About a month ago, Wei Jie and his friends tried to teach me how to ice-skate. Ice-skating is a strange experience for a me – sometimes I glided well and sometimes I fell. But most of the time, I struggled and devoted a lot of energy to keep my balance and take the next step on this unfamiliar surface. Figuratively, that was how my second term at Imperial College went. I had amazing times and I had terrible, emotionally unstable days but most of the time, I just focused my energy on getting through each day. I won’t say that life had treated me badly (I love the experience of living in London); I would like to think that by being on unfamiliar ground, I have picked up new skills and more importantly, I have gained new perspectives about myself and the world.
I am just going to pick one example to illustrate my point. Some people around me have the ability to make me feel like an alien by scrutinizing my moves and commenting on how weird/ different I am. That is of course a completely new experience for me because I grew up in Singapore where most of my peers are generally quite similar to me. Even when I consciously act differently from my peers, I don’t feel like an alien at all and I don’t feel like I am disturbing some kind of stable, harmonious equilibrium in the social setting. Over here in London, I get that feeling from time to time and it gets me down whenever it happens. Now I am learning not to care, I am learning to be prouder of who I am and the culture that I represent, I am learning how to be proud of who I am without putting down the other party/ culture the way some other people do and of course I am learning how to choose my company. It will take some practice but eventually, I will get there.
So many things happened to me in the last 4 months, I will just write about them in broad categories, I apologize if I forget to write about some events:
I managed to meet up with several old friends in Term 2 and it’s always awesome to hang out together. I feel so much more relaxed when I am with them and it’s always nice to see that these amazing people are doing really well in their respective lives. They make me feel really thankful that I am in London; I don’t think I can meet up with so many friends from different parts of the world in the space of just a few months. 🙂
One weekend in January, I went to Germany to spend a weekend with Aneke and her family. It was a great trip, we drove (the Autobahn with no speed limit!) to a few small German towns near to Melle and I remember telling Aneke that even if I don’t remember much about the German towns in the years to come, I will certainly remember that it was with her that I witnessed snowfall for the first time in my life. I will write about the trip in greater detail in another blog post, be patient with me!
I went to Yudi’s apartment in Limehouse one day and we cooked together. That was certainly one of the best meals that I had in London. 🙂 I felt a little sad when we discussed about our classmates and I realized apart from Yudi and Yutong, I did not keep in touch with anyone else from secondary school. It is sad that so many close buddies just drifted out of my life but I guess I am glad that I managed to stay in touch with at least two of them. Indeed, who could have imagined that we will meet again in London after the last goodbye 5 years ago?
One weekend in March, Eva flew over from Barcelona to London and we had a really nice gathering. Together with Eva, Laia, Adriana, Anna and Maria, we hung out at Notting Hill Gate and walked from there to Little Venice and saw a beautiful sunset. I remember that it was a weekend with good food, good music (passenger!) and long discussions about how we think the world should ideally work. These girls are really awesome people who are dynamic in their own ways and who have a good idea of what they want to do with their lives. When I am with them, I feel a lot more empowered and emotionally open. I am glad that I went to Hong Kong for the exchange program and got to know Eva and I am glad that I went to Spain that summer and got to know the other girls. 🙂
Last summer when I went to Kyoto to meet up with Chizuru, we got to know Eiji at a Kyoto university party organized by her friend. I met Eiji again in July when he came to Singapore for his internship. With a funny twist of fate, he happened to be learning English in London. Life works in mysterious ways! We had a nice lunch at the Cittie of Yorke, a really nice and old pub in Central Lunch, and talked about the differences/ similarities among England, Singapore and Japan.
2) New faces.
Looking back now, it is impossible to imagine that I have only come to know these 3 girls a few months ago. Somehow it feels like they have been around in my life for a really long period of time. It’s pretty cool how people can get along so well (singlish: ar ga liao) within such a short span of time.
One of the things that really scares me off is meeting up with my relatives. Chinese family tends to have some kind of pretty complicated politics and there are some small yet important things that you are not supposed to say to your relatives. To be honest, for this reason, I was quite afraid to meet Amandas and her mum right before Chinese New Year. I thought it might be another typical interrogation session by older relatives but it turned out to be quite a nice dinner. Amandas invited my brother and I over to her place for the Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner and I remember there was a lot of food and plenty of Singaporean jokes. I kind of miss the Singaporean-styled jokes – people intentionally exaggerate the situation with plenty of visual and sound effects when they narrate a story just to make other people laugh. I am so happy that I finally got to know my cousin who also happens to be my batch-mate (even though we still do not know how exactly we are related) and it’s awesome that we managed to hang out several more times after that dinner. Now I count on her for travel advice to European countries and I am looking forward to our travel adventures. 🙂
Jingying’s friend, Rosa, shifted to London in January and we hung out several times. Oh boy, the world is a small world, it turns out that while I hung out with Jingying in Hong Kong in 2012, Rosa got to know Sing Yee in Singapore. In some ways, Rosa reminds me of Jingying, they are both really candid and fun-loving people, I can’t wait to travel with her!
As a part of the course requirements, we had to pick a topic from a list and do a case study dissertation on it. Yixin and I were assigned to the same topic and it’s really nice that we spurred each other on to read up and write on the topic. It is funny how we almost did not talk to each other in the first term but somehow when we started talking, the conversations just flow effortlessly. Sometimes when I think about the context and the conversations that we had when we went out for the first time, I feel that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps things don’t happen in a pre-destined manner but it is better and more comforting to think that I am on the right path. I don’t want to be too bothered by the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys”.
3) LKY and SG50.
One of the most significant events that happened over the last few months is the passing of former Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It is difficult to mourn the loss of the founding father of Singapore so many miles away from home. I am glad that we had a memorial service at the High Commission of Singapore and the SG50 walk/ run event. It was nice to be surrounded by Singaporeans, to watch LKY videos together and to talk about what LKY has left behind and how we should continue to build Singapore based on the strong foundations that LKY and his team has established. Many Singaporeans, including myself, worry about the future of Singapore. Somehow when LKY was around (even when he was not in power anymore), it felt like things will be ok even if people challenge the limits from time to time. But from now on, things can go really awry if we are not careful. We need to mature as a society and reduce the burden on our paternalistic government. Oops, I digress a little. The SG50 walk/run was a great event – we sang national day songs loudly in Hyde Park and ate free curry puffs, laksa and bee hoon at the Royal Garden Hotel after that. Amazing day!
I will write about the weekend trips from London in the next entry!