Writing Exercise: Flightless

He had a toe missing. He doesn’t remember how it went missing in the first place, but nonetheless, it was missing. He never really missed it though. He never felt incomplete without that third toe because being two-toed on one foot was just who he was, as if he was born two-toed.

But on this fine, sunny day he stared down at it with the most hateful bulging eyes he could muster. He despised being two-toed.

It all started when he saw her.

She was perched on the rails of a rusting balcony, cleaning her feathers and cooing happily. She didn’t have the most gorgeous body. In fact, she had a slight discolouration on her beak and an uneven wing span. Nonetheless, his eyes sparkled when he saw her. The sunshine hit her eyes in the most intentional, perfect manner. Her tail feathers were glowing slightly under the same late afternoon sun. Her body was basked in that golden light, making her look so warm and inviting.

So he plucked up his courage, puffed out his chest, and ruffled his own feathers, ready to fly over there and make her aware of his existence.

But the second he began to spread his wings to take flight, another guy landed beside her on the railing. She looked over at him, checking him out. He was a gorgeous one. His beak unblemished and black, topped with an oval-shaped white patch that resembled a delicious scoop of ice cream. His two perfect circles of black iris sitting in pools of alluring red. His neck covered by luminous green fanning downward above grey feathers. His wings were wide and strong, decked out in lustrous almost silver-looking feathers and a streak of black that curved perfectly upward, disappearing into the evenly greying out of his long tail feathers. You could practically see the waters rolling off its smooth plumage, leaving no traces behind. And his feet, both possessing three toes, the middle long, with two short ones to accompany it.

He caught him checking her out.

He chuckled.

He knew he was no match for him, what with his dull grey, short tail feathers and a toe missing.

She saw him looking over at him. Her eyes flickered onto him, trailed down his body and lingered on his two-toed foot. Her head flinched to the side, perhaps in confusion, perhaps in disgust. He didn’t have time to discern the emotion in her eyes, before they had moved back onto the handsome fellah beside her. Her eyes never came back around to him again.

He fluttered away just as the other guy began flexing his feathers and advancing toward her.

So here he was, huddled against a cold brick wall in some ubiquitous alleyway.

Stupid missing toe. He cursed miserably as he looked down on where it should have been.

Who would love him now?

Minutes later, he was pecking furiously for the bread crumbs that had just been thrown out from the back door of a local bakery.

Departure Gate

In the last six years, I have sat in this airport six times. It was always the same, the cumbersome security clearances, the long queues, the bored faces. I would usually be walking toward the departure gate with a storm of opposing emotions raging on inside my head: racked by a profound sadness and a desperation to hold back, while struggling to contain the bubbling excitement and butterflies in my tummy.

I used to hate airports, especially after having endured more than eight hours at Kansai. I hated everything about it, the smell, the rush, the luggage, the strangers. Most of all, I hated them because they always reminded me of goodbyes that lasted too long, and gates that kept out the people I loved. But then I remembered the opening scene from Love Actually and Hugh Grant’s delicious voice, and I feel hopeful.

Today I am headed back to London to resume the life I have begun to build for myself. It has been exactly one month since I landed at home. As per usual, my stomach is full of butterflies (and quite a bit of homemade food). It is a tug-of-war between Vancouver and London, both places housing people I care deeply for.

On the one hand, I despair. Going back means being away from family, and that is never easy. It also means returning to all the responsibilities that comes with being a full autonomous human being. It means having to cook for myself, having to get up to go to work, having to build and maintain my own weight in the world. Being at home was splendidly luxurious. I reverted back to a child, carefree with all the time in the world. The minute I walk through the arrival gate at Heathrow, I crash-land back into adult life.

On the other hand, I rejoice. Being with family is also not easy. It seems mums and daughters are genetically pre-programmed to fight with each other. The freedom that comes with full independence has a strong magnetic field that pulls me back to London. I look forward to this year’s promise of full adulthood, despite the inevitable trials and errors and fumbles and tumbles. It’s exciting to have a job that affords me the luxury of a comfortable life. There are friends and a boyfriend that I’m thrilled to see again. Dinner parties, nights out, weekends away, and so many things left to do in that city and on that continent!

It’s not too bad really. I’m rather privileged. I’ve got fall-back in Vancouver and a new life in London.

So, out of Kansas we go again, Toto!

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Till next time, Vancouver. Stay beautiful!

NYRs 2016 Edition

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You thought I wasn’t going to do a New Years Resolution post this year didn’t you? You thought you escaped this age-old, mostly useless tradition. Well, you were wrong. I may not be the most optimistic person, but I’m hopeful. I’ve still got a few drops of faith in myself to actually achieve my NYRs, someday.

So year after year, the NYRs keep rolling in and I keep rolling with them. 2016, it seems, won’t start off any different than the previous years. 2016 will be a year of trying to accomplish 2015 NYRs that I laid out in 2014 as planned in 2013.

This year though, I’m trying some slightly new: achievable goals, aka. goals even a sloth can complete, potentially, we’ll see. I might just set a record for being the laziest human ever to live. Note to self: put that in 2017 NYRs.

  1. French: finally finish Le Petit Prince after years of struggling to get through one chapter. (“Voulez-vous coucher aver moi” is no longer acceptable as the only thing one can say in French.)
  2. Chinese: read one Chinese novel. (Stop bringing shame on the family.)
  3. Japanese: complete the Genki I textbook. (Note: Japanese sounds so cute, maybe some of its cuteness will spill over onto thy beastly self.)
  4. IT: actually learn to use Excel. (Stop screaming “witchcraft” and running out of the room every time a function works.)
  5. Exercise: achieve Victoria’s Secret Angel model body, swim twice a week. (Bright side: excuse to eat cake!)
  6. Economics: back to basics, relearn Micro- and Macro-econ 101. (Enlist major human help).
  7. Writing: at least two posts on this blog every month. (Eat cake as reward.)
  8. Reading: 25 books. (See TBR mountain.)
  9. Reading Part II: at least 5 non-fictions.
  10. Achieve immortality.Stop drinking. Do something crazy!

OK, that last one isn’t so concrete.  Good luck to all those who still observes this desperate, hopeless tradition.

Happy 2016!

(*Beautiful picture of unrelated stuff for maximum inspirational effect)

 

A Very Chinese Christmas

After missing Christmases left and right for the last few years, I finally had the chance to spend this holiday season at home.

Christmas Eve was a kaleidoscopic mix of six families, coming together like fireworks, under a grand old house. The food was never-ending, the turkey big and proud, the alcohol flowed in abundance, and dozens of different conversations blossomed all at once. Small gifts went around to all the children and the unmarried, me included.

By midnight, everyone was warm and cozy in their respective homes, dreaming away wrapped safely in food comas and fuzzy feelings.

I woke up to the clinging and clanging of pots and pans and chopping boards from the kitchen. T’was Christmas! My parents were busy busting out their beloved dumplings. We may be celebrating a Western holiday, but we weren’t about to abandon our Chinese traditions.

My father kneeling the dough. My mother sculpting the stuffing. Both carefully nurturing the little dumplings to life. All morning long, they were at it. After the cloud of flour finally dissipated, steaming plates of white puffiness came rolling out of our kitchen. My father’s savoury, tangy and spicy dipping sauce sauntered up to the dining table in proud accompaniment of the little pockets of delight. Our family, our elderly neighbour, and another family came together to rejoice the day.

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The warm sounds of my home reached a crescendo by this lunch, as we chirped and chatted about light-hearted matters, and kept filling each other’s bowls with mountains of delicious home-made bundles of joy. By one o’clock, the noise tapered off. Everyone retreated back to their warm cocoons to hibernate for the afternoon, to let dreams digest away the mid-morning meal, and to restore energy for more merry and cheer this evening.

And so it was, the night of Christmas. The dark skies arrived early as usual, but it didn’t matter, we had family and friends to maintain the light.

The world became quiet. Everyone huddled around their loved ones, to love and be loved. To dine, to laugh, to give and to rest.

Most importantly though, they were all gearing up for the next day to come. Because we all know that Boxing Day is like the Hunger Games. All those well wishes and happy holidays gone right out the window along with that lady trying to get at your discount iPhone 6S. Plus.

It feels good to be home.

Happy holidays to all, and may all have a safe and bloodless Boxing Day.

 

Anniversary

One year ago, I landed at Gatwick and began the last year of my higher education.

It’s cliché to say, but how fast this year has passed. Like all of my previous years, this one zoomed by in the blink of an eye. Some days though, it felt like I would never get through to tomorrow. Some heartaches, some mental challenges, some physical endurances made 24 hours feel like an eternity. However, those only served to strengthen the contrast of better days: days when the sun was shining (which, as we’ve all experienced, was a rare occasion in Londontown), evenings when we would dance and eat to our hearts’ content, and nights when we would raise our plastic cups in celebration of us. When it was good, it was truly great.

Now that I am the thralls of full adulthood, job hunting makes all those late-night paper writing, thesis-slaying seem like an easy game of charades. However, during those early morning hours before a deadline, during the final phases of thesis-writing, during those desperate flat-finding days, the world of the full autonomous adult seemed like a million miles away.

With the fresh quirkiness of new friends, the unending support of old acquaintances, the unconditional love of family, and lots of food delicious and otherwise, I managed to get through these 365 days with discipline (relative really), 5 pounds less, laughter, and an enlarged network of fabulous weirdoes.

It was a privilege and a real blessing, to able to round up my academic career in such a wondrous city with such an amazing crowd. I am so proud of every single one of my friends. We have already accomplished so much. Our futures are only going to get brighter.

I know many of you are in the same boat as me. The days are torturously long and the rejections endless and stinging. But as dreadful as job hunting is, I firmly believe that some time in the near future, we will all be standing triumphantly. We will once again raise our glasses (made of real fancy glass rather than cheap plastic) in celebration of the life and the privileges we have all been born into and given and worked for.

So here is to this one beautiful, kaleidoscopic year.

Here is to all of us. The best has yet to come.

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P.S.: I miss you weirdoes.

11. Summertime Sadness

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With the rise in temperature usually comes waves of euphoria, released from year-long tensions built up over long cold winter months and miserable school days.

However, for an international student such as myself, summer does not hold the same happy sway.

In the last few weeks, I have had to say goodbye to a number of good friends. People are returning home. Some are looking forward to the sanctuary of family, old friends and familiar places. Others are grasping to hold on to what is left of this crazy year. Most awkwardly stand somewhere in between.

For many, London is not an easy place to bid farewell to. It’s teasing with countless hidden treasure islands, sparkling with cultures and foods of the world, and booming with endless excitement. But it is not just about the town, it is also hard to close this chapter of one’s life. Filled with difficult downs but also extraordinary highs, London is home to a year’s worth of experiences, wisdom and unforgettable people.

As heart-breaking as it is to let go, it’s equally as difficult to be left behind.

For the past few years, summer has always been bittersweet. Some more bitter than others. But I have always been the one leaving. I’ve never had to endure the feeling of abandonment.

Sure, sunshine and heat that goes on for days, no classes or exams, summer dresses and open-toe shoes are some of the most glorious things in life. The days are just starting to get good. But I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to rewind time. Go back to the darker, colder days of winter when everyone was still here, and could huddle together for warm and good company. I can still see the delicious evil grins on people’s faces as we laid down our choice of cards for Cards Against Humanity. I can still feel the increasing lightness in my steps as the party raged on. I can still taste the apple crumble of that flat-wide potluck. I can still smell the smoky air in the aftermath of the New Year fireworks. I can still hear the sound of raindrops on the tree leaves above us as we sat huddled after an excursion into our first London marketplace.

Year after year, I always say “where did the time go?!”. I hold on a litter tighter, blink a little less, and cherish a little more, but I have yet to learn how to make things last longer. How do you stretch intertwined lives? How do you prevent the unravelling?

Maybe the trick of it all is to not try and force it. Savour it when they are in your life, and let go when it’s time.

Our paths were inevitably going to separate. We are not meant to stay in one place. We are young. We are wild. “We are infinite”.

I just hope one day, we are destined enough to cross paths again.

Here’s to this crazy year. Here’s to us.

10. Student Forever

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It’s full-blown exam season here at the LSE. Everyone is panicking, barricading themselves with books, kettles, coffee makers, and bags in the library. They have sharpened pencils and blade-thin papers to fend off the weak and zombies. The smell of weeks of undone laundry is in the air.

Ah, exam season.

As stressed out, frustrated, and sleep-deprived as these weeks have been, the next few weeks will be a spiral into worse and worse conditions. Despite these dark hours (or because of them), I can’t help but appreciate my last month of being a full student. These kinds of carefree, study-only days won’t come again. I will (hopefully) move onto to the next stage of life: building a career, starting a family, the adult-life complet.

What a wonderful life students have.

Besides student discounts and access to an assortment of beautiful study spaces (case-and-point: Senate House Library, see above), our only real job is to learn (Don’t worry, I’m not forgetting all those, including myself, who have to hold part time jobs. But really, working 2-3 days at a place is very different from 5 days a week).

How incredible is that?

To be able to set your own schedule, go as late as you want into the wee hours of the early mornings, or be up before dawn, to sleep through the afternoon hustle and bustle, or head out to the park for some sunshine and fresh air to reinvigorate your mind. To be able to explore cafes of all sizes and styles on study adventures. To be able to sit down with study buddies and proceed to ignore each other for hours. To be able to hang out with friends and get into deep conversations that challenge your intellect and stretch your imagination. To be able to make friends and meet new people from all walks of life, every day without trying all that hard, except to show up to classes and say hello to that guy sitting down on the first row. To be able to make mistakes and fail, without it affecting your life in a way that failure at your career would. To be able to hide away in a safe bubble of campus life when the world got too soul-crushing. To be able to bury yourself for days on end in books and be plugged into the collective knowledge of the human race.

There is no other time to be able to invest all your time and energy into stimulating your mind, expanding your horizons, and jumping right into anything.

Because when you leave this student stage, life will get in the way. A full-time job will mean you come home exhausted to the bone, and after having made dinner and cleaned up, you’ll have barely any energy to do much else except lie on the couch and mindlessly flip through uninteresting reality shows and reruns. With a family, an attention-seeking new human (or god forbid, two of them) will be your new centre. You will see the same colleagues day in and day out. If you are fortunate, you’ll introduce a new face into your life once or twice a year. You’ll barely remember to pick up a book and continue your informal education. You’ll have to be responsible for others.

Life will settle into a routine. You’ll be afraid to break it.

So as intimidating and stressful as this seems…

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It’s a chaos I welcome with open arms.

Well, welcome it with an unhealthy amount of this…

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I am still human after all.

And as much as I am learning to appreciate this phase of my life, it won’t stop me from complaining about the mountain of readings and the death chamber to come…

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Nonetheless, cheers, to these beautiful, chaotic, exhausting, carefree days, to the end of an era.

OK, back to the grind!