Sunday, 29 April 2012
Strange and Stranger Lands

Sometime back I read this from a travel blogger who has decided to stop living out of a suitcase.
We travel around the world to seek foreign lands, but sometimes after returning home, we find out that home is the real foreign land. After three weeks of being back in America, I feel like I am a stranger in a strange land. America has changed. There’s something different about it this time around. 
There’s more crap on T.V. The country seems more superficial. (Why is everything a “Real Housewives Of…” show?) 
Food portions seem to be even larger than before.  
Kids seem much more cruel these days. People don’t seem as polite or nice to each other anymore.  
The nation is far more divided. Every issue is blown out proportion and is a test for your politics – right, left, tea party, etc.  
All in all, to me, it just feels different here now. 
Then again, maybe America was always like this, I just never noticed before. Maybe I always spent so much time on trips home seeing new places and catching up with friends that I never stopped and took stock of the home I took for granted. Or maybe what I finally noticed is that I’ve changed.  
They say travel changes you — but I’ve never noticed it. When you are with yourself everyday, you never really see changes in your personality. They just become part of you and seem like second nature. It’s not like when you go on a diet or take drastic action. Changes on the road are slow and happen over time and you just feel as though you were always this way. 
I think being back has made me finally realize that I’ve changed.  
And that somehow I don’t fit here anymore.
Empty road in Geelong, Victoria

I compared this to my own experience, now being in my third year living abroad, and my own thoughts upon arriving at home.

And I found it to be so utterly and completely true.

My first time home after a semester in Adelaide, I didn't feel as though much has changed about the place. Still the same familiar old sights, the same old haunts that I hang out with friends in. I did feel that the place was a lot dirtier though.

My last time back, the last summer break in December last year, I was only home for a cumulative 3 or 4 weeks as I was in Shanghai for 6 weeks. But even with the short time that I was back, I did detect the subtle differences that I believe only someone unfamiliar or have been away for some time would notice.

On the train to Geelong- taken using Instagram.

Sadly, the only thing that I can remember is the food portions- they were considerably smaller.

But it's not just about things that changed that were alien to me. Some of the unchanged aspects of life in Malaysia did feel foreign. The ultra conservatism, narrow-mindedness and unwillingness to adapt to change, the incessant politicking over highly mundane issues, the lack of independence and emancipation.

There is a stigma that is often applied to those of us who study abroad- that we return as people who think too highly of ourselves and look down upon our fellow countrymen who are not as fortunate as us.

To a certain extent, I do agree with that stereotype. I admit, I sometimes do think that being overseas have opened my eyes more. Am I wrong to think that I'm less inclined to be bound by my culture's less desirable traits?

The sea! 

That's probably one of the reasons why I intend to look for a job here- the thought of being home seems stifling at times. While living at home has its perks (lots of them in fact), at the end of the day, I think it's also a wonderful opportunity.

Anyway, being back home, being among 'my people', family and friends, I did sometimes think of myself as an observer, a witness, rather than a part of what's happening- I felt removed from whatever situation I was in, and could see things that I never ever thought of before. I see how many of us in Malaysia just live without living. I don't see the meaning in what average Malaysians do.

I know, I know, it's a cultural thing, and Westerners do often get criticised for being so fickle minded and indecisive, but at the end of the day, they are doing something that they are passionate about, and not just because it's what's been drilled into them and they didn't see the need to question it.

Don't get me wrong, I love my country. I think one of the things I gained from being abroad is a sense of patriotism. I learned to appreciate the finer points of our culture- the genuine friendliness, the great food, the cheap eats, the nightlife. I don't think I will ever think of myself as anyone but a Malaysian; even if I were to land a job here and were offered Australian citizenship (though this is quite far-fetched) I simply can't imagine identifying myself as 'Australian'.
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Wednesday, 25 April 2012
The Mundane World

I admit, when Pottermore was opened to be public a few weeks ago I rushed to sign up for it. Now, after about a week of having an account, I think I must've spent a cumulative time of 10 minutes or less on the site.

Maybe it's because of my busier schedule this time around. Maybe it's because the thought of going through the journey from Chapter 1 of Philosopher's Stone (the first book) seems too long a journey. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm slowly growing out of Harry Potter world (gasp!). I honestly do not know what is the reason behind this behaviour.

It's funny how when we grow older, our priorities change very easily. Just look at Harry Potter. When I was younger, it was my world- I read it whenever I could, wherever I could. But that's not the only thing. I had a very funny conversation with my mother recently, when I was told of the funnier aspects of my childhood- how I insisted on growing my hair beyond the usual crew cut because I wanted to be able to comb my hair. What followed (apparently) was years of religious combing- I would keep my hair neat. I do actually recall doing this all the way till the end of primary school, although by then I wasn't as particular about combing anymore.

But even in high school, I still had a comb that I use periodically for occasional events. And fast forward to currently, and I don't even have a comb! I know, I know, some people might be aghast at this confession, but then again, I doubt even the hairdressers that I go to use a comb when giving me a haircut.

And it really made me think back. Growing up, I had always had a curiosity for the smallest of things. Like tyre rims. And I could not understand why something like tyre rims aren't important to adults- how on Earth could you possibly have rims with different designs? Or why would anyone not think of toys and TV shows as the absolute joy on Earth?

So this is what growing up is like- some things just become less important, and you stop thinking about many things that were important to you. We stop caring about how we want our beds to be made. We stop caring about how big or small our handwriting is- we no longer care to curve our g's a certain way  or make sure the o's are round.

I wonder how I would be when I'm old- what things would still be important for me? What habits would I still have? What are the ones that I would no longer care about?

Hopefully, I wouldn't be too cynical about the world and think of everything as mundane and pointless. But then again, I can totally imagine myself being that person too.
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Sunday, 22 April 2012
Snorkelling in Queenscliff, Victoria

So day one of my Easter trip was actually quite uneventful. We went to another town in Victoria called Geelong, and rented a car. Interestingly enough, we did not think of heading to our destination, Queenscliff, until the next day because of what we had planned- so we explored this city (I suppose you can call it that) an hour away by train. Nothing much to do there, nothing interesting. Except sleeping in the car overnight.

But that's not the topic. The next day I went snorkelling! So after getting suited up, all of us were brought on the boat that would take us out to sea and we would look for dolphins. I would say that overall, the activity was really fun, it was nice getting to go out to sea and doing something physical for a change.

Basically, we hold on to a plank at the bottom of the boat, and let it drag us in the water- just something to start the day off with. 

I did manage to spot a dolphin underwater! No pictures of that though, I don't have an underwater camera, and we were really far out in the sea that even when I look down, I couldn't see anything. It was just dark green water. The dolphin that I spotted just zipped past us, though it was perhaps a few metres away so I could still see it.


Next was snorkelling with seals. This was in shallower water, so we were basically just let off the boat and free to snorkel. Let me just put it out there that while seals are cute, they absolutely stink (or maybe it's their poop)! It's a good thing we had our snorkelling masks on, by the time I got on the boat and removed my mask, I almost puked at the smell of it.

Again, no pictures underwater but I did manage to get pictures of the seal tower!

That's why it stank so bad I suppose- because they were all together.

By the end of the day, I was cold and exhausted. It may look all warm and sunny, but it was actually about 20 degrees or less, and together with the wind, it was pretty chilly. And plus I did this:

Which was basically hanging on to a fast moving boat! Can you imagine holding on to a wet rope attached to a moving boat? Not the easiest thing in the world (even though I was smiling in this picture, with only one hand on the rope, I was actually telling myself 'Hold on! Don't let go!'). Of the four of us who tried it out, two of them let go and we had to go back to get them. Yours truly was one of the ones who managed to hang on, but I was quite exhausted that I really had needed them to pull me up. And my arms were just so sore for days.

But it was fun, though!
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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Okay, this look should remain like that, unless I find something else. For now, at least.

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Saturday, 14 April 2012
New Look

Yes, you're looking at a new look. I'm not entirely happy with it so I might change it again. But I thought I should at least change it since the previous one has been around for... a very long time.

I returned from my Easter trip a few days back. Took some photos, so I suppose I'm obligated to share them on this blog now? But that'll have to wait- I'm too lazy at this moment.

But here's a teaser (or if you follow my Instagram account you'll have seen this).

Catch you soon!
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Thursday, 5 April 2012
Up, Up and Away!

Gosh, this blog is outdated!

It seems like a year ago since I last updated. You must be wondering (or maybe not) what I've been up to.

  • I watched the Hunger Games, which I'll write about later. 
  • I've completed a few presentations, which I'm really relieved about because it reduces my workload for the rest of the semester. I'm always volunteering to go first now. 
  • I took my IELTS test! Overall, very proud of my achievement. I should totally be a tutor, I could use some extra cash. (Just for the sake of me reading this in the future, I'm very proud of my 8.5 score)
  • Does anyone still remember the KONY 2012 thing? I'm really glad that I only had two discussions on the issue in class so far- more than that would've been overkill (that happened in the past, by the way- the downside of discussing current affairs is that you have to do it many times if all your tutors want to stay 'current')...
And that's about it.

I remember when blogging used to be easier, when I used this as a space to write about my opinions. I still write for myself, but I originally saw this as more of a space to air my opinions rather than write a journal, which to this day I refuse to do, so I'll carry on with writing about something else!

Did you know that in the U.S, they had a National Day of Unplugging a few weeks back? Basically, you are supposed to unplug all electronic devices- laptops, phones, iPods, and whatever gadgets that you may have.

What I found sad, though, was that as much as I would've liked to participate, I had so many things to do that I simply could not unplug. It wasn't that I was addicted to social media or the Internet- it was a necessity.

Which makes it all the more pathetic- I just could not afford to go without the Internet, for I would've had to risk falling behind on my work and deadlines.

 I totally felt like this in high school!

Then there's Mashable's Disconnect Challenge. This was tougher- going without social media for two weeks. I was quite unsure about this- after all, while I was in China over the summer, I was away from Facebook and Twitter for 6 weeks, although I was on Skype, and I do remember a discussion once in class over whether Skype is a social media- after all, it helps us connect with friends and family over the Internet, meet new people, but it is also an IM system in a way.

But I will be going on my own unplugging challenge. Come this Easter break, I will be- you guessed it, travelling! So I will be off... everything.

And I'm sure it will be awesome.
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