May 21, 2017

Laundry

It might be broken,
tearing all the privileges we once had. 
I open my windows
the scintillating rays enter
the fresh air seeps into the space
I swirl with the fragrance
of freshly washed laundry
and the scent of the sun 
exclaiming,
what a wonderful day!


Those are some of the lines that have been running across my mind for these two days, so I decided to write this "poem" down before I lose all the ideas. I am currently in what seems a dreadful situation: my apartment's air-cond malfunctions and the accommodation here has quite some bad air ventilation. I do not mind not having cool air but hotness and humidity (due to my apartmentmates' and my continuous, compulsory breathing activity) do not make a nice combo. I find myself sticky most of the times and trying to find some fresh air to breathe all the time. We cannot afford to open the windows. There is a high probability that monkeys would launch an attack on our apartment and at night, bugs and mosquitoes would swarm like crazy into our apartment. 

Despite all the cons, I still need my fresh air. I defiantly open my windows, though I make sure to close them when I am not in the room. I have faith that monkeys will not attack my room when I am around. Also, most of the times, my apartmentmates and I used to dry our clothes under the air-cond because we are scared to hang them outside (these monkeys!). Now I don't care anymore. If I still hang my clothes in the apartment, it will take forever to dry and it will further increase the humidity of the apartment... which isn't something I want. 


I now try to wake up earlier so that I do two rounds of laundry and hang them out before lunch. The sun rays are scorching hot but I am happy because my clothes dry faster and the smell of sun (if you can call it a smell) on my clothes is lovely!


Apart from doing laundry, I have been enjoying myself in quite many other ways. I have read two short stories: The Metamorphosis by Kafka and The Yellow Wall-paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I first knew about The Metamorphosis from SAT; I had read a short excerpt of the story for SAT Reading practice. Then I rediscovered the story when I was watching a TED-Ed video "Kafkaesque" and decided to download a PDF version of the story and read it. Meanwhile, my friend suggested The Yellow Wall-paper, which is easily obtained from the Internet as well.  


The two short stories went in ways I was not hoping them to go, which is good because they give me new paths to enjoy. I do not plan to elaborate further on the plots because I would be giving spoilers then, won't I?


Anyway, I have not read in quite some time. The last book I completed is "A Mathematician's Apology" by G. H. Hardy about three months ago. There are many sentences that I like from the book but there is one that seems close to the heart: 

"I still say to myself when I am depressed, and find myself forced to listen to pompous and tiresome people, 'Well, I have done one thing you could never have done, and that is to have collaborated with both Littlewood and Ramanujan on something like equal terms.'" 
Everyone puts value or significance on things and it varies from one person to another person. I find myself disagreeing to the effort/interest that people put/have on things that seem trivial to me and they find themselves disagreeing to the effort/interest that I put/have on things that seem trivial to them.

That is when tolerance plays an important part in building social interactions. Of course, when I find myself not having to engage with people, I will retire into my room to read articles, scan through book summaries (quite an economical way until I grab myself concrete copies of the books), watch videos from TED-Ed, School of Life or Vox (I just discovered this channel but it is quite politically biased...), search biographies, strum my guitar, listen to music from different genres and watch movies of specific themes, just to say some.


Talking about movies, I watched "Grave of the Fireflies" a week ago. To my surprise, I did not shed any tears. It was still a pretty sad movie, though. I rewatched "Spirited Away" and "The Man Who Knew Infinity" because my friend wanted to watch them and I have the movies. 


And today, I finally watched "A Beautiful Mind" with a more developed cognitive ability. I lost count of the amount of times I watched the movie on TV when I was much younger (probably a-digit-old). I have a faint idea that the movie is about mathematics, codes and war and that was it.


This movie has some sweet meaning to my life as a growing teen. When I was twelve and first joined Permata's summer camp, I was placed in a writing course where I met my instructor, a teacher whom I admired for his dreaminess and ingenuity in literature. I think I was very terrible in the class because I was not particularly good in dealing with poetic words in Malay. I abhorred reading my poem aloud in front because I just did not know how to display my feelings but he did it effortlessly. I like how he dedicated all his attention to students and when we were left alone to pour our creativity into the blank paper, he would sit by the corner and dreamily wandered to his realm of ideas but was still constantly aware of us especially when we got stuck. He is the teacher that motivates me to write until this very day.


He did not join the camp the next year but he came back the following year, when I was fourteen and was then in a cryptography course. We did not meet each other very often but when we did and had free time, we would certainly talk. 


"You know May, you should probably watch 'A Beautiful Mind'. You've probably heard about it but again, I think it suits you and you would enjoy it."


That was five years ago and I only managed to watch it today. I found the movie online, downloaded it using my mobile data (the school's Wi-Fi is too slow and I have my own opinion on things that are worth my data quota) and settled down to watch the movie with a brain that is almost 19 years old.

It was nice. Like many other great biographical movies, it roused the ambitious spirit inside me. However, the movie was a loose adaptation of the events that really happened in John Nash's life. His real life is way more complex than that but it is understandable because it is really not easy to fit all that into a movie. But I appreciate the intellectual-ish element in the movie which is the thing that inspires me after all.

I wrote quite a lot for this post. My act of refraining from Twitter has begun to take a toll on me. I need to write, but I do not want to write as much as this because it takes a substantial amount of time. Besides, when things are moving around in my head, they are often short so Twitter is always a good place to throw all those things out. Now I just have to swallow all my thoughts which take away my peace when I want to sleep. It's not entirely bad but it's not entirely good as well. 


14 papers done, 5 papers more to go! All I can hope is the best.
 

May 5, 2017

Hello, May (2017)

I have never felt the weight of my responsibilities to be this heavy until earlier this week. I realised that the important things to me are as important (or even more) as they are to some people. They wish that I can make it; I hope I can make it. I used to think that if I made it, the success will be sweet to only me but little did I realise that the success will be a whole lot sweeter to them. This whole journey does not belong to me alone, but it belongs to all the people who have put their faith in me. Their lives change if my life changes. Their feelings fluctuate when my performance fluctuates. Their prayers are sent up to the sky when mine is too.

Every action I make is like dropping a stone into the river, sending out ripples which oscillates the dried branches and leaves. The closer the people are to me, the stronger they feel the impact. (Now, that reminds me of gravitational waves.)

I do not want to be a disappointment to myself and especially to them.

For God's sake, this whole thought is a damn good motivation.

Shifting this post to a lighter mood, there are a few things to briefly talk about. Too bad I do not access my Twitter account now, so everything just pours into here.

  1. After A Level ends, I thought of applying to TED as a translator. Of course, I have to ensure my level of commitment and my availability to be one but it does seem to be an interesting pursuit. Also, I have to really brush up all my Malay vocabularies! 
  2. Some Icona Pop's songs are good, like real good. I am into EDM -- all these synths, bass or wacky sounds (from AJR especially). To know Icona Pop in this genre is really pleasing, especially because I have been listening to male musicians. I mean, I knew Icona Pop some time ago from 'I Love It' but I never listen to their other songs until yesterday and now I'm hooked. I should really branch out more. 
  3. Mr Shan refers to his students as 'children'. That's really heartwarming. A* PHYSICS FOR YOU, MR SHAN (if God wills)
  4. I don't really get it when I read articles about "gifted children overthink". When I read the article, I wondered, "Isn't everyone like this? I mean, if you're not thinking all the time, what do you do??" I do not feel that overthinking/thinking all the time is a property exclusively in gifted people just because... I think everyone thinks all the time? 
  5. I have an inquiry circling around my head but I think it can be deemed as a sensitive issue to be discussed here or in any form of social media. I need to talk to a person or to people face-to-face because I feel that my intentions in discussing the issue will be twisted in words. 
  6. The main topics revolving in the campus: exams and university accommodations. It gets really repetitive but I cannot help but to ask, "Have you found a suitable place to stay?" so that a conversation sparks. I am currently forming some other over-the-dinner/lunch questions but as long as I haven't found a suitable one, I'll stay quiet. As expected, the meal is very silent.
  7. Why do I want to major in physics? That's a big question. One answer forms immediately and as cliche as it can sound, I just want to understand how everything works. A second and more personal answer will be that I find it challenging, so I want to learn more so that I understand it better. This is true when I study A Levels; the depth of the subject compared to SPM has helped in my overall physics understanding. I don't know if this works when I start university physics. Probably I'll be crying my eyes out solving hours-long problem sets. Other versions of answers are yet to be found.
  8. When you think something is hard, just think that there is something harder coming in the future. You'll stop whining and find 'that something' so much easier almost immediately. True story. 
  9. I wonder if piano excites me anymore at this point. It's a little too 'light' for me, considering that I have ventured into the realm of really low frequency sounds. 
  10. I get homesick really easily at the moment. 
  11. Rejecting the universities that I am not going to, when you have done so much work in your university application, is one of the saddest things to do. 
6 papers done, 13 more to go! I hope we all do our best!

Apr 29, 2017

The War: A Levels

So... my A Level exams will be in 3 days and it will last for more than a month.

I don't know what to feel.
I don't know what to expect.
I think I have an idea what to do...
Do past years, do not spend time on Twitter...

I can't believe the final war (at least at this stage) is so near. I honestly can't wait to finish it but man, the journey through the war is dreadful.

But it's okay, my break will come after that.

Just a bit more, May. And you have spent (almost) 18 months here so YOU GOTTA NAIL THIS.

To batch 19.0, good luck for your AS. To the graduating seniors, batch 18.5 and 18.0, good luck. Let's endure this together, answer the papers well and graduate from KY happily ever after.

Mar 31, 2017

The American (Education) Dream

Hello people!!! *echoes into an empty web space*

I am half-wrecked by A Level trials. Whenever I exit the examination hall, one sentence runs through my mind, "You're a dishonour to your family."

Only some of the time, which happens really rarely, I would say, "May, your effort for the past three months is worthwhile."

Anyway, that is not really the intention of me writing this post. I need a space to properly channel the remains of my euphoria for me to function normally (which is to continue studying for the remaining of my trials). So I'm going to talk about a part of my life journey that had been difficult but very rewarding: US applications.

All my friends know I'm the 'US-over-UK' girl. I guess my face always lights up whenever I talk about US education, especially when the person I'm talking to is not familiar with it. I'm like, "Come, allow me to show you what US education can offer!"

I've always wanted to study in the US. There's this brief moment when I thought of studying in the UK because I like the old, classic, Victorian, Gothic British architecture but that was all and that was when I didn't know the difference between a standard British education and a standard American education.

Along the way, through months and years of trying to find what I want to study in the future, I kinda decided to study physics-related things and also philosophy, religion, language but there's no possible way to do that all at once in a degree. Then the US education came... the glorious Core curriculum. *confetti drops*

I also really like the idea of not having to declare my major as soon as I enter a US university because I have no idea whether I really wanna do physics for my whole life. The idea of becoming a physicist is cool but very vague at the same time. So, US education allows me to try it first and if I find myself leaning towards some other fields, I can change!

Doing A Levels and pursuing US colleges can be a little difficult. I had to divide my time for SATs, A Levels, UK personal statement, US personal statement and supplementary essays and of course, other extra-curricular activities! There was this one week when SAT subjects tests, PAT (Oxford Physics Aptitude Test) and Diwali were on the same week and I was glad I didn't die from that. And there was also another week when I had my SAT the day right after I finished my semester exams. I am very lucky to have my family, friends and teachers who have been supporting me during those times, before those times and after those times (now).

I wrote tonnes of essays because I applied to 8 colleges. I was super scared I didn't get into any so that was why I applied to a lot of universities (YK university list is crazy!). Three months after I sent all my applications, the decisions are now out! During those three months, I seriously couldn't have a night without worrying about my US decisions. I tried really hard to open my heart for a UK education because I would probably get rejected by all the US universities and I don't want to get demotivated just because I couldn't go to where I've always wanted to study. I tried to get that Imperial vibes but no man, I still cannot think of being in a university studying physics all the time. I will go crazy! (My wise friend commented, "But I thought that's what you have to do if you want to become a physicist?" I returned a meek smile.)

I guess all the worries now end here. I am rejected by 5 of the universities I applied but seriously, with all my heart, I am grateful to say that I am too happy with my acceptances to feel sad for my rejections. And I know surely that no one reads my blog, or very little, so I don't have to think much of containing my happiness hahaha

I receive admissions to the Class of 2021 of UC Los Angeles, UC Berkeley and University of Chicago!!! *screams infinitely*

I expected 8 rejections so this really, my God, makes me happy. I can't express in words how grateful I am. Really, I am really really grateful. I probably will head to UChicago because I have a soft spot for how quirky it is (best proof: click here and don't forget to read all the past prompts!). My UChicago essays were written from my heart (eww haha) with touches of creativity and boldness. I just don't know why but UChicago seems so similar to Permata, except that it's bigger, more diverse, more challenging and all the 'more's. UChicago is, in fact, in my 'impossible' list so when I received a 'congratulations' e-mail, oh God that moment.. *speechless*

I should also express my gratitude to all the UK universities which accepted me. So, thank you Imperial, UCL, King's College London and Edinburgh.

God, I can feel myself getting breathless and my stomach performing somersaults whenever I think about all these acceptances. So much had happened. A little more before I face my real A Levels and graduate from KY. Now, I just hope the best for everybody. For all my YK and KY friends, I hope we can all satisfy our universities' and sponsors' requirements. We have come this far, so let's do this! 

Mar 22, 2017

some Latin words

Fiat lux
Let there be light.

Crescat scientia; vita excolatur
Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.

Feb 9, 2017

Probabilities Within Red Packets

As much as I want to live in the present, I would always find myself hovering over the memories of my past or dreaming of the infinite probabilities of how my future would be. Fortunately, I have kinda tied a beautiful knot to the memories of Permata and have moved on to face the fact that I am in a place very different from Permata. By the end of 2016, I have discovered that there is no point to compare KY to Permata; it is incomparable and if I insist on doing so, I'll end up killing myself by abandoning my current responsibilities: A Levels.

When I stopped comparing, that was when I find the warmth of KY friends which I had overlooked for the past year. The rigidity and intensity of A Levels drown me but friends and families save me from sinking. And perhaps I should thank myself too for developing this final mentality which now serves as an invaluable gift from living life.

Okay, so that was about the past. I thought I would have readily set myself to live in the present. But nah, A LEVELS.

I am living in the present but most of the times, the purpose is for the future. I find myself doing past year papers not because I need to do it now, but because it is a part of preparation for my imminent A Level exams. To be frank, I changed quite a lot of my old habits (that includes napping!) to maximise my efficiency to study. To give a quantitative evidence, the amount of past year papers I have done for the past month exceeds the past year papers I have willingly (excluding the ones given by teachers as homework) done for my entire life! I can imagine the old me laughing at how hard I am working now but sod it, I have to pass YK's requirements. I can't bear to see my parents paying YK a freaking huge sum of money for my failures.

Actually I wanted to talk about this year's Chinese New Year celebration... but apparently, I have deviated quite far, though not irrelevant.

As usual, I don't really look forward to CNY. The smell of new clothes on first two or three days of CNY and the stacks of dishes to wash haunt me since forever. Of course, when I was a kid those were all that mattered to develop an aversion. But this year, I have been wondering if this year's CNY will be the last before studying in the overseas for four long years.

Most probably, 'yes' but there's also a quite huge probability saying 'no'. No one can tell the future.

When my far relatives whom I could only meet during CNY said, "Bye, see you next year!", I waved back, replied, "Yeap, see you!" and only whispered, "...when I see you."

There are many traditions and rituals that are only done during CNY and when I was performing them this year, a fleeting melancholic feeling overcame me every time. The thoughts of 'I might be missing this next year', 'I might be having my reunion dinner not just at a huge distance, but also time difference, away from my family' and 'Should I eat more then, so that I could spend more time lavishing the company before lacking it for four years?'.

I did feel stupid to think of this but my mind keeps taking account of the future, even when it is perceiving the present. One good thing about this is that I ended up viewing CNY in a significantly more positive way. It undeniably brings families together.

Fortunately, I managed to join 初九 (9th day of CNY) celebration this year. It is usually celebrated by Hokkien Chinese and I had been missing it so many times because it always falls on weekdays. This year it fell on a weekend and since my college is on the way from my aunt's house to my grandparents' house, she picked me up on last Friday evening and voila, I got to celebrate 初九! Ah Ma (grandmother) was pretty happy I could make it this time as she said, "Wah Ah May, it's good that you finally get to come back for 初九!"

As expected, the preparation for 初九 was endless. The celebration must only start at 12 midnight, so automatically the whole day had been spent to finish up all the necessities. I seriously could not remember the last time I celebrated 初九, possibly when my age was only one digit, so everything was pretty new to me. As the quite 'old' Soo grandchildren, my sister and I spent most of the day walking, be it around the kitchen carrying chairs or outside the house cleaning the porch. It was super tiring but it was nothing compared to the amount of work the elders did.

When the clouds started to darken, relatives and neighbours (probably about 40-50 people?) began to flood into our house. Chatters and laughters spread around the house as everyone waited for the clock to tick twelve. The midnight came and there was a brief silence when everyone (almost) simultaneously knelt down to pray. You should have seen the amount of joss sticks!

After a considerate period of firework show, eating began! That was when all the 'what if's started to cross this little brain of mine again as I observed people taking food while I fanned flies away from the food. The sight of a small girl sneakily pinching a huge pau, a couple happily munching their food, a cousin surprisingly discovered a nice delicacy, a relative graciously asking if I had eaten and et cetera made me appreciate my trip home, even if I would miss it again for the next few years.

If I teared up for goodbyes, it is usually when I leave my grandparents or when I see my mother cries. But this time, it was the first time I shed tears when my cousins left.