Thursday, May 28, 2015
I went to Adam Road Presbyterian Church in the morning with Jontotan. I got there NOT-late which was rather miraculous, and was plunged almost immediately into one of the most lovely praise and worship segments of my life.
Behold our God
You are me Anchor (Based off Psalm 27 - my favourite Psalm! And Auntie Sheila's favourite Psalm as well!)
You alone can rescue (which I remember singing at the IBNO conference too)
Still my soul be still
In His Time (One of my favourite hymns after Be Thou My Vision - which reminds me of when Weiming asked me what my favourite hymn was and I said BTMV and he burst out "BEEEEEE THOU MAAA-III VIII-SIONNN")
The sermon was on Esther - on how in Esther's situation crisis was reversed to celebration, and the condemned Jews were saved from a state sanctioned massacre through seeming 'coincidence' (i.e. God's sovereign and merciful plan), and likewise, how our own death sentence because of sin has been reversed to eternal life because of Jesus' descent from Heaven to earth and even to death on the cross.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
After the sermon, I met some of the other youth in their church. Alicia, Jontotan's sister, is learning sign language to help the deaf in her church. There was a guy who recognized me from Track and Field Nationals, and another who is going to study Literature probably in the UK as well. There was an older man who was from GBC, and a girl who played the flute which she kept in a thunder-proof case, and another girl who used to be from SCGS as well and is studying medicine.
On the way to the Library after work, I got quite lost despite promising I wouldn't, but I managed to meander my way to the library, following my heart as well as my in built book radar. I passed by a trishaw and the raffles hotel which has a gravel porch and porters in turbans and seems to belong to a bygone day.
After lunch, the family and I watched TRIBES by Pangdemonium. A play about how a family adjusts and does not adjust to their deaf son - a play about empathy. We had a good laugh over how the Mum in the play and Mum shared so many idiosyncrasies, and also about the fact that our ex-neighbour Sue was acting in it and walked on stage in her bra (at which point Tim turned to look at me with a 'help-get-me-out-of-here' look on his face)
But the play also made me think about how much we often lack empathy for others. I know I do - I get impatient so easily, when my Dad tells me something he has told me so many times before, when people keep making fun of vegetarians, when when other people have also had a long and tiring day... It's so difficult to have empathy when out hearts were made so selfish. Jesus, please make me kind.
After that, I finished reading the Mill on the Floss and the ending made me feel so heavy.
"Oh, it is difficult, — life is very difficult! It seems right to me sometimes that we should follow our strongest feeling; but then, such feelings continually come across the ties that all our former life has made for us, — the ties that have made others dependent on us, — and would cut them in two. If life were quite easy and simple, as it might have been in Paradise, and we could always see that one being first toward whom — I mean, if life did not make duties for us before love comes, love would be a sign that two people ought to belong to each other. But I see — I feel it is not so now; there are things we must renounce in life; some of us must resign love. Many things are difficult and dark to me; but I see one thing quite clearly, — that I must not, cannot, seek my own happiness by sacrificing others. Love is natural; but surely pity and faithfulness and memory are natural too. And they would live in me still, and punish me if I did not obey them. I should be haunted by the suffering I had caused. Our love would be poisoned. Don't urge me; help me, — help me, because I love you."
This part just rent through me like a knife, but it is so true. Our happiness should not - can not - be our first priority. We must live beyond ourselves.
Yesterday was one of my Mum's clients last days as her student. As I was getting my dinner ready before fellowship (smashed avo with tomato and mushrooms on toast), I could hear his voice, the thin and piping voice of a young boy, float from the backroom, with words that just melted my heart
"Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!"
"I love you, Miss Helen!"
When he came out of the session, he ran to the balcony to feed our turtles, his weekly 'reward' after a session.
His usual other weekly tradition is saying "See you later alligator!" to my Mum as he leaves. This week, when he was at the door, he clung on to my Mum and said "I want to come for speech therapy for...for a THOUSAND years!"
"What happens if I come and knock on the door tomorrow?"
"I love you, Miss Helen!"
Heart in mouth.
Other notable weekly news:
-Rishab's chickens have hatched six eggs - we now have 6 little chicks to protect from the cats and myna birds!
-I had banana nice cream with crumbled chocolate cake for breakfast for two days running
-Luk ching brought me a sticky bun for our Wednesday shift
-I went to the doctor's to sort out these puzzling and slightly painful little red dots that have been growing on my right arm (sorry for the grossness but bodies just do this sometimes) and it wasn't shingles or anything like I had been worrying about, just a little infection that is localised and noninfectious and it will be gone in 2 weeks if I faithfully use some antibiotic cream.
-I'm getting into the rhythm of reading Virginia Woolf's stream-of-consciousness writing (It's amazing how different reading a book for the first and second time can be! Also, stream-of-consciousness really plays with your brain: Everything falls into place, but slightly out of pace with how it would if you saw it with your eye or read it in prose. It's almost like seeing into another time-space)
-The NLB offered me a scholarship too! With strange terms! Will write about that another day, but for now I need to seriously pray and think about which path is better for me.
Monday, May 25, 2015
I woke up so warm on Saturday, both literally (Singaporean weather is just so humid and hot right now - Niki kept wishing 'if only it was fifteen degrees and not so humid') and figuratively, because today was the day of the picnic with Natascha (I love how her name has an 's' and a 'c' next to each other, it makes the turn of the consonants so much more vivid somehow) and Niki (who I used to spell as Nikki for ages).
I used the whole meal pasta I had bought the day before and my whole jar of pesto and some of the ghim moh spinach (I love market vegetables - less plastic packaging for once, they just roll everything up in old newspaper) as well as some walnuts to make pesto pasta with wilted spinach, which took less than 5 minutes to make (go-to recipe for when I become a Mum).
Then I made a banana and blueberry smoothie, and I added some extra spinach inside there for an iron boost, which didn't affect the taste at all although I think I could have put in a little less soy milk next time.
Botanic gardens was slightly drizzly when we got there (Mum used to call rain like that 'spitting') but we walked around quite happily under Niki's huge golf umbrella. Nat had slept on the roof the previous night in her sleeping bag and woke up to rain falling on her face.
We found a relatively empty pagoda (devoid of any creepy men, unlike Niki's previous experience, just two friendly Indian men who helped us to take a photo) and set out our s p r e a d, which, on top of my pasta, smoothie and dragon fruit, included nat's citrus and mint bliss balls, banana and date loaf and popcorn, and Niki's fruit, crackers, pasta salad and dips from New Zealand.
We talked about everything from vegetarianism (bound to arise since Nat is vegan, I am confused between veganism and vegetarianism, and Niki is vegetarian practically 80% of the time), the exploitative practices of clothing producers (We plan to go thrift shopping together some time!), when our next picnic will be, what studying overseas will be like, how many children we want to have in the future (I think girls always talk about this) and so much more.
We decided to walk around after that, and we spied a couple of roosters and a chicken ('Why did the chicken cross the road?' - Niki) which reminded me of the rooster and the chicken in my neighbourhood which Tim, Kunaal and Rishab have christened Zelda.
Occasionally we would stop to take pictures of the beautiful flowers and plants that live in the botanic gardens, including a little aphid that Niki spotted on a leaf.
At one point in our walk, Nat stopped to take a picture of a fallen leaf on the ground because it was just so beautiful, which made my heart so happy because these two special friends find such beauty even in the ordinary and the fallen.
I told them that bougainvilleas are one of the plants I find most interesting because their flowers are actually not flowers, but leaves that change their pigmentation and come together to form the beautiful groups we mistake as flowers. I've always seen that as a sort of natural symbol for the ability for the ordinary to become extraordinary, especially when dreams and interests align.
I don't know why conversation flows so easily with the two of them, from one topic to another like a meandering river. At one point we even talked about how to make yogurt and how you can make soy yogurt with firm tofu, soy milk and...chili stems! (Not even joking, I found this recipe on you tube just on Friday!) Which then led Nat into saying 'My favourite bacteria is ...' Which I found so funny because where ever else would you hear confessions of this kind.
These two beautiful friends are such kindred souls, so kind to me and every other person on this planet, and so sensitive and passionate about health, wellness and social justice and WORLD consciousness.
George Eliot wrote that 'the golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.' I'm so glad to have this blog to write down all these golden moments, and glad for friends and food and faith that helps me to look beyond drizzly weather to the angels that stand by my side every day.
Other funny moments that day:
1. OTT chef giving me food to serve: " (looking at the receipt with the table number on it) 两个都是 b big. (sees my not-fully-chinese-face) Oh shit! sorry!"
2. Weixin coming and surprising me with Meiji crackers from her Meiji run. I scooped her the biggest ever bailey's and brownie scoop of ice cream, so big that I couldn't even make it properly round and smooth because it wouldn't fit into the scoop.
3. As I cleaned out the waffle iron, scraping out the bits of batter stuck to it's side, next to Leonard who was bent over the sink washing the coffee machine things
Leonard: "Are you intending to flick that (the batter bits) in my face"
Me: "I didn't know you were telepathic!"
On Wednesday, I had my MDA interview. Walter Fernandez told me that physical print media is a dying breed of journalism which made me so sad. I think one of the most constant impressions on my mind is of my father taking the newspaper every morning, with his cup of coffee, to read at the breakfast table, and subsequently folding it into a neat rectangle to tuck under his arm as he goes for work.
After that, I met Wei Xin for dinner. We were initially going to Casuarina Curry because Indian food is a vice of mine, but decided to go to Cedele instead because it was nearer.
This salad happened, and it was incredible. We talked about things - mostly relationships (not our own, which are non existent) and the messiness of them, the gore-y bits (like crazy reference) that splinter people apart. I am pretty glad I'm not attached, and shan't be until I settle down in England for university. Then perhaps I'll open my heart to possibility.
I went for fellowship, and arrived too late to get a worksheet/lyrics sheet for the ongoing worship, but I enjoyed sitting and savouring the music, and I was surprised at how many of the words I had committed to heart already.
Chris drove me home - a rather perilous trip including one time of driving into a lane of on coming traffic and two other necessary reversals. Complete with conversation about the correct pronunciation of his Chinese name and how to crowd surf and correct behaviour in a night club (which I may go to in the coming week oh help) it was a really funny car ride, but every conversation with Chris can send me into stitches.
On Thursday, I met Weixin for lunch again, and dessert, and got painful blisters before my interview. In the NLB interview where I met very friendly board members and its CEO. The interview went quite smoothly, it was very informal, and when they asked me about what were the three most important things to me I said: Family, Self-improvement, and world consciousness - living with others (animals, humans, the environment) in mind.
Although I think I have many other core values, I think these three have been weighing on my mind most heavily. Family because I realise how much I will miss them when I study in England. I've never been apart form them for more than 2 weeks, and I shall miss them terribly. I remember a time when I was in Shanghai, and my Mum and Brother came back to Singapore early. I stayed up for a long time just crying and (strangely) singing to myself, and (this is slightly embarrassing but) making up songs with lyrics that talked about a mother's love.
Also I've been thinking about family because of Grandma's deteriorating memory. So many of the books I read deal with memory as their key theme- the brief history of the dead for instance. So much so that I have begun to believe that memory constitutes so much of your person that losing it means you lose so much of your own self - you are stuck in a limbo of childhood again except you don't have the promise of many years to form memories. It is one of my biggest fears.
Self improvement because I feel so restless sometimes - these months out of school have been fun and I have grown in many ways, mostly on the social spectrum (I sound as if I was totally socially inept previously oh my), but the intellectual stimulus and challenges I faced and relished in school are sorely lacking. I can't wait for school to start again so I can feel that burning relief of real intellectual challenge again.
Consciousness because I think I have become a lot more aware and educated and passionate about social justice, environmental preservation and animal rights in the past year. Today I read an article about the devastating conditions and effect of the fast fashion industry and last week I read something similar about the mani-pedi industry in America, and I am constantly aware of the slaughter of animals everywhere and endlessly, and I think I have begun to feel so critically the meaning of the phrase 'my heart is heavy'.
Sometimes it's just a hard, dull weight that tells you 'The whole world is plagued by sin and vice and you are powerless to stop this'. I have such limited capacity, such a stark reversal from the feeling that the world was so entirely in my grasp and that I could change it that I had earlier this year. I will never stop trying (Since turning vegetarian in November, I have statistically saved the lives of 101 animals) but sometimes the reality of the magnitude of it all is so crushing. Especially when solutions are so easily individually accessible, but require such mass behind it that changing the hearts and minds of every one seems so futile.
But despite me going into mopey moods like this occasionally I am so glad of friends who meet me multiple times in a week and shine light into my life.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
A cafe conversation:
(After I had told basically everyone about the wonderful wonderful heavensent dragon fruit sale in Cold Storage)
Kai Jing: Do you watch Game of Thrones?
Me: No, but I know bits of it. I know there's a lady with dragons.
Kai Jing (to Glen): Eh, she knows about Daenerys.
Kai Jing (to me): Yeah, she's the Queen of Dragons. I think you are the Queen of Dragonfruits.
I wholly and happily accept that title.
Also, today a boy walked into the cafe carrying an armful of leaves, I had to quickly turn to the Victoria Arduino coffee machine and have a giggle.
After work, Ben, Van and I went to Paddy Hills to get dessert. We shared the Berry Ricotta Hotcake and Orange Ricotta Pillows. I didn't like the orange one so much, because citrus pancakes are not really my thing (or citrus desserts in general, unless it's lemon, in which case I'm helpless) But oh that hotcake. It was huge, and expensive, and completely delicious. The berries were large, and so generous (relative to the teensy portion I had in Dolce Tokyo with Weixin)
|I took this from someone else's blog - I really don't have the photography skills to produce a picture as gorgeous as this.|
Friday, May 22, 2015
A few weeks ago I decided to begin what I call 'The breakfast project' with Emily. Basically I get my lazy bum out of bed every morning for a week of school days and deliver breakfast to my beautiful friend who often goes without because school starts so early and finishes so late.
A week of breakfasts.
That should be easy.
Monday: Sauteed mushrooms on pesto toast
I woke up before 7 am for probably the first time since I graduated. I had a terrible night before that, and dreams of food filled my interrupted-with-multiple-moments-of-semi-conscious-wakefulness night. My last dream memory was of someone trying to force feed me chicken tikka on a kebab stick.
I woke up and immediately started sauteing mushrooms with garlic, leaving them for a while to brush my teeth because that morning filmy feeling is not pleasant. I did not add butter as I usually do because I wanted to make it as vegan as possible. And then I spread pesto which has Parmesan cheese in it on the toast and sandwiched the mushrooms in between. Sorry Emily, but I think 90% vegan is pretty darn good.
I got to ACJC in the silver winged chariot that is my car because unsurprisingly I left the house late. I had forgotten that AC has terrible morning traffic but thankfully Emily was late as well and so while waiting for her I had a nice chat with the security guard and sent 'It's ok life goes on' vibes to all the poor late souls sprinting in.
Emily asked me later that night
'What style of cooking were the mushrooms? My mum wants to know and I can only describe them as glorious'
Which made my night after a four hour straight tuition marathon and so I happily obliged - Olive oil + Thickly chopped mushrooms + thickly chopped garlic fried till golden, add mixed herbs (and butter if you aren't began) fry a little bit more. The trick is to not fry it too much or it becomes soggy, and to cut the mushrooms thickly.
Today was late day for ACJC, so Emily told me she'd actually have breakfast, and so the breakfast project morphed into the lunch project. I used the left over rice from last nights dinner and scorched some edamame in sesame oil before adding the rice and garlic in as well. I actually wanted to make fried rice but I didn't want to use egg, and so it was rather plain fare. Thankfully, my Mum asked if I wanted to put in some mustard leaf, which is what she puts into olive rice.
I think that saved everything.
That plus some fresh chopped cucumber (because everyone needs cold cucumber in this ridiculously hot weather) was the main, and I put in some apple (chopped because Emily doesn't like eating apples whole) and a slice of banana cake (not the chocolate lana cake from Hannah's birthday because Emily doesn't like sweet things so much)
Because my Dad had left and I only had 10 minutes to get to school, I decided to make the delivery part of my morning run. I don't think a running girl holding a big blue lunch box is a common sight. I ran along the route I used to cycle along to school, the pavements with the morning glory beside it, the paths where I used to dodge the snails and duck under over hanging branches, and I really missed cycling.
I need to fix my bicycle.
The security guard was surprised to see me again, and I told him I'd be doing this every morning or this school week. I was so glad to talk to him, because it distracted me from one of my fears- which is irrationally being seen and recognised by school people (perhaps that is why the anonymity of waitressing appeals to me so much)
Wednesday: Cinnamon Apple and Blueberry Oatmeal
I woke up early, drenched in sweat because last night the wind seemed to have taken a holiday. Since I was having oatmeal as usual, I decided to make Emily oatmeal too. Because I used frozen blueberries, it turned out very very purple, which never bother me but I hope she didn't think I was trying to poison her or something.
This wasn't my oatmeal bowl but Oh My I wish it was.
I wore a nice dress to school to deliver it because I wanted to put that dress in the wash (My logic: things cannot get washed until they actually smell bad/are stained. Therefore, wear nice clothes more often. Therefore, wear nice clothes for everyday things too. Therefore, always look nice.)
I feel afraid that resorting to oatmeal signifies a death of my breakfast creativity.
On the way home from fellowship, Chris said that it sounds like I am preparing for motherhood.
I woke up early to make blueberry pancakes for Em, but because you never can make pancake batter for just one person, Tim got pancakes in the morning too. He was slightly confused, 'Why are you making me pancakes?'
I told him it was because he is my little brother and I love him and I kissed the top of his head with his hair which he was going to shave off later that day. Good bye hair.
Today Emily was on time so I could just pop out of the car and pass her the pancakes as well her house keys and 2 movies.
Friday: Stuffed French Toast
I asked Emily what she wanted for the last day of this project, and she asked me to surprise her. So I took her words literally and decided to make french toast with a stuffing of blueberries and bananas as a surprise in the middle.
Tim woke up early with his little shaved head which I honestly cannot stop touching - it feels like feathery down one way and a scratchy stubbly chin in reverse.
I actually made the toast much too thick, so only one could fit in the lunch box, and I had the liberty of savouring the other one while reading about a new art project they are going to start at the old railway.
In the car on the way Mum and I watched the people running to school, and Mum told me how she loved that sight because the added weight of a heavy school bags 'makes their chins bob', as she demonstrated it so vigorously that she sneezed.
I was a little late today I really hope Emily was on time!
On the way home, the radio played the adage music from the intermediate foundation syllabus which always makes me feel like I'm running through the woods.
The most common reaction I've received from this project was 'that's so nice of you'. Which I suppose is true. But I think it's not anything extraordinary, if you live by the understanding that being kind and loving to others is what God meant us all to be. I'm lucky to have a best friend to whom cooking for doesn't seem like a chore, where every breakfast is exciting and after every delivery I just hope it nourishes her and gives her a GREAT start to the day.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Monday, May 18, 2015
This morning as I ate my apple and rhubarb oatmeal in Botanic gardens, I had a perfect view of a group of middle aged Chinese women doing some sort of traditional exercise, that involved a lot of slapping their own calves, chests, faces and hips.
A bougainvillea flower fell onto my thigh.
The women played traditional chinese music and did some squats. And then a group of expatriate women moved onto the grass field beside the chinese women and rolled out exercise mats and began doing yoga.
It was such a perfect juxtaposition, but at the same time it had an alluring symmetry - two groups of women, moving and using the bodies they have been blessed with, and talking and laughing and communing together in the mean time.
Two things that no longer make sense to me, and two questions I think we all have to periodically ask ourselves (myself included):
1. How can I eat, and therefore cause the death of, an animal, just because it tastes good?
2. How can I wear things that have been stitched together, glued together, folded and packaged by people working suffocating conditions on subsistence wages just because they look good?
That is just so messed up.
I realise I spend so much time explaining to people how animals have to undergo terrible suffering, how protein can be found elsewhere, how there is plenty of variety in a plant-based diet, when essentially it boils down to 'Could you look an animal in the eyes and say to it: "My appetite is more important than your suffering?" ' -Moby
And the same goes for clothing. I was walking around in JCube today, where there was an abundance of beautiful clothing going for less than twenty dollars, and a part of me was thinking - What a good deal! How beautiful that would make me! But thankfully the part that thought 'Could I look another girl in the eyes and say to her: "My appearance is more important than your suffering?" ' triumphed. As it always should.
Animals and humans, we're both caught in a net of selfishness that entangles hearts and minds but hurts physical bodies.
'You're being so socially conscious'
No, I'm just lifting the blinkers of selfishness from my eyes.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Yesterday at the cafe I was leaning against the bar talking to Charlotte. Debbie was manning the cashier, pottering about with the small change bag.
One of our customers, a tall, freckled Caucasian lady, walked up to the bar, and looked around, searching for something.
'Can I help you?' asked Debbie, in her singlish accent.
'Oh, yes, just looking for some knives and forks.' replied the customer in rather a posh accent (think 'fu-orh-ks')
'Fu-orh-ks?' said Debbie, perfectly mimicking her accent, by accident of course but the contrast between er usual slapdash singlish and this sudden affected accent just sent Charlotte and I into hysterics for at least 5 whole minutes.
When Glen asked what happened and why Charlotte and I were flopping all over the bar in helpless laughter, we just gasped 'fu-orh-ks' weakly and dissolved again.
'Looks like a reverse kangaroo pouch' - Tim on Hannah's floppy bun
'Your double chin is getting really bad' - Tim on Hannah's perfectly normal neck
'You have so many pimples, and hair, and a moustache. And all those dots on your nose. I can see all your pimples under your skin.' -Tim on my face
'Look at that double chin' - Tim on my perfectly normal neck
I think some one needs to teach my brother a thing or two about body shaming.
Thankfully I (buoyed by Thursday's happiness as well as a tummy full of avocado sushi and cha soba) could safely feel completely impervious to his words.
Sigh. The golden words of a fifteen year old boy.
On Thursday, I went for the second scholarship interview for the National Heritage Board Scholarship. I got to City Hall rather too early, and had plenty of time to make my way to Stamford court.
I had a lovely chat with a National Museum curator before the interview started. In the interview room, there were 4 panelists and a scribe, and they asked questions that were quite standard - have you been to any museums recently? Why are you interested in heritage? and also the dreaded I see you've applied for a number of scholarships here, which are your top picks- be frank with us.
I had read up whole essays on the changing roles of museums and the programmes of the NHB, but they didn't ask me anything about that, and I left the interview room feeling a slight sense of 'what could have bee' because I knew there was so much I wanted to discuss about the potential of the NHB to really capture the hearts and minds of Singaporeans in the future.
I made a short stop at MINDs thrift store on the way home to get a present for Hannah and wound up getting two pairs of old jeans for myself at three dollars a piece, a stripy top for myself as well, and an Indian ethnic top and a sweet little mug with a bird painted on it for Hannah. I thought that was going to be it, but I decided to look around the book shelves in case there was anything good to read. And that was when I spotted a pair of bright red vintage roller skates in the corner of the shop - the one's with four wheels and laces and high tops. I peeked underneath -size 10 -perfect for Hannah! And only $4!!! I almost did a dance right there and then!
So I walked home carrying a pair of bright red skates slung over my shoulder by its laces, although I had to hide them underneath a bedsheet when I got so they wouldn't be prematurely discovered by Hannah.
I decided to bake a chocolate and beetroot cake , using oat flour this time which gave a much more fudgy consistency which I like better. I cut myself a thick slice with some yoghurt and nestled myself in front of the computer.
Then I watched a few episodes of Beauty and the Geek (my guilty indulgence - I just love the comic juxtaposition of the socially thriving but ignorant beauties and the shy but brilliant geeks, and I love how the geeks are taught to e confident in themselves and the beauties are taught to value themselves for more than their physique.) Whilst I was watching it, I got a phone call from Mum.
Usually I don't like explaining my interview to my parents, because (like me), they are sticklers for details, and want to know every single question asked and answer given. So I braced myself for a long excavation of my interview followed by a dissection of what I could have done better. But mid way through the conversation, I got an email from the NHB, and, opening it, I read
I am pleased to inform you that you have been awarded the NHB Scholarship 2015 for your studies in University of Cambridge."
At which point I didn't read further, screamed down the phone line, started crying hysterically, and finishing up the phone call, running out of the back room to Tim, still crying and saying 'I got it! I got it!' and having to explain that 'it' wasn't anything life threatening or bad but my tears were happy tears.
I sent a message to Emily then, who insisted on calling me and we had a very happy conversation about the vegetable garden in Murray Edwards and how I will (Oh, that beautiful definite-ness in that modal verb) cycle around on a bicycle with a basket full of carrots, and how I will have my first ever Christmas in England, and how I will pack her in my suitcase and bring her there too.
The acceptance was just so surreal, and yet it concretised everything that had happened before that. I remember feeling just strange when I got my acceptance to Cambridge, happy and proud when I got my results (and not a little surprised), but still cognizant that my dreams had the silk skein of reality in the form of financial need around it. But when I got this email, something truly overjoyed just burst in my chest, like the surface tension of a bubble.
I am REALLY going to Cambridge!
Monday, May 11, 2015
Today was a dancing kind of day.
I spent a large part of the day reading about the survival stories of people. One, a man named Fred Seiker, who underwent terrible torture including the 'water is pumped into your stomach and then a soldier jumps on your engorged belly' one that we here as horror stories in our primary school social studies syllabus. He experienced such terrible cruelty and yet he called his experience a 'privilege' because he was able to see the 'unconquerable spirit of civilised man'. His courage and optimism floored me - and gave me hope. If a silver lining can be drawn from the darkest experience in the jungle thickets of Burma, then surely I can rise above anything. Or as Marianne Williamson says, Fly above it.
Then, as I went to have a little wipe down (today's weather was tepid hot), I got a call from a number beginning with 6. I always pick up calls from numbers beginning with 6 because these days the likelihood of them being something important is pretty near 90%. If its a number beginning with 9 then usually I bury my phone in my bag because one of the last times I picked up a call starting with 9 late at night I got myself into an awkward situation I didn't want to be in.
So with my blue batik shit hanging off my head and my torso still slightly soap suddy I picked up, and it was from the Media Development Agency.
'Hi, is this a good time to talk?'
'Yes!' (As i glanced at my half-naked, soapy, sweaty self)
Anyway, I got into the second round of the mda scholarship interview praise God! I did a little dance right in the bath room, then wiped the soap off, pulled my shirt back onto my still damp self (which I find is one of the best antidote to these hyper summer days) and danced out of the bathroom into the lounge where my Mum was hoovering and told her the good news.
I also decided to paint a bag, the old NUS canvas bag they gave out for free during their open house. I painted over the NUS insigna because I feel uncomfortable being a walking advertisement, and painted on some flowers and then wrote Oscar Wilde's quote 'The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention' in fabric marker. Words to live by indeed.
In my after dinner shower I played Hall and Oates' 'You make my dreams come true' and did another wiggly dance in the bath tub.
“Sometimes you look up and there just seems to be so many more stars that ever before. More. They burn brighter and they shine longer and they never vanish into your periphery when you turn your head. It's as if they come out for us and to remind us that their light took so long to come to us, that if we never had the patience to wait, we never would have seen them here, tonight, like this.
That as much as it hurts, sometimes it's all you can do, wait, endure and keep shining, knowing that eventually, your light will reach where it is supposed to reach and shine for who it is supposed to shine for.
It is never easy, but it is always worth it.”
-Tyler Knott Gregson
I realise that I was so fixated on writing out the terrible scare that happened in the library that I forgot to tell you about the beautiful exhibit I saw that same day.
"Outliers" by Jeremy Sherma is part of the Mind the Gap exhibition in the Library. AT first glace it seems like 4 identical white blocks lying on the floor, but reading the description and looking more closely, you discover that each long block has undulating ridges and waves on them, in different patterns so that each one is unique. The blocks are made of polystyrene and carved using astronomical data with 3D printing technology.
As I looked at them I was amazed at how God guided light through millions of years to reach us at this moment. To imagine that the light I see from a star was actually produced years and years ago makes me feel so small and yet so much a part of this beautiful world.
I suppose it is sort of like our own special form of time travel - to travel billions of years into the past all we need to do is look up into a night sky.
(Thank you Natascha for the beautiful quote)
Things to buy in England:
-Solid shampoo and the most amazing lush smells
-More yellow clothes to match my butterfly pin
-A belt !!!
-A bag that cannot be mistaken as a grocery shopping bag
Everything I buy from here on out will be from charity shops or conscious shops (such as Lush) because I do not want to support sweat shop labour or animal testing and yet I have the budget of an eighteen year old.
I know I can't change the world, but at least I can try, and hopefully work conditions will improve for other eighteen year olds.
We would cover the tables with batik table cloths and bring down cups, utensils, milk jugs, spreads, and bread. I usually had baguette with butter, and I had a strange habit of pulling all the white bread out from the crust, rolling it into little balls and eating that before spreading my butter onto the hollow crust of the baguette and eating that second.
Sometimes Dad would drive out to Ghim Moh and get bee hoon, although I always preferred my bread and butter. It's incredible to think that I'm eight here, Tim is four, Hannah is ten, and Auntie Cecelia had been with us three years already.
These family breakfasts used to be such a tradition that we even created a pulley system by attaching a basket to a length of string from our balcony, so we could more easily transport the plates, cups and food from our unit on the third floor to the garden.
We don't have family garden breakfasts much any more, since church starts so early now. But perhaps one Saturday, when I am not working at the cafe, we'll take out the (now probably rusty) blue chairs and tables again.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Because I am rubbish at replying to whatsapp messages, I recently tried using the audionote function on whatsapp to carry on conversations. So instead of tedious typing, I find a quite spot, and just rattle on and send it.
It was supposed to help me speed up my replies. It hasn't.
What it has done is made me realise how different hearing some one's voice is. It shapes a person more - you can here what they really laugh at (in text messages, a 'haha' is often just a connector or even a relief-of-awkwardness tool) where their speech speeds up or slows down. You can hear them move around or walk or try to stifle a cough. It's an entirely different way of communicating which I like more because, well (lit nerd but) auditory imagery is so powerful.
Voices are often such a big deal for me - I remember how I used to fall asleep to the sound of my Mum reading books (The hobbit, The little white horse, Twist of Gold...), how I once recorded a shop assistant in a fishing shop in Avimore because his deep Scottish voice was just so riveting, and how (embarrassingly but.) I've always wanted to marry someone with a bass voice.
Apparently smell is our sense most closely associated with memory, but I would argue that sound comes in a close second.
Swimming and Bowling with the family. I used to say I like swimming better alone - you can't talk underwater, and swimming laps is not very social. But getting underwater piggy backs from Tim (who is big enough to piggy back me on land even) and teaching him to do an underwater handstand and then turning multiple somersaults in the pool, until water filled out ears and made our laughter sound distant and far off reminded me how much I actually love family pool days.
At the class dinner, Miss Tan told me about how a Swedish volunteer in the cook islands volunteering project she was doing could see angels and demons. He has 2 guardian angels, and angels are nine feet tall.
I had lunch with Ben, the last one before he books into army. He made lots of lame jokes and I drank lots of tea. We both got our hair cut. (His considerably shorter) He asked if we thought we'd be able to keep in contact when he was in army and I maybe go to Cambridge. I told him truthfully I don't know, but so far I've actually managed to reply to his whatsapp messages so I think we will.
I had dinner with Alicia and Vi and we found apples the size of our faces and I met Elisa in Cold storage and had Palak Paneer and Kashmiri Naan finally! They are both so down to earth and conversation always leaves me gasping from laughter.
The male interviewer in the NUS scholarship interview kept nodding and saying 'Fascinating', which may be my favourite compliment ever - 'What you are saying is so interesting that not only will I listen with all my heart, my awe will escape from my lips.'
Baked a sugar free, oil free Banana and blueberry walnut loaf (Recipe at the bottom of this post) which tastes absolutely gorgeous with peanut butter.
USP interview went rather boringly and therefore badly since I felt like none of the conversation penetrated past surface level. I got to fusionopolis early for my MDA interview so hung out in the grocery store for a while, browsing the organic/health shelves for a while at all the things I have no money to buy, and coincidentally met Elisa in Cold storage again!
The MDA interview went really well, I had so much fun talking to them. I never thought I would come to a stage where interviews would be fun but they are now. They're wonderful experiences to meet older, wiser people in creative industries and I just look at them sitting across the table and wonder - they must have done so much and have such passion to get to where they are now.
After I got home I ran for 40 minutes and then did a hardcore ab workout which totaled 300 sit ups and I felt pretty much like Jillian Michaels.
We woke up early to make pancakes for Mum and I prepared my rhubarb and apple crumble to bake after I got home from church.
After the service, I met Emily who had terribly bruise-y knees from theatre auditions and so I gave her a ride round the church grounds on one of those trolleys people use for cardboard boxes. For some strange reason, the church road doesn't go one direction all the way round, it has 2 opposite directions despite having just one lane, and so we were constantly going against the flow of traffic.
At one point, we saw a blue Honda and realised it was Auntie Rachel's car adn that we were completely in the way, and so while trying to get out of the way we were simultaneously shrieking 'It's your Mother!' 'My Mother!' 'Your Mother!' when suddenly James popped his head out the driver's window and we realised it most certainly was not her mother.
Lunch was at Holland Drive and we got Thunder Tea rice again, which I intend to learn how to make so that if I go to England I can make it in the winter and recall sunshiney May days.
When we got home, we watched old home videos from the year 2000, of Hannah and I running around Lowestoft and Yarmouth and Grandma's garden in Silver Birches.
Banana and Blueberry Walnut Loaf
(adapted from: http://www.lovefoodeat.com/healthy-banana-bread-whole-wheat-vegan-oil-free-and-sugar-free/)
2 cups whole wheat flour (I did a mix of whole wheat, whole meal and plain because I ran out of whole wheat)
2 cups mashed banana (preferably overripe)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
2 eggs (You could make this vegan if you have flax, and then you just make a 2 flax eggs: 2 tbsp flax seed powder + 6 tbsp water)
Some honey or maple syrup
Pre-heat the oven at 160 degree Celsius
Mash the banana well.
In a big bowl add the flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and mix well. now add the chopped dates and stir together. Add the mashed banana and eggs and stir till it’s combined.
Fold in blueberries and walnuts
Fold this into a greased loaf pan.
Bake for 50 to 60 mins till it’s well risen, crusty and golden on the outside. A toothpick inserted right in the center has to come out clean and that’s when the loaf is cooked.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
My Mum used to do this thing called 'butterfly kisses', which were actually fluttering her eyelashes against my cheek like the beating wings of a butterfly.
Last week after we got home, Mum, Dad and I stepped out of the car and saw hummingbirds flying around the tree they planted when I was born - their wings a frenzy, stopping in motion and starting and reversing.
On Monday Yu Jeong asked me (after I explained Palm Sunday to her because of its contextual relevance to a poem we were studying) if Jesus was a Donkey.
I am so tired, but it has been a mostly good week.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Well. Good thing that didn't last for long.
The ten ten camp facilitators went rock climbing on Wednesday, and on a happy happenstance we met Vanessa too!
Ellis and Wei Xin and I belayed each other, and they helped me climb a very very tough wall which I lost grip of at least thrice. I suppose it was an allegory of life - they are always there, in all my shortfalls and slip ups (which are many) and sorrows (which are few).
They also didn't let me down one of the walls, so I dangled helplessly, and told a random passer-by 'I'm stuck.' before they let me descend, only to stop again mere feet from the ground. But I was happy to dangle, held aloft by both of them.
Quite soon, we got tired and spent the time fooling around at the free walls, which again I conquered because they carried me.
There was also some photo bombing. (Also, why do guys flex in photographs?)
We're beginning to fit together like sedimentary rocks. I can't believe university may soon pull us apart. But there'll always be an invisible string between us, and you just have to tug at it and my heart will open.