safely say that we are now a family.
The last few weeks have been pretty mental as the date draws nearer. I’m the Treasurer and I’ve been hunting down every single person to make payments for the contingent fund. I’m also in the Exhibition Committee – a million things to be prepared! Every contingent will hold an exhibition during the Youth Leaders Summit in Tokyo to introduce our country to others and local Japanese youths. Sounds simple, but no! We’ve been calling sponsors, running amok looking for materials, preparing information and buying things we need. I even had to revisit my old pal Adobe Illustrator to get some designs done.
Other than that, we’ve been conducting our Port-of-Call (POC) training on weekends. In every country we dock in, there will be a welcome ceremony whereby all countries will need to perform. So I’ve been spending my Sunday afternoons at Dataran Merdeka… dancing in public! It’s pretty amusing coz we end up being part of the tourist attraction.
We’re also assigned to Discussion Groups for topics we choose. Mine is Youth Leadership Development. We received our assignment which we need to submit before going onboard and I’ve not even started on it! Then, there are also presentations to be prepared…
Dress-codes are to be strictly followed and the entire contingent’s outfit need to be synchronized. They go by codenames: A1 (formal suit. Tie for guys, scarf for ladies. We feel like stewards woohooo!), A2 (similar outfit as A1, but without the blazer), B1 (traditional attire), C1 (smart casual), C2 (casual) and D (sports).
So you see, it’s not really a holiday. It’s a full-time job altogether! We will live a pretty strict lifestyle onboard the ship – morning calls, exercise, flag hoisting, discussions, games, daily check of body temperature, lights out at 11pm, warning letters if you disobey the rules, etc etc etc… I’m a self-proclaimed OCD and even I got scared looking at the itemised schedule!
My leave officially started yesterday (yay, “jobless” again!) but it’s no walk in the park for me. I’ve got exactly 3 days to sort everything out before I go in for an intensive 10-day training without access to the outside world except for the Grand Finale Night – a dinner for family members and for us to showcase our 75-min National Day performance (which we will perform onboard). Then, it’s one sleepless night of packing, packing, packing then we fly off to Tokyooooo!
We’re each allowed only 13kg for our personal luggages. We actually have 20kg each but we need to contribute 7kg to the contingent load so we’re left with 13kg – for a two month program and all sorts of funny attires. Putting my packing skills to the ultimate test! If I can pack 9kg for Europe and live out of a backpack for a year, this will be easy-peasy!
Will be disconnected for the next 2.5 months – no mobile and internet access during the voyage since we’ll be on a ship. Probably only when we dock in the countries, but then we’ll be too busy with local programmes. Will update/tweet whenever I’m able to.
This is definitely an adventure of a lifetime!