Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Say 'lol' if you are lazy

I can imagine that when people first started using short message service (SMS) on their bulky mobile phones or their computers back in the 80s, a reply to something really funny your friend just said would go something like, "oh my goodness, that is SO funny. I'm totally laughing my head off right now." In a conversation, you want to show response, so that's cool.

Us being humans, it's only natural that we become lazy (especially after the novelty of SMS has worn off) and think having to explain to your friend that you think he is really funny and that you are laughing at his joke is too much of a hassle. That was probably when acronyms came into the picture. Some geniuses must have thought it cool -- and character-saving, and therefore, time-saving -- to replace two sentences with a LOL or a ROFL. Now, when your friend has just said something funny, you just have to go "LOL" to show your approval of his attempt at hilarity. And the best part is, the three letters send across a message as clearly as the inconvenient two sentences would have done.

Human laziness is one issue. We have another issue of tending to bring whatever's done on screen into our lives, and being convinced that what works virtually would work just as well in reality. Look at how many boys in the world are convinced in their deluded minds that they are adept fighters just because they get high scores in war games. They get all proud about it, and they make sure people know. Put them in a true war zone and they probably can't survive beyond a mine planted under their feet. Yet, they walk about in society as though they have the swagger of a warrior.

Not unlike the warrior wannabes, we are starting to think that using acronyms to express our laughters work in the realistic too. God has blessed most of us with a sense of humor. (Actually, I think He blesses all mankind in that area, just that certain individuals can't seem to manifest the blessing.) To those receptive to sense of humor, God is cool enough to let us express our humor through an ability to laugh. But again, us humans got lazy once laughing didn't seem like that big of a deal, and now many youngsters are resorting to saying 'lol' -- not pronounced L-O-L but said like the first syllable of 'lollipop' -- to mean laughter. It strikes me as kinda weird and maybe even a wee bit hypocritical to say you are laughing when you are really not.

And here I am, acting like I am in the position to judge when in fact I'm also a culprit contributing to this gradual erosion of sincere human interaction. Recent months have seen me 'lol-ing' at just about everything that will typically make me laugh. My sense of humor pretty much remains, but instead of just laughing, my laughter is now preceded by the mention of 'lol'.

Jess and I had a discussion about this a while ago. I expressed my annoyance at people who say 'lol' when not a muscle on their face points to anything remotely close to a smile. Jess thought the whole 'lol-ing' trend was ridiculous, but she thought it even more ridiculous that I thought the same as her when I myself was guilty of lol-ing too. She got me for a second, but then I thought hey, I was different because I actually do laugh. You see the difference? So many people say 'lol' with a sour expression, and the big contradiction there itself makes their word so...unjustified. In my case, every 'lol' of mine is followed by a hearty laughter.

"So if you were already going to laugh, why do you have to announce that by first saying 'lol'?" asked Jess. "You can just laugh, you know."

"Tell me then, if you were already going to the toilet anyway, why do you have to first announce that to everyone in the room?" I shot back. "You can just go without telling, you know. But we all know that you, and I, even right after this, will continue to announce what we are going to do."

That shut her up. Though I actually honestly don't think that justifies saying 'lol' outside of a chat box or a text message.

My point is, I announce that I'm laughing out loud, and I laugh out loud. So I'm doing nothing wrong. I have a problem with people who say they are laughing out loud, but they are not. You have to walk the talk.

On another train of thought, I think the whole initial point of bringing 'lol' to reality was to be sarcastic and scorn at people's attempt at being funny that just wasn't funny. I think some people missed that point and thought 'lol' could replace the laughter in their life.

Lol at them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


a condition that has always baffled me,
i look upon my fellow people,
ignorant because they don't want to believe,
adamant that there's no such thing too good in life.

my gratitude for Him,
they fail to make sense of it,
instead finding reasons to not believe,
just because He has loved them enough,
to give them such a thing as choice.

belief, so simple when it's done,
so abstract yet so powerful,
is all that was needed,
but the simplest can become the impossible,
the reason for the downfall,
the gap that's never filled,
just because doubt comes in.

i yearn to see them yearn,
yearn for the very thing they've been made for,
to find the answer to their question,
to have the shield before their eyes,
broken off for good,
for the revelation of this great love,
to become the very thing they can call their own.

but pride comes in the way,
or maybe it is just genuine confusion,
or like the case of a wandering child who never realizes,
that he has walked too far from home.

why don't they want to believe?
why can't they see the goodness of His love?
the sacrifice that has been made,
not appreciated by them.
i wonder how much it hurts Him,
to see them in their defiant way.

if only the world has just the physically blind.
but no,
people who think they can see,
see the deception that has been placed in life,
that has caused them to believe that the love is untrue.
they never realize the lie for what it is because, well,
they don't.

for eyes to be opened.
a prayer i prayed today.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Penniless living

I was reading yesterday's theSun newspaper when I came across a feature about Heidemarie Schwermer. I'm not even sure if I can pronounce her name correctly, but this 69-year-old German lady has been living her life in Germany for the past thirteen years without money. She has given up her health insurance, doesn't own a house and hop in between houses that are willing to provide her accommodation in exchange for work she can do for the owners, such as mowing the lawn. She pretty much swears by barter system to get herself food and whatever else she needs.

The pretty remarkable woman.
The idea of this decided lifestyle first came into being twenty-two years ago when Schwermer moved with her two children from Lueneburg village to a part of Germany where homelessness was a big problem. Shocked by the plight of the homeless people and moved by her belief that nobody should be excluded from the society just because they didn't have money, she started a swap shop (called Tauschring in Germany) where people could go to exchange skills and items with each other -- no money involved. Well, the concept took off better among the retirees and the unemployed than among the homeless, but the idea was there. Schwermer then realized that she could live a simpler life of less possessions by downsizing her wardrobe to ten coat-hangers worth of clothes and by giving away all her books to a secondhand shop. Still not quite finding the satisfaction she needed, she figured that money didn't give her happiness. So, she decided to embrace the bartering ways and gave nomadic living -- out of her apartment and into different people's houses every week or so -- a try. The plan was to live like this for twelve months, but she must obviously have loved this lifestyle because her experiment has extended to thirteen years so far, and I'm quite positive she has no intention of changing her ways.

This lady has got to have some real guts to be able to do what she does. I mean, to give up your health insurance when you are already in your advanced years? I'm still a teenager and I don't think I'll give that up. You know, because you never know. And since she doesn't need money to survive, Schwermer gives away her monthly pension to acquaintances in need of money. Even to my closest friends, I think I would have to part with my cash through gritted teeth. And because she is living such a radical life, of course it's interesting and worth being written into a book or two, from which the first book earned her a lot of money that she just gave away to random strangers on the street. To be able to just part with your money like that must have taken a ton of generosity, but since that money was earned through her principles of living without money, parting was only fair. Hogging them would have been major hypocrisy. Anyway, giving away something is easier when you don't need it. To sustain such a lifestyle, she accepts vegetables from her friend's garden sometimes -- another thing that wouldn't work for me as I don't know anyone who actually plants his own dinner. All of Schwermer's earthly possessions are fitted nicely into a little suitcase that moves around with her. Talk about packing light.

Schwermer hopes to see the world function without the need of money. It sounds really idealistic to live in such a world, but I honestly find it really funny if I have to walk into Cotton On, march to the salesgirl and tell her I'll give her half dozen of the walnut muffins I just baked in exchange for the yellow tank top. What would other girls bring in? A potted plant? A limited edition Katy Perry postage stamp? It's amazing when one woman lives her life without the need for bills and coins in her pocket, and actually thrives doing so. But I wonder if it would be amazing still if almost seven billion people have to crack their head on a daily basis trying to figure out if a chicken is worth three times of mowing the lawn. Still, mankind has been through the barter system phase, so it's not impossible for them to go back there. Then again, it must have not worked out quite well to have the need for currency be introduced into society.

Even for a woman already liberated from the grasp of currency, Schwermer still has to have savings of 
€200 in case of an emergency, and also because she still has to pay for her train rides. I guess you can't be totally free from the usage of money and consumerism until the day comes when every single person on earth declares money as obsolete. That would be a very long way to go — that is, if money is really a bane to humanity. I'm not too sure about that. I still prefer the idea of flashing some cash for an ice cream cone instead of having to sweep the ice cream maker's front yard for it. However, what I really admire about Schwermer is her courage to swim against the current, to be the odd one living differently from the consumers of the commercial world. You have to have a certain amount of self-assurance to roll like no one else.
Heidemarie Schwermer and her suitcase.

Photo source: livingwithoutmoney.org

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Woe to Commercialization

I spent the Merdeka and Hari Raya holidays in Malacca with my family, I ate too much durian cream puffs, and I'm never ever going back there during a public holiday if I can help it.

Throughout my family's stay in Malacca, there wasn't a tourist spot that wasn't overflowing with humans. When we first arrived at Jonker Walk, we wanted to eat at our favorite cendol and nasi lemak shop, but the queue was crazily long. We wanted instead to eat the famous chicken rice where asam fish was also served, but the queue was crazily long. We thought then that we could try getting some satay celup Jess had with her classmates a week earlier that was, according to her, really delicious, but the queue was crazily long. No, wait, there was hardly a visible queue for satay celup. So many people crowded outside the shop's entrance, they seemed to blend into a blob of humans spilling unto the road. So I ended up eating a lot of durian cream puffs, partly because they were so reasonably priced for such delicious treats that my mum didn't mind buying them in dozens or so, and also because they were eaten in replacement of what could have been my family's proper meals if those other shops weren't so crowded.

Seriously, Malaysians and foreign tourists alike have got to find a better place to explore in Malaysia other than this UNESCO site of Malacca. I don't think the crowd would have been this bad if UNESCO didn't recognize Malacca as a World Heritage Site three years ago. Such recognition is always a blessing and a curse at the same time. But, I am not going to judge people's choice of holiday destination since I myself have been there for like the twentieth time in my lifetime -- and still loving it. I think many people can't help but fall in love with the charm of this place, especially in the touristy areas where the buildings and trademarks are either reminiscent of Chinatown, remind us of this land's history with the Portuguese and Dutch and British or showcase the beauty of the Peranakan culture.

Source: eatingasia.typepad.com
I've always adored the feel of the old-style architecture of centuries-old shophouses. I love how the boldly colored wooden doors and walls, and the different colors and patterns of tiles plastered to the floors and walls of the narrow front porches, give each house its quirkiness. They make Malacca so charmingly photogenic. And they definitely have more personality than the modern houses of today that try to look minimalist but to me only look like boring, assembly-line produced residential buildings.

I wish Malacca doesn't become an overrated, over-commercialized tourist site. Oh, I think it already sort of is. That's the curse of being a world heritage site. However, I can't deny that putting Malacca up there as some precious heritage to be protected has its good, because that is the only way to make sure these precious buildings do not get destroyed, however commercialized this process may have turned into. I hope with my fingers crossed that the old charm never dies.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Merdeka, Malaysia!

My country celebrates its 54th year of independence today. I'm happy (duh) because if independence wasn't attained fifty-four years ago, Malaysia will still very much be under some foreign rule. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing because I truly believe that when the British colony came decades ago, they did contribute a lot to the development of this land. But everyone needs independence eventually, especially when we have proven ourselves capable of taking care of our own country. And I do think the pioneers of a newly independent Malaysia have done well.

I'll be forever thankful to God for making me a citizen of this wonderful land. I confess, life has always been easier for me because I'm fortunate to be born in a post-war and post-independence Malaysia. The Malaysia I know has always been considerably peaceful, and it's easy to take that for granted. Malaysia is the place where you get the most awesome iced Milo (my personal guilty indulgence I took for granted until my family went to Australia for vacation) and have people who actually appreciate durians. Malaysia is where you can deliberately speak broken English and not be looked down upon, most of the time. Heck, to have a Malaysian who has the ability to speak four or five languages and dialects -- but to speak them all brokenly -- that's pretty usual.

This nation has come a long way since it first gained independence, and though it still has a long way more to go, I'm very proud of my homeland -- its beauty, warts and all. So here's to the future of the country that I am very proud of and love so much!
Me, Jess and my mum: The proud countrywomen.
P.S. This year's Merdeka Day coincides with Hari Raya Aidilfitri. So Selamat Hari Raya to all my Muslim friends!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Floating Ministry

Logos Hope is now on Penang shore! I'm so excited because it means the next shore the ship shall stop at is Port Klang, and I'm excited about that because it means I can finally visit the ship and the long-awaited book fair.

If you have no idea what is it about the ship that I look forward to so much, Logos Hope belongs to the Operation Mobilization (OM) Ships International ministry that goes all over the world to reach out to people of all culture and to supply literature resources through the book fair on board and the many activities organized by the Christian ministry.

The last time the OM's ship came to Malaysia years ago, it was still operating aboard Doulos, which has already been sold last year after 32 years of service with OM Ships. Logos Hope is the new ship, so of course it is larger, and I'm sure, better. I think I have been on board Doulos twice with my family when she came to Port Klang. I was very young (not that I'm very old now; just slightly less so-young) at that time, so I didn't buy many books from the floating book fair. But I do remember loving being on the ship, just taking in the oceanic atmosphere made more lovely by the presence of books. Somehow, of the many events that have become a part of my growing up, the experience on the ship clung on to me like a barnacle to a rock.

I do sometimes wonder why I'm so drawn to the OM Ships ministry. But mostly, I know why. I've had a love for ships and the oceans for as long as I can remember. I love the sound of ocean waves. I love the taste of saltiness in the air. I love waking up to the sound of seagulls making their calls. I love that when the ship is sailing in the middle of the sea away from all light pollution, I can have the most mesmerizing view of stars in the night sky. And visiting the book fair was what opened my eyes to the possibility of serving God while travelling across oceans to see the world. That only heightened my passion for ships and missions.

The thing that sealed the passion in me was a book my eldest sister bought from the fair itself. I'm not sure if she ever read the book, but like what I would always do when she bought books or borrowed them from her college library (yes, Che, that's how I started reading chick lits, or more specifically, the Shopaholic series) and left them around the house, I picked up the book belonging to her and read it. That book was True Grit by Deborah Meroff, an OM journalist (not sure if she still is). It is a collection of true stories of women of God who went to different parts of the world -- from Lebanon and Egypt to Tajikistan and more -- to serve as missionaries. Their stories are really gripping, and inserted in between the stories are scary facts and statistics of social issues that plague the world, such as female infanticides and honor killings. Reading the book was my first time being exposed to such horrors mankind was capable of. And that was enough to make me want to do something about them.

One of the stories that captured my attention the most was the one about a woman's journey with her young family serving in the OM Ships ministry. I could read the story so many times without every getting bored with it, and I have. It chronicles the woman's journey with God, joy in working with the other volunteers on board, struggles with persistent sea-sickness and loss when the very first ship, MV Logos, was destroyed when it ran aground on rocks in a harsh weather. I know life on board a ship as part of a mission crew is not all idyllic and romantic -- in fact, reading the story only convinced me that life on board will definitely not be breezy -- but I still feel a longing in me to be part of this ministry. Maybe it's the love of ships and anything nautical. Or it may be God's calling for me. That would be fantastic. But I don't know for now.

At the moment, I'll just keep my eyes and heart open to all the possibilities and opportunities that will come in my life. I do believe though that there's a reason for God to put this ministry so close to my heart. But for the immediate now, I can't wait to visit Logos Hope!

P.S. Logos Hope will be on Port Klang shore from 28th September to 24th October 2011. It will stop by Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Singapore too. Do check out the OM Ships website for the schedule. So close now! =)

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I'm done with my fourth set of finals in college. To celebrate the freedom felt in every new semester break, I of course have to go back to the thing I (arguably) love doing the most: getting lost in the world of a fictitious character.

Without much deliberation, the first book I have taken out of the shelves a couple days ago is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, and reading it is like a great serendipitous start to my break. I know this story has been adapted into a movie, but I do not intend to watch the movie because movie adaptations have a way of stripping away the very accents of a novel that make it so memorable (bad experience with P.S. I Love You and Marley & Me -- not that the movies were bad; they just lack the emotional attachment I felt when reading the same titles). I don't know how the movie is, but the novel is great.

It is about a fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon who gets brutally killed by a man in her neighborhood in the winter of 1973. She goes to heaven, and from up there, she watches as her living family and friends cope with the grief of the loss and try to look for answers. They don't just look for answers about Susie's death, but answers to the questions they have to throw at life. And the living aren't the only ones looking for answers; Susie has questions too, and trapped in a perfect world -- heaven -- she tries to look for the answers on earth.

This story has its mysteries, and it does touch on the supernatural, but this story is really about the simplest things in life that in the end matter most. It's about the simple mind of a four-year-old brother who asks about his, unbeknownst to him, dead sister. A sister who has to endure the sympathetic glances of school staff and school kids' whispers behind her back. A young boy whose crush is Susie -- was Susie -- who has to experience losing his first love. A mother and a father, both devastated by the loss of their first child, and trying to cope with it in their own ways.

I like how in the beginning of the novel before the first chapter begins (prologue perhaps, but I'm not quite sure because 'prologue' isn't written at the top), the author gives us a glimpse of Susie's close relationship with her father as a young child. Father and daughter watch as he inverts a snow globe and snow fall gently over the penguin in it. She worries that the penguin is lonely in its little world, but he tells her not to worry because it has a nice life, trapped in a perfect world. To me, it's a foreshadow of how life can feel so trapped even when you are already in the 'perfect' place. And I think that's how Susie feels in her heaven after her death; trapped away from the people she loves the most whom she can now only watch from a distance.

It makes me wonder: is life in heaven really the perfect picture of an afterlife, when, you may have the people you love suffering on earth, or for eternity, in hell? Sure, when I'm in heaven, I'll will be forever dwelling in God's presence, and there will be joy, and no more pain. But I've never questioned this until now: on the day I go to heaven and find that someone I love is not up there with me, will heaven still be perfect? Absence will lead to longing, and when I start longing for someone who can no longer be with me, how can the perfect heaven still be perfect to me? To think that life will be joyful and perfect nevertheless, that must have taken at least a pinch of oblivion to make that happen.

That's the thoughts the character Susie has evoked in my mind. But surprisingly or not, I'm not too sure which, the characters I somehow feel I can relate to most are Susie's mother (Abigail) and Ruth, who's been in the same class with Susie since kindergarten but whom Susie has never been close to, or even really talked to until two weeks before her death. Susie's mother is a mysterious and independent woman, battling between having to play the role of a wife and a mother to perfection, and wanting to set herself free. To Susie, her mother has always been sort of distant -- a distance made more apparent by the loving closeness she shares with her father. Abigail is a free spirit trapped in a mother's body, lonely because no one has ever truly understood her.

Ruth is sort of a social outcast in the school, a very talented artist and also a poet. She's a loner, whose greatest friend is probably the journal she writes in. She intrigues me, because she's deemed weird by her peers, but I think she's cool because she does not fall into the pressure of conforming. Or maybe she has failed in her attempts to do so. Abigail and Ruth are two very different persons, similar only because they live a life of being alone, if not physically, then mentally and emotionally.

There's something just so deliciously appealing about loneliness, of not having to worry about others' emotions, of being able to dwell in my own world without being interrupted, of not sharing the same air with another person. It's easy to understand why Susie's mother finds a need to run away to a place surrounded by strangers. I guess one just gets tired of living behind a facade your friends recognize you for that feels so false after a while. It's easy too to see how Ruth can continue to live in the loneliness that defines her, because sometimes, that's easier than dealing with relationships. I feel a connection with them because there are many times when I wish I can just escape from people, because it gets tiring always trying to connect with them but never quite succeeding in sending across my message. If only I have Abigail's and Ruth's courage to stop trying.

I think The Lovely Bones is a beautifully narrated novel from the point of view of a dead girl just into her teens. She's torn; torn between wanting to let go and see her family move on with life without her, and not wanting to be forgotten. And this state of torn in emotions is something I'm sure many can relate to. This novel is going into my list of great reads.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Don't Bother

The amazing thing about knowing God's will for my life is, I do not have to be bothered with the trivial (temporary) things of the world anymore. Okay, things still bother me, but not as much.

I have finished two out of my four final papers so far. The translation paper was okay, I guess. But I don't think I did my best for my media ethics paper; I know there were some parts of the questions that I could have answered better if I had been more focused while studying or doing the exam. Somehow though, I find peace in me. I realize I'm no longer bothered by how well or badly I did for each paper like it used to bother me. In previous semesters, I would obsess and regret over the way I answered my papers even well into the semester breaks. But yesterday, walking out of the exam hall, my worries were absent because, somehow, I have surrendered it all to Him. And that's the most liberating thing I've done in a long time. I think it's the freedom of knowing I'm put here for a greater purpose than just to be the perfect student. Of course, it'll be nice if I can continue to maintain a perfect CGPA, but I have decided, that will not be the thing that defines my life here in college.

It's a revelation I got from Bong Yang, one of my hostel prayer leaders, during prayer meeting the night before my paper. He asked us to look at a few verses in the Bible that talked about the Great Commission. One of them, Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) say that, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

If the Great Commission in the Bible commands us to share the Gospel and bring people to Christ, then why should we be more bothered with exams than with seeing that our friends still do not know Christ? After all, we are put here on earth to do God's will. If we are not doing that in life, then why should we even be bothered about things that are outside our most primary purpose of being here, right? Souls are eternal; results won't even mean anything anymore two years out of college. So given a choice, every Christian should choose to dedicate more time and effort into God's Kingdom, not just merely putting all the time that one has into one's studies. I admit I'm guilty of that many times, of letting my worldly worries overtake my faith in Him and the time I spend with Him. But to hear the revelation on Thursday night was like a slap on my back to wake me up. So what if others expect me to do well in exam and I don't reach their expectations? I have greater things to achieve in life--and those greater things are the things of God--than to make sure I fit into my friends' perception of me.

And you know what's more amazing? Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." So if we actually make God and doing His work our first priority in life, He will reward us in other areas of our life. I've heard of many testimonies of students who sacrificed the time they could have used to study in order to make time for God and to be with their friends who were in need, only to achieve the best results in class. They didn't credit their achievement to their own abilities, but to the fact that they honored God. If you honor God first, He'll honor you. And that's the same in every area of a person's life, whether you're a student, a busy corporate employee or a housewife with too much to handle at home. We are not supposed to worry that much or try that hard!

I know, it's really hard to keep this in perspective when the worries that seem so immediate and near are haunting us at the back of our heads. I still struggle with putting God first sometimes, because there are just so many distractions in life. But I think I'm making my first steps toward that by learning to be not bothered with life so much anymore. I believe that the more I bother about God's things and less about worldly things, the more I'll find reward in everything I do. Yes, I was a worrywart. But I'm happy to say that I'm finding more and more freedom each day from being able to surrender all things to God. If bad news happen, it happens to bring me closer to God's will.

All these do not mean I am no longer a perfectionist--I'm still very much one, but I no longer seek perfection in everything that I do. Because I'm not bothered.

Monday, August 15, 2011

if only they were real

A thousand stars to reach,
with only a ladder to the moon it barely touches;
       I try still to look at the glitters in the sky,
       but my night has turned dark again
              so dark,
              the star has been robbed of its distant limelight.

I light a candle,
but the wind blows so strong tonight.
      The little flicker of dancing light,
      robbed of its joy by the invisible force,
             force so strong,
             yet I see not with my desperate gaze.

Then drops of tears that trickle down my facade,
I feel the warmth so real at first.
       But the sky decides to cry tonight
       cry cold tears that envelop mine,
              telling me I'm a phony
              for trying to shed the warmth I thought I had.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Me so excited.

Current status: I am three weeks into my second academic year in TAR College. Other than the fact that seeing so many young faces fresh out of secondary schools makes me feel sort of old in college now, there are a number of things that keeps me really excited.

First of all, meeting the new people in college

They may be the reason for my psychological aging, but it has been a fun few weeks getting to know the new names and new faces and the lives behind those faces. Most I have come to know through Christian Fellowship gatherings, and it is refreshing to see them so eager to serve God through CF without letting their newness stop them. Seeing a few of them already becoming regulars in our nightly hostel prayer meeting is encouraging. Knowing that God is really making miracles happen in the lives of some of my friends is even more exciting. And it has only been few weeks when so many of these great things unfolded, so of course I can't help but be excited at the prospect of what is to come for the large remaining part of this new semester.

Learning a new language

After wasting too much time contemplating, I am learning Korean this semester! Soon, I'll be able to read Korean words, sort of understand Korean dramas without the subtitles, and sing along to K-pop. Not that I am a fan of Korean pop culture (seemingly the reason my many new classmates want to learn Korean), but I guess I would have to at least learn to appreciate them a little more. After all, there's no better way to get a good grasp of a new language than through its music, is there? My primary motivation to learn this language probably stemmed from my teen years of watching way too many Korean dramas. And of course, the awesome kimchi and bibimbap.

You just can't say no to these.
So far, I've attended two lessons and it has become apparent that I can't catch new words as fast as most of the fanatics in the class. Either their obsession with Girls Generation and TVXQ drive them to become fast learners, or I'm actually a sad case of slow new language learner. Cross your fingers that I'll survive.

Not so college-related
During the break, I have also somehow found my way to really like fine art. Mindless doodling aside, art is something I've always had a hot and cold relationship with. I devoted a large part of my childhood to drawing and shedding realistic and cartoon animals on papers my parents didn't want to use anymore. At some point in life, I outgrew that phase, turning my interest to some other endeavors before drawing out plans of houses--in response with my ambition of wanting to become an interior designer--became my next obsession. Drawing became not so important again when I discovered I could design houses by playing The Sims. But that was years ago. I got over virtual designing too. When I discovered at 15 that I wanted to be a writer, I thought I should focus on just writing if I wanted to succeed (thus the many failed attempts at and commitment toward blogging). No point wasting time with paint and pencils. But now I think, who says one can't focus on doing two things well? So now I am into art again.

I don't really remember how this sudden burst of desire to color, paint and draw came about, but I can't wait for a time when I can finally have the time and means to give painting on canvas a try. My primary source of recent inspiration in arts has been Thaneeya McArdle, an extremely talented and skillful artist who can do both abstract and realistic arts really well. She is so good, she is even generous enough to offer tips on her website www.art-is-fun.com. There, she offers some guides on using various media from colored pencils and inks to pastels and acrylics to create art. This girl makes art look so easy and reachable for normal humans such as us. I adore her work! If you look at her websites, you will be able to see her varied collection of her work that is pure captivating. Her abstract art so quirky, her photorealism ones so real they are capable of fooling you into thinking you are looking at a photograph.

It is so easy to fantasize about the day when I can draw and paint like her, but of course, she got to where she is today probably from years of persistence and really hard work. But I've decided I want to work on writing and creating art, even if I'm going to suck at painting for years. Seeing Thaneeya's artwork is what made me want to try acrylic painting. For now however, I shall settle for colored pencils and water color as practice. Can't be too ambitious without a foundation, can I?

And yes, once I can come out with something I think is presentable, I'll post it here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The dreams I dream

Stepping out of my hostel block, I find myself in a cool autumn mist.
The trees are golden with promise of the impending fall of the leaves.
I breathe in the fresh air - too fresh;
no, this is not the air of the place I think I should have been in.
Instead, I'm up on a hill,
surrounded by the eeriness that comes with the peace.
Where are the people?
Where is the scorching sun?
I wander about this familiar place that has turned unfamiliar.
Oh, look! Up on the roof of the canteen - it's a friend of mine!
But wait...he is turning into a hawk, and it is charging toward me.
My reflex responds - out of self-defense or a desire to touch the bird, I don't know.
I reach out my hands, either to protect my face or to pet the hawk.
It's crazy that I will want to pet an angry hawk, but I really do want to.
It attacks me. Twice.
Then a blue alien appears and she has huge dark eyes,
so intense they penetrate into mine.
I cringe at her sight. Scared maybe.
She looks frighteningly furious, and I am pretty sure she will be the cause of an apocalypse.
Somebody starts attacking the alien.
And suddenly, all that I see is a man snapping out of his daze,
devastated for his lover who will soon turn into a blue alien.
He has just had a terrible vision of the future which is my dream.

This story hardly makes any sense, I know. It is one of the many weird (creepy, if you will) and bizarrely random dreams I haven't stopped having in these past weeks. I wake up unable to find the meanings hidden in the my dreams - many of which are probably never going to be remembered in my consciousness anyway.

In my wakefulness, I find relief in knowing that the blue alien was just a product of my mind. But there was also a part of me who would rather have stayed in the dream a little longer. It was a quiet, eerie and lonely surrounding of a hostel compound I was in, but for the very same reason that made my dream spooky and me feeling disturbed, I was drawn toward it. I realize that no matter how spooky my dream is or how little sense it makes, I want to be in it again. This thought is not unlike the case of Mal in Inception who just wants to stay in her dream that has become her reality. I wonder if I'm delusional like her too.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Growing up and moving on

Yesterday, I left behind a chunk of my childhood in my youngest uncle's house. I hate to say goodbye or to think that I would probably never be able to claim back that part of my life again, but I guess I have to now take the advice I always give others: Life goes on and you will discover better things than what you have lost. I haven't even touched these things for years now. By right, I shouldn't feel the loss.

In the afternoon, when Mum asked me again, I had to finally come to term with the fact that the Barbie dolls--along with their gorgeous dresses and living hall furniture--were not going to be of use in my home anymore. I got over making them talk at least five years ago. And I have no younger siblings to take my place. If someone were to gain joy from playing with the dolls now like I used to, I can't be selfish by continuing to hoard them at home just waiting to be decomposed (which would be really hard because they are totally plastic). It was decided then that my little cousin Nicole would inherit the Barbie collection. And very gladly she did so.

We took the dolls to my uncle's house after taking Grandma out for a Mother's Day dinner. Nicole was obviously excited at the mostly pink and pastel sight. While the adults were chatting, she very meticulously and contentedly arranged and rearranged the miniature purple couches and TV set on the living hall floor. Looking at her, I could now happily let go because of the satisfaction gained in seeing joy on Nicole's face. Now I can light-heartedly say, "Goodbye, Barbies." I'm too sentimental.

This shall be my another rite of passage to adulthood.

Aside from adulthood, another state to celebrate this weekend is motherhood. I wish a lovely Mother's Day to all mothers out there!

In honor of this special occasion and my wonderful mum, Jess and I decided to buy for Mum the durian cheesecake that she loves from Secret Recipe and acknowledge her with a Certificate of Excellence for being an excellent mother, and of course, for her great service to the community for having raised three excellent daughters. I know, it goes right back to complimenting ourselves. Mum laughed out loud reading the certificate. That's what's so great about my mum. She has great wit too, along with many other great qualities.
There was even an official presenting of certificate. We take acknowledgement seriously.
Hope you all give plenty of love to your mamas! :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is death ever a call for celebration?

After few weeks of a pretty satisfying and much appreciated break from college, I was back again last Tuesday for the orientation week. Although classes officially start next week, I had to be there till yesterday to help the journalism freshmen get oriented to their new life in college. I initially thought I would dread going back there, but things turned out pretty positively. It was great to see friends again. It was nice to get to know the new students too. And I admit I did miss the college surrounding a bit.

So much has happened. In my life. In the world. In Osama bin Laden's life, what with it being nil now. And the whole world, not just America, seems to be celebrating that--the loss of a life. I understand that people will obviously be relieved that such a cruel and heartless man can no longer be a threat to America or the world. But I can't help but wonder, is it ever right to celebrate the death of a person, even if that person was a most notorious terrorist responsible for the lives of thousands? He was still a life after all, and one that never got to know Christ. Besides, he may be dead (at least that's what Obama proclaims to the world), but terrorism is not. It's really no use rejoicing over the death of a mad scientist who engineered some fatal virus that infected and killed thousands when no cure is yet found to heal the surviving patients. Of course, it's reassuring to know that the mad guy is no longer available to make more crazy viruses.

The world may be a degree safer to live in now, but that doesn't mean we would no longer be killed by a car driven by a drunk driver, our own health, a natural disaster, another terrorist out there, or in a war. Yes, a war.

I'm definitely not going to mourn his death, but I find it uncomfortable that it should be a call for celebration either. I believe Osama was an inhumane guy, who deserved to pay for his own actions against inhumanity with his own life. I believed that inhumanity should be stopped. But is the decision to stop inhumanity through years of more inhumanity--I'm talking about the war in Afghanistan, not just finally taking down Osama--right? Doesn't that bring us back to the problem? 
Americans who celebrated at Ground Zero can happily say that justice is finally found for the victims of 9/11 and all other terrorist attacks led by Osama. I wonder when can the civilians affected by the ongoing war in Afghanistan claim that justice for themselves too.

Sure, many think Osama's death is just, but they may also be others who would think the total opposite--his family and his followers, for example. If I were an American who has lost a family member due to the 9/11 catastrophe, of course I would be angry at Osama for the grief caused. Knowing that he has finally been defeated would be great justice. However, if my whole family has been killed in a crossfire in Afghanistan all in the name of curbing terrorism, I would be angry at the party responsible for the war in Afghanistan. Justice for me would be to see the war end already. I can imagine being angry that justice is done for the people victimized by terrorism when nobody pays for the countless deaths of the victims of the war. Are the lives of people in Afghanistan less worthy? Are the victims of a terrorist attack more deserving of justice than the ones who have been suffering for years in a war-torn surrounding?

Terrorists should pay for their own crime, not the civilians. It is sad how in the end, it is almost always the civilians who have to be sacrificed. Innocent people die, because really, they have no control over the decisions made by their leader and their leader's enemy. The leaders, whether in the East or the West, go ahead with their agendas without regard for the innocents--all in the name of nationalism, religion and world peace. Even if care is given to lessen casualties, how are you going to give back the few lives lost?

People die because of terrorism. And people die because of wars. Why does the American government see terrorism as a horror that needs to be stopped but advocate war as the solution to a problem? Is war any kinder than terrorism? Is it still called justice when so many lives in Afghanistan have been taken away in exchange for the ones lost in 9/11? It doesn't matter that United Nations reported that the Taliban were responsible for 76% of deaths in the war. The victims' families would still remember their loss in association with the presence of a foreign military in their country. And when will the Afghans be able to celebrate justice of their own? When the American troops leave their country? When the Taliban lose power? Or do they expect to see something else? Justice for them is not as clear or simple, I think.

And in this effort of justice, what happens if the surviving al-Qaeda retaliates by attacking again? To the terrorists, that would be their definition of justice. Justice for their leader who has been killed. Then, more innocent civilians would get hurt.

I'm not on any side. I'm just a confused girl, grieved by the fact that men would hurt others to fight for their own justice, to achieve their own goals. I'm just disturbed that the same people who cried over someone's death would rejoice over another's. Osama's death shouldn't be a call for celebration, but a cause of grief of the awareness that mankind will only continue to cause pain and loss to one another, holding on to the nature of revenge. To me, continual retaliation from both parties is not justice.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian novelist said:

"Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity."
That's what we are losing today. Real justice. As long as an action pleases oneself, one goes ahead with it, confident that one's action can be justified after that. Regard for all humanity has been lost. That is why now one man's joy is always another man's sadness.

I don't have the answer to what really is fair. It is so easy to define justice in a dictionary, but I don't think it can ever be objective in this grey, grey world.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack turns five today. And in the first five years of his life, Room and everything in it are all Jack has ever known to be true. Everything else outside the room (Outside) is not real. The things on TV are things from other planets, which aren't real. The cartoons come from the cartoon planet. Trees seen in the TV are not real, but Plant is real, because Plant is the only potted plant that exists in Room and therefore, the only plant to exist in reality. For Jack, that one room measuring 11 feet by 11 feet, the Room he shares with his Ma, is his life, reality and the world.

Room by Emma Donoghue is another book I recently finished reading. It is about a boy who lives a life trapped with his mother in a little room. Only thing is, Jack doesn't know he is trapped because he has been born in there and has never left it. There is no reason for Jack to believe that there's a much bigger world beyond the door of Room. Growing up, Room is where he sleeps, Room is his playground, Room is the place where he discovers new things, Room is where he asks his Ma questions. Old Nick, a man who comes into the room every day or few, whom Ma seems to despise and Jack never allowed to see, is their sole provider.

It is only after Jack's fifth birthday that his Ma begins to drop facts and questions that suggest there really is a world in the Outside after all. Within few days of Jack having to accept the disturbing truth, Ma also reveals that she wants to escape Room. But Jack finds it hard to believe that Outside is real, and even harder to understand why they have to leave Room. Still, his Ma plans an escape, which is eventually a success, and the rest of the story focuses on the mother and son's difficult transition to the world outside Jack's world. For Jack, it is like being an alien landing on a different planet altogether.

Reading Room is of a really atypical experience from other novels because I've never given much serious thought on how the world would appear to a five-year-old boy who might have as well just popped out from his mother's womb and is experiencing world for the first time. But unlike an infant, Jack is already capable of speech, reasoning and memory. If seen from his perspectives, it's really not too hard to imagine the world as a terrifying place for Jack. Imagine, for the first five years of your life, you know every corner, every scratch and every inch of surface of your world, then suddenly, you are in the Outside--a place you didn't even know is real until just a few days ago--and a burst of elements is working your senses to overdrive. Suddenly, the world for Jack is no longer just him and Ma. They have to share it with other people too. The sunlight is too intense for his skin. There are too many different sounds happening at the same time. And he discovers, the world runs on repetition. Plant is no longer the only plant in the world. The Dylan the Digger book Jack sees in a mall turns out to be a same but different one from the one he owns back in Room. Then there seems to be a million social rules to learn in this complicated world.

The really memorable thing about Room is that, the whole story is told in the first-person point of view of Jack. Reading the novel is like putting myself in the brain and thought processes of a little child, along with his childish sentence structure and grammar, funny punctuations and weird choices of words to describe things, which totally makes sense because Jack is only five. 'Switching off' means sleeping. Things 'hided away.' Jack narrates in half sentences a lot which are catchy and funny to read. Where there should be a period, there's a comma. Where a sentence should go on, it is suddenly paused by a comma.

The amount of thoughts and details Donoghue put into every word of Jack's narration is amazing. So many times, it wouldn't have occurred to me that a child would think in such a way, until Donoghue strikes a chord in my inner child and imagination, and reminds me that fifteen years ago, I used to think or may have thought like that too. Bringing myself into the shoe of a five-year-old, it is like reliving toddler-hood in some ways yet the experience is so different because Jack's life is so. It is really quaint, fascinating and quite painful to see the world through the eye of Jack. He may be a fictitious character, but Donoghue made Jack's feelings and perspectives so believable that I get caught up with his emotions so naturally.

Psychology is so fascinating. Throughout this novel, the distortion of reality and fantasy in the mind of a boy is very haunting. I really like this book. I think you should give it a try too.