1. Obtain my driving license in London this year. I better do, if not it is just a proven fact that I am a disaster on roads and should not be causing danger to other people’s lives.
2. Get first-class honours! Ok this isn’t that simple to me actually 😦
3. Continue learning Korean.
1. Accomplished, still a parking hazard. I am so happy I managed to obtain it before summer – it meant that I could drive in Jeju, and convert the UK license to a Singapore driving license. I failed the test once in March, and it scared me because I would potentially have to drag the retest dates further and further into summer. Eventually, if I had no luck with passing before the end of my time in the UK, I would have to give up and head back to Singapore to redo all the theory and practical courses again. Thank god this was not necessary because I managed to pass on my second try in April.
I have once talked about how much I hated driving lessons, and these opinions still stick. I remember heading home defeated after every driving lesson, legs too heavy to jaywalk like a typical Londoner in the day. I would stare in a daze at the zebra crossing after being so tired out from two hours of road concentration, with all my silly mistakes, instructors’ scoldings and dangerous road scenarios replaying in my head as I inch home with heavy footsteps. The horrid thing about mistakes is that they amplify – you make one, you get annoyed thinking about it, you get distracted and you make another one. My rigorous instructor would speak of each of those mistakes as if I truly knocked into a bus, and the lessons would often end with me feeling like I will never obtain a driving license. So I am thankful I made it. Thank you to the stubborn prideful me who would never give up on such pursuits halfway. You made it eventually.
2. Accomplished!!!!! Why did this mean so much to me? It probably encapsulated a lot of elements related to my pride. A first class result was the only answer I hoped for to the feelings of academic inadequacy, the only result that would be a satisfactory answer to those early morning steps to the nearest Starbucks or the Science Library. I did not need to be the top student because I had never been labelled that throughout my entire life, but I had to be somewhere. I had to be at least ‘above average’ on my own terms, to be deserving of all these privileges that others would look upon with envy. I needed a set of results that would possibly convince me that I was worthy of being labelled a ‘scholar’ along with the many outstanding governmental scholarship recipients schooling in the same country as I was. I needed to do well enough for myself to eliminate emotional baggage when informing the scholarship department of my academic achievements. It was the degree classification that could convince me that I am not as lousy as the rejections and badly performed coursework assignments made me out to be. It would be the answer to those tears of inferiority and sinking feelings of inadequacy walking home from poor grades and tutorial sessions on some afternoons. Even though my degree classification would hardly cause any impact on my further education given that I had gotten my unconditional Master’s offer before then, I wanted to prove to myself once again that I could seek out to achieve anything as long as I put in the effort to.
And so, thank god it was what I wanted. I remember my heart pacing up and down this whole day, and I made HT meet me that night after UGPMET lectures because I could not stop thinking about my results. I thought I had possibly even failed my dissertation because other people had already received their degree classifications from their confessions on UCLove; it signalled how little confidence I had in myself after three years of being in the shadows of the brightest people in UCL. After pacing around aimlessly we finally sat down in front of the ice rink in JCube eventually, and I refreshed my email for 30 minutes until this strange looking email popped up about our results. That was it. I knew that was the email I was waiting for for the whole day. I hardly had the courage to open it, and possibly waited for three whole minutes before I mustered the courage to accept the various scenarios that could play out. Thank you to the combined forces of my luck and effort in producing this wonderful outcome.
I penned this on the day I received those results but I thought not to publicly publish it on social media, I guess now is a good time to revisit those feelings of relief. “I spent my entire undergraduate degree feeling less than others, the ‘others’ who often spoke about how certain modules were easy to score, how certain lecturers were lenient, and how much easier it was to get good grades on coursework. I could never relate because I did not adapt well. I struggled, spent afternoons in the library reading books and books but ultimately struggling to put across my ideas eloquently. I was less than the average UCL Singaporean who strolled into UCL with an excellent academic record throughout their life, and surrounded by RI and HCI students all around London whose median result never dropped lower than a first. So today while this does not mean much to most people, it reflects the pain and loneliness of some nights I had in Years 1 and 2 flipping through worst case scenarios in my head, that I may have to return back for good someday justifying to the scholarship and personnel department why I fell short of the average overseas scholar, and that I may have to give up even the chance for a Scheme C interview (“scholar track”). These are stacked on top of the fact that I was the only scholar who struggled getting her COC, and it tore me apart so badly. It seemed that I was the only one struggling with failures both in school and work, and general unhappiness at work. Some nights I cry receiving a 2:2 grade, and some nights I feel so shitty being out and about. Academic performance has defined me for the largest part of my life, and at this stage, it sadly continues to shape the perception of myself by others. I am happy today because it reflects my tenacity despite the countless times I received unsatisfactory grades, and I hope that for the rest of my life, I stop working to the standards of others and what is expected of me, and to live life properly on my own terms.”
3. Somewhat accomplished. I continued attending lessons in SOAS for another term, and even enrolled in Sejong upon touching down in Singapore to force myself at Korean for the entire summer. Amazingly, it has been 3 years since I started learning. I remember when I first started off learning, I watched videos of Korean learners on YouTube who reached an amazingly fluent standard by the time it came to 2 years. I envied them, because I could not even understand what they were saying until I added subtitles to the videos. I am far from conversationally fluent because that is what I would classify myself for Mandarin, but I have reached a point whereby I understand most simple dialogues around me. I am happy with my progress and I strive to continue working harder at this pursuit.
2018, by far, has been one of the best years of my life. I would put it alongside years between 2011 and 2014 to be one of the most memorable years of my life. I have moved so much, seen so much, heard so much, and achieved so much. Like many others of my age, it was a year of milestones and noteworthy events. Just like all the years before this when I fight deadlines at the start of the year, I am choosing to write this conclusion to 2018 over a 5000-word paper that is due in 3 days. Little has changed in that sense, but my living spirit has been physically whizzed through so many experiences this whole year that I am probably not quite the same as I was at the start of the year.
I rang off the New Year in Shibuya with HT, and woke up to the dead town of Tokyo on New Year’s Day. I watched Jay Chou’s concert in Singapore for the second time with HT. On the day of her job offer, WX treated me to dim sum at Yauatcha and dessert at the pretty cake place that we often could only walk by on a usual day en route back to Collingwood House. Dilys, WX and I went to the We Bare Bears event along the Thames and had Maze Grill that same night. I think we walked to the Royal Hospital place. We had another Gordon Ramsay meal the next weekend with Chen Xi at Limehouse. I also went to Iceland this month with Dilys and her house, and it was an amazing trip with beautiful sights, really fun entertainment (got introduced to Black Mirror and we binged on it every night), and amazing food. It was a memorable month of travelling, food, food and food.
The annual long-awaited Chinese New Year month because we seem to upscale our celebrations away from home. WX and I hosted a steamboat at our place for our batchmates – Dilys, Chenxi, Wern, Sze Min who came from Warwick. It was fun hanging out with Sze Min, whom I dragged to the UCL Korean classes with me and the Korean Society events subsequently, and ate Big Easy and Honest Burgers with. The annual RV gathering also took place this month at Gold Mine. WX, Dilys, Chen Xi and I also went KPop clubbing this month for the first time, and my god, I loved that shit. It was sooooo fun dancing along to KPop for the first time, with a like-minded crowd who knew the dances to the hit songs of Twice, Big Bang and Red Velvet. Skipping out EXO and BTS here because I knew none of their songs, maybe except Ko Ko Bop and Fire. I spent Valentines’ Day in this month making my way to King’s Cross in the morning to take the train to Gatwick for my flight back to Singapore. By then, Euston Road and London felt increasingly familiar to me and I constantly took landscape shots of the walking route I took to the station. I knew I would miss all these sights when I left.
I celebrated the whole CNY holiday at home since the reading week holiday happened to coincide this time. Wei Xuan, Edina and I went back to RV on CNY Eve and we were very surprised that most teachers still remembered us; the very same teachers were also surprised that WX and I were graduating that same year. I got introduced to fibbage, the perfect get-together game. My brother was also legally married this month. I got back to a snowy London in late February, and also shamelessly went to LSE to get a free lunch from Dilys. Aloysius, You Jing, Beatriz and I had a dinner at Galvin at Windows near the end of this month.
Dilys kindly invited me to lunch/dinner at Cheng’s house near LSE where they celebrated Chinese New Year again. I remember the wonder of having wagyu beef and durians in London, thank you very much for extending the generosity to me. Built a snowman because London’s weather went erratic and snowed once again. Sze Min came once again and we had Flat Iron together. Dilys, WX and I went all the way to Liverpool Street to try some exotic food for lunch. WX and I went to the Mayday concert this month!!! (very noteworthy). I enjoyed the Mayday concert, to the point it triggered me to write a blog post then. I remember 阿信’s singing pushing me to the point of nostalgia and tears, at the same time when my eyes darted to read the English subtitles of the songs I only just got to know. I was hardly a fan before the concert, but I knew most of their music and I enjoyed every moment during the concert. Post-concert, I found myself replaying the concert videos that I took, and listening to their music on Spotify over and over again. To the point that Mayday became my Spotify #1 most-played artist of the year. It had been long since I had such strong concert withdrawals, so the Mayday concert was exceptionally memorable for me.
As with every year, IPPT training started this month. There was also the crazy rush for dissertation submission, and the month when one would almost seal their fate for the degree results. I ate out a lot this month because of the £1 Wuntu wonder: Las Iguanas, Bella Italia, and Cafe Rogue with Dilys all within a matter of days. Dilys, WX and I went for Mexican food at a place along Neal’s Yard. As mentioned, I failed my driving test this month too. Ate On The Bab with Weixuan for the first time (can’t believe I had been missing out for so long), and lobster noodles with Bowei this month. Also attended the UCL Easter Ball with Beatriz, You Jing and WX.
I went to Lesvos for my field trip, and I remember feeling so thankful sitting in that restaurant at the end of the trip when Chronis stood up and told us to always keep in contact – they would always want to know about us and how we are doing. That many years down, although we would have forgotten everything we learnt from the trip, they hoped that we still remembered them, and to remember how to “read the landscape”. I laughed. I loved it. I was apprehensive about the trip plastered within the Easter break initially, but I am glad I went for the trip eventually.
Started the month off by going to Budapest with Beatriz, You Jing and WX. The plane ride via WizzAir there was too unforgettable, I remember feeling so airsick and eyeing the vomit bag very closely. I was so thankful when it landed after all that turbulence, and really respected the air crew who had to clean up the dripping bags of vomit left on seats by inconsiderate passengers. I remember the accommodation in Budapest was beautiful, and the location was amazing. With the relative strength of the pound, we spared no cash in eating lots of chimney cakes, lots of salmon on bread, and did lots of cafe hopping. We also went caving and soaked in the overcrowded Budapest thermal bath where I stayed at the corner to soothe my funky tummy.
I arrived back in London to obtain a pass on my driving test. So thankful. We celebrated Aloysius’s birthday that weekend, and I enjoyed the green tea cake made by Jallene. I remember it being so amazing that I asked for the recipe, Aloysius is such a lucky man. I made my way alone to Soho (Wardour Street) to enjoy the Free Cone Day by Ben&Jerry’s after having missed it the year before, and enjoyed two cups of Strawberry Cheesecake and Caramel by myself. I found the wonder of the £5 Monday Patty and Bun which was a gem during the examination period. There was lots of takeout sourdough pizzas for this month from Franco Manca and Santa Maria which newly opened along New Cavendish Street, so near to my place that it was still piping hot when I got home, and the wolfing down of the pizza was usually accompanied with Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast programme. Lots of Deliveroo poke bowls and takeaway lunches from Wing Wing at Bedford Way too. I spent the most of this month hiding in the library revising for my 4 examinations, only emerging when the sun was out to take a quick walk around Regent’s Park. Occasionally I ended it off at Yolkin, where I would sit alone by the window and watch people pass. London looked more and more beautiful each day I inched nearer to my departure. WX and I also went to Nam Taehyun’s concert (ex-Winner member) in South Club this month, near Camden Town.
It was the month of lasts. Examinations started and ended in this month, funnily at the ExCel venue which created lots of memes on UCLove. Examination season is always memorable because it pushes you to a crazy extent of revision that you would never expect from yourself. After the conclusion of a morning paper, I would take a nap at home, and then head to the Science Library to continue memorising for the next paper. It was crazy, but so memorable for it showed how much I could do in a single day. The food continued this month: ate dinner in London with Dilys and WX for the last time at Kingly Court, lots and lots of poke bowls, Japanese dinner and green tea mille crepe with Tz-Ching and WX for the last time. Participated in Ban’s birthday surprise along with many others who sincerely wished him the best even though they had papers the next day. In this month, it was also my last trip to Dilys’s place for malaxiangguo, which sadly spilled all over my Nike drawstring bag (thrown away for the same reason) because I stupidly did not wrap it up with a plastic bag. It lasted me three meals. I loved it. I also had my last meal with Bowei at The Riding Horse Cafe, incidentally the first place I ate at when moving into Collingwood House in 2016. I also took a picture of my last time walking out of the UCL Science Library. I could walk it over and over again in the future, but it will never be as an undergraduate student, and it will never be for the same purposes of examination revision anymore.
Examinations ended on the 18th and I jetted off to Korea for my summer graduation trip with WX, who kindly planned everything when it was still examination season for me! It was nice to meet and have meals with Edina on the trip. I had the privilege of hearing IU live, watching Twice’s concert, going for Korea University’s festival where I watched Blackpink, Psy and Momoland live among many other artistes. I hiked at the Seoraksan National Park and went paragliding in Sokcho. WX and I also went to Jeju where I knocked into an orange pole. The Jeju sights were beautiful. I ate and saw a lot.
I went back to London to spend time with HT. We ate at all the places I would miss for the last time: Big Easy, Dishoom, the matcha ice-cream from Japan Centre, Gold Mine, Granger and Co, ASSA, Flat Iron, Shackfuyu, and of course Gaza. We also ate at the mala hotpot place with PN and Nicole for the first time, ate at the beautiful pods in Coppa Club, and enjoyed a One Michelin-Star dinner at Twywn where we were based in Snowdonia. The drive to Snowdonia was expensive, but beautiful and absolutely worth it – we hiked Mount Snowdon, we went white water rafting, we drove to the coast and ate fish and chips accompanied by noisy seagulls competing for the loudness of their chirps. My only regret in Snowdonia was that we did not manage to do the zipline because we did not have time, but I am sure we will be able to do it another time in the future. We also went to Thorpe Park and won a charmander through a carnival game, and we spent the next few days slowly packing my life in London up together. It was saddening to put things bit my bit into the box, permanently ridding it of its use in my accommodation. On our last few days, we also managed to catch Kinky Boots on £20 stall seats by getting there early enough in the morning to queue. HT and I then went to celebrate Joey’s birthday at Zuma, and noisily drank to our last night in London together. For the first time in ages, we were headed back to Singapore together.
UGPMET started this month after lots of eating with siblings and HT. I also enrolled in Korean lessons. It was the month I received my degree classification when we walked around together in our No.4s. We spent our Saturdays at Marina Barrage playing Pokken Tournament on the switch, waiting for the flypasts and watching the fireworks on our aluminium picnic mats. After the fireworks display, we would head for a filling dinner after. I loved all these simple weekend date nights, because I could lay on the picnic mat and stare at the beautiful orange hues of the sky guilt-free. I usually had nothing to be concerned about the following week, other than the deadlines for the UGPMET assignments. Academic stress was healthy stress for me, more desirable than workplace stress in so many ways. I also hosted the Delta people for a dinner at my house one of the weekends in this month.
Compared to the previous year, July this year was much less eventful in a good way. My family celebrated my mother’s birthday, and I had a lot of meals with HT (steamboat at Chinatown, I’m Kim Korean BBQ, En Sushi) before I sent HT off for his MSTD sailing on our anniversary date. We actually went clubbing at fClub the night before he left, although I was admittedly dozing off because HT and I did not have drinks. On one of the weekends, HT, my sister, her boyfriend and I also went to Holland Village to join and feel the atmosphere of people cheering for the World Cup, where I made my first $20 soccer bet on Croatia and lost it. I met with the 4G girls for a zicha dinner during this month too. I am happy for this uneventfulness.
I have underestimated the value of a 平淡生活 for the longest time now. The previous July was extremely emotionally challenging and I could not be more thankful to be dragging my feet to NTU in the morning, listening to interesting lectures on military security and participating actively in tutorials on my own accord. There was a lot of craze over Maple Story M during this period too, which was amusing. I remember the entire lecture theatre holding their mobile phone horizontally with their eyes peeled to it – everyone was playing Netts’ Pyramid and the Elite Dungeons together during all the breaks and even the lectures, which drew the ire of several officers in charge of administering the course. It was an extremely uninspiring July although I learnt a lot with respect to military studies, and I appreciated the dullness of it very much.
The month started off with a buffet with my MSC batch and the officers from NRC. I attended a National Day dinner with my family at the Bukit Batok CC, where I drove my family for the first time. I voluntarily participated in the Dunman High programme in Changi Naval Base, and reminded myself of how I used to look just four years ago. I spent National Day with Joey, and also met up with Fumi and Beatriz the day before for dinner. I remember this too: the 4G girls arranged to meet the weekday after National Day for lunch, but I would not make it because work resumed after the public holiday. I turned up at work that day to find out that all of us were given a half-day off by NOD, and we could go off early that day as early as 10am if we wanted to. Most people were not in office from the very morning. I relished in this opportunity, rushed home to shower and met my friends at Chinatown for a fish buffet. We also made plans for our next clubbing outing, where we met together with everyone’s boyfriends and enjoyed a night out together. I was so thankful, because these were circumstances that never would have happened if I were on my previous 2 VAs. “I wanted to seek something other than a 9-5 job for my future” would be a common and politically correct interview answer to “Why did you decide to join the Navy?”, but as early as 4 years in, my opinions have started to shake a little. I found beauty in the monotony and predictability of a 9-5 schedule, where you could make definitive plans for your loved ones and to attend events that matter to you. I know that I have yet to experience most of the adventure that comes with the flexibility of the future work schedule, but I suppose I begin to see how our priorities and demands for life change as we take on different postures in life.
In the same month, I also made plans with the Delta group, where we drank at Holland Village and carelessly made jokes of one another throughout the night. I laughed a lot, even though we were reusing the jokes and repetitively throwing the same snark remarks at one another. HT came back this month, even though we missed his birthday. We spent one entire week together because he went on leave. We went to JB for a night, with my sister and her boyfriend tagging along. I also had an international buffet with Bowei just before I went back to London.
September was an extremely happening month, where I moved across several cities so quickly. My family and I headed to London to attend my graduation. I was happy to see London again even though I had left only 2.5 months earlier – we spent a lot of time in the Airbnb, we visited the Hippodrome casino, we went to Wembley Park and the factory outlets, we went to Brick Lane, we went to the Columbia Road Flower Market, and of course we went for my graduation and subsequent shopping along Oxford Street. We also went to Athens, where we visited the Parthenon and old Olympic Stadium (I remember watching Amazing Race and thinking that I had to go there one day), stuffed ourselves on lots of Greek salad because Greek food just did not cut it for our appetites, and doing lots of supermarket shopping at the huge supermarket near the coast which stretched across three floors. It was a set of very beautiful travel memories with my family, especially since most of us went on the trip completely stress-free.
Graduation was painfully expensive and I can still remember that I spent the most money wrapping up my life in London – tickets were £45 for each family member, the gown rental was £44 (I would have loved to buy it for future photoshoots – it was a few hundred pounds for the purchase though), and what more my whole family flew in for the ceremony. But a milestone is a milestone, and for the first time in my life I am happy that I had my whole family witness arguably one of the most important achievements in my life, the scene where I would walk across the stage to obtain my degree from a reputed overseas university. It was the dream sold to me since I was young, where the “two years later” scenes in TVB dramas would involve the main leads throwing their mortarboards in the air after taking a break from their careers by studying abroad. I did not know that it would eventually be UCL, but I continue to brim with pride when people ask where I did my undergraduate studies. I lived the dream I dreamt, and I am happy that my family could witness the birth and curtain-drawing of this coveted dream.
Not humble-bragging, but because of my above-average academic performance I always had friends around me with extremely strong parental support. It correlates for sure, because good academic performance does not always come by luck. Throughout primary school, I was one of the only few students whose parents never attended the parent-teacher meeting sessions. In the PSLE year, possibly one of the most important years, my form teacher made the three of us stand, the only three of us out of 43 whose parents did not wish to attend the session. She asked us why. I do not know why, perhaps my parents just did not think it was necessary to turn up? Despite being relatively rebellious at that age, I could not mouth anything to my teacher except that I will ask them again. I felt punished and humiliated for the lack of care by my parents, that I was driven to tears on the spot. I remember the classroom scene of this happening even until today. Even in what I would consider a neighbourhood primary school, my upbringing and emphasis on education by my parents seemed outdated and too hands-off. Today, I realise that I was subconsciously caught up in this ‘class debate’ when I was young, where I actually stood on the side of disadvantage once upon a time because my parents’ attitudes towards my education from the previous era seemed too incorrect for the then-contemporary educators. No, my parents did not turn up eventually. They never saw the need to keep up on my academic progress, because they successfully made their way through life without the strong support networks of today anyway. These attitudes continued on to secondary school, where I volunteered for such parent-teacher meeting sessions that my parents did not bother turning up to.
In the later years, my retired parents would turn up for the HQ events (NCCDP, COC), and I would remember these for life because of how proud I was of my achievements in NCC. Given that my parents never turned up to a single event in my entire education, these meant a lot to me, that they were taking time out to simply look at what I had been doing in my schooling life all this while. Sadly these were short-lived because unlike most other parents with proper working schedules, both of my parents could never turn up at the same time for important milestones later: BMT POP and SMS award ceremony. For these reasons, I would never take for granted my overseas graduation ceremony, the only time my family was brought together to witness myself obtaining an academic achievement, and probably the most important academic milestone ever.
After I got back from Athens, I hurriedly unpacked and once again packed to depart for Shanghai the next afternoon, where I prepared for uncertainty upon arrival. I had not planned for a single thing: I had not planned how to get to campus (thank god for shuttle bus arrangements by the school), I had not planned on the basics to piece up my life together (SIM cards, campus registration, adjusting to China, bank accounts). I had done nothing at all, and I had little knowledge of how my life in China was going to pen out. There was little information available in English online, and I did not know how my first few weeks of school were going to go, and I had absolutely no idea who I could seek if things turned ugly. The only thing I did was to book my flight to Shanghai where I hoped life would piece itself together miraculously. I was excited of course, to embark on a life so different from the one I had been used to for so many years. It would be different from London. It would be different from Singapore. It would be a life that people have endlessly criticised yet marvelled at. It was the country of “low standards” and “ungracious people”. I remember moving into my supposedly cleaned dorm room to dirty sheets and dusty floors, and scrubbed the rest of the night away to KPop tunes (flatmate asked “you like IU?”). I was so happy looking out of my room window that night, awed at my choice to pick a path so less travelled, and so excited about what was to come. I made several friends that orientation week who would become my daily canteen friends and hotpot buddies. I took part in the Alibaba Computing Conference in the Cloud Town, took part in the Mid-Autumn festival games on campus, and discovered the magic that is Taobao.
The month started off with Golden Week, China’s national holiday. I went to Hangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou. I discovered the wonder of the swimming pool on campus, and swam almost every night for 3 weeks after lessons were concluded in the night. We went to KTV this month, met a new friend (Teashop guy!) and got drunk on soju several weekend nights. I bought my bike that would subsequently change my China life – I could now get to everywhere I wanted to easily. I visited new places in Haining: the Korean food street, and the vegetarian buffet restaurant at Nanguanxiang. We met with Teashop guy once again for a free BBQ dinner, where I stared in amusement at the military movie that was playing in the background. Sergio, Marcianna and I also celebrated Halloween twice with all that make-up: once at the empty-ass bar in Rosemary’s, and once more in U9 when more of the campus was involved since it was more heavily-publicised. It was my first time going all out for Halloween since I was hanging out among Westerners for the first time – in this Chinese society, I was closer to the Westerners as the ‘Other’ who would group together to seek familiarity.
In the start of this month, Sergio, Marcianna and I went to Hangzhou together, shopped around in the day and hanged around in the campus bar at night. We caught the 2.30am train back to Haining, and my body was hardly alive on the train. I was so afraid that I would miss the Haining stop, I set an alarm to wake myself. I discovered a mala pot and conveyer belt place in Haining which I love. My poor bike met with some accidents during this period, being knocked down by a car when it was parked along the side. I watched The Nutcracker with Sergio’s friend, Sergio and Marcianna at the nearest mall. I went to Taiwan and met Jiawen and Tz-Ching where I travelled on foot and public transport through most of Taipei, went to Seoul for IU’s concert where I met Bowei and Sara and had nights of Korean BBQ and fried chicken, and went to Bangkok where I met HT for more affordable shopping and food. It was a month of crazy travelling on my long weekends, interspersed with intensive weekdays of rushing for assignment deadlines which made the month go by very quickly.
IU’s concert was very memorable, because of all the nostalgic feelings it brought to me. IU’s music was special to me at different parts of my life – the random female solo music that came in between the preferred KPop tracks in my young Koreaboo years, the hit songs I listened through my first and now slightly amusing heartbreak, the music I repeated when trying to memorise Korean words by heart for the first time, and the music that I felt embarrassed about when it played in the kitchen of Schafer House in the presence of my flatmates. I am more lucky than Bowei in the sense that I heard her growing up through my teenage years, and grew along with her into adulthood.
Marcianna’s birthday celebration took place at the start of this month. There was a lot more rush for assignment deadlines before I travelled. I also travelled through the cold and dreary rain on my bike to finally enjoy Korean food with Heekang and Sergio, and I remember ordering three additional plates of pork between us. The group of us then had 海底捞 again together with Emil that weekend. I attended the Singapore Christmas Carnival, which was in the most isolated place in Shanghai possible – it was snowing in Shanghai that day which made it so inconvenient and expensive to travel. It was all worth it however, when I walked in and started hearing Singlish from the very entrance doors of the Christmas event. I remember the plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice that I bought when starving, it shot me right back to home. I am still angry that I lost the entire roll of pandan cake (35 yuan) in the refrigerator to the stupid thief who definitely did not deserve my effort bringing the cake back from Shanghai to Haining. Sergio, Marcianna and I also went to Shanghai one weekend to look around in the German Christmas markets and explore Shanghai together for the first time. I went on the volunteering activity, which I blogged about just one post earlier.
I then went on to my year-end Yunnan trip with HT, where I fell terribly ill with stomach flu and vomited for 3 days and had diarrhoea for 7 days straight. I thank HT for taking care of me during this period, taking on extra load during the hike when I was not feeling right, tolerating all my toxic farts and the toilet after a nasty toilet session. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip where we overdosed on 麻辣火锅, laughed at how our parents would easily fit into elements of traditional Chinese culture, spoilt ourselves by indulging in all the didi rides, celebrated my 22nd birthday together with a surprise for both of us by the hotel, visited so many ancient cities and slowly hiked the arduous Tiger Leaping Gorge together because I was vomiting throughout the first day of the hike. I was happy to introduce to HT so many elements of the China life that I was fascinated with, the magic of WeChat Pay, the affordability with the strength of the SGD currency even though China has developed so much, and the beauty of the landscapes in China where travels are often underrated because of our negative impressions towards China. It was the longest trip we have had being away from anything remotely a home this time – during our long trips, we used to always have London as a base where we would park our luggages and then scoot around for short trips.
I have taken the entire day to write and recall this, with the help of images from my phone and scribblings in my Cath Kidston 2018 diary. I have evidently seen and done so much in this one year, and lived through many unforgettable experiences which would definitely become stories in my later life. I am more blessed than many for the capacity to even shell out money – I claim to scrimp and save by taking money-saving options (eg. the 1 yuan bus instead of a 20 yuan didi ride home), but these are borne out of the ability to even set aside money for travels, a privilege that may not come to many. 2018 has been an unforgettable year of milestones and unique experiences, and I hope through writing these travelogues and feelings I immortalise the feelings of awe and novelty in this youth to be relived over and over again.
I will continue to work hard to better myself, and at the conclusion of 2019 I hope to realise that the year is another fulfilling one. Here are three simple New Year resolutions:
1. Continue learning Korean.
2. Strive to work on a Chinese-language dissertation (I wonder what my response to this would be next year).
3. Hold a nice celebration for HT’s 30th birthday, in reciprocation for all the love that I have only received.
2019 will be even better!