My true home is Earth

I never realized how attached i felt to Earth – and nature, really – until recently. Attached may be too casual a term. It’s a strong sense of … belonging, love, emotional connection, to this place we inhabit.

Yes, it’s always been on my agenda to stay green as much as i can, within the realm of comfort. I’m a convenient environmentalist, you can say. Although i did once have a mental meltdown crying in my dorm because i accidentally printed a thick bunch of notes one-sided by accident. I felt like i’d manually chopped down 10 trees and robbed 10 ecosystems of their home. Anyway.

The first hints of this overwhelming emotional bond i hold for Earth would probably be when i first read Station Eleven. Without giving away too much, there was an apocalypse, and civilization was no longer as it was. Although not explicitly nature, i felt the utter loss of a world once ours. This line, particularly, cut too close to home:

Image result

Recently, i picked up The 100 on Netflix (and have since blazed through two seasons haha). It’s such a fantastic show in itself – the natural gender equality, the moral dilemmas, the fantastical settings, the character developments and the strategies. But that deserves a post on it’s own.

Earth has been irradiated for a hundred years, and generations of mankind were circulating up in space in an Ark. They learn about life on Earth through literature, films, word of mouth. When the Ark became unsustainable, they had to venture down onto Earth. This was late into the first season, when Abby (one of the older adults) who have lived her whole life up in a spaceship, found her way to Earth. She steps out into vast waters, the brilliant sunlight, the trees and mountains. She couldn’t stop drinking everything in, just standing there in absolute rapture.

On her headset, she communicated with the Chancellor who had no chance of heading down.

“Tell me what it’s like.”

“It’s so green, there are trees everywhere. It’s just like I imagined. And the air… it’s… Sweet.”

At this point i straight out ugly cried and couldn’t stop.

I could feel, so acutely, the pain and loss of being away from Earth, our natural home, where we were formed from dust — where we were dust for billions of years. I felt such an immense longing, an appreciation, and joy, all at once, for being here on my natural grounds. It was then i realized that Singapore wasn’t my home, Asia wasn’t my home, my true home was Earth.

Yesterday, i attended The Lesson by Drama Box.

The premise was simple: of seven sites, we had to collectively choose one to evict.

  1. The halfway home: A place for rehabilitation of drug addicts and offenders.
  2. Columbarium: Has a rich history and houses the remains of our ancestors.
  3. Wet market: A place of significance for the elderly who are friendly with the sellers. For sellers, their livelihood depends on the market.
  4. Marshland:It had rich biodiversity and houses many of plants and animals. Only 0.02% of Singapore remains as marshland.
  5. Cinema: An old cinema, seldom used, that runs Indian films on the weekends and is a place where migrant workers gather.
  6. Flea market: The only remaining market where it is rental free for sellers. Their livelihood depends on it.
  7. Rental homes: Houses underprivileged residents who have lived there for years.

The choice for me was simple:

If i had to protect one place – it would be the marshes. There were many pertinent points brought up by others at the event:

– Marshland cannot be transplanted or replicated, unlike man-made buildings. Once destroyed, its unique ecosystem is lost forever.

– If there are only 0.02% of marshland left in Singapore, why are we so hellbent on destroying something of great rarity?

– The effects of destroying nature might not be immediately felt, but it will show itself for our next generations.

– That nature had no voice of its own to stand up for itself. It has no sob story or sad old people we can relate to or sympathize. But just because it doesn’t have that angle of human interest it doesn’t make it any less significant.

Don’t get me wrong, i feel for the plight of the underprivileged, for rehabilitating offenders, for migrant workers. I really do. But to me it’s about whether there are alternatives, and considering these alternatives, which eviction would cause the least/most damage?

I chose to evict the cinema. I do believe in fighting for the well-being of migrant workers, which was the main argument against evicting their place of gathering. BUT, i don’t feel that this particular cinema has great bearings to their well-being. There are alternative locations to social gathering. Sad stories about migrant workers and their hard lives here is moving, but distracts from the fact that they are irrelevant to the objective importance of this site. In short, evicting the cinema has the least collateral damage done.

One realization struck me, hard, yesterday as i observed everyone making their choices and explaining why they protected certain sites. Many of them started with “I have personally encountered offenders / I’ve worked with migrant workers / I regularly talk to wet market hawkers.”

Right. Even though i personally have a soft spot for the columbarium holding my grandfather’s remains (i’ve never met him and always associated him with this location i’ve visited since infancy), but why should PERSONAL sentiment rule when making a decision that affects community as a whole?

Why is YOUR personal encounter with a rehab offender any more important than another’s personal encounter with an underprivileged rental resident??? Your singular experience doesn’t allow for a broader appreciation of cost and benefit. I’m not saying any of their suffering is irrelevant, but how do we minimize suffering WITH ALL POSSIBLE VICTIMS HELD EQUAL?

As a human race, we need to look beyond our immediate selves. What does our world need, what do our future generations need? How do we decide beyond what directly relates to or affects us? If stripping down a site of sentiment is robbing you of a fond memory, what have we done to the land? We have robbed 99.98% of nature from this land we stand on. We need to see beyond ourselves to appreciate the broader implications of tearing down nature.

I felt VERY AGITATED yesterday when we were asked to stand at the location we would evict, and i saw that some chose the marshland.

I know everyone is given freedom of choice and opinion.

But. I can’t help. Boiling.

To me, it’s the most self-centred who cannot see beyond what directly impacts their lives. And this is my theory on all the greenhouse-hoax declarers. Trump is a perfect example. He is a piping infant who cannot comprehend making a decision that doesn’t immediate gratify himself.

And that’s how i see anyone who doesn’t give a damn about harming mother earth just because it still seems fine and sunny right now. Look beyond your damn little bubble. Think about the future, think about broad implications.

Breathe. I need to breathe.

We have taken too much from this beautiful, generous land that borne us. It makes me sad.

That said, i chanced upon this song after my rampant raging for Momma Earth. It came at an opportune time and i’m v moved.

Earth is a beautiful young girl, dying but still smiling. This is for you Planet Earth.

Reflecting about this space, again.

Read my archives from all the way back in lower secondary (they’re all privatized FYI, i’m hyper-paranoid when it comes to cyber information).

Felt a sense of homecoming. Writing here is where I feel most myself, the me that remains constant through the past decade.

Yes my writing has changed vastly, what I write about is far from my teenage ramblings. People important to me, some have stayed and others left. New people. New friendships with old friends. I used to post with astounding frequency: three posts a day at my best. These days I have maybe one post every three months. I, myself, have grown so much. But there is something there – a voice, a shade of something – that I recognize as distinctly myself.

The slow death of this blog always seems imminent but it never happens. It has survived against all odds since it started 11 years ago. Will it be here when I cross more milestones in life? Sometimes I read about my past and marvel at how unpredictable my soon-to-be future can be.

 

 

Hi C, I’ve graduated!

Dear C,

Two days ago, I officially graduated! Half a year late but here nonetheless.

What I hoped to be a snappy affair – ceremony, photos with family, go home – turned out a futile dream. And I’m glad for that. :-)

2017-07-08 09.33.16 2.jpg

Here are our friends turning up with a blaze of insanity. I’m eternally grateful for their love, although heavily guised by sarcasm, throughout my years of college. B hiding snacks under my bed, V praying through all my hard times, and everyone’s immediate and intense WhatsApp responses whenever another’s in need. Did not expect this horde to show up with their busy schedule, but they did and I can’t be more grateful. :’-)

2017-07-08 09.14.27 1.jpg

I’m thankful also that the awkwardness of formal events was diffused by their sheer craziness. As V said, I don’t know what I’ll do without these people who’d do the most socially inappropriate things with me in public.

C, your absence and presence was both with us all that day.

If you were there you would have flounced towards me, flapping your arms in glee. You would have, with your maternal warble, went “OH QING, I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!~” You would have given the affectionate and all-encompassing hug typical of a semi-inebriated aunt with a flair for dramatics. And wrap all this up with a quip (about growing up, about achievements, about friendships) that would have us all rolling our eyes in mock annoyance.

But you were there, simply because we knew so well how you would have been. You were there because all the crazies who came down that day carried a bit of you, and your madness, and love, and mad love for them through the years. Like horcruxes of your soul.

2017-07-08 11.14.50 1.jpg

C, you would also gush endlessly about how I’m finally being taken care of properly. You confessed to have silently worried about this for the past years. Know that I’m in good hands now, as I know you are.

 

I would wish you were here, but in a way, you already are.

Missing you!

Q xox

Mid-year Reads Roundup

I haven’t been reading (and reviewing!) as much as I’d like this year, with work and all. Collating all my reads from Jan 2017 till now, including what I’m currently reading / will start on soon!

Pretty sad that i lacked the impetus to do full reviews right after reading. I can’t seem to pinpoint my exact sentiments for books over time. Still, i’ll try to do a brief on each.

New reads:

My first new read of 2017, bought at Eslite Bookstore in Taipei during my first solo trip!!! I did actually review this. TLDR: Mixed feelings, was good nonetheless, will associate it with my wonderful Taiwan days alone.

I don’t follow what’s up-and-coming in the literary scene, which apparently Ken Liu is. Picked this up by serendipity because 1. Short stories, 2. Asian author, yay! Turned out to be breathtakingly beautiful. None of the pretension, all of the simplicity.

IMG20170613100437

To be frank, i feel like i’ve forgotten a lot of Colorless Tsukuru. I remember that it was decisively Murakami, that i savored it, that i was – at my points – very impatient to find out why the fuck they were avoiding Tsukuru.

Besides uncovering why the fuck they did, there wasn’t much of a plot twist. There were allusions to Tsukuru’s period of depression at being abandoned, but not much emotional intensity besides. It’s a novel about recovery, rediscovery, and reconciliation.

I’m so good at this one-liner summary bullshit.

If you’re into crime fiction by Japanese authors (i.e. Keigo Higashino, Natsuo Kirino), please note that this is no typical crime thriller! It’s a slow, sultry look into the intricacies of Japan’s police institutions. Riddled with guilt, apologies, hidden meanings. If you’re remotely interested in bureaucracy, Japanese manners, and also soap operas – this is for you.

Surprisingly, i enjoyed this despite the many warnings. It picks up towards the end, leaving you satisfied than horrified at having read 500 pages of Japanese bureaucratic power play. It just works. Somehow.

IMG20170429085516

As a huge fan of the movie Confessions (based on Minato’s novel) i had to pick this up. Further confirmed with Emily St. Mandel (another favorite!) endorsed this. Did not disappoint – short, concise, loved that it was split into four narratives. Each perspective took a life of its own, giving a fresh, distinct take on what happened.

Penance is looking through a kaleidoscope, a single scatter of shards bursting and blooming into a myriad of different landscapes – but ultimately reflecting and mirroring each other.

GOOD. GOOD GOOD GOOD. It checked so many things off my literary fetish checklist. Precocious children, check. Absurdly intelligent criminal of the psychological warfare variety, check. Evil, manipulative, AND beautiful, check. At the end of the book, you’d figure out who the antagonist is and still have no idea if you’re in total awe of – or abhor them. Brilliant stuff.

I’ve read Devotion of Suspect X which is Higashino’s more famous work, but this far surpasses it.

Re-reads:

This is my go-to lazy chick lit, simply because it doesn’t conform to the whole YAY happy ending after you learn your lesson format. And also because it really deals with mortality and morality. The character growth is very authentic and well-crafted. Great for an easy afternoon read.

First read this last year? Or the year before, but re-read again because i actually missed that sticky, balmy, tropical heat you’re immersed in when reading this amazing anthropological novel. Full review here.

This makes me want to re-read Speaker of the Dead in the Ender’s Series.

Yes, i’ve noticed also that my preferred reads are weirdly dominated by Japanese authors with close-up shots of sad, scary women on the front cover.

Because i need to re-read my favorite author and also soulmate once every few months or so to keep me sane.

Currently reading:

To-read/re-read:

IMG20170613105600IMG20170613105031

+ Speaker for the Dead!

I still have so, so much on my to-read list! Piss pants level of excitement.

Review: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

IMG20170613100729

Done with this awhile ago, and I’ve mixed feeling about it.

Some context: my personal preference for style is postmodern plots/themes, but tending towards conventional in structure. Some part of my mind still craves linearity and resolution – although the resolution can be as ludicruous as it wants to.

The Vegetarian treads the line on this.

I fell in love a few pages in, leaning against a stack of books in Eslite bookstore back in Taiwan. I loved the twisted thoughts so plainly, unabashedly, lain down by the first voice (the Vegetarian’s husband). He speaks with undisguised self-awareness, despite being a total asshole. His wife remains a mystery. And that was the hook that i got caught in. Caved and bought the book for 50c more than at Kino!!! (i cheapo)

Thereafter it descended into a bizarre, evocative dreamscape. Inner worlds and images and nightmares blend seamlessly into each other. Beautiful images, by the way. I especially loved the way carnal desire, raw and unrestrained, was contrasted with the pure, the ethereal and sacred. For me the one coherent thematic concern was that of art: when does it become pornographic? Is it the content or intention that determines its sanctity?

Beyond that, I’m slightly disappointed by the lack of insight into the Vegetarian’s head. She’s as much of a mystery – although more frustratingly so – at the end as at the start. Suspense is a hook to only a certain extent. I was waiting for the line and sinker, but got none. Is she just mad? Or was there an internal logic that governs her actions and beliefs? I wanted to be told it’s the latter, but was offered no evidence to claim it.

It was still an engaging read though. I found myself drinking it in easily without getting bored, which is so common these days. The ending was elegantly written, and the pacing felt right, but i needed more of a resolution. Something, anything. It didn’t have to explain everything, but it lacked progression. It might also be the sudden switch in voice to the Vegetarian’s sister that threw me off. I do love switching perspectives, but I’ve been riding a fast train invested in other characters

And to switch to a whole different persona, with different desires and misgivings and wants so late into the novel didn’t feel like a smart strategy. There just wasn’t enough time for me to feel emotional vested in her, and she didn’t feel like the right person to wrap the book up with. If she had given me more about the other’s inner worlds, maybe it would’ve worked. But sadly i cared too little about hers.

In general though, i liked it enough to recommend to G. It’s a nice world to get lost in for a few hours.

Too much heart and too little words,

thoughts that run for days and days

on end. a steady hand on chest to quiet the clamor

of something hollow battling its way through my lungs.

 

Letters to C

Dear C

How have you been? I ask and really want to know.

Back here, days are days, lapping into each other. I dream of you more often now. Sometimes you’re crying, sometimes we both are. Others you tell me you’re fine, and you’re happy, you’re coming home, you’re finally home.

If you were here we would talk endlessly. I pass by the train station half-expecting your mop of hair to crest into view.

I hope you’re well.

 

xo Qing

 

loss // hope in another universe

As a child i could not fathom loss. Everyone – everything – was fixed so decidedly in their respective orbits around my singular world, that i could not imagine them as their own universes.

My first was a bluebottle, proudly captured beneath a plastic container as it wandered on our kitchen sink. Its coat was a gleaming swirl of green-purple-blue, a whole galaxy alive between those tiny wings. For a day it was mine. Mine in a way no other possession was.

But by morning, i was told to let it go or it would die: tiny holes punctured on the plastic lid were simply not enough. Despite (or because) of my fierce and determined love, it was suffocating. That morning i sobbed by the window sill as i watched the bluebottle stretched to its full span and take off into sun.

I sobbed and decided my little heart could not possibly hold a loss greater than this. Years later, i would again choose to lose someone i loved to watch has wings open against the morning light, and realize that was the easiest pain to bear.

The loss that broke the world as i knew it; where everyone is as they should be, but with everything changed. When i understood that death can be willed.

The loss not of a person but of a place, of dislocation and homesickness.

The loss of one vulnerable and fully dependent, in my arms, gone from warm to limp. A loss i had the power to stop but did not.

The loss of one alive but away – a physical loss, a speechless loss, a loss of utter absence. Of something always there – so much always there that i’ve never turned around to check, and now it’s gone.

But through it all i remember that glint of indigo against sunlight. The moment when my tear-streaked seven year old self vaguely understood: this meant hope in a universe that wasn’t mine. Hope that was beyond me, but no less meant for me.

a lifetime of memories with you

before i forget

– hosting st nick’s national day ceremony with you. singing badly in front of 10 cohorts of girls.

– the days i went down my block every morning, waiting for you to come by – that blur morning face. that few minutes we have together before our ride pulled up.

– the days of maran, us mugging math together, giving each other side glances at maran’s unintended innuendos.

– the days in primary school we were collectively punished by chan ah moy. (taking turns to sit on the bin.)

– the days you had brownie after school and we’d prank you while you were flag-raising.

– when we had table tennis together, and we would think up games to play. making up ridiculous stories about sumos being so fat they collected sweat in pools of fats. your story about the indian man who went for a tan and became fair. our one line each poems together.

– math. teaching each other how to draw models.

– calling each other to ask about homework, but ending up chatting.

– our communication book. upgrading from passing notes in class we passed a book around to record our conversations.

– writing and illustrating stories together. our first one was about a man. with a heart which spilled out. tumbling down a hill. in a single-lined exercise book. we never finished that one. our second, a love story, written on foolscap and neatly filed.

– R U Chicken board game. when we invented a game of truth and dare translated to a board game and won that award. when we screamed and cheered when we won.