Warning: Very Long Post and Rant Ahead. For Sharmen and Gilbert, skip if you don’t want to waste your “2 years”.
I’ve been blogging a lot the past 2 days and I have 3 reasons for this sudden spurt of inspiration:
1) I’m procrastinating on my studies. My reading list is just piling up and up.
2) I’m bored
3) I’m procrastinating and cannot be bothered to study. What’s the point in doing things half-heartily?
4) I’ve got a lot of things to say. Might as well do some verbal diarrhea now cause I’m not going to blog for the rest of the week (I’ll be studying very hard to catch up on the readings).
Okay, that’s 4 reasons.
Anyway, I got off MSN with Ranga a few hours ago and we were both talking (me talking, he bitching) about NDP. For those non-Singaporeans, NDP means National Day Parade. NDP falls on 09 August and its the day when Singapore was unceremoniously kicked out of the Malaysia Federation in 1965. We are the only country to be given our independence against our will. What a fucking irony.
Yes, I know a lot about Singapore’s history. I am FASCINATED by my country’s history. I’ve read Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs: “The Singapore Story” and “From Third World to First”. And not the abridged versions. The thick, proper ones. And not because I was in History class, I read them out of my own free will (and time).
Anyway, Ranga was complaining how NDP was just the same old, same old. Halfway through, he mentioned that it was 8:22pm in Singapore and he was feeling very irritated. I asked him why and he said something about the pledge. Then I realized and started LOLing at him through MSN.
Apparently, I read on Temasek Review’s website that every Singaporean is encouraged to say the National pledge at 8.22pm. Ranga said he was not going to do it and said that serving 2 years in National Service was equivalent to saying the pledge 100 times. I couldn’t help but agree.
I don’t see the point of having a country-wide mass pledge because it seems too co-ordinated and seems like another Singaporean attempt to break the world record. Okay, let’s say our 3 million odd people says the pledge, what happens after that?
Cause if you think about it, every morning from Monday to Friday, thousands upon thousands of school kids are saying the pledge during school assemblies. So essentially, we are having a mass pledge day after day during school weeks. I know cause I sang the National Anthem and said the pledge everyday for 6 years in primary school.
So after the 3 million odd people said the pledge, they’ll just continue with doing whatever they’re doing in their life. What an anti-climax. Same old, same old.
Halfway through our MSN coversation, Ranga asked if I had to celebrate NDP in Sydney. I told him that the Singaporean Student Society in the USyd might be holding a dinner celebration or something like that. I don’t know cause I didn’t join the society and frankly speaking, I only know one Singaporean student, a girl, from the university. The rest are my army khakis and I’m pretty sure that the 3 of them are not celebrating NDP too.
Coincidentally, my dad SMSed me to ask if Singaporeans were celebrating NDP in Sydney. I told him I didn’t know and he asked if the embassy were celebrating.
I replied: “Don’t know, not sure.”
He asked if I was registered with the Singaporean embassy. I returned his question with a question, asking if I had needed to register with them. Wait later kenna called back enlistment, then how? He told me to register with them so that I’ll be inform about any Singaporean celebrations or events.
I think I’ll register with them. But only if I run into any difficulties or problems in Sydney. But for me attending Singaporean events? Forget it.
Back to the MSN conversation.
Ranga said that he finds these Singaporean Student Societies stupid. In fact, when I told him that it was not only Singaporeans doing it and the Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese, French, German and Vietnamese and majority of the international students have their own societies, he said he found all of them stupid.
I agreed with him, more or less.
I agreed with Ranga because it was kind of pointless on congregating together in a foreign country. I mean, you go to a foreign country to either work or study for the next few years and to me, you’ll need to submerge yourself into the local culture. I mean, what’s the point of staying to a foreign country for a few years and not learning anything?
I understand that the purpose of having these societies are to provide support and help for their own nationalities. Yes, we all get homesick in a new country and we all feel lost. These nationality societies provide some comfort by reminding us of our home country and hey, you get to speak in your home country lingo and probably get to meet some hot chicks/hunks!
I don’t find anything wrong with that but I find it rather ironic.
Let me pick on my own nationality (who else can I pick on?).
I bet the majority of the Singaporeans student here complain about Singapore constantly. Hey, I admit I’m one of them too. Weather fucking hot and humid. Government fucking restrictive. We guys have to serving 2 years of NS. Fuck lah. Singapore not fun at all lor. Singapore boring lor. Singapore where got 4 seasons, HAH? Singapore no hot chicks/ hunks. Singapore boring, Singapore boring, Singapore sucks, Singapore fucks, Singapore and the list goes on.
Yet, over here, they congregate together. For what? Just like what Ranga said, when they are in Singapore, they complain and complain. Yet once they are out of Singapore, they form Singaporean societies. He also added that if they loved Singapore so much, they should have just stayed on in Singapore. Exactly my point.
Step out of your comfort zones! Explore new cultures! USyd has so many international students! Explore their cultures! This goes to all the nationality societies. In fact, USyd, or more accurately, the USyd Union has a society called UniMates and I’m a member of that. UniMates is formed just for international students. They organize outings to explore Sydney and Australian cultures and to provide support for international students. Homesick? Join UniMates. Lost and sleepless in Sydney? Join Unimates. Not sure of what to do with your course? Join UniMates. Want to meet your future BF/GF? Joing UniMates. UniMates. UniMates.
Yeah, this is blatant advertising but I couldn’t care less. The only thing I see good coming out of these nationality societies is national solitary. Seriously, its a waste of time and money if you don’t make full use of the diverse cultural and social life in university.
Won’t it be funny if you studied in a foreign country and went back to your homeland, not knowing anything about your host country??? Let’s take this scenario for an example. Let’s take ME for an example:
Parents: “Ah Boy, ah, so how’s Australia? Got learn anything new?”
Ah Boy (Me): “Got lor, economics lor.” (I’m doing Arts but majority of the Singaporeans are in Econs and Business).
Parents: “No lah, I mean, about Australia, Sydney.”
Ah Boy: “Like what?”
Parents: “Like their culture, what they eat, drink, how they dress, what’s the lifestyle.”
Ah Boy: “Err… the shops close very early. Like 9pm. No 24 hours food outlet.”
Ah Boy: “Err… uh….. ya, that’s all loh. Oh and got a lot of Singaporeans friends.”
Parents: “KNN, spend 3 years just to make friends with Singaporeans. Then pay $100,000 for what?”
I’m not saying that it’s not right to make friends with our fellow countrymen. Neither am I saying that we should start adopting Australian mannerisms, accent, style and et cetera. No, what I’m saying is that we should stop being so insulated in our own little world. It irritates the shit out of me to see every nationality congregating together in the university. Each world making minimal contact with each other or the local population, each world minding their own business. Maybe I’ve only been in school for one month and haven’t explore much of the dynamics of the student population.
Damn, I should take up anthropology next Semester.
But yeah, so far what I noticed is each little bubble bouncing around without making contact at all. It’s really a shame for USyd, really.
I once told the Singaporean girl that I would never identify myself outright as a Singaporean to the Singaporeans in USyd. I’m not trying to avoid them or reject them but for me, if I wanted to make any new Singaporean friend, I would have stayed on in Singapore. If a Singaporean here asked if I am a Singaporean, I would say yes, I’m Singaporean, I won’t deny it. But when I hear a group of Singaporeans chattering nearby, I won’t go up to them and introduce myself as a Singaporean.
Which brings me to yet another point.
Neil Humphreys, a British writer who stayed in Singapore for 10 years once gave this remark. During his student days in the University of Manchester, he noticed that the Asians tended to stay within their own groups. They cooked rice, ate rice, spoke Chinese, Thai and other Asian languages and hanged out together instead of mixing around with other nationalities. So Chinese with Chinese. Thais with Thais and so on.
Now he’s not being racist. No, he’s not. Hear me out first. Or you can go read his travelogues on Singaporean culture. I bet he knows more than the typical Singaporean teenager. So shut up and listen.
Neil Humphreys came from a working class background. A blue-collared background to be exact. A single parent (his mum) home to be more exact. Now, at that point of time, the class system was still quite entrenched in the British mentality. So for a working class, blue-collared boy like Neil to make it to university, it was quite a surprise. Really. Neil also added that his London Cockney accent was quite distinctive within the student body as most came from the middle to upper classes.
Instead of trying to blend in with those classes and hiding his blue-collared background, Neil said he decided to stick to his accent and stick out like a sore thumb. He stuck out even more when he befriended a Scottish guy who spoke in very thick Scottish accent. But that’s another story.
What Neil said was that he found it rather absurd that all the Asians stuck together instead of learning more about their host country’s culture. The only Asian friend he made was a Hong Kongker, who rather succinctly told Neil that if he wanted to make Hong Kong friends, he would have stayed put in Hong Kong.
Therefore, Neil also encourage one to absorb the local culture. During his 10 year stay in Singapore from the 1990s to 2000s, he stayed in a HDB flat in Toa Payoh and ate in coffee shops. And was subjected to many pokes and prods from Singaporean heartlanders. He did not go to Singapore on some expat packages with some MNCs. He just plop himself in Singapore and called it home for the next 10 years and worked in local, quasi-governmental organization like SPH (Singapore Press Holdings) and as a teacher.
His Singaporean travelogues should be read. Seriously. But I’m just diverting away from the main issues.
Right now my favourite ‘Singaporean’ author is staying in some city called Wallagoong or some obscure place, probably trying to absorb Aussie culture there. But that’s not the point.
The point is, if I wanted more Singaporean friends, I would have stayed in Singapore, innit? INNIT? If I wanted to congregate with other Singaporeans, I would have studied in NUS, NTU or SMU.
So please stop congregating in nationality societies. It defeats the purpose of studying in a multicultural university.
Finally, I’ll like to bring up another matter.
One cold, cloudy day in school, I was trying to walk as fast as I can to the bookstore to get some novels that were required reading for English class. I was only wearing a thin cardigan and sweater and so I was trying to get to the warm bookstore as fast as possible. Along the way, this Chinese woman stopped me and I made a mistake of slowing down for her.
Before the words came out of her mouth, I knew exactly what she was going to say.
“Are you a student? Do you go to church? I am from a church nearby and would like to invite you to our bible studies.”
This have happened to me 4 or 5 times. I realized they always target the asians and never the caucasians. And then they always target ME. WHY? Anyway, I declined her offers as usual and started to increase my walking speed. It was FUCKING cold. The sky was overcast and there was no sun that day.
Then she asked me where I was from.
I was still walking, so I said “I am SINGAPOREAN”
“Oh, so you are Japanese.”
Well, I was so shocked that I actually stopped in disbelief. The Chinese women took the wrong hint and thought that she caught my attention and so she went on blabbing about some ridiculous thing about how 1 in 2 Japanese are atheists or don’t believe in God or want to but have no idea where to start. She hopes to convince those 1 in 2 Japanese that there is more to life and God is the way and so on. All this while, she kept looking at me.
So I guess I must be those 1 in 2 Japanese.
After she finished her little speech, she stared expectantly at me, waiting for my reply. I was cold, tired and irritated and so I gave her a curt “not interested” and walked off.
Well, halfway to the bookstore, I decided to stop at a bench to readjust my heavy backpack. From the corner of my eye, I saw a couple creeping up towards me.
They really creep up towards me. I’m not joking. Seriously. They approached me silently and cautiously, eyeing my every movement.
I felt cornered.
Before I knew it, the couple were standing beside me and they just stood there, not saying anything.
I looked up and politely asked them if I could be of any assistance. After all, USyd has dozen of tourists walking around the campus and the couple could be one of them.
But they were not tourists.
The male started hesitantly, he asked me in a rather soft voice if I would like to join their bible study and that their church was just nearby. Would I care to join them for one session.
No, I didn’t care and declined their invitation. Fortunately, they were not as persistent as the previous Chinese lady and so they smiled and left me alone.
Damn it, I think I need to re-grow my facial hair and look like a hobo. In that case, these people would leave me alone and stop approaching me. I mean, out of all the asians walking around me (and there are A LOT), they always target me. WHY? WHY? WHY?
Maybe the Singapore Student Society are out to get me through these means?
P.S. Its 3am and I’m really, really tired. So I’m sorry if this blog just goes on and on randomly. I tried to structure it coherently but am just too tired.