Rockin’, ass-whoppin’ scholar

First off, I have something I’d love to say. This will mean nothing to anyone who has not attempted "Cult of Personality", Expert Mode in Guitar Hero III. Cult of Personality, I freaking dommed your ass. Who’s the God of Rock? Me. Yeah that’s right, me. So shove it.

That said and done (yes, done, that’s right, I did it, I finally passed it), I ended up seeing the physio today after several weeks of waiting. I took some anti-inflammatories a while ago and stopped training at the end of October last year so I’ve had a good long break. I tried a few stretches and exercises, but they seemed to aggravate the injury further so I just stopped entirely. I’ve been dead set keen on resuming training, and seeing as my legs haven’t been bothering me much lately, I sought the professional opinion of the physio. Regardless of what he said, I would get back into it, but I just wanted to know if my legs would fall off in the process. He basically said things were okay, not perfect, and my injury would worsen if I continued training, but as long as I could tolerate it there was no serious problem. Fine by me! That very hour I donned my ceremonial garb and dropped by the dojan.

I cannot adequately describe in words my feelings as I returned to the training hall. I was terribly excited as I was getting ready, but as soon as I genuinely entered, I didn’t know what to do. Master Ross saw me and smiled wide, immediately leaving his class to greet me. He seemed so happy, I was surprised and very grateful. Mum explained what had happened and he told me to take it easy and go lightly to start off. As soon as I got on the training floor, I knew nothing had changed. Everybody fought in exactly the same way, with exactly the same habits. Despite being entirely out of practise, my body still remembered my training and I’d lost none of my old technique. My speed and power had dropped notably, but I’m not going to push myself.

In the coming months, I hope to achieve my black belt. After that, I’m going to buy my new uniform (I’ve refused to by the ‘advanced’ one until the day I can wear a black belt), learn another poomse and a few grabs, and leave until my legs have healed. If that’s years from now, or never, I will come to accept that. I wish very much to start aikido, and yoga if I find the time.

As to uni, well, I’ve been going there every day. Mornings have been highly unproductive, and so, very stressful. Afternoons at uni have been glorious- it’s so exciting, it feels… I feel accomplished, just for going. I’ve signed up for a stack of extra classes to learn how to cope with work and uni life, so I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time there, squeezing in work every now and then. I wonder if I’ll be this enthusiastic a month from now? Eep.

So that’s my life in a nutshell. I’m not getting as much social time as I’d like, but I don’t know, we’ll see if things get better next semester when I organise my timetable early. For now, I rather urgently need to sleep, so… Good night, dear readers, and best of luck to all of you!

Malaysia ’08

Skimming over the last entry, I figured no one would be arsed reading it so I’m replacing it by this slightly more succinct summary, which I emailed to my friend.

1: Arrive in Malaysia, seeing all the relatives. Struggling to adapt
because no one speaks English and I’m being generally ignored.
Day 2: Ditto. Move to Thailand. Tour guide explains things in Mandarin = sleeping on the bus.
Day 3: Getting used to the food, very bored + lonely. Stopped in Myanmar, met beggars, birds and street urchins.*
Day 4: Chinese New Year. Traditional gambling over card games ensued for the next week. Visited Laos by boat.
5: Elephant Park** and orchard. A man on the road had set up a shooting
gallery with a home made crossbow, 20 baht per shot, which is about 5
shots for 30 cents. Traditional Thai massage that lasted for 2 hours. I had no idea you could draw it out that long.
Day 6: Back to KL, Malaysia. Felt very ill.
7: Strangely weak + ill. Visited my millionaire uncle’s farm and the
mansion he has there. Rode a pony and fell off it after ten seconds
trying to avoid a branch. Visited a massive Buddhist temple at night.
People were selling things both inside and out- Jesus would have
overturned a few tables, I think.
Day 8: Idling. Shopping. Paid a
corrupt police officer RM20 for not wearing a seatbelt so we didn’t get
into trouble. He was wearing an anti-corruption badge.
Day 9: Yoga
with my beloved cousin Yi Qian- an amazing experience. Seriously
contemplating taking up yoga this year. Spent the day with Yi Qian,
eating cheesecake and catching up; the happiest day of the trip.
Day 10: Began to feel sick. Spent most of the day dry wretching. Shopping + brief stint of internet.
Day 11: Very sick. Moved to Penang, where I’d spent most of my holidays as a kid.
12: Continuing to recover. Very nostalgic, getting slightly better.
Attempted to climb Penang Hill- just like Mt Kinabalu, it crushed my
naive adventuring spirit. Lots of gambling.
Day 13 + 14: Missing. Mostly gambling, reading, internet.
Day 15: Return home. Still sick, but getting better.

So that’s pretty much my whole holiday! As to the asterisks…
Myanmar, beggars could be found every few meters. Some of them
children, some of them old women, one of them with a bent-back leg. All
of my relatives cautioned me against giving them money, so I didn’t. I
just turned away; it was easier to ignore them because everyone else
was too. Looking back, I gravely regret that. Poverty in Myanmar is
astounding, and some of the girls that walked around with trays of toys
and paraphernalia just looked so desperate to sell things that I got
the impression their survival depended on it. I felt very guilty to
constantly walk away. However, one such girl was selling little hollow
reed-baskets about the size of baseballs. I wasn’t interested, but my
uncle told me what was inside and I bought as many as I could (though
not nearly enough). In each basket was a tiny native bird, trapped
without food or water. If you bought the basket, you could set it free.
I released seven, but had I only split that 1000 baht note I could have
freed them all. Once again, my relatives stopped me from wasting money.
When I left Thailand, I had 6500 baht leftover. ($1AU = 30 baht)

*The elephant
rides initially appeared to be a form of profit-based animal cruelty.
The driver kept yelling at it and hitting its head with a stick, or
sometimes a metal hook. I felt so guilty, and refused to feed the
elephants or encourage the park in any way. However, the elephant show
eventually warmed my heart again because they looked like they were
having a fairly good time, and it was incredible watching them paint
(they’re better artists than me, for sure), play soccer and challenge a
woman to a dart contest. I eventually decided that they were looked
after fairly well, being fed treats all day by tourists and protected
from predators and enemies.

So that was my whole holiday, in a nutshell. One more thing: Yi Qian! Hurry up and get over here. I have to pay you back for Secret Recipe!


"What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?"
                                                                                  -George Eliot

Being the Saturnight before I leave for Malaysia/Thailand (on Monday), I’ve been frantically trying to tie up loose ends. As I was going through my drawer of ‘Stuff I’ll look at later’ (a drawer which contains documents from early last year), I found a few sheets of newspaper someone had handed to me. It was about human rights in China, and how the Olympic should be encouraging national standards of social justice. The stories I read broke my heart. I thought of all the thousands of people who were being unrighteously imprisoned, extraordinary levels of censorship (journalism is the third most dangerous job in the country, next to policing and something else) and things of the sort. It made me recall the ruckus people bring up- customers at work give us hell for not stocking a certain deodorant, or not having any Kit-e-cat left. They complain about being ripped off an extra 30 cents for a packet of biscuits, they tell their friends not to shop at Coles.

People in China are dying. And if they revolt, mass imprisonment and murder, which is swept under the rug by the government. I won’t pretend to know anything about the way China’s run, but if half the stories in that newspaper are true, it’s almost beyond hope. I don’t know what "it" is- China, social justice, humankind in general, but it truly is heartbreaking. As I sat at my desk, forcing myself to read article after article, to better know the state of the world, I cried. I don’t know what to do. Hundreds of thousands of people are having everything stolen from them, and I’m still running around trying to find Pepsi Max for someone who doesn’t particularly want it. The problems I tackle are nothing compared to what’s happening around the world. And if I showed the same care and dedication to the problems of every single person on the planet, it would overwhelm and quite possibly kill me.

It’s about there that I remembered the World Vision booklet I’d also found in the drawer. The quote at the very end of the booklet gave me chills for minutes as I sat there and thought about it.

"I can’t do everything for everybody, but I can do something for somebody."
                                                         -Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision.

There are so many problems in the world, so many things that need help. I’ve always found it hard to work with other people- I prefer doing things my way, in my time. Still, it cannot be denied that the greatest accomplishments of humankind have always been in groups- the united people are stronger than any challenge. I can’t change the world. Martin Luther King could not change the world- he inspired others to. I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to be a figurehead, but even if I donated all my money, even if I became a social worker, even if I did volunteer to clean up the environment, I will never be able to save everyone. But I can make a difference to a precious few with these finite years I have been given.

If you care about the world you live in, I ask you with utmost sincerity to do your part. I don’t care how you do it- donate blood, sponsor a child, give a charity $2 instead of 20c. Hell, say "bless you" when someone sneezes- it’ll brighten their day a little. All I ask is that you help make the world a better place. Once again in the words of George Eliot, What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?