“There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.” – Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air.
Living in the moment does not just mean having fun; living in the moment also means that you need to move in harmony with the winds of change. In order to truly live in the moment, you need to embrace the full spectrum of human experience, e.g. joy, sorrow, excitement and despair. There are things that are beyond my control and there are things that I cannot change. I need to learn to let go, make peace with myself and accept that I am not a superhero. I won’t say that I am good at letting go but I think I am getting better at it. The past 3 months have been quite enriching and they have taught me a lot about communication, emotions and leadership. I also learnt the importance of owning my story. In the past, I used to portray myself as good, decisive and happy. Right now, I am trying to own all my story, including the parts that involve shame, guilt, fear and sorrow. It takes courage to portray my imperfections but I will continue to try. So here are some snippets into “the sum of gathered experience” of my recent life.
I met up with Singyee and Kurinchi for tea in a small cafe in the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood (sorry I can’t recall the name). That was a few days before Singyee left for Japan for her new job. I couldn’t attend her farewell party and so I am glad that we still managed to sneak a quick meet-up before she left for Japan. We spoke about lofty dreams, we spoke about the memories we shared and we spoke about our current concerns. Sometimes I think that’s what friendship is about – reminiscing about the past, sharing your present moment with that person and making a point to include that person in your imagined future. It is funny how we talk to each other a lot more now that she is so far away. I can’t wait to see her again in the near future!
Learning how to dive has always been something on my bucket list so I am glad that I finally did an Open Water Diver course. I picked up diving through Eko Divers and it was a very well-structured and organised programme. First, there was a theory test on a Tuesday night that you need to score at least 70 to pass. Following that, there was a confined pool diving session (9 am – 4 pm) on a Sunday. It was a very intense and productive session as we learnt a lot of basic diving skills, e.g. regulator skills, mask skills, bouyancy, CESA. Finally, there was the 3D2N trip to Tioman, Malaysia. The trip to Tioman was longer than I thought. We left Singapore about 6.30 pm on a Friday night and we only reached Tioman at 3.30 am. There were 3 dives on Saturday and 2 dives on Sunday. The visibility for the first two dives was rather low so we could not see too much marine life but the visibility for the next three dives was very good. Initially, I was very afraid to descend into the open water and I was especially frightened when I could see neither the surface of the water nor the seabed. It was only on Sunday that I felt comfortable and confident to descend into the water. Diving has brought me into a new world that was previously unknown to me. I remember the underwater playground, the razorfish that bit my lips incessantly, the many small and colourful fishes that swim so elegantly, the sea turtle that casually glided past us and the beautiful huge underwater rocks. I don’t think I am confident enough to ask a friend out and go diving together but I will like to go diving with someone who is experienced. Here is a picture of my buddy, Yani, and I. In the end, I did not really dive with her as I was quite a slower learner and needed differentiated instructions in order to dive with confidence. But she is one really nice girl from Zhejiang and I hope that our paths will cross again someday. By the way, shortly after this picture was taken, a strong gust of wind blew my slippers into the sea. Guess I did not manage to “leave nothing but footprints”.
In NIE, all student-teachers need to do a Group Endeavours in Service Learning (GESL) project. My group did a project with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) which is an organization that aims to improve the working conditions of transient low-wage migrant workers in Singapore. For our project, we organized a mini cricket tournament for these workers. TWC2 told us that most student groups organized the events for them but the students usually did not interact much with the workers. For our event, we were determined to do things differently and make it a point to befriend them. There were 4 teams in total and the players were randomly allocated. I was the facilitator and a cricket player for Team Pink. That was a very new experience for me because 1) I have never been an Orientation Group Leader (OGL) before and 2) I don’t really have much experience with playing cricket. In fact, the only cricket experience I had prior to this was the training session that I organized for my GESL team in preparation for this event. But my teammates from Bangladesh were very patient and kind with me and we had a lot of fun cheering for one another on and off the pitch.
There was one uncomfortable moment though. On the pitch, they called me “sister”. I remember right before my team captain went onto his bus, he looked at me and said, “Thank you, Ma’am.” That statement makes me feel quite uncomfortable. For the duration of the afternoon, I worked hard and tried to befriend and get to know them and tried not to think about how our day-to-day lives are so vastly different. But at the end of the day, social class and hierarchy is real and we need a lot more than just a fun day of cricket to address these social issues. Nonetheless, I am glad that we created some good memories together. Here’s a happy picture of Team Pink after the games. 🙂
I have known Charmian for 3 years already and isn’t it incredible how this is our first photo together? We went to eat at Paddy Hill and it was so much fun being with her. Hanging out with her makes me happy and makes me forget about my responsibilities and baggage. I miss her jokes and I like myself when I am with her – confident and open. I also tried hand-brew coffee for the first time. It’s funny how hand-brew coffee looks like tea and does not taste like coffee. I am not sure if I am a fan but hand-brew coffee is certainly very strong. We went to Vivocity to do some window shopping and I teased her that now she knew all the things that she could buy for me as my wedding gift in the future. 😛 We also went into one of those local shops that sell products about Singlish and the Singaporean culture. “Like kopi without milk, I feel so kosong without you.” Can’t wait to hang out with her in January when we are back from our travels!
That was the day when we had our last QCM530 class with Dr Yap for the semester. I love this class, it is intellectually stimulating and fun. I guess that’s what people mean when they say that learning can be fun. Dr Yap is very patient with us and she tries very hard to make us understand mathematical concepts. I think that’s the kind of Math teacher that I want to be. Prior to taking her classes, I thought that learning Math is akin to mastering the skills and teaching Math is akin to teaching the skills. But Math is not just about the skills. Math is about the concepts, the attitude and the metacognition (the ability to reflect on your own thought processes). I need to strive to be a responsible teacher and teach my students all these. I hope we will not disappoint you, Dr Yap. My classmates are really funny and we always have plenty of laughter in the classroom. I hope that life will be kind to them and that no matter what life throws at them in the future, they will continue to keep those smiles on their faces. 🙂
This is the other group of people whom I treasure a lot in NIE. Dr Subra’s lesson on Tuesday was always full of laughter and I really looked forward to seeing everyone. We had BBQ session at Nicholas’ place – we cooked, we ate, we sung, we played card games and we chatted. It’s just so nice to hang out together outside NIE. There are just so many different personalities in this group and everyone came with their own experiences, beliefs and dreams. These peers give really constructive and useful feedback on my work and they have helped me quite a bit to become a better teacher. I wish everyone the very best in their teaching journey. 🙂
December was a month of travelling for me. I travelled with my family (UK-Spain-Germany-Austria-Hungary-UK) for 2 weeks before I flew to travel with Yixin for another 2 weeks in Finland. There were so many experiences and good memories and I need more time to unpack and organize so many beautiful moments. What I can say for now is that I left for Europe, feeling burdened and weighed down by losses, troubles and responsibilities. I came back from Europe, feeling carefree and alive again. There may be problems in life but I will just take things as they come and take it all in my stride. Things may turn out differently from what I have planned for but things will be just as fine. I got to continue to trust that life will work out well and for the best.
We spent 3 days in Barcelona and we saw Gaudi’s masterpieces – Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. We also hung out by the promenade, took a boat ride on the Mediterranean sea, climbed Montjuic, visited Hospital de Sant Pau, got a bit lost in the Gothic Quarters and drank lots of Sangria. It was still autumn when we were there so the weather in Barcelona was great and the sky was blue. I remember the evening when we saw the beautiful sunset from Montjuic, I remember chatting with the overly enthusiastic Airbnb host and I remember seeing orange trees for the first time. Barcelona was also where I spent my birthday. On the day when I turned 25, I flew to Barcelona from the foggy London and we had good food and Sangria on La Rambla for dinner. 🙂 It’s funny to think that it has been 3 years since I visited Eva that summer and so much has happened between then and now. I was also glad that I managed to meet up with Eva and her sister, Carme, one evening and I hope we will meet again soon somewhere in this world.
My mum and I went to Munich for 3 days while the men in our family flew back to the UK to watch football. Like every good tourist, we visited Neuschwanstein Castle – the inspiration for the Disney castle. It was quite troublesome to get to the castle (train-bus-walk-horse carriage-walk). But the weather was fabulous when we were there and the Marienbruke was thankfully open on that day so we were really lucky! We took the train to Mittlewald the other day and saw pretty nice scenery along the way. It’s a shame that the cable car was not running but we did enjoy the train ride. We met Chrissy and Stefan that evening for dinner at a typical Bavarian restaurant and it was great to see them again. 🙂 Going to Munich in December also fulfilled my life-long dream to visit German Christmas Markets. I think we visited 4-5 Christmas Markets in Munich and it was as magical an experience as I have imagined. Here’s a happy picture of us at the first Christmas Market that we visited in Munich. I remember when we got here, there was a live choir singing Christmas carols and it was a truly festive, magical experience.
We reunited with the men in our family in Salzburg, Austria. My brother drove us to Hallstatt from Salzburg and here is a happy picture of us at Hallstaft. We spent the night at Hallstatt and we had a room with a good view of the spectacular lake. The only downside was that it was a little chilly at night. After walking around Hallstatt leisurely, we drove back to Salzburg and spent the rest of the day exploring Salzburg. Salzburg is the birth place of Mozart and it is cute in its own way. Its garden was also prominently featured in the old-time classic movie “Sound of Music”. We spent the next two days in Vienna, drinking coffee and eating pastries in the coffee houses, learning about the Hasburgs in Schonbrunn Palace, learning about the Opera culture and walking around this beautiful city. The Christmas markets in Austria are somewhat different from the ones in Munich, they seem to sell more things that are white in colour in Austria. Nonetheless, the mulled wine tasted just as great. I miss the days drinking mulled wine and debating with the family if the mug is worth keeping. #christmasmarketproblem
We left Vienna for Budapest and spent 3 days there. It was really cold in Budapest to the point that it didn’t feel right to trouble other tourists to help us to take group photos. Budapest is beautiful and I love the Danube River. We did a hop-on hop-off tour for one day because the taxis in Budapest are a big rip-off and it was cold so we wanted to minimize unnecessary walking. Hop-on hop-off buses are good in the sense that it reduces walking and takes you to tourist places. However, the frequency is an issue and the buses tend to go in circles so it takes you a really long time before you get to where you want to go to. I remember the river cruise down Danube River, the day when it started snowing at Buda Castle and the history lesson about World War II. We visited the synagogue which is the second largest synagogue in the world and the Jewish quarters (Jewish ghetto during WWII).
I flew over to Helsinki to visit Yixin. We spent 2 days in Helsinki, visiting the sea fortress Suomenlinna, the history museum, the art museum, the churches (white, red and rock) and had a drink at a rooftop bar. We then flew to Kittila and stayed a night at the snow village. It was quite an experience, will write more on it in a separate post. We spent 3 days in Levi and did cross-country skiing and rode snowmobiles through the Lapland safari. After that, we went to Rovaniemi for 4 days and met Yixin’s friends – Su Fen and Xiao Yan. It’s lucky that we got along very well and we shared lots of laughter and fun (as well as frustrations and worries) with one another. Together, we did another snowmobile safari and husky ride, we visited Santa Park, Ranua Zoo and Santa Claus Village. I remember us kneeling at the Santa Post Office and writing postcards, I remember us trying to translate the names of the animals from English into Chinese and I remember us trying all means to retrieve their luggage. What I will remember most is New Year’s Eve when we took a tour to see the Northern Lights and sleep in the snow igloo. I will remember the Northern Lights dancing among the many stars in the sky, I will remember the fireworks and champagne at midnight and I will remember the barbecue and tin-melting tradition to predict the future. I can see us lying on the snow, admiring the Northern Lights and the sky full of stars while listening to 星空. I don’t know what 2017 has in store for me but I believe I can cope with anything that comes my way. 2017 will be a great year for the 4 of us. 🙂
“And in that moment, I swear, we were infinite.” – Stephen Chbosky