Just filed away my Irish History essays and notes, and actually felt a pang of sadness closing the file and shelving it away. I had had the fear that by studying Irish history, I would expose my complete misunderstanding of Ireland and Irish culture, find out all kinds of things about it that are awful and find all sorts of reasons that make it unbearable, that I might just fall out of love but no, not out, instead - more. More in love. Or at least in like?
How fitting it is that tomorrow, I’ll be in Dublin, visiting Wuims.
2010 so far, life landmark-wise, has been a year of dream-fulfillment, for me, if I’m honest with myself. Living in England, seeing John Mayer in concert, getting to ask Incubus a question, getting to study Irish history, reading and learning the works of several major political philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas of Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Rousseau, JS Mill) and thus giving my university education some sufficiency in being called a university education in History/Politics/the Liberal Arts - now I’m going to Ireland. How long have I had that dream? - since the days of the Corrs, Westlife, Boyzone, and my first reading of An Irish Airman Forsees His Death - which means since 12? 14? So maybe just under a decade?
However long it’s been, it means that I should be, must be, and am, at least for this moment, Thankful.
And I pray the moment stretches and lingers for as long as possible, because that’s the furthest thing I’ve been in the privacy of the walls of my room, rushing paper after endless paper, reading book after book, gathered into a soul-crushing nucleus of mixed stress and tedium, just wanting out, out, out.
The Art of Learning and Study is demanding: demands time, demands effort, demands intense intellectual engagement, demands discipline (the last of which I have in embarrassingly minute quantity).
And because learning is so demanding, we need time out!
Incidentally, the poem I most associate with escapism:
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
- ‘The Stolen Child’ by W.B. Yeats
Next term, I’ll do better.
Bring it on, Trinity - but just not yet!
Oh, Horror of Horrors - I’m having an exceptionally bad academic year with technology.
Not long ago, I misplaced my trust F30 Fuijifilm camera on an outing with friends. I’m quite sure I left it at the Mitre, and I went back for it a couple of times, but it never turned up. So I got myself a swanky new camera, the F72EXR Fujifilm, but because my laptop and SD card reader were both too outdated to read the new SD cards, I had to download the photographs from my camera directly into my laptop, which I suspect is the reason for their extremely poor, pixelated quality. In short, I’m still not used to my new camera, I really don’t like the pictures I’ve taken with it so far.
Over winter break, I dropped my relatively new Nokia mobile phone and the screen cracked clean through the middle, destroying the LCD display. I had to get a replacement phone with a spare line, for all of £15 - which, of course, means that my current phone is a very basic-primitive LG model that doesn’t even let me add decent ring tones, let alone have a net browser. I’m planning to ship it home to Singapore to see if it can get fixed - it’s still within its 1 year warranty.
Then this Saturday, I spilled coffee on my Macbook of 2 years. I’ve got the Apple Care protection plan, which should give me global repair, but because it was an accident, I don’t think I’ve got any grounds to make claims. I thought it was just my keyboard that’s gone haywire, but as the days passed my laptop started not being able to start up, or starting up only in safe mode, then for some reason losing sense of its airport - which means I can’t just get an auxiliary keyboard and poof, problem solved. I went to the Western Computer shop today, to ask what I can do, ask for repair quotes, and was told since it’s got to do with my keyboard, my “logic board”, it will cost upwards of £300 to replace the parts. (!) He offered to set me up with people who might want to buy my Macbook for parts, I told him I’d think about it, I guess that’s really the best I can do right now.
Which means goodbye, Macbook. Goodbye iTunes, goodbye Garageband, goodbye iPhoto.
Which brings me to my resolution -
I’m not getting a replacement.
On the first level, it’s too expensive to replace it, not when I can just wait it out till when I’m back in the States to get myself a swanky new Mac with Snow Leopard and all the good stuff. On another level, it doesn’t make sense to reward myself for my poor care of my technical equipment with a nice flashy replacement. On yet another level, I think I’ll actually be more productive, being forced out of my room in order to surf the Net, write papers, etc.
On the final level, as I found last night, I actually really enjoy working in the computer lab in the Mac building. (!!)
This may be mystifying. The Mac building is the main residential building at Pembroke, housing its residents in typical American-college dorm-style settings - nothing like the typical quaintness of Oxford staircases, but very community-building, as you can imagine, like Hill Hall back at Tufts (good times!). The Mac computer lab is this dreary little isolated room on the 2nd floor of the building, located precariously close to the kitchen and the laundry room, which makes for some interesting environmental smells. So why on earth would anyone enjoy it?!
After spending a large part of my past 2 days there, I realise it’s a very social working space. People come in and out all the time, printing essays - people I wouldn’t get to see or talk to if not for being there. Some people spend enormously long stretches of time there, such as Ross, last night, reading Silas Marner till past 3am in the morning (!), which means constant access to company and conversation, especially if they’re as genuinely thoughtful and interesting as Ross. Ellen and Andrew found me super-easily, when they needed to talk to me, because they live in the building, and even Olga could come send me food (unsolicited! I promise! She’s just really sweet!) as she came in and out of the Mac, getting her laundry done and checking in on it. Weirdly enough - or perhaps not so illogically after all - I felt connected to the Pembroke community, not as lonely as I would be, all cooped up in my cozy room.
So here’s to a more productive and less lonely working style!
And fellow Pembrokians - if you read/hear no more updates about me getting a new laptop - consider dropping in on the Mac computer lab every once in a while; you might just catch me there. (:
UPDATE: My dear Macbook seems to work fine with an auxillary keyboard!!! Once I got it to shut down properly, and start up properly, not boot up under safe mode, everything seemed fine! Yayness! Going back to get a keyboard tomorrow! £30 instead of £300, quite a steal, if I do say so myself.
Which is not normal.
Nothing against the colour, just something against the colour on me. (Looks just fine on other people; case in point: my sister.)
I’d like to pretend that it’s because it’s Chinese New Year - speaking of which, HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR, EVERYONE! - but I’ve never really worn a ton of red during CNY in the past, and I’ve even less reason to start now, with no visiting to do.
Me wearing red really just means I’m too occupied with something else to care, like staying warm, or rushing out to make an appointment on time (or as little late as possible).
This year, it’s all about the essays. It’s all about the essays and the essay-writing.
Abi once said to me “Life is one big essay crisis.”
Since the start of the term began, I feel as if I’ve been living from crisis to crisis. Any time in between was deliberately stolen, in a desperate escapist attempt to pretend for an hour or two that the next crisis wasn’t approaching, that I didn’t have a deadline tomorrow or a tute to get to where a 2,000 word, 6 page, double-spaced thing didn’t have to be in my hands, ready for the reading/summarising. Worst part is, I really don’t have anyone to blame but myself and my poor time management!
Yesterday really took the cake though. Just as we reached the halfway mark of term, and the academic year, I spilled coffee on my beloved Macbook’s keyboard. Now two of my loves are merged - a coffee-smelling Macbook, who could ask for more? Talk about creative strategies for increasing productivity - but, of course, the keyboard won’t work properly. I’ve crippled my loyal companion of 2 and a half years. :( We’re getting her/him/it checked out tomorrow, and getting crutches (ie: auxillary keyboard) for her/him/it if necessary.
For now though, I’m confined to the computer lab in the Mac building, typing away on foreign keys, getting to know British keyboards (yes, they are different), with my eyes on a foreign screen. Let’s hope the foreigness will prove good motivation for getting this essay done quickly.
And then maybe we can move to happier updates, like the mini-adventure Brianna, Claire, Davis and I (WHY doesn’t my name start with A/E) had in the Peak District!
People at home, enjoy the awesome food, the even better fellowship, and of course, collecting ang baos (translation: red money packets). :)
Last night I slept at 3am after reading way too much Plato and commentaries on Plato. This morning I woke at 8.30am instead of 6.00am like I had planned in order to write my Plato paper before my tutorial at 11.30am but as it was I had NOTHING, a big fat NOTHING, and I panicked, and I stepped on it, and I skipped the lecture at 10am I was REALLY looking forward to (Politics of the European Union, given by my tutor from last term) and had a grand total of TWO miserable pages by the time of my tutorial, and a scanty little essay outline. I brought the essay to my tutorial, the picture of unkempt shame, knowing I was meeting my tutor for the1st time today, whatanimpressiontomake, whatamIgoingtodo, whatamIgoingtodo, whatamIgoingtodo - pray, pray, pray away for forgiveness and mercy, but all I could imagine was disgust and sternness, appall and shock, I’mdoneforI’mdoneforI’mdonefor.
Troop, troop, troop to tutorial.
Meet tutor. Explain situation. Much shame. Shameshameshame.
Tutor was not pleased. Then Tutor found out I’ve done plenty of Politics, and no Philosophy. Tutor found out I read more than the 4 texts limit recommended. Tutor figured out I know NOTHING. Tried asking me constructive questions, all of which I FLUNKED.
Tutor taught. Taught much. Really quite excellent. Learnt much.
Tutor said go on to next essay. Come back to this next time when you want/can.
Don’t know why
I kept asking for leniency, for understanding, for later deadline -
Didn’t just ask for a good tutor.
My tutor is excellent.
Gets One Ready for Another Oxford University Term.
Up at 8am, Collection at 9.45am - 12.45pm, lunch break to 1.30pm, time in the Bod from 1.45pm - 3.15pm, time in the Taylor from 3.30pm - 4.00pm, break for emails & dinner & general laziness until 7.30pm.
I feel legitimately tired, for the first time since skiing. And it feels surprisingly good! I should do this working hard thing more, feels good for my health.
One and a half papers to write by Monday.
Insightful and yet pleasantly light-hearted article in the New York Times Magazine on how the Internet has empowered women: making possible the option of working at home. I concur!
The term has officially ended - a whirlwind 8 weeks in which I’ve somehow accomplished the humanly impossible: 15 essays. 15 essays?! In 8 weeks?! And permanent students do this 3 times an academic year, for 3 years straight?! No wonder they automatically get a Master’s degree a year after graduating. Gosh.
It’s been much quieter around Pembroke, with all the regular students away, but not incredibly disquieting, because of the interviewees, coming and going, and their faithful JCR caretakers. I feel so old just looking at them! All 17 or 18, not knowing where they’re going to be this time next year - so familiar, and yet so distant, already.
I keep forgetting I should still be working hard. Already, Davis and I have spent a couple of extremely late nights trading music recommendations, I’ve travelled into London for day to meet up with some dearly loved old teachers and friends, and I’ve had gloriously long conversations over gloriously long meals (one of my personal favourite activities). Late nights and late mornings have again become a habit that I need to kick if I am to make good use of next week. My file sits open on my desk, waiting to be read, but the beautiful view of Christ Church from my window extends a constant invitation to be admired and stared at blankly for hours on end…
Ok, reality check: Ski trip over Christmas next week from the 18th, then New Year’s, then Debo’s coming to Oxford, then OICCU House Party, then COLLECTIONS, then PAPERS ARE DUE in first week. If you don’t work now, then -
how now, brown cow?
The colour of my file is silver. I shall pretend that its pages are made out of some metallic material which my magnetised eyes simply can’t take themselves off of.
Before I sink back into work again, I’m taking a break just to say that life, for now, is like this:
… And I’m usually just as distracted.
Someday, I hope it will look like this:
But for now, I’m content to know that in just a couple of weeks, it will look like this:
Rain waters plants, makes them grow, makes them flower.
Braving the rain waters character, grows humility?
I make no secret of my love for the magnificent tropical thunderstorms we get here in Singapore, and today, it rained hard during our work shift. Naturally, we received more orders for deliveries than usual. And since they were typically large orders, we had to use both hands to carry the bags of lunch packs, leaving no hands for umbrella-holding. Just crossing the road had us soaked.
Making delivery orders in the past, I never considered the plight of the delivery person.
Now, the memory of myself as the delivery person - standing before magnetised glass doors, held open by the order-ee, look of pity in her eyes at my top-to-toe rain-drenched-and-dripping self, clutching her lunches in hand - sticks in my mind. I won’t soon forget to wonder.
Summer 2009 shall henceforth be remembered (by me) as the anomalous time period in which Time was on my side. And I didn’t know what to do with him.
After bumming around for a month and a half, temping with an events company for 4 and a half weeks - spending one of those weeks in H1N1-suspect quarantine - and resuming bumming for another week and a half, I have now entered a new phase: part-time bumming! A few times a week, I tear myself from the comforts of home to work at a little cafe owned by friends of the family. The work is light - only on weekdays, just a few hours each time - and with a couple of those hours being busy lunch-rush work, the shifts just fly by, and I’ve plenty time left in the day to spare. I seat people, serve food, but best of all, I make coffee! Finally, I’ve regained the opportunity to work that espresso machine, churn out those cappuchinos and lattes, and master the art that is foaming milk.
6 years ago (wow, that’s long, didn’t realise that!), at age 15, I worked at a coffee franchise store for 2 weeks for a school-arranged industrial attachment. It was my first “job” and I worked hard then, harder than I’ve ever worked since, it feels like; 8-hour days, 6 days a week, with minute-to-minute, drink-after-drink rushes that lasted for hours. I remember crying after my first couple of days, being completely unused to the work, unused to the people I was working with, unused to being treated like a full-fledged, full-time staff person - in short, completely overworked and overwhelmed. The one aspect that brought me joy, aside from some quality conversations with the precious few colleagues I could actually connect with, was the drink-making. It made me so happy to know what goes in each drink, how to put it together, what makes each drink unique. Naturally, I was awfully disappointed with myself when I couldn’t figure out how to foam a pitcher of milk! In fact, one day, while I was performing very poorly at said task, the district manager walked over - mind you, not store assistant manager, not store manager, but district manager - and stopped me, amusedly, saying, “You’re new, aren’t you? You’re overblowing the milk. I can tell from the sound. Let me show you how to do it.” He then came behind the counter, and personally demonstrated the correct way to foam a pitcher of milk. Add that traumatic experience to the numerous occasions in which I scalded myself on the steam tube used for foaming milk, and voila: one phobia of foaming milk, coming right up.
But I have since conquered my fear! Ha!
… indulge me.
The rest of my time is spent wandering, visiting with family and friends, and of course, watching TV. After work, I usually roam around Raffles Place MRT’s shops, if for nothing but to end up at Toast, picking up a cupcake for my sister. When I finally get home, it’s usually just a quick stopover, to wash up and change, before heading back out again: on Monday, for instance, it was to join Geoff, Lianglin, Ernest and Jamie in the car ride out to the East for one of David’s well-loved lamb parties. Kartini, David’s family’s domestic help and our head chef for the evening, really could open a restaurant offering her rich fare to very popular reception and profitable ends. We were well-stuffed by the night’s end.
On Tuesday, my Mum and I brought our dog, Buddy, to the vet. The poor puppy’s skin is acting up again, and he’s been pulling patches out of his back. Thank goodness for Buddy’s happy and otherwise trouble-free personality, I’m not sure how else we would be able to take him to the vet with such relative ease; he really doesn’t know any better, doesn’t know what’s going on or where he is, it’s all an adventure to him, he doesn’t even flinch through multiple injections or a skin scrape, as the vet did for him yesterday. I only wish he’d listen to instruction a little more, and not bark our eardrums a-ringing when we walk through the front door, or drool all over the carseats.
After thoroughly cleaning off the car and myself, my family (sans my sister) joined our cousins’ family for dinner at Shashlik Restaurant for - no prizes for guessing - shashlik, which is basically where the chosen meat is prepared with skewers to scrumptious perfection. This was in honour of my cousin Matthew, who was in town for the week, but is usually found in Pasadena, California, at CalTech, being the intelligent, insightful engineering grad student that he is. Following dinner, all nine of us ajourned to our house to join my sister and her boyfriend for dessert, which was a meal in itself - black forest cake, tiramisu cake, fruit salad with watermelon and longans, strawberry marble cake, and kueh dada (the last three items made by my aunt herself). Limmy is stuffed again, night 2.
Wednesday proved a little more productive, in the traditional sense. After seeing my doctor to get some health registrations forms filled out for Oxford, I met up with Debo to get ourselves some passport photographs (she ordered 30! I just got 12), and then headed into downtown to catch Up!. Oh gosh, I cried so much, particularly at the beginning sequence. I think - or at least, I hope - there’s a part in everyone that hopes to find a lifelong companion, just like Mr Fredricsson, and that’s the part in me that welled up and spilled over.
Then ‘twas back to familial-gathering business. This time, nothing fancy, everything familiar - back to my oldest aunt’s place for a Mum’s side family gathering, as my cousin Shawn is back in town for the 1st time since moving to Geneva earlier this year in May. It was good times, the three of us girls present couldn’t stop prattling away about Geneva, about Boston, about Singapore, telling people-watching stories, food-missing stories, and for my sister, tales about teaching. And again! Stuffing for Limmy! Particularly with sashimi, had at the night’s end. Oh, man.
Thank goodness I’m working tomorrow; I’m not sure how much more my tummy can take!
What do you do with time on your hands?
Eat and meet, meet and eat.