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Re:Life

Starting over is hard.

I did it once last year back at INTEC. I shoved my belongings into a luggage bag, moved into Akasia and put together what was to be my material life at college. That wasn’t too hard. I was twenty minutes away from home in a country I grew up in, in a culture that was second nature to me.

It’s different this time. I packed two ridiculously heavy bags, got on a plane and soldiered through a 26 hour-long flight to Champaign, got to my dorm room and basically pieced my life back together (physically, at least) at 12 in the morning on the opposite end of the world.

It feels strange to be so far away from everything I know and have known. People, food – even the smells are different. But a friend once told me to look up at the sky every time I arrived in another country. That looks identical thank goodness.

According to my parents my room is very disorganized. Hey, as long as I know where everything is life is good. Coming to think about it, my room probably reflects what I’m feeling…rather mixed up – but I’m pretty sure I know where everything is, so I’ll be fine.

Hence, this marks my new project. I will write appreciation posts to help me keep up my spirits…until I get used to this whole new international-student thing.

Until then, babai.

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Posted in Overseas, Random Stuff, Uncategorized

Narita Has Cool Toilets

I recently arrived at Narita Airport en route to Chicago, and I must say that their water closets amaze me. Two of the average kind, one with enough buttons to drive Arthur Weasley insane with joy, and the flattest squatting toilet bowl I have ever seen. In fact, meh to Arthur Weasley. I am going to be potentially driven mad with happiness.

THEY SELL MANGA LIKE MAGAZINES IN THIS COUNTRY.

Japan, you are doing something right.

Besides the elation of technically visiting Japan, I’m also feeling a kind of ‘Aha-I-told-you-I’d-be-back’ thing. Don’t remember the place looking like this four years ago, but that’s probably due to the sheer size of this whole establishment. I’d take a picture of it, but unfortunately my anak OKU (read: Lenovo A516) refuses to connect with the Narita wifi.

Looking forward to Chicago, but that’s where the nervousness sets in. I have to go through American Customs. Yikes. They be strict in the Land of the Free.

The reality of my situation has not yet fully set in. I suspect that symptoms will only begin to show after a few days or so. I was sent off by my friends and family at KLIA earlier, and definitely felt the love.

On a completely random note, did you know that it rains diamonds on Neptune? That’s according to Physics-Astronomy.

Now, NARITA GIVE ME WIFI!

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Barebaru

Me: You sure? The art looks kinda sloppy.

Sister: HAIKYUU IS LYFE.

Me: (being the objective, non-discriminating person I am) Okay, I’ll give it a shot.

Me: What’s the big deal with Hinata and Kageyama anyway?

Me: WHAT KIND OF SPIKE WAS THAT?? HINATA?? THINK ABOUT ASAHI!!

*twenty minutes later*

Me: I NEED A VOLLEYBALL.

 

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Letting Off Steam

 

It seems to me that each generation has an obligation to be plagued by some form of worldwide  tragedy. My grandparents suffered through World War II and the communist insurgency in Malaya. My parents lived through the Cold War, the Cuban missile face-off between the U.S. and Russia, both the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the Tiananmen Square massacre and the 1998 economic crash. Hence, it is only fair that, as part of what most adults would condescendingly call ‘Gen-Y’, my fellow counterparts and I must face our own share of international disasters.

Here are some of the horrors that have occurred ever since yours truly was introduced to this world:

  1. 9/11
  2. The 2008 economic downturn.
  3. Red shirt rallies in Kuala Lumpur.
  4. Global IS attacks, including one in Puchong.
  5. The Japanese earthquake.
  6. Global warming.
  7. People in denial of global warming.
  8. Donald Trump becoming the GOP’s candidate for the American presidency.
  9. Brexit.
  10. The Sulu insurgency in Sabah.
  11. Increased racial and religious hostility.
  12. Immigration issues in Western Europe.
  13. The Orlando shooting.
  14. Greece’s economic disaster.
  15. The bombing in Ataturk Airport.
  16. The bombing in The Holy Artisan Cafe in Dhaka.
  17. The bombing in Bangladesh.
  18. The bombing outside Madinah.
  19. Bombings in general.

So here I am, writing this out, mainly to vent my feelings of utter helplessness while reading Kaichou Wa Maid-sama trying (and failing) to ignore humanity’s stupidity as a whole. IT’S A CYCLE PEOPLE! OPEN YER EYES AND SEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

It’s happening again. All the conflict that happened in the past, the conflict our leaders promised would never happen again – well, IT’S HAPPENING. RIGHT NOW.

I’m just afraid. I never thought that I’d have to fear so much in this lifetime, knowing that anyone could pull out a hand grenade, or a hand gun, or a machete, and going kamikaze in the middle of  – oh, I don’t know – Subang? The LRT station? The airport? Just barely an hour ago I was sitting outside a restaurant, anxiously looking around in case anyone or anything seemed suspicious. A few weeks ago, I’d be happily whining about how much rice my dad made me eat, or trying to convince my brother that too much meat is bad for health.

Nope.

Today, I sat on the red plastic stool and spent a good five minutes glancing about my surrounding before the food arrived and my attention was sufficiently diverted. And fifteen minutes ago my attention was once again diverted by Misaki finally getting married to Usui. My inner fangirl is throwing a hypothetical wedding party.

Okay. Back to the serious, depressing stuff.

Throughout history we see a pattern – one of cause and effect, action and reaction. It has happened before when Europe waged war against the Arabian peninsula in the Crusades, causing shock-waves of religious conflict that we still feel today. It happened once again when America decided to intervene in the Middle East, destabilizing the region and causing people to seek vengeance with Islam as their axis (see: excuse). And it happened again in Malaya when the British were hard pressed for help, eventually turning to the communists and aiding their guerrilla war against the Japanese by supplying arms to the PKM.

We see a pattern of responding to an evil with a greater evil – so how long will it take before the Western world snaps and turns this fight into an MMA-style all-out religious war? How long before this becomes, once again, Islam vs Christianity?

God forbid that ever happens.

All I am capable of for now is to vent and to hope that someone – ANYONE – scrapes the dirt out of his/her eyes and sees the cycle of terror repeating once again. Coming to think about it, I do not think that we have had any problem spotting patterns. We do, however, have a problem taking action in preventing those horrifying things from happening again. In all honesty, we are all the stereotypical Asian student – perfectly capable of knowing, but completely hopeless in application.

I feel sorta helpless. But I don’t think I should feel like that. In a small way, I have already won my portion of the battle. I have seen, I have known, and now it is my responsibility break the cycle of hatred and misunderstanding. While I am no great orator, and will not accomplish changing people’s mindset on a global scale, I can play my small part, simply by being a better person to others regardless of race, religion and the whole other bunch of cliche SPM terms used in the closing of an essay. It is amazing, as INTEC has shown me, how far a little charity and selflessness can go.

Also – and who knows? – my writing may help.

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Of Chicken Curry and Kawad Kaki

It wasn’t a great day. Things weren’t going my way.

A couple of months before, I sat in front of the computer with my fingers crossed and breath held, fervently muttering, “Please no, please no“. Alas, alack, the universe fulfilled its role of plan-wrecker and horror-monger that day. The great, glaring “Tahniah, anda berjaya dipilih!” felt like a netball had hit me between the eyes – and trust me, I know exactly what that feels like. A couple of seconds later, I thought, to put it mildly, “Shit.”

So there I sat on the National Service bus to hell, struggling to record the horrible day I was having in my journal on the über bumpy ride to Paya Indah Camp while stealing furtive glances at the disciplinary nightmare of a schoolmate that sat two seats in front of me. I distinctively recall having rolled my eyes quite a few times. This was going to be fantastic.

Indeed, it was anything else but fantastic. My first day involved my luggage going bust, my locker malfunctioning, people getting my name wrong and getting lost on the way to the lavatory. I didn’t understand what was going wrong. Did I not pay my respects to the local deities (or spirits, or demons) before settling in as recommended by the witch doctor (read: Chinese medium)? Did I not smile and try to make friends? But that day, no matter what I did, the food remained bad, the bed stayed hard, my back was stiff and I was perpetually miserable. In a nutshell, my first day at  National Service camp sucked.

You know, it’s funny how well you remember your first and last days of something significant, but everything else in between just seems to blend into a big, soupy mess of recollections. Two incidents do stand out, however, from the multiple gaping holes in my terrible memory.

First off – a little backstory. I was born into a bi-religious family. I woke up each morning to the scent of sandalwood from my father’s Buddhist altar permeating the air and felt the radiating warmth of the candles from the shrine dedicated to Jesus and Mother Mary as I prayed before I slept every night. So while I sat there as our trainer sorted us our respective religious groups, I put up my hand and asked him, “Sir, is it possible for me to go to both the temple and church?”

There was a short debate that followed (one that I’m not proud of), with him being stubbornly steadfast in his decisive “No”. However, that wasn’t what hit me the hardest.

“Having two religions is bad for you.”

I sat down, feeling horrible for some reason. I didn’t get it. Was it wrong practicing two beliefs? Did that doom me to hell? Screw the dooming; did it ever affect me adversely? If a man likes both chicken and fish would the police detain him? If someone wanted to sing Justin Bieber then follow it up with a rendition of Phil Collins’ You’ll Be In My Heart, would Hades condemn him to Tartarus? Although, I would agree that putting Justin Bieber anywhere near Mr. Collins is a punishable offence…

That night I went to bed, frustrated, angry, confused and determined to hate that particular trainer for as long as I lived. If my recollections are precise, I even wrote a lengthy entry in my journal that night, fuming about how close-minded people were and that what he thought mattered less to me than whether or not Kim Kardashian had buttock surgery.

What I’m going to talk about next occurred while I was half-blind. I had no spectacles on, having had them confiscated by a trainer as glasses were considered dangerous. Apparently, the game we were playing could result in bodily harm. I didn’t believe that claim until much later when a fight broke out between two of our groups.

The game went like this: each group was given a small area of the hall. Our duty was to elect a king and protect that area of hall ‘with our lives’. Having lost nearly all my eyesight, I groped around, trying to lead my group without speaking as per the rules. We made an origami crown and presented our king to the trainer in charge – and he grabbed the crown off our king’s head. We were baffled. Did we miss a step? Definitely not, we’d done everything to the T. The trainer told us to put on a martial arts performance. One by one, each of us went up and did whatever we could think of, but to no avail. He kept that increasingly annoying beatific smile on his face and held on more firmly to our crown.

I couldn’t take it. I knew we had missed something. I picked the directions off the floor, put it right at my nose, squinted at it and read the Times New Roman print once again. There it was. Lantik seorang raja dan tabalkan baginda. Elect a king and crown him. No mention of asking the trainer, no mention of having to put up a ridiculous performance.

I groped my way forwards, grabbed the flimsy crown from the hands of the trainer and promptly placed it on the head of our group’s king. Then all of a sudden, we’d won the challenge. Strangely enough, I feel much better about the heated argument concerning my religious tendencies compared to the crown-grabbing fiasco. While I didn’t experience any particular epiphany, I saw that what others thought of my choices mattered less than how I conducted myself when I dealt with my personal theology, and yes, it was less important than whether or not Ms. Kardashian had buttock enhancers embedded in her gluteus maximus. One day, I was going to choose one belief over the other – or maybe I’ll pull a Pi Patel and continue going to church each Sunday and still recite the Triple Gem before sleeping every night. I’ll probably get a lot of flak if I do that, though… On the other hand, the crowning incident showed me things about myself that I’d rather not remember – my eagerness for success, my ambition, and how impulsive I was when pressured.

If I were to draw a Venn diagram of the things I learnt from both incidents, you would hardly expect the circles to overlap. This time, however, that teeny probability of imbrication came to fruition and dang was it one heck of a lesson. I don’t think I’m eloquent enough to put it into one sentence, but I will mention this Dr. Seuss quote: You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. Yeah, I know. It’s terribly cliché, but it’s also freakishly precise. I’m pretty sure that if you want something, you’ve got to take the first step yourself. You can’t expect someone else to crown your king. You cannot sit around allowing others to define how you see religion. Many say that a man’s actions define who he is, others claim that it is the contents of his mind. I say it is your thoughts that guide your actions, and who you are inside is for those most precious to you to discover. That’s why we have our brain safely encapsulated in our well-evolved skulls, and not jutting out of our head as a magnificently gruesome bodily piece on display, yes?

I think I went home not vastly changed, but perhaps with a slightly better understanding of myself, and of people. Whether or not this qualifies as life-changing? It’s up to you. One thing’s for certain though – the copious amounts of chicken curry I consumed and the endless hours spent marching under the blistering sun definitely did some permanent damage. I wonder when the effects will set in…