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At Long Last – Istanbul! (Part 2)
Sunday, September 12, 2010

After we got back from Cankiri, there were only three or four more days left at the Congress. I subsequently dragged my friend Nhi around all the tourist hotspots. And yes, there were two people named Nhi from Vietnam whom I hung around. The other delegates would go, “Oh the Vietnamese have two Nhis!” And they’d retort, “Well of COURSE we have two knees!”


Okay so one Nhi is from my Aile; This is a picture of the other Nhi, which I helped to take with her iPhone. The photos in these posts which are hers are tagged Dinh, which is her surname.


This Nhi is sixteen years old and is Vietnamese born and bred, but studies in the US. She is the epitome of cuteness and sweetness – she is just incapable of being angry and upset. She completely understood my inclination to start singing Sound of Music songs out loud on the street. She was my best buddy at the Congress and even now after the Congress I can’t look at any pink clothing without thinking about her. Hi Nhi, you are missed very much. :)

Nhi was also a fantastic travel buddy. She had great photo ideas, and under her pressure I took more than I would normally have as we went around Miniaturk, Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya and Topkapi Palace. I lost them all (sigh) but luckily Caroline went to most of these places too.


Inside the tomb of Sultan Ahmet.


Outside the Blue Mosque.


The Blue Mosque in all its splendour.


Inside the Blue Mosque.




Another unglam picture of me inside the Aya Sofya passage that leads to the upper floor.


This is what you get inside the Aya Sofya: on the ceiling, huge round black plaques with Jawi inscriptions on them…


…And next to those, carvings of Christian archangels.


You can read on the Aya Sofya’s eventful history here.

Oh and I forgot to mention this. None of us had to pay anything for entry into the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace or Aya Sofya. We didn’t have to pay for our transportation either. All we had to do was flash our delegate tags and we’d be waved through the barriers like VIPs. As a result, during my first 10 days in Turkey (before I went on this sightseeing tour), I only spent 25 lira. :D



The skewed kebab that Turkey is so famous for. It makes you feel bad for vegetarians, doesn’t it. :)



The Grand Bazaar, where Nhi and I got to practice bargaining. The traders liked to yell as we walked past, “Aaah, Konnichiwa! Anyong haseyo! Ni hao!

We actually got pretty annoyed by this. The result was that when one lokum trader added one extra exclamation of “Apa khabar!!” to his string of multilingual greetings, I immediately stopped, started chatting with him and ended up buying 28 liras worth of candy from him. Looking back, that wasn’t such a smart reaction :P but what to do, that was one resourceful tradesman.


Haih I am starting to really feel sorry for myself again, looking at Caroline’s pictures. T.T



The last day of the Congress was, expectedly, emotional. Everyone was saying fond farewells and taking pictures of everyone and everything. I confess to taking a few pictures of my sleeping roomates before leaving for Sabiha Gokcen :P not that they’ll ever know now!


This is Kristjan (Estonia), at 30, one of the oldest people at the WYC (most were aged 20+). For a philosophy teacher, he talks a lot of crap – literally. He sounded a little like an OMGFacts tweet producer, coming out with all things excrement-related; most of them are too disgusting to mention here. The big issue with this was that he particularly enjoyed doing this while we were eating. –.-

Kristjan was also the one who started the “In my country…” joke. Whenever he wanted to complain about something, he’d start off his sentence with “In my country,”. Some of the things he said were absolutely fantastical – it makes me want to go to Estonia just to find out if everything he said about it was true. Like the fact that everyone in Estonia is six foot tall!



This is Bunyamin, the leader of Findik Aile, whom I got seriously pissed off with because he took five minutes to string together a simple sentence in English. Admittedly this was not very fair of me; he may not have asked to be Aile leader, and he did carry out his duties (in a haphazard sort of way). In the end anyway I outgrew that childish temper tantrum and got along with him fine. But I have yet to forgive him for making fun of my non-existent volleyball skills.


Caroline with Azer from Azerbaijan! This guy is the coolest. In addition to Azerbaijani he speaks fluent English and Turk. And he’s in university learning to be a translator… In Spanish. If any of you thought Malaysians were awesome for knowing how to speak three languages, meet Azer.



Adham from Egypt and Einstein Albertas from Lithuania. Bunyamin nicknamed Albertas that for his name and his wild hair, so like that of the famous scientist. I got so used to this that when I tried to tag him in a facebook picture, I typed in “Einstein” and was utterly bewildered when no search results came up. –.-





And this is Sarthak from India who gets a special mention because he posted up this horrible picture of me and made a lot of Chinese jokes while I was there. (This is not fair! The only Indian joke I ever made was asking where Prashanth disappeared to when the lights went out! Karma has no sense of discrimination I tell you.)

But all in the spirit of debate, in which each point must be rebutted by the opposition. Even in humour rounds.

Meet Sarthak, my bus buddy to and from Cankiri, who almost completely fits the stereotype of Indian men: he loves free things, smells of curry, likes to drink, is ridiculously smart, wants to study Engineering and is heading for an Ivy League university. In fact if I’m not mistaken, he is already there at Princeton, beginning his freshman year there.

(Yeah I know. Princeton. Don’t mess!!)

Sarthak was an amusing bus buddy. He decided that it would be a good idea to play with the chocolate hazelnut cream they provided us with for breakfast. He was absolutely convinced that he had managed to turn it into a work of art; but in reality it looked something like THIS:


Boys are so easily amused.


Finally we have Vehbi from Turkey, Nhi Dinh’s other best friend. She took to calling him Zombie after a while. He was one of the best Turkish volunteers next to Irem because he could speak fluent English. He was so helpful – without his directions Nhi and I would have gotten lost while touring Istanbul. One of the girls pinching Zombie here is Nhi, I don’t know who the other is. But I just had to include this picture of him lah :D

The World Youth Congress culminated on 12th August with the launching of International Youth Day. The next Youth Congress would be held in Brazil. To celebrate this, a Youth March took place in Taksim Square that evening after the closing ceremony.

I had signed up too learn the dance parts days ago, but I had missed the workshop. So on the day itself, I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to take part in the march.


This is Rob with me and Nhi, Nhi’s Aile leader. I made the mistake of mispronouncing my own name while I was introducing myself to him and he laughed at me for it ever afterwards.

Originally Nhi (Dinh) and I just planned to go and ogle the costumed revellers as the prepared. But when we saw what they were wearing, we decided that we simply HAD to try them on.

Most of the pictures of me and Nhi here are credited to Anna Welsapar of Sweden, a fellow Young Journalist.



You can tell we were THRILLED!




The drummers, who set the pace for the Youth March.





This is me and the other Nhi with Chung (on the left). I have to apologize – I haven’t named the Nhis properly at all!

This is also the first night in my lfie that I made it to the next morning without falling asleep or sick at all. Don’t laugh! At camps I usually start sneezing by 4am, or I fall asleep. I credit this achievement to the friends and the elma chay of which I consumed so much. I did, however, also end up with this huge horrible swelling all over my face that only faded away during the second day of my stay in London. Boo for low sleepless tolerance.


This was taken around 6am on 13th August. See how alert I look despite having stayed up all night! I remember Zombie and I had been explaining the concept of Ramadan and Lent to Nhi. See, back to the topic of religion again.

Many other delegates like Justin stayed back after the Congress to tour Istanbul or other parts of Turkey. I hear that our delegate tags were eligible for use on the Metro till August 15th. But shortly after the picture above was taken, I had to leave for Sabiha Gokcen airport for my flight to London. So for me, the 5th World Youth Congress ended there.

I am nearing the end of the photos and of this post. But I have left out so many – I don’t have pictures of Irareque (Mozambique) who swears he’s going to come and visit me in Malaysia, Ursa (Slovenia) and Goran (Macedonia) who were never there, Sena (Turkey) my AWESOME POSSUM roommate who was so excited to find out that I knew Jia Jun, Michelle Pham (Canada) who makes the most awesome nurse for sick people, Berta (Turkey) who took me to the doctor and made people go hunting all over Istanbul for bananas when I had food poisoning, Anshul (India), Yusuf (India), Bin (Vietnam) and so so so many others! However this post is disproportionately long as it already is, and it’s already very compressed. I don’t think I’ve managed to convey even an iota of what the Congress was really like.

So what did the World Youth Congress leave me with? Just exactly what did I do there?

I realized that human beings are so different, yet so similar. I survived living in a country so different from my own for two weeks. I spent time with people who are extremely intelligent and high-powered, and it gives me hope that the human race won’t annihilate itself after all. I experienced solidarity: for just a short while, the entire globe was conveniently stuffed into one place for me to explore. I made myself a home away from home, with all those people. And now, I am one step closer to saying that I have a home in every country on the planet.


The WYC has made me want to emulate the people I met. It left me with the basic knowledge required to put the Green 5 project (which has been at the back of my head since Form 4) into action – and more importantly, it left me with the motivation to do so too. It also made me excited to see what kind of changes we can bring when our time comes to rule the world!

The Congress also left me with a love of travelling that is probably going to last me a whole lifetime. Already my list is 16 states long.

Weirdly enough, the Congress has also made me incredibly patriotic, from having to explain over and over again what and where Malaysia was. For all the ridiculous antics our politicians get up to, it’s actually a pretty good place to live.



This was how one ticket to Istanbul took me around the world – and beyond.