Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Comfort Food is....

Chicken soup made with carrots, potatoes, onions, mushroom and lots of pepper.
Sambal eggplant.
Chicken curry.
Pan-fried dumplings.
Thick soggy fries.
Gummy bears.
Ham and cheese sausage.
Pate and crackers.
Nasi Lemak.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Finals Fashion Victim

I envy people who are able to look glamorous during the exam period and winter. Once Swot Vac approaches, I live in sweat pants, my ratty “got-it-free-when-applying-for-bank-account” tshirts and my “never-see-the-world” before fleece jumpers. Anything food-stained and vaguely pajamasy crawls onto me while I forsake normal shoes for bright pink rubber slippers even though it obviously doesn’t match green thai pants or the cold weather. Occasionally, I wear my IH jumper or my Upenn hoodie, and that’s a high fashion day. I roll out of bed and walk straight out into the world while everyone else bothers to put on a pair of jeans at least. I suddenly forget how to use conceler or powder and the only beauty products in my vocab currently are: shower gel, toothpaste and shampoo. People keep asking me if I’m stressed or tired. Not really. You are just seeing me sans make up. And then of course there is the consumption of large amounts of junk food while studying. I polished off half a kg of gummy bears, sour hearts and chocolate balls through the weekend, and now I’m on to my next chocolate bar. It is not stress eating. The concept of stress eating gives me an excuse to eat.

I can’t wait for the 7th of Nov where everything is over, I can take a long shower, put on a pretty frock, dust off my make up collection and attend the Melbourne Cup bright and sparkly.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Things that pissed me off in the news today...

A pole dancing kit for girls 4-6 year old has just been launched in the UK. What the..? The toy kit which promises to help little kids "unleash the sex kitten inside" includes a pole, sexy gear and a dvd showing little girls how to make suggestive and sexy moves.

Seriously, which depraved parent is going to buy that for their children? And which depraved person came up with that idea?

And I thought the padded bras for girls under 10 was bad enough.

And then there was the Muslim cleric who said women in immodest clothing aka not wearing the hijab invited sexual assault. He claims the 4 women who were ganged raped in 2000 invited it upon themselves because they were not covered up.

"He said there were women who "sway suggestively" and wore make-up and inappropriate clothes, "and then you get a judge without mercy (rahma) and gives you 65 years".

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat," the sheik asked.

"The uncovered meat is the problem."

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijib (head scarf), no problem would have occurred."

So, in 2005, two pastors were hauled to court over vilifying statements against Muslims, but in the cleric's case, he was given a warning when what he said was vilifying against ALL women. Why is it for the christian case, it was judged by a court, and for his case, he was only judged by seniors in the Mosque. Someone tell me there isn't inconsistency here.

I am all for multiculturalism, and my internship at the Ethnic Communities Council Victoria opened up my eyes to the need for everyone to be sensitive to the beliefs of others. Note: Sensitive. I am happy that town councils have special times in the day where the public bath and pools are women only. I am all for neighbourhood centres having women only activities. I am glad there are laws against assaulting a woman in her traditional hijab. And I am glad for translation services across most public services. And I am happy the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act is here and standing. However, there is a tension between freedom of speech and multicultural sensitivity, and it has to work both ways. Fanatics from both sections of society have to be disciplined. There is a difference between appreciation for the freedom to wear any traditional/ethnic clothing including the burka in the public, and closing down nude beaches, and getting assaulted for suntanning in your bathers just because it offends the staunch religious fanatic. It is the same theory. I will not force my neighbour to eat meat if he is vegetarian, but it will not stop me from eating meat on the same table as him. If he wants, he can get up and leave. Just as I, as a guest in Australia, know that I should never be physically or verbally assaulted for my race, but if something in the society, for e.g people saying Good Day Mate, offends me so much, I should pack up and leave instead of expecting them to stop saying it.

Maybe what he said was indeed taken out of context. No doubt, I don't believe in the objectivity of the media. But if you want others to watch their speech around you, you have to watch your speech around others too.

And of course there is the case of the girl who was sexually assaulted and filmed on DVD. I don't even want to start on that...it makes my blood boil.

Last Day Maybe?

It has been a long time since I just sat down and talked with a group of friends with the same struggles and fears as me. Shivering in the wind, and back into the closed Barettos, we chatted and confided and open up our minds to the things beyond us that bothers us. Are we going home? Back to the country that put us here. Are we going back to change things? Can we change things? What about the world's poor? Are we staying? Are we succumbing to our position as second class citizens? Faith, religion, politics and humanity. It was a good way to end my possibly last day of my undergraduate life.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Right now I am just overwhelmed. Yes that's what happens when you are silly enough to pick up 6 different projects during the final semester into honours year, when grades do count. Not doing that again. My brain has been separated into a thousand post-it notes, each screaming for attention. Prioritising is hard when the thing that needs your immediate attention is not the most important but necessary to get done because of time sensitivity. On the 6th of Nov I am just going to sit on the beach and stone for my sanity. And kick myself for being an idiot and bringing it upon myself.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oh shit.

I was happily in la-la "I'm not graduating till next year cuz I'll be doing honours" land, until suddenly the last few days an avalanche of graduatesque fell on me. Over the weekend I was talking to Fang and Sne about it. Today i spoke to Ven who persuaded me to graduate this year. I checked my email and found my "Please Declare Your Major" form. Five minutes ago and munching on my ham and cheese sausage, I bumped into Anna who is facing the same issue.

Everyone who is applying for honours have the same worries. Will I or will I not get into honours? Will I be eligible for it? What if I do screw up?

I am banking 100% of my life on getting into honours. I am shifting my graduation ceremony to next year, I am booking a flight back to extend my visa and I am not applying for any jobs. So if I do screw up, I will have no job, 3 months in Australia to find one and missing out the chance to graduate with my friends. And that is a very foolish decision. I have exactly 50% chance of getting into honours. My grades are teetering on the minimum requirement. This is the first time in my life I am playing with chance, and for someone who books hotel rooms for Dec in Aug, this is the first time I have no idea what is going to happen next year.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ice cream, Chris, Amma and I in Floriade...Chris looking slightly out of place among the flowers... Posted by Picasa

Amma and I at Floriade, the highlight of Canberra as Amma puts it Posted by Picasa

Part of the Tent Embassy Protest for Aboriginal Rights outside old Parli house Posted by Picasa

Old parliament house in front of new parliament house Posted by Picasa

Falun Gong Protesters outside Parliament House Posted by Picasa

Parliament House in Canberra, where all the activity happens Posted by Picasa

Meeting with MP for Melbourne, Lindsay Tanner...and that's Stephen and Toby Posted by Picasa

Meeting with MP for my electorate, Michael Danby for Port Melbourne Posted by Picasa

Make Poverty History: Idealism or Reality?

I was sitting in the lobby of the Parliament House in Canberra, waiting for a certain politician's PA to escort me into the hidden recesses of the political world. My Singaporean passport was tucked gently in between scraps of paper with foreign aid figures on them. What the hell am I doing here? I keep asking myself. Here, in the nation's capital, not my nation, but some other that I am a guest in, attempting to persuade them into increasing aid and cancelling debt to the poorest countries in the world.

The last three days in Canberra have been simply amazing. I learned more about politics than any uni class could teach me. I was part of the Micah Challenge, a sister campaign of the Make Poverty History Campaign, to go to Canberra and lobby for debt cancellation to be on the G20 summit agenda, and for Australia to increase foreign aid to 0.7% by 2015.

The last few days have been a crazy jam packed schedule of morning worship and seminars on aid and political issues, afternoon appointment with politicians and attending question time and parliamentary debates, and more evening sessions on aid and economic issues. We had speakers from AusAid, and various economic advisors to ministers to inundate us with facts, figures and policy material. As we walk, as we eat, it is bam bam bam...information flying from every direction at us..."his party just released a white paper discussing the various policy initiatives on increasing aid but have not committed to actual figures, you have to remember to talk to him about XYZ...." ......" he is connected to so-and-so, and is part of the so-and -s0 party...."...."this is the opposition whip for blah blah blah..and is a key target to the microeconomic reforms that we have been talking about.."

So my brain is in a state of overheat right now on information and problems that seem so beyond me. I was taught to think deeper, beyond short term, into the bigger picture, the connections and the complications. Aid isn't just about the money. It is about corruption, governance and long term interlinking benefits. Yes, we can provide a million dollars to train teachers in developing countries. Then what? They get great well-paid jobs in the urban areas, and the poor rural areas still have no education. Ok, so they go back to the rural villages to teach. There is no money for books, no money for a school house, no money for materials. The children in the village are hungry and sick. They have to help their parents and thus have no time for school. Just like the lady at the AIDS forum said, you can't just throw drugs at people in third world countries who are suffering from HIV. They don't have the food or portable water to take it with. You can't just immunise a bunch of kids and leave it there. So they no longer have TB, but what about HIV, other forms of illnesses or just pure starvation. And children will keep coming. Batch after batch. Is there a kind of long term government engagement to keep ALL the children immunised?

The more I learned, the more the hole got bigger and bigger. 11 million children die every year from totally preventable diseases. These are not statistics, but people with the same emotions as us. It needs a combination of both money from the top, and credible manpower at the bottom to ensure the money goes to the root of the problem.

But there was some positive outcome in it all. We heard both liberal and labour members talk about the Micah challenge and mentioned the option of increasing aid during question time, and we got valuable cooperation into the policy making process. All this time I was thinking, this is amazing. With all the selfishness and image-conscious corruption in a democracy, this is one of its beauties. That the people can go up to their government and tell them what they want done. It is no guarantee that the government will hear, but it is still a step in a particular direction. While trying to hide my identity as a non-Australian at least for the meetings so the ministers will hear me out for a bit, I thought about Australians and the possibility of voting for your values, and having your views heard. And I thought about Singapore, and the possibility of raising the issue of Singapore's contribution to the Millennium development goals for world poverty. While I am part fighting for it on another turf, I want my country to do their fair share too. It would be interesting to see what happens when I put that in question to the MP when I go back to Singapore at the end of the year.

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Own Farewell Speech

My experience in IH is like a really dramatic and bittersweet TV serial, that I keep watching over and over and over again to find out what's next. Last night was Valedictory dinner, and I came/crash/was invited to see my fellow batch, the ones I step foot into IH with and went crazy during oweek with, valedict. This was the batch that I should be valedicting with. But sitting at lower high, wasn't me, but them. And in my heart, I felt a sense of longing to be there. To say my aspirations, and get a goblet, and just complete my entrance into IH with an exit.

I had a crazy time. No there was no drunkenness involved (considering I only had 3 glasses of alcoholic substance), but just high on hope, aspirations, laughter, applause and memories.

Sitting there, facing high table, eating the dried out chicken, looking at photos, hearing the gossip, I still feel exactly the same way I felt about myself 2 years ago whenever I am there. Insecure. Needy. Ashamed. Painful. Hopeless. Pathetic. Fake. Afraid. Angry. Desperate. Stupid. It is hard to sit among people, some who you know are your real friends, and some who you thought were your friends. And not being able to shift the flour.

IH brought many great and beautiful people into my life. But it didn't bring the best out of me. It brought out my insecurity and my ugliness. And no matter when I am there, it will still bring that part of me out. It wasn't people that cause that. Just dynamics of any communal place which favours gossip and drama over truth and acceptance. But that could be anywhere in the world.

And I think I need to start accepting, that IH is a chapter in my life that I cannot resolve. There are so so so many things I want to say to so many people. Both good things and bad things. Both rebukes and apologies. But it is all unnecessary, but only for my own self-fulfilment. I want to unwind the clock and start again. But I think things will still turn out the same way. Life isn't perfect, and I need to stop blaming the institution and others for my own imperfection.

To Canberra With Love

After a week of putting up posters, scuttling around uni, distributing flyers, chalking, hanging up banners, spilling wax over the table cloth and desperate prayer, the Melbourne Uni Club United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) film screening and public forum on HIV/AIDS is finally over!

Both the film and forum were profoundly touching for me. Everyone go watch the film Yesterday. It was only the second time I watched it that it hit me, the desperation, the stigma of Aids, the helplessness. So beautiful. Just basic things like, she can't get to the clinic and see a doctor, was beyond me. It was touching to put a humanising face to an entire generation in Africa wiping out at a exponential rate, and another generation of orphans the world doesn't remember.

Today the forum was a huge success. A mother who was living with Aids talked about her experience, and her optimism and matter-of-factness touched me.

She said, "When you tell people about a crisis that happened to you, you end up looking after them. I have to come to grips with my illness before they can."

I shivered when she said "I am keeping a diary for my daughter, just in case I don't make it to tell her."

Now that the hustle of the Aids Awareness week is over, I will be leaving for Canberra tomorrow for the Voices for Justice Micah Challenge National Gathering. Micah Challenge is a global Christian organisation working for and with poor communities around the world, alongside the Make Poverty History Campaign. We will be visiting politicians to discuss, in particular, the G20 meeting, debt, trade and aid. There will also be seminars on faith, politics and justice, and the political processes in Australia. I am really excited, and it would be a good opportunity to see Chris and Amma from my Upenn life. I also need a break and get out of Melby for a bit before I start the crazy essay writing spree of 4 essays in 3 weeks.

Will be back with pictures soon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Want to Sue Cindy Crawford For My Lack of Self Esteem, and the Internet, for Making Me Less Productive

Before this, people sued Macdonalds for making them fat. Because their clever ads and 'delicious' food tempted people beyond reasonable control to upsize their meal and have it three times a day.

Now, someone is suing iPod for hearing problems. He alleges "the sound produced by an iPod can exceed 115 decibels, a volume which is dangerous to be exposed to for more than 28 seconds."

So turn the damm thing lower! Would you knowingly and eagerly run to a job site and put your ear next to the drill just to see how long it takes before your eardrums explode? iPod didn't force you to turn the dial until you hit the loudest volume. Any decent coherent human being knows that excessive loud noise over a period of time results in hearing damage. Not rocket science.

This made me think about the whole "blame others" society we now live in. Low self esteem? Blame your harsh back-beating parents. Spoiled brat? Blame your stifling moddle-coddling parents. Don't know the multiplication table at age 21? Blame your school. Have no creative spark? Blame the Singapore education system. Fat, poor and broke? Blame your credit card company. Don't like to walk on grass and drink from an outdoor water cooler? Blame my government. Or that is me at least.

Is this the result of the new eternal adolescent society? Where 18 year olds still let their mum wash their socks, 22 year olds are still in school on parental support, 26 year olds still live with their parents, 35 year olds are still wondering what they want to do in life and 40 year olds are still picking up at bars. Play stations, simple to read chick lit that has the vocab of sweet valley high, and toys for adults that we call vintage collectables. This has replaced being drafted for war at 17, getting married at 16 and child labour at 12. At least in the developed world.

Without responsibility, we find no need to be responsible. And part of being responsible and an adult, is realising you can't run up to your friend's parents and complain that they bullied you in school. The day I realised that I freaked out.

So we continue to assign blame, so that we can assign responsibility on others for our lives. People assign fast food companies responsibility for our health. People assign TV stations responsibility for baby sitting their children. People assign the government responsibility for keeping the roads safe. And when something wrong happens, we blame our city councils. In the past, people grab pitch forks and fire and hunt the bloody thing down. Of course nowadays, that is illegal.

Maybe it is all in the evolution of society. In olden times, people trusted the Church. Then they trusted their government. And now with the possibility of suing every Tom, Dick and Harry that made us overweight and deaf, we have put our trust in corporations and companies to handle our lives for us.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

If you don't hear from me for a long time, remember to help collect my drycleaning

So it is official. I went up in front of my entire class and embarrassed Singapore with my presentation on Romancing Singapore. I am waiting for men dressed in black suits to knock on my door and cover my head with a sack and drag me away to some remote political jail somewhere under the desert. Well I'm not the one that came up with a Baby Making Competition for prime time TV ok!