Reflections on a final MUN.
I have been meaning to write this for a few days ever since I returned back from PAMUN but I was just so swamped with things and making PAMUN vids that it was pretty low on the list.
Well, I’m going to write this and my RwR for the week and do my retirement page on MUNning tomorrow so it’s finally time to write and reflect on it before the week is over.
The Trip There
I flew on Scoot airlines with my fellow delegate Darren and it was…well, pretty uncomfortable. To sleep on, I mean. Sitting works well and all and it’s a budget flight on economy: you get what you pay for and you paid for an economy class seat so that’s what you get. Great for saving money if you have your own in-flight entertainment, not so great if you’re trying to catch some sleep before touching down.
Naturally I didn’t catch much sleep but if there’s one thing I’ve benefited from NS, it would be the ability to function when sleep-deprived. So we touched down and both of us made our way via MRT to the conference venue for the opening ceremony. Taipei’s airport looks functional but their trains are a lot more modern than Singapore, one feels. Also it wasn’t an issue navigating around their MRT stations because all the signs and helpful people, well, helped a lot.
The conference was a blast. I spoke up a lot on the first day but honestly I didn’t prepare as much as I should’ve because I was preparing for my finals before that, so I pretty much faded away on the second and third days as my fellow NUS delegates effectively took control of the Council and pretty much killed off any signs of dissent from achieving unity. That’s how we had such a cooperative council – top-down with occasional consultations and input from the bottom, kinda like how Singapore usually functions. It works at getting consensus (albeit grudgingly), at least in the Security Council. Quite a few were new to MUN as well so they just sat along for the ride.
Me? I was China, a veto power so I could afford to sit back and just occasionally suggest some things that I would like changed. A few strategic ninja edits here and there also helped considerably in smoothening (that’s probably not a word but I just made it up) the working paper as it became a draft reso and got voted upon. That aside, I didn’t contribute that much to the working paper after the its initial drafting and took on a more consulting role – occasionally suggesting amendments or phrasing things better but never actually writing the actual document myself except in a few rare circumstances. That’s how I managed to take a few photos that I posted on insta about the working process: the photographer is usually not part of that same process 😀
There is usually a time in the conference where all the kids gather to party – I don’t know how exactly this became a MUN tradition but I’ve noticed it since my 2015 SMUN. PAMUN had a buffet dinner catered at a restaurant for us with some games, although amusingly most wanted the Haagen Dazs ice cream instead of participating in the games. I too was queueing up but decide to leave the queue even though I was just a couple of people away >< because I felt bad at ignoring the exhortations of the emcees for delegates to return to their tables.
But the food was pretty good and I enjoyed that event. The second event…bubble and booze was like a pool party with some alcohol. No deep water though, so nobody drowning after being drunk and falling in. Lots of bubbles made by a big bubble machine and quite a few actually came prepared with swimwear to play in the big pool while others watched.
Me? I hadn’t brought swimwear and did NOT want to get my nice suit wet with foam jumping into the water. Neither did I want to shell out 700 NTD (approx 31.50 SGD, a pretty huge sum) just for trunks I’d only use once. Besides, the weather was like…13 degrees and those who jumped willingly into a pool at such temperatures seemed to me to be either very cold-resistant or insane. Perhaps a little from column A, a little from column B.
Most didn’t stay in there for very long though – in any case I left about an hour after I arrived with a few of my council mates to head back early and work on the draft resolution. There was loud clubbing music – but not many people felt like dancing in formal attire and I’m not sure I wanted to get involved in what passes as dancing. There was a little bit of alcohol but I don’t drink, so getting smashed didn’t appeal to me. Neither was there someone I could pool to one side and have an interesting conversation with at a slightly quieter location, so…yea, no point staying so late. Anyway the pool was pretty far away from where me and Darren were staying so we wanted to get back on time and be well-rested for the critical Day 3 of defending the draft reso.
I would have been pretty interested to visit the club (especially since it’s free) on the third night but Darren and I had to fly back early for respective stuff so we flickered the lights of our seats on and off for a short while when waiting for take-off and as a pop song was playing in the plane. That was pretty fun. In retrospect I would’ve probably found the club a boring experience as well (being uninterested in dancing, loud music or alcohol) but the unknown always seems mysteriously enticing.
And so, that sums up my social experience of PAMUN: It was….okay. I kinda prefer long conversations as opposed to pulsating music but maybe that’s just me – quite a few seemed to enjoy their time there so it’s to each their own I suppose.
Misc. Conference Stuff
The opening ceremony fairly boring (to me at least) – I nearly fell asleep during the keynote speaker because I didn’t know what her point was. But registration was fine and the closing ceremony had a really cool first speaker involved in NGOs and working together with missionaries so that perked my interest. The second was quite good as well but it was mostly in Chinese with English subtitles so I don’t think I caught fully what he was trying to convey.
Didn’t sign up for the round table but I heard it was not bad; having them bring in various students to present for the delegate seminars was also not bad. I went in somewhat reluctantly since I honestly wanted to catch up on sleep in the hotel room but couldn’t check in so early – left somewhat tired but intellectually stimulated. A mixed bag of feelings but more good than bad.
Overall I’d say the conference was really well managed and well-run – kudos to the team for pulling it off well. Thoroughly enjoyable and I couldn’t have asked for a smoother last conference.
There is a certain term used among youngish Singaporean males to refer to Taiwanese girls: ‘Tai mei’s.’ It is a combination of the following:
- A short form of ‘xiao mei mei’ which means ‘little girl’ in direct translation but generally has connotations relating to one or a few of the following terms: cute, smol (small), docile, naive, inexperienced, loli-like, young, too young (underaged), or with particular facial features that differentiate them from say, women with a more mature facial structure.
- A short form of Taiwan, which is shortened to ‘Tai’.
Hence you combine the two short forms to end up with the expression mentioned earlier, but from my understanding the term is used to describe the notion of Taiwanese girls being pretty cute. I’m not so sure about the age or experience-related connotations but there is a definite positivity, or even affirmation/praise, in such an expression.
Why do I bring this up? Because it is after PAMUN 2017 that I see how such an expression came into popular consciousness (or sub-consciousness, anyway, since talk about this tends to fade off when Singaporean guys grow older and find themselves in stable relationships or crippling loneliness). This seems to be a case of ‘there is no smoke without fire’ and I think in this case the expression is warranted.
Simply put, I feel that statistically or generally speaking, Taiwan has a higher prevalence of ‘cute’ girls as compared to Singapore. Yes, cuteness is subjective and so this is just one guy’s opinion, but I suspect it may be due to ethnic preferences for particular facial features: Perhaps a Chinese might feel more attracted to other Chinese as opposed to say, Korean or Japanese ethnicities. Ceteris parbius and all that, but I’m looking at a general trend here, not exceptions or particular fetishes.
Neither do I think it’s a question of make-up: make-up can’t do much to alter the fundamental features of one’s face, just how they are presented. And unless most Taiwanese girls I saw are skilled make-up artists to pull off such looks, I suspect it’s just down to some facial features being more attractive to some ethnicities than others.
Once again, this is simply a random observation, albeit one that was corroborated with others who have been to both countries. Take it with an ocean of salt, but I suspect most Taiwanese girls would be pretty popular with guys here as well if they came to Singapore.
A trip to the church
This seems like a weird topic to continue with after the previous section, but it’s alright. These misc. thoughts aren’t arranged in any particular fashion so that’s how one ends up with such things.
So on the second or third day I had some free time in the afternoon and made my way over to a nearby church. Along the way I passed someone who was begging for money in the underpass and something pricked at me to do something about it. Long story short, I did: Convicted by thoughts of James 2 and Matthew 25:35, I thought about how hypocritical it was for me to be visiting a church and yet ignoring someone who was just right there. So I packed some stuff (couple of energy/granola bars I never ate along with some cash) including an invitation to the Christmas play someone on the street had passed to me, walked back along the same route and passed it to him before continuing on my way. On my way back to the conference venue I debated whether I had actually sacrificed anything (seeing that my trip was not self-funded) but regardless of whether I had, I hope he benefited from that random act.
The church itself was quite nice but I couldn’t wait for their next service as I had to rush back for the upcoming Council session, so I just briefly walked around and read it. Apparently it was helped in its founding by some people from Singapore so that’s cool. I wish I could’ve stayed for the English service though; that would’ve been quite interesting.
When booking the accomodations I found this hotel but trip advisor had precious few reviews, probably because it only allows visitors that are staff, students or otherwise affiliated with NTU to book a room. Well, that and also the fact it cost about 100 SGD per person per night so it was 600 over three nights for Darren and I sharing two beds in a room. When one can get other accomodations which are cheaper it’s unsurprising some choose to do so, but we chose it because it was just a minute’s walk away from the conference center.
And it was worth every penny. That proximity also meant that there were night markets and ample choices for food one could explore in the noon or at night; the toilets were fantastically clean and daily cleaning was excellent as well. Breakfast was included – a sumptuous buffet every morning with a good variety of food and drinks to pick from. Honestly I don’t regret staying there – one can wake up later in the morning, casually head down for breakfast, then walk a short distance while others had to wake up much earlier, rush to get breakfast along the way and travel much farther to the conference venue. If I had the chance to stay there again, I definitely would.
Material Richness vs Social Richness
I found Taiwan seemingly less glamorous but more socially “rich” than Singapore. Let me explain.
On the airport to the city and from wandering around, the average Singaporean would find that Taiwan seemed “run down.” Like Singapore in the 1980s or 1990s, Taipei didn’t seem modern outside of the shopping malls and looked less materially rich than Singapore. Perhaps its true, perhaps its not – this was just the feeling one got.
But the Taiwanese society is miles ahead of Singapore in terms of social “wealth”. Their society feels warm and friendly. I was really amazed when I saw groups of friends – young people, not only the elderly, gathering at the parks in winter, and talking among themselves. Walking together in night-markets as a large group – there is a large feeling of ‘togetherness’ and ‘inclusiveness’ that one gets.
I boarded a train on the Taiwan MRT, and saw an ad teaching commuters how to help other blind commuters find their way. Filled with English and Chinese translations, cute graphics and detailed information. I was absolutely floored when I saw this.
Yes, perhaps most Taiwanese don’t bother to see it, or they do and apathy is a natural reaction. Be that as it may, I can’t help feel that even something like made it to national MRT stations shows how different, and arguably more caring, Taiwanese society is.
Think about it. Someone in the government probably came up with the idea. It got passed, supported, and funded. It was implemented and rolled out effectively to all stations.
Someone conceived an idea like this, more people supported both its genesis and eventual implementation. I now see why the Singapore government encouraged the formation of a gracious society, and yet one wonders whether such desirable cultural traits can be socially engineered or forced.
Maybe ‘nurtured’ would be a better term. And yes, Singapore has made attempts to increase the “richness” of its society as well, not just its material wealth. Arguably too, we’re all part of the problem, change starts with us/me and all that. Perhaps it’s not that high on our priority list, but one definitely gets a different feeling returning to Singapore and noticing the different atmosphere (not just the sweltering heat…).
Of course, perhaps I’m drawing too many conclusions from isolated incidents. I might also similarly be looking through an overly rosy lens – again, take it with a disclaimer. “Just one guy’s thoughts” works well because that’s precisely what this all is – just one guy’s thoughts.
Taiwanese National Identity
In my conversations with some Taiwanese, I’m surprised they have such a strong sense of national identity. Not all, of course – but the magnitude seems to be off the charts based on those I’ve talked with. They feel prouder of their own country than I, and daresay others, feel about ours. One wonders whether that’s a natural reaction to both past history and present geopolitics or whether it’s just a cultural thing – most Chinese in China too are proud of their nation. Whether such pride extends to sacrifice is another question altogether, but I’ve came away from our conversations impressed at the level of patriotism some young Taiwanese seem to have.
In a conversation discussing the hypothetical possibility (not probability, I hasten to add) of relationships with Taiwanese girls, another Singaporean more familiar with Taiwanese society explained to me that he found ( in his opinion, of course) Taiwanese girls to be more generally mature than their Singaporean counterparts. While there are definitely exceptions (Priestess springs to mind), by and large most Singapore girls live fairly comfortable lives, get on the academic train and continue riding it without having substantial responsibilities placed upon them until they hit their early 20s, enter a serious relationship and consider marriage.
In contrast, I’m told that Taiwanese girls generally have a bit less shelter and are forced to take on non-academic responsibilities as well, which makes them mature emotionally at a quicker rate. They also have their academic things to take care of, but they generally figure out what they want to do when they’re younger and think farther – wise beyond their years, as it were. So substantial age gaps may mean less as compared to the SG scenario.
I don’t have much data to go on, of course, but from my limited pool of those I spoke with in MUNs, this appears to be moderately supported. I don’t know many Taiwanese in Singapore but I am suitably impressed, again, by the maturity some exhibit.
What God’s taught me.
There is a substantial difference between intelligence and wisdom, and one should seek the latter, not just the former. Also, it is good not to show favourtism towards those one only wants to talk to – whether rich/wealthy people as James 2 writes about or those one finds more physically attractive as was my experience in Taiwan. I ended up making an extra effort to favour conversations with those that I wouldn’t have talked much with in the past since 1. cute girls will always have guys talking to them and 2. it was more important for me to ensure that nobody felt left out rather than just enjoy hovering in or around the center of conversation.
People have different convictions, and some of these convictions are on the level of death. That is to say, some are as willing to die for a cause as others are for their faith. Quite eye-opening, but also one where I can empathize with.
In the pursuit of one’s goals and living of one’s life, it is important to take time and ensure others are probably cared for. One might not do it all the time, but when the opportunity arises they should pray for strength and do it. Not to leave others by the roadside in a single-minded pursuit of one’s goal, but to be sensitive and caring where one finds it possible to extend such graciousness.
How I felt about the MUN as a whole, along with people I’ve met.
It’s been an awesome experience. I really enjoyed meeting exceptional individuals from different countries, backgrounds and seeing where they are going ahead in life. Even without the things God’s taught me, I’ve benefited much from hearing their conversations and engaging with them on a variety of topics. If anything, it’s made me want to work and strive even more to improve myself so that I can match up to others or simply make more progress than I’ve made thus far. One mountain’s always higher than the other and all that, but I’m a firm believer of continual improvement and this is also backed by the idea of sanctification: God doesn’t call us to be perfect instantly , but progress is important.
What regrets do I have about MUN? Nothing. I’m glad I went for it, I’m glad I was in the Council that I was, I’m glad I met the people I did and I’m glad I flew back when I did. I’m glad I stayed where I did, I’m glad I walked where I walked and ate what I ate. Didn’t get any food poisoning so that’s cool too.
As I said in my post, there probably won’t be a time I return to Taiwan, especially for MUNs. All good things have to come to an end – even life itself – and we’ll all move on in our own lives. MUN friends are like orientation camp friends – put together some people in close proximity and have them interact regularly with each other and they’ll probably be short term friends until most drift apart. But such an experience was fun, important, and sometimes, rarely, these friendships last beyond the MUN.
And that, I think, is the best gift anyone could receive. The best ‘final MUN’, as it were, to leave the circuit on.