Monday, February 18, 2019

Blending in with the crowd yet standing out



Standing in the midst of the crowd,
People walk past and around her.
Her face is fixed in stoicism.
Her eyes are soulless.
She stares straight into the distance
At something without form.

She is boxed into a corner,
Molded to compliment a stereotype.
She is forced to live a life,
One that was planned for her.
One that she disliked with a vengeance.
But never the one that she dreamt of.

Her hands are tied,
Like the prisoner that she is.
Her eyes are blindfolded,
Forced to follow the flow of water.
People’s perception of her,
Forced down her throat.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Torn between two worlds

How do I even phrase this?

It can be said that I’m at an emotional crossroads where I don’t know how or what I should feel anymore. All I see are the bad and the ugly, not the good. I just want to disappear into the abyss somewhere inside me and run on autopilot. It’s arduous to see the positivity in all of the negativity around me, especially when this was not the life that I envisioned as a little child. I understand that circumstances change as we all grow older - by the minute, by the day, and by the year. But whatever happened to innocence and jolliness?

Yet it’s impossible to live the life that we all want; we just have to adapt to the cruel twist of life.

The life that I wanted for myself wasn’t supposed to be in this manner. I understand that I won’t have the best of both worlds because that’s how life is. I’ve to choose between one or the other - and knowing the person that I am, I already know which route I’ll end up choosing. It’s the route that will disappoint those closest to me. Don’t blame me; I’ve been deeply disappointed by the cards that I am dealt with. It’s not that I don’t know how to play the deck of cards. It’s because I overplayed ‘em. I’m also dispirited with the way things have turned out.

“It’s out of your control. Nothing you do would change the fact.”

Yes, you can console me with those words above. Deep down, I know with clarity that I have half the blame to carry. I won't and can't deny it. There's nothing more that I am able to do. I can only bite the tree bark and cry in the silence before I pick up from where I left off.



A conversation with a friend some weeks ago reminded me of something that happened an x number of years ago… at a time when I was a different person altogether. I'll be candor; I cared for a certain someone in such a manner that there were sleepless nights. Yet, I dreamt of the said person with a confrontation about our tiny misunderstanding. The person reacted differently; instead of meeting my gaze with a glare, it was full of warmth. In reality, we were driven apart by circumstantial silence.

Nobody - not even the person themselves - knows about this. I made pact with myself not to come clean with the person about this. Whatever I want to say, I'll bury in the depths of my heart. After everything that has occurred, I've realized that it was easier to let go than to hope for the impossible. The ship has sailed and won't return to dock anymore. It'll be something that I'll have to live with for the rest of my life, just like the rest of the mistakes made.

Imagine how one experience can shape a person’s viewpoint about life and define their personality.

Now that I’ve learnt the importance of caring for those whom I regard as my nearest and dearest, nothing much has changed. I’ll never allow anyone to know how much pain and suffering that I am under. It’s my battle to fight and only mine to fight. Why would I want to dump a container load of emotional crap and burden others when they have their own issues to deal with? It’s just not fair for them.

Just because I chose to let my disappointments slide doesn’t mean that I’m unaffected by it. I made a decision not to throw tantrums about it because it would only worsen things. Giving voice to it wouldn’t improve the current situation, so why waste my breath to bother about it?

But what’s important now is to ensure that I don’t sacrifice my physical and mental health in pursuit of my dreams again. I’ve placed my physical health on the line in college until I earned an earful from the TCM practitioner and had to take a day off my classes to recuperate. My mental health took such a beating that it’s affected my emotions in more ways than one. I can’t afford to endure part two of this.

Friday, February 15, 2019

02/15/19



Exhaustion creeps heavily in the air,
Wearing me down.
No one understands me for who I am,
Only knowing me for what I am.
All are fooled by the crinkling eyes
And the curved lips.

The harder I thumb on the wound in my heart,
The more the wound bleeds.
As I compress it close with pressure,
The heart drips blood in its wake.
All of the sadness devouring me alive.
The cries of help silenced by my stubbornness.

Eyes are pressed shut,
Not wanting the tears to flow down the cheeks.
Memories swim in the brain,
Choking me with nostalgia.
It rises from the ashes in my mind
And leaving nothing but pain behind.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Just let me be who I am

Now that I'm a year older, life is not what it has been made out to be.

The truth has either been sugar-coated or toned down to protect all of us from the full exposure of society. All we focused on (when we were younger) was to work hard in the name of high grades. It didn't matter if we were close to sacrificing our mental health because our future was in the line. If we didn't have a well-paying career, we wouldn't have successful lives. Yet we missed the memo about exercising caution in the big world ahead of us. Not everyone is there to see us succeed. This includes those whom we call close friends and acquaintances. Some of them are there to remove the carpet from beneath our feet and watch us fall flat on our faces. Some of them are there to plot our downfall from behind the scenes.

In which time, their masks will slide off and reveal their true personalities. I feel that this has been a common occurrence in my situation where I see who are there for me only in those moments of great assistance. 


Now that I'm a year older, this place no longer carries that air of familiarity.

Four years of biannual flights weren't enough to retain my memory of the places around me. What I remember is not what is now greeting me. Driving past those areas have left me with such ache that it is hard to describe those feelings. I still remember hopping to that cafe during my break time to catch a breath or to sink my face in their lovely honey lemon tea. If I was lucky, the person who always served me would be on duty. He would always take the initiative to remember my special order and serve the drink to me in the way that I like it: hot, honey on the side. I still remember running up to that quiet, but not so secret hide-out of mine whenever I needed a timeout or to clear my mind. It didn't bother me that friends were able to find me there - I just wanted a place away from noise and humans.

The faces that surround me are all faded remnants of the past. While they are still the same people whom I know, the bond that once held us together has been loosened and stretched by my absence. And the distance of time. I'm in a position where I belong neither here nor there. I don't feel welcome in both places - being here makes me reach out for the comforting arms of reminiscence and being there makes me crave for the stability that I grew up with. 

Now that I'm back, how did I land myself in this situation?

Gone were the days when I'm the one having the loudest laugh and being the pistachio of the group. I am more contented with letting someone else steal the show while I nurse my boredom with a mug of coffee or a pint in the background. It's easier that way; I don't have the excess energy to pretend that everything is okay when it's not. Maybe it's because of what I was exposed to as a young child. Maybe it's because I never got everything that I wished for. Maybe it's because I decided to shed a part of myself to cope with everything that has since happened. What I envisioned for myself never turned out in the way that I wanted it to. 

As they say, if you have never been in the person's shoes, never judge them for the actions that they have taken or will eventually take. This is applicable to that incident some Novembers ago. I wouldn't wish this on anyone because it takes a lot of strength to deal with the side effects. Although it's been such a long time now, I still don't want to talk about this on a public sphere due to its complexity. It affected so many people that we are forced to deal with it in our own way.  

Yet it provided me with the insight of the other side, the part which not many people are aware of. The part that is forever subjected to people's judgmental viewpoints.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Flashbacks of 2018

January

As you might’ve noticed from the lack of posts, I was barely active during this month. I was out of the country on an extended holiday. Although I had continuous access to the Internet, it was difficult to maintain the frequency of my blogging because I was out of the zone. The intention was to spend three weeks away from Adelaide and return in time for the New Year’s Eve celebrations, but one thing led to another. This led me to push my return flight an additional four weeks later. I guess it was a blessing in disguise because I avoided the heatwave - twice.

I cleared all of my plans and ensured that I was able to watch the Australian Open finals between Federer and Cilic even though it was on the eve of my departure. To be honest, I was rather worried that I might not be able to watch it. So, I was relieved when the match ended early - although it was four sets - because it meant that I would be able to catch up on some needed sleep before the day of the flight. And found myself wide awake at 5.15 am local time.

I haven’t woken up at this hour since elementary.

I found myself heading to the airport earlier than usual on the day of the departure. As I had checked in for my flight via the web portal, the check-in counter staff allowed me to drop my bag earlier than other passengers. The process was done in fifteen minutes - ten minutes in the queue and five minutes at the counter. Since I was ravished, I subconsciously headed in the direction of Coffee Club and ordered myself a meal with coffee. I don’t usually drink coffee in the evening, but I needed the stimulant to keep me awake during the flight. It’s kind of odd; for most of my recent flights, I have always spent my time at Coffee Club - either quenching my thirst with Jasmine Green Tea or satiating my hunger with a meal.

Omelet  with Flat White for my late lunch/early dinner at Coffee Club Malaysia, KLIA Departure

The neighboring table even looked at me with a weird glance, lol.

Not wanting to kill the entire 4 hours at Coffee Club, I headed in the direction of Immigration. In all my years of traveling, I have been aware that the queue at Immigration/Customs will take up most of the waiting time. Since there was no one in that particular line, it only took me a minute or two to be done with Immigration.

Although I wasn’t lost, I’m sure I looked like I was rushing for a flight, lol. You will probably be able to guess the airline I took and the airport I was in with the following sentences. I suddenly remembered about the Enrich voucher that I redeemed for the use of one of their lounges (that are reserved for first and business class passengers). Since the Regional Lounge was closed for renovation, I was directed towards CIP Lounge, which was tough to locate. I ran around Gate C in search of it and passed the place twice. I didn’t even realize it until the kind soul in Plaza Premium Lounge pointed me in the right direction with the appropriate landmark.

View of the airport employees preparing to load the check-in luggage and the catered food into the airplanes from the CIP Lounge

Although the people at the registration counter suggested me to go to the Regional Lounge in Gate A, I remained in the CIP Lounge because of its close proximity to my boarding gate. At least I don’t have to rush like a maniac. As I elaborated in this post, the flight heightened my anxiety levels. The cabin lights flashed twice before take-off and as the plane climbed up to an altitude of 30,000, the TV screens blanked out and restarted itself. Whether I liked it or not, I knew that there will be turbulence in the Indonesian and Western Australian shores and didn’t give it much thought.

As we approached the Spencer Gulf, the plane started shaking badly - a sign of turbulence. I presume the pilots decided to climb to a slightly higher altitude to combat it, which almost knocked me out cold with fear and dizziness, but the fellow passengers were as cool as cucumbers. What I didn’t expect was the shaky landing in Adelaide. The pilots slightly altered the flight path to descend, but I still felt the plane bouncing no thanks to the wind - something like a person jumping on a trampoline. My heart raced with anxiousness. They say you should enjoy the flight experience and leave it in the pilots’ hands, but it is easier said than done. It was obvious that the child in front of me was frightened because she kept snuggling towards her mother - who sat next to her on the window seat - for comfort and protection. As for me, I only let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding when the plane landed on the runway. It was only when the aircraft came to a full stop that my heartbeat slowly returned to its normal rate. My legs jellified when we disembarked and headed in the direction of the Immigration/Customs.

I didn’t know how bad the weather was until I exited the airport with the luggage. A gust of wind blew at my face and messed my hair, which left me annoyed. You can read the rest here.

February

No thanks to the curveball that life threw at me, I grew irritated at the way it dented my plans and forced me to come up with an alternative. Plan B wasn’t something that I’ll refer to in the first instance, but I can’t complain. To maintain the mojo and keep myself from overthinking, I stayed busy with volunteering activities. Don’t worry; I knew what I was signing up for when I volunteered for another position with the university. It somehow allowed me to focus on the tasks in front of me.

So, it was a surprise when I managed to carve some time out to catch up with the good friend, the sister, and another acquaintance over dinner. One of them was surprised that I wasn’t back in town for long. em, Most of my friends in Subang Jaya know that it is tougher than pulling a tooth to arrange a spontaneous hangout with me as the introvert in me values her solitude.

This year was the first year that I celebrated Chinese New Year alone. It didn’t bother me as much as the sister initially feared. The reason is simple; I haven’t properly celebrated it since I turned 18 for personal reasons. What my family usually do was to whip up something simple in lieu of the reunion dinner and be couch potatoes for the rest of the night. Plus, it didn’t feel right to celebrate it here when I’m away from my family and with a different atmosphere. So, it was bearable if I gave it a miss.

I cringed with hesitation when the sister told me what she had done behind the scenes. She didn’t want me to be alone but didn’t want me to feel awkward in the presence of her family members for their reunion dinner either, so she begged for the good friend to accompany me on the first day of CNY. My hesitation arose from the fact that he’s the first male friend who has visited me in my residence alone. I never brought my friends home even during my time in Taylor’s because home is a private space that I hold with great value. For me to invite friends over, I’ll need to be close to them or be good friends with them for it to happen.

A quieter stage - yet still a part of the Fringe opening night with music, food, and drinks

Anyway, the good friend and I caught up on where we left off in the previous meetup and talked about our apprehension at returning to uni - while having the simple dinner that I cooked for us. I’m not big on preparing banquet-style meals unless I’m having an open house or hosting a large group of people. Plus, it was just the two of us. A simple meal would have sufficed - I didn’t want to eat the leftovers for dinner when I did just that the previous week.

With the celebrations out of the way, it was time to focus on the O’Week volunteering activities that I signed up for. It was also because of this that I found myself in a busy mode for that entire week. The campus tour was alright; while I showed the commencing students most, if not, all of the pertinent lecture theatres, it also served me as a reminder for me so that I won’t find myself lost for the Evidence lecture. The Faculty Day was manageable as well. Although we turned up for it, we didn’t do much except to accompany the commencing students under our care and offer our help, if needed. It was after all their day.

My final year officially started a couple of days after that. It started off okay, but what can I expect? It was the first week of semester one so the tutorials wouldn’t start until the second week. The same couldn’t be said of the electives that I chose, though. Unlike the core courses, the electives started the moment the semester started. My Foundations lecturer was a tad bit surprised to see me enrolled in his elective (Climate Change Law) but pleased nonetheless. And so was the good friend. His eyes shone with excitement when he saw me. I had told him when we last met up that I was enrolled in Environmental Law but unbeknownst to him, I dropped it at the eleventh hour because of personal reasons. (Which turned out to be a good thing.)

March

This month was a rather busy one for me. I crammed the Climate Change Law and Legal Theory presentations into a single week when I was as blind as a bat. It left me floating on air because I was pressured for time and the perfectionist side of me hated doing things at the eleventh hour. I’m still clueless about certain course topics, but then again, I’ve always had this problem since freshman year. *sighs*

As the two of us were in need for some quiet moments after a crazy semester last year (that involved us rolling our eyes at the proximity of the academic deadlines with exams), we found ourselves having a rather expensive Italian lunch near the campus after the tutorial. Well, expensive for me (at least) because I will subconsciously convert all of my purchases and meals from the Australian Dollar to Malaysian Ringgit. Yes, it makes me break out in cold sweat every time I see the converted amount - but it’s alright to bend the budget for an occasional treat.

I also find it odd that we are able to discuss everything under the sun - except assignments. Even if we discuss our individual take on the group assignments, we would do it in such a way that you wouldn’t even notice that we’re talking about it.

As if that didn’t surprise me enough, there was an impromptu Japanese lunch with them sweethearts. Before you think that we rocked up to an actual restaurant, we just went to the nearby cafe selling the cuisine. Me being me, I knew the dish that I wanted the moment I perused the menu. As we waited for our dishes to arrive, I was almost frightened when I heard something snapped before I saw that the fellow spilled his drink.

Let’s just say that one was thrown under the bus and the other was mercilessly teased, lol. There’s no guessing who those two are - but we were cautious to avoid any topics that were out of bounds.

Exercise caution when you are opening a bottle or can of gassy drinks.

The reason why I said impromptu was because we never planned on catching up during the semester as we’re forever in contact with each other - either via the face-to-face time or social media. It’s always during the mid-semester break or the actual holidays that we’d be able to find a common time to meet somewhere off-campus.

On top of that, I had a busy time trying to accommodate the volunteer activities and co-curricular events into an academic schedule. You might find that my timetable looks spacious, but, in actual fact, it isn’t. Most of the free time is spent holed indoors with legal books keeping me company.

April 

When the mid-semester break rolled around, I was almost dead from exhaustion. I’m sure that most of the final year students would concur, especially if their accompanying courses are heavy ones. Once the three of us had completed our separate assignments, we arranged for a bak kut teh session at my place to catch up - in the capacity of friends, rather than peers and future colleagues at law. As it was my first time preparing it, it didn’t turn out as successful as I thought it would be. It was more watery than what Mama Carrie usually has when she does it.

I was extremely annoyed when the weather had a mood of its own - it was hotter than Sahara desert one minute and monsoon weather the next minute. Let’s just say that I’m accustomed to constant humidity with little to no cool weather and two straight months of constant rain. Not the erratic climatic changes. It made me so emotionally unstable that I ignored all of the messages (even though it flooded my Messenger and WhatsApp inboxes).

I must’ve been stressed out because I had a lot of consecutively weird dreams - from dreaming to that familiar stranger, the sister, Papa Carrie, throwing tantrums and shared accommodation with the good friend all the way to feeling lost. I’d love to say that I had a field day interpreting each and every one of it, but the thematic feel was being lost like a deer in the woods.

Although I had the prior experience in advocacy from the IHL days, I wasn’t looking forward to the interlocutory applications because I knew how nervous I could be in front of the judge. But it had to be done anyway. It was either be thrown into the deep end now or be thrown head first into the rebuttal side of things next semester. Based on the conversation I had with a fellow coursemate in IHL, we both agreed that the advocacy in DRE seemed easier because it didn’t involve any legal research or references to the international criminal tribunals (International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, etc). The most we would have to do is read the cases and apply the legal principles to our factual scenario.

May

As if my schedule wasn’t busy enough, I decided to volunteer for another cause, which I know I’d be able to relate to when I’m older and possibly having my own family. The speech given by the ambassador left me choked up with emotion because I understood the grief that she endured in the weeks that she lost her child. Losing a child at 10 weeks after carrying it for a full 9 months is not something that anyone can easily understand.

Me being me, I wanted to take my mind off the advocacy for a while and arranged to go out for a drink with a friend after the second interlocutory application. The friend’s alcohol tolerance is far higher than mine and I knew my limits anyway, so there was no chance of nothing untoward from happening to either one of us.

Yet the thing that I never expected occurred.

A part of me wanted to taste how and what G&T was after it was mentioned in the books that I read, which led me to take a gamble. One and a half glasses of wine and two sips of G&T later, I suffered from the worst spell of dizziness with a strong desire to sleep. I could barely focus on the conversation without losing coherence either yet none of my friends saw the signs. Or maybe they decided to leave me alone until I said it aloud that I’m arriving at the pinnacle. After glasses and glasses of water and ice, I managed to regain enough sobriety to last me until I headed home - but that wasn’t even enough to keep me alive.

My poor friend was rather worried because nobody expected me to have that adverse reaction to gin. I’m usually okay with beer and wine (in fact, I’ve drank a combination of both on one of my night flights - much to the chagrin of the senior flight attendant as he thought that I was underage back then). To make matters worse, I rocked up to Legal Theory the next day with traces of the hangover. I felt my head being split into two - that was how bad it was. I’m usually okay the next day, so it must have been the sudden shock of alcohol percentage in the bloodstream that caused the hangover to overstay its welcome.

(I’m just hoping that child doesn’t eavesdrop on the conversation that I had with the lecturer about this. I’m not exactly worried that he knows I enjoy my occasional glass of red wine, but not this.)

When I woke up with a banging headache the next morning for a volunteering event, I knew that I was in shit trouble - as it was either the fact that I had a heaty body or the hangover still persisted. The latter didn’t make sense, but I read somewhere that hangovers, depending on its severity, can last up to 72 hours. Even the supervisor in charge thought that I injured my leg as it looked like I was limping. In actual fact, there was so much pounding in my head that I subconsciously dragged my feet.

In short, as a law student, I should have enough common sense to have ordered a heavy meal (say, a steak or burrito) to accompany the wine. Desserts are never going to cut it.

Maybe it’s because of the season, but my emotions were not exactly stable. My thoughts kept circling on a particular person whom I know doesn’t want to have anything to do with me now. The recent dream that I had of him felt … so real that my heart was racing when I saw him standing there. He looked much older than me - as if the years apart hadn’t treated him as well as I thought. He was only a couple of years younger than me yet he had twinge of silver in his hair and crow’s feet. I wouldn’t have recognized him if not for that glimmer in his eyes. That one which spoke of him being proud with a sense of vulnerability. Yet he didn’t look like he recognized me. If he did, he hid it well.

June

It was one of those hectic months that I don’t wish to endure again, I’ll be candor. Not only was it miserable, it bled any life energy out of you. My final research essays were due on the same day and a week before my DRE exam. As if that wasn’t enough to push me to the edge, I received some unexpected news a couple of days before the exam that punched the lights out of me. I found it hard to believe that it happened because it made no sense whatsoever. None of us could connect A to B no matter how much we tried.

I highly doubt it’ll make sense any time soon.

Don’t ask me how I manage to survive in one piece. I only remember spending late nights on campus to revise and refine those research essays. I grew more anxious when it started to rain in the middle of my exam because it has never happened before - and I’m not a fan of rain for emotional reasons. To celebrate the end of a chaotic academic journey, a coursemate and i had a quick coffee in one of the city malls before we went on our ways.

On the bright side, we finished earlier than the kids, which gave me some breather to pack my clothes and prepare for the flight out. I also had a breakfast meeting with my mentor, which came as a surprise because I wasn’t expecting it.

The Harrods bear - within seconds of the aerotrain

July

Lo and behold, my break came to an unwilling end. If you gave me a choice, I wouldn’t have returned to complete my final semester. I’d have stayed back there and run away from the misery I landed myself into. I bent the dates as much as I could without missing my tutorials.

But alas, it is a duty that needs to be fulfilled - or my efforts would’ve gone to waste.

On the evening of my departure, I managed to gain access to the main Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge, the one in Gate A of KLIA, and rested there for a couple of hours. With a voucher that I redeemed with my Enrich points, that is. I was rather surprised to see that they provide a buffet meal with access to coffee and iced tea on top of bathroom facilities.

Procrastination was at its all-time high. Having dreams about sharing a luxurious condominium unit with my partner only served to confuse me even further. On top of it, what I saw and experienced changed me into a different person yet again. Dealing and collaborating with peers threatened to drain the remaining bits of my emotional energy. I was snappier and nastier than I ever was - dropping profanities without some sort of filter.

It was during the flight out that I realized that the only way for me to endure was to suppress any emotional pain I felt - or at least wait until I was within the four walls before letting myself go. It also made me realize that regardless of what anyone says, no one will truly be there for me until the end.

August

The introduction to the final semester was such a torture (no thanks to the severe sleep deprivation) that I skipped a week full of classes to catch up on sleep. Let me tell you that operating on minimal sleep is dangerous because it’ll incur a wave of a headache. As predicted, I increased the number of volunteering hours - not because I was after anything but because the job hunt started to rub me off in the wrong way.

I volunteered for the Hub Day Out - something that I had agreed to do prior to my return - and chipped in more for my position, which caused two things to happen. Firstly, I had to find a way to balance the time spent between the other volunteer role and this one. Secondly, the little free time that I had to immerse in the me-zone became almost non-existent (especially when you throw the amount of preparation and time needed for the assignment).

It didn’t help that some part of me enrolled in an 8am tutorial… or maybe I was conscious when I did it. It surprisingly didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. It might have been the result of a long coffee break or the experience from the period one class - daily. History repeated itself in the form of four assignments due in the same week. It’s not fun at all because I had to multitask and ensured that I wasn’t writing the wrong thing for the wrong assignment. I was relieved in some ways that I was able to complete a draft copy for one of the assignments earlier than expected, which gave me some breathing time to focus on the rest. Another one included two orals - one was a presentation and the other was a mock trial. It left me in a state of anxiety because I never had the experience of being the counsel - and didn’t know what to expect. No amount of preparation can prepare you for the twist and turns that a trial will take; that’s what I noticed in IHL some years back.

I barely made it alive, though. By the time that week ended, I wanted to rush to the nearest ice-cream store and devour containers of my favorite flavors. And sleep the weekend off as well.

I’m assuming that it was better that way as it meant that I’ll die from the academic stress once - instead of continuously. But on a second note, being exposed to so much stress at one go is not good for me because I’m someone who’s already on the edge most of the time. The additional stress might have done its part in sending me off the cliff, which, thankfully, didn’t happen.

September

One of the main reasons why I love and hate being busy is time. You need to feel that time has just slipped away from the cracks without even noticing it. The fortnight before the mid-term break was jam-packed; assignments were due one after another and I wanted to throw everything in the campfire and disappear from society for a couple of days, which illustrated how bad things were.

And a lot of help that it did to me. As if that wasn't enough to send me into a state of exhaustion, I swapped the intention to watch a presentation with another volunteering event. Yet I was on auto-pilot for most of the event. Don't ask me why; maybe my brain was under pressure. I'm clueless as to how I managed to balance the completion of the assignments with my volunteer commitments that included the spring graduations as well...

I’d have crashed and burned if it weren’t for me biting the tree bark in persistence. I was relieved when the mid-term break finally arrived - because it gave me some time to take a chill pill and retune my focus. I also managed to meet up with the good friend and the criminal law friend separately, and on two separate occasions.

When I caught up with the good friend, the notion that this may be the last time that we’ll hang out before my departure was at the back of my mind. I think he sensed it from my body language as he asked me about my flight. Not only that; something else happened that widen my eyes with a mixture of shock and helplessness. I’ve never seen him in this state … he’s always been cautious not to show it in the years of our friendship. But I guess he couldn’t avoid it this time because it was unexpected.

Who knew a letter could carry such weight on the reader?

It was a different situation with the criminal law friend. We decided to have the overdue lunch meeting because we wanted to commemorate his graduation and have an exchange of gifts, seeing that I would be busy when the mid-term break ended until technically when I leave Adelaide. So, we had lunch together … and yes, I know what you readers are thinking, but no, sorry to disappoint you, lol. I was rather surprised that we didn’t hold back with the nature of our conversation. What made me raise my eyebrow instead was the birthday/farewell presents. Let’s just say that it’s not something I’ll have expected anyone to purchase for me.

Another problem cropped up; there was full-fledged insomnia knocking at my door. I don’t know how people operated with 2 hours of deep sleep on a daily basis - because it’s plain exhausting.

October

To be honest, this was one of the busiest months of my final semester because I was forced to deal with a million things. Yet I was able to mask my inner feelings and pretend that everything was smooth sailing - in front of everyone. The spring break couldn’t have ended at a better time. At least it permitted me to take a breather and get my wirings in the correct order.

It was a week after that we had to tackle a group presentation. Not everyone in the cohort was pleased when we found out that the individual classes had to present our findings (pros and cons) to the rest of the peers, but it had to be done. I only volunteered myself to be one of the speakers because I didn’t have the time to conduct the necessary research. I guess my only solace was that it wasn’t a full lecture theatre - otherwise, you’ll see me melting into a nervous goo. One incident still stood out in my mind. There were two peers from Gatekeepers who were concurrently enrolled in a different time for their Evidence tutorial. While I’m acquainted with one, I’m on a professional basis with the other. The acquaintance had total confidence in me and sort of expected that I’d be on the front line. The other one didn’t see it coming - and I hadn’t known that he was there until he poked his head out - as if he found it hard to believe that I was speaking. I don’t blame him; I refused to speak more than necessary for our Gatekeepers presentation yet here I was in front of everyone.

My Migration Law essay and the Gatekeepers take-home were due on the same day albeit different times, which only meant one thing: a lot of multitasking and late nights. When I first learned of the clash, I was tempted to ask the Migration Law lecturer for an extension - or at least an extra two days for me to focus on the research essay. But I wanted to challenge myself, knowing that the workforce would have more clashes than this. I surprisingly managed to complete both in the nick of time - but it resulted in me taking the rest of the week off and not focusing on the exam revision.

November

I was a tad bit peeved with the exam arrangements as Evidence was on the last day. As this clashed with a job interview back home, I had to instantaneously decline the offer and see if it could be rescheduled. It was not what I desired, but it’s not like I had a choice. Speaking of exams, I have no idea how I managed to strip the residence of my belongings while dealing with the shipment and revising for the finals. To whoever is scheduled to take over the apartment after me, be thankful that I wasn’t able to ship some of the items back home. If I had extra funds available, I’d have taken everything with me - because those are good-quality plastic containers.


Compared to last semester, this semester was particularly emotional for me. I was more irritable and frustrated than ever before. I found myself on the verge of snapping at everyone and everything around me. Don’t get me started on my memory; it was like a sponge where it soaked up all of the information but was squeezed by the immense pressure. I knew that I was emotionally stressed because my lower back has never played up like that (even though I slipped on the wet footpath in front of the main campus).

But nevertheless, the three of us managed to catch up and treated it as a farewell hangout instead. Let's just say that it was full of emotions because it would be the last time that I'll be in the same area as them. Our friendship would now be tested by the distance and absence from each other's company. I'm not sure whether we'd be as close as before, but c'est la vie.

My coping mechanism was tested to the maximum at a news piece. Now I understand why people believed in ‘being there at the wrong place at the wrong time’. It initially numbed me, but there were subtle signs. My hands shook the minute I tried to do something. My heart raced the moment I thought about it. The fact that the exam was around the corner didn’t help me much either - in fact, I rocked up to the exam hall with a flat feeling (although my peer confessed that my eyes shouted stress).

Due to the flight arrangements and the end of my lease, I was unable to stay in my residence until the eleventh hour and had to reserve a room at the nearby hotel. This would have been alright, if not for the fact that the flight was delayed by close to 4 hours. It wasn’t exactly the welcome I looked for - and the beauty is that no one (including the on-ground staff) knew what caused the significant delay. The flight passengers were far from pleased and I don’t blame them because not everyone received the notification from the airline. I was rudely woken up by the text message and email about the delay - four hours before I was scheduled to make the trip to the airport.

December

It wasn’t originally my decision. Yet it brought everything forward due to the circumstances at that time. Doing so created one problem for me: the final grades would be released weeks after I flew out of the country. Seeing that I had a million things to deal with and screwed up with my exam revision in the end, I was ready to be contented with a bare pass (even though a low score in the six-unit course would drag my GPA even lower). It was something I came to terms in the penultimate year. If I’m forced to choose between a credit/distinction GPA and mental stability, I’ll take the latter. The perfect score wouldn’t be perfect if it came at the expense of my health, regardless of mental, emotional or physical.

Now that all of the scores have been confirmed, it’s a relief that I passed everything. I’m not happy with what I got, but considering that I barely focused on the exam revisions, it’s better than nothing. Otherwise, there would be more havoc involved - ranging from additional payment to flight arrangements. And I highly doubt the old folks would be willing to fork out another sum of dough for me to sit the supplementary exams.

A little dessert that was served complimentary with my pre-selected meal 

Put it this way, I already knew that things have changed the moment the flight touched down in KLIA. A wave of anger swam in my bloodstream and propelled me in the direction of the Customs and luggage carousel with hesitation. Returning was always the Plan B in the event that Plan A failed to work out. It no longer made a difference whether friends knew about my return or not; all I wanted was to live my life under the radar with a good job that allowed me to put my theoretical knowledge into practice.

Friends or no friends, it didn’t matter much.

The exposure abroad opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to society than meets the eye. Just because people are friends with each other, it wouldn’t mean that they are there for each other in times of need. Just because you have given someone a favor, it doesn’t mean that the favor would be returned. Promises made would not equate to promises being realized. When you are forced to live in a world that consists of dark thoughts while maintaining appearances, you have a different viewpoint on life. When you have to survive without so much of assistance from those whom you thought were your friends, you tend to have a skewed and a slightly biased view, if I may add. You may even arrive at the assumption that society is selfish and self-absorbent.

Maybe I’ll change my opinion when I have come to terms with my emotional battles. Maybe I’ll still maintain my viewpoints in the future. Only time will tell in which direction I lean towards.

I bought myself some time through a freelance job to ease my transition from academics into the working world. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy the academic journey because I wasn’t … at home. Most international students would also tell you that there are hidden struggles of studying abroad that isn’t talked much about. I’ll leave it at that; maybe this would be expanded as a standalone post in the future. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

Here’s to hoping that 2019 would treat me better than 2018. I don’t have the reserve energy to deal with another crappy year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

12/28/18

I know I sacrificed a part of myself in exchange for the stability of my sanity after I was embroiled in a messy, emotional situation for some time. Half a heart and a half a brain are now missing, scattered somewhere in the ocean far from me. It’s now a dark world in my brain, full of thoughts that can’t see the light of day. Thoughts that have the potential to scare anyone. Thoughts that no one is aware of.

I won’t say that I’m happy with all of the decisions made because it had to be done out of necessity. If I had a choice, I’d take a divergent route as it would’ve lead to a different ending. And perhaps I’d be happier. But it is what it is. I can’t whine. I can only blame the cruel stroke of fate for this. There should be an element of excitement now that I’ve passed all of my courses. Yet I feel numb - there is no sense of merriment. Not even a sense of dread at what is to come. Maybe I haven’t fully grasped the situation or maybe my brain is preoccupied with dark thoughts that I can’t think straight. The fact that I dreamt of a corpse could be indicative of my emotional state of mind.

The dream… I'm exhausted with maintaining appearances because it's causing a personality split in me. I can't assume the role of someone unaffected by the tides of hell when I'm struggling to silence my demons. It's not fun and not healthy either. For half of my life, what people see of me is not who I truly am. But I've done it in such a way that very, very few people could see it. Call it talent. Call it sheer luck. Call it whatever you want, but the truth is those struggles are mine and only for me to deal with.



Things changed the moment the plane landed on Malaysian soil and maneuvered the runway to its dedicated gate of arrival. What has made it worse is the fact that I'm like the odd one out. Reverse culture shock? I don't think so. I've returned often enough to be familiarized myself with the changes and updates surrounding the place. I feel like a vagabond in search of a permanent home where I can lay my sword and finally rest in peace. If you think I mean another beating heart, you're dead wrong, lol. I need to treat and repair myself first before I have enough energy to invest in a relationship with someone. Relationships take a lot of work from both parties; it's not a matter of boy meets girl, both fall in love, and voila. A lot of relationships wouldn't crumble like a deck of cards if it's as easy as it looks.

It’s a surprise that things turned out this way because it was not even in the scope of my original plan. If there’s something in life that I should learn from, it’s to expect and accommodate the unexpected twists. Nothing in life is perfect - because it wouldn’t be called life if things go according to plan.

Look, things changed the moment the plane landed on Malaysian soil. As the pilot navigated the curvy runway and brought the aircraft to a slow stop, my heart turned colder than snow. Inasmuch as I didn't fancy it, I had to be a meaner version of myself after what I experienced when I needed someone at the fragile moments. Oddly enough, I didn't want anyone to accompany me in the silence or even their words of encouragement. What I wanted was someone who would fully empathize and share the burden back then.

The end of the story is that I didn't get what I wanted, which wasn't a surprise. I've eaten enough crap to understand that life isn't all rosy. I just have to expect the unexpected and learn to work around it without losing my brains and spewing angst.

I don't know if all international students returning to their home countries will experience this because we're all unique in our own ways. I feel like I'm the odd one out, unable to blend into either culture. There's something missing at both ends of the spectrum. It makes me think whether I'm a vagabond in search of a permanent home full of peace, devoid of pain. If you think another beating heart would be the answer, you're dead wrong, lol. There are parts of me that needs treating and repairing before a relationship with someone can even take place. I'm not in the position to say much, but relationships require humongous sacrifices and effort from a couple. It's not a matter of boy meets girl, they hit off, and they become boyfriend and girlfriend. If it's as easy as it looks, there wouldn't be a trail of heartbreak.

Spoken like someone who's lived through it, huh.

The year is now coming to an end in a day or two - by the time I manage to complete this post and get it published (since I now have a tendency to procrastinate and delay everything to the last possible minute, especially if it is not work-related). Honestly speaking, it was an emotionally draining year for me to the point where I no longer recognize who I am.

Here’s to hoping that next year would be much better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Gray Area



Exhaustion is thick in the air
With the memories of someone torn between two worlds.
A story of not belonging,
She's the odd one standing out.

Her smile is fake,
Glued together by weariness.
Her heart is cracked,
Dripping blood in its wake.

The misery she suffers,
The burden she experiences,
All are weighing down her shoulders.
The pain and aches suffocate her.

Her eyes speak of indescribable pain.
Yet no one understands.
Running deep into the forest,
She seeks solace from the silent torture.

Weaving from tree to tree,
Her inner demons are at her heel,
Ready to prance on her
And bring her down - once and for all.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

12/16/18

Now that I've been back for a while, the subtle changes that I've pushed aside are more evident. Maybe not for others, but definitely for me. Favors would not necessarily be returned once it has been given out, regardless of the nature of the relationship between both parties. It also doesn’t matter if it was willingly given or forced out of someone.

It is for that reason that I’ve kept people at arm’s length. I don’t want them to hurt me or flex their muscles at me. It has been more than once that they have proven me right: they are only there to wait for my downfall before laughing at me. I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve experienced such strong disappointment with former friends that I dropped them like hot potatoes.

I’ve also had moments where time and distance have erased the effects of their actions, leaving a faded scar instead. I’ve also had moments where I completely want to be left to my own devices. I’ve also had moments where I want to throw in the towel and take the next flight out of town without a goodbye. If my presence is not recognized by anyone and if there is only more pain for me, why should I stick around?

The things that I have seen and experienced have shaped me into someone who is easily suspicious of everything and everyone around her. I believe this is what you call trust issues. I don’t take words at face value anymore; I prefer to be proven wrong in my assumptions rather than be proven correct that someone or something is bad. Inasmuch as I want to pinpoint it on my major, it is irrelevant to the emotions that I now feel. Otherwise, it doesn’t explain why I was able to feign normalcy and suffer those thoughts alone? I never believe in speaking with anyone (including counsellors) about this because it’s better to deal with it on my own. That’s what I believe is good for myself, but I won’t recommend it, especially if you’re dangerously close to the dark route.

You'll feel more at ease once you're back, they said.

And how do I feel? Nothing’s changed. I feel as cranky and snappy as ever, ready to growl at anyone who blocks my way.

Give it some time, they also said.

How much more time do I need then? I’ve lived half a life on borrowed happiness. I can’t remember when I last felt happy and able to laugh out loud at something. I don’t want to snaffle more happiness from the rightful owners and it’s not fair for either one of us either. They also deserve a shot at finding their own merriment. How much more time do I need before I’m finally and truthfully happy? If the answer is the rest of my life, then I’ll surrender. Life is not worth living in that case; I need something at the end of the tunnel as an encouragement. Yet I don't want to create a cauldron of mess when I'm facing difficulties in dealing with the previous and current ones. It’s not easy to deal with the aftermath; it’s easier to cause problems but tougher to resolve them.

Whether we have received the shorter end of the stick or not, we all have our own battles to fight. I’ve friends who struggle with their demons behind closed doors. I can tell you from my personal experience that it’s depressive and weakening to tackle the inner demons on a daily basis. It is not easy to plaster a smiling face when you feel crap inside. But the signs are still there - it’s just a matter of how well you suppress/hide it. I've done this; I've lied through my teeth that everything is okay when all I want is to explode in anger and turn my bedroom upside down. So, I am aware of the dangers of bottling your emotions with the misbelief that you're best off alone. I won't expect everyone to understand the situation because they are contented with their lives and haven’t been dealt with a terrible deck of cards yet. Suffering and pain don’t exactly exist in their dictionaries.

Maybe that explains why I'm able to comprehend and empathize with their final decisions. When you are pushed to the edge or cornered and unable to crawl out, all you experience is emotional stress and loneliness. You find that living in the dark abyss has more peace. Days and weeks and months later, you can no longer think straight and want to end it all. You don't bat an eyelid when you choose your method; you just want it to be foolproof and effective.

Yet it is only when tragedy strikes that regrets are thrown around like flower petals. Here’s the thing; there’s no point about crying for the dead when all chances of intervening or making a difference have been blown away by the light winds.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Shipping from ADL to PKG: My Experience

Note: Only those familiar with IATA codes would know the acronyms that I used in the title. Also, since the following is based on my personal experience and interaction with the maritime industry, it might not reflect your situation. 

I never expected that I’ll have to do this, seeing that it was not part of my original plan when I left the country. What happened was the total opposite of what I gauged. After spending four years abroad for my studies, I had no choice but to ship 75% of my personal belongings back home, sigh.

Although I knew a tad bit about the shipping industry, I still fumbled with the process - since I didn't know the right people in Adelaide. I only know one and he's based in Port Klang instead.

Most of the shipping companies/container lines (I've forgotten the correct descriptive word for this) would not handle shipments from individuals, only those from companies due to bad experiences in the past. The next best choice is the freight forwarders. I won't blame you for assuming that freight forwarders would provide an expensive quotation. This is not necessarily true, according to Papa Carrie's former colleague. It all depends on your number of boxes, the overall measurement and weight, and whether it is FCL or LCL (full container load or less than container load).

After going through the right channels, I was given the contact list of freight forwarders in Adelaide. I eventually settled on one that I felt comfortable with. The quotation is based on the overall measurement in cubic meters and the need for a removal specialist/mover, but the person in charge should be able to assist you in converting it from centimeters to cubic meters. What I did was to provide the individual measurements in length x width x height in cm to the freight forwarder. The freight forwarder converted it into cubic meters and included my request for a removal specialist into the estimated quotation.

Once the preliminary matters were settled, I had to deal with the next stage. This was completely foreign to me… and I guess it's not something that most people are familiar with unless they are moving cross country or abroad with their furniture/personal effects. There would be a shipping document that you'd need to fill in after you've accepted the quotation - in which the details for consignee and consignor are needed, the number of boxes to be shipped and the commercial value of the products (if applicable) on top of the overall measurement and weight of the boxes.

I'd suggest that you keep a draft packing list by your side as you go along with packing the boxes. The draft packing list would be beneficial because you’d know what you have packed, in the event that there is a change of plans. Trust me, it happened to me twice. Furthermore, it would be of great assistance when it arrives at the destination. I know this is common sense, but label all of the boxes with numbers and an address label on each one. The freight forwarder would also need the finalized list for Customs declaration and clearance at the departing port (mine was Port Melbourne).

Another tip would be to obtain your quotation well-ahead of time from different freight forwarders and choose the one that you are most comfortable with. You can gather the list by researching on Google or asking family and friends for their contacts. Also, start your packing at least 6 weeks before your intended date of departure. This would save valuable time; I did mine at such a rush that I didn't properly focus on my exam revision. Let's just say that it did affect my final grade for all three courses. No complaints there.

Once the container has sailed from the originating destination, the freight forwarder will send another document to you. It's called the bill of lading and contains important details about your shipment, such as the vessel number and carrier as well as the estimated date of arrival for you.

At the time of this posting, my shipment is on a container with other people's cargoes somewhere and on the way to Port Klang. Based on my understanding of the maritime industry, the consignee would need a local forwarder's service to clear the cargo and deliver it to the intended address. You wouldn't need it if you are familiar with the local laws; just pay the Customs fees and you're able to arrange for the transport accordingly. I'll update this post after my shipment has arrived at my residence and all of the boxes have been unpacked.

The process should be the same worldwide - only the maritime requirements would differ.

Update 17th December 2018: I have spoken to Papa Carrie's former colleague on this and he confirmed the process is the same once the shipment has arrived at the destination. You'll need to appoint a freight forwarder to clear the shipment and organize your own transport from then on. If you have used an international freight forwarder who has worldwide branches, this process is made simpler as you just contact tthe local branch in your destination and take it from there.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Review of Ibis Styles Grosvenor, North Terrace, Adelaide

Note: The following is based on my personal experience so it might differ for you, my readers. 


As the lease for my apartment and the flight time differed, it didn’t leave me with much choice but to spend the night in a hotel in the city. So, that’s what I did - to save anyone else the trouble of sending me to the airport before sunrise.

The check-in process was easier than expected as I paid for the online reservation in full and in advance. I figured that it would provide me with a peace of mind if I did so. The receptionist would require you to provide a photo ID (either your passport or a driver’s license if you are a tourist from interstate) and the same credit/debit card that you used to make the reservation. Based on what I inquired earlier, there is a 1.3% surcharge for payments made with a credit/debit card. If it is a cash payment, there is a deposit of AUD $50 that the hotel would hold in the event that you break or damage something in the room. The online reviews that I read as part of my research revealed that there is limited elevator access for Ibis Styles hotel rooms and only available for the ones on the 2nd floor. I was worried about this as I didn’t want to lug the heavy luggage, only to climb the stairs to access the assigned room. Walking the alley of Mercury Grosvenor Hotel to reach the access for Ibis Styles was alright with me because what was most important was getting the luggage to the room.


The room wasn’t as cramped as expected when I opened the door. Maybe it’s because it was an overnight stay. Or maybe it’s because I’m used to staying in a smaller-sized hotel room. If there is a glass window and bare necessities (such as a clean, comfortable bed), I’m all good. Although you’d be greeted by a bed and a study table after you enter the room, there is some floor space to move around without bumping into the furniture. With that being said, it is a reasonably-sized room for me but may be too small for other occupants. Facing the bed is a cabinet to hang your clothes and an extra pillow. I searched high and low for the given pair of hotel slippers, but couldn’t find it as I forgot to bring my own from home. Next to the cabinet is the coffee and tea making facilities. There are packets of Nescafe Blend 43 and Dilmah on one side and the water kettle. The fridge is at the bottom while the TV is at the top. I didn’t notice any free bottled water, so I presumed that it was not included in the hotel rate. There is access to purified water in the laundry room for Mercure Hotel guests but never asked if this extended to Ibis Styles guests as well.


The blinds were lowered down as the afternoon progressed into the evening because the room faced other buildings and especially the floor to ceiling windows of a nearby hotel’s lounge area. I didn’t want to run the risk of indecent exposure to the public - which required me to use one of two options: either I switched on the ceiling lights or the lamp on the study table. The ceiling light was rather dim and made me feel even colder than I should, so I relied on the table lamp instead. This came with another benefit; the lamp provided enough warmth for the room to be toasty. A reasonable person in my position would’ve used the heater, but cold air circulated throughout the room instead. It didn’t help that it was a cold, rainy spring evening - and gave me the feeling that I was back in Taipei during their wintry season. I didn’t raise this with the hotel staff as it was an overnight stay and I wore a warm hoodie to sleep.



The important thing that I wanted was the availability of hot water in the toilet, so its size didn’t matter much. I observed that the toilet was smaller than average, but the space constraint was manageable. You’d have to remember to bring your own toothbrush and toothpaste as it is not given. There was only a small bottle of hair shampoo and a bar of soap by the toilet sink when I entered.

My initial plan was to skip the hotel continental breakfast and catch a cup of coffee before my morning flight. As a result of the lengthy delay, I purchased it (AUD $ 20) at the eleventh hour. The coffeehouse was small with access being shared by guests from both hotels so you can imagine the congestion when there are too many people at the same time. If there is not enough space, the guests would be directed to use the seating space at the bar downstairs. You can purchase it in advance, but only through a direct reservation with the hotel before payment. I wouldn't recommend buying it in advance unless you are absolutely confident that you'd be having the hotel breakfast.

The check-out process would be swift, especially if you don't have any outstanding amount with the hotel. You just surrender the key card to the receptionist on duty and an invoice would be printed. When the person in charge discovered that I was flying home to Malaysia, he took the initiative to wish me ‘Selamat Jalan’. (‘Selamat Jalan’ means Bon Voyage or Goodbye in Bahasa Malaysia.)

For the price that I paid (AUD $107), I believe that it was worth the money spent. I didn't need a higher starred hotel for the overnight stay; I just needed a place to crash before the morning flight. The rate warranted the services provided to me, but I can only speak for my own experience.

I guess this would be one of the hotels that I’ll consider if and when I’m having a short visit to Adelaide. It’s due to the accessibility to the tram and train services. Furthermore, it is within walking distance to Rundle Mall and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. The tram route also extends to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

Things to Note
  • No free pair of hotel slippers
  • Bottled water isn’t provided, although there is access to filtered water at the laundry room in Mercure
  • No free toothbrush and toothpaste
  • The toilet is compact and small
  • The heating system doesn’t work well as it should
  • Elevator access is only available for the rooms on the 2nd floor. Other floors are accessible by stairs instead
  • Breakfast is NOT provided in the hotel rate. It is charged separately.
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