Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Because I'm usually in such a somber reflective mood when I write my entries, I've decided to do something different today: behold, I declare that it is FLUFF day, when everybody can write as much fluff as they want!

Things that make me smile:

1. The lyrics of My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to the Black Parade"
Have you ever googled the lyrics? See how in the second verse, the lyrics are all in CAPS eg.
Angry angry angst angst set in rhyme. It's got a beat you can shake your dreadlocks to. I like it.

2. Meatloaf the singer. Need I say more?

3. Infusers (my home youth group) Because I love them so much, and sometimes they're so lame you can't help but smile. Or else, you'd cry.

4. Prospect of breakfast in the middle of morning block (our 7.30am class BEFORE breakfast).

5. Better yet, FREE morning blocks.

6. Letters! By letters I don't mean bills and advertisements, but real letters written by people and full of news and updates. Though I rarely ever get them now, probably because I don't send any...

7. Kittens.

8. Chocolate cake.

9. Remembering something funny you did or said a month or year or 3 years ago. Time only makes good memories better.

10. A warm bed. (especially since I'm experiencing my first winter and my fingers are never warm)

You may notice in this list I didn't include the perpetual "God, family, friends" list. That's because those are so much more important to me that it doesn't just make me smile, it is the foundation of my security and identity. It makes me smile deep inside though.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Ball

God, if You're allowing this pain to persist for a reason, that it may be turned into something good, then let it continue, every single moment of it. But if it's not, will You please stop it!!!!!!!


Let me tell you a story. It's not my story - not specifically - but a story you could hear from anyone, in tones of defeat and regret. It's not a nice story. But its all I have to give.


There was once a little girl who went to a park. She saw a ball that some little boys were playing with and instantly, she knew that the ball was meant to be hers. Sure, they were playing with it at that time and someone might protest if she took it away, but those were minor details. The main thing was that it was hers, and she was going to go forward and get -

A hand stopped her.

She looked up, and Daddy was shaking his head at her, sadly.

She wouldn't give up - she tried to stride forward but His hand was gentle but firm. Not one inch more. The ball so tantalisingly near yet so far. She started to weep in anger while His arms covered her and soothed her...

...but all she saw was the ball, slipping away as the boys, oblivious, moved to another corner to play. Her vision blurred with tears as she saw one boy picking up the ball and cradling it under his arm before walking away.

"Why, Daddy, why? You never gave me a ball! I want a ball to play with just like that boy! Everyone else has a ball, why not me?! Don't you love me???!!!"


"Daddy, I don't care about getting second best! THAT'S my best already! Just let me choose what I want!!"




So the girl's eyes dried and as she hugged her Father, she realised that the giver of all things good will never withhold any good thing for us. But He brings it in His own time and in His own ways. Even something as small as a ball.


OK, maybe I was lying, but I didn't mean that to become a saccharine story, one you've heard a million times before and which I've probably drawn from the mountain of cliches in my memory bank.

Sometimes, it's not just a ball that He asks you to give up, it's the attachment to it, the wanting and needing. And that can be the hardest part when you feel it would make all the difference in your life.

And that's where the problem lies, because He is the only One who can make all the difference in our lives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

For G

A schoolmate, my co-year from Vietnam, left school yesterday.

Apparently it was for family reasons and she had to leave quickly. We didn't even have a chance to say goodbye. Most people didn't notice she wasn't there and the news only spread after she left.

She had been the "background" person, the one who stands at the side, not participating, never speaking unless you engaged her in conversation directly. And even so, it was tough-going for she didn't give an answer of more than a few words.

I don't think anyone really knew her well. We all just assumed this is the way she wants to live her life, and let her alone. We were on the same China Week trip (a week when all 1st years go to China for service and cultural exposure) but I don't think I ever had a conversation with her that was more than superficial.

In this past year alone two other students have left the college, for disciplinary reasons, never to come back as a student. They both have to construct a new life for themselves back in their home countries after spending more than a year here, where they had made their home; and try to sort out their future after being booted out from school. In both cases, they were tearful farewells on the part of other students in the canteen - well-wishes, keep-in-touches...assurances that they would be missed, that they mattered to the community.

As far as I know, nothing of the sort was done for my friend. No one even knew. And the other two left in disgrace, their sins finally catching up with them till it was too late to make amends. That was not the case for her.

Which brings me to wonder, what do we do with the living shadows amongst us? People to whom no one really relates to because it's hard to, people who keep to themselves? In an environment like my college, it's often a case of the survival of the fittest, socially. If you keep to yourself a lot, are not bubbly, outspoken, active, bold...you lose out on social opportunities. Your reputation and standing in the (highly insular) community is affected. And to a teenager, that can be a lot of pressure.

I hope life was not very hard for her here, but I believe it must have been. To a certain degree, you are disadvantaged if you are naturally quiet. You are disadvantaged if English is not your native language and you have dificulty understanding/speaking it. You are disadvantaged if you had less exposure back in your home country - to things like student exchanges, camps, private schools, enlightened teachers.

I hope life will continue smoothly with her and whatever brought her back to Vietnam will become less and less of a problem, and that it does not hurt her so much. I hope she will know that she did not fail here; that it was not solely her problem that she could not fit into our community, but ours that we never seriously took the trouble to understand her.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What is your name?

I accidentally pressed Enter after just writing the blog title the last time, and had no chance to edit the entry till now...sorry to those who checked in the last 2 days and then saw a blog title with no entry!

The reason of the title is: I saw a Nooma video entitled "What is your name?" - which is what the angel asked Jacob after struggling with him all night. During those times, your name meant everything - it was your identity and destiny. And by acknowledging that he was Jacob (meaning to grasp the foot, which was something like being deceitful) and not flinching from his past (when he pretended to be Esau), Jacob was blessed to be the father of the nations.

What is your name?

Everything you are, everything you are not...accepting our past, our mistakes, our achievements. Our weaknesses, our faults, our embarrassments. What we would gladly display. What we would rather hide.

But if we cannot accept ourselves, if we cannot stop comparing ourselves to others, if we do not stop envying others....

what will we say when others ask, "who are you?"

Chinese? Malaysian?

Tonight was Chinese Cultural Evening.It it was pretty good except for a fire which was a bit toooo strong and needed to be extinguished with a fire extinguisher. Pretty exciting, that, but the organisers are going to have to answer for it.

Throughout the whole CCE process which began last November after the last cultural evening, people have been confused about my identity.

"But you're Malaysian! How can you be involved in CCE?"

"You mean YOU'RE Chinese?"

"So did your parents come from China? Are both your parents Chinese, then?"

"You're 100% Malaysian, and 100% Chinese as well? That can't be right."

The most idiotic:

"You're Chi-laysian."

And some people become quite adamant about it:

"But you're MALAYSIAN! So you can't be Chinese!"

Who says I can't? Does a 4th generation emigrant have no right to identify herself with the country that her ancestors originated from? Just because my great-great grandparents moved to a faraway land, risking their lives in order to seek a better life; means we have divorced our roots entirely?

I contradict myself.

Back home, I hate it when people (Chinese people) say, "I'm not Malaysian. I don't feel like I belong in this country. I'm just Chinese, and that's it." I strongly believe that you may not be able to control where you were born or who you were born to, but all of that fit into a larger plan, a bigger picture than what we can see. There is a reason I was born and raised in Malaysia and not Hong Kong, or China, or Indonesia or any of the other 173 countries Chinese people live in.

And here, I get tired of people denying I'm Chinese just because I have a Malaysian passport; just because I represent that country in this college (and there are only 3 of us). Of course, those who do make a fuss, do it jokingly; and most people get the concept after 2 or 3 explanations.

If I hadn't come to UWC, I would never have guessed people would have such a hard time getting the idea - Malaysian by nationality, Chinese by race.

Or is it me, and all of us who define ourselves this way, who have it wrong?

As my teacher was arguing, you don't call a South African of European descent a white South African. You don't call someone an Italian American. It's just American. So why do we feel the need to categorise ourselves by race? Why do we say "I'm Indian" or "I'm Chinese", when all that matters is that we're Malaysian?


I remember the countless, numerous forms that I've filled in ever since primary school. The race boxes where you mark "Melayu", "Cina", "India" or vague "lain-lain". That our identity cards either have Warganegara Islam or not.

And then I remember why in my mind it matters that I'm both Malaysian, and Chinese. Because the people who rule my country are not secure enough to let go off their power, of their bigotry, of their herd mentality and their selfishness; and are afraid of any change to the status quo.

Being both is not a crime - the crime is only when we let that second descriptor of ethnicity separate us instead of having the first descriptor of nationality unite us.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Without Vision, the people Perish

I understand the meaning of that sentence a little bit better now...

I have an infection in my right eye, it started yesterday when I wore my contact lens even though my right eye felt kind of uncomfotable, then I went out and throughout the day I felt quite uncomfortable on and off. At night, when I removed my contact lens, my right eye was a bit red and uncomfortable. Later on, it become more uncomfortable and it was hard to keep both eyes open.

To cut a long story short, the next day it became worse and the eyesight in my right eye is cloudy. I can hardly see anything, just blurs of colour. For example, the laptop screen is a blur of whiteness. I went to a doctor today, he prescribed antibacterial eye drops and it should get better in a few days at the most.

It's quite scary to not be able to see. Sight is something very important to all of us and we rely on it every waking moment to orientate our life, but we hardly ever appreciate it until it becomes threatened.

So, treasure your eyesight, and remember to take care of yourself! I'm going to sleep, better not strain it anymore.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sticky Labels

Dear readers, sorry for the long hiatus! Well it's only been a week plus, but I know in blogger terms that's pretty long already...especially for any blogger who wants to keep their audience who of course have many alternative forms of amusement. So thanks for coming back.

Today's the night of my 3rd day at school and so much has happened already since I came back: not surprising, since the amount of things which happen in one day for me here is equavalent to what I do in a week back home.

Being back here now, it doesn't feel like home, but it's not exactly a strange foreign place either. It's like a hotel room: nice; interesting experience, more stuff to do and explore - but when the times up, no place can beat home. I miss being able to dance and shimmy in front of the mirror when I brush my teeth (when I want to, not all the time). Though I still do it secretly sometimes, when I'm sure no one's in the bathrooms...


The other day, I was walking back from the library at night alone (it's freaking cold at night here) and since I had nothing else to occupy me I started thinking. I thought, "Why is it that we always label people? The nerd, the partyfreak, the social outcast, the free love poster boy/girl...?" And often, when you get to know people, they are so much more than what you had heard they were like or judged that they must be like based on their clothing and mannerisms. It works both ways...you can be awed by people and also disappointed in what you see in them. Either way, people are way too complicated to be labelled simply.

And yet, it's only natural that we label others! Sometimes it's for our convenience - the computer whiz is great at fixing your internet bugs, you go to him and beg for help, and that's all you know about him. But who knew that he is also a closet poet, or that he likes growing tulips? We could also be trying to bolster our own self-esteem when we compare ourselves to others by putting them in a tight box of what they can and cannot do, justifying that our talents make up for our inferiority in areas that they excel in. We forget that they have just as much potential for growth and discovery of new talents as we do.

Maybe the frustration comes when you wonder what kind of label people have stuck on you. It might be a succinct one: Quiet. Weird. Bossy. Argumentative. Or something like that. But even a pretty good one like Nice limits you. You can't be Nice all the time. You should have the space to be a little assertive, even a little bit unfair sometimes, and not be condemned for it. And what if a negative label gets stuck on you for some reason? You have to spend a lot of time and energy fighting that perception that people have of you.

There is one way, however, that I think labels may be good. They inspire us to be more socially acceptable in order to earn a good label. For all I know, that may be how the whole fabric of society is woven together and how governments control their citizens. Each of us, doing what we do in order to gain acceptance and approval and that big tick mark from everyone else.