Of Packing and Homes.

15 May

Since my last post on Boston, I’ve been wanting to give equal attention to New York and Montreal. However, in a mad rush of things, upon my arrival back to Vancouver, I’ve been caught up with packing.

Packing, of itself, may seem like a simple process of shoving things into boxes. However, friends who’ve observed me packing for Germany can be my witness, I have a tendency to pack and label my boxes accordingly. To make matter more complicated, this time, I have additional factors on my list as I separate my stuff into categories.

These categories include:

1. Stuff that I’m leaving in Singapore for my sister who starts her first-year experience in UBC in September

2. Stuff that I’m packing to bring with me to Japan

3. Stuff that I’m bringing back to Singapore

4. Stuff that I’m bringing back to Singapore to be shipped to Japan, via air or a visiting friend, at a later date

Some find packing a calming and luxurious activity.

Personally, I often find myself getting sentimental and teary-eyed. These events could be triggered, maybe by  an old t-shirt that I got at a youth camp some 10 years ago. Or by a bus ticket which I received when I met the nicest bus driver ever in Vancouver. Or by nail polishes that a past student gave to me when she returned to Korea…

Today, I rummaged through cards and letters – if you want to test the prowess of your tears, this is a sure winner.

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These letters date back to as early as 2008.

As I paged through each envelope; some beautifully decorated, some humourous, with others bordering on offensive (like ‘aunty joy’ :p), it was as if I was swept through a myriad of memories, reliving key moments in my life, all in the mere hour or so it took to read through everything.

These memories made up what once was my home. Some would argue that it still is.

Regularly I’ve contemplated the idea of a ‘home’. I have written earlier posts about it, and have come up with the conclusion that home is wherever I am. In other words, I make the effort to create a home at each geographical location I am placed in by building up relationships, exploring places, partaking of food and experiences with others, thereby creating new memories.

Idealistic, maybe, but it is the only way I can reconcile the fact that I’ve moved so many times, am still on the move, and will probably continue to be ever-moving for a long while more.

If I really take the time to think about things (especially now that I can afford that time, with the lack of impending responsibilities and what-not), deep inside I’m conflicted between wanting to explore life, going on adventure after adventure, and wanting stability.

As I close the chapter of my life as a student at UBC and move to the next chapter, I can’t help but wonder if I will ever return to Singapore. This question, an honest question, eventually leads me to the conclusion that as I continue to put my trust and faith in a good God who’s plans are higher than mine, it is there that I will find stability.

Stability will be found no where else, not in a location, not in a person, and not even in a pug (sadly).

As of now, I am excited for the next immediate plans of working and living in Japan. When that chapter comes to an end, I will be looking forward to the next.

Maybe it will call for me to be in Singapore, maybe it won’t.

Each letter, reminds me of a person, which reminds me of an experience or experiences, which reminds me of my time in Singapore. Though I don’t see myself returning for good any time soon, and though I can sometimes feel anxious about the day that I might or might not return to SG for good, I know that the time I spent in Singapore, both the good and the bad, the relationships and the experiences, all remind me of God’s goodness and grace (:

In a not too far-off future, I look forward to a day, similar to today’s, where surrounded by boxes, I’d find myself sitting in a mess of cards and letters from those in Singapore and those in Vancouver, and I’d once again reminisce the goodness and grace of the One whose plans are beyond my wildest dreams or imagination.

 

Colour in Grey

2 May

The sun’s rays lit up the vast greenery of the park by the water that we were following. We now found ourselves walking across a bridge, as we reoriented ourselves, trying to find our way to the university campuses (MIT and Harvard).

 “Do you think Boston will have job opportunities for writers?”  I ask.

 “Oh, definitely. You go on the sub and every bloody person has a book.”

 Excuse the expletive, but that sentence is an embodiment of the friend whom I had that short conversation with. (*cough* Elliot *cough*)

Before the memories become stale, I’d like to remind myself of why Boston had and will continue to have a lasting impression on me.

Character; such a seemingly pretentious way to describe a city. After all, character belongs to animate objects like humans and animals, not concrete, immovable objects like buildings and pavements. Yet, I think that the word perfectly describes my impression of Boston.

It’s ironic to me that a city full of concrete and bricks can be so pretty. You would that that all the grey would eventually cause a depressing onset of grey feelings. On the first day, I was simply amazed at how different Boston was from Vancouver. On the second day, I started to notice little things that gave Boston its ‘character’.

On the whole, buildings and streets in Boston would be a solid colour of grey or brick etc. However, in the midst of all that, there would be a little surprise of colour where you’d least expect it.

On fire hydrants, in parkades, on the walls, at random spots on the street…

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The people were incredibly conversational. Of course, this a generalization based on the limited interaction we had with the locals.

There was the store manager in the U.S.S Constitution museum who in a short span of 10 minutes told as about the history behind a certain kind of native art, the architecture of the building and the museum, as well as the writers’ club in Boston where Lewis Carroll first read his ‘Christmas Carol’ out aloud to his fellow writers over punch.

There was the lady who stopped to help us as we ventured into the city on the first night. Despite the rain, she put her bag down and took out her reading glasses to point out the route we should take, on our pathetic thing of a map. She commented on how the easiest way to get there would not take us through the scenic route.

There were the nameless, faceless people, who I will never recognize if I saw them again, who helped us when we didn’t know how to buy the transit tickets to board the train, or when we weren’t sure where we were walking toward.

These splashes of unexpected colour, through buildings and monuments, as well as people and animals, leave me feeling bittersweet about my time in Boston.

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Reaching Toward the Glowing Comfort

17 Apr

It was all dark when I realised that this was the start of my life. Confusion surrounded me, there was no place to go. Around me, the ground, it seemed to swallow me up.

Unexpectedly, I adapted. Time, a concept I came to be familiar with, passed. I grew; digging deeper, soaking in any cool, liquid goodness I could find.

***

A new sensation entered my senses. Warmth, heat. I tried to open my eyes, but could not. I could only barely sense it through top of my head. I wanted to grow closer to that warmth. It seemed pleasant. It gave me hope that the darkness I struggled through was not in vain.

Time continued to pass. I stretched further and further downwards. Reaching as low as I could go. The growth above and below was unequal. Despite unrelentlessly pushing myself forward, I felt my legs grow longer and stronger, but my eyes still saw black darkness. Limited in my options, I continued in what seemed like a mundanity.

Time, a concept that I started to lose track of, passed. I had forgotten for what purpose I pushed myself to keep growing. The darkness was my only comfort, the only thing I was familiar with.

Then, it came as a surprise.

It was painful, sharp, and blinding. My eyes, they were finally open. I remembered when I had first felt that tingling sensation of warmth. I looked above and found my new source of comfort. A round ball of glowing light.

Time, continued to pass. There seemed to be no room for me stretch out my legs. Was I stuck? Maybe, I did not need to stretch out further. Now, I could concentrate on stretching myself towards the warmth and push myself closer to its source.

***

I thought that there was no where to go except up. Yet, why does it seem like my head is falling closer to the ground rather than closer to the radiant ball of glowing warmth?

***

Something, something; it is pulling me away from my home. Stop, stop! It hurts. This place is all I know. I grew up in its darkness. The warmth that calms my heart is right there. What will I do if you rip me from the only things I know? Why do you try and halt my efforts to reach that comforting light?

***

Ah, I had fainted and am now awake. Where am I? My feet, they feel a familiar sensation. The same that I had felt when my life had just begun; cool, liquid goodness. This familiar sensation. Warmth. I open my eyes. There, glowing in the sky, my comfort and hope, the round ball of light. I stretch out my feet in relief… there is space? Space! Space for my feet to stretch out further than it had before. My life’s goal has not changed, as long as I am able to continue reaching forward, I will one day reach that comforting light.

 

Change is always scary. It can often be painful and confusing. It can also be crippling, causing you to settle, for what you may think is the best alternative.

The process is not easy. Just when you think you finally understand it all, you are shaken and uprooted from what has become familiar. However, if you persevere and allow yourself to go through the discomfort, you will find yourself in a better position for growth – whatever that growth may mean to you. You will then learn that it was only your own shortsightedness that kept you in a place of stunted growth. 

 

The Ending of a Season

15 Apr

Sakura petals scattered on the ground. Bare cherry blossom trees. A sad face. 

It’s not surprising that many of the photos I see now pertaining to sakura cherry blossoms are of its fallen petals, lamenting the passing of its blooming season.

My knowledge of the sakura cherry blossom, or of any flower for that matter, is sorely lacking. However, I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong in saying that the sakura flower blooms for a really short time!

I think this factors in to why and how the sakura cherry blossoms garner up so much excitement from the public.

Yes, it’s a pretty flower.

Yes, it’s almost magical to experience pink petals, carried by the wind, making disney-like-moment swirls around you.

But I think the most heart-gripping thing of these flowers is how fleeting it is. Miss the chance to see them during the 3 or so weeks that they are around, and you’ll have to wait a full year.

Humans seem to find comfort in security, in stability, in the longevity of things.

At the sakura cherry blossom (which I found out existed for the first time in my 5 years here – oh the joys of working in a communications role), I bought a pair of earrings.

Its major selling point? Sakura cherry blossom petals preserved in resin.

Of course, when I bought it at the time, I thought they were extremely unique and, obviously, pretty. Looking back, I must have subconsciously thought that since these flowers are so rare, why not have one with me at all times, one that would never disappear!

The sooner we come to terms with the fact that nothing lasts forever, the sooner we can appreciate each blooming season, and adapt to life’s changing seasons.

 

“Every breath is a second chance”

Always, Switchfoot.

Is Creativity for Everyone?

14 Apr

“What is that supposed to be?”

“It’s.. abstract?”

“She must be a writer..”

“Only photographers can see beauty in that.”

 

It would not be surprising to find out that many people after admiring a beautiful picture, or reading a thought-provoking book, stand in awe for a couple of minutes or days, only to move on from there and with their lives, awaiting the next creatively intriguing piece that might come their way.

I don’t think that creativity is exclusively reserved for photographers, writers, or artists alone.

Here’s a question for you: “Do you know a creative person?”
Now with that person in your mind, you might probably formulate this next thought in your mind, “I’m not creative, like Person XYZ…”

Sure, people with portfolios have evidence of their work and the creativity that resides within them. Though there is no denying that a certain measure of what is considered creativity is also considered talent, there would be no evidence of creativity without the investment of time.

Photographers, take the time to view the world through the lens. Writers, take the time to imagine and create a world out of words. Artists, take the time to pen the images in their mind on canvases.

So, you too, can take the time to tap into what you could call your own creativity!

Here are some ideas:

If it’s sunny out, sit in a park, in the sun (obviously). Arm yourself with a book to read, or a notebook to scribble on.

If you like your caffeine, sit in a quaint café. Delicious aromas can be really inspiring.

If interaction makes the clockwork in your brain run crazy, people/children/dog/bird watch!

A Beach. A Forest. A Bench. A Tree. Grass.

The possibilities are endless 

A Collared Life

10 Apr
Mao with his red flea collar

Mao with his red flea collar

A fluffy snowball caught my eye as the bus turned a corner. The cat stretched its back out on the porch of the house and seemed to pull a yawn of content as it soaked in the sunlight.

“Its owner must be so lucky to have such a ball of cuteness in its care”, I thought to myself.

Collars.

A sign of belonging. It makes all the difference between a stray and an owned pet.

A sign of identification. That cat belongs to Mr. Winterland or Ms. Spring (yes, I’m excited for Spring).

I still remember when I bought a flea collar for ‘Mao’. It marked the day that we acknowledged adopting the black-and-white stray as our own.

Collars are not reserved for animals alone. You’d be surprised at how many of us don our own collars of identification…

1. Family Collar

  • Are you a son or daughter? Brother or sister? Father or mother?
  • Perhaps you identify with the responsibility or piety you have towards family that affects important life decisions

2. The Work Collar

  • Does what you do at work excite you? Or does work enter your thoughts so much that it torments you in your dreams?
  • Maybe you’re working towards reaching that next place in your job, or keeping an eye out for that unique opportunity

3. The Significant Other Collar

  • Your every move seems to coincide with the actions and plans of another person
  • Are you finding it hard to imagine life without him/her?
  • People associate you and him/her interchangeably as a single item (oh lookies, an unintended pun)

4. The One who Lives for Food Collar

  • Do you find yourself smiling most widely when presented with food? (A picture speaks a thousand words)
  • No work without food?
  • A typical conversation might go, “How’s your day?” “Not too good, I can’t decide what to have for lunch!”

5. The Student Collar

  • The writing never stops?
  • The reading keeps piling up no matter how much you do?
  • You’re goal is to finish that final final

So what collar are you wearing today?

Yay for stress-induced nonsensical blogposts that get churned out in between writing papers and studying for finals!

Milestones (not endorsed by restaurant of the same name)

9 Apr

Friend: “It’s the last two days of school!”

Me: “Nah, it doesn’t matter much to me anyway. I still have papers and finals. Until those are done, I don’t feel as if its over yet.”

Part of that burst of pessimism, from yours truly, stems in the fear of celebrating perceived successes too early. There’s always the nagging thought at the back of my mind that likes to whisper, “life is gonna turn around and bite you in the butt, just when you least expect it. Be on guard, be on guard.”

The other part of it is further away from pessimism, and closely connected with the concept of ‘saving the best for the last’.

It’s like when you eat a sunny side egg, and you work your way around the yolk. Carefully and intentionally scraping at the sides for every piece of egg white around it. Then, the finalé; when you pop that yolk of perfection, in all its wholeness, into your mouth, biting it as the precious yolk runneth over.

However, now that I think about it. Today marks my last day EVER, going to classes as an undergraduate student. True, I may still have responsibilities and tasks that lie ahead, but its unrealistic to think that there will ever be a day where I can celebrate accomplishing that one big life goal. After all, it’s human nature to reach for greater heights each time.

LIFE IS A JOURNEY – a widely referenced metaphors (information gathered from metaphor class, of course) – as such, that journey will have multiple check points, some more significant than others, but none insignificant.

My conclusion is that I should still celebrate the little milestones in life.

Every little victory is motivation to keep trudging forward.

The Waiting is Over…

7 Apr

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😀

This came in my inbox at 4.25pm this afternoon. Of course, I only see it at 11pm…

Fellow Canadian JET-to-be’s, look out for that email.

I’m so thankful that I’m finding this out on a Friday and need not fret over it on the weekend.

OKAY. OMGOSH. I KNOW THAT THIS IS SUCH A USELESS POST. BUT i’m like, really excited and happy and I can’t write properly. Gosh.

OKAY I’ll STOP HERE, for fear that I will bore all of you. AHHHHHHHHHHH

 

edit —

the above post was written on Friday, but I put off posting it for a few days 😉 Now I’m in a slightly better frame of mind to write more comprehensibly…

Before you ask me where exactly in Japan I’m to go.. as of now, I’m still unsure of the precise location. As mentioned in an earlier post, the JET Programme is a large organization, and as such I will have to wait till the end of May to find out.

Whats next? More exciting paperwork, of course!

I’m looking forward to making future posts on the adventures of a Vancouver JET newbie ❤

Shared Experiences

4 Apr

I find that what often gets people entangled in their emotions is the skewed perception that they are the only ones going through an experience. The belief that their situation is unique, and that they are all alone.

Would you not agree?

Think about a time when you were awfully stressed or anxious about a particular thing.

Actually, here’s one.

You’re stressed out over a paper.
You talk to your classmate, “how’s your paper going”.
“Oh, I have no idea where to start”, he goes.
“Me too!” you respond.

Then, what do you feel?

Relief, perhaps? Possibly stemmed in the fact that someone else shares similar emotions that are tormenting you and you’re not alone?

In any case, I choose to believe that I am at a point of my life where I am going through a bout of emotions that is shared by a rather large crowd:

1. The about-to-be-graduates

This category does not require much elaboration. I believe that many are looking forward to being done with their undergraduate degree, so much so that classes seem to be a drag and final papers a chore.

At the same time, stress levels should be pretty low.

Especially if you already have plans after graduation, like a full time job, or an acceptance to do your masters, or the education program (which seems to be the route that many of my fellow English Language majors are on), where your grades don’t seem to hold as much weight as they previously did.

As for those who have nothing planned after, I think you would oscillate between the anticipation of having nothing to do, and the anxiety of having nothing to do.

As for me, I oscillate between ALL those feelings. I kind of have something planned after graduation, but its all relative to other things, which mean I actually don’t have anything planned after graduation. I’m happy to be done, and relishing having no assignments and homework to think about, but also wondering about what my life will look like after exiting UBC.

That brings me to the second category…

2. The anticipating JET candidates

You might or might not already know this, but I applied for the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) programme in November 2013. Yes, it was about 5 months ago. It’s a pretty extensive process (oh, you don’t say?) for an assistant language teaching position in Japan. I received an email late January notifying me of my passage to the second stage – The Interview. That took place in February.. and I’ve been waiting since to find out if I will be shortlisted.

The time has finally come, it’s April, when the emails/letters/pigeon mail start to stream in, letting candidates know of their acceptance or rejection.

So, as we enter the month of April… I choose to believe that many, like myself, not only started checking their inboxes/mailboxes/windows, but also googled things like “when do Canadians usually receive their acceptance into the JETprogramme?”

This might actually leave you feeling more anxious, especially when nothing turns up, and when the first link in the search engine directs you right back to the official JETprogramme Canada website.

Not very helpful.

Having said that, I guess this is the beauty of being a part of this process. It is such a long and extensive process, but guess what? Everyone else who applied and got through to the interview round, is having similar feelings. Not just those in Canada, but all around the world.

Oh, the beauty of applying to a large organization.

Thus, the waiting now continues.

Hi, I am Phone

1 Apr

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Nice to meet you!

Today I decided that I would share with the world my importance.

If you must know, this is most definitely not in response to the fact that my owner left me abandoned all alone, in the cold, on the back car seat. Of course I’m not offended. After all I was picked up almost immediately by my owner’s friend, who then speedily made arrangements to return my to my owner’s hands. In contrast, I believe that my owner felt the effects of neglecting me.

After all, I’m a responsible phone, committed to getting my job done.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of what I do on a daily basis :

1. I make sure my owner wakes up on time. She usually does but often heads back to sleep. That’s why I make sure that my snooze button is enabled

2. I help her stay connected with friends and family in another country

3. I help her stay connected with friends in the same country

4. I minimize her time spent waiting for the bus by telling her when the next buses are due to arrive

5. I give her immediate answers to questions she may be pondering about (yes, I’m wiser than I might look)

6. When she gets cravings, I point her in the right direction. I offer her choices; myriads upon myriads of recipes

7. Seriously guys, I’m the one who helps her feel, stay, be connected

Sometimes it’s easy to feel like I’m being taken for granted. However, when I remember my purpose in life, I’m motivated to continue to be the best phone I could ever be for my owner.

And that, my friends, is true devotion. May I live a long life and serve my owner well.

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