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 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.