When I first met Daniel, I was a frustrated first-year NUS student trying to push the institution to forge student-exchange agreements with Middle Eastern universities (to add to the existing Israeli ones).
I had written in to the Straits Times lamenting the lack of a Middle Eastern focus in NUS, noting that even SMU had exchange agreements with Turkey.
In the end I didn’t get any response from the NUS establishment, and to make matters worse SMU put my letter on their website with a cunningly crafted summary (look under 24th September 2007)
– “First-year NUS student… wrote that compared to NUS and NTU, SMU has the most encouraging Middle East prospect, with formal relations with a Turkish university and a Jordanian one.”
This made it seem like the main thrust of my letter was to praise and glorify SMU!
Amidst this frustrated context, Daniel was just another admin-officer, another hurdle in the bureaucracy whom I had to pay courtesy visits to in my quest to go to the Middle-East for exchange. I thus headed to his office at the USP Admin block in a combative mood, having previously had a few combative meetings with other NUS admin officials on this same subject matter.
I was hence wholly taken by surprise when I saw a friendly, smiling face introducing himself as Daniel. Behind him on the walls hung running tags; a trophy stood partly obscured on the cupboard behind him; I also spotted a photo of him in running gear, a number tag strapped across his running jersey. I looked back again at his tanned, cheerful face; my combative mood dissipated into a more conciliatory one.
An Oasis Amidst a Bureaucratic Desert Plain of Tedium
This was my first encounter with Daniel Lee Yong Boon, one of the few administrative havens and oases amidst a bureaucratic desert plain of tedium and frustration.
He listened to my complaints patiently and seriously, respectfully and quietly. In my other encounters with bureaucracy, I had often (but not always) observed on the faces of the administrative officers expressions of disagreement and disapproval (communicated by knotted eyebrows and dissatisfied lip-corners) even before I had finished giving an account of my case.
Daniel’s face however betrayed no sign of judgment or prejudice before he heard me out, which greatly relieved me and disarmed my combative mental poise.
Yet, when he finally spoke, Daniel did not attempt to romanticize reality either. He told me that realistically speaking, even if the institution were to begin forging exchange agreements with Middle East universities now, the agreement might not be finished within the four or five years of my undergraduate life at NUS. Daniel advised me to avail myself of the multiple available exchange opportunities already running, which was a highly pragmatic piece of advice on hindsight.
Daniel Lee Yong Boon, Dynamic Sportsman and Bridge between NUS Staff and Students
This first encou
This first encounter thus paved the way for a closer working relationship as well as friendship between myself and Daniel Lee.
I was especially curious about Daniel’s life outside the office, glimpses of which I obtained from every visit to his office. Last year, I managed to add him on Facebook, where I could see even more photos from his adventure races.
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