30.10.10

While you were sleeping

I was pretty excited when I woke up this morning, because we were finally! going! to get broadband! in our flat.

(Brief recap: I ordered broadband service from Sky as soon as my flatmate and I moved in in late September. The first appointment they gave us to set up the phone line was in early October, which seemed reasonable. This was later summarily changed to 19 October. Sky takes 10-14 working days after the phone line is working to activate broadband. Grrrrr. Times like this, I miss Starhub, despite their recent cock-up with terminating my Singapore broadband subscription.)

I don't function well without coffee, so I dawdled over making said coffee and thought I would catch up on Twitter on the iPad to wake up ye olde brain, before I attempted to set up the wireless router and check if the broadband service had in fact kicked in. As luck would have it: updating my Twitter timeline sucked up the last gasp of the prepaid 3G data plan on my iPad.

So with only half a coffee in me, I set up the wireless router. Surprisingly, everything worked.

(Living in London for two months has taught me to temper my expectations of service standards, as you can tell.)

And then, in my email inbox, an honest-to-goodness surprise: my travel article "Three Perfect Days --- Singapore", published in February 2009 in United Airlines' in-flight magazine Hemispheres, picked up the "Best Singapore Experience Story --- Print" at the Singapore Tourism Board's Singapore Experience Awards 2010 (my name and story title are buried in the Word document link in Annex A).

Woo!

Woot, even!

Woo woo!

I found out a couple of weeks ago that my travel story had been nominated, but I didn't think much of it at the time because, you know, who knows with these things.

I have no idea if I get an actual prize for this, or merely a shiny piece of paper with a Singapore Tourism Board logo. But hey: award-winning travel writer about Singapore. Or something.

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25.10.10

Acclimatising, indoors

If I leave a mug of just-boiled water in my bedroom while I'm taking a shower, by the time I'm back from my ablutions and snuggled in bed, the water will be a perfectly drinkable temperature, while still hot enough to warm my insides.

If I wash my hands in cold water, no matter how many layers of clothes I'm wearing, I start to feel cold immediately.

If I don't eat my food within twenty minutes, it'll have gone cold (maybe I should start warming my plates).

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23.10.10

Some days, all I do is stay home and read

Read for school, that is.

Yeah ... that's about it.

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21.10.10

Chillier than thou

As I said to Stellou tonight, maybe my age is showing, but I swear I never had to start using a proper scarf (not just a dainty fashion one) in October when I was living in Chicago. Comparing temperatures alone, it's not any colder here in London, but without the scarf, the chill nips insistently at your neck and then rapidly worms its way right through you.

Earlier in the conversation, I'd mentioned that my friend Dave is in Berlin now, and her husband had described the cold in Berlin as "attacking you" --- complete with tiger-claws gesture.

I went out and bought more sweaters last week, but maybe I need a couple more.

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15.10.10

Autumn, now

The weather has definitely turned nippy of late, necessitating scarves and proper jackets, less swanning about as if summer were still lingering in the air. I've lived through crazy Chicago winters (forty below, in Fahrenheit, with windchill, anyone?) but as friends with experience of both London and Chicago winters warn me, there's something about the English cold that gets into your bones.

For now, though, there's something invigorating about the brisk evening chill. Walking along the Thames tonight as the wind whipped past, I felt lucky to be alive and here, here and now.

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14.10.10

Observations while sitting on "sunflower seeds"

Ai Wei Wei's Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern, to be precise.

What I tweeted over about 25 minutes, in chronological order:
  • Crunch, crunch, crunch go the "sunflower seeds" underfoot. It feels totally wanton and destructive, even tho each seed seems pretty sturdy.
  • The left hand that's been scooping "seeds" is grey. Which makes me wonder about my jeans (I'm sitting cross-legged on the seeds).
  • Scruish, scruish, scruish it goes as people trudge by. Beach-like, but oh so grey.
  • Not sure if it's my imagination, but the air in here seems greyed by dust particles - not unlike the air around industrial cities, perhaps.
  • Poof goes a small cloud of dust as a group of schoolkids in black uniforms gets up to leave.
  • Enough grey dust for today. I'm sure I'll come back to "interact" with the "seeds" soon.
The only thing I didn't mention was that a couple and their newish-on-his-feet grandchild sat down near me, and the toddler was perfectly happy to scoop fistfuls of the "seeds" and pour them into my hands, then knock the seeds out till my hands were empty. I kept trying to pour the seeds back into his hands, but he didn't seem to quite understand the point of reciprocity.

As I left, two girls were theatrically flinging seeds into the air.

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13.10.10

That thing I do

For those of you wondering what I'm doing when I say I'm in a masters programme in cultural studies, this was some of my reading for the week:
  • Gilles Deleuze & Felix Gauttari, Anti-Oedipus (pages 1-38)
  • Franz Boas, "The Study of Geography"
  • Norbert Elias, The History of Manners (the first chapter)
  • George W. Stocking, "Franz Boas and the Culture Concept in Perspective"
  • Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties
Which led into lectures and seminars on:
  • What were Deleuze and Gauttari on about: desiring machines, body without organs, becoming?
  • What is "the West"? What is "culture" and what is "civilisation"?
  • What is the philosopher's approach vs. the theologian's when it comes to studying, well, anything?
At least, that's what I think we were talking about.

I don't think any of you, kind readers, come here for in-depth discussions of the above, but I just thought I'd plonk it up as a taste of what I'm doing when I'm not here/not cooking/not at the pub. This week I've enjoyed Deleuze and Gauttari the most, even though every time I read them, my mind feels like it's been first pulled through a wringer, then massaged into some new gravity-defying shape.

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12.10.10

Back as a student again

The first thing I've noticed is that I can't take the weekend off anymore.

Well, I can, if I don't go out during the week and stay home to dutifully finish all my readings. But where would be the fun in that?

I'm still trying to find the right pace, somewhere between leafing painstakingly through Deleuze and Guattari, cooking Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals (that title really needs a hyphen in it), commuting 45 minutes to school, moseying around markets on the weekend to try (and buy) cheese whose names I can't remember, and meeting friends at the pub.

(I do not have a "local" pub. I just go wherever my friends suggest. Not very British, I know.)

I thought I would get some personal research and writing projects done during this year of being a student, but I'm not sure where I can find time and headspace for them at the moment. Right now I feel like I've spent five weeks in London and have nothing writerly to show for it. (Shut up, I know I moved countries and everything.)

If anyone has any suggestions about what I should go foraging for in the British Library holdings (or at any other UK library), let me know!

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4.10.10

Sally forth and socialise 

I'm not sure when life in London got to be such a social whirlwind, but it did. I started out the week with hardly any plans except go to school and get classes sorted, then it seemed like everyday someone would call and say, "Hey, what are you doing tonight?"

On Thursday I got to meet fellow postgraduate students in the Centre for Cultural Studies, inasmuch as one can meet and get to know people over welcome drinks in a bar where the music seemed to get louder every half hour. The most surprising thing was how many of us were not British. As an undergraduate in the US, I got used to being just about the only foreign student in most classes. Here I've had to look hard to find any UK citizens. Don't ask me to try looking for Londoners.

Having said that, on Friday I hung out at the Design Museum with a Londoner friend whom I know from Singapore, her sister and the latter's two kids (one toddler, one baby). There is something reassuringly ordinary about hanging out with kids --- and eventually going home with everyone to feed and put the kids to bed before we could have our wine and dinner --- that made me feel more like a grown-up, less like a student again.

On Saturday an old friend from Singapore summoned me to drinks at the last minute. So I was out with two gay men and skipping from gay bar to gay bar. (Not literally skipping; it was pouring rain and everyone we passed on the street looked sodden and sad.)

Today the delightful Stellou and her husband hosted what they declared would be one last sausage-packed barbecue for the year. I got there too late to partake in the grilling festivities, but there was plenty to eat, including three desserts by the gracious hosts (and a fourth that a friend brought) and a bean/pea/goat's cheese mix that I fell in love with. I think I was suckered by the bright green beans and the occasional surprise of lardons in their midst.

While Stellou was scrubbing a grill pan afterwards, I updated her on all the rather grim Singapore news of late: the death of a young Singaporean undergraduate, apparently in an awful hit and run accident in London earlier this week, and the passing just yesterday of Kwa Geok Choo, the wife of former Singapore prime minister and statesman-at-large Lee Kuan Yew. Maybe because the two women were connected to the UK in some way (Kwa studied law at Cambridge with Lee), I feel a little odd to be here in London receiving the news --- some kind of mental/geographical displacement, but I can't quite say what.

Oh the poor families.

Gonna be gloomy this week. We're supposed to get "more than half a month's rain in three days", according to the BBC.

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