Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Baking day...

Well, spent all morning baking dinner rolls and an 18th century creamed apple flan pie for tomorrow's dinner party (yep-- pastry's made from scratch too). I just love baking and cooking but sometimes, with the amount of entertaining David and I do, it gets a little bit ridiculous. Thank GOD I am just putting in the finishing touches to my assessed essays to be handed in on Friday (well, I'm hoping to hand it in on Thursday afternoon so that I can spend an uninterrupted Friday working on my dissertation and making the final prep to going up to Scotland on Saturday (YAY!).

Today is yet another beautiful day (19 degrees Celsius outside!!) so I'm really looking forward to getting the rolls out of the oven and cooling on the rack so I can go out to return books and enjoy some of the sunshine and warmth.

It's a busy day for me today as I have to get back, do some work, go to aerobics classes, get back, do more work, and go to bed.

Tomorrow's yet another busy day with marketing to be done in the morning, tutorial in the afternoon, prepping for the dinner party in the evening and trying to do work in between all of that palaver...

The busyness never ends...

Sunday, April 21, 2002

And the procrastination continues under the hazy heat of a warm spring Sunday...

I really cannot afford this procrastination. Yet there is something irresistible about lazing about on a warm spring Sunday. In fact, temperatures soared to 20 degrees Celsius today in the south of England. I went out without my coat for the second time in a month... hopefully, this weather will hold out for a while. It is pleasant at this temperature and hopefully it won't get too much hotter than this. Ah... but we all know that as soon as someone expresses the wish for continuous good weather here in the British Isles, the Big Kahuna decides to plunge us all back into miserable, rainy weather yet again. Oh well... the radio weather forecast did say that this weather is going to hold out across this coming week...

I guess it's back to working on my darn proposal and dissertation... can't do nothing about my shorter assessed essays until the final corrections by tutors that are due back early this coming week (tomorrow, I hope).

Sigh... we students must all be martyrs in Spring... while everyone else are out enjoying the weather, we are stuck inside our grim little rooms and grim big libraries like beetles plodding along and devouring acres of books...
Back in the Stress Saddle again...

Well, it's a beautiful Spring sunday-- just warm enough to wear shorts and sleeveless t-shirts out... and I am back in the stress saddle yet again. My to-do list is just full of work to do:

Item 1: Photocopy academic articles
Item 2: Write doctoral thesis proposal
Item 3: Do tons of reading
Item 4: Make tons of notes
Item 5: Whack tons of notes culled from tons of reading onto computer in more-or-less essay format

Oh boy...

Yeah, you can just hear the enthusiasm in my voice.

Nevertheless, at least I now know that I have a fellow sufferer called Paul Levett who, chances are, is in Sheffield sweating over a huge stack of papers as well. There is some consolation in shared suffering... especially when my darling boyfriend is off to London careening around enjoying himself with his friend who is stopping over on the way from Israel to NYC... oh sigh...

Anyway, I am still recovering from two straight days of exercise classes. I did a big aerobics thing on Friday and went to Pilates yesterday-- which is really good for flattening abs and getting a perky bottom and improving your posture and spinal alignment-- if you stick with it in the long run... At the moment, all my joints are screaming murder and I was really stiff this morning. I was going for another round of aerobics this morning but decided that it's better to recover for a day than to over-extend myself and end up with a pulled muscle or something... it's going to take a lot of discipline but now that I don't have a cappella rehearsals or committee meetings or anything else occupying my spare time, I might as well slot in exercise classes and get myself fit and babelicious-looking.

Ah... back to the grind...

Thursday, April 18, 2002

So What's New?

Yes ladies and gentlemen-- after a silence of a couple of weeks, I'm back blogging away.

At the moment, blogging still translates as "procrastintion" in Regina-speak. I just got off Yahoo messenger with Christy Carl after having told her that I have a doctoral thesis proposal to write and a shitload of reading for my next big paper to do but...

Oh well... I'm currently in relaxation mode anyway because by some fluke, I have managed to complete (or damn-well-near complete) my two assessed essays that are supposed to be turned in next Friday. It was a real pleasant surprise to walk into my tutorial on Monday and be told that my sati essay--yes, that essay that caused me to almost tear out my hair with frustration-- is excellent and ready to be handed in. My Modern Chinese History essay is still under review (for the second time) but essentially, I was told that it's in really good shape although the tutor thinks that I have a "Whiggish view of history" endemic among feminists. Well, what can I say? I am a feminist.

So elated am I that I've been lazing about reading trashy novels and sleeping late since Sunday. I even called my mom, who, by the way, now knows that I am dating David-- my Jewish hunnybear of 4 months from New York City. I could go into a whole lot of detail about David but at the moment, my whim is NOT to go into that whole lot of detail about my man. Basically, he's a mensch and although we have some problems, he makes me happy... which is more than I can say about the last two idiots I dated/semi-dated. Anyway, my mom didn't react too badly and promised not to tell Granma (who would throw an absolute fit if she knew).

Actually, the last couple of weeks have been pretty good to me since the whole a cappella fiasco. St Hugh's botch-up of my accomodation was resolved somewhat with the help of the tutor-for-graduates (Dr Luet Wong-- you are AWESOME!) although it remains to be seen whether I will be left in the same room as I am in now. It isn't as big as I would like but since I've already moved in and paid for my share of the extra second-hand fridge my housemates and I procured, staying put seems to be the best option available to my peace of mind at the moment-- and boy do I want some peace of mind.

So now that I've left a cappella far behind me, what now? Well, I guess that I'm looking into getting fit again-- as fit as I was at Sweet Briar College (that's SBC to those in the know!). So I'm taking a look at my eating habits and beginning to do low fat substitutes again. But even more exciting is that I have booked myself in for regular aerobics classes starting from tomorrow and pilates classes once a week. I might even go back to horseback riding if I have time. The great thing about where I'm living now is that I'm only 10 mins walk away from the fitness centre, 10 mins walk away from town, 10 mins walk away from North Oxford where some of my friends live and there are plenty of shortcuts to the Weds morning fresh produce market, the train and coach stations and cinemas. Even the bus stop immediately outside my house is on the main bus routes going from North Oxford to East Oxford via the City Centre-- the whole student route. Best of all, it's far away enough from town so the pesky tourists don't go by on those goddamn open-top buses with the loud tour guide every 10 mins. I haven't been biking for about 4 months now and I suppose I should resume biking around although I find that I get more exercise walking about so I guess biking might be shelved for another month.

It's funny-- I've just realised that it's the little things in life that make for a fairly happy and comfortable one...

Thursday, April 04, 2002

So what's new?

England seems to be in the grip of spring fever as, apart from Easter Sunday which rained and was pretty dismal with little sunshine, we've been having absolutely wonderful sunny spring weather since Monday. Yesterday and today are the warmest yet at 20 degrees celsius. It's great to be able to walk out without having to wear a coat during the daytime. With the sun out, everything appears to be brighter and chirpier. Moods seem to be lifted and grouchiness is at an all-time low...

... except for the fact that there had been a right mix-up in terms of settling accommodation for me. As usual, St Hugh's botched up things by losing my accomodation form and then telling me that I hadn't sent it in at all.

Friday, March 29, 2002

Simplying life in the Spring Sunshine... or not, as the case might be...

Well! Yet another gorgeous spring day-- truly a record for soggy old England indeed!

It's been a pretty low-key day today. Nothing spectacular. Tried to do some work on my Chinese Women essay but failed to motivate myself... so spent the day peacefully annotating Amy Tan's novels in prep for starting work on my huge-ass dissertation that's due in mid-June. Pretty much standard stuff-- mother-daughter relationships, cultural conflict and generational gaps. Interesting to me because it reflects so much of my relationship with my own mother. It's all a love-hate thing going on. I know she loves me but somehow, she can never express it in a way that didn't alienate or grate on me.

I grew up with no hugs, no periodic encouragement... only being over-fed, and being criticised very harshly "for your own good". Sometimes I think that I might have an easier time socialising and relating to people if I came from a more open, more rational family. But so do many people. I do think though, that in the particular case of the middle-class immigrant Chinese family, being an over-achiever with money, talent, looks, brains and status is valued more than the person. I was never told that my parents loved me for just who I am. I was only told that I could never measure up.

Sure, they showered me with material things-- birthday parties, extra-curricular lessons, expensive holidays abroad... but as I grew older, I guess I realised that what I wanted and needed more than anything in the world is their approval and their unconditional love... not love that says: 'I'll only love you if you do as I tell you to do', not love that says: 'I'll only approve of you if you do what I think is right for you.' When you grow up in an environment like that, with parents intent on keeping up with the Joneses, Laus, Pizofskis and everyone else down the road, when they keep comparing you to other people, somewhere along the line, you are going to get a pretty screwed up view of what a human being should be.

For the longest time, I was an elitist, just as my parents and their friends are elitists. I thought that by racking up achievement after achievement after achievement is sufficient to guarantee self-worth and the ability to hold my head up high in the world. But lately, I've been thinking that I might have been subscribing to a distorted, even wrong, view of how the world should be, and what a good, complete human being is.

Now, I'm not going to go on and on about being kind, considerate etc... All these are fine features to have as a human being. But damn-- it is HARD to achieve that sort of level of goodness... At the moment, I am just learning to let go, learning to accept myself... all over again. I thought I had it figured out, had it sussed out... but I guess I hadn't. So now, mired in my Quarter-Life-Crisis, I am having to start from scratch... it does give one food for thought because it just cancels out everything that has gone before and demands that you take a good hard look at yourself, take a good hard look at your life, and start weeding out everything that is not important in the long run. It's kinda like editing my essays... only so much more painful to toss out emotional baggage...

But being human, I suppose that this is part of life... I just hope I don't need to go through this too often... if this is what the quarter-life-crisis is like, I won't be holding my breath to encounter my midlife crisis...

Thursday, March 28, 2002

The Joys of a Day Off...

Today has been pretty much the first solidly good day I have had in absolutely ages.

First and foremost of all, I got to go out and catch some sunshine-- precious commodity in England for those in the know... and best of all: I got to take a pretty good walk running all over town for appointments and errands. It's good to get active!

But before that, I actually got some time to chat with the cleaner (who is a really nice lady who sticks up for the residents of my house when college decides to be mean to us and not provide basic things like a working cooker) and to a housemate of mine whom I don't see too often since he's always away doing the rounds at John Radcliffe hospital on his clinical classes.

I also got to tidy up some of my cupboards and shelves. Believe it or not, it can be pretty therapeutic pottering around doing a good clean-up. Vacumning is one of the best things to get all the stress out. Weeding out old clothes and things to donate to a charity shop is also pretty satisfying.

The tutorial went ok and it was pretty constructive. Thank god I don't have to restructure the essay again or do any extensive rewrites... and my tutor is confident that I can turn this draft into a piece of work to be proud of.

After that, I went for some Chai at Borders and ran into an acquaintance I hadn't seen for some time, and just chilled for an hour or so. And then, I rounded out the day by testing out my new DVD-- The Green Mile --while having dinner.

That film is really on the way to becoming one of my all-time favourite films. Not being a big fan of prison movies, there's something to be said for this one catching my fancy. Having said that, I am a pretty big fan of Tom Hanks and this one (aside from Sleepless in Seattle) has got to be one of his best films yet.

The themes of salvation, humanity and redemption in the face of the ultimate roadblock (death) can either be sickeningly inappropriate or soppy even in non-prison-genre films, but The Green Mile manages to pull it off in style even within such a traditionally grim genre. Of course, it has the same director as The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont) so perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that what appears to be a grim movie about death and imprisonment can actually become one of the most uplifting movies of all time. Even my mother-- who falls asleep watching anything on telly or at the cinema-- liked this movie when we first watched it on satellite tv last summer!

To me, this movie strikes a relevant chord inside my heart in the light of all that has been transpiring throughout this unfortunate year. Watching a story that so powerfully reaffirms the belief in goodness, atonement and paying one's dues to square off with God and karma just serves to highlight the fact that there's always something good that comes out of what seems to be infinitely bad or evil in a situation.

Somehow, it made me reflect and feel better about things so far even though I've been having a rough period culminating in where I am now-- one of the lowest points in my life so far with my a cappella group and integrity destroyed by a malicious ex-colleague, feeling unneeded and like a stumbling block to the catering committee I am supposed to be heading, being uncharacteristically inefficient and capable with the tasks and projects I've been involved in, having chicken pox pockmarks on my previously flawless complexion that is stubbornly refusing to fade, being so far away from all my best friends...

I am not a born optimist, and these problems aren't small to me but somehow, after watching the the film, it seems like I can believe that I will be able to ride out this rough year without incurring further damage by using it as an opportunity to learn to be a better human being than my peers at Oxford and other Ivy League type universities, many of whom are highly intelligent, hugely ambitious and vastly talented, but lack the requisite compassion or humanity to be a decent human being to those who aren't "in their league" in particular. Like John Coffey says in The Green Mile: "I's tired of people bein' ugly to each other. It's like shards of glass all in my head an' I's tired of it. It hurts."

Of course, I am aware that by accusing my peers of such behaviour, I am ironically indicting myself since I'm part of the same orbit as they are. But I guess that perhaps I might make a case for differentiating myself from them by the fact that I recognised that I do have, on occasion, had a tendency to act as they have-- all confident in my own self-importance but lacking in my own self-worth or making my sense of self-worth dependent on how far my gifts and talents elevate me from the "lesser mortals"-- something that I am not proud of even though it brings momentary gratification to the ego. And that's what it's all about with many Ivy Leaguers, I suppose: the stroking of the ego and the running down of others.

Perhaps I should count myself lucky for having such a bad year, and having so many bad times growing up-- each time I have a spell of bad times, it seems to help me grow. Or at least, it offers me a chance to suffer or to suffer and learn. And I guess the movie has help compound my decision to do the latter. At least, for this time round. It's hard to be grateful when you feel depressed, unneeded, unloved... but I am going to try my best and remember not to be an ugly person inside...






Misty mornings and Bleary eyes

Wow. I actually more-or-less finished the rewrite needed to prepare my second full draft of the sati essay at midnight last night. After a week of furious editing, aching seized-up back muscles and a sore tushie culminating in an all out 12-hour write-a-thon yesterday, I finally restructured the essay, added in the relevant details and generally pointed it in the right direction... I hope. Horror of horrors if, at my tutorial today, I am told to go back and restructure the whole thing... yet again.

I finally got an email summoning me to a tutorial by my other tutor who is supervising my other assessed essay on Chinese women and early 20th century China. Finally! Finally! Finally! This man (who, being a prominent postcolonial academic, shall not be named) has a tendency to go AWOL when you really need some guidance. So we will probably meet up next week to discuss the draft I had sent in. So, the whole editing process will have to begin all over again.

Well, at least it gives me something to do with such an open diary at the moment.

Oh hurrah! BBC Radio 4's weather report just announced that the mist going around this morning is going to clear up into another beautiful day! And it will stay beautiful and mild (16 degrees Celsius) over the next couple of days. This is great Easter weather... but then it always seems to be nice around Easter. Things go downhill after that. England seems to be the only country where summer can swing between freezing cold wind and sweltering, airless hot days... June can be cold and April warm. Go figure...

Well it'll certainly be too nice to stay inside all day trying to be virtuous and to start editing the other essay. I'm taking today off to run errands, go for tutorials, renew/return books to the library, go for some yummy chai and maybe loiter around Borders. Perhaps I'll even go back to bed after blogging!

On with the business of life...


Wednesday, March 27, 2002

What a beautiful day...

... apart from the fact that my unfinished revised essay draft is still sitting there taunting me like one of those kids who just know that you have to do what they say and you can't get back at them.

It was an equally beautiful day yesterday-- all sunshine and mild temperatures-- but I didn't get to go out because of my homework "road block". But today I have to: library books are a day overdue, the daffodils are out, the sun is merrily shining and the morning farmers' market at Gloucester Green that sells cheap produce is up...

The 2000 words still left can wait for the afternoon.

I need some fresh air...