Friday, 24 February 2012
Watch It!

I think one of the biggest reasons why people enjoy travelling is a break from the usual- they want to go to a place where everything is unusual, where they could embarrass themselves without thinking too much about it, and to see a different way of life.

Travel, for me, has been quite a new experience. I never really saw the value of travel much until not too long ago. For me (when I was young), travelling meant no school, no homework, potential new toys and seeing new things. But in recent years, this has changed- there is something about travelling that endears to me a lot, and it is one of my goals in life to be able to travel.

At Yu Garden

So imagine my excitement (okay, I wasn't jumping around, but I was definitely feeling a little excited) when I embarked on my first solo travelling journey to Shanghai. Granted, I did have to work as well, with no pay, but, when you think about it, travelling is about spending money, investing in gaining new experiences.

And I was looking forward to it. As I walked out of the plane, my excitement was building. How will the next 6 weeks be? What will I see? What will I do? Will I survive being here not comfortable in speaking Mandarin? How cold will it be? Will I see snow? As I was considering all of this while walking on the bridge from the plane to the terminal, a man walking beside me turned to his left (I was on his right), made a noise I know too well, and... spat. Right in the airport, indoors. It's a good thing the side of the bridge wasn't carpeted, so at least it can be cleaned (I hope it's cleaned).

It's a good thing he didn't see my stare. I was a little shell-shocked. I knew that spitting was normal, but I had no idea just how normal it was. For someone who, just a week ago was living in Australia, it was absolutely disgusting. It's a good thing I was alone, or I would've said 'eeeewwww' at the top of my lungs to whoever it is I went there with.

That got me prepared for what was coming- 6 weeks of walking amongst spitters, who gave no regard to where they spat. It also got me prepared for some of the culture shock that I experienced throughout my time there.

But it amazed me that the man spat indoors. That was something very new to me. I couldn't believe my eyes at first. Was this city (that admittedly I didn't read up much about), one of the most modern cities in the world, the largest city globally with 23 million people (that's even bigger than the whole of Australia put together), with rapid economic and social development, still stuck in the mentality that is shared by many other places around China?

 Model of the city of Shanghai- yes, it's THAT huge

The short answer, is yes. While I didn't bother watching my steps to prevent myself from stepping on spit (which I'm sure I did- how can you avoid not stepping on them), I was very careful in making my presence known so that I wouldn't be spat on. This includes walking further away (to get into their line of vision) to making my footsteps louder.

That was just an example of the cultural differences that exist between Malaysia and China. Yes, yes, I know that a lot of Malaysians spit, too, but bear in mind that most Malaysians (read: MOST Malaysians) have the decency to spit into drains, and we do not have 23 million people in ONE city. That's just overcrowded.

I was quite surprised by the differences in culture. I had always been under the perception that the Chinese in Malaysia have many similarities to their Mainland Chinese counterparts (politics at play?), but I was not aware of how different we were. Spitting everywhere was just one of those little things that makes a difference.

Back to the spitting. I think if you look carefully enough at the pavements, you can definitely see the traces of spit. But of course, I wasn't about to ridicule myself by doing that; I acknowledged that this is the environment that I have to live by, and I had to get on with accepting that people in Shanghai spat. A lot.

There was once, a random passerby walking behind me had spat, and I almost gave him the Devil's stare, and fought the temptation to swear at him while saying something along the lines of 'watch it, you're way too close to me to be spitting'. What made me hold back? The notion that I didn't know how to express this in Mandarin (with the emotions as well), and also because... as if I would be able to do anything about it. For all I know, he might just yell rudely at me and call his gang members to beat me up.

Then there are times when I would see a woman spitting, and (yes this is stereotyping) would think in my head- 'how unladylike!' But again, it's one of those things that both genders do. In Malaysia I think it's much harder to find a female spitting, but it's commonplace in Shanghai, apparently.

 East Nanjing Road (oddly enough many streets in Shanghai are named after places in China)

Coming home to Malaysia after that, I felt a lot cleaner. I didn't see anyone spitting, and most importantly, I came back a little prouder that even though Malaysia does not have the economic growth that China can boast about, at least we don't go around spitting on the roads (you just got bored of the word 'spitting', didn't you). That, and other things that I experienced (which I may or may not write about in the future), made me feel proud to be a Malaysian.

We may still have dirty alleyways and stinky drains where mice and cockroaches wander, but hey, we're not a country of spitters. That, somehow, feels a lot more reassuring. At least it's not the humans making the city dirty.

P.S: Don't know how this turned out to be a post about being proud of my nationality, but as they say, you gotta do what feels right, right?
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Friday, 17 February 2012
Settling In

I've been in Melbourne for a little over a week now, and I must say, life has gotten hectic rather quickly.

Not that I didn't expect it coming, I knew that I would have only a few days to get settled down before I begin an internship with a PR company this past Monday. So yes, I've completed the first week of my internship here, and it's been very exciting so far.

I'm slowly getting more complicated tasks, and it's such a shame that this internship is only for 20 working days, because I would actually love to intern there for a longer time. But I'll take what I can get.

So true! Till this day I do not understand Physics.

But settling down has been tougher than I thought. Remember, 2 years ago, when I had first moved out to live independently, and I had complained of an ant problem in my apartment? Well, in my current house, there was an ant problem too. Or more like an infestation. It got so bad, that we had to call in the exterminators. I'm only blogging now because the 'all-clear' has been given.

Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating. It's not just because of the ants that I'm not blogging. I've also been kept busy with getting all my stuff sorted out. For the first time, my room's not a mess, I finally have my bedside table, the weekend is coming up (which means I don't have work!) and I've already laid out my to-do list (which is incessantly long), so I have decided to take some time out to blog.

But unfortunately, I still have quite a few things to catch up on, so this entry will end here.
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Monday, 6 February 2012
When The Power Went Out...

Last night was a very interesting night- there was a power outage, and my home was left without electricity.

Things were normal before that, we had just finished our dinner, and I was reading a book while waiting for the rest of my family to come out so we can continue watching the movie that we had paused so we could eat dinner.

Then, out of the blue, everything went off- the lights, the TV, the fan. I was thrown into sudden darkness. Not completely dark because it never is completely dark in Subang, and also because not all houses were affected.

Further investigation revealed that only six houses on our road were affected. SIX! Out of probably 15 to 20 houses. And ours were one of the unfortunate ones. I was crushed- there were so many things I was planning to do that required electricity- copying DVDs into my laptop (need to transfer to the desktop first), reading news (need the Internet), finishing the movie (need the TV).

So out came the candles and torchlights, and we prepared for the darkness. I was then reminded of similar power outages of when I was younger. Back then, we didn't have much to do, so power outages would be a great time to walk around the neighbourhood, or just to play simple games at home.

Which was what I did yesterday. I reacquainted myself with a few card games (all very fun), and also played the five stones game. I would assume that if there were kids around, it would be a challenge to see who has better skills, but in yesterday's case, where I played against Mum, it became a test of who was rustier, which at times produced some rather amusing moments. It was actually a very fun time, as without electricity the activities available to me became limited, and so I did not have to feel like I'm missing out on something or am wasting my time.

And that got me thinking of how life was like in the past when my forefathers lived with minimal or no electricity. I can imagine why kids would play games with each other using anything they can find outdoors, and how the adults would sit around and chit chat, or to walk around the neighbourhood, or to mingle with the neighbours (which we didn't do last night). Not to mention, turning into bed early, which I couldn't do last night as it was swelteringly hot. I probably only fell asleep once the electricity came back on, which took about five hours.

I couldn't blame anyone of course, not even the electricians, because it was raining at that time, and they were putting their lives at risk by coming out to see what's wrong anyway. In the end, though, I was extremely grateful that they got it all sorted out and I could finally get some sleep.

But back to before the problem was fixed.  I even managed to finish reading a book that I was rereading at the time (thanks to a very handy reading light). And listen to Mozart (good thing my laptop was charged). I also confessed to my family about how when I was in primary school I would LOVE power outages because that would mean I did not have to do my homework, and I can play, and if it lasted until I went to bed, teachers cannot blame me for it the next day. Of course this only happened about once or twice.

I wasn't too happy about not being able to do more with my time, as it was my penultimate night till I leave for Melbourne again, so I was hoping to get more done, which in the end got pushed to today.

Last night also reminded me of something I read about sometime ago (probably a year ago) about solar flares that could potentially cripple electricity supply and all our communications services. For one thing, I wouldn't know what I would do the spend the time if such an event occurred- probably sleeping a lot.

Tomorrow, I shall be flying back to Melbourne to begin my final year as an undergraduate. Hopefully I will enjoy it as much as college seniors do in the movies!
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Thursday, 2 February 2012
The Freezer

When I was younger, my family used the term 'the freezer' a lot with me.

What does it refer to? It is, simply, a term used to mock the way I would be ready to dump a toy into the abyss whenever a newer toy came along. And it's not just toys, this tendency (and sarcasm) would extend to gadgets, books, clothes, anything!

I guess in a way, it's an accurate representation of how I am- I am a person who gets bored easily, who's fickle-minded, who wouldn't hesitate to push something into the sidelines in favour of something newer and better.

I totally do that! (sometimes)

It's not really something that I've grown out of, even now (although the toy part doesn't apply anymore).

Now I'm not sure about how many people are like that as well, but I for one have never been able to sustain an interest in anything for long, except for a few things (like writing and reading). With computer games I don't even bother trying now because I know I'll get bored soon enough, but when it comes to my career, and what I want to do with my life, things get more complicated.

While I'm currently in a communications degree program, I sometimes do wonder if I'll actually continue to work in the industry after I graduate. And if not, what would I do. Sometimes it does feel as if I'm one of those people in the movies, the one who jumps from one thing to another, never following through, the quitters, the failures.

 The Bund in Shanghai (keep in mind that it was freezing cold, about 5 degrees, when I took this)

Other times it feels like I'm just a person who likes many different things and move on really quickly, which is also a good thing as I get to immerse myself in many different aspects of life.

But most of the time, I'm fickle minded; I don't know what I want. Looking back at my childhood, you can definitely tell just how quickly I jump from one fad to another- I've had lessons in piano (at Yamaha AND with 2 different tutors), guitar, swimming, tennis, badminton, wushu, Japanese, and probably a few others that I can't think of right now. And of all those, the ones whose skill I actually still have, is probably just swimming and badminton.

I just watched this Ryan Reynolds movie, called The Change-Up (trailer here if you've not seen it). It's about two guys (one successful, one not so successful) who switches bodies. Clich├ęd, but there were some rather interesting lessons in there- about how we envy other people's lives too much without appreciating what a good life we ourselves have; about how success is not just defined by your achievements at work but also at home, and about how childhood friends can still be close in adulthood even though they grow into completely different people.

But like I said earlier, there are some things that I've always been passionate about (even though it fluctuates a lot), like writing. Recently I had a sudden inspiration for a story, and have been rather excited about it, which is something I've not felt for a long time since I've only written research essays in the past few years (ugh!). As you know, it's not something I will ever tell my friends and family about, nor will I show anyone I know this story. But I do have high hopes for it!

Let's just hope it doesn't go into the freezer first, shall we?
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