May 30, 2008

enough!

Posted in Random Ramblings, The Thesis, Travel and Adventure, Uni at 9:33 am by meldee

It’s the last day of the semester, and I finally feel I can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been a fun 13 weeks (for most of the part, I think I flew off the handle somewhere between Weeks 6-10, which are the usual killer periods) but I can’t wait to just bloody go on break.

And (yes, I’m whining here) it’s not even a real break, but a pseudo one. I’m in early on a Friday (tis eerily quiet about the 6th floor today, most of the lecturers take it off for fieldwork/research day) to try and force myself to knock out at least a couple thousand words on my 60% assignment (which is due in two weeks…groan) and work a bit more on my Introduction for The Thesis (I’m about 1,200 words in, but I’m deeply dissatisfied as everything sounds like utter rubbish).

To cheer myself up, I’m making a shopping list (I swear I have a latent Virgo in here somewhere, nothing about disorganised Pisces, or impetuous Aries, or flighty Saggi have anything on list-making, which is something I love though not to the same extent Miss Venn-Diagram Pet does) of things to buy in Bangkok.

Ironically, more than half of them are requests from family (my aunt requested 10 pairs of velveteen flip-flops. Now, really, why?!) who’ve asked for everything from shoes to hair products to leather flowers (believe me, I’m as bemused as you are). Didn’t they just go to Bangkok like, last month? Hmm.

Not to say I mind a whole lot, it’s just that I’m traveling with my Dad and brother, and I know for a fact I will get no mercy from them with my luggage. I forsee me juggling my duffel bag (to be checked in), backpack, dorky passport pouch (I despise these things with a vengeance, however I am more concerned with the safety of my passport and moulah and gadgetry rather than how much like a DVD seller I look) and camera bag, running for a bus or something, while those two prance on ahead.

Dad wants to cover his ass, so he’s already declared repeatedly that they’re not checking in anything, and if I want to carry “so much rubbish” I can carry it by myself. Huff. Very well for you to say, Papa Song, you don’t need to worry about carrying shampoo (given how he is borderline balding) or deodorant, or tweezers or razors to prevent hairy ‘pits. I can’t bloody carry on all that stuff!

Ooh, does anyone know if I’d be able to carry on my camera tripod though? I’m flying AirAsia, and am worried it might get dented or bashed up mercilessly, though I guess I can buffer it with my clothes. My check in luggage is ridiculously light at the moment. Dad’s already scoffing at me, saying that we’re going to do outdoorsy stuff (like whitewater rafting, oooooooh! Something I’ve always, always wanted to do before I died!) and not going for a fashion show.

Bah, men.

***

I’m really beginning to be sick to death of The Thesis.

I’m tired of explaining myself (already) and am sorely tempted to just do a half-assed job of it so I can actually reclaim my life instead of spending weekends in uni being miserably unproductive and subjecting myself to the godawful cafeteria food (because I’m too lazy to walk to Medan/Rock Cafe–good God, what a lameass name!–and I hate the catcalls and up-down looks from the mechanics in the workshops).

But on another level I know I’ve already programmed myself such, and being the bloody overachiever I am, I know I will not be content until I get First Class. I will bloody spend nights here if I have to! Kiasu kan! Sigh, what to do.

I feel like I’m a set of overused rechargable batteries. I wear out quickly, get recharged and am on Power Mode and super-cheery for a few days (I was crazyhyper the other day after Cuppacakes with Eva—I was asking all the lecturers if they could do cartwheels/handstands, and made futile attempts in the office with The Office Mate looking amusedly on) but then I begin to shudder to a halt. It’s times like these (now) when I lie, drained, in bed, having a Family Guy marathon and turning off the lights by 10.30pm.

I’ve had enough of this shit, really, but I know I have no choice but to go on :/ I just wish I had a longer-term solution, and one I would not get bored of so easily.

Damn my goldfish attention span.

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May 12, 2008

over the hum of the drum

Posted in Random Ramblings, Social Responsibility According to Me at 9:50 am by meldee

It’s been one of those weeks where time zooms right by you, and before you know it, it’s Monday morning again. You’re dragging your ass out of bed and guzzling coffee, then stuck in traffic listening to the same old crap on the radio, and before you know it you’re in the office (first one on the floor for a week in a row, woots *cocks evebrow sardonically sif to say “This is the drama that is my life”*) Facebooking and trying to find any means to not do work.

I must say, these two years since I’ve gotten back from Australia have been possibly the most trying, ever. I’m not a patient person, and I like getting things done like, five minutes ago. Which is why it kills me when I know something big is coming but I have to be patient and count the days, and in the process bloody behave myself and do what I am supposed to.

Which of course, is the bane of my existence: my Honours thesis. Progress on it is blood-vomitingly slow; I’ve only begun my fieldwork interviews and am still close to tears trying to wrap my head around the theoretical framework—I even have a bloody diagram, believe it or not, revolving around Foucault’s notion of the subject and discourse, before lifting ideas from Baudrillard, Butler, Spivak, Bourdieu and de Certeau.

I don’t think I’ve talked about my thesis so far, or at least what I’m doing—since I’ve presented it already I might as well share my genius *cough* with the rest of the world. It is a qualitative analysis of the use of Facebook by (as a sample which can hopefully be extrapolated to other forms of activism) Malaysian cyberfeminist activists as a vehicle for offline practice mobilisation, titled “The New Face(book) of Malaysian Cyberfeminist Activism: A prelimiary study”.

Trust me, it sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. My lovely (Sagittarian) supervisor, or rather, one of my supervisors (one’s a Cancer, another Sagittarian! Oh la la!) has been (oddly?) quite firm in me aspiring for something doable rather than grandiose, because as she constantly tells me, “It’s an Honours project, Mel! Not a PhD!” (I love how Sagittarians use nicknames for others and themselves so easily). My Cancer supervisor, on the other hand, clicks his claws and peers at be from behind his spectacles and wants me to draw out timelines and budgets. Lovely, but typical.

So there, that is my year-long project. Throw in a smattering of activism, and hair-raising attempts at tutoring (which I love, though it is incredibly frustrating—I blame the Malaysian educational system that makes our students so complacent with all the spoon-feeding. There is little or no initiative, and they expect a quick fix for a problem that requires consistent and thorough work done in their own time—I am only a tutor, not a miracle worker! I can’t bloody help if nobody does their readings *sigh*), coupled with the madness of my homelife, a long-distance relationship and you have a crazed woman.

Though I suppose I can hardly complain; life has been comfortable for me and I have too many blessings than I know how to give thanks for. And I suppose ‘complain’ is a term too harsh, because I’m not—I’m just ranting, because I realise the fault is fundamentally mine, for being impatient and brash and…superior (told to me by a dear friend, whose intentions I am uncertain of—regardless, it stung, because I’ve never thought of myself in that light).

I suppose then this time not getting what I want when I want it (boo) is supposed to be a lesson in cultivating patience. And humility. Among other things. I’m just moaning over it because it’s like having to eat one’s veggies at the dinner table—you may not necessarily like it, but you know you have to because it’s good for you.

***

I have discovered a few facet of my personality when I am drunk—friends know me as the ‘clean-up drunk’ or ‘the happy drunk’ or ‘downright stupid’, but drinks last Saturday brought out the impassioned politics spouter. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I got so hot under the collar talking about the Malaysian judiciary, Pakatan Rakyat and how racialised politics came about in this country (citing Farish Noor’s The Lost Tribes of Malaysia talk in tipsy spurts) over frozen Margaritas.

It also hit me over dinner that I am having a full meal that I can afford to pay for with friends whose company I enjoy. I am sound physically and to an extent, emotionally and mentally, and I have options. It made me sad, thinking about what’s going on in Myanmar now—Myanmar, Tibet, Africa, the outskirts of KL even. And I think while it is selfish, I had to stop thinking about it because it brings out the feelings of helplessness and anger—something I tell myself often, “What can I do? I’m just one person.”

Melody Melody quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.

At times I think I am the biggest dork this side of the planet. Then I think of ministers in Malaysian parliament and I stop feeling so bad.

Nobody can deny that there will always be things bigger than oneself, and more work cut out than any one person can take on. But I believe if everybody does what they can within their capacities, something can and will get done, right? I guess I just need to mobilise myself in my moments of humdrumity and remind myself that I am a cog in a wheel.

And I just need to remember, in the immortal words of Dory, to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming…”

May 2, 2008

on hating bureaucracy

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Ranty Pants at 5:15 pm by meldee

I just do.

Especially when it takes one four hours to submit forms for passport renewal and to pay up—yes I know they have those nifty passport renewal kiosks but guess what, my chip wouldn’t read (just my luck!).

And I noted with some satisfaction (because I am evil that way) that the kiosk had broken down when I left.

A note to the Subang branch of Immigration at Terminal 3 of the SAAS Airport, please make it more child-friendly. There are so many people carrying babies with them, and it’s hot and stuffy, and there’s no room for strollers, and a really tiny and dark corner for breastfeeding mothers. It’s torture not only for the kids, but for us trying to cope with the screaming kids :/

And a general note to Immigration: put on your website somewhere lah that the form has to be printed on both sides of the paper! Stop trying to con people of RM1 by forcing them to buy the forms >.<

I’m so glad passport renewals only happen once every five years because if this happened every year I’d go bonkers.

But the boyfriend tried to comfort me by saying that this may be the last time I need to renew my Malaysian passport…ooh. Goody, I wonder if Malaysians in Canberra are any more efficient. I have my doubts but oh well.

Happy World Press Freedom Day tomorrow!

May 1, 2008

on matrimony

Posted in I Wonder... at 3:04 pm by meldee

Before everyone starts freaking the shit out on me, I’d just like to say that age is not an accurate gauge of maturity or levels of commitment, so though I may have been alive for only 22 years I have an old soul, so shut the hell up, and no, I’m not getting married.

Yet.

And who knows when that would be? It may be next year; it may not be for another 22, but oh well, the onus is on me now, isn’t it?

It’s funny, how with one of my ex-boyfriends the thought of marriage scared the bejeezus out of me. Funnily enough I don’t think the topic ever really came up that often but I had this feeling that it was implied. He used to get angry with me when I brought it up, saying he (at the time) didn’t have a career, didn’t have much money, etc etc…and a little voice inside me used to pipe up, “But you do mean to, and I’m scared!”

I’m strange that way. I used to think I was being ‘perasan’ or paranoid, but as I’ve grown up I’ve come to realise that it’s a thing I do–when I’m close to someone, I pick up vibes from them. Vibes, feelings, thoughts–I know just when they’re about to call, and I know what they don’t want to speak about–if I’m being utterly obnoxious, it’s purely because I choose to be a right royal pain in the ass (something which I do very well, thank you).

But yeah, anyway. The point was that though I did love him very much, the thought of marriage made me quite literally run for the hills. I thought I’d never feel ready enough for it, and even tried to push him in the direction of other girls, saying that we were still young and that he should date around a bit more before committing to one person. He declined (not-so strangely enough at all, given how he had Venus in Taurus), and I was left wringing my hands and close to tears.

Marriage, or at least the very thought of it, has both bemused and frightened me these last few years. I know to an extent I am definitely the marrying kind; I love the idea of coming home to someone and making babies and making a house a home, but at the same time I know I have a restless spirit and I need the challenges and inconsistencies that life has to offer me. Which leads to the question: why marry in the first place?

I said in an interview once on having multiple best friends that we have different friends to suit different purposes. It may sound cruel and flighty, but it seems unfair to me to expect one person to have everything that you need–why shouldn’t this be true of something like marriage? Is it realistic to expect one person to be your all and to serve every purpose?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am quite diverse in my needs. I need someone who will challenge me mentally, someone to discuss spirituality and religion with, someone to coo over cute babies and pretty shoes, someone to go shopping with for various household items and actually give a shit about whether the curtains match the sheets, someone to romance and woo me with poetry and declarations of love (I know the difference, when it’s put on and when it isn’t) and someone who would love the whole package, mood swings and crying spates included. It’s selfish of me to expect anyone to be able to fulfill all these needs at once and still be his own person so that I remain interested in him!

For that reason, the idea of an open marriage appeals to me somewhat. I read this excellent piece by a feminist academician who goes by the name Bitch Ph.D, with a later follow up. I was also skimming through More Joy of Sex, which my father pretty much forced me to bring home with me (“Take it and read it, it’s good to learn!”) while my mother fluttered and fretted disapprovingly in the background, elbowing him and hissing “Don’t encourage her!”.

Bitch Ph.D argues thus: “The truth, I think, is that it is impossible for one person to be “everything” to someone else. Impossible and, I think, cruel: setting the other person (and, incidentally, yourself) up to fail. In part, this is the answer to the “why open marriage?” question in a nutshell: because I think it is loving to deal with your fear in order not to limit the other person’s growth. Yes, my standards are high (which is why you do not want to be keeping my house), but at least I try to avoid a double standard. Now, surely there are people who have such issues with jealousy and fears of betrayal that it is best for them and their partners to agree that there are limits: here, monogamy has its uses. But I think that for most people, garden-variety jealousy and fear is, or can be, or should be, a way to learn: what is it you are afraid of? What is it that you are not getting (or giving)? What does your crush on this other person, or your partner’s crush, say about who they are that they didn’t know before? In other words, as my friend asked: “what do you get out of ‘cheating’ that you don’t get at home?””

According to Comfort (1987:166-168), ‘sharing’ can actually be a sensual, pleasant, and bonding experience. It’s societal discourses that dictate that sex is shameful and should be denied and done behind closed doors (the closed doors part I agree somewhat–I really don’t want to have someone shagging in my breakfast, thanks). He argues that marriage to one partner exclusively is quite restrictive, and this argument is also supported by Bitch Ph.D who says that expecting total exclusivity limits growth, and if you really do love someone, would you really want to control them at all?

Perhaps this is a little radical; and mind you I am in no way encouraging it. There are of course medical considerations (always have safe sex!) and emotional imbalances between couples–‘sharing’ should never happen because one partner is only going along to shut the other up or make them happy. It’s a personal thing.

I’m just saying that for now these thoughts appeal to me, though I realise it may not always work because jealousy happens (and I can be quite the jealous person). However, Comfort (1987:157-159) is of the opinion that jealousy is actually unnatural and is more of a social convention than anything else, which actually makes sense–because along with marriage, the notion that you can own and control another human being (tcah!) is also a social construct.

I was also reading this other blogpost about marriage and how young women are increasingly marrying young because they want to. And yet, how the risks of divorce etc hang over them like a dark cloud; yet, the author argues, marriage, regardless of age, is always a risk. Which is totally true–the same argument that accidents can happen at anytime. It’s more than one factor that comes into play to set off a chain of events!

I’m not entirely sure where I stand on the issue of matrimony now. Talks of marriage with the boyfriend have definitely come up, and he knows me well enough to understand where I stand on the issue (which is basically all over the place, in mad scrambles from one stance to another with lightning speed, because though while I still do entertain notions of a Happily Ever After, he knows I’m more pragmatic than that–and that yes, I am a feminist, so he better damn well not expect me to iron his boxers and obediently come (pun intended) when summoned, though if I do, good for him).

For now, I think I’d rather not leap into the deep end if I can avoid it, though if I have to (because of visas and whatnot), I know I wouldn’t be all that fussed either. I love him deeply, and really think that I can see myself with him for a long time. But my point is, why limit oneself to definitions and norms? Marriage, open or closed, can be just as liberating or restricting as anything else–I simply don’t get why people are so hung up over definitions. What does it matter at the end of the day, really?

People can be married (like my grandparents) and yet have nothing to do with each other; others live together for years on end in the manner of our traditional definition of a ‘married couple’ and yet not be married; so I really don’t understand why labels have to be slapped on everything and we need to feel the pressure from the ominous faceless and nameless Society to conform.

If and when marriage happens for me, I hope I do not end up limiting myself and my partner to the cookie-cutter life everyone thinks they’re supposed to have. But rest assured, I am neither shirking it nor embracing it entirely–when it comes, it comes, you know?