Volunteer chauffeur 

He made me take this picture exclaiming that he has been waiting 6 months for me to take his car. LOL. I love this shot — in my hand is a charizard pikachu I delivered to his home for Valentine’s Day, and on his car dashboard is a row of 8 Tsums (brought home from London) that I forced him to put up. I also happen to have unusually slim looking legs in this photo unlike the usual elephant trunks that I go around in.


Loving the late night Bowling sessions, dessert sessions (bingsu!) and exploring… NUS UTown (?) in the dead of the night. All condensed in one day. Thanks for being all that you are for all that I am.

It’s been a long time since an update because I am lazy and I have tons of excuses for myself, for example sending my MacBook off to the new Apple flagship store in Orchard. I would also take this chance to express how thankful I am to be safe and unaffected by all the terrorists incidents in London so far, as well as not having been subjected to the horrific weekend delay by British Airways having lucked out by just one day. I will update more soon (a note for myself).

End of my second academic year

It is my last night in London.

I have counted down since forever to my eventual return on the 26th of May, which happens to be tomorrow. When HT and I first separated we texted each other, and one of those messages from him was “259 days more!” I cried as I read his handwritten letter and re-read that message. How unrealistic it was, I told myself. How were we going to last? How many couples have I seen breaking up? What makes the both of us think that “our love is different” compared to the many others who thought the same way when they initially parted? I was so cynical and I honestly do not think my worries were unfounded. On some nights in London I really constantly questioned myself why. It seemed easier emotionally last academic year when I was single. I am however really glad that my “emotional mechanism” is able to shut those thoughts out as soon as they are formed, and despite some reunion jitters I really cannot wait to see HT in 3D again after 6 months.

Today I wore short sleeves out having been blessed with an amazing sunny weather, temperatures reaching up to 28 degrees in the afternoon. I saw a glimpse of London in summer — the streets littered with people wearing sleeveless dresses and holding Starbucks frappucinos, green spaces filled with people with picnic mats holding their sandwich lunches and… simply the increased density of people on the streets even though it is only Thursday. I never got to experience these sights last year and I am indeed really lucky because I do not think I will ever get a chance to experience London summer in full, given that I will always be back in Singapore for VA.

Now that it’s still 9.15pm and sunny I have concluded that today has been an absolutely perfect day. Today I sent off my 7 boxes early in the morning and now I face an empty room and kitchen… it looked similar to what I saw when I first arrived in this room. The rate at which time passes scares me very very much. I remember posting on what you would call a “private Instagram” (which has now disappeared) a perspective of London from Goodge Street when I first arrived for the second time and commenting how scarily unfamiliar the familiar London was. Or the scarily familiar unfamiliar London. It was 7am on a Sunday morning when I wheeled my luggage out of the tube station and saw how cloudy and gloomy the morning was. I thought back on my Sunday mornings at home and I remembered my noisy family, my irritating siblings and the sunny hot weather in Singapore. It was painful to stomach the fact that I would be here alone for 9 months again, especially when I was painfully separated from HT during what I would also call our honeymoon period. I also remember my first night here when my dining/study table was in a different position of the room, when I set off the smoke alarm from cooking instant noodles from a tiny pot (resulting in water spilling all over the induction hob), when I slept on unfamiliar sheets and when I had nothing in this new home to call my own. I managed to Skype HT when he was sailing, and despite not being able to see his face I went to sleep with great ease. It was nice that he tried doing that to help me settle down better.

Slightly more than 8 months have passed since then and I have done many many things. I have not accomplished as much academically as I would like to, and I say this only because I know I can achieve better. I have however, enjoyed myself a lot more this year. I ate a lot better, made an effort to actively seek for entertainment and did many more things that I enjoyed. I ventured to areas even off-London (eg. New Malden) just to have a legit Korean BBQ meal and good bingsu. I went to 梁静茹’s concert, although it may have been more perfect if I managed to obtain tickets for Jay Chou’s concert. Notable trips are Bristol with RV, Thursley Common for a field trip, Mallorca for a field trip, Lake District and Paris with HT, Switzerland with Weixuan and Edina, the UCLSS Ski Trip at the French Alps, Durham to meet Xinci, Italy with my siblings, Amsterdam with Dilys and Weixuan, and lastly the killer Seven Sisters hike with Dilys and Weixuan as of late. I watched Wicked and Phantom of the Opera again, I watched The Kite Runner, and I also watched The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time before their final stage in June. Wicked costed £29.50 this time because I queued in the morning for day seats which led me to a seat all the way at the front; the last time I paid £17.50 I was sitting at the last row of the musical! Seats are important in keeping me awake and stall seats really provide the best musical experience. I am increasingly of the opinion that money saving habits can only kick in successfully with familiarity, how would I have understood the concept of day seats in the past? I snuck into the UCL Korean Culture Society and attended weekly intermediate Korean lessons every Wednesday and Friday. Despite the attendance declining from the start I never dreaded the 6pm lessons when I often had to leave home the second time in the day for school, and especially enjoyed it more towards the end when the teachers started recognising us. I hope to improve enough over summer to find myself in the advanced language class next academic year.

I have lived very well this year although my bank account has certainly been bleeding more than last year. I remain thankful to the scholarship and the organisation for this financial independence. Last year I used to tell people that I did not have much friends in London, but this statement does not hold anymore. I really had an active social life, a social life that would not have been possible if my phone were to be spoilt like what happened last year. I forged stronger friendships and saw myself laughing a lot more this year. I made it a point to enjoy London for what it has to offer, the food, the sights and simply the way of life. I am liking London more and more as I approach the possible end of my three years here and it saddens me that the dream I had worked and put in everything for may come to an abrupt end soon. Although I think I Skype rather regularly I never thought it took away time from my personal life, I tried to make it a point to lead less of a virtual life especially if we were to “have a lifetime ahead”, as quoted from HT.

I am excited to leave the house for the airport 5 hours in advance tomorrow, to wheel my luggage and struggle to carry it up and down flights of stairs on the tube. It says a lot about the girl I have grown to become; I think I can say with confidence that she is a better version of myself. Other than growing to be even more independent I think I have grown to be more empathetic, kinder and more sensitive. On this note, I will continue to figure out and actively work on my character flaws. This summer I also hope to obtain my COC, because it would say a lot about my lack of attitude/aptitude if I still do not. I also want to work hard on my dissertation because an excellent dissertation project would show how much I have learnt this year from the endless coursework submissions, repeated data collection/analysis/discussion, and show the markers how capable I am of independent learning. Next academic year too, I hope to actively work on my academic weaknesses. I still believe that everything is a choice, and I hope to strive harder to make that active choice for academic excellence.

After tonight I would have no more “sleeps in London” until late September, so goodbye Collingwood House. See you after summer 🙂

:(

I miss you terribly terribly terribly much all of a sudden. I know we are left with only 20 days but it doesn’t seem to get by any easier 😦 20 more days more and I can run into your arms to cry and laugh again. Honestly quite sick of myself thinking about you too……… can’t wait to be physically reunited again.

You have been such a blessing.

Still quite sour from my terribly done examination paper from Tuesday. I guess it sucked more because I knew I enjoyed the module. Maybe the most, out of the 8 this year. We really learnt beyond the scope of what a Geography student is really exposed to and the professors were so good. I suppose when you enjoy something you really want to do well in it.

I fear doing badly in the rest of the papers and subsequently using my grades as a determinant as to how much I enjoyed the module. So before I take the rest of the examinations and receive my potentially terrible grades back I am going to have to remind myself that the best decision I made this year was to take a majority of Physical Geography modules. I came into UCL with a preference for Human Geography modules, because that was exactly where my interest lied when I was in JC.  But I ended up slanting towards Physical Geography because despite my sub-par performance for the Environmental Change module last year I thought it was the only one that stretched me way beyond my comfort zone. There has been no regret at all ever since, despite the fact that I go to class and sit alone now.

I loved the field trips this year. I loved all the professors and how keen they were in making us identify species on the field, and how they excitedly demonstrated all the coring techniques while rowing around on a sea boat.

I loved the modules and I enjoyed completing every single coursework simply I learnt so much each time. I started off with lots of hate for STELLA because it was so complicated, but after getting through the initiation and familiarisation with the software I was so amazed by its outputs. Everything we had done in our coursework was in direct relevance to climate change projection and modelling that I had always mentioned about in my essays in passing, even in JC. I disliked Hydrology when I was in JC simply because it was pure memory work and so crazily intense — this academic year I have had the honour of being taught by Julian and Richard, both leading academics in the field of groundwater abstraction, subsidence and of course, climate change impacts on water resources. When they were doing their PhDs with crazily beautifully constructed diagrams and location maps I wasn’t even born yet. Their papers are always so well-written and I am continually impressed by the originality and detail that goes into each scientific paper they compose individually. On a separate note I loved the diatom and ostracods practical session by Viv and it felt like I was brought back to secondary school when I placed ostracods on a glass test slide to examine and identify it through a microscope. Except that this was extremely relevant to the field on palaeoclimatology, especially as we were concurrently working on the statistics coursework for diatom reconstruction of acidification values.

I also managed to learn a bit of Environmental Biology when I memorised details about homozygotes and heterozygotes and their differing fitness levels, and the evidence of sympatric speciation through an examination of the molecular phylogenetics within the Monostroma latissimum species. Before I left for studies this academic year HT once asked me whether I knew what Drosophila was. It was a pleasant surprise when I saw this very term flipping through the Ecology textbook that our module was based on.

I have really enjoyed how the year has put together subjects that I studied for in the past — especially in greater relation to Chemistry within the Hydrology module. I want to remind myself that I truly enjoyed what I learnt this year and I will not define my growth academically by the numbers I see eventually.

Happy RSN50

It is Navy’s 50th anniversary! I have been so goddamn distracted the whole day by thoughts about my short 2 years in the Navy so far. I guess it is the perfect time to describe in detail my irrational admiration of a leader that has been involved in my leadership journey. He also happens to be the one I am referring to in my previous post — the leader I truly respect despite his claim that he is not outstanding academically. Let’s just call him MDT (rank and name LOL).

I remember the first encounter with MDT, when we, as a division, were all sat in this room meeting our training officer for the first time. He got all 30+ of us to self-introduce our names, our schools, and a hobby. I think so. And then it was his turn. He went around in a circle, addressing all of us by name. He had memorised our names and matched them to our appearances even before our first meeting. Everyone in the room had heard of this happening to previous batches, but seeing him do it in front of us truly amazed me. It is difficult to even remember names of people you know (I am terrible with faces), how do you do the same for 30 strangers when you only have their 2D faces printed on a piece of paper?

I struggled a lot throughout my time in MIDS (Navy OCS). There was a lot of self-questioning and self-doubt as I trudged through the days, ending up in tears many times because I was shouldered with so much burden and frustration. This sounds really cheesy but he was a beacon of hope in the darkness; I remember a particular occasion when we had individual review sessions and I had mine. At that point, I was afraid, worried and sad. I did not know where I was heading and every day felt like a torture because I never did see myself improving. I shared my frustrations tearing up, nearly breaking down crying. He talked to me about my strengths and weaknesses, and reminded me to focus on the bigger things. He shared about how disappointed he was with their oversight (!), and how he felt that he could have been more involved with us especially when he saw that external instructors wielded such a strong influence on our day-to-day mentality. I marched back alone from OCS HQ to wing line grinning from ear-to-ear. I felt like someone truly cared about our well-being and growth amidst all those nonsensical scoldings and various instructors blowing things out of proportion. From his words, I felt like each of us mattered as an individual.

We were to submit weekly/fortnightly reflections on our leadership growth. We were to keep track of our leadership journey, write reflections and journals on how we felt we were growing. He read them all to understand our points of view and gave us personal feedback. He constantly took stock of our learning progress and showed us areas we could improve a lot more on. We were repeatedly told to look beyond all the seemingly important things — performing well in tests, or having the best physical standards. He made sure to congratulate people for passing their retests, and gave more credit to those who “finally passed after three failures” than those coasting through the tests. He likened every leadership role as an opportunity to invest in your learning experience, be it a small or large role. He saw the value in people who tried and tried despite all our individual weaknesses. Above all, he paid the most attention to our learning attitudes evident in the people he favoured the most, and I see how it materialises in the success and growth of the people he nurtured.

I remember a particular dialogue last year where we were told to share one thing that we learnt the entire year — I mentioned that it was the little things that matter. MDT walked the talk. You would never catch him with crumpled sheets, you would never catch him with an unneat appearance, you would never receive a thoughtless reply in any statement or reflection submissions. He made sure to send all of us personal messages on our birthdays even long after commissioning. He made provisions to meet us as a division even when he was definitely busy as a new CO of a ship. He never gave himself an excuse for anything; despite his age he made sure to run faster than us despite carrying a jerry can when he shouted at us countless times during X48. He was willing to sacrifice his professional image and be in disfavour of the other officers when he shouted at us again and again for our basic mistakes. Afterall, who would enjoy being hated by everyone? No officer wants to be the bad guy. If anything, he is the most under-recognised instructor/leader, and the RSN is truly lucky to have him dedicating his all to nurture batches after batches of officers. I am truly lucky to have met him as an instructor in my leadership journey and I am sure most, if not all, my division mates have benefited from his harsh training, even if they may not have the same admiration for him as I do.

Many people joke on Instagram or Facebook about how “when I grow up, I want to be like you”. MDT Sir, when I grow up, I truly want to be like you.

Results

I was in a very pensive mood yesterday after the examinations and all I wanted was to get away from that examination hall seating a few hundreds of people. I was so down, so upset and so afraid.

Context:

70+ First class mark. If you are a real Singaporean you’d be trying hard to be here.

60-69 Second upper class mark (2:1)

50-59 Second lower class mark (2:2)

I’d received unsatisfactory grades throughout the course of my entire degree. I remember them. I guess no one really reads my blog so hopefully it won’t become discussed in my course like what happened to other people in high school…

In my first year, my first ever assignment received an overall mark 55. Then a 62. Then a 72… hey are things becoming better now? Then a 64. Ouch.

I stopped aiming. Only two modules were graded anyway, and most of the examination modules were not. Overall I got 2 Firsts for my 8 modules, 5 2:1s and a last 2:2. I even laughed about the last one — I got 25 for an essay because I was writing a “right answer to the wrong question”. Who the hell gets 25/100 for an essay?!

There were tons of coursework submissions this year. 4 due on the 10th of January, 1 due on the 8th of Feb, 1 due on the 3rd of March, 1 due on the 22nd of March, 1 due on the 24th of March, and 1 due on the 24th of April.

For the January batch of coursework, I had gotten 68, 67, 66 and 54.

December to January was difficult. It was lots of learning of softwares in greater depth: R, ArcMap, MatLab, STELLA, all of which I had zero clue about.

During the whole December break I was also travelling excessively, and prior to the 3-week break, HT was here. I really had no time for coursework and I saw those as my priorities. Getting marks in the range of 66-68 was therefore quite pleasant for me, I would (and could) just work harder during the exam.

 54 was definitely my fault, I left myself with 24 hours for that coursework. When I submitted it through Turnitin at 11am I knew I was thoroughly screwed — my figures weren’t composed properly, I had hardly come up with proper location maps, and I hadn’t even linked my Discussion section to my Results section. I am just glad I passed for my horrendous submission, I was mostly upset because this was 90% and there was no way I was salvaging it. I also had some sort of coursework fatigue from having finished 3 prior to this and I was sick and tired of learning and using a new software. It requires time for familiarisation as well and I had no time for that this time.

I moved on from those 4 coursework assignments… to embark the 5 in Term 3. The results are coming back. I received 75. Then 80. Then 72 even when I pasted two of the same figures by mistake in my work… are things getting better? Am I on my way? I must be getting the hang of things now! I tried to read so much more beyond the recommended literature to get beyond the band of 66-68. Maybe they really want originality. I really am improving! I worked out my marks and coursework percentages here and there and found out that to possibly secure a first class eventually, I would have to play safe and get at least 5 to 6 modules with a First this year. I was not confident of getting a First for my dissertation in my final year — I know it won’t be that easy.

But yesterday I received a mark of 67 and I felt like I was going back to square one all over again. Another bye to a possible first-class mark. No, eventually there had been no improvement. Yesterday, too, I had not gotten lucky with the questions for a module I thought I could bag a First for. I told myself: I only needed one good essay and one mediocre essay to get a 70 overall. I prepared for 5 topics, and only one worked in my favour. How unlucky was I? Really unlucky. Most people prepared only 4, or less if you are not bothered about this exam. Essentially, I prepared a mediocre essay and another piece of shit, because the wording for the question I prepared for was really convoluted as well. Examiners probably saw that it would be a popular question. I felt like crying midway through writing my second essay. I was cooking up shit and I knew I was giving more marks away with every line I was writing.

I feel sad from the weight of my personal expectations. I don’t want to feel burdened over every unsatisfactory grade or terrible examination. I cannot be like this my whole life, there are so many more examinations I have to take and so many tests I must put myself through. How can I ever be happy this way?

“The part of me that only thinks being the best is acceptable needs to take a chill pill and realize that if I give something my best effort and end up with an average result that is perfectly fine and will only lead to a happier and healthier me. I will keep trying to do my best, but if an exam or a lacrosse game does not go as well as I had hoped, I am not going to ruminate on my mistakes. I will learn to use the bad as a life experience and move on. I will find peace in realizing that being average is okay, but I will take pride in knowing I will never lead an average life. I have long ago stopped expecting perfection from those around me, and now far more importantly, I will stop demanding perfection from myself.”

I will continue to strive, but I will stop being bitter about myself. I will remind myself that the leader(s) I respect the most had less than stellar academic achievements, but was/were extremely hardworking and charismatic. These “idols” of mine might even stab me if I told them about my woes.

I feel much better today after the lousy morning and terrible examination yesterday. I knew I was not going to do further studying after the shitty afternoon paper yesterday, and all I wanted to do was to go home and lie on my bed and Skype. We ended up watching a movie, and after that I slept at 10.30pm. Which means HT stayed up all the way till 5.30am to accompany me to save my shitty day. Thank you very much, so much love for you smiling to sleep last night :’) Thank you for never dissing my opinions even though you are less concerned about results and grades than anyone else. In my darkest of days I am glad you are always there, even though you are not physically present. I know I am in a much better position than people sleeping beside a familiar stranger, and I will be thankful for that. I try to steer clear of talking about HT too much because I think I should lead a proper life myself, but today I am so glad to have a boyfriend. Hehehehehehehe.

Easter

In the blink of an eye 20 days have passed since my previous post. During the course of the Easter holidays I have been to Italy and back, to Amsterdam and back, got jittery about the impending examinations (20 days to the first paper as of today) and submitted the last coursework ever for this year. I have submitted a total of 8 pieces of coursework for this whole academic year and that has been enough to really wear me out mentally. I am honestly so done with the whole process of reading, writing and editing with no clue of my eventual grade because my gut feeling doesn’t turn out right all the time. Bowei mentioned something about how he could not wait to do his dissertation because most of his undergraduate course is ‘taught’, here I am on the opposite. I actually fear doing my dissertation because the data acquisition, analyses and literature search would be so much more intensive than what I am currently doing. What if all the effort translates to a shitty grade at the end of everything simply because I cannot communicate the depth of my analyses well enough? I fear regretting my choice of dissertation topic at the very end even though I currently think I would enjoy the process. At times when I am so tired of doing (irrelevant?) readings I miss the days in high school when I was spoonfed with content and test questions that were similar to what would be examined eventually.

The new work year has started and hence it is time for IPPT too. In intensive preparation for IPPT (because I have been lazy) I have been doing tons of push-ups and sit-ups and running every alternate day, and it scares me how unfit I am now compared to my glorious past. My muscle aches were so bad I felt crippled, I could not raise my arms properly when removing my clothes or when placing the showerhead over my head. What a potato I have become. I am still aiming for gold so this crippled self of mine would be ongoing till I get it over and done with; hopefully this should encourage me to work harder next year in terms of my fitness aspirations. I certainly do not want to grow up being a potato. In squeezing time for working out I have found that my life gets more organised, the same happened last year. I like how my days pen out now so let’s hope I can continue to stay organised all the way until the examinations are over.

When exams are round the corner you tend to do a lot of miscellaneous things (rubbish) that are not that interesting on a daily basis. I started being more keen on my Korean language learning and doing Korean language exercises, something that I always put off because of “coursework” in the past few months (in other words, lazy). I have also been reading tons of Dayre blogs, more than usual actually, and one Dayre community that caught my eye was the TTC community. It is a small community of mothers who are/have been trying their best to conceive naturally, and many have found themselves in the IVF process eventually because of the failure to have a baby. Some of them cite having a baby as a “miracle”, and one mother even mentioned that she always thought herself to be a planner, planned everything in her life out including when she wanted to have a child, but her plans fell through because there was no “baby dust” even after two years of trying.

As a 20-year-old uninvolved individual I am little aware of the difficulties of conceiving. I mean because I have never tried of course. But I really feel for these mothers when I read how nonchalantly some people talk about their (unwanted/accidental) pregnancies. They cry because of the loss of freedom, whine about the loss of honeymoon period with their newly-wedded wives/husbands or even abort because a baby is going to be unwelcome in their lives at that moment. Granted, most individuals including myself would probably not be selfless enough to give up everything in our lives right now if a child ever comes by, and I really respect those who do (I have a coursemate at my age who has a toddler son). But I believe the words of these insensitive individuals, especially those who publicise “accidental pregnancies” as an unfortunate event despite being married, would really get to the TTC community. I can really sense the envy or even jealousy in their word posts when they speak about peers and relatives around them getting pregnant so easily (within 1 year = easy). I suppose it makes it worse knowing that it is something you cannot work hard for… right? You can only pray for lady luck, do superstitious things like rubbing the bellies of fertility statues and fortune-telling at the temple. After reading so much I found that IVF is truly a tiring process — it is expensive, it requires daily jabs (yucks), multiple consultations to check the sperm quality and follicle counts, an extended period of medical leave, and last, the anticipation (and potential disappointment) for the development of the embryos. I was following one blog recently and she did not manage to make it through on her current IVF cycle, again. She also mentioned how the repeated IVF cycles were going to cause her to menopause much earlier (extraction of 17 eggs = moving your period forward by 17 cycles), and this undesirable outcome was made worse by the fact that her embryos did not make it. I already felt so disheartened for her without any background knowledge/context myself and I really cannot imagine what it feels like to be in her position, desperately wanting to be a parent yet failing again and again each time.

Some sexism also comes in when relatives (especially mother-in-laws) question why they haven’t had a child even after such a long time of getting married. The blame was somewhat hinted at the wife for this particular individual (“why are you not pregnant”), but I suppose it was awkward to even bring up the fact that it was the problem with her husband’s low sperm count. I guess it’s just sad that she could not bring up her husband’s infertility as the probable cause for the failure to conceive because of his ego, which would be left for a conversation another day.

I pray for everyone around me to be healthy and lucky enough to conceive in the future, and I hope that people I love do not have to suffer the mental torture of wondering whether they will ever get to be parents in this lifetime.

I am sorry to myself for not blogging more than I should. Please blog more.

I can only hope it is not you

I’m not sure if this platform is private enough but I just do wish to hide this from my family as much as possible –

My sister suddenly texted me this morning (when I was out with a meal with Gordon) that she lost €1500 in my home, the total sum of money changed for my siblings and I. It was a large sum because I told her to change additional money for my future trips to other European cities.

Yes, it is a large sum. She was so sure that she left it there, and searching for hours on end around the house did not provide a desired conclusion to that loss. No one came to my house lately, and it was therefore easy to immediately point fingers to my domestic helper. But I felt terrible and disgusted for thinking this way. My maid has spent 6 years with my family and my father has kept her all these years because he believes she is honest. Money was never missing, not even in the form of the smallest change. My father may give her $20, we could buy something for $4.50 and I know at the end of the day, there will be a remainder of $15.50 without any doubt. She has always put us in her thoughts, buying things for us when she returned home to the Philippines on one or two occasions these many years even though she does not have much. In fact I actually believe that the working environment/relationship for her is so pleasant that she would actually voice out to us if she needed money urgently.

I tried to stay calm and made an international call home (£2/min!!!) to ask her. She said that she did not see the money (I schemingly asked “Did you take Shihui’s money?”), and that she will try to find it in the house. If she does, she will tell my mother to call me tonight (because she does not have my UK number). I actually felt a sense of relief from hearing that; call me naive but her assertion and cluelessness through her voice, how she giggled and addressed me endearingly “Oh Huiping ah!” in her accent made me even more certain that the money loss was not her doing.

I hold a slight glimmer of hope that my mother will call me tonight and insult my sister for being stupid for leaving such a large sum of money around in the house, or that in the middle of the trip my sister will stumble upon the money hidden in her jacket pockets, or in some secret compartment in the luggage. For now I will continue to have full faith in my maid who has been loyal to my family and serving us well all these 6 years.