Monday, December 31, 2007
All the same, a new year is as good a time as any to reflect on what one has accomplished and learnt throughout the year that has gone by. Some things that happened in 2007 that stood out for me:
1) Going to National Service on 1st Jan.
What a way to start the new year-leaving home for some ulu jungle place for 3 months supposedly for national integration but rather to waste time and money endlessly marching, getting eaten alive by insects, swinging on monkey bars and being fed patriotic sentiments. And a whole 3 months cut off from civilization, air-conditioning, the internet, pork!
The reality was quite different: we couldn't get out except on Sundays (for church, if you're Christian), we had long and tiring weekdays (5.30am-11+ pm), often the schedule was monotonous and boring, the uniforms were sweat-trapping, unfashionable and impractical for the sake of so-called modesty.
Yet there were many great memories, many people that I feel privileged to have met though I will not likely ever see them again. They taught me about contentment, about having a simple life, about the importance of family and about kindness. In the little bubble that was our NS camp, we formed alliances and friendships with people of different races, backgrounds and cultures that would have been only superficial in the outside world.
2) My grandmother passed away.
Even now, I don't know how to phrase that sentence properly. It happened during NS, I was not told until a day later-they made an announcement calling my name, and when I went to the office I was told "Nenek kamu sudah meninggal." Just like that. They thought I knew-how would I have known? It was the middle of the week, we don't have our handphones except at weekends, and I hadn't called home for a few days. I went home for about 4 or 5 days. It was a sad time, but not despairing knowing that she was now with Jesus and was finally free from the unceasing pain of terminal cancer. Having family and thoughtful friends nearby helped to alleviate the pain as well. Maybe it was good that I had to return to NS, always having something else to occupy my mind.
3) I had my first job.
How exciting it was to get a job! To finally feel useful after long weeks of doing nothing much around the house, sleeping half the day away and moaning to my long-suffering parents about how my life was utterly boring.
Two weeks in, and I start complaining how tiring it is to work six days a week. I dread going back to a stuffy air-conditionerless environment each day and do wonderfully challenging tasks such as photocopying a dictionary, cut-and-paste, check for grammar mistakes in workbooks and such.
One month in, I start working full-time. (before this it was only part-time: and even then I wasn't used to it) The hours tick by slooowly. There is actually a certain amount of satisfaction I get from each job done well, each minor crisis averted, each niggling problem solved. I get closer to my colleagues. I learned what office politics means (though in all fairness, there wasn't that much where I worked).
Best of all, I got my first paycheck! I'm worth every ringgit, baby;p
4) SPM and beyond.
The endless possibilities made me whip my head in every direction, sniff at every tree in the hope of finding the perfect path for my future. A decision had to be made that ruled out a thousand other alluring opportunities. Maturity is the acceptance of limitations. I read that in a book recently, and it struck me that that was one of the most important lessons I learned last year. That you cannot have everything or try everything. You have to balance between unrealistic motivational-speaker-style "You can do anything you put your mind to!" beliefs and the fact that you are only human. Unfortunately, its a lesson that keeps resurfacing again as I try to compromise somewhere between absurd ambition and my lazy self.
5) I got involved in church more.
Looking back, that was a turning point in my life. Sure, it was sometimes frustrating, it was humbling, it was time-consuming and self-doubt about my motivations often battered me - but it was so worth it. God does not ask anything of us without giving it back a thousandfold. What I contributed to starting up and working with the new youth group in my church was so little compared to what I gained from it - the friendship, the renewed sense of closeness to God, seeing the enthusiasm and passion that these people have to see my city-starting from the young people-won for Christ. Their love and the extent of their sacrifices to stay here and carry out the work God has given them inspires me. I only wish I can do the same. It was a struggle to know whether it was God's will for me to leave for Hong Kong or to stay and participate in building up our youth group. Even till now, I don't know if I can say for sure that I made the right decision, or just took my own path regardless. I guess my testimony in Hong Kong will prove it.
6) Leaving home.
How could I have been so eager and fearless to make that decision? If I had known how lonely I'd feel at times, how misunderstood, how stressed. But it's true that we grow through difficulty. Coming back for holidays, I consider everything so much more precious, every moment I spend with my friends and family is a breath of fresh air. They say it takes time to adjust to a new environment. Maybe for a loner it's easier. For someone who places great importance on relationships, well, those take time to build.
Perhaps I could have used this opportunity to draw closer to God, but I drifted away further - trying to fit in with everybody and live up to my own standards of perfection. With a new term and the hard part of adjusting in and 'finding your place' done with, I hope to be more like myself this term, and I think that would be best for everybody - to truly be themselves, not just the usual but the best that they can be.
They say going to college is when your bubble bursts - the little world of beliefs, standards, values and lifestyle that you and those around you follow is challenged. I didn't realise I had a bubble until it started to deflate. It doesn't feel safe to wander far - but in order to find the truth, we must be bold. Step out.
Despite everything, and because of everything - everything that life is going to throw at me, good and bad - I step out into 2008. Boldly.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
If only all pictures of me could only be seen at that resolution. Like the msn profile pic size, and not in it's horrendous, blown-up, billion megapixelled, merciless accuracy. Yes, I have a slight phobia of picture-taking. Not that you'd notice, from the way I brandish my (by today's standards) large camera and grab hold of people for snapshots at social gatherings. I live by the philosophy of probability: the more pics taken, the more likely there are going to be some that are half-decent where I don't look like some retard who's on a sugar high (and has been for some time, if you understand what I mean). As long as I'm the ONLY one with the camera. But when others have bad pictures of me and can use it for blackmailing purposes...eek...
This reminds me of some of the many witty one-liners in the play I've just finished performing (I played a supporting character), "Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land".
A: Isn't it beautiful? (Referring to a stage backdrop) From a distance, it looks like embroidery.
B: (Going closer to examine it) Up close, it looks like shit.
A: Well, that's life.
And it's this kind of offhand comment that really strikes us when we think about it (when we have too much time, like me now) - it's true! Our lives always look so neat, so on track when you look at it just cursorily. Step in for a closer look, and you'll notice the cracks in the wall, the missing bits and pieces, the wilted flowers of our little disappointments. But maybe you would see some things that brighten your heart too - a seed sprouting from the ground, a fresh coat of paint on the wall. We may be the frailest of creatures but we are not incapable of redemption, of reinvention.
'Please don't hang up. You needn't say anything more, I'm just afraid of being alone.' (It's a little old-2003 article-but I think the situation probably hasn't changed much since then, people still have the need to be affirmed as human beings, with value to their lives.)
Loneliness can kill-literally. To me, the example I've heard of the most is that of Japan, with the highest suicide rate in the world. The land which invented Toshiba, Toyota, Honda; conquered Southeast Asia, birthplace of anime and outrageous haircuts. Amidst the innovation, the isolation and depression. Souls dying while technology soars to new heights.
Getting a bit carried away, am I?
I'll just leave you to think about this quote from "Shall We Dance?" (originally a Japanese movie-surprise surprise) that I only heard once, but had such an imprint on me that I think of it sometimes, out of the blue.
"We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."
(It's a beautiful movie, full of subtlety and humour while exploring complex issues of love, passion, conformity, desire and many more. I highly recommend it. The dancing is also top-notch.)
I am so glad, so awed, that no matter what, I have more than just a witness to my life. I have a witness to my salvation, my eternal life. Whatever happens, however terrible things become, I am never bearing the burden alone. None of us are, if we only realise the truth. The thing is, we don't really need another person to notice our lives, though it makes life more pleasant. We only need to notice who's been there all along.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
We crave a life of pleasure, but our souls need a life of meaning.
Lately, there have been many...distractions. Leading me away from the essential. I forgot that my plans are not my own, and that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine.
This will be a short post. I'm tired and I know the search will be long. A path upwards from which I've gently, imperceptibly rolled down, carried by the weighted thoughts of each day in college. I know I will make it because I don't walk alone.
Turned on Hillsong United and had instant mood lift:D With renewed energy, I shall just quickly pen down a few mouldy (means, I've thought them more than once-it's sad sometimes how your original, quirky mind disappoints you and starts acting like a MP3 player stuck on replay) thoughts, so that I can now banish them from my mind:
1. Must must must finish Geography assignment, English Oral Commentary and Chem homework while in Ipoh.
2. If everyone knows that McDonald's minces bones, innards and other inedible parts together to make nuggets, why do they taste so meaty and even LOOK like proper chicken meat? Why is it so white then?
3. Life will always be hard if you choose to look at it that way.
4. Diam-diam ubi berisi. Every time.
5. Why are all the good ones taken? Or just plain uninterested?
6. Must update more often. Or else people will get bored and complain. Or they just won't come back. *Gasp*
OK that's all I can think of now. My prose had sadly fallen to pieces for, technically-inept person that I am, I mistakenly erased all the songs I downloaded *minor catastrophe*. Goodbye!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Is it ok if I feel down during Christmas dinner, and everyone else is happy?
That didn't exactly happen tonight, but something someone said (or rather, revealed) bit me, and I'm still looking at the wound and thinking, "What next?" Sometimes, there are no words to describe misunderstanding. Misinterpretation. Failure to make yourself understood, failure to be perfect, failure to be a model of what's right but being wrong, all wrong, totally irrevocably wrong.
That dislike, that scorn, the shaking of the head fills me with shame, digs a pit in that cannot be filled, a sucking black hole.
And yet, I ask myself, why? Why do I sometimes, so carelessly, make others feel this way when I know how its like myself? To know, and to have the fact jammed into your face, that you are not perfect (and never will be). That your lack of a firm, stubborn opinion will more often work against you than for you. No one wants a reed, only strong oaks.
And all I am left with are regrets and torn bits of paper and half-smiles and a longing for what could have been.
P/S: Sorry...rather confused and thrown off course at the moment. What if I am everything that is wrong, what if all my reasons are excuses, my answers lies? Can I face myself? I want to go home, I want to run...and I will go home, soon; but the life I lead here will resume once I come back, like taking an old coat off the hanger and wearing it again.
Oh bother. I need counselling. I need someone to tell me what to do. I need to not have a mind of my own, because all my decisions come out all wrong.
Friday, December 7, 2007
But there's another thing that's relevant about the roller-coaster analogy...things recur. Like the tracks that the roller-coaster roars on, however high you go or however fast you hurtle down, you can't get off and you can't change course.
In a sense, we can change the course of our lives. We do it every day, in every little decision that we make. But who controls the net result of our lives? What happens in Siberia when a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa?
The butterfly does not know how its actions may reverbrate through the earth. Similarly, I never thought that actions, words in the past would come back and bite me so nastily in the present. I am reminded once again that you can still make mistakes, huge personal mistakes, with the best intentions. Or at least with good intentions.
Today was a good-BAD-good-good day for me. Perhaps when you add it up together, they cancel out and it turns out to be nothing. So I felt nothing the whole day. But that's not true at all. Which just shows that Math is stupid. You can draw functions and calculate logarithms all you like, but you can never predict human nature.
(Boring Interjection about my real life, as opposed to the life of my mind)
Well...classes were interesting and I managed to proudly hand in my Economics commentary at the same time as others instead of taking the extension which I was granted because of the play I'm in (which has been, quite simply, my life for the last week or so). Goodness came also in the form of the end of United World Theatre (yes Yes YEs YES!) which I enjoyed much and learned much from. I don't think I can ever measure the amount of learning I receive from any one thing...some things come gradually. But now I can proudly say that I have been involved in a theatre production before:D
And also, I got the highest grade possible (a 7) for my English commentary, and thus for my English grade this term:D :D :D The teacher told me I should move back to higher level ("What are you doing at standard level?"), I can get a 7 there too. :D :D :D Pardon my shamelessness, but this was a real boost to my self-esteem, and I don't get that many here...
Which of course, is what I would love to do if only I could arrange my subjects in such a way that I could still attend English HL. WHY must there be only 2 classes for HL? And both those are taken already for me...
OH WELL. Life's like that, and I'm not going to try and manipulate my timetable anymore just so that I can have everything. I've inconvenienced people enough, it's time to grow up and learn to make the best out of things.
What else...oh, the other day in the shower I pondered the ultimate futility of teaching. Just think about it. Someone gives a speech to a 100 people, but each one goes away taking a slightly different message. Each day, we face dozens of misunderstandings: verbal, cultural, body language, mindset...
What's the point of education if each time you teach, the message goes further and further away from the truth, if there was ever a truth to begin with? And why do we think that our own way is always necessarily the best? Each way of doing a certain thing may be equally valid (says me).
It's pretty freaky to think that each time I open my mouth, the person receiving my words is getting a completely different image and interpretation from what I picture. Makes me want to check my words more...
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Thus, if you are in a lazy mood and just want something to cheer you up, just read part One! If you have nothing better to do, read Part Two as well!
My life is like a chocolate cake,
with very many flavours.
The base is solid, a foundation for all the richness piled on top-
and yet it is flaky, crumbles in your hand
slides down your throat with no complaint.
Above it, there is a thin layer of dark chocolate
which is sometimes called bitter chocolate (but I don't like that name).
It makes it sound like a necessarily bad thing,
while darkness holds the ambiguity of
horror - quietness
fear - peace
death - calm
and a creeping sense of beauty.
I have been acquainted with pure dark chocolate but a few times in my short life-
but each time it has changed me.
There is a large chunk of traditional cake in me as well...
or whatever you call a cake if it has no topping, no icing, no base,
only what is between the top and the bottom.
That airy fluffy part that keeps the taste of the rest from being too
intense, too dominant
I live in this region most of my waking hours,
going through repetitive motion like a cog on a wheel,
sometimes whizzing up to touch the top or the bottom.
And then there is the icing,
the sweetness that jumps and grabs you in delight
and the hope that the feeling never ends.
There are little sprinkles of icing in every day, for me-
but sometimes, they are so slight, or I am so immune
that I fail to notice it.
There are nuts, too, found randomly in this recipe of me-
the quirks, the oddities
that never go anywhere or mean anything much.
I am not a nut cake. Do not love me just for my nuttiness,
love all of me.
Don't take my nuts away.
Sometimes, I feel like the birthday cake laid out on the table
Hot wax candles stuck into me
Intense scrutiny, exaggerated care
admiration (but at who?)
A spray of saliva (disgusting habit)
and all is black.
And that's where I end my metaphor, for I am not then defeated.
I am an invincible cake!
You eat me today, I will resurface tomorrow!
And I am happy
to be who - and what
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
That you must, at all costs, be happy all the time. Because that's not real.
And if I am anything, I am real. I am flesh and blood and I feel insult as keenly (or more keenly) than a knife. I feel tiredness and I cannot sleep only 4 hours a night and still be fresh all day long. I can't take your lifestyle of last-minuteness and late-night socialising and sharing of deepest feelings with people I don't really know. I cannot break the tension in a group, though I wish I could. I feel like a follower trying to be a leader and failing; a duck trying to fly.
At this time, weirdly enough I remember the philosophy of the Yunnan Daytop Village For Drug Abuse, which I visited during my "AIDS Concern" trip to Kunming during China Week (which was a pretty tumultous time, come to think of it). It summarises my thoughts at this moment. Perhaps all of us, like these ex-drug users, need to be saved sometimes, and we shouldn't underestimate the power of thought and ideas to motivate us and pull us up at the time we need it the most.
"I am here, because there is no refuge, finally from myself, until I confront myself in the eyes and hearts of others, I am running, until I suffer them to share my secrets, I have no safety from them. Afraid to be known, I can know neither myself nor any other, I will be alone.
Where else but in our common ground can I find such a mirror? Here, together I can at least appear clearly to myself, not as the giant of my dreams, nor the dwarf of my fears, but as a person, part of the whole, with my share in it's purpose. In this ground we can take root and grow, not alone any more as in death, but alive to myself and to others."
-Philosophy of Daytop Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center, Yunnan, China
Monday, November 19, 2007
Then again, I might not want ALL of my thoughts broadcasted for all the world to see. Most of them would be so boring, to say the least.
But really, this is not what I meant to blog about.
At 10+ pm, when still finishing my Bio Lab and postponing the chance to blog then, I was thinking of how far I've drifted away from what I've always professed to be close to my heart. Where is my personal relationship with God now? Does He even have a say in my life? When He speaks, do I ever stop and listen? I am so wrapt, entrapt, bedazzled in my own cocooned world that I cannot see the sparkling possibilities and the deeper truths that He would reveal to me.
I haven't gone to church in 3 weeks at least. I often don't do devotion and when I do, it's so rushed and I'm so tired I have hardly any energy left to meditate on it. I say I'll pray for people but I only do it once or twice. My life is carved into such neat porportions so that there's a slice of time dedicated to everything that needs to be done: except time for God. Time to be quiet, and to stop pretending.
The scariest thing is, I never felt it. God must be being merciful - He has not withdrawn His grace from me. I am still extraordinarily blessed. He guides me and gives me peace each day, and meets all my needs and more. He answers prayer. It doesn't make sense, to be so good to this prodigal child.
Yes, in one sense it wasn't a drastic change. But there still is. The hardness of heart. The reluctance to care- truly care, not just "hey how are you" type of care. Slowly bending to the standards of those around me. The rock of truth never erodes, but who can say that about the fine sand of belief and ritual that we grip onto?
I fear becoming ineffective as a Christian, so watered down as to be tasteless, formless, gormless, useless. Maybe not so in the eyes of the world, but in the light of eternity. God help me. I don't want that.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you..."
The second thing I wanted to blog about (but now has lost some of its potency) was after going to a friend's midnight birthday party, and due to a tiny miniscule immaterial probably-nothing observation, feeling a twinge where there should have been none. Ok I know I make no sense. All there is to say is that there are so many sides to each person. And the more you see them the more the glamour fades, and they are revealed to you, warts and all....whole. You feel some disappointment (how can s/he actually do that?) - you had figured them out wrong. But then again, people are not mathematical equations. And if, like in The Matrix, everything can be reduced to lines of numbers, each person is going to need more RAM to represent them than all the available computer power in the world. You decide, after everything, not to judge. Because you're not omnipotent, and you don't know what's really going on. You just wish life was simpler, people either white or...white. Varying shades of white but never darker than grey. As for the truth of the matter...time will tell. Time will tell.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Despite everything going on around me; my family and friends and God and things to be done and deadlines to be met, my mind keeps circling back to the same thing: Should I or shouldn't I?
It's a very mundane issue and I've sought the advice of so many people. Dropping English A1 from Higher to Standard Level, and taking up Geography at Higher Level. That would mean dropping Biology from my schedule completely, but that isn't the issue here. If I dropped English, Bio would have to go because I then have 7 subjects and it would be pointless if I'm only going to take 6 subjects for the IB. And I'd only have 3 highers, 3 standards. Whereas if I keep my status quo, I'd have 4 highers, 2 standards.
The issue keeps revolving in my head. On one hand, I love love English. Why else did I take SPM English Literature, when it ate up an extra 2 1/2 hours outside class time each week, made me come back for holiday classes and read summaries of books till all the literary terms were spinning in my head? Because I connect with literature. It is useful, it is beautiful, it is instructive, it is uplifting and soul-shattering. Literature paints life and shows me so many colours of it I was blind to before.
English A1 Higher reads 15 books and does one more World Lit assignment (which is the one where you can be creative). English A1 Standard does 11 books but most everything else is the same.
But you ask, why do you want to take Geography, then? Isn't Geography the very subject you hated most during PMR? Wasn't your Geography teacher the most uninspiring teacher you had? (Not really, many vie for that honour, sadly.) Yes, all that is true, but things are different here! Geography is not just about maps and agricultural products and import/export. It talks about population, resources, development, poverty...so many important geographical issues in the world that affect people. And in UWC, where you mix with students from more than 80 countries, it's the best place to examine and understand the major current issues in our world and how we are connected to each other. There is also a science part to it, in case you're thinking it doesn't sound like Geography...it also studies things like drainage basins, litospheric atmospheres, arid environments, things like that. But all those can be useful as well to understand the way our world works, in a way that traditional sciences (Bio Chem Phys) tend not to cover in much detail.
Sooooo what should I do? Once I came here and learned that Geography was taught like this here (miles different from what I'm used to), I was excited about taking it. Still am but then, thought there's no chance cause my subjects clash. They still do, there's only that one way I can take it. I talked to the Academic Director yesterday (awesome guy): he clarified to me that there's really no difference in the way US universities would view a candidate based on A1 Higher or Standard, unless I wanted to take English Lit as a major (which I'm pretty sure I won't, due to lack of employment opportunities thereafter). UK is out of the question financial wise anyway, but I'm not planning to study law. In which case, my options are pretty open.
One more thing to consider: if I take Geog, I only have 3 highers, 3 standards which is the requirement (IB doesn't actually encourage people to take more than this, but some people do). Quite a few (I'd estimate half) the people in my first year are doing 4 highers and 3 standards. However only 3 or 4 are doing that in the second year, so most people drop before the examinations. Still, taking the old combo (4 highers, 2 standards) would give me some level of security that in case I want to drop any of my highers, I can still fulfill the basic requirement. But perhaps that's not the best way of thinking...when I have settled on the subjects I want, I don't want to give up on any of them.
So, that's my quandary in a nutshell. Views and comments much appreciated!
Saturday, November 10, 2007
What do you think of when you see a writer hard at work, bent over his or her notepad or laptop, steaming cup of coffee in hand's reach, brows furrowed in concentration? For me, I think of pouring, of channeling all the complexities of one's imagination into something that can be expressed with 26 characters on ink and paper. Do you ever have that magical feeling when reading a really good book, that the writer is speaking to you at that very moment and revealing to you a whole new aspect of life?
Imagine being the one to create something like that. To open new horizons in a child's mind, somewhere across the country or world and across decades. To live forever in print, the force of your personality and thoughts expressed echoing down the ages. The words you write today may change someone's life tomorrow.
Perhaps its an impossibly romantic idea, but I find it very fascinating.
Can writing over a whole lifetime be compared to steamboat on a slow boil? When you begin, there's not much vegetables and meat put into it - the soup is tasteless and watery. It fills the stomach but does not satisfy. Time passes and more things are added to the pot - vegetables and mushrooms and beef and chicken and fish and so much more. Each item bubbles and splashes a little as you put them in. And as these different ingredients simmer and infuse their unique aroma and taste into the soup; it makes it richer, thicker. It is mysterious because there is no single thing that caused it to become the way it is but a little bit of every part. At the end of the meal, even when all the food has been taken and eaten, the soup still remains and when sipped slowly, it is the tastiest part of the whole gastronomic experience.
Lately, I've been feeling like I'M being put on the slow boil...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
In a forest at dawn
Fair while the mockingbird sings,
but she soon lifts her wings
And the music is gone
Young lovers in the tall grass with their hearts open wide
When the red summer poppies bloom
But love is a trackless domain and the rumor of rain
In the late afternoon
-Tanglewood Tree, Dave Carter
He pulled on his cup of tea, he nursed it, he smothered it in leathery hands. And in his mind he played the same question over and over again like a child's wail: "Why did she go? Why did she leave me? So alone, so alone, so alone..."
The night would last forever, all nights did and by the time the weak sunlight pushed through his window-blinds he would be exhausted, not having moved an inch in his hard oak chair or slept even for a wink.
But tonight, tonight was the worst kind: the storm crashing outside, wind howling like a scene from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He destested the clichedness of the whole situation but was powerless to fight the rolling waves of emotions that engulfed him.
He would close his eyes, but sometimes that made it worse. She would be back; fire burning his dull pupils and turning them into ash. Her smile would cut him into a thousand pieces. And he would recall her smell: undescribable but reminiscent of fresh clothes and lilac blooms. It would never fail to calm him down when he was upset about the condition at the store or the unreasonable demands of his employer.
She was a shooting star blazing bright in the sky, as dazzling as it was distant. And he was no more than earth, the ground from which we rise and eventually fall back to, red dust returning to red dust.
P/S: Sorry for the infrequent posts lately...each time I start I never get to finish because there's always one commitment or another to run to. Hope you enjoyed this and remember to comment!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Think about that for a moment...
And everybody, of course, includes me and you.
When I came to a new place to study, unconsciously I wanted to be exceptional at everything. I wanted to have my studies well under control, great fun rollicking deep meaningful relationships with many friends (and cultural diversity!), opportunities for learning and developing character...in short, to live the perfect life.
I can tell you: life doesn't just happen that way. If I couldn't do sports in the first place, I won't magically become a Michael Jordan just because you move to a more sporty environment. If I loathed Additional Math in Form 5, why should I torture myself with its equavalent in college? If I've always been more of a one-to-one or small group conversation style person, should I expect to become the life of the party all of a sudden?
And then you realise that you are weaker, more vulnerable than you had imagined; the concrete walls of your ego crumble like dry grass under the assault of your new mannequin-perfect (yet adorably human!) peers.
But by coming here, I definitely did learn some new things. On respecting people. On tolerating differences. On managing my time (or trying to). On managing stress. On making the most out of every moment.
On loving myself for who I am because there is One who loves me more than I can ever imagine. (It's still a work in progress, though, and the pressure to conform and act a certain way in order to gain approval is always there. But then again, there is that pressure everywhere...)
On learning how to live (and yes, even thrive!) without constant attention, care and approval from man.
On being content with what I have, where I am, my body and mind and spirit and personality. I think this is the hardest part.
No matter how successful you are, there is going to be someone who's better than you. Who's got their act tight and well-done while you're still trying to tie those damn knots together in any fashion that will keep it together. And a minute later, it falls apart...
So, what have I learned about (not) being the exception? That at some point you must let go of it and just enjoy yourself and instead of envying others their gifts, just admire and learn what you can from them. It helps to change from an adversarial "me against the mean world" mindset and instead think of how best we can relate to each other. Reminds me of the sermon at the church I went to last week said (I'm still choosing a church in Hong Kong):
‘If your father and mother, your sister and brother, if the very cat and dog in the house, are not happier for you being a Christian, it is a question whether you really are a Christian.’
–Hudson Taylor 19th c. missionary to China
Saturday, October 20, 2007
The last few days-okay, last few weekends-have all passed in a blur. You walk and talk and go out a bit and suddenly, the weekend is gone and it gets back to the school routine. It seems like it never changes but actually, its changing all the time. Your relationships with people, getting closer or more distant; your perceptions, your ideals, other people's perceptions of you. The process is almost like a lava lamp, gradual and rather hypnotic. But you can't be the one observing it when you're the liquid within.
I keep wondering (though it would be easier if I just let go) what will I be, when the dust settles and my form becomes evident...
Insecurity flows into trying too hard flows into what am I, really? into a deep settledness, and calmness, knowing that whatever I am or whoever I become....
I am safe. I am sheltered, under His wing, in His mighty hand.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
How many times, just in one day, do I completely flout this command?
"Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." - 1 Peter 3:9
When I read that verse yesterday night before I went to sleep last night, I did feel a twinge I think but I was almost going to sleep, drowsy; so I didn't think much of it.
Now, when I read it again, it strikes me that its the sort of thing I agree with totally on principle, but never follow.
I'm not trying to lay the blame on others, but in our society (especially adolescent society) there is a tendency to exchange insults and curses in a seemingly casual manner. However, to compliment a person genuinely is considered unusual, sometimes people even doubt your intentions in doing so. Through this kind of environment, I learned to believe that trading insults, striking before being provoked and being sarcastic as long as it's funny is ok.
More and more so I'm seeing that it's not. Perhaps it was still alright back home, when people knew me well and understood my intentions, but I believe that I've become in some ways more prickly than I used to be. Here, I can be two people in one body at the same time: one, TP with the sarcasm and big laugh; or TP with the kind smile and comforting words and helpfulness personified. But sometimes even that can be wrongly interpreted as fake.
I am not being what I want to be, what I want to be remembered for. Why did I come, was it just to learn in more depth the ways of the world and how to play the "game"? If so, then everything is just twisted. I want more than that. I want more than just leadership positions, sevens, friends, intellectual development...although all those play a part. I want to learn how to relate properly to other people. The way we are meant to.
Practising the Bible's truth can sometimes be so hard. It means shutting up my mouth just when I'd want to say something irresistable and speaking up when necessary to build someone up. But hey, this was never called the easy road, only the one which leads to an eternal, unbelievably wonderful reward in the future.
"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."
-Psalm 34: 11-14
Monday, October 15, 2007
Come to think of it, I've never handled a condom before...ever.
So what was I doing, on Sunday, sticking condom packs on passersby, soliciting donations, dancing down the street with a transparent square money-box in my hands?
Isn't it obvious? It's Lan Kwai Fong AIDS Carnival!
What we did:
-Dress up in black, some of us had wigs on and one guy had his whole upper-body painted (lots of people wanted pictures)
-Go around the carnival; dancing, asking people to donate to the charity that our school's AIDS-related CAS group, TeenAIDers cooperates with (which is how we got a chance to volunteer and be a part of the carnival)
-Stick condoms on people (they were attached to a sticker) and give them free AIDSconcern inflatable bracelets
It was a great event, being involved in something meaningful and having a blast, getting to know my college-mates better. Not to mention being able to take back as many condoms to the college as we wanted:P (We took about 150 and distributed them to everyone)
Personally, I think this is a good way to create awareness on AIDS and the need for protection from STIs. Whether one chooses to be abstinent or not is up to them, but each person should have the right to this information that could save their life.
Oh, and I bought a genuine limited-edition FCUK t-shirt. The tagline? "FCUK SAFELY".
P/S: Just in case you think that we did this activity without any meaningful purpose besides fun (which of course you wouldn't), AIDSconcern actually conducts "targeted outreach prevention for vulnerable groups" and "supports those living with HIV/AIDS". It's a very worthy cause and their volunteers were so hard-working. If you're interested, take a look at their website.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
She comes, every calm-weather day, without fail, brightening my window view at 5.15 pm precisely. She doesn’t do anything there besides sit and grip the ropes tightly, staring into blankness with an expression I cannot discern. Around 6 she rises abruptly and walks away without a glance. The swing-chair rocks back and forth as though wooing her back. No worry, she will be back tomorrow.
I was not the only one who noticed this oddity. “What, is that Punjabi girl sitting out there again?” my mother would ask exasperatedly. Why should it bother you if she does? “Young people shouldn’t moon about, doing nothing. Its not natural! She should occupy her time with better things. Besides, her mother would be worried about her.”
As for me, during the lazy hot evenings when I’m feeling drowsy and disinclined to do my homework, I watch and wonder about her. What’s her story? Why does she come here everyday? She doesn’t even look like she’s enjoying herself. It must be really boring to just sit on that swing every day. Not much view to look at, just a scrawny playground opposite originally-white-but-age-blackened terrace houses. I had a theory that her mind wasn’t really on her surroundings, though.
What would it be like to talk to her? I often wondered but never dared try. It would have been so easy; just down the stairs, out the door and walk over to the swing and say “Hi”. But I just had the feeling that it was not my place to disturb her solitude.
That girl in the window is staring at me again. She thinks that I don’t know, that I can’t see her occasionally peeking down at me with curious eyes. I intrigue her. And I think I’ll let that stay.
I haven’t met anyone who can hold thoughts and feelings so tightly within themselves as I can; or if I have, they are able to contain it so well that I never noticed any wrongness ever at all. My face is emotionless; I do not cry easily nor get angry. And when I’m sad, my face turns to stone completely. Perhaps this abnormality of mine is what makes people keep their distance.
I don’t think much when I am at the swing. I’ve been going for 2 years now, just waiting, waiting, without hope and yet helpless to stop. He said he would come, he promised he would. My father, who left me to try his luck in the city. To make sure I don’t become like him, he said. And the only answer to my asking when he would return was a vague, “soon”.
I’m not even sure whether he’s alive anymore. Life is dangerous in the city. I don’t live with my aunt anymore, things aren’t that good between us and my father won’t be able to find me there. But he might remember this playground, this place. We once lived near here, when mother was around and life was happier, and the best memory I have of us is being pushed on the swing by my father; back, forth, back, forth. A soothing, rhythmic repetition that summed up our life: our safe, secure and wonderful life.
I come here because…actually, I cannot put it in words, but if I am truly his daughter, he should know he can find me here. He always said I put too much trust in the intangible, that I needed a better grip on the harsh realities of life.
I’ve seen them, and I’m sick of them.
I wonder if that girl, someday, might come down and talk to me. It’s not that interesting sitting here alone, immersed in the prison of your past and not being able to leave it behind. She might be able to make it better.
Like all other desires in life, sometimes we can only dream…
Monday, October 8, 2007
Have you ever heard the platitude, "When God closes a door, He opens a window?"
Lately, there's been a lot of doors He's been closing to me. Sometimes I look out at the path wistfully and dream of setting out on it- making plans and foolish hopes- and when I look back at Him, He shakes His head. No. There are better things I have in store for you, my child.
I know He's right, but that doesn't mean my heart doesn't sink...a little. Like a sweet taken from a child. Would You deny me some extra joy in my life, Father?
But then I remember Matthew 7:11:
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
He does not withhold out of spite, out of stinginess, or any of the usual reasons that we hold our prized possessions to ourself. Rather, if doors are closing, there must be a good reason for it.
Lord, open a window for me please, that I do not suffocate in here. And if that is not possible, may you give me the grace to be patient and know that Your plans for me are ultimately good.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
I came to visit my blog and HELLO what do I find?
My blog template is no more! At least my beautiful theme-appropriate header, which I had chosen to fit my blog address, was gone and replaced by some ugly pixellated message saying that "the image requested is not hosted on photobucket (or imageshack, some other site, don't remember) anymore". And it dared advertise, saying to go to that website for more free images!!
Thus came 2 hours of hard work looking for a nice suitable non-zip-file blog template to put on my blog. Alas, that search brought only pitiful findings (=none that I was happy with) so I had to resign myself to using one of blogspot's boring templates.
Seriously, all this hassle is not good for my artistic writer temperament. And I've got homework to do!
(Note: This post is also an overt hint to any die-hard fans of this blog to HELP ME find a nicer blog template that can be applied to this blog. But anyways, my ranting will only last this one blog entry, I promise, and then I shall return to my usual tranquil self. I hope.)
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
It seeped through the doors and dully reverbrated in my eardrums.
Followed by a frenetic knocking at the door: "Wake up! Wake up!"
I tried to get back to sleep (it was ONLY 8am) and hoped futilely that the music would soon stop.
Alas, those degenerates were wilier than that. Most people gave up the fight for a few more minutes of precious slumber and stumbled blearily, cursing, towards the washroom.
I swayed to the beat of the song still booming in the corridors while brushing my teeth.
It's COP day.
What is COP day? Definition: Change Of Pace Day. According to my college website it says that "Change of Pace" (COP) days combine presentations and discussion with recreation and evening social activities.The topic of our very first COP (lasting a marathon 6 1/2 hours including lunch-replaces a whole schooling day) is SEX.
Well, it was, but so LONG. Sometimes I feel like we're talking about it just for the sake of talking, just to be able to say that "yeah, we brought up the issue of sex with the students, we are an open-minded discursive community". So much of it was presentation after presentation (STI, biological explanation about sex, common sex myths, condom usage, where to turn to for help, different sexual orientations) and only a short while for discussion in which no one really lets down their guard completely.
Let's face it. There's something about sex that makes us shy away from discussing it in public, in a formal setting. There's too many implications that could be taken the wrong way and cause others to form negative opinions of you. One of the aspects that distinguish man from animals: the shame, the privacy, the taboo-ness on sex.
Some parts of it were fun as well. Biological presentation had some funny parts inserted (collage of American leaders gesturing with their forefinger and thumb a small distance apart and a text bubble saying "How big?") , the one on sexual orientation (where a gay, a lesbian and a bisexual spoke) was enlightening and the very last presentation on "The Joys of Sex" was plain funny. They wanted to end it on a happy note, and I believe they succeeded.
Here it comes to the random thoughts part:
1) Lately I've been wondering off and on, what do I really want to achieve here? What is my priority? Blaze of academic glory? Lifelong friends and rich social life, popularity? Deeper understanding of self? Deeper walk with God?
Of course, I would love to have every one of them. But sometimes you can't do everything and a choice must be made between two different things that both mean a lot to you. If I don't have priorities and put all of these on an equal standing, what happens when it all clashes and clamours for my attention?
2) When will I truly love this place? I can see people swimming and frolicking in the water already and I'm still only half-wet, not completely at home with this environment. Is it okay? Do I need to let go of my wistful thoughts of home in order to fully enjoy each bit of my two years here?
And so it goes. Interspersed with thoughts of "what to do next?", "get laundry!", "hmm, he's kinda cute when he smiles..." and so on.
That's all for now. But if by deep cogitation, you come up with any good answers to my questions, do let me know. Then I can finally focus on Biology, which I should be studying now.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
How many times do I need to say this until it becomes a phrase without any meaning, a random stringing together of syllables, until it loses its potency and its bare-faced truth?
I don't want to be uncertain. I don't want to feel the solid ground beneath my feet shaking and trembling in anticipation of an earthquake that will turn my world upside-down and sideways. I want to pretend I'm not confused. I want to look like everything's fine and dandy, and heartily believe it too.
But, the truth is, I am unsure. I'm wondering how much of my faith in God was borrowed and assimilated from the surrounding Christian environment, and how much is truly in me. How deep my roots are if I don't even protest when people take His name in vain. When I find His word remote and the everyday business of my little world so much more arresting and real. How I can live a life of holiness when there is so much sin happening around me- tolerated, gossiped about, even approved.
Is this the real challenge I have taken on by coming to college abroad, then? Not just the demanding academic programme, the diverse multinational and multicultural environment, the community service and whole-person development focus, becoming more independent...but rather, learning each day how to live my life following Him and rejecting whatever is not of Him. Not to bow to peer pressure and mindlessly follow the fashions of the world and specifically, my generation. Living together, yet set apart.
That in itself would not be so hard if mixing around with people from different backgrounds and personalities, self-discovery and making a new start by attempting to know and connect with as many people here as possible were not some of the strong reasons I came here. Where do you draw the line with your peers? How much should my decisions on what to do and who I mix with deviate from my personality, my beliefs even; in the name (or excuse) of discovery and exploration?
And as for everyone who professes themselves proudly as Christians:
It's not the cross on your neck that makes you a Christian, it's the cross on your back.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
-1 Corinthians 13:12
Close my eyes and hold my heart
Cover me and make me something
Turn my something normal
Into something beautiful
-"Something Beautiful", Jars of Clay
Ever since I understood the fact that all people are not born with equal talents and abilities, I have had the desire to be extraordinary. To be the best linguist, mathematicist, scientist, poet or author. To run the fastest or jump the longest or even pull the hardest. To be beautiful and graceful without effort. To be a genius. To walk on water when others had to swim or take a boat.
Life is wise enough not to give me all that I wish for, or else I wouldn't be here writing this now. But how often we have to dash against the rocks before we realise that we have limitations? That there is no shame in admitting failure, if you would use it as a stepping stone to better pursuits...
And then, after failing to meet one's expectations, one has the hardest fall to mediocrity. I am devastatingly normal, a yellow-brown leaf in the park in autumn. You could say each leaf is special, none like the other, etc. Who cares?! They're just dried leaves, nothing to look at. Nothing special.
Yet because of the oft-labelled resilient spirit of man, we rise again and try to take on those same rocks of challenge to prove our worth to....ourselves? A world that is busy admiring itself? Desperately wanting to show, "I am not just another yellow-brown leaf."
Is there any end to it?
The only alternative I can think of is to go back to the source, and know that even as our imperfect knowledge casts a shadow our mind; our short-sighted souls cannot grasp how infinitely more important, more solid and more distinctive each one of us is.
What am I then? A yellow-brown leaf, not a stretch to compare me then to a patch of mud? The clay cannot see the whole picture, it does not know how to shape itself. Take me then, potter, saviour, and shape me into something special. Something beautiful.
(Originally written on 26 September but because of image loading problem, did not get to upload it until now.)
Friday, September 21, 2007
And besides the obvious benefits of exercise, the joy of burning calories, and endorphins...
I feel so unfit! Gravity pulls me ever towards the bed and the canteen, and the effects are showing. I wonder how much I weigh now? Then again, it might be better not to have a weighing scale here in case I become obsessive about it.
I feel so uncoordinated! I tripped over the football - twice. Once during warm-up and the other time during the game. And my team was the weakest - because most of us are newcomers to the game I guess. Should I make a new goal of being able to kick a football decently by the end of this term? Hehe. Can wow everyone when I come back - till I fall over the ball while gloating.
I feel so flabby! During yoga ( which is not an easy exercise, contrary to my assumption) where you have to hold certain positions, I felt a considerable amount of muscle ache in various parts of my body. For some reason at that point I was thinking of 'build up of lactic acid in my muscles are causing them to scream at my pain sensors right now'. Hmm, learning Biology does have its benefits.
Really sounds like exercise is not good for my self-esteem is it?
However, if I ever want to get more healthy and fit, I have to put more time and effort into exercising. I'll do my best to meet that challenge (though I've never thought of myself as a gym freak...that would take a great amount of self-delusion) and TRY to keep up an acceptable level of fitness.
Anyone up for a jog?
(P/S: Hong Kong weather is terribly hot right now, I think I sweated enough to cook rice for a family of four. Really!)
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I wake up to worry and thoughts and lists of things to do and I saddle them on my back to last till the day ends and I drop, worn-out, into the bed again.
I am plagued with the vision of perfection and taunted by the shadow of insecurity and fragile self-esteem. I am surrounded by intelligent people and I can't tune into their channel. I cannot talk like I don't care because I do...more than you can imagine. So I remain silent, all the while bursting inside to talk to the person next to me.
Nothing I write is good enough, I can't solve the sum. I can't do this equation. I'm just not as smart. I admit defeat.
And maybe, in that desperate, weary yet defiant confession: I will find redemption.
I will survive, and tell the tale, and be a wiser, kinder person for it.
Be still my galloping thoughts....I need to sleep now.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I mean, of course it's interesting to think about. To a certain extent. But sometimes you get so bored of it. "It's just a NUMBER!!!"
As you can see, I'm not all that fond of zeros now. We should ban zeros.
Anyway, this is not what I meant to talk about. I wanted to talk about the last *event* I had today, after having dinner with roommates outside college (in big bustling Hong Kong), which was to watch an Israeli film called "Walk on Water". Actually we were supposed to watch "The Bubble" which got an award at the Torino International Film Festival. One of those thinking movies. But "Walk on Water" did not disappoint either.
Sidetrack: This is what I really came to this college for, the multi-culturalism and diversity. The main characters in the show are an Israeli assasin and the descendants of a German Nazi general. Here, we really have Germans, Israelis, Palestinians, Italians and so forth watching this movie together. Where else would I get this opportunity? Even to watch an Israeli film, that's a first for me I think. Unless I watched one without realising it.
The story is one of those slllloooooooowwwww moving types and it doesn't really make you laugh or cry or anything. The morality in it is rather ambiguous, you find the assasin actually being redeemed and not murdering the old Nazi. Rather the old Nazi is murdered by his own grandson (by turning off the oxygen tank) possibly because the grandson who was befriended by the assasin-in-disguise is a pro-peace, gay kindergarten teacher who is disgusted with his family background.
But still? Turning off the oxygen on your weak bedridden grandfather? No matter what he did before, that still makes me uneasy.
Here's a link to a review and some better summaries.
Some parts, like the one where Axel (the grandson) replies to a question from the assasin/tour guide (Elay) about what's it like growing up in Germany and learning about World War 2 and what happened, he said: "We don't really talk about it. It's something that is never mentioned and I don't talk about it either because...it would make me feel...stupid."
That was not exactly what he said, but the way he didn't have any nice-sounding answers, the way he didn't try to simplify a very hard issue, felt real.
Oh another quote (the Zen-sounding part) when Axel was in Israel at the Sea of Galilee:
Axel Himmelman: [tries to walk on the sea and falls in]
Eyal: [sarcastically] Bravo. You did it.
Axel Himmelman: You don't understand. You can't just come to the Sea of Galilee and start walking on water. If you could, everybody would be doing it. You need to prepare yourself.
Eyal: And how would you do that? Please enlighten me.
Axel Himmelman: Well, you need to completely purify yourself. Your heart needs to be like it's clean from the inside: no negativity, no bad thoughts.
Eyal: And then?
Axel Himmelman: And then you can walk on water. I'm sure of it.
Complete baloney, but sounds nice:)
If you're interested (or confused by my haphazhard writing), here's a complete summary of the plot.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
In other news, tehpuller is, if not always happy-bouncy-cheerful, contented. I realise that its really hard to be contented actually. It starts from when we are toddlers even: we build a sandcastle in the sandbox and look with pride on our slightly-crooked but endearing creation, then we shift our gaze to the one next to us and behold in awe the mighty castle with turrets and windows and proper roofs and moat and little flags made by another toddler. When you look back at what you've made, it seems so unappealing and less valuable now.
Strange that certain conceptions are hard to let go of. That Science students are better than Arts. That to be somebody we have to be known by everyone and have many friends, be a great all-rounder, and do well in everything. That its better to take the safe option even if you don't like it, rather than be sorry later on. That despite all evidence to the contrary (from your past behaviour and interests) your personality and appearance will suddenly change and you'll become attractive to everyone.
A more realistic idea of the world and how we develop is that of a potter or carpenter carefully designing, shaping, making minute adjustments here and there to their precious creation rathere than the flashy wand of a magician which goes POOOFF! and there you are, whole and complete and perfect. And to accept that everyone has faults and no one can be good at everything. And that yes, some people will do better than you in many things but that it really doesn't matter. We are called to account for our own lives and what we have achieved with our talents and abilities. Not those of others. So why care so much?
Now, I am doing my best to figure out what's important and not important that I achieve in these two years of my life in college. I don't want to get so caught up in the here-and-now and the unneccessary things that I miss out on the bigger picture. Life is about balance, and I realise that it's something that needs to be decided on every day in how we spend our time and what we do and who we do it with.
Throw me the balancing pole then, I'm ready to go for it!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
She's out today. Mad Grump is residing now and you'd better watch out.
Today has been a good day and not such a good day at the same time. Good is meeting my aunt and uncle, having nice food, buying new clothes, etc. Bad is:
- Finding out the long long post I wrote here yesterday was not posted for some reason and now is lost;
- Having a cold that gives me a runny nose and made me feel tired and sore all day;
- Just having to fish out my contact lens cover from the SINK which was a gross and desperate process but eventually I got it out anyway. By using fingers + scissors I found in the washroom. I even unscrewed the bottom of the sink, do you know that plastic spoons and forks can fall into there? Neither did I till I opened it. It's such a twisted coincidence that the sink hole is just a little bigger than my contact lens cover and perfect to fall in and yet long enough so that I can't reach in and get it. It was actually STUCK halfway down the pipe. Washed my hands a gazillion times after that but I still don't feel clean. I feel like I'm contaminating everything I touch.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
But since I've just moved to a new place and people are wondering how things are going on here, I might as well do my updates here. Since mostly people I know read this blog anyway. (unless there are ghost readers who don't comment!)
Sunday 2nd Sept
- Moved in. Met roommates, introduced to many people and then promptly forgot their names but usually remembered which country they're from.
- Watched the welcoming ceremony where there were performances in the college courtyard.
- Had tutor meeting which is basically a small group which you'll get to know better and discuss things with all throughout your second years. I guess it creates more intimacy between students and also their tutors. Mine is nice, his name is Beta! Yes, the symbol. Later on we'll actually go out for dinner with our tutor groups and Beta always goes to different places, he says. Yummmm!
- House party, which was NOT a party. Just introduced everyone in house then check in (need to check in every night) and then people just started talking and eating snacks. Nothing much, unlike other houses where they had games.
Monday, 3rd Sept
- Lots and LOTS of presentations about our CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) components and the services we can take in college. Just the presentations alone took 3 hours so you can imagine how many we have.
- Alcohol awareness presentation. Discussion bout consuming alcohol (personal decision, but its illegal under 18 in HK) cannot on school grounds and so forth.
- I had a pressing headache then (couldn't tahan adi the night before quite little sleep plus my usual sluggard life has 10 hours sleep a day)
- Flea market after dinner (which I skipped to rest) and I bought 75 HKD worth of thingamajigies like files, a basket for toiletries etc. Didn't manage to get curtains though cos they were snapped up pretty quickly.
- Jazz Night. A once-in-a-while thing that they have, with performances and dance, even, in the canteen for all the college to watch. Was quite entertaining though the PA system could have been better. Things like modern dance, Chinese flute, Chinese song, guitar and English songs, Spanish songs with African drums, things like that.
Today 4th Sept
- Information session
- Again, lots and lots of information about courses we are going to take and we went to different classrooms, listening to what the teachers had to say about their subjects.
- Made bank account with Hang Seng Bank here. Apparently, its a subsidiary of HSBC Bank! I didn't know that HSBC is actually a Hong Kong/Shanghai company.
- BBQ lunch. Really nice food! Crowded, busy area - I think I'll have to get used to that -but everyone's getting to know each other, if only on the superficial level. At least a bit. Groups congregate and sometimes I feel weird to approach one...but well, boldness must start with a single step and the first Hi!
- Went to Peak Tram and to watch the Light Show at the Harbour this afternoon and night. Was quite nice except that I had seen it once before and somehow big tall buildings all jammed together don't inspire me very much now. I'm getting sick of Hong Kong after only a week plus here. Brilliante.
- Meeting with Student Committee
- Common room party; with the usual moshing, loud music, grinding, people playing snooker or lounging around, and a couple of people standing around doing nothing or trying (note trying) to talk above the noise. Left after a while, nothing much for me there. I'll dance when I'm comfortable, and now isn't the time.
Then, back to the room and here for the report!
There are so many more things that I would like to explain, further explore...but it's getting late - past my personally-scheduled bedtime actually - and maybe I'll talk about it later. About the strange feelings that I go through a million times a day now and my own observations. Of myself and others. But for now, goodbye from beautiful Hong Kong!
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Yes, this is what I'm feeling some of the time here. I'm assured it's normal. It would be great, though, not to be normal, wouldn't it? To be able to whoosh in here and be settled in almost immediately. It's probably not best to pressure myself to fit in right away though. But...I can see people trying so hard and it's harder not to do the same. To prove myself. To establish my identity, my friends, my clique...to not have to explain so much.
Another thing that I thought of yesterday as I was drifting into sleep was, I am not here, in a really 'authentic' international, pretty exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime college with a global peace mission initiative even (what else can any idealistic teenager on brink of adulthood blablabla wish for?) to broaden my horizons. It may seem surprising but my horizons are already as broad as the universe and beyond. At least as broad as not ruling out anything that can possibly be achieved in this world. Now is the time to fill in the details, to sharpen the strokes, to colour it in with the most vivid, exciting, wild and interesting pictures and images that I experience.
We each carry the map of our own universe in our heads, and I get the feeling that mine's going to get quite a bit bigger...
*Note: This blog post was written in three different intervals before publishing. That's how fragmented/busy my schedule for this week is! I desperately need a Malaysian...wahh...oh nevermind I chose this myself.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
After reading so many “Young Malaysian” columns in The Star of varying quality, here’s my own say in the matter on the Golden Jubilee of dear Peninsula Malaya (it’s not really Malaysia’s birthday, right?)
“My family…well, we’re an unusual family. I don’t expect you to understand. We’re very different in many ways and we even come from different cultures and backgrounds. We like different types of food and even have different beliefs and traditions. With all this, how can we still live as a family, you ask?”
“It’s a long story that has not really told itself into a neat ending yet. We haven’t been together long enough to really settle into roles that we are comfortable with. At present we’re having an uneasy, fragile truce that They-the Big Men- tell us we can’t talk or ask questions about. They’re afraid that some members might revolt against the status quo and upset the delicate harmony –the yin yang- of our family.”
“Personally, I’m not sure how that works. How strong can our family bonds be if we’re not even willing to iron out problematic issues in a reasonable way? If we aren’t open with our wants and needs, our dreams and hopes for the future; how can we be sure we’re all moving in the same direction together?”
“We’re a nice and loving family from the outside; we like to dress up on special occasions so that other families can admire our diversity and showy monuments and great-tasting food. We hope they won’t look at our perfect picture too closely and see the cracks in our smiles, the ennui in our eyes at hearing the endless empty promises, insensitive comments and grandiose pronouncements of our family’s elected spokespeople.”
“Change things, you say? Well, it isn’t that easy. Sad to say, not everyone’s working for the good of the family. The young and eager who want to often find obstacles in their way, put by those very people who have pledged to uphold the interests of this family. Inefficiency, complacency and corruption in our family is rampant – so much so that some members have disowned us and sought happiness in other families.”
“As a family, we’ve come this far – 50 years we’ve governed ourselves independently and sought a name and place for ourselves amongst greater, stronger powers. So far, I think we’ve done well in material terms. We could do much better, though. We’ve not had much obvious open antagonism erupting into violence for the last 38 years – but is that all we should aspire for? Amidst all our birthday celebrations, this is one of many serious questions we should ponder and decide on together.”
“What does Malaysia – my homeland- mean to me, you ask? Just as I have been saying all along! It’s my family; the bonds that tie are hard to break. And if you believe, as I do, that we are born where we are, who we are for a reason – then, you will know that each one of us is meant to make a difference in our own little corner of the world.”
“Happy birthday to you, Malaysia! All I can give you now is a prayer that this family will keep growing in the right direction and carefully, painstakingly correct the deep-rooted mistakes that we have made along the way. My other prayer is that, if God wills, I may be a part of those who have the same vision to change that far-off dream into concrete reality.”
Thursday, August 30, 2007
In Hong Kong, there are many subways, trains, buses, trams and walkers. Generally, everywhere you go there are lots of people. This is a big change for me from sleepy XX but I'm surprised at how fast I get used to it. It does facilitate one of my favourite hobbies though...people-watching. Granted, Chinese people in general are not an attractive race. It's true! Chinese are the most pragmatic people in the world. They breed hardiness, hardworking-ness, frugality and good business sense. Beauty never gets you anywhere (nowadays with the popularity of models and actresses, though, things may be a bit different). As my grandmother once said, "What do you want a good-looking husband for? To display on the shelf?"
All the same, people on the trains are not very interesting. They are on standby mode most of the time. Sleeping, cuddling (if they're a couple), tapping away at their PDAs, reading comics, staring into space. Like they'd rather be somewhere else. I wonder if some of these people have ever sat in their own car before. Most likely not if they were born and lived all their lives here. It's too expensive for the average Ah Fook to own a car. Reminds me that I'm lucky to have grown up in a place where single- or double-storey houses are the norm, where food is cheap and less people smoke, where there's food from a few different cultures available at 15 minutes drive from my house.
Makes me miss home a little.
I should sleep now. It's getting late and a little cold. Will Hong Kong seem colder to me when my family has gone home, my relatives are on the opposite side of the island, when I'm sleeping in my dorm bed with only my beanie dog for comfort? I don't know. But it's better to take it one day at a time, no?
Monday, August 27, 2007
To get back to the food metaphor, I’ve been here in XX for about 3 quarters of a year since I left school; I have friends who will be entering university next February as they had taken a one-year pre-university course. I’ll only be halfway through my first year of college. And college takes two years. I am definitely not speeding up the freeway to adulthold, independence, a single apartment and bills. Sometimes during these few months I felt a nagging irritation that I was wasting away my time; that the only appropriate use of my life at this juncture was full-time study or work. It seemed wrong to have so much free time and spend half of each day sleeping. I could hardly wait for this moment when I would finally jetset into the city of bright lights and marvellous shopping to have the best years of my youth. I was drinking from the salty, tangy bowl of current boredom and listlessness flavoured with a dogged determination to spend every single day well; growing in understanding and passion for God and being continually challenged to rise further; seasoned with underlying excitement and wonder at the opportunity that I had been blessed with and hoping that the experience coming very soon would be everything I had wished for and more.
Now that broth has been sipped dry, I reap the rewards (often undeservedly) of the friendships I have gained in XX both old and new. They remind me that one’s worth is cannot be measured in terms of a degree or loads of money but in kindness, service, love, laughter and shared memories together. They have each, in their own way, expressed how much I mean to them and it leaves me simply lost for words to have such blessings as these.
Now, the tugging seaward and eastward calls to me! I’m still waiting to have the next dish, my main course and I can almost taste the fabulous steak to come. (Sorry vegetarians, but I’m a confirmed meat lover) Every bite of this new and eye-opening experience will be a treasure and pleasure to me. So I wait in anticipation, knowing each second brings me closer to it….
But for now, I’m waiting between dishes; not gone completely, and not there completely. From what I know of food, though, there is no use in complaining that the dish you’re waiting for has not arrived yet. It will, in due time. Till then, I’ll just enjoy the intervening moments, the funny and mixed sensations of growing up and leaving your most dear people and places behind – knowing that when you come back again, you will view it with different eyes, not necessarily better or worse, just…different.
Written 24/8/2007, the eve of my departure to Hong Kong for further studies
Saturday, August 18, 2007
For me there is a great sense of satisfaction in making order out of something disorderly and messy. Just imagine, there is a mass of knotted electrical cables in front of you. Some loose and some quite tight. You can see at least three colours in the mound. Don't you feel your fingers start to twitch uncontrollably? (Mike and guitar cables are the best. For one, they're big enough so you don't have to use your nails, and unlike rope they won't chafe your hands and make them sore, and unlike thread you don't have the feeling that you're destroying something. But don't get me started on rubber bands twisted tightly around a bag. They will always, by some universal rule, snap on your fingers painfully no matter how carefully you try to untangle them.)
Same thing with washing dishes. Except for washing dishes, there is a stigma and certain repellent quality of it being "housework" that initially stops me from beginning the task. But once it starts it takes on a certain dreamlike/zombie quality. It's just you and the dishes. Mano el disho. And the clinging dirt and oil thats going...away, away! Down the sink into oblivion!
And once you're done-washed your hands, wiped them on a clean towel or shaken the water off with grave finality-there is a sense of whelming (not over-, but just enough to last a few seconds) satisfaction at a job done - for that day, at least.
Why am I writing about this? Has the tea puller gone a little off topic, a wee bit wyeird?
Not really. No one should grow to old to savour little joys. Maybe we can't all run in open hills and smell dandelions (I wouldn't even recognise a dandelion if I saw one) and eat fresh berries in early spring (I want!), but there are ways to make each day a little more bearable. By doing things that make you happy. Simple things that don't require elaborate set ups or commercial forms of entertainment or even money.
Dishes, anyone? I could always use an extra pair of hands...
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Like butterflies escaped from a net.
Thoughts, sleep-slurred thoughts, come back to me! You look so beautiful in the mist, whispering of hidden potential. A gleam in the twilight corners of my frontal lobe. Though it's possible that if I caught you again and carefully inspected you under a microscope, you would turn out to be so dull, your colours faded, your wings flapping wearily as you consider the troublesome work of sludging through another careworn miserably boring day. Dust and pollution cover your fine wings, your six legs trembling with exhaustion and fear.
That's the problem with lost ideas and thoughts. They always seem grander when they're gone.
Is it the same with our forgotten relationships, then? When we look back, in our distorted memories the chasms were bigger and more menacing, the good times were sweeter but ultimately doomed, the joy laced with pain and bitterness now that we knew what was to come.
This is not a productive train of thought. Blame it on the foul heat that characterises Ipoh weather nowadays.
Friday, August 10, 2007
What if you are found lacking in the very areas of your life that matter to you the most?
You realise that it’s not enough that you are beloved by God. That you crave to be recognised and appreciated by fellow man as well.
Now, mundane things that occupied so much of your waking time and attention seem so far away.
And you shouldn’t expect someone else to come and comfort you, tell you that you did well, that everything’s ok. That it will be better next time. If there's a next time.
Grow up. You’re supposed to be the caregiver now. Not the care-taker.
Monday, August 6, 2007
Anyway, I'm getting carried away (I'm hungry). But what made me think of this is the verse that I have pasted on my wall:
"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
My understanding is that this spiritual milk refers to the basics of our beliefs in God: that He is our creator, Father; and He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and whoever believes in Him and repents of his sins will be saved. And to just know this truth, indeed, is enough for salvation. But is that all God wants of us? Is that all He put His people on earth for? To know the basics by heart but never bother to delve into the deep and complex mysteries of God?
I think that as we grow more aware of God, and hungry for Him, He seeks like a loving mother to bring us to the next level: solid food. But how many of us are really willing to kick the bottle, to stop just depending on our passed-down faith and confront the confusing, often contradictory realities that we encounter in our daily lives?
For me, I have a few friends who have been "Christian from birth", or as near to it, being raised in a Christian family, attending church services all their lives, gone to numerous Christian camps, even serving in Christian youth; to them, Christianity is a familiar theme in their lives. And yet, now that they have grown up and started to question their long-held beliefs, they find themselves having to go "back to the basics" in Christianity. They struggle so much even to accept that God is here, God cares, God loves and God wants all of them.
I just hope that this renewing of their faith takes place quickly so that they can come to the maturity that God desires for them. If you live on milk alone how can you fight in battle? Even the armies of man fight on full stomachs. You are saved, but you cannot be of much use against the enemy...
That's why the above verse means a great deal to me. I'm still learning what it means to "constantly train yourself to distinguish good from evil". It's something I can't do on my own, I need His wisdom to guide me. But first must come the willingness to be trained.
For me, this whole "venturing into the world with a little more bite" starts with:
1) My readings on the role of women in the New Testament. I have never identified with Paul the apostle that much, though he is definitely admirable and wise, because he seems to have such a low opinion of women. At least he comes across as such. And his words have been used to justify so many injustices in the church, to somehow imply that women are the "lesser creation". And yesterday, when I read that "women will be saved through childbearing..." (1 Timothy 2:15), I felt like..."What?" Then what about barren women, or women who didn't live long enough to have children, or those who dedicate their lives to God in singleness? The footnote said it could also refer to "The Childbearing", that is, the virgin Mary conceiving a child who is the Son of God. But somehow, still felt that it was unfair.
2) Transsexuals. (Am I spelling it correctly?) In the shower this morning, I was wondering how complex it was to bring them to Christ. Would they have to become a man again if they had already physically altered their bodies to become women? How would Christ have spoken to them? How can Christians love them unconditionally and at the same time not neglect their Christian duty, to tell them that what they hold most dearly to them, their long fought-for 'right' to be a woman, is an abomination to God? Apparently, many Christian groups actually have hate marches, and look down and even spit on these people....I think that is so sad and shameful. God created them just as much as He did you and I. Who are we to say that we are better than them?
So, these are a few questions that have flitted through the caves of my minds now and are probably settling there for a while, like bats, flapping their wings once in a while to remind me of their presence until I can finally find an answer that is satisfying to me and I can bring them out into the light.
God works in strange ways though! Just now as I was looking at Desiringgod.org, (thanks Raj:P) I saw a book that he and some others had written which was available online, "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood". I've downloaded it and shall be going through it soon.
Looks like a lot of us are searching for solid food, and answers to our spiritual questions...and thank God, some may have found as good answers as we are going to get in this world already. "Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given to you."
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
She had never really thought it would be so. To love a filthy beggar, yes. To love someone who is uncouth, and rude, and offends your sensibilities. To love someone who irritates you in every little thing they do.
Those she understood the trouble with loving. You would naturally love those whose qualities you admire, or those who show special kindness towards you. Who loves a backstabber? Who cares for a liar? Who desires a murderer? Who is head-over-heels, madly-drunk-in-love with an aimless slacker?
I do, she realises. However terrible I am, or could be, I still love myself.
But is that real love? Will real love ever allow one to be less than one's full potential, will real love ever be content with letting someone slide, suffer, live a miserable life?
To truly love oneself, she decided, is more of a parent's love than one's love for a beloved (at least at the first bloom of love). In a beloved, you accept them fully despite their flaws - in fact, they are all the more beautiful, vulnerable, adorable for having flaws and you adore them for it. You downplay and whitewash the cracks in the painting and you exclaim over the colours and composition, even though to others it may look like a drab piece. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, after all. Your eyes have fallen prey to your heart, they are no longer true to you, or maybe they are truer to something more true than sight.
But, for a parent, though they think their child the best in the world, will always seek to guide and correct their child's flaws. They will take the burden upon themselves, be willing to spend countless amounts of time and money just to grow their frail seedlings. They will scrimp, and save, and suffer in order to fulfill their child's dreams. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they never stop believing that their child can be successful, can be mature and their comfort in old age. And if they fail, they will usually blame themselves. Even though they did all they could.
To love yourself, you want the best for yourself. Not just in material things but intangible things: the deepest friendships, the highest skills, the best character. If you really loved yourself, you would do anything to achieve what you regarded as the highest plateau of humaly achievable success.
If you really loved yourself, and you knew that the highest motive and greatest purpose of your life was to imitate Him, you would do anything to reach it.
Which is why, she concluded, it is really hard to love yourself.