To just be.

I’d like to think I’m aware of each second that ticks by but in the whole scheme of things, time is a concept I fail to grasp and treasure completely– like every other mundane day, it melts into a forgotten blur. Already I can’t remember what I ate this Tuesday. Urgency, on the other hand, is real. More assignments and impending adulthood? What joy! 

It’d almost be completely hopeless if I tried to pinpoint the exact moment when I caught myself spacing out amidst the busy chaos that is the later parts of September and early October. Though I cannot remember when, I remember what I caught myself thinking about subconsciously:

My mind didn’t drift off to a past image or memory, but to a specific sound. For those who have ever travelled in an airplane, I found myself disconnected from the real world, from my body and conscious surroundings and listening to the muted hum of an aeroplane mid-flight – when you’re seated next to the window seat at the wing area, the outside scenery is nothing but blue and there is a certain quiet except for the muffled jet engines outside, working hard and spinning fast, bringing you to your next destination.

Waiting.

I was on my final way back from exchange. I was on my way back to Singapore from an adventure that lasted five and a half months. London to Dubai, Dubai back to Singapore. I was on my way back to friends, family, him. I stayed awake during that 8-hour flight, waves of emotions crashing down on me one after another. It’s the feeling of going back to familiarity, a routine you mastered and perfected, everything will be the same just as you’ve left it. It’s the feeling of leaving something behind, something you once struggled with but eventually accustomed, grew to love too much all too fast. Nothing is the same.

Perhaps it is the nostalgia of exchange, the carefree jet-setter couchsurfing lifestyle, that I subconsciously pine for. That melancholic sound of muffled jet engines – so vivid! – reminds me of flying. I was in the plane on the way back, in between territorial air and land spaces – neither here nor there – I could just be. Just be what? Just be where? Neither. Just be. It brings back such lovingly painstaking memories that was the wonderful half of this year, now drawing to its close. Onto the next one I say. More adventures and life events to come, more achievements to unlock, more tragedies to befall and more lessons to learn.


September has been eventful. The front parts are a little blurry to me but more relatively recent bits are fresh in my mind.

Man. Cat.

His 22nd birthday. Last year’s surprise executed for him (first time celebrating his birthday in our relationship) was a pleasant one, albeit the process was arduous and backfired on me a little so nope, swore off that plan (long story) – decided to send him on a fun little amazing race instead :D, with FOC-inspired clues thrown in the mix. Home to Bounce to Bugis, small decrypting of codes and mini tasks involved.

Boyfriends deserve to be spoilt too. Probably blew half my wallet and midterm out of the water because I dedicated so much time to plan and execute this day rather than study but I regret nothing. Then again I haven’t seen my results yet so maybe

He said he enjoyed it, and that is success enough for me.

Then the weekend came.

PPC2016

Poor photo quality aside – Entered the Public Policy Challenge 2016 alongside Cheryl, Hameed and Thasneem, my incredibly capable teammates. And despite the clashes in trying to come together physically to fulfil the requirements of the Challenge (more essays, readings and case studies galore!) – we pulled through and emerged as one of the four Champions through our essays and presentations.

We honestly didn’t expect to win. Seriously, we didn’t. We did try our hardest and consulted our assigned mentor (Ms Denise Tan, one insanely cool and competent lady) on how our proposed policies would help the state and its people in the coming of the digitised economy, but during all the presentations we felt ours was inadequate and nowhere near their creative ideas that harnessed the full capacity of technology (or, that was how I personally felt).

Imagine our surprise when they called out our names as the final champions. TEAM PASTA FTW! (Lol yes that was our name. Would you rather Team Curry? Cause we love that too.)

All in all, despite the shelving of other responsibilities and commitments to focus on the essay-writing and presentation-preparing aspects, it is a glorious feeling when your hard work really pays off in the end. I have nothing but gratitude to be able to partake in this opportunity – learning more about the public policy processes in Singapore, how the planning and execution goes, objectives at stake. Far from perfect, but always, always looking to improve. My only criticism is the need to take into account Sociology and the unintended consequences of these policies, but one step at a time.

And then, the day after.

Survivors

Hall 4 survivors, gathering for a wonderful cause. It’s times like this that make me miss Hall 4 so much my heart actually aches, and also propels me to want to do my FYP but yes, we gathered. To sing, to dance, to make mirth and merry and joy and help our dearest Sultan create a music video to propose to his own dearest. An honour indeed to be part of something beautiful (holy matrimony wooooo).

Congratulations to the newly engaged, Firdaus and Maisarah! May you two always be happy and full of cheer, courage and love (:

Video here:

Of course, when our Sultan asked we’d jump straight into it. First of our survivor batch to propose/marry – what an honour indeed to be part of this excitement. Have to say though, I’m not too sure when but somehow news of people I knew over social media (seniors, friends etc.) started popping up a lot more and the trend is pretty much almost everyone (of similar or close ages) is getting married or engaged. Well, that sparked a bit of panic in me because it’s really one of those odd situations where half of your friends are single (successful/but not drunk), and the other half are getting married/engaged.

I identify with this so hard. Here I am just praying for adequate employment in the slowing economy… and getting fat eating chocolate.

Climber climb on

Rockmaster. Recess week drew to a close and RM Novice Women competition reared its head with overhang walls and a very terrifying slab. Managed three tops (of which, two flashes) and two bonuses. Except for the slab, the routes were my style and I completed them with relative ease – for someone who didn’t train for two weeks prior because of whatever listed above I’d say it was a good fight and good fun. Though not enough, I think I redeemed myself from the disaster that was Bouldermania where mistake upon mistake cost me dearly in that comp.

Fared much better here, but still need to fight more. Above: Jannah, Clarice, me and Sheryl. Just the four of us representing NTU but somehow competing alongside my seniors calmed me down an awful lot. Must be the super chill aura they exude. To more, Allez.

That was last Friday, and then… Sunday.

Old school

Featuring old school snacks and sweets, soy bean egg tarts, homemade macarons and a beautiful croquembouche (that tower of cream puffs basically), this nostalgic ensemble was present at my cousin’s wedding.

Yep. First of the cousins / Neo bloodline to get hitched (internal panic +330%). It was a simple affair – tea ceremony, ROM and wedding lunch banquet. Nothing too lavish or over-the-top I’d say but it was still a wonderful event nonetheless. Couldn’t be happier for her and her husband who planned the whole event. Spirits were high, people were happy and having fun, stuffed with food and an abhorrent amount of sugar (NOT THAT I COMPLAINED HAHAHAHAHA). One could say meaningful and traditional rituals of the marriage institution.

I wish them (Wei Xin and Dickson) well, happiness and great fortune as they embark on their wondrous lives ahead as a wholesome pair (: 


But (sociology yay!) of course, watching the whole affair from the sidelines (literally, there was nowhere else for me to stand and munch on stuff), weddings in Singapore are a specific privileging device only for heterosexuals. Hearing the ROM solemnizer define marriage in Singapore as between “a man and a woman” suddenly made it hard to swallow. How many more alternative loving couples out there in this country are we ignoring in the pursuance of this stringent definition of “marriage”, that ultimately links to receiving other benefits from the state (e.g. housing, education, healthcare, childcare)? How is it fair people in love are excluded from this institution because of state and social sanctions?

I personally don’t think gay marriage will destroy the world (unless it’s too fabulous for us to handle). There is nothing unnatural about it except for the fact that the sexual organs in either partner are unable to naturally produce an offspring. Even then consider:

(1) the fertility of existing male/female pairs. If a husband and wife are infertile and unable to produce offspring, does it reduce their masculinity and femininity or overall legitimacy of their marriage? Or are these just socially indoctrinated views? And then there’s the alternative of reproductive technology and adoption. How do these affect the purpose of a marriage and what is defined as a family?

(2) The stifling and arguably sexist belief that marriage cumulates in having children (you assume it is a woman’s end destiny to be a mother because of her biological structuring and having a womb? Oh, friend, you are so wrong).

If this loses me a lot of friends or earns me backlash and criticism, so be it. Like why I created this post – to reminisce the hum of jet engines – I’d like to just be. And I’d like to just be sleeping now. 3:10AM woooo.

Split, Apart.

Because I am pretentious, who’s about to embark on the rewarding but arduous journey of doing my Graduation Project (#GPwoes) or should I have embarked on already? I shall expand the title of this post to be more like sociological articles encountered before (with, of course, failure). One can dream of being successful one day, but for now here goes:

Split, Apart: The Dialectics of Class, Gender and Global Inequalities

a.k.a. 48 hours in Split, Croatia: HTF did I end up here?!

To safeguard the anonymity of the people involved in this story, I will use pseudonyms and general physical descriptors. 

Some background info about this little strange and surreal story:

I arrived in Split from Zagreb after a rocky overnight bus ride that lasted five hours, and it was my penultimate stop before I headed back to Zagreb (again in an overnight bus) to catch a train back to Budapest, and then my flight back to the UK for the last few days before I moved back to Singapore. Tight schedule indeed. I’d been travelling nonstop for a month-ish again spanning May to June, so at that point I was physically and mentally drained save for random bursts of social energy (cheap gelato helps). Besides meeting up/bunking with couchsurfers, most of the time I was travelling and exploring alone but I was very open to chatting with strangers when I felt like it. It earned me social capital, opportunities to develop empathy, respect and a lot of funny situations.

I didn’t expect this to happen at all, but it did. And I didn’t know how to react at that time. But now, almost three months later, reflecting on my exchange journey and splashing about into my final year in NTU as well as reading up on soci academic literature (rusty. readings backlog. help.), I think back to those times, unsure (still) of how to analyse it or make of it so I leave it open-ended – a story with questions but no need for answers because there just doesn’t need to be any. So much for everyday experiences, but here goes:

I believe in the Universe. It is a glorious entity, and like religion to some and cake to others, the belief in this magnificent being brings me comfort and help me believe that things fall into place, where they need to be. So imagine me, groggy from the overnight bus ride (and bumping into soci course mates, fancy that small world), wandering through the quiet, empty but beautiful streets of Split at 6AM in (that reminded me so much of Venice) in search of my hostel, mindlessly awed by its waterscapes, blowing up my phone memory even more by taking photos of the scenery…

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And then I met Lance.

Now Lance is a white Caucasian male, above 60, eloquent and a really nice person. He sees me taking photos of the scenery, and asks if I would like him to help me take a photo. I decline – I only take photos of sceneries, not so much of myself. I ask him where he’s from, as does he, and we begin conversing. Somehow we walked along the seafront, got lost, and by accident I helped him find the car rental shop he was looking for (but being that early, it was closed). By the privilege of being a “small” Asian female student or maybe I was a nice person to him, he said he would help me find my hostel – and so we set off, wandering deeper into the town, through unmarked corridors and streets, talking about everything and anything until we finally found it.

During the hunt for my hostel I found out he believed in the Universe as well, and for some strange reason the Universe “told” him to ask me if I wanted my photo taken (earlier meeting). You can imagine my surprise when I heard that – not many people I know openly state they believe in the Universe so I was thrilled. What a connection established. What a small, beautiful world. I thought our meeting had ended when we found my hostel but I was wrong – Lance told me to meet him that night for dinner at 7PM at this restaurant, and he would bring a couple of lady friends he knew I would love to meet and get to know being the sociology major I was. We exchanged numbers and parted ways.

At this point, I was half elated. The Universe had answered my one little problem: I was running out of Croatian kunas and I thought… well, if I can get a free dinner, why not? Travelling taught me to be thick-skinned. But, hey it also brought me a new friend. So the day went by, and night fell… and 7PM dawned.  I waited at where we were scheduled to meet, and Lance arrived with two Croatian ladies, Yvonne and Irene. Yvonne, tall and slim, with short hair and a piercing gaze. Irene, shorter, chubbier, long hair and insanely bubbly.

So we sat to dinner: Lance, Yvonne, Irene and I. Lemme digress here that holy shit, this fine dining shit is off the hook and I will probably never get to eat awesome ass shit like this again ever in my life unless I earn substantial peanuts. 

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So we talked during dinner, exchanged details about our lives. I asked what Yvonne and Irene did for a living, and that’s when I knew things were about to go a very different way. Irene leaned forward to me and was saying, “Oh! We work as–” but was instantly cut off by Yvonne, who snapped something in Croatian. Irene remained silent while Yvonne answered for her: “We work at night.”

I don’t know how I got the idea they were security guards, so I asked them more questions. Isn’t working at night tiring, will they be late for work etc. Subject changed, I found out more about their interests and hobbies. Irene made her own perfumes and scents, which I found super cool. Earlier that day, apparently Lance, Yvonne and Irene went for a drive outside Split and the ladies showed Lance the countryside and traditional Croatian villages. I looked at the pictures, I watched the videos, I felt the twinges of admiration and envy…

When Lance started talking about how amazing a driver Yvonne is, and how much energy and spirit Irene had. “She’s an old soul,” he grinned, patting her. And theennnnn he started talking about how he got her lingerie and how great she looked in it and how it’ll complement her figure and fiery energy. Then he said it: “You should have watched her dance last night!”

It finally dawned on me. I looked at Yvonne and asked, “Are you two dancers?”

“Strippers.” Straight-faced.

Well! 5 months abroad and I really didn’t expect this! But this is not a bad job, nor a good job. This is a job. Dignity should not be attached to work that is meaningful in its own ways.

“Cool!” was my reply. I started complimenting their strengths cause hey, pole-dancing isn’t easy. It works the arms and core. Somehow me showing genuine interest in their work made Yvonne smile and open up to me more, she told me what time they worked till (9PM to 6AM), how the place worked, how it looked like, where it was…

“You should come visit us later!” Irene chimed in, bubbly as usual. Literal :D So, we chatted some more, and then they left for work, leaving Lance and I alone to enjoy dessert we ordered after they left. And this is where I really didn’t know how to feel.

“So you found out that they’re strippers,” he said.

“I don’t judge them for it.”

Neither did he. But in summary, Lance recounted to me how he met these two ladies. The Universe (wtf) told him to go to the strip club the night before where he met Irene, and after getting to know her, talking to her, watching her “work the pole”, he knew he wanted to get her out of there. Though I cannot remember in verbatim, he couldn’t believe someone as gorgeous as her with a beautiful personality would be working as a stripper, “taking her clothes off and letting men touch her”. Irene was aware of his intentions, but refused to leave without bringing Yvonne along.

So he told me, “I’m on a mission to rescue these two girls and get them out of there.”

His plan was to get them out of that strip club, and he would employ them and give them white-collared jobs he knows they’ll fit perfectly well in. “They both have degrees! And they’re working the pole!”

Croatia – I found out from my couchsurfing host in Zagreb, from the walking tour guide, from a lot of people – is a corrupt country. There’s not a lot of employment opportunities to go around, so I guess that’s why they had little choice but to work in a strip club (but again, this is not a bad job). This aggravated Lance, hence his insistence and repetition to me that he wanted to “rescue” them from that job.

Somehow the night ended with me feeling the food coma and sleep depravation, so I said I would head back to the hostel to rest… but not before Lance saying he’ll head back to his hotel after he visits the girls. I changed my mind and tagged along and that’s how I ended up in a Croatian strip club after 24 hours in Split. Small place, two poles, ladies in lingerie, loud music, darkness. Yvonne and Irene were excited to see me. They gave me a hug each and introduced me to another one of their friends/colleagues. Funny enough, I watched them pole-dance and they asked if I wanted to try before I left out of exhaustion.

No, thank you.

What happened after? The last 24 hours – I spent the day with Lance. He rented the same car Yvonne drove and by right, we were supposed to spend the day with the two of them going outside of Split, but the two ladies couldn’t be contacted by phone or otherwise the whole day. He laughed it off, “You know the ladies are the smart ones. They’re the ones making men throw money at them.” But he kept trying to call Irene. She didn’t pick up.

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All the way into the night, when I went to the bus station to catch my bus back to Zagreb, I thanked Lance for his hospitality and watched him disappear into that same strip club again, unsure if he would find Yvonne and Irene in there. I didn’t keep in contact with him. I’m not sure why I didn’t.

I suppose now when I think back, there are a lot of factors at play. A Western caucasian man takes it upon himself to “rescue” two Eastern European women working what he perceived as less than desirable jobs as stripper (I infer this from the impression he gave me when he kept saying “they’re taking their clothes off!” but I could be wrong). Of course, they are very nice and capable ladies, just in situations where they had to take these jobs despite having substantial academic qualifications. I question the use of the word “rescue”, I questioned him too but I forgot what he had said with regard to the word choice.

I can think of a lot of people who would avoid strip clubs, and others who would visit it, but when I think about the ladies who work there, but see it as work and sex-related labour they have to perform but is not linked to their dignity or who they are as people – I see great courage and strength in them. Discourse and people may say it’s immoral and disgusting, strippers are stupid and have no better prospects but I don’t agree. Yvonne and Irene were wonderful people in my eyes, regardless of the job they do or the skin they show.

Is it a case of two ladies taking whatever they can get from a man and bolting? I can’t say for sure. If they did, did I not do the same? Though, Lance did offer to pay for all my meals and I am a poor student but that aside. I don’t want to say women have the upper hand and are cunning enough to dupe men using their bodies and sex appeal or whatever other manipulative methods people think they possess (that is a very misogynistic view). Yes, maybe some people do use their gender characteristics to achieve certain things, but not to the extent of taking and running. That encourages distrust and promotes hate. I do not stand for that, but again, I don’t know exactly what to think of this whole experience. I thought about it for a long while, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

Wherever they are, I wish them well and hope that they are happy.

Of homesickness, horror and humour

Firstly, Happy Chinese New Year! *explosions and firecrackers* :D Even though I’m far from home (well, here is starting to be a home too, and my room sells of fragrant oranges just purchased from Tesco), the Singaporean exchange students still found a way of celebrating this festive together on 6 Feb (eve of the CNY eve), even inviting our flatmates and sharing our culture with them via food.

My Ah Ma would be so proud we kept them well-fed, cause initially we didn’t know exact numbers so we made enough food for 20 bellies, but that proved to be too much for 14… oh well – LEFTOVERS!

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The NTU-SMU Singaporean chefs, all happy, merry, eager to eat and donning red, as per our lovely tradition.

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Steamed white Jasmine rice (the real Royal Umbrella deal from Thailand), CNY treats Nicholas’ mom speed delivered over, Vietnamese spring rolls made by QuynhNhu (pictured below cause she wasn’t in the group photo with us), curry chicken with white bread, mapo tofu and stir-fried vegetarian noodles.

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Look at that concentration. The rolls were so clean, flavourful and delicious. Nothing can beat authentic Asian cuisine, really. Spice and soy sauce is where the fun is at.

Thank you Asian foodmarts and nice Aunties who advised us on quantity of food purchased and how to cook them. Also big shoutout to premixes cause that’s the closest shit you’ll ever get to home/hawker centre cooking.

That aside, it truly was a great night where everyone got together to talk, laugh, enjoy each other’s company and find out more about each other. QuynhNhu asked us all one thing we were proud of last year and what we wanted to do this year – really deep questions but overall all of us were eager to travel around this year. One thing I was proud of last year was completing my first marathon with minimal training, and this year is to travel around and really figure out myself and what I want to do…

Which leads to the blaring truth that hit me today, after that night ended and the days went by in between then and now. During CNY period (over the weekend) I woke up to social media and Whatsapp spams of photos of family members back home, CNY #OOTDs, a massive collage of foods my Ah Ma prepared for CNY (always the same stuff, but you can never tire of it – it’s an annual feast one must not waste nor be shy/picky about when eating), even of my cousins/brother getting together and playing card games.

Effectively it made me miss home even more. And it finally boiled down to today when I woke up feeling so irritable and angry at everything, at everyone, at friends who Whatsapp’d/Facebook messaged me. My self-esteem felt shattered, I felt so left out of their life, and (shamefully) in that emotional rage I hated them, and this dissolved into disarray and tears. I ended up crying in my room somewhere after being nagged by my mom over Skype (her way of sending love but is simultaneously annoying) and watching a video of friends gathering at a usual haunt. I didn’t understand it until another dear friend (ah Lynn ah) caught up with me as well and we chatted over Skype and Whatsapp.

At the same time I was confiding in Charlotte (praise the Lord for her), not knowing why I felt this way. But she always offers that listening ear and a soothing source of comfort and rational wisdom, and I felt better. Lynn diagnosed me with homesickness and culture shock, something she and I both learnt from one of my old NTU mods (Coping with Cultural Transition) – The part in the U-curve where I start missing home and feeling isolated since I’m here and they’re there.

Yet everyone experiences culture shock differently. I’ve been away from home before and I never really did feel the biting effects of homesickness, probably because life here and life back home doesn’t feel that much different since I’ve been accustomed to hall life. I read up more from Google and other study abroad articles and I think my version of this “culture shock” phase is that I feel left out in the sense I’m missing out on important events, places, celebrations because I’m all the way over here, and they are back there continuing normal life where mine has (so-called) been disrupted.

Thank God for very, very close friends ♥ ♥ ♥

Perhaps that would explain why I got so easily upset – I’m too focused on missing out of this utopian image I have of life back home, to the point it starts to encroach to the reality I have here. This epiphany helped me realise I’m still being ungrateful, and well, I’m here, away from a place I wanted to run from – so what gives? Well, I think I finally know what I’ve always taken for granted. As well as I’ve been moping around too much to think about actual change and progression in my life as of now. I’ve stopped appreciating that I am here, that I am now.

Coupled with the fact I’ve got 6 days to submit two essays and I barely started on either – ah the stress. Definitely what amplified my feelings of “culture shock”, but this is where you work hard to overcome them, adapt and adjust, then thrive and enjoy. To think I took that NTU mod just to clear my GERPE requirements, but it ended up helping me in more ways than one. Full circle.

Playing Cards Against Humanity UK Version with flatmates also helped with the isolation. Social battery got recharged and I think I’m alright now – just need to climb, train and do essays, but I find my mind wandering to explore other parts of the UK. Another thing to train here – discipline.

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I long to go back to Oxford. Pretty streets, an air of mysteriousness, charm and intellect…

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And hory shet dinosaurs. I wanna go back just for this museum cause look at that! Apparently this T-Rex’s skeleton name is Stan. LOLOLOL

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In the meantime, just keep smiling and being happy. And keep toes pointed during L-sits that are hard to see in this shot. Meh.

29 Days Later

Just one day short of becoming a cannibalistic rage-infected zombie apocalypse movie, and then there’s Christmas and 2016.

Revamped blog design again. Quite like the minimalist and clean format of this blog layout (thanks very much to the creator). Procrastinated on studying for the final paper and had a merry time uploading/selecting photos and cropping them to header image size – Things that I’ve come to love, things that speak to me, things that make me smile when I look at them. Perhaps, if no one else, this is just another memory log for me to enjoy and look back on.

Reread previous posts and thought about them – it’s been a long while, it’s been a long time. I’m amazed how fast 2015 seemed to fly by, all the milestones I’ve accomplished (and as a couple, been through together with him), all the stellar events (have yet to write about NATGAT, one of the main highlights of this year)… And in slightly more than a month, my half of 2016 will be away from here, from all that is good here.

Not that I’m complaining. It’s a little sad thinking that I’ll be leaving and I won’t get to be with people I love, food I enjoy eating, events I wanted to partake in – but just a small sacrifice for one huge milestone of my life. It’s crazy to think I won’t be here for a long while anymore, and I will miss it terribly. Heck, knowing that I’m leaving makes me appreciate everyone and everything that matters a lot more now. In the event accidents happen, well, at least I know I’ve lived a truly, fulfilled life. I only hope I brought some good to people’s world, if not the whole one.

Last paper – Sociology of Gender. Interesting, if not disturbing and offensive in certain aspects but it’s opened my eyes to new perspectives. Inevitably everyone suffers to some degree, some less than others, some more; but everyone does, and no one’s suffering can be denied, nor is it less valid than anyone else’s.

Can’t believe I’m nearly done with Year 3.1 (weelllll if you don’t change exchange, I’m technically done with Year 3 on a whole lol). It’s been yet another content-filled, crazy semester. And then the whole of 2015 – it’s been yet another crazy year, ups/downs, laughter/tears, joy/derision, pride/shameful humility… And yet Facebook reminded me of “TODAY, years ago” and I saw that it’s been a year since I was full of rage, angst and hatred, denial and just utterly in a horrible place (hospitals are no fun), and that woke me (the fuck) up.

And now I’m here, and I feel safe and above it all, happy. Happy with and in myself, happy with people I love whom I cherish and call, sincerely with love, my friends and family. Learnt new lessons, met new people whom I’ve invested in (and who do the same for me), purged the toxic and grew. I don’t feel like dirt anymore, but rather rich earth, and that is a beautiful thing for me to feel.

And now, final paper. Allez. Then more exchange stuff to settle and getting back strength and gains cause man 18 days of no activity and major fooding is a guilty sin.

Pull-up count dropped to 9 nooooooo

The Omnipotent state.

I remember once, during a Year 1 Sociology intro class, the tutor got a little too hyped up in telling us about social control and mechanisms of the state, about how we – as fresh young minds who indulge in ourselves and think we are the greatest individuals on the planet – are in fact “products of the omnipotent state”. I think her comments, while radical, were truthful. We think ourselves as individuals with agency, a sense that we always have a choice in what we do, but we almost always fail to remember that we do not exist in isolation – there is always a social context that determines whether we really have a choice. Some choices become more salient than others, and in making some choices over others (that we get chided for), it is not a weakness if it is to fit the social context and the prevailing social structures (and the rules and norms and what-have-you’s). People forget the social risks involved.

Do you pay your bills? Do you throw your rubbish away in the proper place? Do you follow the flow of traffic? Do you feel uncomfortable if someone breaks the rules in front of you? Even if you don’t say anything, would you feel the urge to stare? Would you feel the urge to tell them off for their behaviour?

I find it terrifying how much we’ve come to embody the power that authorities and rules have made claims on us, how we find them legitimate and embed them deep within our subconscious that we think to find a bin when we want to throw something or find a toilet when we desperately need to go. Of course, there are ways to circumvent and subvert the rules and social order, and we do do them on a regular basis depending on context, as again. But overall, it still scares me how much we are indeed products of the omnipotent state – self-regulating, “docile bodies”, if one agrees with Foucault’s Governmentality*.

I’m not an expert in the reading but I’d agree. I tried to builder a public car park with the Big Cheese spotting me from below but I couldn’t get any further before a woman demanded to know what we were doing. We had a brief argument about safety and permission to access this structure before she left, still throwing back hateful glares at us. I didn’t builder the structure in the end, which was a waste because I believed I could do it (and hell, I wanted to do it) – but this led to my inspiration and basis for my Contemp Social Theory essay… Power in our everyday lives and how we negotiate it. It may seem trivial because majority of society sees us as deviants and a public nuisance, but this gives rise to the larger social problem: That you claim to be an inclusive society but you exclude and marginalise those who don’t fit your strict mould. It has real consequences, and you should, indeed, care.

*I do not claim to be an expert on Foucault, rather this derives from my interpretation and understanding of his reading.

Long and technical argument aside, I welcome recess week with open arms. Year 3.1 hasn’t been easy at all when you’re trying to maintain a social life, keep up with readings and assignments and trying to keep fit and progress, but somehow I made it work. Excited for NATGAT and my first overseas trip with Big Cheese – I look forward to a new environment and meeting new people, and subverting even more authority! Yay!

But first, photos.

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Avocado milkshakes with le Shield. We literally almost got drunk on sugar and healthy fats.

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Birthday present to the Big Cheese, along with a birthday book I tried my best to get everyone he knew to sign (some backfired on me), but overall he was happy. And that was all that mattered.

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Donuts (: Another present to him (discount coupon for a box of 6 Dunkin’ Donuts that I got from one of my Calisthenics people) – this came after an ice skating date with him (which confirms I have no sense of balance or CG).

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Not everyone was in this photo though :c

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Training hard and fooding hard with the SCA people. Lovelovelove this bunch of happy, eager and fun-loving, burn-hungry people. It’s been about two months and I’m stoked about our progress that we’re slowly achieving together as a team. Highly recommended for everyone and anyone to join – this group (my other social support system) literally taught me to stop making excuses in my life and to get out, enjoy life, gun for the best and live. Much love (and gains) to them.

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And then there’s exploring the Tanjong Pagar railway station on an extremely hazy (and early) public holiday. It was fun, sans the inability to breathe much. Beautiful place for photoshoots/videoshoots and monkeying around, basically.

You’re waiting for a train
A train that will take you far away 
You know where you hope this train will take you, but you don’t know for sure.
But it doesn’t matter because we’ll be together.

I’m still waiting.