72 Hours after Brexit

The world seems so scary from up here on my 6th floor apartment.

I woke up this morning to headlines about racist outbursts around the city and around the country. Brexiteers are shouting at immigrant-looking shoppers in the grocery store in Gloucester to “f*ck right off“. School children are being bullied by their classmates because of their ethnicity. Cultural centres are being vandalized and smeared by racist comments here in London.

Yesterday, I had hope. Today, I’m fearful.

I’m scared to step outside because I might be met with these outbursts. I’m scared for the more than 2 million Europeans living in this country. I’m scared for my future. I’m scared I will lose my friends and the person I love because they are talking about moving away, to countries that I can’t support myself in because I don’t speak their local language. I’ve cried over the grim possibilities. I am so, so afraid.

It’s hard to convey how tense the atmosphere here is, to my family and friends back home. I’ve been asked why I’m so worked up about this, I’m not even European, they would point out.

I’m not European. But I’m a visible minority. I’ve experienced racism in the past. I know how it feels to be unwanted and looked at with disgust. I’m not British. But this is the first time in five years that I’ve lived in one place this long. My autonomy started here. My adulthood started here. My life as an individual, separate from my family, started here. I invested my time, my hard-work, my money, and my ideas here. Only for two years thought. So the depth of my sadness, my heartbrokenness, my fears, cannot even compare to the families who have moved here generations ago, who have invested their entire lives, their loved ones, and their children in this country, who are now receiving unwarranted hatred on the streets, in their grocery stores, schools, and homes.

I thought about my own anger and hate. I thought about hope. I thought about fear. I’m confused as to what to think. Should I let anger and hate take control? Should I keep hoping in the face of all this horror? Should I fear and get out of here?

I don’t know what to feel, so I read. I read endless articles in the hope that I gain some sort of perspective. I don’t want to let anger and hatred take over, because these racists deserve none of my attention or emotions. It’s hard to hope because waves and waves of xenophobia keep on crashing over this country. I stubbornly refuse to let fear push me out, because escape seems so cowardice. It seems like I’ve failed and given up.

So I turn to all three:

Anger and hate have manifested themselves in a twisted sort of vengeance. I hope Scotland and Northern Ireland and whichever other area decides to vote for independence, goes free. I want to see the English economy tank and the pound reduced to nothing. I want to see those racist communities isolated and desolate. I want to see the Brexiteer leadership scrambling and regretful. I want to see England crash and burn because then it can serve as a glorious example of how xenophobia does nothing but hurt and destroy. Because then, the rest of the EU could be saved.

Hope is also there. I hope this country will rectify itself. The lack of leadership from the Brexiteer politicians and more than 2 million signatures on a petition for a second Brexit referendum are lights in a deep sea of dangerous xenophobia. Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, issuing a message to the city to calm the markets and especially, to reassure the more than 1 million Europeans living here that they are welcome and that “the enormous contribution [they] make” is valued “and that will not change as a result of this referendum”. Nicola Sturgeon’s reassurance that Scotland will continue to welcome Europeans with open arms, warms my heart. There is hope. There remains the 48.1%.

Finally, there comes fear. The links I have provided at the start of this post are enough. I don’t want to showcase any more of the horrors that have arisen because Brexiteers think racism is ok to express now that the UK have voted for Leave.

In the long, torturous days, weeks, months, and years ahead, I will no doubt oscillate between these and many more emotions. But childhood movies and lessons about how good always wins over evil, will keep me hoping for the best, hoping that inclusiveness does triumph over racism, and that love does triumph over hate.

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Dear 48.1%

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Dear 48.1%,

Thank you.

There are so many tweets, articles, and outcry against the outcome of this terrible referendum. There are so many broken hearts, and so much anger in the aftermath of this wreckage. I was angry too. I was heartbroken too. I was dejected too.

But this morning I woke up to new hope. I had given so much of my attention to the 51.9% that I neglected you. I neglected your openness. I neglected your triumph. I neglected your vote for unity, prosperity and harmony.

There are no words that can express my overflowing gratitude to you, the more than 16 million people who voted to remain in the Union. I had felt unwanted, unloved, and betrayed in the immediate hours following the results. I could barely move, paralyzed by confusion, fear, and fury. Yesterday, I mourned the losses.

Today, I will rejoice, because I have you. Thank you for voting for people like me. Thank you for bringing me back from the abyss of racism, hatred, and bigotry. Thank you for lighting hope in me again.

So instead of admitting defeat, wallowing in despair, and packing my bags to go, I will put faith in you. I have you as my allies, as my friends, as my support. So I will not leave in a heap of anger and sorrow. I will not leave you. I will stay, and fight with you, for your future, for my future, for our future together.

Thank you, for voting.

-Jade

Dear Brexiteer

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Dear Brexiteers,

Congratulations.

You have changed this country forever.

For some of you, this referendum was the first time you have ever exercised your democratic privilege. For me, it was one of only a handful of times I was able to wield the power of democracy.

If I came up to you in person, I would find most of you well-educated, interesting, and friendly. We would hopefully laugh and talk over a few pints and rejoice in getting to know another great human being.

But I can’t see any of that right now.

You wanted your “independence”. You have now put this once-great nation on track to “taking back control”. You have refused to listen to the experts, and turned a blind eye to all the flashing, red STOP signs. You have made a decision that Britain cannot pull back from, now or ever.

Who do you expect to trade with if you are unwilling to trade with your closest neighbors? I assume you don’t want to trade with continental Europe because if you did, you wouldn’t have voted to leave its free-moving market. You would be smart enough to understand that a “free” Britain would have to adhere to all of the regulations and rules of the EU that have irritated you so much, in order to trade with the 500-million-strong Union.

Who do you expect to keep your biggest city and biggest source of subsistence running? I assume you don’t want London to exist anymore because you have spouted hate and disgust at all those NHS-sucking home-wrecking Europeans and immigrants who are here. This city grows and prospers because of the diversity of cultures and peoples, and the strength that lies in the harmonious union of all races. It breathes because of its multi-ethnic composition. Many of the iconic buildings, businesses, foods, and world-class organizations are born out of and maintained by this hardworking conglomerate of faces and bodies which you have just smashed to pieces.

How do you expect to defeat the terrorists? I assume they are no longer the enemy because you have made us the enemy. Your allies, your comrades in war, your battalion, you have turned your back on us. You have turned inward and broken the family. The terrorists must be celebrating in union with you. They love seeing a house divided.

How do you expect to keep your country together? I assume you don’t want Scotland anymore because you knew full well they don’t want to part with the EU. You couldn’t comprehend why they don’t want to be a part of the British family. It’s the same incomprehension I have of your decision to leave the European one.

I’m sorry for all the assumptions about you. I assume a lot of things about you, because I have never met you. But you have let your assumptions of me determine the future of this country and my fate. You have never met me. Yet, you want to chase away my closest friends. You want to kick me out for being lazy, unemployed and spoiled off your government benefits. You hate me without knowing a single thing about me. You hate my friends without knowing their kindness, their joy, their hard-work, and above all, their love for and contribution to your country.

They loved this country. They uprooted themselves because they have immense respect for you, and great admiration for this house of yours. They come to better themselves and in turn, that betters this once-great nation. And you, without even getting to know us, without even giving us a chance to express our gratitude for you and your welcoming arms, have spit in our faces and slammed the door.

Some of you voted to leave, out of spite for the “establishment”. “It’s nothing against you”, you would reason with me. But I have no sympathies for you because in your spite, you did not consider the greater good. You did not consider compassion. You did not consider love. You did not consider unity. You have made us fearful and lost. You have made me feel unwanted. You have made me unsympathetic to you.

I used to love this country. I remember the overflowing excitement of having arrived bright-eyed in a worldly city, in a tolerant and caring nation, and in a multicultural atmosphere that reminded me of home.

But you have shattered all of my illusions. You have destroyed my hope of a future here. You have betrayed my values. You have broken my heart.

So, I assume you are full of fear. I assume you are full of hate. I assume you are unkind. Because I can’t imagine anyone who is loving, compassionate and kind, to have done this to us, and even more, to have subjected their own homeland to this.

Good luck in trying to piece this country back together. I, for one, will not forgive and forget your hostility.

I wish you all the best to your isolated, xenophobic, and uncertain future, without us.

-An expat

Makeover

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Dear reader,

I have a terrible habit.

I can never stay in the same space for too long. I either have to move or rearrange the furniture.

It seems this terrible habit also followed me into the bloggersphere.

I began this blog after my time in Japan came to a close back in 2013. As I packed up my life in anticipation for my two-year Masters, I thought I’d move to a new blog home.

Now, my two years have wrapped up, and for quite a while I was dizzy navigating the rapid waters of adulthood. I had no head space to sit and breathe.

Finally, I’ve got a Sunday all to myself. I slept in. I went walking. I read. I shuffled around. I had time and peace to think.

It’s time for a makeover.

I recently picked up Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for the second time. I abandoned it way back during my Masters-years and somehow finally acquired a physical copy of it in recent months. Despite the years that have gone by since I last read part of it, one major aspect always pops up whenever her name comes to mind: the fig tree.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

It is hauntingly beautiful, the way she laid it out.

It perfectly paints the struggle gnawing at my insides. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the remake: The Fig Tree. Born out of a lethargic Sunday afternoon, out of a stubborn quarter-life crisis that just won’t go away.

Same blog, same content, with a new purpose.

If you are as lost as I am, join me, will you?

-J

P.S.: I know that photo isn’t one of a fig tree. Toma(e)to, tomato.

Writing Exercise: Flightless

Stupid missing toe.

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? He pondered as he looked up to the vast blueness. 

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)