I am writing this as I seek shelter in a rest area along the park connector. Earlier today, I decided to cycle along the park connector (North Eastern Riverine Loop), to the Punggol Waterway. The intent was to destress after the promotional examinations and before dealing with Project Work at an even deeper level.

The destination I had intended to end my ride at until I turn back was Waterway Point, where Punggol MRT was located. The ride began at Punggol Park, a short distance from Hougang MRT. If you look at the map, it is just 3 stations away, but you have to really cycle or take the bus there yourself to experience the distance. Not very far indeed, but not very near either.

When I began my ride, it was a bright sunny afternoon. Hot as it was, but with some wind to give respite too as I cycled along the park connector. As I began approaching the bridge to the East entrance of Coney Island (this was a checkpoint I usually use — roughly halfway along the journey to my destination) however, I saw that the clouds had started to turn darker.

cycling1

(This is the bridge, though it was not taken on this day)

As the sky was not as dark as previous ones which I had experienced and the weather forecast was that it would not rain, I decided to press on and continue, and I approached the site of the former Punggol Instagram Lone Tree (it was unfortunately struck by lightning last year and was subsequently removed). At the site of the former tree that was flocked by many — from photographers to residents to newly-weds — was a slight bump on the hill, where the tree once stood all tall and mighty.

cycling2

(You may be interested in finding out how popular this tree was and how it sadly felled here — yes, it made it to the news! http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-s-famed/2348476.html)

(Photo of the “Instagram Lone Tree” taken two years ago)

I had no choice but to turn back at this time as water started drizzling down from above…

As I started this return journey, the rain worsened. It was a heavy downpour as I tried my best to cycle at the fastest possible speed possible, while still bearing safety in mind of course.

Words will never be able to describe the situation as vividly.

On the left side of the track, it was the Punggol Waterway, or the Punggol Serangoon River (depending on which stage of the journey I was on). The thin yet powerful needles of raindrops raced into the river, producing a loud and continuous sound. Large river. Small human being. Trying to get back to a place of refuge. And that’s not all.

On the right side, there were rows of trees, as if welcoming me as I cycled past them. But in a situation like this, it was not all that fancy. There was not only rain but also strong winds blowing almost horizontally. This meant that the trees were all tilted towards me on the path, with blankets of water splashing by, like a row of water-spewing creatures threatening to envelop me. (No, not the Merlion, that’s too cute/loved to be described as such!!)

No, it wasn’t my first time being in a similar situation.

There was once where I cycled and the sky turned dark very quickly at around 7pm – it was very dark as the lights were not fully installed along the park connector yet. But that time, I was with my cousin. Definitely, there was fear as I made silent prayers to myself on how I just wanted to reach home as soon as I can. But because I was not alone back then, that experience paled in comparison. Another time when the rain came down as I was cycling, I wasn’t alone either, and the rain back then was much short-lived too.

Now, in contrast, I am alone in this situation. Especially so as this was mid-afternoon where the park connector is least utilised. Two elements of nature beside me — water on my left, trees on my right. (Side-tracking ahead alert) This also reminded me how helpless we humans are when pitted against nature. Yet at that same day, I was planning to write about a plot of lalang field lost to redevelopment too. If it is Humans vs Nature, it’s obvious who will win (think Global Warming). For the record, I have never been interested in nature, but cycling along this route did change that a little.

What kept me going, you might ask. What gave me the strength to carry on riding as fast as I can, even as doubts surfaced in my mind? Faith. As a human being with a size insignificant to that of Mother Nature and the Earth, what could I have done other than to hope for the best? Surely I could not have stopped the downpour according to my liking. As I rode along the path, I told myself that I would be able to reach home safe and sound. I hoped for the best, that this rain would stop soon (fortunately, there was no sign of lightning nor the activation of the lightning warning system that time), that I would not skid, that I would not lose the strength to go on (both physical and mental strength). (I did not manage to pass the NAPFA test, in case you’re wondering.) In other words, in tough situations like this where you can neither change the situation nor hide from it, do not lose hope and persevere on.

Finally, there was this rest area where I can take shelter in, together with some other uncles who have already been there, chatting among themselves. This was where I started typing this experience down.

How can I let a tough experience like this go to waste? How can I maximise this experience? One, pen it down so that I may reflect and learn from it. Two, share it so others may learn from it too, I thought to myself. And this is how I started writing this.

(This article was written and edited at various stages, as I could not finish recollecting my thoughts and write it within the time at the shelter.)

Alright, by now the rain had eased and I need to go. (I can’t stay in this shelter forever!) I have no idea how the second half of the journey would be. Is it going to rain again? Will I reach home safely? I’m honestly not sure. All I can do is to believe and press on.

Now that I am home, it is time to drink lots of water and prevent getting myself sick, for a challenging yet exciting new phase of life is up ahead. Over the weekend, I will be attending a youth dialogue where youths would exchange ideas on issues surrounding us now. I have been interested in these since being exposed to them (very thankful to the school and various community organisations) and had the privilege of volunteering to bring one of such to more youths like me.

The Monday after the weekend, it would be PW Day, where we need to step up efforts in improving the Written Report before the looming final submission day! I will have the opportunity to think about how to continue improving as a team. Although I am not the appointed leader, that doesn’t mean that I do not have the responsibility of bringing the team forward together.

That same week, I will be more actively improving my currently weak communication skills with my friends. (Well, recently, I have also been thinking of how to let others know that I am indeed trying to improve in this area — now this experience has given me a golden opportunity to do so!)

Alright, so in summary, what can we learn from this experience?

Challenges in life are unavoidable. But if one gives up after he faces setbacks, he would never succeed. Here is a quote from Thomas Edison: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”

In life, it is not merely what we learn in lessons in school that count. It is not merely what we read from the textbook that shapes us. It is the numerous experiences in life that give us learning opportunities and insights, it is the challenges in life that develop us — from mental and physical strength to using our passions and abilities to achieve the maximum potential.

And another thing is that we will never know what each new experience in life leads us to. One, I have never been good in physical fitness, nor had any interest in sports until I started to learn cycling by myself two years back. Two, what started off as a simple cycling trip to destress before dealing with how to improve the WR as a group became a valuable and timely learning experience.

Here is a bonus — many of you may be facing problems in your Project Work, be it due to team dynamics, the numerous deadlines to meet or resource constraints where you are not able to gather enough evidence or to even come up with a legit prototype. But please bear this in mind: Always try your best to work as a team! Each member is valuable, and each member should contribute his/her best to the team effort. If you have not, please do so too so the workload is split equally among everyone in the team!

Here is an African Proverb. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Article by:

Teow Junhao, 16S51

Junhao has kindly provided his email address for Victorians to contact him with any queries they may have and is happy to help out with PW. He can be contacted at teow.junhao.2016@vjc.sg.

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