Friday, 30 September 2011

"You can't change your situation. The only thing that you can change is how you choose to deal with that"

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011
How True!

A few days back I was doing my usual browsing through travel blogs, and came across this very true epiphany that I wouldn't have come to on my own.

Among long-term travelers, there seems to be a certain degree of competition, a one-upsmanship if you will, over who can visit a place while spending the least amount of money. It’s a badge of honor to say, “Well, I did France for X dollars cheaper than you,” as though the cheaper you go, the more authentic your experience might be.

I have seen this attitude expressed on my own site when I share my cost of traveling posts. There are always a few people who say things like, “Well, I think you overspent, because I did it for half the price.”

I’ve never understood this cheapness competition. To me, being a backpacker or budget traveler has nothing to do with how much money you spend. Rather, it has everything to do with how you spend it.

One of my biggest pet peeves is this obsession with cheapness that I see among a lot of travelers. I’ve never understood why a person would live like a pauper while saving money for a trip, only to then go on that trip and still live like a pauper. If you only have a small amount of money to spend, better to take a shorter trip doing all the activities you want than constantly saying, “I would love to do that but I can’t afford it” on your longer trip.

 When I read it, all that went through my mind was 'how true! Even I think like that sometimes!'

Which reminds me of one of MY pet peeves- the assumptions people make about your social economic background.

Ever since moving to Australia, I have been very aware of the many assumptions that people make of me. It seems that wherever I go, how I act is seen as signs of which economic class I supposedly belong to.

Do you get that? That a habit of yours is taken to be a sign that you're well off?

Just because I had never had a part-time job, does not mean that I'm so rich that I don't need to work. You wouldn't know how much money I use. Maybe I didn't get a part-time job because I don't spend as much as the normal person and hence could live with the average allowance given to me.

Just because my parents are paying for my overseas education does not mean that they're rich. You wouldn't know how much they save, looking from the outside.

Just because I have a Macbook, does not make me rich. Just because I pay a huge amount of rent, does not make me rich.

Many times, I've had people tell me that I'm rich. I mean seriously, they TELL me that I'm rich. When I deny it, they insist that I am, as if they know me better than I know myself. Maybe in some abstract manner, yes, but definitely not in something like wealth. My reaction would normally be to shrug it off and move on to another topic, because it is simply not worth wasting any more effort trying to convince them otherwise. But of course, I'm sure these people see nothing but the naive and innocent little boy (okay not little anymore) who is just reluctant to show off his wealth.

In all honesty, it annoys me to no end and so I'd rather forget about it by changing topics in order to not rile myself up. I tell myself to not waste any more time trying to bring these people to their senses. 

I think that everyone saves money in different ways. Some people would splurge on keeping up an appearance of wealth but in actuality are barely scraping through. Some people aren't particular about their dishwasher brand and type, or would choose to buy home brand products before others, but would drive to the nearby grocery store because of the hot weather. So I do not think too much of what a person's choice of clothing, or choice of food, or choice of anything, says of them. And it absolutely annoys me when someone else assumes something about me.

Personality is another thing. Like I said before, it seems that my apparently naive-looking exterior hints at a young soul who hasn't faced the harsh realities of life.

I get told sometimes, about how I'm so young and inexperienced and don't know a lot of things. But I'm also told that I'm shy and generally don't like boasting or talking about my experiences. But it's funny how those two never collide and make people think that I'm young and shy but do know a lot of things but just don't talk about them.

So next time you meet someone, don't think you have them figured out. They may surprise you.
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Friday, 23 September 2011

It appears that spring hasn't really fully set in yet as we do still experience chilly days once every few days, which is a little annoying since I'm looking forward to experiencing warm weather, like the 29 degree day a few days back where I could survive by just wearing a T-shirt. But that's also because I've never been a fan of cold weather, and the prospect of having to spend a winter in Shanghai when I could spend a summer back home or here (What?? I'm going Shanghai?!?!).

But on the bright side, I get to acclimatise to winter and hopefully get used to it (if I'm successful in getting a job here after graduation it will come in handy!).

So anyway, today I'll be writing about something I read in my university's magazine. It was what someone wrote about how Enid Blyton's books had gave her a childhood, and how it is so stupid of adults to think that some names and terms would teach children the wrong things, because as kids we don't care about those things, it's the story that matters!

One of her examples was The Magic Faraway Tree series, and she made a list of what were deemed inappropriate by today's standards, but then said:

Publishers and adults advocating for changes in Blyton's novels are forgetting what it was like to me as a child. She captured the imagination of young minds. Enid Blyton gave me a pretty great world to escape into and I think all kids at one time or another, no matter what decade they grow up in, needs that. 

Having read The Magic Faraway Tree series myself, I have to say I completely agree with her. It didn't matter how inappropriate the details were, I simply loved the stories because they were a window to another world- I could escape into a world where families lived next to the woods, and could play in the forest and climb trees and enjoy the outdoors.

Another blogger wrote about how her daughter loved the series when she read her old books, but hated it when her mother bought the new edited ones.

But of course, if I were to ask for anyone's opinion it would probably be the same as mine as people who read this blog are mostly my peers anyway, but it would definitely be interesting to listen to one of those proponents of editing Enid Blyton's book speak.

And I'm done with my ranting. Here's a trailer of a TV show that I'm about to start watching. Hope it's good!

Have a great weekend!
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Monday, 19 September 2011
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

So as promised, here is a review of the book I was talking about, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

So in the first chapter (and this was taken as an excerpt and published by the Wall Street Journal), the author, Amy Chua, wrote about why Asian parents are superior:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

That book became very controversial, and I'm sure you can see why.

That short excerpt was meant to portray her as a strict, no-nonsense parent who wants to raise her children into who she thinks they can be. In part, this is true- she is strict and is a no-nonsense mother, and forces her children to excel in things that she thinks they'll be good at and would be helpful for them in the future.

But the book was more than that. It was funny reading how she conducted research for finding a dog, and how best to train a dog to be 'successful'. It was simply hilarious, reading about how she felt her dog has potential and is more intelligent that other dog species, according to her research.

It was insightful reading about how she thinks of raising her younger daughter like a game of chess; it's always about what moves to make, what baits to give, what traps to lay, what weapons to use. No kidding! In recalling an incident with her stubborn daughter in which she punished her by asking her to stand outside in the cold snowy day, but then realised her mistake when the daughter refused to step back in (she only meant to let her daughter stand outside for a few minutes). Here's what she wrote:

I had to change tactics immediately; I couldn't win this one. My mind racing, I reversed course, now begging, coddling, and bribing Lulu (her daughter) to come back into the house. When Jed (husband) and Sophia (older daughter) arrived home, they found Lulu contentedly soaking in a hot bath, dipping a brownie in a steaming cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

But Lulu had underestimated me too. I was just rearming. The battle lines were drawn, and she didn't even know it. 

But most of all, what struck me as most interesting was her devotion to her daughters. While the WSJ article seemed to portray her (and the stereotype probably exists) as an Asian parent who just keeps pushing their child into everything, she struck me as a parent who would also be willing to sacrifice everything for her daughters, which is probably unlike the stereotypical Western parent.

Think about it. She's a Yale law professor, so while preparing course materials, going to lectures, marking assignments and consultations, she also sends her TWO daughters to piano and violin lessons, reads up on techniques and pieces of BOTH instruments, and sits in both daughters' classes and drills them at home. She's not just the parent who yells 'GO PRACTISE!', she sits there and tell them what they're not doing right, based on her research and her observations (she takes notes during lessons). Not to mention, she takes her daughters to all sorts of competitions, musical and academic.

It's a very interesting book simply because it is ironic and paradoxical, yet stereotypical. I have no other way to describe it, because it really is something that's... an interesting read.
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Sunday, 11 September 2011
The Day That Was

Have you ever had one of those days, when you just felt so tired of doing the same thing that you just wanted something different?

I've experienced that a few times in my life, and most of the time I decided to do something hair-related; that is, change my hairstyle. Once I even contemplated going bald.

So for the day I turned 20 I decided to do something I've never done before- dye my hair. I've had highlights done a few times before, but never my entire head, so this time around I thought I'd do that, just to see how it'll turn out.

I selected a dark red colour, and while having it done swore to myself that I would never do it again. But now I'm not so sure. Why? 

Graduation! The end of possibly the best time of my life- high school!

The end result was... not exactly what I'd expected. I wanted something that was striking and obvious, but it also can't be too light a colour because I don't think it suits me. It's a fine line, but this time it didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, so perhaps I'll give it a try again in the future.

But I think I've had enough with changing my hair colour for the moment. Can't say when I'll feel the urge to do so again, since the last time I did it was about 2 years ago now (in case you're wondering, I've dyed my hair several times since high school), although after the colour wore off I definitely did not feel like dyeing my hair for quite sometime.

Or perhaps sometimes it's just a yearning to do something unconventional by society's standards. Yes, dyeing one's hair is very common now but I think it's not really expected from someone like me with a 'goody goody' image (I quote a friend who did actually say that). But at the same time I've never really felt like I fit into any lens seen by society- I wasn't notorious or malicious, nor was I athletic. I wasn't particularly bright (it didn't show in my grades), nor was I hopeless in studies.

In this video for an assignment back in college I was playing a homeless but musically-talented person.

I'd felt that I was... different, that no one could really understand me, hence I'm the 'goody-goody' boy who dyed his hair. Funny eh?

Just take a look at my different movie tastes shown here in 3 trailers. One's an action/mystery film that's also a thriller and drama, another's a serious drama that's award-worthy and sees a cliched storyline from another perspective, and the last one's attraction's nothing but an all-star cast.

Anyhow, today's the anniversary of 9/11, and I thought it'd be great to look back. We humans seem to have a love for very even numbers, like 10, 25, 50, 100. So 10 years ago today, I was but a mere 10 year-old, still in primary school, enjoying being a child, and probably celebrating finally being old enough to have two digits.

Now, of course, I just turned 20 a few days back. Compare my 10 year-old self and now, and even I'm surprised at how far I've come and how I've turned out. I think that's the case for most people, we somehow never become the person we thought we would be. And sometimes we look back and marvel and how different we once were.

And lastly, because I'm in a mood to share, here's me, 9 years ago (at 11 years old), shortest in the family at the time (I'm now the tallest), and rather tanned.

*Image cropped to prevent embarrassment to others in the picture.
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Friday, 9 September 2011
That Time of Year

That was on the 8th of September last year. Amazing how fast things can change (when thinking about last year, not the weather). But you know what's faster? Time.

Me, circa 1993 / 94.

Now... well, you know how I look now, don't you, dear reader?
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Friday, 2 September 2011
Little Bit of History

In one of my classes this semester, we tackled the idea of 'history'. Funnily enough, even history is subjected to academic analysis. So this author wrote about how history is seen as a narration, a story of progress and development through time; but if you think about it, what about the Dark Ages? Was it progress? And what about the current state of books? Is the emergence of e-books considered a progression and improvement even though it is still, a book? Then there's the thought of history as universal; but come on, the Dark Ages in Europe wasn't the Dark Ages in other parts of the world.

So much fail!

It's a pretty interesting read, and that's I guess what makes courses like these interesting- they take the most mundane and simplistic everyday terms and put it under the microscope. And that's what I like about media studies- it is so different from the sciences that I'm used to back in high school; I feel that it's engaging in deeper thought because we don't discuss facts and memorise formulas, it's very subjective and provocative at times.

But that's not why I started this entry- the reason behind it is much, much simpler.

So Facebook has been showing these past status updates, and I have had the privilege of seeing a few (thought just two of my own). It's a pretty interesting thing I guess, to be reminded of something that happened in the past, good or bad. Here are two status updates of mine last year.

Ahhh... FML. A wonderful site to relish in someone else's pain. Probably the start of my 'sadistic' tendencies (really don't know why people think that). I posted this on the 26th August 2010, and I'm pretty sure I just had a bad day, and was looking forward to coming home and entertaining myself with reading what bad luck other people are having (some are really, really funny!).

To tell you the truth, these websites (Failblog, FML, Failbook) are probably a minor reason in me coping with the depressing time I had last year- it was like a candle in a dark room, for I would return home to seek refuge in my room and try not to be bothered by the horrible time I was having. It was one of the few things that never failed to cheer me up. Just the thought of being able to laugh at something instead of being frustrated and stressed out was... liberating.

This second update was definitely funny. It happened on the 2nd of September 2010. It was when I was watching The X Factor (another comical relief) and I was just watching the people who sang so horribly yet thought they were pretty good because their friends had not dared to tell them that they were horrible. I originally hesitated to post that on Facebook because it was a little provocative, but in the end I thought that I thought I might've well say what I want to say because most people are already surprised when they see the more outspoken side of me.

That also made me consider updating my Facebook status more often. I can't even remember the last time I did so, I just don't feel as comfortable sharing what I think with the world. But perhaps I might start again, because after all, it is for me to look back and laugh at.

That's all I have for now. Perhaps when I've amassed a few more past updates then I'll show them again.
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