Free Dorje Gurung

12 05 2013



Dorje Gurung, a chemistry teacher who has taught all over the world (Hong Kong, Norway, the USA, Azerbaijan, Malawi and Qatar) has been jailed in Qatar on charges of insulting Islam.


I believe that a grave injustice has been done. 




Because he is Nepali, some 12 year old students were making fun of him, stereotyping.


Among other things, the seventh graders poked fun at his appearance, calling him “Jackie Chan,” a famous Chinese actor, the Washington Post reported.


He asked a rhetorical question, and they reported it as a statement. Now he is in jail for insulting Islam.


This is a petition to free Dorje Gurung. Please sign it. Then share and get the word out.








Dorge is a United World Colleges alumni and embodies the UWC ideals: respect, compassion, mutual responsibility, integrity, the celebration of difference.

I stand for and believe in the UWC values. I will not stand for injustice.

Sign the petition: for Dorje’s freedom and for justice.


Free Dorje Gurung  



A wee bit of soul searching…

4 10 2011

It’s that time of the year again when hoards of final-year high school students search far and wide on the Internet for universities and colleges to apply to. I myself am going through this process now, and along with it, a wee bit of soul searching.

Why soul searching? For one thing,  actively assessing whether a certain university will suit me means asking myself what I want to do, what kind of living environment I would enjoy, how I like to work, and so on.

The ‘meat’ of the soul searching, however, comes later. The search really shifts up a few gears when you move on to the next stage of the whole application process: that of writing college essays.

Imagine writing essays for questions like:

  • Find x.
  • Using the following quotation from “The Moral Obligations of Living in a Democratic Society” as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world:
    “Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it. In a way, empathy is predicated upon hope.”
  • Imagine looking through a window at any environment that is particularly significant to you. Reflect on the scene, paying close attention to the relation between what you are seeing and why it is meaningful to you.

It really takes a lot of soul searching to answer questions as thought provoking as these. You’ve really got to dig deep into the crevasses of your own personality that have until now been hidden from view, obscured by the hubbub of daily routines.

The question I’m asking myself now is, “What are my values?”

I’ve never given this question a thought ever before, but some quick Googling brought me to this list of values – and I’m struck by how many values I actually have.

My soul-searching/college essay writing process is still in its early stages, but I hope to have an epiphany sometime soon – perhaps on my hike tomorrow!



Movement 134.

5 09 2011

One hundred and thirty four people slowly filtering in onto the grounds of Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong…

Each year, LPC says goodbye to half its population. What defined half of LPC for one full year leaves to pursue their own dreams.

Now, as one hundred and thirty new students arrive, LPC embarks on another journey.

They are the new half of LPC – the half that makes LPC whole.

I think this, among a host of other factors, is what makes LPC such an exciting place to be. Rarely do you ever come across an institution where each year is completely different from the one before: the people, groups, dynamics, culture, energy. And yet there is no loss of identity or definition – rather we build on our foundations, and add new elements to the thrilling melting pot of brilliant minds.

As the two halves slowly begin to mingle, a new blend emerges. There are new forms of interaction, new ideas, new thoughts, new minds. At the same time, we are still on the same journey as before: bringing people from across the world together – uniting people, nations and cultures.

I can sense excitement in the air, and am thrilled to be able to both take part in, and witness, this momentous movement of two halves in a singular whole.




TEDxWanChai: an intern behind the scenes

6 08 2011

TEDxWanChai: Rehearsing the day before.

Today’s inaugural TEDxWanChai on the theme of charitable impact was nothing short of a big success…but that’s not what I’m going to write about. (You can find out all about the event through tweets tagged #TEDxWanChai.) This is my take on TEDxWanChai from behind the scenes as an intern.

I’ve learnt so much throughout the two weeks leading up to today’s event. Perhaps I could put it into a nutshell:

  1. People. With an event this big, you need people to help.
  2. Social network. You need a social network to find people to help you.
  3. People, people, people – it’s all about people.

But it’s not enough to just have people. The team needs to gel, cooperate and really just fit together like pieces in an intricate jigsaw puzzle – which is where the macro/micromanagement bit comes in.

There were a load of teams all working together, yet at the same time focusing on entirely different aspects of the event: registration and security. Food and beverage. Audio visual. Social media. Stage management. Event management. Production. Organisation. All these separate teams working in micro units to create a successful TEDx event on a macro scale – even the process of TEDxWanChai in the making is awe-inspiring, let alone the event itself!

Some of the TEDxWanChai crew

Experiencing the process of planning, organising and finally executing a TEDx also taught me to think along some important lines:

  • Think ‘brand’. TEDxWanChai is special because it is TEDx and not just any other conference – so we need to constantly show this. Hence, on goes the TEDxWanChai logo on everything you can possibly imagine! (including wooden clothes pegs. Yes.)
  • Think ‘extra’. Just as small things make a difference in the social enterprise context, the same applies to event management. We had bamboo steamers dotted around the venue to emphasise the local culture surrounding the event, and also made an ‘X-marks-the-spot’ bamboo structure for people to hang their ideas onto. Ideas worth spreading…ideas worth hanging – get it?

Ideas Worth Hanging.

  • Think ‘connection’. Twitter and Facebook – the usual biggies to help us spread the word about our event and also connect with fellow TEDx-ers from around the world.
  • Think ‘contingency’. What if there’s a technical error? A black out? Obviously you can’t just have the audience sitting there twiddling their thumbs, so we had games up our sleeves to keep everyone occupied…just in case! This would never have occurred to me until a black out actually occurred, and then I would have been left feeling extremely sheepish.

TEDx-ican Wave! photo by @hypercasey

  • Think ‘out of the box’. This is an age old cliché, I know, but the event has just reminded me of its importance once again. The thing is, our venue was a bit of a blackhole: no reliable WiFi, and no coverage for all but one phone network! How were we supposed to live-tweet and connect with the world without access to the Internet? Luckily, @JayOatway came to the rescue. We had people on the CSL network create hotspots to share with 4 others, and distributed network passwords out to those who wanted to tweet. Not the most straightforward situation, but it sure was an ingenious way around a frustrating problem.
  • Finally, think ‘luck’ – so much is beyond control and so much depends on it!

Photo by Casey Lau

What an experience. I’m sure I have unconsciously absorbed a whole lot more of information than what I’ve briefly summarised here – in fact, I’m looking forward to the debrief to see if I can pick up anything that I’ve missed out!

TEDx’s are extraordinary as they are, but to actually be at the core of the action, witnessing the making of something amazing? That’s……movement.

The Start-Up of You

15 07 2011

I was reading Thomas L. Friedman’s column the other day, titled ‘The Start-Up of You’. Reading it made me think, what does this mean for the things that I’m investing time in now – my school work, SAT preparation, the whole college admission process…?

Basically, Mr. Friedman pointed out that increasingly, we’re going to have to invent our own jobs instead of expecting someone to hire you just because you have a degree. He quotes LinkedIn’s founder:

“The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”

Which all is very interesting, because I had just walked into an SAT exam preparation center hoping to see if there was anything that might be of use. Flipping through the center’s brochure, I balked at the incredulously exorbitant prices they charged.

$13 000 HKD for a 30 hour ‘SAT Essentials’ prep course??

You can’t be serious. If people are worried about the tech bubble bursting because various companies are being over-valued, then I’d tell them to come check out HK’s tutorial industry! Clearly SAT’s are important, but to spend $13 000 HKD on a course to prepare you for an exam, when HK’s median monthly income is around $18 000 HKD? Whilst I don’t think education can ever be overvalued, I think certain aspects of it is definitely being grossly overvalued here in HK.

I don’t have much a conclusion. Perhaps Mr. Friedman is right – it’s time we started thinking about how to create our own jobs rather than waiting for a job to find you. If that’s the case then are SATs, colleges and all that still as important as they seem? Maybe. But definitely not important enough to charge $13 000 HKD for a 30 hour course!

6 Ways to Make Sure I’m Always Learning

11 06 2011

I love learning. More precisely, I love the feeling of movement that comes with learning. It’s a tantalising sensation of moving forwards, keeping up with the changing world around me. At the same time, though, there’s also a complementary feeling of stillness. It’s a priceless sensation.

To make sure I’m constantly learning, constantly moving in the intellectual sense, I use the following methods:

  • Twitter and RSS feeds: I’m always looking for interesting people with interesting things to say on Twitter. 
  • iPhone Apps: For reading the news, I primarily use the New York Times and BBC World News application. The Economist app is also great because it comes with downloadable audio recordings. ReadItLater and Instapaper are also great for storing articles for offline reading, so that I’m always learning, even while on the go.
  • Podcasts and iTunes U: These are great for those moments when you don’t quite feel like reading, but don’t want to stare blankly into space either. When I’m really on the go, I switch seamlessly between reading (say, while on the train) and listening to my podcasts/lectures when reading isn’t so feasible (like walking to the next train platform).
  • Reading: I try to have a book with me whenever I can and fill all my ‘gap times’ in the day by reading. Scott H Young has a good post here on how to read more books in a year.
  • Writing: I like to keep a small notebook, not for mundane recounts of what I had for breakfast but rather for all my thoughts and reflections. Writing makes me reflect and enjoy the stillness.
  • Not learning: Yep. Sometimes just staring into space, or as I do multiple times a day, going into ‘the zone’ while running/swimming/biking. At these moments my mind will be completely blank and relishing the calmness, getting ready for more learning!

So there you have it – my ways of constantly learning and educating myself.

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