Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sheffield: First week(s)


Well today marks my being here for a week, and if I don't start blogging about it, I don't think I ever will. That's actually how lazy I've become about keeping up with my life. I mean, things like starting a budget, filing things, keeping on top of my notes...I was never too adept at it, but now I'm just downright lazy.

The journey here was a long and not-too-exciting one...from KLIA to Singapore Changi International I got stuck next to a Chinese man with smelly, stinky, smelly smelly breath, and a 4-hour layover. I went online, then mucked around a little before bumping into a small group of Malaysian students headed to Manchester on the same flight. The flight wasn't too eventful, and thankfully the centre of our 3-seater row was empty so I had some space to throw myself about. Arrived in Manchester on a gloomy morning where we were gracefully ushered into the Heath Services for what I thought is demmit-health-check-but-my-x-ray-is-in-my-check-in but all the lady did was take down our passport number and details and which university we're headed to. I know. Wtf?

We were greeted by some Sheffield students who were part of the meet-and-greet scheme of the student union, and with a pair of siblings from Cyprus and their mom, we were unceremoniously dumped at Central Quay. The first flatmate I had was Doni, from Suzhou. After settling in, I talked with him, and then he happily took me around to buy my first necessities. We went...everywhere. Castlemarket, TJ Hughes, Sainsbury, 99p store, £1 store, frozen food store, The Moor, Tai Sun, London Road and the Chinese supermarket in The Forge...I think we even dropped by Primark and John Lewis. I was shown where Primark, Argos, banks, phone companies and Boots are, and in truth, his help was immeasurable. In the span of one single afternoon, I was introduced to most of Sheffield city centre.

I even stopped to see the tram stations, St Paul and St John Cathedral, City Hall and the Peace Gardens.

The next day, I was given directions to the University, and I trekked 45 minutes uphill to see Elmfield, which is a beautiful old building where the Politics Department is. I was exhausted by the time I reached the roundabout at the centre of the city campus. My first thought was, no fkin way I am going to walk like this on a daily basis, I wouldn't be able to make it. I trekked back to the city via West Street, and its a lot easier going downhill, and I think I shopped some before coming home to make dinner. It was after dinner that I went and explore parts of where I live in a little, and the back of Central Quay faces River Don, and there were ducks in the river. There's also a small pub/restaurant across the river, and it's quite a quiet place to reflect and walk in. And then I smelled Bak Kut Teh. I remember I grinned. It was 7ish, dinnertime for most of the residents and the smell of cooking was extremely homely and ...I don't know, gives me comfort.

The weather is crazy in this place, sunny two days, then gloomy and windy and cold the next couple, and then sunny again. In Malaysia, no one checks the weather, ever, but I learnt my lesson here. From hereon, before I head out every morning, I'm going to check the weather, even if only to see if it's going to rain a little. Because rain+wind=BAD.

My room faces the city centre, or what I can see of it since it faces uphill, and I can see the cathedrals from here. When the church bells toll, the sound is just absolutely beautiful and soothing. If anything, I'm just slightly unhappy (now coming to terms with it) with the fact that ALL my flatmates are from China. It feels like I flew to the wrong continent, sometimes. There's also some funny things I've noticed here, just small things like the lack of soybean milk (and how much I missed it), how the traffic is just as horrible as Malaysia and that pedestrians are given very little respect (so those chivalrous expat drivers must NOT be English, then!) , jaywalking is perfectly acceptable, how dirty and stinky with pee the city is on Friday and Saturday mornings, how noisy weekend evenings are with the crazy partying, and some jarring drunk racist shoutings from a Brit girl. Queues in this place are horrible, it feels like they're helpful, but ultimately inefficient and slow. I got long queues everywhere, from paying the bus driver to supermarkets to banks to the horrible reception in Central Quay and at the city. Its something I definitely need to get used to. But shopping is great here, I needed a coat so I walked to H&M and saw all these colourful hoodies and I already started to finger them before I halted myself. I was definitely losing the plot and I had to remind myself I don't have that much to spend.

I've had some department introduction meetings, and have met quite a few of my future classmates, and some had been great. A Chilean woman named Marcia and another from Beijing and I went bank shopping (for us), phone shopping (for Marcia) and coat shopping (for me). Yesterday we were at a graduates intro meeting and I met Joe, a Spanish who learnt to speak basic Chinese right here in Europe and Eva, a molecular medicine grad student from Kunming, and we spent the rest of the day chatting in English and Chinese about politics and England and China until dinnertime, where a huge group of graduate students met and went for dinner in 3 different pubs (because not a single place here can fit all of us).

I can see already this isn't going to be an easy year, even before my first class we've got a huge load of reading for the various modules we're interested in, but well...I hope I'm ready to take it all on. Sometimes, I've got my doubts, it feels like maybe I've bitten off more than I could chew.

I'm going to make the most out of the year though. It'll be amazing, for better or worst. I hope.

Friday, September 12, 2008

NO to BN

Reform is now inevitable, irreversible and hopefully imminent. TDM may go back to UMNO and support someone to beat Badawi at the coming UMNO elections, but this will not satisfy the thirst for change in Malaysia by all races. UMNO is beyond redemption, and the only way forward to rescue Malaysia is to replace the gangrened heart of power and replace it with a new entity called Pakatan. -Hiro

Beautifully written.

A comment on Mahathir's delusional comment @

Whether PR works or not...change must come. This cannot go on. This is not democracy. This is not what Malaysia stands for.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Enough lah

Okay, my knowledge of Malaysian politics isn't any more superior than the next person in the room. I am probably quite apathetic and a little outdated at times. I do not know the faces of our politicians, I do not know who's who in the leadership...I wasn't even sure who or how powerful the guy who presented me with my degree was.

But then, I read a piece of news on Malaysiakini, and tears sprung out. I felt despair more than anger at how things have gone this far in Malaysia. My premise is simple. I am a person born in Malaysia to persons born in Malaysia, whose parents were born in Malaysia. Malaysia x3 makes me pretty damn well Malaysian. To me, this is home. Even though I am Chinese by heritage, I do not identify with China. It is just a mystical land on the map where so many people of my skin colour, culture and language left and found homes elsewhere. The Chinese diaspora is well-known. Some of my mother's family sailed to America, some ended up closer to home in Hong Kong. And then my great-grandparents inadvertently arrived here. Diaspora - it is translated from Greek to mean 'the scattering or sowing of seeds'. And I am one of the plants sprung from these seeds - sheltered, nurtured and conditioned by my new environment, thus every minute change in this environment will affect the seedlings.

"Remember! The patience of Malays and Muslims has its limits. Do not push us to the wall, where we will be forced to reject the Chinese for the sake of our survival" - Ahmad Ismail

Statements like that creates fear in me. He wins. I am scared. On most days, knowing my Malay friends and people I meet from day-to-day life, I know without a doubt Malays will lay down their lives to defend us, their fellow Malaysians. I know, I have heard it being expressed sincerely, that while we are not colour-blind, because in truth we are *NOT*, many would ignore that fact, choosing only to see the ultimate truth, that we're all in this together, we're all Malaysians. Selective truth is a truly wonderful - or terrible - human trait. But on days like this, it makes it so hard for me to remember that. I'm already wary of walking the streets of KL filled with immigrants (legal status unknown) trying to ike out better lives here, and now I am weary in the comforts of my own home. We just wanted to feel safe, to know we are safe at home. Home.

We are ALL trying to survive in very trying times. I don't see the point of pushing one community off the ledge to benefit the other. Working in tandem - united we stand, remember? - would do a world of good for Malaysians.

Plus, in the biggest of ironies, to me, that statement is bluntly seditious. According to our draconian ISA laws, he deserve a penthouse in Hotel ISA. So why is he sleeping soundly in his own bed tonight? Whom or where do I seek reassurance and security in being Malaysian tonight? Although I shouldn't question it, but would my faith and loyalty pay off in the end, or is it all in vain?

You know, my ancestors boarded ships to this land for a better life for themselves and their descendants - us - and their backbreaking labour and hardship made us what we are today. I have pride in being part of this heritage, that much is true. The seeds they scattered are all grown up now, coloured and shaped by this environment for generations, so I beg you, please see us as fellow Malaysians and not immigrants or squatters, because this is my only home. It's not like we are here illegally or do not give back to the country. Skeptical as I am, scoff as I do at pathetic attempts of patriotic songs or superficial show of 'colourful Malaysia', this is home.

Is it so awfully wrong that we ask for equality and recognition? To have our colours mocked and pleas thrown back into our faces is a huge let down.

Aku anak Malaysia. I grow up learning to embody that spirit, will continue to, and always will.

I am Malaysian, for better for worst. I just hope soon it'll be easier to love, honour and cherish my country.