Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blessed are...

Are you happy?

Seems like a simple question, but that has been something that's been on my mind lately. Am i happy? Not whether I'm happy with the things around me, or with who I am or even with what I've got.

But happy, in its pure unadultrated unconditional "no-circumstances-barred" joyful kind of way.

A complete acceptance of self, with its failings and unchangable realities. A comfortability in one's own skin, with or without identity, mask or roots. A comfortability in being alone, and yet know that you will never walk alone. To feel blessed giving more in all your relationships than taking. To serve in a way that asks for no return.

What i love so much about this exchange is how I learn something new about myself everyday. My weaknesses, my failings, my vulnerbility. I'm still confused as ever over what my purpose is. But everyday I feel something being revealed to me. But most importantly, I'm learning everyday, bit by bit, how other's approval of me is not the most important thing in the world. How I don't have to be liked by every single person. How to listen more than to talk. How to just be still and know that He is God.

3 more days to halloween, 5 more days to vancouver, 43 more days till I see bob.

Life is beautiful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Never again...

Never again will I try to run in the rain across time square to chinatown in the freezing cold with 4 shopping bags in a pair of stiff new shoes to catch the last chinatown bus.

Never again will we swallow chunks of good steak mignon because we don't have enough time to chew it BECAUSE we were late for our chinatown bus.

Never again will I shop till my sandals break, my credit card declines and my allowance for two months wiped out.

Never again will I forget to convert from US dollars to Sing dollars when I look at the price tag and exclaim "Wha so cheap ah!"

Saturday in Woodbury, New York was one hell of an experience. Factory outlet shopping is the devil. You know you don't need it. But because its the cheapest you can ever get it at, you HAVE to buy it. Just like how I HAVE to buy that summer juicy couture dress and skirt although its winter because never again can i get it under 100 bucks. Ever.Again.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

it is a weird time..

Being on an exchange is a weird time. After talking to exchange students here at penn and overseas, I concluded that there is just no way to explain the feeling of being on exchange except weird.

Cl: It's like you have to live up to the expectations of being an exchange student.
Me: Like partying 24/7, not going for any classes and travelling the entire continent?
Cl: Precisely, there is a pressure to do that.

Because no exchange student blogs about lonely nights and days when you feel like the world has died on you. No exchange student will tell you about feeling as if they are trapped in a time warp and the rest of the world has moved on without them. No exchange student will blog about struggling with school and work and just how much difference it makes to spell in a different system and to try to tell your friends what is the weather coz no one here talks in celsius.

No one talks about how being on exchange makes you question who you are. Intrinsically. After stripping off school, church, friends and work. After you are not allowed to use abbreviations to describe yourself. Because in a foreign land, uprooted with no time to grow any roots in the first place, we exchange students are but shifting husks blown through a forest of trees and saplings. You've got no identity. No one knows your past or your future. No one knows about your family, your friends or even if you existed in the first place. You are only that exchange student from country X who will be here for X amount of time with that strange/funny/amusing accent. You are just an entity with a history that began here and now and that will end in a year's time.

As that husk, who are you?

Interesting, because isn't that how life essentially is?

"its like the politically correct answer to the question: How is your exchange? is I'm having the time of your life. Not that we aren't, but that it would be politically wrong to say: I hate it here, I wish everyone here was dead and I can't wait to go home."

Koehan and stephan...the two twins im mentoring under my church QV program
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Friday, October 14, 2005

The things we do in church cell group:
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We chill...
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We take photo of people trying to take our photo
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We swop gender roles...
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We tramatize people..
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We take photo of feet...
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I don't know why...
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Welcome to POD
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Looks like a space ship doesn't it
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I was trying to be ghetto but he said i just look like a bunny
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We feel cool just being here
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The little tv in the little room.
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I offered to put it on the internet..
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In the English Rose Cafe.
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Ry and the mouldy cake.
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It was that good!!
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So good!!
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Indian food with Mic...
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In the realm of boys and food...

There are three ways to overcome homesicknesses and depressing weather: MSN, good food and good company.

In my desperate bid to make more deep meaningful friendship with girls and to eat reheated food, I have missed out on meeting up with my guyfriends. And feels so good to be able to just chill out with them over non-dining hall related food and get a testosterone perspective about how in Ralph Lauren is, how much carbs is in cakes and why we think Russel Peters is the man.

Plus hardly any girls have seen Russel Peters so I look kinda stupid saying, "BE A MAN! DO THE RIGHT THING" loudly in an Indian restaurant.

But yeah, who ever said meaningful friendship can only be cultivated between people of the same gender is seriously missing out. Sometimes, its just so much easier to hang out with guys, in an obviously plantonic way. We can have a complete debate on this for days, but in a nutshell and from a completely skewed female perspective, guys don't demand that much from a friendship.
1) You don't need to feel as if you have to share your entire history with each other before you can hang out.
2) You don't feel as if you are somewhere on one of the ranks of his "friendship" leader because to them people just come in two catergories: people i hang out with and people i don't.
3) You can sit there and talk about completely inane things for hours and not feel the need to have meaningful conversation.
4) When you ask for a pragmatic advice, you get it.
5) There just seems to be more topics to talk about - from politics to religion to what a fan we were of the spice girls.
6) You can diss them jokingly, and you know they won't take it to heart.

And finally, they just don't judge you. Or if they do, as much.

Like I'm always so amazed at how Ed and I talk, especially since we just kinda bump into each other at transfer dinner. Wednesday night over cocktail, beer and Jack & Coke, we managed to encompass the existence of life, of death, the meaning of religion and the relationship between God and men into our tiny corner in the cyber-unreal lounge,POD, filled with trance music and MBA students. Then we got ditzy and started going crazy over chairs that light up when you sit on them, walls that change colours when you press a button, the most futuristic multi-colour toilet we've ever seen that changes colour when someone is in it, and why this place looks like a space ship.

Ed: On your deathbed, you are not gonna look back and think, damm that kid didn't really like me in college. Man I feel like shit.

Thursday lunch and I finally found Mekong-worthy Vietnamese food at 43rd street with Ry and Di. Five words: Broken rice with charboiled pork. It has been so long. I nearly cried.

We spent the rest of the irritatingly drizzle-plagued afternoon wandering around South street, walking into "interesting" shops and searching for the Italian market. We found better. One word: Cake. I think it's called English Rose Cake Shop and it's frenchness came complete with lace curtains, rosebud printed seats, old-school kitchen and actual teapots. I have not tasted chocolate raspberry cake and lime key pie for so long. We washed down those sins and our fluid ever-interesting conversations about the realm of business and how we feel so pressured to get a summer internship with chai tea. And then we found mould on the raspberries.

Me: I think there is mould on the cake.
Cake shop woman: Are you sure? Maybe its chocolate.
Me: Chocolate isn't furry.

Friday again and my craving for Indian food striked. So Mic and I got into Tandoor, a $5.95 ALL you can eat Indian buffet with a 10% student discount. Oh and free flow soda. We could bearly move after we ate. I don't know the actual names of the dishes, but the spinach and cottage cheese was excellent with the naan. And the balsamti rice and potato curry and curried vegetables was such a heavenly combination. Top it off with lassi and it would have been perfect. The conversation was just beautiful, about P Kang's sermon, the contradictions of sex education in America and why the hell are we in university.

So deep are the relationships to nurture but so little time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

We try...
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gosh...i miss shisha
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Bellydancing night...I have no idea what he's doing...hmm...
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Ali and Dounia with the Moroccan flag
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In Noah's Ark...

Hurrah! Midterms are finally over. At least for three out of the four subjects. This is the most unprepared exam I have ever been to since Additional Math in Secondary four. I had to strain for crap to write about since I only studied like two days for three papers. I stared at terminologies I've never seen before and tried to make up something relevant for it. And it wasn't essay style, so I couldn't possibly bullshit my way through. Like "In Johnson's book, would piaget or vygotsky be most interested in the sleeper's curve?" Train of thought: who is johnson? He wrote a book? Ohhhh...that's the red one I have not opened. What's a sleeper's curve? Who cares what piaget or vygotsky thought about it? Ok einee minee maniee moe...

Right. So its over. I'm on a pass fail basis. I gave up trying to get straight As to prove a point. Now I'm sick, sleepy and freezing.

Well I only got myself to blame don't I. But at the end of my exchange, I will remember the awesome church retreat I went to, and J's frat party instead of how many hours I studied right?

Church retreat was such an experience. Being woken up at 1:30am and asked to go up to the attic which used to be an operating theatre and mortury (no seriously, this isn't just an urban legend, my church use to be an old hospital) with 20 other girls while random seniors dressed in black ran out at us freaked the shit out of us. So I had to hold my pee in while i slept because i was too scared to use the bathroom. And there was something about hearing Korean songs at 6am and thinking it was a ghost when it was just the Korean praise and wordship team.

Besides that and how the basement flooded because of the storm, oh and scrubbing sticky rice off a spoon with my fingernails, church camp was renewed my perspective in life. I know the whole spiritual high thing about church camps...this wasn't so much of a spiritual high but a drawing closer and a reordering of priorities in life.

To add to my schizo life, I went to Jonas's frat party after camp ended at 1am. His was the frat house that Donald Trump use to live in and rumor have it that each alumni have to pledge 1% of their income to their house. Imagine how much that would be for Trump? Stepping in just transported us to another era altogether. Lited by candles, the house was decorated with dark wood, Edwardian style furniture and a moose head. About two dozen bodies mingled effortlessly, dressed in fancy cocktail dresses and casual suits, they jived tango/salsa/lindy hop style to a three piece jazz band brought in specially for the party. This felt like being in the movie "Ray" or in a cluedo playset. I half expected butlers and french maids to get our coats. As Stel said, "this is my dream birthday party."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Uh huh...

It's amazing how Regine and I can be an ocean apart and be flipping through the Alannah Hill Fashion week collection and Vera Wang gowns. Especially when I have three midterm papers on wed. And they are not studied for.

Anyway, I discovered a new way to save money.

Eat less.

Sounds deceptively simple doesn't it. But how many times do we eat till we are just right, look down at the remaining half a hoagie/sandwich/souvlaki/plate of rice and tofu/big mac and think "since its there might as well finish it." So we stuff it down and then feel like shit, or shitting.

So, if we just eat till we are just alright, put the rest in the fridge and eat it for dinner. Or if its not enough, save two days worth of "halves" and you get a whole meal.

Yesterday I had eggplant chicken with rice for lunch. I ate all the eggplant and chicken and left half the rice for dinner. Then I took it out of the fridge for dinner and added soya sauce. Then it became microwaved rice with soya sauce. The best thing you can have on a cold fall day.

I've got half a falafel sandwich and one quarter cup of lentil soup in the fridge waiting for dinner tonight. Then I'll steal the rest of the anoynomous cheesesticks and tea from the communal pantry.

You know you've studied too much when even your eating habits become topics of discussion.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I'm the roof lounge of one of the high rise is so quiet here i can hear ppl writing....i opened a pack of anzac cookies and the whole room looked at me...this is so scary....shhhhhhh...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A fleeting thought

I was just musing as I ran along to the food truck to get my chicken scampi over linguine, that mediocrity is worst than failure. If you can't do something, than put your energy and time elsewhere. But if you can, do the best you can.

Then I got my linguine and my fleeting thoughts left me.

On another note, it's my first day at work today at the information centre. Nothing major happened like a shoot out or a fire. Heard that one of the student worker on duty had a fire emergency while she was on duty, only to realise that the "fire emergency" came from her own room because her roomate left her kitchen mittens in the oven and switched it on.

Fortune cookie of the day: bird's tongues get entangled as men's tongues wag on. *blink*

Monday, October 03, 2005

I believe I can fly...

As I stood in the middle of a myraid of colours - watery purple scarves, glittering skirts and shimmering tops - listening to music I've never heard before, and watching them dance with the Morocco flag, draping it over each other, I realised why i came here. Because just by walking out of your room, you visit a different country every night. Tonight was middle eastern belly dancing night at MarBar and the whole Arab community was there. The familar smell of Shisha brought me back to the courtyards of IH, smoking in the cold and talking crap till 5 in the morning. Shaking their hips was in their blood and they made it into such an artform. When I see the joy in their faces as they tell me how how this is their favourite Shakira remix back home, and how this Baklva is their favourite dessert back home and how this is how clubs look like back home; I just feel so happy for them. Everytime someone remembers home, they have that silly little grin on their face and that tiny sparkle in their eyes. Sigh....

D: First you eat Arab food at the Arab Society dinner, then ya come for the belly dancing're almost part Arab!!

A: I don't know why, but gals keep thrusting their chest into my hands tonight.
C: (Blink blink) right....

Ooh...and I saw an Angelina Jolie look-a-like at the party...swoon!!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Amish people hate tourist taking photos of this is one really bad shot i got of to the gas station none the less...very convincing
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Yes....the amish village...we so believe you guys..
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Candle galore...
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I was trying to be an asian amish....
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Just for you case ya wana know how american cows look like
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Sara (the african-american gal) makes the best sushi among us asians...very depressing
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The real japanese...
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Our make-your-own sushi line
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Sushi party!!
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Summer times...

Its not really fact its far from that...the weather is getting colder and more its on prozac so its happy and quite certain it'll get depressed again tom.

It has been one crazy week so I haven been quite on the ball with updating my blog. In fact I haven been quite on the ball with from my little diary i say:

Last Sat - Potter's House mission at Lea Elementary School.
My first time in an American public school. Kids there were like under 17 but they were the most talented ppl I've ever met. We thought them performing arts and improv games but it looked like we were the ones with the rusty grey matter. These kids are such a riot. We played some "Whose line is it anyway?" type theatresport games and they kicked ass. If they were at our theatresports they would have whooped our ass, IH, Medley and all. Morbid, ghetto, punk and a poker face renditon of forrest gump, it was such a good afternoon. And how 5 year old Coshi told me I was doing the "Speak to the hand" thing wrong. I tried.

Last Sun- Church at ECF
A couple of us were sitting at the playground bench behind barbed wired fence when seven police cars came speeding down in front of us. Sirens ringing and all.

Me: Hey, is this a dangerous neighbourhood?
J: Erm...well in Philly there are pockets of dangerous neighbourhoods.
Me: Well is this one of them?
J: Erm....yeah.

Last Mon - Penn-for-Unicef
You know how in orientation they told all of us never wander off 40th street into the ghetto cuz they will mug you and stab you and then rape your dead body a few times over. Yeah I got lost on the 52nd street today. I've been on 47th and 48th street the last two days but that was ok cuz each time I was either with a large group of people who knew where they were going, or in a yellow school bus. Today i was officially lost with4 other asians and one spanish in a sketchy neighbourhood, in the evening. We were trying to look for the afterday care house to look after the kids while their parents went through re-training. Except we couldn't find it. So we walked around and around, threading through broken concrete laced with weed and smashed beer bottles. The overcast sky threatened to rain onto rotten brick buildings with barbed wire and prison like protective covers over windows. In the old rickety houses, screams could be heard through the boarded up windows and nailed in doors overed with graffeti. Little children ran around playing football next to the busy street. Their frail legs swamped under their dad's old pants, bunched up at their waists so it wouldn't fall off. When we finally found the the day care centre, I played with the children, whose mother was younger than I was. Families sat, overcrowded on little porches, looking aimlessly to pass the night away. 8pm. It was dark, we were soaked in the rain and terribly hungry. But most of all, as we stood in the bustop, we were scared. Scared that perhaps those stories about getting shot and mugged was true. For 10 minutes in my life, I caught a minute glimpse of how a child living in the inner city felt. Without ever feeling safe, ever feeling warm, ever feeling full, and ever feeling the sense of security that we take for granted, in our lives cramped with security guards, well-to-do friends and health insurance.

Last tuesday - Sushi party
Three japanese gals, one dutch chinese guy, three hongkongers, one african american gal and me the lone singaporean tried to make japanese food. Except none of us could. It was such an entertaining night. We terrorized the pseudo-japanese sushi chef at fresh grocers to sell us wasabi and seaweed and made sushi out of very unfresh salmon and poor cut vegetables. We bug friends for rice cookers and attempted to make our sushi decent. We made fake tempura out of egg and flour and basically fried everything we could get our hands on. And since we cooked the food, it had to be nice. It's psychological. Now we are thinking of starting a sushi-tempura restaurant on campus.

Yesterday - Lancaster
Went on an International House tour to Lancaster to see the Amish people. These are suppose to be a community of people who do not believe in technology and who wear old bonets and dresses from the middle ages, ride horses and buggys and make excellent quilts and jams. Except when we got there, we realised that this particular village we visited has its on website that sells stuff. And alot of SUVs. And the buggys have that triangle sign behind it that you only find on cars. And they shop using credit cards. And the clothes they sold there has the Made in Mexico tag on it. I was telling my friends that perhaps there is a little sweatshop hidden somewhere under one of the house's here cramped with little chinese people sewing those quilts frantically.