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Monday, September 26, 2011

We gotta keep moving, moving on


Here goes: I've moved to this blog, and I think I might miss this one a lot when I want to be less edited, but I've found a mode that works well for me at the new site.

I suspect I'm in a nostalgic mood, because I'm feeling quite reluctant to post this terminal note. Still, unless the Blogger servers ever die/delete my archives here, I'll be back sporadically to get all sentimental about all the stuff I saw and learnt throughout the span of this blog.

To infinity, and beyond!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Experiment


So I just started fiddling with a Wordpress, and I might not be blogging here for a while. Depending on how the other blog goes, I might come back here in a couple weeks, or I might fully transition to the other one -- but I won't migrate permanently without first saying so here. I have, after all, been at this blog for an embarrassingly long time.

The reasons for this new foray include that Wordpress seems like a fun platform to play with (and I don't want to let Google take over my internet life, even if I'd be very happy under their regime), and also that I've been pretending this blog is anonymous for way too long. There are other reasons, and of course there are also other options, but I have some time on my hands and thought it'd be worth the gamble(/bol).

So I'll be here for now, and if you end up there too I'd love to hear your thoughts, even if your personal taste is rendered suspect by the fact that you're reading this blog in the first place. Just kidding. <3

Friday, June 10, 2011

Arriving


a friend from my freshman dorm, with said dorm in background

[written in KLIA, June 7] It's an odd thing -- moving from the euphoria of affirmations and exhortations, through the exuberant anguish of photographed farewells, and the frustration of last-minute packing and discarding, into an airport. Knowing that in a little more than a day you will walk out of another airport into another home.

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[also written in KLIA, June 7] It was an interesting inversion. Four years ago you were on the bus from the airport with her and her mother, then the second one arrived a few hours after you'd settled into the dorm, and you met him even later, probably at Bible study. This time, he left first, with his family, then you left the second one standing in the driveway -- exchanging reassurances in ritualistic humour; no, you don't look weird in leggings; no, you're definitely not fat -- and then the first one and her mother drove you to the airport in their rented car.

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[and now, after a brief bout of confusion about why you're using the second person, and then weary resignation because you'd sound batty either way, you continue] You have a love-hate relationship with the check-in counter -- it marks the point where you can have done with your unwieldy luggage after multiple modes of public transport, but it sometimes makes you pay for the privilege. And you know that today you'll have to pay, because you have all four years of stuff with you (barring 28 pounds of books and 20 pounds of winter wear that are hopefully on their way to London). 

A terse officer, the only person manning the whole set of counters, tells you that both bags are a few pounds over 70, and that it'll cost you $100 each bag between 50 and 70 pounds. But the airline I'm ticketed with said it's $50 a bag? Well, she might have to collect their fees too, but the $100 is standard for any flight they operate.

Ah. Repacking gets both bags under 70 pounds -- barely -- while your friend offers to help you fight the charges (haha). Last year she'd helped you fight in JFK, and you accidentally (but sincerely) cried, and they waived the charge that you weren't supposed to pay anyway (it was the booking website's mistake). You don't know, you're a bit scared of the check-in staff. You sigh.

You take the bags back to the counter, and she raises her eyebrows at the duct tape that's failing to keep the hand-me-down suitcase intact. You blurt out -- part fluster, part strategy, all truth -- that you just finished four years of college on financial aid, and that your school is paying your ticket home. 

She walks away to deal with other passengers, and comes back a while later. Just give her back the claim stubs she gave you just now, and she'll make new luggage tags, okay? You nod, uncertain. And then she tags your bags and gives you new claim stubs and nods you on your way without a word about fees.

You burble. Thanks so much, and this might sound weird, but is there anything she might like you to pray for her about. She says no. Well, you really, really appreciate all her help, it makes a huge difference, you hope God blesses her!

It was one of those gem-like moments -- exquisite and piercing -- where you receive and cannot at all repay and simmer in (metaphorically) speechless helpless gratitude. You can't very well write in a customer appreciation note thanking United that their staffperson lost the company a couple hundred dollars. You couldn't even thank her explicitly on the spot, because there were too many other customers at the counter. Her graciousness thoroughly, unexpectedly trumped your weak scheming. 

Which, you remember, is what you talked about at the combined Good Friday service at your college chapel two years ago, which was structured around Christ's seven last words.

It’s hard to admit that I’m not always needed. It’s hard to admit that, after all these years, I still throw tantrums sometimes. It’s hard to admit that someone has paid my bill for me, and there’s absolutely nothing that I can do about it.

And I think that often it’s hard to admit these things because admitting them means that I have to look at myself, and see just how helpless I am, how inconsistent, how much I mess up the divine image that God has put in me -- how wrong. Because when I look at these things, I get very uneasy and feel a need to do something: to be better, to hide, to pretend, to make myself a perfect person.

But then if I look away from myself, and look towards Christ, He says: “It is finished.”

 ------------------------------------

But those aren't quite the words you're looking for at the moment. You're tired, and distracted -- yay Kindle! -- and you really want to pray and you're kindof praying but you're being lazy. And then you remember that it's Sunday, and you haven't yet read your psalm for the new week. And you find splendid thankful words at the opening of Psalm 105:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; 
   make known among the nations what he has done. 
Sing to him, sing praise to him; 
   tell of all his wonderful acts. 
Glory in his holy name; 
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 
Look to the Lord and his strength; 
   seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done, 
   his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, 
O descendants of Abraham his servant, 
   O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. 

The rest of the long psalm charts milestones in Israel's early history, and you observe, with brief contrition, that it's usually easier for you to marvel at your insanely dense Williams heritage than your insanely dense Christian heritage (though you're all too good at the self-righteous anger against quoteunquote Christian political violence).

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Towards the end of your first flight -- it's just an hour-long connection on one of those dinky little planes that require a judicious arrangement of passengers if the flight isn't full -- you notice that the guy next to you has purple and yellow wristbands. Which isn't all too remarkable, since the yellow one is the ubiquitous "Live strong" band, but it also wouldn't be all too remarkable if he were actually wearing your school colours for a reason. The airport was only an hour from campus; one of your classmates, who will also be in England next year, is sitting with her father a few seats ahead, and there are two Sri Lankan master's students from the development economics program up and across the aisle.

So after the plane touches down you ask him, this might be a strange question (you're doing a lot of that today),  but are you affiliated with Williams? And he says yes, he was attending commencement. Turns out he put on the purple-and-yellow bands at his graduation two years ago, and hasn't taken them of since. It also turns out that you both share a major, and that his political economy senior seminar project group had won that year's prize for the delivery of an essay -- essentially for talking -- that you'd just shared yesterday with your two Pakistani and one Peruvian groupmates. And taxiing up the runway you exchange names -- oh man, this is weird, but you might have interviewed him a while ago for one of the post-recession newspaper articles you wrote about the job market. He vaguely remembers; he has a good job but is interviewing for other positions now.

Once you get to your next gate, you call one of your old friends who graduated a year before. You'd already told him you'd call, but as you're waiting for the call to connect you remember that he was the one who'd co-written that story on the job market with you two years ago.

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And of course it wouldn't be an episode from your life if it didn't involve relearning a silly lesson you'd supposedly internalised after an earlier mishap. This time, it's wearing a new pair of shoes without breaking them in. 

You indulge in amused recollections-- you hadn't broken them in because you'd been busy, and a lot of the potential breaking-in days had been rainy, but you'd still convinced yourself it was okay because they were one of your heavier pairs of shoes and would've been a pain to pack, and also because they were orthopedic, and orthopedic shoes shouldn't hurt your feet, right? (Which reminds you of the "caution hot" story. Sigh. Haha.) You'd ordered them shortly after the school orthopedist told you that you had a chronic sprain -- one of the ligaments in your ankle was permanently damaged -- because you were buying an ankle guard online and these popped up at more than 50 percent off and thus a very good price for leather loafers, orthopedic or not. (And you remembered being very intimidated by shoe prices in England, so you felt silly for the preemptive shoe purchase, and even sillier for signing up for old age prematurely.)

Anyway. You travel with chafed heels but very gently supported soles. Mmm.

 ------------------------------------

You get on your third of four flights, and the girl next to you gives you a look that, in your Malaysian primary school days, you might have described as onekind. Make that wankine. Moving on. 

She says she met you last summer during her internship, and then the look makes sense. She'd been interning at the research institute you'd interned at two years ago, where your supervisor was a long-time member of her church, and you think -- although who knows what tricks your elderly memory might be playing -- that she'd heard about that institute because her parents knew your father through some other church connection. Thereisnospoon.

She's very friendly and engaging, and you have a good time catching up, before you both get back to your reading material. 

 ------------------------------------

Which, for you, happens to be What Katy did. It's somewhat humourous -- the book too, but that's not what you meant -- so far on your Kindle you've read bits of Wittgenstein and Homer and Syed Hussein Alatas and GK Chesterton, but the first thing you end up ploughing through is one of the many books you loved with your siblings (and other animals, inside joke) ... more than fifteen years ago, ahaha. It's also humourous because when your family was flying to the U.S. for your dad to attend seminary ... fifteen years ago, one of your sisters -- who's always been an example to your socially -- picked her temporary U.S. name after the protagonist. (You'd picked a name that one of your good friends went by occasionally.)

You get to the end of What Katy did (although not really since there are four more books in the series; you've read two) and can't decide whether you are thrilled or mortified, because Katy's last words are an uncanny echo of what you'd wanted to say to a lot of people at the end of Williams: 

"I haven't been brave. You can't think how badly I sometimes have behaved -- how cross and ungrateful I am, and how stupid and slow. Every day I see things which ought to be done, and I don't do them. It's too delightful to have you praise me -- but you mustn't. I don't deserve it."

And you're really not sure, because she sounds so darn simpering -- but then you also suspect that your singing voice is more maudlin than you'd like -- but you really do like her as a character. And you definitely don't deserve it. Oh well. 

 ------------------------------------

Then you get off the last flight, and Pa and Ma are there, asking you if you want to stop for char koay teow and, at home, whether you want a regular towel or an extra big one. And you don't know what else to say. 

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Emo graduation-related post #50 million


I was in one of the moods in which it felt very necessary to write, but then I can't quite remember what I'd wanted to write about. So now I am in one of those moods where I can't decide whether I'm sad or amusing. But not really, in the most cheerful sense. Really. Tired smiley face.

Graduation is tomorrow. Today was prize stuff and spiritual stuff, both of which were a lot more meaningful and loaded than the syntactic analogue of my hypothetical tired smiley face might suggest. A few things I want to remember that might hopefully make more sense than that last clause, even if they are far less significant than the awesome pioneering polar explorer lady who was our speaker today:

1. I read from 1 Corinthians at our service, and it was really interesting because a couple months ago when I was hoarse for the gospel choir concert, I could sing but I could hardly talk. Today I could talk but I could hardly sing. Humourous ailments like these are good reminders of my silliness/divine sufficiency.

2. I hadn't expected to feel so wistful about the absence of my family. Over the last couple months I'd gone through what is hopefully an appropriate series of emotional stages about this, from dismissive cheer to a couple days of sadness to calm cheer -- but then today walking out of three different ceremonies was walking out from affirmation among classmates to solitude. And wonderful friends intervened quickly, because I am spoilt like that and have a whole range of surrogate family here ranging from the most generalized abstracted sense to rare people with whom I interact like how I interact with my immediate family at home. But it was still a thing.

And just because I've never said it here but have been telling it to everyone who asked, for a month or so this has been my now-hackneyed but still true response to people who ask how I feel about the whole deal: there's so much I'll miss here, but I have so much to be excited about.

Play on.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The dumdumdadedumdum

I've had a really bizarre day money-wise. (Also I need to stop blogging only about the weird things, and include the cheerful mundane things as well.) (Also, this will be one of those particularly long and rambly posts because I want to remember and be grateful.)

My day started with a phone call to the health centre about insurance: when I'd missed a step in March, campus security had called an ambulance for me, saying that insurance would cover it. The total bill for the ambulance + hospital + x-ray was terrifying, and insurance covered most of it. But the remaining charges, mostly a $200 co-pay for the ambulance, were still somewhat scary. And I'd gone back and forth for a really long time about whether I should just pay the charges, because financial aid had already been ridiculously generous to me, or whether I should ask for help, because my bank balance was not looking so hot. In the end I decided to call the health centre and clarify any possible misinformation. The director was very nice and suggested I call the hospital and ambulance service to see if they had any financial assistance.

What was really weird was that I got really teary on the phone. These are emotionally volatile days for sure -- tonnes of excitement and happy company, but also exhaustion and preemptive nostalgia -- but I hadn't been prepared to get so emotional about money. Because God's always provided more than enough, not least through Williams, and this last year I've finally been calm about the exorbitance that accompanies international travel, but evidently I'm still silly.

And then I met a friend for brunch. We both had delicious inexpensive cobb salad -- at the clubhouse of the plush local golf course.

Then a housemate helped me carry my two London boxes -- one of books and notes, one of winter wear -- to the post office, where I spent five minutes in distraught dithering about the $201 that it would cost to send the stuff to my aunt's place. Eventually I made myself afccept what I'd known all along, ie that it was cheaper to mail the stuff than to lug it on airplanes home --> Virginia --> London or to buy it again in England, even secondhand, so I mailed the boxes.

And I went home and called the hospital about their emergency room charge, and they said the assistance program probably didn't apply to foreign residents. But then I called the ambulance service, and was gingerly explaining things to the administrative person, when she stopped me. "We'll take care of the rest of the charges." "Wait. Really. Are you sure?" "Yup, we'll take care of it. No problem."

$200. It was all I could do to make sure I hung up first before actually bawling in relieved gratitude. I am way too good at building up overanalysed stress about situations that don't materialise.

And then my Kindle arrived. The only two gadgets I remember really really wanting over the last few years have been a DSLR -- which I decided was probably not a good idea -- and a Kindle -- which started to seem like a better and better idea given both the academic and travel patterns that circumscribe my life although I'm still squeamish about them. And so I gradually reconciled myself to the fact that really really wanting something could be a legitimate, rather than compromising, addition to the research utility and cost-effectiveness arguing in favor of purchase.

There had also been an extended deliberative sideshow that proceeded as follows. (a) If I am getting a Kindle out of book snobbery, it's definitely worth $25 to avoid the crass world of ads. (b) Oh darn I should get a case. (c) Hey look this case is super cool and pretty, especially because you can stand the Kindle up, just like how my bookstand has been super useful for working with texts for essays. (d) Oh darn the case is $25. Can I justify $25? Yes. No. Argh. (e) I'll swap transcending ads for a nice useful case.

Yeah, I'm silly. But the Kindle is a thing of beauty, and yay free books.

And yay friends. A bit after the Kindle came, two friends told me separately that they'd been planning to create a Kindle slush fund for me, to chip in to this purchase that I'd been verbally agonizing over for months. Whoops. But people are so kind. It's sort of ridiculous. And I am spoilt.

That's most of the money-related stuff that has happened today, so essentially I have a lot to be thankful for (and a Kindle) and hopefully will be less silly about resources in the future. Free as a bird of the air no?

But I seriously hope my next post will sound less barmy. Oh well. Haha.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Interlude

In a week, I'll have graduated and left the country. Both are odd. Not least because I don't know how I feel about the fact that I've spent nearly a quarter of my life in this country -- if we're counting in years, probably a fifth of my life if we're talking weeks because of summers and study abroad. And also because I don't know when I'll live ever here again -- I'll be back briefly in September for a wedding, but I don't know if I'll be visiting anywhere else, and transoceanic travel for short-term visits seems extravagant, but at the same time I'm not used to how much I am used to travelling like that. And also because I don't know if I ever want to live here again -- not that it isn't a blast, but further school in the former coloniser makes more sense (especially if funding is forthcoming), and also that there's so much I could do at home --

but then there are so many people here whom I love.

I need to get better at emailing and Facebook and Skype and Gchat. O internets, ye that hath become such a strange part of my emotional life.

Aight back to the writing that I officially need to get done . :D

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crazy times


stairs between squash courts and art museum (whoops)
Given the human condition, the title of this post is a rank exaggeration, but yes.

Today I slept in for the first time since ... spring break, probably. I think I needed it far more than I'd realised. I also think that I said here a long time ago that this semester I'd aim to go to bed earlier and wake up early, and I managed the latter without the former, haha but not. I also believe I said a while ago that this semester I'd also aim to stay awake in all my classes, and I think I did, though I have no idea how. Anyway.

I've been done with college work for about 7.5 days, most of which I spent at Christian camp, which was wonderful and challenging and refreshing. Graduation is in about ... 7.75 days, and I'm flying home that evening. I don't know whether I'm more weirded out by the prospect of ending the Williams chapter of my life, or of leaving the country.

Besides the physical exertion (which I'm all too accustomed to, hence two months without sleeping in), the emotional exertion of intense conversations and goodbyes has been exhausting, hence bouts of doing antisocial work (hurhur, although really I mean packing and praying and administrative stuff) in my room. And blogging. Because writing and documenting are more important to my functioning than I sometimes remember.

On Thursday, after saying goodbye to a number of very dear friends at the retreat and a number of newspaper friends in one of my former dorms, I was walking home in the breezy dusk and marveling at the lovely campus when I came across this:

immortality take it it's yours (logic is not)
I was not expecting to see the bleachers ready for Commencement events. So I did two things that made no sense: taking that picture, and lying on the grass in the middle of it all.

For the last month or so, every time someone asks me how I feel about graduating, I've said that there's so much I'll miss here, but I have so much to be excited about. Which makes me incredibly fortunate, on both counts. And which is still thoroughly true, even if it feels so odd.

On a very unrelated note, squirrels have always used the screen door between my room and our upper deck as an expressway to the roof. Today I had the inner door open because it's kindof hot and humid (I will be contending with real tropical weather in a few days haha I am a wimp), so this one squirrel wandered into my room a few times! I was tickled. Err. Figuratively.

collages are cool like children (obviously)
On another mostly unrelated note, this is a quite that I typed into a draft blog post while working on a paper on Aristotle and the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, whom I'd never heard of before my ancient political thought class, but who was a fascinating guy who had his beginnings in philosophy before he'd been freed from slavery.

On no occasion call yourself a philosopher, and do not speak much among the uninstructed about theorems (philosophical rules, precepts): but that which follows from them. ... For even sheep do not vomit up their grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but when they have internally digested the pasture, they produce externally wool and milk. [Enchiridion, XLVI]

And they lived happily ever after.

Monday, May 16, 2011

You know it's reading period 


when your dream contained excerpts of the Algerian Revolution (or something) set to the not-rhythm of the postmodern music theatre piece that you're researching for another class. And when you're sounding pretentious on your blog instead of actually writing about the Algerian Revolution and the French football team.

O collge*, I will miss you. Really. <3

*how I spelled it in a headline that got printed my first semester on the newspaper board

Thursday, May 05, 2011

One of those

it's spring! with grass &c
The main point of this post is to say that I'll be updating my blog sporadically, if at all, till early June. There's just so much left to enjoy in the month I have left on campus. It's all such a tradeoff between goods -- I mean, good things, not like goods and services or whatever, but those too -- I be a graduatinging social science major yo -- that electronic communication is a bit less of a priority, whether the long personal emails that I take forever to reply (and, unusually, don't feel guilty about at the moment, although I do still feel wistful) or blogging.

Although of course there's the chance that I'll get all excited and feel a compulsion to document every single tradeoff and happy thing and sad thing in the last few days of my Williams life. I'm very good at proving my predictions about blogging frequency wrong, so I might as well stack the decks this time. Hmm. That's probably not the idiom I wanted.

Anyway, I'm also very good at deviating from the original intention of any blog post, so before I bow out, here's a smattering of stuff (with oodles of precision, of course).

1. The day after I whined here about slipping in the mud --> bruised knee, I tripped indoors (over chair legs in the science library atrium) --> scraped knee. The day after that, I tripped over chair legs in the student centre, but didn't fall! Although I did spill some hot soup on my arm that evening. And then the next day I lost my balance on a staircase, but somehow managed to trip/stagger upwards without falling, so everything was in the right direction. And so I concede that the weather probably isn't to blame haha.

2. Really gross sleep schedule last week probably was partly to blame, but the week was filled with so much emotional rest and general cheer that the lack of physical rest didn't matter very much (except to my knees). But the gospel choir concert and the Christian journal wrapped up so well, with lots of fun and truth.

3. And then I've overslept the past three mornings, but that was totally fine because I wasn't late for anything, and I was really grateful that my body was overriding my mind's general incompetence at gauging how much sleep I should be getting. Yay sleep.

4. Oh another amusing thing -- the morning of the concert I'd basically lost my voice from all the rehearsals -- I couldn't talk, but for whatever reason I could sing, so it worked out! Spent the weekend in a painfully hoarse whisper (er) (haha) (have yet to read it, actually), which was really amusing because it didn't hurt, so I'd forget that I couldn't talk and then end up making a weird high-pitched raspy sound and the friends I was trying to say hi to haha.

5. So many amazing conversations, I want to many more in these few weeks!

Err. Complete sentences whither? Way more that I'd like to transcribe for fake posterity, but I'm sleepy, So there. with <3

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Floored


When it's beautiful and snowy, I slip on the ice. And when it's beautiful and sunny, I slip in the mud. I wish Williamstown weather reciprocated my love. :(

Anyway. It's been flagrantly easy for me to be cheerful the last few days -- and cheerful in a calm way, not like ohyesworkyayandthatotherthingohdarnandthatonetooyesnodarnhaha. Many thanks to the Boss!

Brief happy super superficial observations (I wonder if this nullifies all efforts to avoid Facebook haha):

1. The layers in my hair are finally long enough to hold a French braid without any bobby pins, which is really convenient because that's a good way of getting hair out of the way for long work nights.

2. Over the last few days I discovered that the bike shorts that I used for gimrama in Form 2 (ohh man that means I've owned them for a decade o_O haha) and hardly worn since, as well as the RM5 skirt I got from Sungei Wang during my precollege newspaper internship, are really convenient things to wear under borderline too-short skirts/dresses, which is convenient because it's now warm enough to wear skirts, and dresses are so comfy.

Onwar to inflicting my clunky unedited syntax on my homework! :D