Shit Show

I'm not sure there ever has been another country on earth in recorded history, that has ever gone downhill so fast, save for being invaded by a vastly technologically superior country. Things are all going to hell in a handbasket, and its still just the first month of the year. Ho boy. Damn do I dislike this country more and more, day by day. 

School Anxiety

Today's the first day of my classes at Hunter and I feel anxious. One is that I haven't had anything remotely resembling a schedule since May last year and feel worried about time management, and the other is that I'm starting a program that (appears to me at least) to be removed from the usual purely academic and international setting and instead one is that is very local and in a culture I'm not fully familiar or comfortable with. For instance today, the first class, will be held at the campus school rather than the main Hunter campus itself. The idea of attending a lesson in a location like that makes me feel a whole bunch of irrational worries, beyond the usual "what if I turn up and no one else is there?"

Urgh.

Nutella Blondie Brownies




The last time I remember baking was more than 10 years ago [Though as I continued writing I remembered baking blueberry pie when I was 17-18 years old]. It was when I was still attending church in Singapore as a teenager, and I wanted to impress the people in my Sunday School class with my baking skills. I was probably 15 years old. I was going to make muffins from a recipe in my Home Economics textbook, a recipe that I had actually made a few times before to tasty perfection. 
Problem was this time, I had forgotten to get fresh milk. Instead I used powdered milk as a substitute and hoped for the best. When the muffins came out, they were rock hard. I don't know why I didn't abandon the idea after that, but still persisted and brought them to church. Sure they were hard, but they still tasted good to me, and so I naively thought that was good enough, They're like crunchy cookies, I thought. 
Boys being boys of course, they made fun of my muffins and talked about how they were as hard as rocks. Although they were my friends and I knew it was good-natured ribbing, I still felt hurt. I felt like I had failed and had embarrassed myself in front of the people I most wanted to impress (ah, I never want to be a teen again). 
I never made that recipe again. And for that matter stopped baking completely for the next few years until a friend went gaga over blueberry pie and I made it for her when I realised it couldn't be found anywhere for purchase in Singapore. The second time I made the pie for some other friends, it was so goopy it collapsed, and I lamented my baking skills once more.
Flash forward to this week, when I was stretching in the gym after a run and looking at reddit as I cooled down. Someone had posted a photo of brownies he had made and someone else attached a link to the recipe. My first thought when I saw it was "Hah! Baking! Never going to do that again." and I looked at the recipe out of curiosity, and I realised it didn't look very hard at all and I already had half of the ingredients on the list. I realised I could actually make it, and that this might be one of the last times where I had the chance to be able to spontaneously bake anything on a weekday. 
And so when I went grocery shopping afterwards (a planned trip), I started gathering the items on the list. Things like soft brown sugar (never heard of this before this recipe), vanilla essence and baking powder. When I got home I realised I didn't even have a whisk, so I instead used a wooden spatula. The recipe called for piping out the dough and nutella, and I instead used my (very clean!) hands and the back of a spoon. 
When the baking was done, I anxiously pulled the tray out of the over and sliced into it. Then I popped it into my mouth, and it was good. I felt happy and relieved. And then I sliced it and distributed it into 3 containers, and told Jon to bring 2 containers to work the next day when he got home from work. Because in baking it, I had seen exactly how much sugar and butter went into it, and felt slightly sick at the thought of how unhealthy it was, and wanted to spread the unhealthiness around, hahaha.
So here is my tale of baking again, after several years.

News News

Just read a news report that a tailor, who runs a shop on a street parallel to the one I'm living on, was stabbed several times and robbed of $80 (!!!) just yesterday around noon. I remember hearing a lot of sirens around that time and wondered what was happening.

Reading about it just makes me feel really disappointed as a whole about the state of the world. 

A Rare Religious Post

After an emotionally trying week (wedding prep + MIL), stepping into church this week felt like a welcome breath of fresh air. For the past few months I've been dropping by Madison Avenue Baptist Church whenever Jon is unavailable on Sunday mornings (it is also conveniently a brisk 10 min walk from my current place), and have so far found the church extremely agreeable with my existing notions of Christianity (acceptance of LGBTQ+, political and social activism). The Rev in charge, Susan Sparks, typically delivers hilarious and heartfelt sermons that I love and enjoy, and today I was looking particularly forward to seeing her and listening to her sermon.

This week however, the Rev was nowhere to be seen. Instead it was the Associate Pastor Rev Hutto who was going to lead the entire service, and I felt the slightest twinge of disappointment. Either way, I was still happy to have made it to service this weekend. The sermon Rev Hutto delivered this week however, was beautiful and amazing, and very befitting of the whole political situation swirling around the presidential inauguration.

Rev Hutto started off by saying that he originally had another sermon planned, but had decided that he need to address the events over the last 48 hours: namely the inauguration, counter-protests, and most prominently, the Women's March. The scripture reading was Exodus 1:8 to 2:10, and Rev Hutto's sermon spoke about how biblical society, or even society at large today, constantly ignores, undervalues and underestimates women, but that God uses this underestimation to still carry out his plans. It was a beautiful sermon. And I'm the type that usually nods off during sermons (though admittedly that hasn't yet happened since I've started attending this church).

So here it is: my first religiously themed blogpost since I've started writing this thing.

A podcast of the sermon can be found here. Look for the sermon on 22nd Jan, 2017. 

Last Post of 2016

Today's the last day of 2016, and every year around this time I try to take a moment to settle down and think about the year that has passed. Unfortunately this year because of a combination of down-ed wifi (the cat likes sitting on the router, turning off the wifi, and it took me a while to figure that out), a present heightened stage of agitation (Jon and I just finished playing 3 rounds of 7 Wonders Duel, where I won the last game but felt throughout that I was constantly losing and so felt defeated even though I eventually won) and time pressure (we need to leave to go have an early dinner with his friend soon), I find myself unable to fully sum up my thoughts about this year.

Overall, I have sat down and written much less. Although by count not the year where I've written the least, it's the year where I have written the second-least. Before I blamed this on being busy, but this year, especially the second half, I haven't been busy at all. In fact, I find myself melting away from boredom, but I suppose that in itself is a deterrent to writing. I find my life and myself boring, and ponder how things ended up this way. Alternatively I find myself panicking - what if this is all I'll ever amount to be? What if I really am a good-for-nothing? So then that's when I try to stop thinking altogether and distract myself. So in this case, my idle mind has really become the devil's workshop. And I feel much less optimistic about my future prospects, though in reality they remain the same as ever. All this from 6 months of being at home because I can't find work.

The most important thing that happened this year of course was that I got married, albeit in a civil ceremony. It means I have made the decision, together with someone else, to remain committed to this person and relationship for the rest of my life, which is of course no small potatoes. We attended a pre-cana session as a requirement of the Catholic Church a few weeks ago, and it was enlightening. It reminded me at least of the commitment I have made to Jon, and that we are in this journey called life together.

The last main thing about this year is of course that Saffron came into our lives. From waking me up at 7am in the morning meowing pitifully because he's hungry to using me as a scratching post (WHYY?! He has actual scratching posts that he doesn't want to use), having Saffron in our lives has made it that much more well-rounded, meaningful and hilarious. Just over a month into this, I'm still woefully bad at cleaning up cat puke, but now every time I hear the Knights of Cydonia by Muse, I always think of Saffron, because for some reason every time he sits on my laptop, that song plays on itunes even though I haven't listened to it in ages before.

So to end of this year's last post, 3 pictures of Saffron. who is such a crazily good-looking cat:




Carrie Fisher and Star Wars

Feeling slightly sad now at the news that Carrie Fisher has passed away. I'm not one to typically mourn or feel sad at celebrities dying, but Carrier Fisher remains particularly fresh in my mind I suppose, because Jon and I watched Star Wars Rogue One just last week when he was off work and having a week-long vacation. We saw it at the Union Square Regal cinema, and our immense enjoyment of the movie was not the least dampened by the fact that it was easily of the the crappiest cinemas I have ever been to.

As everyone surely knows by now *SPOILER ALERT*, all the main characters die at the end of Rogue One when the Death Star aims at the planet they're on. The surprise appearance of Princess Leia right at the end before the movie cuts to the credits is the scene that reminds the audience that the movie does end on a hopeful note, to be continued in Episodes 4, 5 and 6. And seeing her, as I was feeling terribly sad (and horrified!) about the characters all dying, made me feel somewhat better. It also made me want to watch Episodes 4, 5 and 6 again, though of course it's always a question of when Jon will be free enough to watch the movie together.

In the mean time, I shall feel that little bit sadder.

Swing Time

Earlier today I went for a reading of Swing Time by Zadie Smith at the 92Y with Shirin. It felt pretty awesome to see an author that I respected in person and to be able to listen to her read her work in her voice. Although I haven't always been a fan of all her books (felt disappointed by NW especially when contrasted with Penelope Lively's How It All Began), I have been an admirer since I first picked up a pirated copy of White Teeth in a tiny bookstore in Sapa, Vietnam, when I was backpacking in South East Asia with my Dad in 2011. So of course I jumped at the chance to listen to her speak and do a reader for her latest book, Swing Time. I was also excited because I thought the book explicitly involved swing dance, but I think it just involves regular dance.

Anyway as much as I enjoyed the evening, there was a part of her conversation with the moderator, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, where she mentioned that she wrote the book with black women in mind, and that made me feel awfully put out. It made me feel excluded, which of course would make anyone feel not-very-good, but it also made me feel sad because there really wasn't any one writer out there that would write for me in the same ethnic-trying-to-traverse-the-Western-World-sense way. There is no author out there that I know of that has written anything close to what I feel, think, and experience as I navigate the world, and so I rely on the writings of outsider-like figures to echo my inner voice. And of course that makes me sad, as I feel alone in the things I feel and worry about.

Growing up I always wanted to be a writer, not as a main occupation, but as something in addition to my regular work. I wanted to pour out my embellished experiences and deep emotions, for inside me I knew I could write about universal themes that linked human experience. As I grew older however the strings of words, coherent introspective thoughts and universal ideas have become even more fleeting and scanty. They have been crowded out by other things like worries, mental to-do lists and thoughts on more prosaic things. And so slowly, year by year, I find myself less able to feel like I can write, and at the same time am less inspired at length to sit down and write. It is a combination that can, and most probably will, mark the end of my teenage dream to write the novel. But of course for every time I am reminded that I am an outsider, the spark to write reignites, and it is only something time can tell whether I will be able to successfully follow through.

Kitty Litter and Floors

Since acquiring Saffron my floors, aside from the bits of kitty litter, have never been cleaner. This is because I find myself constantly wiping them down in order to get rid of the kitty litter, which while not in itself dirty, is incredibly annoying to walk on. It doesn't help that Saffron, as a male cat, is large for a cat and the constraints of our apartment mean that we only have a small space to put his litter box. This means of course that he kicks the kitty litter all around the area. URGH. Stupid cat.

The Revenant

I just finished reading The Revenant by Michael Punke in slightly over 24 hours. I can't think of the last time I've finished a novel this quickly. This is of course in part due to not really having anything else pressing to do, and in part to the lovely way the novel has been written and narrated. It reminded me quite a bit of both Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, books that I loved and read over and over again when I was a kid for its tales of human ingenuity. The Revenant of course is significantly more bloodier, but made me feel the same similar sense of wonder and intrigue I felt when I was reading those two books just under two decades ago. Oh how time flies!

Tutoring at 1960 First Ave

I've been tutoring twice a week in East Harlem at an after school program for Middle School students since late August, working with about ten Grade 7 boys and fifteen Grade 7 girls, and after a tough first few weeks I'm starting to become more and more used to the students and how the centre functions. Besides that I've also got my schedule for those days timed nicely too; for example it takes me about 10 mins to walk from the 103rd St subway to the centre, and so I must leave home by 3:15pm to be there by 4pm. In other words my Mondays and Wednesdays, other than any strange new behaviours by the students, has become rather routine - which I quite like.

Today however, as I walked to and fro from the centre, two strange things happened: a young adult walking along 103rd randomly decided to declare that he was in love with me and to marry him, and as I walked by Metropolitan Hospital I came across a middle-aged/elderly man openly urinating onto the sidewalk, apologising and turning away from me when he spotted me walking. It was, all in all, bizarre for an otherwise normal day, but still within the realm of normality for life in New York City.


 

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