The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Singaporean Chinese person on Malaysia.

Yesterday, I had an encounter that is fairly typical of the talk one hears about Malaysia, from Singaporeans. I was struck, however, by the certainty of her views, which made me think them fit for remark, here.

I was in KL airport, waiting for a delayed Jetstar Asia flight to Singapore. It had been supposedly delayed by an hour and a half, but in fact, the delay turned out to be even longer (almost two hours).

Sitting next to us, in the boarding lounge, at KLIA airport, was a Singaporean Chinese woman. Her manner, accent, appearance and expressed views all identified her, immediately, in this manner. She was in a talkative mood, one largely provoked by her irritation at being delayed.

"I will never take a budget airline, again...", she began, her lips curling dismissively.

Before we could comment, she continued: "Jetstar is my first time...but never again will I fly budget."

"We have found AirAsia to be quite good, so far.", I interjected.

She looked at me blankly, as if she did not know what to say to something that countered her world view.

"You know, Jetstar is Malaysian.", she said, her stress on the final word, as if she spoke of something truly disgusting. Her tongue could barely bring itself to say the word, and her face was an image of revulsion. I was, actually, rather offended by her tone, by her expression and by her clearly evident beliefs. I was offended, on behalf of Malaysians, as anyone of humanity, would be on behalf of any people, so disregarded.

Now, I didn't know if Jetstar was Malaysian or not, so I couldn't comment and so remained silent. She, however, did not.

"I have travelled on Malaysian Airlines several times...and they were ALWAYS late." She shook her head, her lips curling downwards, a vision of one unimpressed.

I thought it odd, that she should think so, since I, too, had travelled on Malaysia Airlines, several times and never had any problems at all. I said, nothing, however, because, in fact, I was curious as to how far she would go, in her rant.

She leant forward then, as if to confide something of the utmost significance: "The Malaysians have NO system." She sat back, then, as if I should be shocked at the idea that a nation might not be as systematic (read "robotic") as Singapore is.

Now, my wife is Malay - and so, of course, could easily be Malaysian. This Singaporean Chinese woman's friend looked across at my wife, sitting silently beside me - and nudged her friend, with a glance to my wife. The thought was clear: "She might be Malaysian....shut up!"

The nudge brought the rant to an end, but I was glad to have heard it. It was most instructive as to what goes through the mind of quite a few Singaporeans. The reflexive thought is that all that is Malaysian is "bad" and all that is Singaporean is "good". There is also a tendency to blame Malaysia for things it is not responsible for. You see, there is one big problem with the core of this woman's rant against Malaysia: Jetstar Asia is not Malaysian, at all - it is Vietnamese. The Malaysians are not responsible at all, for this woman's flight delay. However, I will say one thing: she was right in thinking that Jetstar Asia are is undoubtedly the worst airline I have personally travelled on. The problem is, she is blaming the wrong nation.

Jetstar Asia is based in Ho Chi Minh city and is 42.5% owned by Quantas, the Australian Airline. However, that is where the resemblance to Quantas ends: Jetstar is a truly awful airline...but more of that in another post. What interested me, more, about this encounter, was that this Singaporean Chinese woman should have been so certain of her anti-Malaysian views. She truly believed that Malaysia was a terrible place and that Singapore was inherently superior. I found this odd, since my experience of both places does not place Singapore above Malaysia in the overall picture. Yes, Singapore is more glossy, but I don't think that, as a whole, it offers anywhere near as much as Malaysia does in terms of variety, potential ways of life or experiences. It is, in fact, a much bigger, more diverse nation than Singapore. It interests me, therefore, that so many Singaporeans have this reflexive superiority concerning their would, in fact, be funny, were it not, in fact, racist, at its core.

Two pieces of advice: don't fly Jetstar...and don't believe Singaporeans who badmouth Malaysia, without checking the place out, yourself, first. Start with Kuala Lumpur.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:37 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pl share why Jetstar is not recommended. Thks!

5:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It would take a full post to explain fully...but here is a taster.

We weren't allowed to fly in the morning, on Jestar, because we were running a bit late...even though the gate had NOT yet closed. (However, all the Jestar staff at check in had left their posts, 40 mins before the flight...for reasons of apparent laziness...even though they are supposed to be there until half an hour before, at least).

Thus, we had to buy new tickets and fly on AirAsia, instead.

The evening flight was delayed one hour and fifty five minutes. That is for a flight that is only 50 minutes long. Thus, they had a delay of over 200% flight time. Even so, they still tried to prevent latecomers from checking in...despite the fact that the "latercomers" were several hours earlier than the plane's arrival!

I found the service chaotic, surly, uncooperative, pigheaded...and calculated to cause unhappiness to the customer.

Furthermore, what was really worrying was the reason for the delay: "technical problems" on the plane itself...which needed repair before the flight was allowed. Now, I don't know about you, but I like my planes to be free of technical problems. The plane itself seemed really unwell. It made noises I had never heard a plane make before. It seemed old and sick.

I wouldn't fly on Jetstar again...I just wouldn't trust them with my life and wellbeing or those of any I care for.

I hope that makes it clear enough.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I flew on Jetstar to HK and it was alright. Just felt that it was very cramped in the airplane.

My return flight to SG was better: the plane was half-filled, so I went to the back and slept on the entire row of 3 seats.

Didn't experienced any of the problems you faced, but anyway I did heard that Tiger is incredibly bad.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


Maybe the planes have got older since you flew...and the staff less pleasant. Service depends very much on the staff you get on the day...and on our day, they weren't any good at all.

What have you heard, specifically, about Tiger?


12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree so much with you Mr Cawley. thank you for posting such a thoughtful post. Nothing much to say regarding how Singaporean see Malaysians. It has been so for centuries and it is actually quite sad to see 'this' continuing in the present generation.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am glad to have raised an issue of importance to anyone who thinks in a humane manner about humanity. There should never be such instinctive disdain between two nations...particularly not between neighbours: it is not only childish, it is self-defeating and counter-productive for all concerned.

Best wishes to you.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, actually the jetstar flight I took was only 3 wks ago.

Feedback on Tiger Airways: click click

Or you can google - tiger airways stomp or tiger airways complaint . They're already famous for their bad service.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Btw, interesting to note that Tiger Airways is based in Singapore. Its owners include SIA and Temasek Holdings.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Tiger being based in Singapore.

So much for Singaporean "systems", then. Perhaps it is a result of cost cutting to the extreme to increase profit margins...which would be a very local thing to do, wouldn't it?

Thanks for the links to Tiger complaints.

Re. Jetstar Asia. I note they have five aircraft...perhaps not all are as old as the one I flew on. However, I wouldn't risk them again. It was a little unnerving to fly in such a plane.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

I am not posting the odd posting because they appear to be from Jetstar staff and are not free of bias. A particular post, in question, knows too much about Jetstar to be from anyone else. Also, I just don't believe the contents at all.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

To anyone who doubts my particular horror story re. Jetstar, I suggest googling "Jetstar bad service" will get 21,600 horror stories...all of them please Jetstar staff stop trying to post PR on my blog. Thanks. Why not try to actually improve your service, instead of trying to puff up your image?

5:39 PM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

I have just noticed something very funny considering the Singaporean Chinese woman's complaints about the "Malaysian" is 19% owned by Temasek Holdings, and has a major base at Changi Airport. Two Singaporean businessmen are major stockholders: Tony Chew (22 per cent) and FF Wong (10 per cent. Thus, the MAJORITY OWNERSHIP IS SINGAPOREAN: 51% of the shares belong either to the Singaporean government or to Singaporean tycoons. Thus, it is doubly appalling that it should be such a bad airline, according to tens of thousands of horror stories online (mine included). This story is getting funnier by the moment. If Singaporean "systems" were so great, I don't think this post would ever have been written.

I fear the Jetstar story is one of putting profits before people...because if the people had been put first, our own story could not have happened.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you mixing up JetStar Asia and JetStar Pacific? JetStar Asia is Australian and JetStar Pacific is Vietnamese. JetStar Asia owns a minority stake in JetStar Pacific though and they use the same logo on their planes and share the same website for ticketing but are actually separate companies. My friend also had a terrible experience traveling on JetStar Pacific traveling from Hanoi to Saigon, with over a 10 hour delay. I also read on a Vietnamese website that JetStar Pacific fired one of its chief mechanics for whistleblowing on a slew of aircraft maintenance issues, and the Vietnamese government has now launched an investigation and is also considering banning this sharing of logos and names because it is confusing to consumers. I also had a bad experience on JetStar Asia traveling from Darwin to Singapore. They demanded to see an onward ticket from Singapore in order to board the flight (an entry requirement for Singapore immigration), but I planned to depart Singapore by car to Malaysia. They denied me boarding. Idiots.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Anon of 11.56pm.

The Jetstar story is a complicated one, filled with an abundance of names and multiple ownership. It is clear, however, that there is, as you note, a lot of cross-ownership going on. Quantas are one of the owners, of the Jetstar companies (whichever name you refer to). Another owner is Temasek (Singapore government) Singaporean businessmen and others.

Yes, there are Vietnamese and Australian and Singaporean stakeholders, here.

No matter who owns what, ultimately, the story is a simple one: poor service, poorly maintained planes (or why else would my plane be suffering from "technical issues" and sound like death in the early part of the flight?), inflexibility (see both of us being denied boarding) and disregard for the customer.

Jetstar Asia or Jetstar Pacific...both are, in my definition of crap, crap.

Thanks for your comment.

12:43 AM  

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