Thursday, September 29, 2011

Being Back and Busy

Now that I am back at the U E of A, settled down though not without a jet lag, here is a glimpse of what has been going on. Well, more appropriately, what hasn't been going on? The freshers have arrived and then I realized that I am a second-year. You know, the ones that walk around the campus as if they've been there for years, looking experienced and smug. On the bright side, I might as well bask in all that 'senior' glory while I can. I have this odd feeling that by the time students reach their third year, attention is minimal and sometimes nonexistent. Don't you think so? People normally ask if you are a first or second-year and not whether you are a final year.

Home Made T-Shirt!
First weeks are usually busy to rope in the first-years. There was a Socmart recently, whereby each society would set up their respective booths and students would sign up for the ones they are interested in. Throughout the day, I had shifts with the Malaysian Society, which you can see from the photo below, as well as the Concrete Newspaper. It took me a while the night before to decorate my shirt (which possibly didn't help that I had many characters to do) but I love the result. 

Charlene and I
I signed up for several, mostly the ones that I can see myself going to this year. As for how we did- it's a no-brainer for Concrete seeing as it has a huge base on campus (I bet we have over a hundred)- for a newly formed society, our Malaysian Society did quite well.

That aside, I've had two classes so far. Despite the difficulty I expect them to put me through, I think I am going to like them. Lots of events are happening soon thanks to the Socmart, especially since they need to make use of the fresher's enthusiasm at the start of the year. I've had to make myself daily schedules just to keep up! 

Speaking of which, I better go now. It's going to be a busy day ahead. From a class to a newspaper recruitment drive to a meeting and two socials that I might or might not go to. That pretty much depends on how sleepy I still get by evening. When will this jetlag stop!!?
Till the next time.

PS. My little cousin asked me when I am coming back to Malaysia and commented that it'll be good if I could be back tomorrow. I miss her already!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thoughts on the 23rd

Is it really the 23rd? That's fast. It seemed like only a week ago that I came back.

I'm excited, really. There are so many things I have yet to do, so many sights I have yet to see- I am going to travel next year and absorb all that life has to offer. That's what I am going to do. Well, I'm going to see how far I can stretch my pounds and euros on the way.

There are goals to achieve; dreams to pursue, which somehow would seem different if they are done in Malaysia. One year ago, I believed that I was picking an odd art subject considering how others were going towards science and mathematics. Imagine my shock when I went abroad and saw that the arts always had a strong base at universities. I was the missing jigsaw that fitted in a huge arts faculty. I don't know exactly what else UK has to offer me, but I can tell that they would be good.

But don't be mistaken. If there's anywhere that's my home, it's right here in Malaysia. For now. I've met my family and friends, gobbled down gastronomic delicacies, engaged in traditions, learnt how my family's past could be turned into inspiration and even learnt how to inject a stomach along the way. That was random, but bear with me. It basically felt like home.

So tomorrow, my fellow readers, I leave with a heart that is both pumped with adrenaline and heavy with longing. Don't worry about me. I'll be coming home another day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Heart...

Dear Heart,

It's been a while. I thought I'd take this opportunity to apologize for the things that I have put you through and those that I might make you go through again someday.

We have known each other all our lives, you and I. As far as I remember, your judgments have been good. Look at us; you've convinced me to take the course you love at university. The way you have sudden splurges of courage to step up to challenges never cease to amaze me. At times when I thought you'd absolutely embarrass yourself, you proved me wrong.

I am sorry that I have had to question you. I am sorry for all the arguments that I have won even though I know that you are the one who makes the better decisions. Truth is, I don't want to see you get hurt. I know that you can heal and get better, but are they worth the pain?

Truth is, I am the one that needs time to think. I'll let you have all the reins slowly but surely. Until then, I am going to ask that you be patient with me,

Your terrified friend,

Also, thank you, Mei Shan, for a most amazing phone call. It's one of those ordinary miracles where fate and time have a way of telling us that there will always be friends who will share those random thoughts that you never knew were in the mind of someone else as well. And thank you for showing me the meaning of Sarah McLachlan's song.

"When you cannot hear your heart or your head, ask another heart." - Mei Shan  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Peace on the Pinnacles

The Pinnacles at Perth

Ancient hands- they cup a pool of sand,
Fingers slow emerging from the land,
Withered as the rolling world they stand-
Chiefs of chiefs see spirits set in stone,
So they leave the deserts all alone.

Palace grounds that to horizons reach,
Chambers buried ‘neath the thirsty beach.
Seven sisters, graced by starlight, teach:
Mothers’ tales of spirits set in stone,
Ask to leave the desert on its own.

Grains of sand sail ‘cross each golden wave,
Footprints of the roos and emus pave
Roads to kingdoms solemn as the grave-
Children sing of spirits set in stone,
Then they leave the deserts all alone.

Curious hands- they taste the limestone wall,
Pricked by sunny billows, rise and fall,
Relics kept in pockets beg and call-
We are living spirits set in stone
That can heal the wounds with trust alone.

Hidden beauties doused in dusty dreams,
Skylines gleam with opal stains and streams,
Nothing in the world is what it seems-
Peace is living spirit set in stone
Healing life and love with trust alone.

Rachael Lum

Every poem ever written has a whole other story behind it. Sometimes by seeing what inspires a person to write what he/she writes, it opens your eyes to another way of taking in your surroundings. That's what I believe. And this is a rough idea of what inspired this poem: The Pinnacles of Western Australia.

The Pinnacles are limestone structures in a vast desert in Nambung National Park, where the protruding roots of trees are coated by calcite layers over centuries. The Aborigines refuse to enter the park because they believe that the formations are manifestations of ghosts.

Footprint of an emu
Most of the animals in the park are nocturnal, but during the day, you might be able to see emus and kangaroos. I didn't see any wild ones, only the footprint of an emu.

More pinnacles are forming each day, albeit very slowly. Some tourists have a tendency to pocket broken mini-pinnacles, for with the presence of  beguiling beauties of nature comes superstitions, such as the ability to heal arthritis or bone-related problems. Calcium carbonate after all, aren't they? The background of the photo above is a spot known as 'The Graveyards', as they supposedly look like tombstones.

A wave of darkness, a wave of light

Every now and then, the sun would be blocked by rushing clouds, which gave an illusion of sunny waves. It might be just me- but walking on the dusty dunes only greeted by silence was really peaceful. Time stops in the face of such majestic sights.

I leave the rest to your imagination.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Calm Down...

Over the past few months, I've been kicking myself for every mistake that I've done. Every big one. Every small one. Every one. I should calm down, I know. I'm going to be honest and admit that this year has been a roller coaster. It's not really a good one compared to other times.

What goes down ought to come up again, right? I've got to calm down and tell myself that such things happen, even if they do seem to be happening a little too often lately. Calm down. Calm down.

Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Thing about Dreams

I love dreaming. Dreams are...fascinating. They dabble with the subconscious like a painting within the mind. They can be bizarre and crazy, and no one would question it. It's the creative output that people do not realize they have.

A picture seen in Edinburgh

Some people say dreams highlight things that trouble them the most, or toy with them using wishful thinking. Psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung explain that dreams can be decoded and interpreted using symbols, sometimes even forming subjective solutions to real-life questions. I'm open to most theories where the subconscious is concerned.

Someone claimed that if you keep dreams to yourself, it will come true, regardless of whether the dream was a good or nightmarish one. Recent events (and dreams) have led me to share them with others. You know, just in case.

Good ones are not a problem for me. I can only presume that I won't be breathing underwater anytime soon, or ice-skating around a frostbitten mall. I love out-of-this-world dreams, where anything is possible, where jumping out of the window is perfectly safe and walking on the walls is the futuristic way of hanging around.

Bad ones? Two weeks before my grandmother passed away, I had a strange dream of her, my cousin and I crying. Doing nothing but crying. That was when I decided I'll write a letter and send it to her. There were also a couple of other occasions where I dreamed that a particular person was not in the house they're supposed to be in, only to find out several days later that they have had to be admitted into the hospital.

So as a precaution, I must inform you that I have had apocalyptic dreams. And also one about evil ducks.

The thing about dreams is that sometimes it can be such a heartwarming one that I can't help but want to remain there for just a little longer.

Only to wake up and find that the dream has turned into dusty flakes that float in the sunlight by your bedroom window.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I suspect that one of the reasons the Mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon cake Festival) is such an irresistible celebration lies in the fact that it involves candles and fire. You actually have a good reason to light them up in massive quantities, and no one would think it weird that a bunch of people are excited to have their fingers burnt from the wax.

For most of us, lighting lanterns and eating mooncakes during this festival are as necessary as having Easter eggs and Lent in Spring. Celebrating this with the Low family this year made it absolutely amazing!

There are many folktales surrounding this tradition. One of them is regarding a goddess called Chang Er who, as a human, swallowed the pill of Immortality that belonged to her husband (could have been either to avoid her tyrannical husband from continuing his rule or out of curiousity) and found that she could fly to the Moon.

Another one talks about the Jade Rabbit who pounds herbs to make the said pills of Immortality. Some people say the rabbit is Chang Er's pet; others say it is the creature who sacrificed itself to feed several fairies.

There is also a story about Wu Kang, an impatient man who angered his immortal teacher and was banished to the moon until he can chop down a magical tree that will never fall. Too bad for him!

A row of lights
Let's go back to the fun part. I believe that in many cultures, the lighting of candles symbolize the dispelling of darkness and evil. Within minutes, the garden was illuminated by the soft glow of flickering flames behind colourful paper lanterns and bobbing on the surface of the melted scented wax. There is something incredibly warm and surreal about it, somehow, particularly in the way the dark can never touch the light until the fire dies off.

Beautiful painting

Left to Right: Mei Shan, me, Vincent
Do we look like we're holding a shard of starlight in our hands?

Moon Cakes
Later that night, we ate mooncakes too, which basically are little cakes with sweet fillings in them. The usual ones would have full egg yolks in the center to represent the full moon. Nowadays, there are different sorts to suit contemporary tastes, such as mooncakes with chocolate paste and snowskin crusts made of glutinous rice  or as the Japanese might call mochi.

It is said that during the Mongolian ruling in China, a rebellion was planned by slipping messages into mooncakes and selling them to the public. On the night of the planned attack, the government was overthrown. Lots of stories behind a simple tradition, aren't there?

Walking down the streets holding lanterns had those nostalgic feelings rush back to us. Mid-Autumn Festival is far too irresistible to miss. That night, apart from dinner and a very interesting round of Pictionary (with our newly dubbed 'Jack' and 'Rose' capable of recognizing each other's drawings when everyone else can't make head or tail out if them- I mean, how can a pool of water with odd shaped objects sticking out of it be the 'Titanic'?), there were good long talks about many things. Secrets and spoilers!

You've got to love it each year. You would have a good reason to meet up with great friends!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lighting the Dark

Lighting the Dark by rachlyf
Lighting the Dark, a photo by rachlyf on Flickr.
I've been telling myself all year to take risks, take the leap, be brave. I daresay I have gone further than I thought I would.

I've sent out some enclosed envelopes; I will only disclose what lies within if good news come back. I've applied for positions in societies at my university, such as the Malaysian Society as well as the independent newspaper, and that has given me a lot of confidence. Check this out- I'm in Wikipedia!

Hopefully things will go well so long as I continue stepping out of my comfort zone each time. That's one of my New Year's Resolution somewhat done.

But sometimes I wonder, have I? I've recently talked to two different friends about a subject which has led me to realize that I am, perhaps, still not as brave as I'd hoped to be. Admittedly, it's not easy, considering that I already know how it feels from a different point of view. I suppose that would be the 'ultimate' challenge, and if I do that- nothing else can stop me. Muahahaha! *coughs*

And yet, something tells me I can't. Not yet. Someone shed light on the dark for me! Well, we'll see how it goes, shall we?

PS. Next post will be on Mid Autumn Day celebration, for sure.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Two weeks left.

It only just occurred to me that I have only two more weeks left before I hop on the plane and fly off again. And that still makes me nervous even though it wouldn't be the first time.

Being away means being cut off from the world you once knew. There will be incidents that they will hide from you, sudden announcements and situations that could have been boiling for a long time. There will be things that are supposedly "not important" or "would upset you". There will be too many words left unspoken, too many pieces of yourself still lingering between the two countries.

I know online social networks and chat sites would be there as a virtual bridge, but sometimes it really isn't the same. I wonder at times whether I am an outlier of 'Gen-Y's whose heartbeat skips when letters are in the mailbox. I mean the physical snail mail that people take time to think about and write.

Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy it in the UK; I have friends there. It's just scary knowing that the next time I come back, many more things will change- even me, maybe.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Maid Morning

Sunrise in Perth by rachlyf
Sunrise in Perth, a photo by rachlyf on Flickr.
Maid Morning woke me with her breakfast deal.
She smoothly spread the butter upon night,
The milky foams come bubbling high until
The egg yolk cracks into the distant light.

Oh! The sizzling scent that soothes the slumbered souls!
How fraught we are by Nature’s earnest steam.
For all the world does dream as life unfolds,
But do you dream the chase or chase the dream?

Rachael Lum

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Little Improvements

Fit for a Queen by rachlyf
Fit for a Queen, a photo by rachlyf on Flickr.
Such practices were once observed by my grandmother and the family friend that lived with her.

Days before the ceremony they would have had all the paper offerings folded into "gold coins". On the day itself they would have been up by 2am to bake the sponge cakes, all properly whisked without machines. They would have steamed the plates of vegetable-filled "pau"s (dumplings), cooked the chicken and pork dishes, prepared lots of food and arranged the fruits by 8am. Then we would come and help move their hard work out to the alter. Everything would be laid out according to my grandmother's meticulous preferences.

So to have it done without them now is to have high standards to reach.

We've been advised on how to improve by the family friend, which you should probably know is "kaimah" (godmother). And hence the results-

More food. More neatly arranged. Little improvements, I would have to agree. We'll learn as we go and take little steps each time. Some little things have not changed, though. We still have the spongecake made from their original recipe (their recipe book only exists in their heads) and the fried seaweed.

As we are now on the subject of improvements, I believed that I've changed a lot from when I first started blogging years ago. And there are several things I really should improve on.

But let's take it a little at a time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cherry Ripe, Cherry Ripe

Cherry Ripe, Cherry Ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy
Cherry Ripe, Cherry Ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and Buy

~ English Folk Song written by Robert Hennick and turned into music by Charles Edward Horn~

I have the tendency to speak and write about random things that I observe or feel, most of which involving twisting lovely ideas into dark, strangely different perspectives. Some people think it the source of the weirdness I am occasionally labelled with. It's not a bad thing; it's just that sometimes my imagination goes wild.

Now several weeks ago, our extended family divided stacks of cherries amongst ourselves. They are quite a luxury; not something we have for dessert normally. And as I looked at the plumpness of their shape, felt the cool firmness of their skins, tasted the gushing sweetness of their juice, I couldn't help but link it to this thought.


Do cherries not resemble little hearts? All of them flushed with the rosy hues of the emotional organ, the seed being the promise of eternal life. Perhaps their parent tree is the plant that brings back the minute signs of the living after death in the form of little fruits beating in synchronization.

It bleeds too
I actually bit into the fruit and squeezed out a little drop of juice onto my palm to let you see what I mean. Looks rather like blood, does it not? It bleeds as would a heart. And if you lick the juice up, would that be how Gothic shows create their illusion of bloodshed? Then if the cherry is a heart, would you not be sinking your teeth into the core of a soft-beating life?

I either sound like I'm a day-dreamer of curious stuff or plain scary. Either way, it is something I embrace (well, sometimes), so hopefully this will make you think twice before eating cherries.

That leaves more for me!

PS. Am back from a long holiday. Managed to escape stress and reality for some time, hence being an overall wonderful trip. More strange ideas concurred from the trip later.