Tag Archive | "NTU"

S’poreans react to NTU removing sexually-suggestive games from orientation activities

S’poreans react to NTU removing sexually-suggestive games from orientation activities

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Three thoughts you must have had.


From 2016, undergraduates starting at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) will no longer need to pay S$60 to join the orientation programme.

There will also not be anymore arbitrary selection process to admit only certain students to the orientation.

The date of the programme has also been brought back to be held two weeks before term starts in August.

The new rules also stipulate all cheers will be in English, with no more Chinese and Hokkien cheers.

There will also be no more fright night and sexually-suggestive games.

All these changes were carried out to increase the number of freshmen participating.

Fewer than half of NTU’s yearly cohort of some 6,000 new students attended orientation activities previously, as a result of “timing” and “logistical constraints”.

Here are three thoughts Singaporeans have:


sian-half-auntie “Fewer students would join the orientation once you remove sexually-suggestive games.”
Xio Gan, 44-year-old diploma holder


sian-half-uncle “If you need to join the orientation programme to make friends, the problem is already you.”
Wen Ti, 67-year-old retiree


happy-bird-girl “Such a pity I wouldn’t get to be humiliated the same way my seniors were.”
Wu Ru, 19-year-old fresh grad










S’poreans react to NTU setting up a new college with NTUC

S’poreans react to NTU setting up a new college with NTUC

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Three thoughts you must have had.


Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has set up a new college for working adults with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) called the College of Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE).

The new school will develop 28 undergraduate-level courses for part-time study that will include those for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

It starts this August. Classes will be held at NTU or in NTUC premises around the city.

Here are three thoughts Singaporeans have:


sian-half-auntie “All along I suspected the two entities were linked. Guess I was right.”
Da Xue Sheng, 44-year-old diploma holder


sian-half-uncle “It’s nice to see graduates qualify as cashiers these days.”
Shou Qian, 67-year-old supermarket assistant


happy-bird-girl “It’s as if NTU does not already have an image problem these days.”
Sing Xiang, 18-year-old pool parlour assistant










Effects of Prof Cherian George’s departure obvious as NTU journalism students resort to making up words

Effects of Prof Cherian George’s departure obvious as NTU journalism students resort to making up words

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Look what you’ve done, Bertil Andersson.


The Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information looks set to go to the dogs now that Singapore’s only credible journalism academic Professor Cherian George has departed for greener pastures in Hong Kong, where academics are not made to wind up their careers for political reasons.

Sources familiar with using spell-check and the online dictionary pointed out the irony and impending fate of NTU’s WKWSCI.

This is after a recent student-produced article in The Nanyang Chronicle about Prof Cherian George’s departure saw journalism undergrads feeling the acute effects of their ex-professor’s absence as they resorted to making up their own words for reporting the news, a sure sign the standards of journalism are falling rapidly.

One word the NTU undergrads pulled out of thin air is “tenureship”, when the correct word to use was simply “tenure”.

One reader of the Chronicle, Luan Luan Lai, said: “I hope the irony is not lost on NTU. They lose the best journalism professor in the country and their news writing about the loss of their journalism professor suffers.”

Other readers of the Chronicle are more philosophical.

See Mee Sai, a reader, said: “‘Tenureship’ is not even a real word. When you type it out in Word Document or Gmail, for example, you’d see the red squiggly lines below indicating there is something wrong with it and you might want to check it out.”

“I don’t know if you can teach such skills in university, such as learn how to use spell-check. Because it usually comes with this package bundled together with ‘common sense’.”

“With Cherian George gone, I guess it’s even tougher to get news reporting right these days.”

“Look what you’ve done Bertil Andersson, look what you’ve done.”


Here’s why NTU is always striving for excellence, as opposed to being excellent:

NTU president Bertil Andersson is the epitome of academic honesty in S’pore






NTU president Bertil Andersson is the epitome of academic honesty in S’pore

NTU president Bertil Andersson is the epitome of academic honesty in S’pore

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His spat with Cherian George shows NTU is such an open and accountable place.


Nanyang Technological University students past and present from all walks of life, who are watching the status of their university plummet with each passing day, have come out in support to praise the antics of the current president, Bertil Andersson.

This after Andersson was caught in a controversy this week, where he was quoted publicly as insinuating that Singapore’s only journalism academic, Cherian George, was not granted tenure because he wasn’t good enough.

This resulted in Professor George relocating to Hong Kong to start his career over.

However, many NTU students past and present have come out to hail Andersson as the pinnacle of excellence and an exemplary character who represents NTU’s ambition of wanting to become a top research institution in the world.

Jin Ham Ji, a graduate from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications, said Dr Andersson represents “academic honesty”: “Putting another academic down using defamatory language and then hiding behind the NTU bureaucracy by stonewalling critics and reporters by saying that he will not issue any more clarifications. That’s the hallmark of academic honesty.”

“And I’m sure if someone can be effectively fired for political reasons, there will be others who are hired for political reasons as well. Bodes well for academic freedom, honesty and truth.”

Another student, Jiang Pian Hua, who is still studying in NTU, had only good words for Dr Andersson: “He uses political reasons to justify why Professor Cherian George did not get tenure. That is such a rigorous way of assessment. I’m sure NTU will be proud of such methodologies.”

“Moreover, President Andersson’s refusal to retract his defamatory comments about Professor Cherian George makes the university look so very accountable.”

“Probably explains why NTU is the best university in Singapore. After NUS, SIM and SMU.”

“And this goes well with NTU’s image. Always striving for excellence. Instead of being excellent.”


Cherian George is Champions League material, NTU is Divison 2:

NTU denies journalism prof tenure, deems lectures too well-attended

Cherian George ready for transfer deal






S’poreans disown NUS after it fails to clinch 1st place world uni rankings

S’poreans disown NUS after it fails to clinch 1st place world uni rankings

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26th position? Why not you just close down?


Singaporeans from all walks of life have disowned NUS, Singapore’s supposedly only premier university, after it failed to clinch top position for the umpteenth time.

This after NUS was ranked 26th position in the Times Higher Education World University rankings this year.

It was ranked 29th last year.

One disappointed junior college student, Hen Yong Kong, said: “I didn’t spend so much money on tuition to end up studying in a university ranked 26th in the world.”

His sentiments were shared by others who are motivated to be only the best of the best.

Another Singapore, Kua Tak Kiu, said: “How would Manchester United feel if it finished the league at 26th position?”

However, not all is doom and gloom.

Hen Seow Zhang, an ex-NUS student said: “At least NUS beat NTU. NTU is languishing at 76th position. They might as well just close down.”





Felicia Chin quits NUS in June, university ranked top in Asia in Sept

Felicia Chin quits NUS in June, university ranked top in Asia in Sept

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Experts debate: Coincidence or causality detected?


After heeding Khaw Boon Wan’s advice that a degree is useless and cannot be eaten, sexually attractive MediaCorp actress Felicia Chin quit NUS in June to go back to acting where she can make it big and earn more money.

Her exit from the institution of higher learning had sparked intense debate over whether a degree from NUS would signal that you are ugly, and that’s why you need to study hard to make it in life.

Now, the debate continues to rage on.

This after Felicia Chin’s exit in June resulted in NUS to be ranked top in Asia according to the World University Rankings released yesterday.

Professor Tak Chek, a lecturer at NUS, said this sequence of events is not coincidental: “If Felicia Chin was still around NUS, we would have ranked lower than NTU, which would have been a crime.”

NTU is ranked seventh in Asia this year, which is still nowhere near Champions League qualifying material.

The most correct article ST has ever written

The most correct article ST has ever written

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Reading this article made me nod my head in agreement a lot.


The Straits Times published the above article on April 13, 2013.

It is about how academics applying to NTU need to be good teachers first and foremost, before they can be entrusted to be good researchers.

It comes in the wake of recent news that NUS is ranked 29th in the World University Rankings, while NTU is in its wake at 86th position.

So, to boost NTU’s image and show that they take teaching seriously, ST granted them this favour of writing an article publicising how good their teachers should be.

And as you read through the article, you cannot help but agree that the reporter did a marvellous job.

By conspicuously not interviewing and quoting NTU journalism professor, Cherian Geroge, who was recently denied tenure the second time and whose job is now on the line.

And who happens to be the best teacher who has a legion of students and ex-students petitioning NTU to give him tenure.

Therefore, it is obvious that to teach in NTU, you need to be not like Cherian.

You need to be boring.

And cannot speak English properly.

And continue lecturing in the face of students dozing and falling off their chairs.


‘Revoke their degrees if they fail to start a family’

‘Revoke their degrees if they fail to start a family’

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Public demanding NTU undergrads’ degrees revoked if they fail to live up to their own pro-family campaign message.

The four NTU undergrads responsible for the pro-family campaign.

The four NTU undergrads responsible for the pro-family campaign.

The stakes are high and there is no turning back for a group of four final year undergraduates from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

The four, responsible for “The Singaporean Fairytale” campaign that is trying to force a mindset change among the younger generation to settle down and have children, is facing serious public backlash.

Now, the public-at-large is demanding that the undergraduates who came up with the campaign to either live up to the message in the fairy tales that they have portrayed, or have their grades lowered and degrees revoked even after they have graduated.

One member of the public, Bu Shuang Kuai, said: “Let’s just wait and see how these four undergraduates turn out — if they can get married and have children just like they said or spend their days focusing on their careers and partying their lives away.”

“Ask people to settle down, they themselves should show that they can do it first.”

It is understood that the four undergraduates are in their early twenties. Hence, they don’t know what real life is.

And the objective of their campaign — as part of the National Family Council’s meddling with Singaporeans’ lives — is to “encourage couples in a committed long-term relationship or newly married couples between the ages of 21 and 28 to be more receptive and open to starting a family earlier”.

This aspect, in particular, has come under intense fire.

Other members of the public have suggested that their grades are tied to their future.

Nina Beh, a single woman but with an active sex life, said: “If they fail to get married and have kids by, say, 28 years old, they should have their grades revoked and degrees taken away from them retroactively.”

So what measures can the four undergraduates take to prevent the worst case scenario?

“They can start saying goodbye to condoms,” Beh said.

One of the messages in The Singaporean Fairytale is to ask people to drink less alcohol and party less because alcohol weakens sperms.

One of the messages in The Singaporean Fairytale is to ask people to drink less alcohol and party less because alcohol weakens sperms.

Thanks Trinetta, for not standing on ceremony!

Thanks Trinetta, for not standing on ceremony!

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Valedictorians have a lot to live up to. You just upped the ante.

By Belmont Lay

The view from the stage is surprisingly good. You can tell who is actually sleeping or iPhoning.

Hello Trinetta, you seriously did a John Cleese!

With just one word, you managed to turn cultured, sterile and dreary pomposity on its head.

And provided a spot of fun and spontaneity to the proceedings.

I should know because three weeks ago, I was invited back to NUS (my alma mater) to sit on stage and watch this year’s commencement ceremony.

Despite me being a dunce, the organisers made me wear a Zorro-meets-burrito-seller hat and shoulder-padded blue graduation gown, which was what the rest of the uberacademics and professors were wearing (in some form or another).

Sharing the dubious and undeserved honour of being on stage with all these beautiful minds made it fun and novel for me!

But can I say everyone else in that auditorium being a graduand or watching the commencement was having a ball of a time as well?

Certainly not!

From where I was seated on stage, I could see the audience in various states of concussion, with many others passing in and out of consciousness.

And this was only after the first invited speaker took over the microphone!

Many others were madly molesting their iPhones, obviously Angry Birding.

Still more others were in a state of fantasy, while several were displaying classic signs of incontinence: Fidgety, crossing their legs and trying not to grimace.

Last but not least, I could tell from the faces of some who were trying to will themselves to die or for the ceiling to collapse. So they could find an excuse to leave.

But because of valedictorians like you, you turned uneventful into memorable.

I remember two years ago when I was attending my commencement ceremony, the valedictorian from my batch executed a sleight of hand.

He had submitted his pre-written speech for vetting to whoever gets paid in the university to vet stuff, abiding by the standard protocol.

But being the cheeky bastard he is, he did the classic switcheroo: He pulled another script from his pants on the actual day of commencement and went on stage to give a speech that was completely different from what had been pre-written and approved. (Now I’m seriously thinking this kind of thing happens more often than people realise.)

The point is that he knew he could get away with it, saying what was not pre-arranged, veering away from the beaten path of approved boringness.

And there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it.

Think about it: When given the chance to amaze, bamboozle, showboat and wow the bejesus out of your audience, why would anyone play it THAT safe?

What was the Dean to do? Withhold his degree? Call the police? Radio campus security?

Think about it: When given the chance to amaze, bamboozle, showboat and wow the bejesus out of your audience, why would anyone play it THAT safe?

Isn’t it worse to bore your listeners to death? Isn’t that a greater disservice?

Boredom is offensive to people, especially those like me, you know.

Boredom is the most intolerable form of death besides being burnt at the stake.

If I had to choose between death by boredom or castration, I’m inclined to pick the latter.

Even better still: Lock me in a room facing a wall for 24 hours with only bread and a dish of water as accompaniment.

And if you dare let me out: I’ll cave in and admit with gay abundance to all 17 counts of unsolved homosexual rape in the last five years.

Simply because I hate catching a case of boredom. It’s more deplorable than Ebola.

Therefore, what’s wrong with pushing the envelope and being spontaneous?

Some people, like this Bennie Cheok guy find time in their day to be professionally displeased enough to write to The Straits Times forum page decrying how using an expletive is “unnecessary”.

I believe Siew Kum Hong said the same too when interviewed by The New Paper.

Whether it is “necessary” or not is besides the point!

Come on! How many things in life are truly necessary besides breathing, drinking and eating?

I say: Blurting out what traditionally shouldn’t be said or done should be the new tradition set by valedictorians.

If you can’t or wouldn’t do it, you shall be roundly booed off stage by your peers.

So here’s the point of today’s missive: You just got to know when to break the rules some times.

So Trinetta, all I can say is that you got it refreshingly right (Which is why you got that rapturous applause!).

For that, thank you fucking very much.

F-word was no big deal

F-word was no big deal

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Harmless speech by a NTU valedictorian blown out of proportion by sensationalist media and moral police.

By Terence Lee

“WE FUCKING did it!”

I can’t imagine how that swear word, spoken at the end of a valedictorian speech by Trinetta Chong in Nanyang Technological University, could create such a media circus and capture the attention of the entire nation (almost).

The news report made the front page Lianhe Wanbao, a trashy Chinese tabloid, followed by The New Paper, well-known for twisting facts and misquoting interviewees. Soon, people all over the Internet were yakking about it.

I was there when it happened, as one of the happy graduates donning the silly gown and mortar board. I honestly wasn’t offended by the speech and — gasp — I even felt it was appropriate and resonated well with the students.

(Wan Bao headline: Caucasian professor supports vulgar-mouthed girl. Quote: Using the F-word was not a big issue)

Save for the speech and the moment my fellow cohorts went up to receive their transcripts, I found the entire ceremony dreary and overly formal. At the beginning, the professors walked in line at an excruciatingly slow pace to the sound of regal music —  five minutes was what it took to get from the back of the hall to the stage.

The national anthem played twice, once at the beginning of the proceedings and another at the end, like assembly in secondary school. How nolstalgic.

It took some crazy students to shake things up with their on-stage antics and make the event less like a ceremony and more like a party. And the speech brought the event to its appropriate climax.

Not everyone was pleased, of course, and Wan Bao capitalized on this with their report questioning the use of the swear word. Predictably, some parents complained, which was not entirely unexpected. Some members of the public chimed in too, complaining about how inappropriate it was.

What we’re seeing is a clash of values: Between a dressed-down faction less accustomed to arbitrary rules of behavior and our buttoned-up, more traditional peers and predecessors who are used to obeying such regulations and seeing it enforced. We saw it manifested in the ceremony itself. Clearly, the attendees have divergent visions about what a convocation is about, and both the student body and university administration tried to define it in their own terms.

The speech encapsulated what people like us have been feeling for a long, long time: That we feel constrained and helpless in a regimented society governed by arbitrary rules that make no sense; and that we admire that someone, who even for the briefest of moments, dared to rebel.

The difference is in some ways generational, with the the younger, millennial generation  much less tolerant of customs and traditional rules. Perhaps the younger folks have come to see how hypocritical many rule enforcers really are.

Our generation has witnessed how religious authorities, particularly certain Roman Catholic priests, have time and again succumbed to predatory sexual behavior despite their own strict code of conduct.  Or cue politicians who preach one thing but do another. Or our local media, who in this instance sensationalized what was essentially a harmless incident into the Greatest Moral Crisis of the Century — all for the sake of feeding their fat, overweight, coffers.

There’s no mistaking the fact that us millennials  do have morals, but instead of one code of conduct, we have codes of conduct.

We’re a generation that is more tolerant of differences, but less tolerant of conformity. Standing out is the new cool, which was why we gave the valedictorian a standing O. We are far more adept at seeing beyond the rules of society, and peer into its soul. In other words: Authenticity rocks, hypocrisy doesn’t. Honestly, has The New Paper done any better by using ‘f**king’ as opposed to ‘fucking’ (or f*cking, for that matter)? Is there really any difference at all? Who defines these rules anyway, and who is to say what is right and what isn’t?

So far, reactions by my peers to these media reports have been defiant. And judging by the reactions on the Internet, it looks like most people of my generation don’t really think it’s a big deal either. In fact, the speech and media coverage that followed probably inspired more swearing.

Beyond just being great fun, I felt the speech encapsulated what people like us have been feeling for a long, long time: That we feel constrained and helpless in a regimented society governed by arbitrary rules that make no sense; and that we admire that someone, who even for the briefest of moments, dared to rebel.

The sad reality is that many of us would most probably leave that spirit behind the moment we step into the workforce and become part of the very system that we find so restraining, or when we raise kids of our own and find ourselves needing to enforce rules that our kids will one day fight against.

Or we could choose to do otherwise.

Five survival tips for cheapo Singaporeans in Europe

Five survival tips for cheapo Singaporeans in Europe

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NTU student Lee Jian Xuan shares some of his epic failures during a recent trip to Europe so that you won’t do the same.

Photos: Ronald Loh

Somewhere out there the Singapore Flyer is weeping silently to itself.

“WE’RE gonna do Europe!”

In retrospect, the exhilarating proclamation made by my schoolmate sounded way more glamorous and fun while we were all comfortably seated around a wooden bench at NTU.

Which is not to say we’ve been completely jaded by traveling to Europe – no one can resist the allure of this mythical, romantic and gorgeous continent.

Even as more ridiculously un-pronounceable Icelandic volcanoes spew ash into the skies and reports galore of e-coli infected cucumbers and worker strikes abound, backpackers continue to pour into Europe by the millions.

So, as a newbie traveler who has learnt many lessons the hard and expensive way, let me offer a few tips to those of you who’re planning your backpacking trips to Europe this summer.

1) Budget your time wisely

Taking that Ryanair flight that lands in Madrid at 1 am doesn’t only mean that you’ve just saved yourself 13 Euros.

It also means that because the last metro/bus ends at 12 midnight, you have no way of getting to your hostel halfway across town.

Waiting makes people do crazy things.

Which also means you will have to spend the night freezing to death and possibly getting mugged (whichever comes first) while staying over at the airport, which, by the way, has no comfortable flat surfaces for you to sleep on.

Always, always, always make sure you research what time the last train/metro/bus operates till and whether you’ll catch it in time.

Also, remember to factor in time for flight delays, and trust me, with Ryanair, there WILL be flight delays.

The same rule applies to buses, trains, camels and whatever form of transport you’re taking. True story: my group of 6 spent almost two hours walking across Barcelona at two in the morning with our luggage in tow, because we failed to realise that our bus would arrive at 12am.

2) Settle your business before heading out

Unlike Singapore, most European countries have yet to master the concept of building sanitary and free public toilets. I don’t quite understand this as well. Maybe every European is automatically issued with diapers upon coming-of-age or they have bladders the size of septic tanks.

Anyway, always relieve yourself in your hotel/hostel before heading outdoors because there are virtually no free toilets anywhere, not even in the main shopping areas.

In the event that there are toilets, it’s likely they are located in restaurants, which means that you have to dine there before you can use them, or they charge you a fortune to enter.

I once paid 2 dollars to visit a WC in Stockholm. Undoubtedly, the most expensive crap I’ve ever taken.

Fun tip: if you’re at a train station, you can check the departure timings of the trains to see when they’re leaving, then proceed to hop on board, pee and hop off. Not recommended for stress pissers.

Docked trains = best free toilets!

3) Plane > Train > Bus

When debating travel options, the above logic applies. Of course, it follows that the same hierarchy applies in terms of money. But you have to weigh the opportunity costs.

Let me illustrate this with a real-life horror story: my friends and I decided take a 14-hour Eurolines bus ride from Avignon in France back to Zurich, Switzerland.

After all, we figured it’d save us some money as compared to the train and put us in Switzerland just in time to catch the free night train back to our hostel. We weren’t in that big of a hurry anyway and coaches couldn’t be that uncomfortable, right?

Um… no. The bus arrived at our stop after an all-nighter (presumably from hell). It was almost at full capacity when we got on and there were people spilled across seats, sleeping with their legs dangling out and snoring like subwoofer systems going off.

There was a creepy old Italian dude who kept standing up and staring down each and every passenger. Like I said, hell.

Our driver didn’t stop for meal breaks at all, which meant we spent the entire day on a diet of biscuits, bread and water. We did, however, stop for FOUR custom checks near the French-Swiss border (once I held my pee so long I thought my bladder would get stretch marks).

On top of which, we had to sleep sitting up straight for the whole journey. After contorting my body into yet another Cirque-du-Soleil-esque position for the 70th time, I gave up on sleeping and started wondering if death by deep vein thrombosis would be swift and painless.

By comparison, the train cost 20 Euros more and would have taken us a mere 4 hours.

Grasslands Express this is NOT.

4) Dine out sparingly

I know, such a concept is as alien to a Singaporean as non-potable tap water (yes, there is such a thing).

Firstly, most restaurants in Europe are a complete rip-off. You could probably hold a wedding dinner at the Ritz for the price of a three-course meal in Belgium.

Secondly, Europeans generally have a strict food culture and don’t look kindly upon the concept of penny-pinching Singaporeans sharing their food and drinks.

And lastly, if you don’t have much time to spare in a city, the last thing you want to do is waste three hours of it chomping away on subpar grub and dealing with bad service.

Stick to eating bread and pastries from nearby confectioneries (those are usually affordable and delicious) and survive on a diet of sandwiches, pizzas and kebabs.

Remember, you’re there for the sights and scenery. For cuisine, there’s no place like home.

What’s wrong with having a good hearty kebab for lunch and dinner?

5) Be friendly but stay wary

It’s not to say that Europe is full of racist and hostile angmohs, there are plenty of helpful and friendly people around.

But it’s smart to exercise some gut-based judgment in your interaction with locals – do they seem trustworthy? Why are they offering to help me? Could I take this person in a fistfight?

Remember, pickpockets come in all shapes and sizes – thuggish-looking men, helpless old ladies, kids asking for donations – and they strike when you’re most distracted, in crowded places like the metro/subway and shopping areas.

Fun tip: Chinese/Malay/Tamil/Hindi, as well as dialects are extremely useful against potential eavesdroppers. Non-Singaporeans can never understand a rapidfire conversation held at top speed in Singlish. Ho bo?

Even if they look like statues, always be on your guard.

There is a lot to learn about Europe from the great history of civilizations long forgotten to the many diverse cultures and peoples that populate the continent and their way of life.

We’ve learnt other valuable lessons too, like not how to double-check your itinerary so you don’t miss your flight by a day and end up shelling $250 for another one, or not to carry backpacks so your iPod gets lifted, or how not to fall asleep on a train and have your entire bag swiped from under your nose.*

I’m writing this so that you the traveller don’t have to learn them the hard way.

*Every one of these incidents actually happened to this writer and his companions.

Lee Jian Xuan is a second-year Communications student at the Nanyang Technological University. He is currently on an exchange semester in Switzerland, where he spends his time staring at the Alps contemplating his existence, drinking and watching backlog episodes of Parks & Recreation.

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NTU student recounts experience during Japan earthquake

NTU student recounts experience during Japan earthquake

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One of the two Nanyang Techonological University (NTU) students currently on exchange in Tokyo was in his dorm in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba district when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan. Tang Chee Seng writes about his experience.

The 'fallout' shelter that Tang took refuge in at the height of the earthquake on March 11 afternoon. Photo: TANG CHEE SENG

AT FIRST, I felt slightly dizzy, a feeling that I knew was part of an earthquake.

It seemed minor at first, until my shelves and dishes began to rattle violently.

Remembering some half-truth I’ve heard about certain bathrooms in newer Japanese buildings as being earthquake-proof, I quickly moved to the toilet and sat down, waiting for the shaking to stop.

I realised the magnitude of this quake much later. As my friends and I began to walk to the gym for our routine exercise, we saw numerous Japanese people crowding around the designated evacuation sites in parks around Takadanobaba.

My friends and I stocked up on canned goods, water and emergency supplies, based on the hypothetical situation that we would be trapped under rubble. I set out my supplies into a backpack, along with my thickest waterproof jacket and clothes laid out on the limited rack and floor space in my toilet.

Jokingly, I told my friends that it was my ‘fallout shelter’. That done, I left my laptop tuned to the NHK World Service and went to bed, knowing that I needed to stay alert and be at least rested in case I needed to run for safety.

It was the most surreal sleep I have ever had. The program kept repeating a tsunami warning for all the various areas in Japan. Each message would be delivered in at least five different warnings. As I fell asleep, the voices blurred out into a strange hypnotic litany of impending disaster.

Midway through the night, I awoke to images of an entire town burning due to what I assumed was earthquake damage. The whole event was filmed and broadcasted live via a Japanese Self-Defence Forces helicopter. Lying in a warm bed and staring blearily at what was unfolding live on screen, somehow a part of me just disconnected from what I was seeing and experiencing.

While waiting with me, a Filipino lady asked me if the impending ‘radioactive cloud’ coming towards Tokyo, as reported by the BBC early on Tuesday, would melt buildings.

Like images of the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, how could we associate the horror of what we saw on TV with the comfortable, safe physical conditions we were living in?

Being so relatively close to the disaster-hit areas, I felt that I ought to feel scared and terrified for my life. I ought to be crying in helplessness in my sorrow for the dead, dying and the barely surviving.

But somehow I couldn’t.

Though I was only around 200 kilometres away from what was happening onscreen, it felt as though it was happening to another country. Does that make me a horrible person?

Six days later, I still didn’t know. All I knew at the time (even up to now) was to ensure that I was rested, alert, and prepared for any contingency.

Despite the tragic scenes of destruction and chaos north of Tokyo, the central part of Tokyo City itself was relatively unscathed. Walking along the streets of Takadanobaba, the college district I live in, I found the streets quieter and there are long queues in front of supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores.

While there are some unspoken tension and differences in the air, life continues on here. Office workers go to work, and shop assistants still greet you whenever you enter a shop.

Compare all this measured calm with the scene of near-chaos I encountered on Tuesday at the Tokyo Immigration Office—hundreds, if not thousands of foreigners living in Japan sought to obtain a re-entry permit, causing long queues which snaked around a large compound and even within the building.

This permit was highly sought after because it would allow them to leave and return to Japan without negating their visas.

All was reasonably orderly and calm until officials began to return the processed passports in the main atrium. Masses of foreigners urgently pressed up against a small island of officials desperately trying to maintain order and carry out their duties, all the while maintaining their standards of service politeness.

It was not until a Caucasian man began shouting at the crowd in Japanese to quieten down and move back away from the officials, did any semblance of order could be restored.

While waiting with me, a Filipino lady asked me if the impending ‘radioactive cloud’ coming towards Tokyo, as reported by the BBC early on Tuesday, would melt buildings. Smiling, I reassured her that it would not, and that the best thing to do would be to trust the authorities right now, even if their track record was not exactly spotless.

Hearing groundless rumours being spread with impunity among the foreign community in Japan, and seeing the heedless panic of the crowd, I wondered who the insane ones in this crisis were. The people staying or the people leaving?

This story was first published on The Enquirer, NTU’s indepedent online newspaper. Read about the other NTU student’s account here.

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