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.”