Sunday, March 09, 2014

Subliminal

"Indeed, the frontier for the historian operates as what the anthropologist would call a space of liminality."
- Brook Thomas, Turner, Martí, and a Home on the Range

- seeing the intersections of my two favourite disciplines = moment of intellectual beauty (as pretentious as that sounds.) This makes the endless readings and all these late nights of barely-snatched sleep worth it. Perhaps I should really start thinking seriously about this grad school thing.

Things have been tough but, everyday, praying for more trust, more faith, more grace. To rest secure in the knowledge that kneeling in front of the Lord, my cup overflows.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

Great sermon about anger and forgiveness today, much more relevant to me than I would have originally thought. Forgiveness is a struggle...

School begins again tomorrow. I pray for God to keep working within me (and to find comfort in the small things) 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Things I've Been Learning

I spent a long time trying to figure this out yesterday:

I was working a brunch shift at the dining hall yesterday and doing my usual job of watching over the fruit counter, cleaning up when brunch ended and then going to help wipe tables and sweep floors. Fruit's not a very fast-moving station especially when brunch is ending, so I'm just there staring into space when one of the professional workers comes and takes a few pieces of honeydew and rockmelon as well as the syrup/juice(?) that collects at the bottom of the fruit trays. I'm kind of intrigued and wondering what he was going to do with it, and so he tells me that he's blending it all into a juice with some vegetables and asks me if I wanted to try some!!! Of course I said yes and later on he gave me this glass of green frothy juice which I tried with excitement. It tasted really good - extremely refreshing + had a hint of cinnamon + according to one of the other professional workers was going to be "cleansing" for me lol. That made me so happy for the rest of the shift, and I didn't even know why!!!

As I think about it more, though, I realize that I felt so happy because it was an act of love/caring/kindness, whatever you want to call it. And I've felt loved by so many people recently, ranging from the dining hall workers to my Manna friends to family back home. It makes me almost ashamed because I know I'm often misanthropic and unloving, yet I receive so much from people that I both know very well and hardly know at all outside of work.

God has been breaking my pride recently, especially this past weekend. I came back from winter break extremely cranky and tired. I was (and am) dealing with a number of things including:
- a very painful breakup (he is amazing and we are still great friends but a breakup is a breakup, it is a kind of death)
- the sudden passing of my uncle at a relatively young age (he is only in his 50s and was a healthy man - his family used to host us when we went back to Malaysia for Chinese New Year and I just feel awful that I hadn't seen him for more than a year and now I can't anymore)
- papers to write, finals to study for
- general homesickness and missing my family, especially knowing that my brother is going into the army soon and I won't be there to see him off or give him advice about uni applications - I've felt like a very absent sister since coming to college
- incredible jetlag that didn't go away for 1.5 weeks and had me waking up at 3am every morning
- a renewed sense of how expensive my education here is, and how I might be able to play my part by not spending on unnecessary things
- anxiety about my major and future.
So I've not been the nicest person around on campus, and I'm still self-pitying, self-indulgent and self-centered... but I've been receiving so much love that I can't even fathom. And I was blessed by the two OSGs that happened this week and last week - after both, I felt God subtly showing me that I'm complaining so much and I think I know myself and my limits but actually He knows me so much better, He knows what is good for me. Then today's message in church was about envy and contentment, and I realize how much I do envy other people their money and grades and appearances, but more importantly I realize how uncontent I am and how perfectly content I should be.

During Children's Time, Zhihui, our seminary intern who's on exchange from seminary in Singapore, asked the children how they would feel if their teacher gave a toy to their friends but not to them. "Sad," came the chorus, and this is exactly what's been happening to me - and yet as Zhihui reminded the children, God has given us the most important gift that we could ever need and so we should celebrate with our friends instead of envying their seeming lack of suffering. Then we heard the parable of the vinyard owner and his workers (Matthew 20:1-16) and it really all fell into place for me - my pride in thinking that I deserve to have a perfect relationship, a perfect school life and a perfect future, my secret envy of those who seemed to have those things or even just one of those things, and yet the incredible grace I've received that surpasses all these earthly things. Finals time is a time where we compete without knowing it, and it's hard to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.

But I know I am not doing this alone. God is with me, in me. He didn't give me a giant breakdown or sudden epiphany or intense emotional experience. But all the same he calls to me through people and little things, and I feel that he's slowly easing me into this new self, this new Kar Min, who is more and more aware of His presence and His goodness. And now I know, in my head, and slowly slowly in my heart, that I am comforted - not because God is going to fix my broken relationship or make me super rich or give me fame and success (though he may or may not do those things), but because He has already given me all I need, the perfect gift, the most important victory of all. 

Let me keep learning.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me."
- Psalm 51:10

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Blurbble

Leaving tonight :( so terribad.

I want to read more this year, do more, do new things. But every time I get back into the orange bubble i seem to lose my perspective, sigh.

remember what you love, kar min. remember what you came for

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy new year!

Resolutions for 2014:
1. Find more balance, but focus instead of dabbling.
2. Spend less - track expenses properly.
3. Travel - be somewhere in Europe and/or Latinoamérica at least once this year. (well I guess I'll be in Crete in March so this is a given)

... and I want to love and be loving

(on other news, I have all but given up on updating this thing and making promises I can't keep :S)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Belated Account of Life Before Fall Break

As you've probably realized by now, I'm terrible at this post-regularly-as-a-form-of-relaxation thing. My sincerest apologies!!! I just got back from Fall Break, which was (as always) way too short, and the weeks before that really passed in a blur. But anyway. Here I am, and I'll do my best to reach into the hazy marshes of my memory and talk a little bit about what happened in those weeks.

So... Week 5 was the calm before the storm. Besides the wall of text that appeared on my planner under "to-do", I somehow managed to sneak in time to join my Spanish teacher Liz and a couple of classmates for a "Spanish lunch" at Tandoori Bite (which is not a Spanish restaurant but an Indian one, as you can probably tell...) It was my first time there and they have a pretty nice buffet spread, though they recently stopped their student discount option so boo :( Anyway, we had a good time talking about our lives in half-mangled Spanish and getting to practice speaking, which is always important. Also, the food was gooooooood. (I don't know much about Indian food, but it was tastyyummyinmytummy.)


I unabashedly piled everything onto my plate. And went back for seconds.

That was basically the only notable thing about Week 5, because towards the end of it everything faded into this general panic about midterms coming up. Midterms are in many ways worse than finals because you still have regular classes, readings and homework to do, so it's like a doublewhammy of trying to study PLUS be intelligent in class. Neither of which is easy in the first place.

Knowing how horrible midterms can be, I'm so glad that Manna's Outreach Team together with PEF and PFA (3 of the bigger fellowships on campus) organizes an annual "Midterm Frosh Care Package" event where we pack and distribute care packages to all the freshmen. Yep, that's a lot of paper bags. And potato chips. And cookies, and chocolate, and Capri-Suns.

Frantically at work to do all 1291 care packages. 

Care packages were a foreign concept to me before coming to Princeton, and I'm still amused at how much junk food gets stuffed into these things. I still greatly appreciate them, though, and it's such a nice feeling to get one at your door during a hellish midterm week. We also packed a separate bunch of care packages for people in OSG, which I delivered on Saturday night while trying not to get lost in the deep recesses of Butler College.

Yogurt for breakfast, full of sweetened fruit. Picture just because.

The Friday of that week, I brought 2 grad students that I'm partnering to help practice English with under the Conversation Partners Program to the Astronomy Club's Star Party on the roof of Peyton Hall. We had Georgetown cupcakes and got to look at the night sky through a complicated telescope thingummywut that they had.

Not on the roof, but in front of some vaguely space-related thing on the first floor of Peyton.
Loved the paper plates they used!!!

On Sunday, I delivered over a hundred care packages to various rooms in my dorm.

These took up a fair amount of floor space for a couple of days... Observe also the clutter of my shoes + books in the background. The cardboard shoerack is still holding up!

Then the weekend was over and midterms week hit with a bang. I had two exams, a quiz and a paper due, and it was a terrible time in general; I found myself rushing everywhere, trying to squeeze out time to rush out homework and studying, and getting frustrated at self the moment productivity lagged even just a little bit. One good thing though is that I found my new favourite study place in school (besides my room):
Chancellor Green Library

It's a beautiful library with lovely big carrels to study in and also I'm a sucker for stained glass, so I had a good time just sitting there and working. Best of all, it isn't really a book-library per se (though it does have books) and so there's no pesky bag-checking upon exit. I'm rather averse to showing strangers the content of my bags... sometimes my bag is just stuffed full and unzipping it means risking the spillage of everything I need to function outside of my room.

But eventually midterm week did come to an end and I really have to thank God for getting me through it. I regret being so snappy and unhappy throughout the entire week and I'm sorry to all the people I was huffy towards :( Especially Zeke and my family during my calls back home. I still have so many things to work on, especially with regard to loving people. Fortunately I have a perfect God who is also working on me and making me better a little bit at a time.

Here ends my account of life before Fall Break 2013. It was largely a terrible time but looking back at these photos I realize there was also niceness and fun that was just totally overshadowed by exams and stress. Something to remember the next time I'm running around like a headless chicken all over campus.

(For those who are wondering, yes, there will be a "life during fall break" post coming up. I just don't have the stamina to cross such a huge temporal distance in one post... especially when fall break entailed both Manna retreat AND a trip to Chicago(!!!). But anyway. stay tuned.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happytiemz

RAWR things have been craaaaaaazy. Minor meltdowns ever so often about the state of unwritten papers and unstudied exams, but life goes on! I've actually had lots of ups over the past few weeks, so I've been trying to focus on them and not on the worries and anxieties. I'm also reminding myself that God is good and constantly working to catch all my slip-ups, but it's very easy to forget that when there's so much reading and crap going on. A couple of weekends ago I was at breaking point on Saturday night and woke up so reluctant to go to church on Sunday, but I'm glad I did because it really quietened my heart and by God's grace the paper was written and done! (no idea how well I did, but I trust that to God's hands as well.)

Things that have been happening over the past few weeks:

Kindred Spirit Archsing! (no I'm not in there, sorry if you looked :P the a cappella groups on campus are WAY out of my league.)

Archsings are a Princeton tradition where one of the many many a cappella groups on campus basically... finds an arch and sings in it... ummm pretty self-explanatory. Kindred Spirit sings Christian hymns and worship songs and they have a kickass version of "Be Thou My Vision" which I will always remember for uplifting my spirits on a bright spring day earlier this year. A couple of the singers are in Manna, so a bunch of us went to support :) Love hearing in them a reflection of the beauty of God!

The next VERY eventful thing that happened was that... I passed my road test last Friday!!!!!! Kekekekeke hehehehe yay. After failing in Singapore and being terrified of driving here, I went for a couple of lessons and felt a lot more comfortable - was still super nervous during the test though, and it's really only by God's will that I passed!!! Had to make a couple of adjustments during parallel parking, but it all turned out fine in the end. Huge props to this guy:

Mr Ameen, my driving instructor, and his awsm car

He was incredibly patient, professional and encouraging, especially to this little girl from Singapore who's only ever had bad experiences with driving tests and had no idea how to drive on the opposite side of the road! He operates Fear Away Driving School in the Princeton area and they charge a student rate of $80 for 2 hours of lessons, which is basically one of the cheapest rates around here. If you just want to take the NJ road test, they also have a road test package of 1h prep lesson and then use of the car for the test. I definitely recommend him to anyone (esp international students) who want to get a license! I haven't gotten mine yet though, because I didn't have time to wait at the driving center that day. Have to make the long bus/trek up again sometime soon...

Anyway, that made me happy (still is making me happy) for quite a while. It's such a small thing I guess but also really big in a practical, life-knowledge sort of way! I am still scared of driving but at least now I can get a license and actually practise without paying exorbitant amounts for lessons in Singapore. And I also realized how absurdly easier it is to drive an auto car than a manual one, lol. 

The other happifying thing over the past week was this:

Guess-The-Fancy-Dinner

The Shapiro Prize banquet! It's an academic prize awarded for your school performance in freshman and sophomore year, and I was so amazed + surprised when I got the invite in the mail because honestly, I came into Princeton not knowing what to expect and struggled a lot through freshman year (especially with Intl Relations of East Asia that terrifying but amazing course lol). So gratified, but also grateful.

The banquet was held at Chancellor Green Rotunda which was transformed from a library space into this fine-dining setup with white tablecloths and napkins and many types of cutlery (you know it's getting real when you have two kinds of glasses and a knife especially for butter). We were seated according to residential colleges and it was semi-awkward initially but I guess we were all united in our joy at the award so it wasn't that bad, lol :P 

In any case, the food was one of the main attractions of the night for me:

Salmon with white sauce and sweet potato purée (I made this name up)

 Tangerine vanilla cream mousse (I'm also making this up, but the flavours are about right)

As I unabashedly took photos of the food, breaking all fine dining etiquette, I half-ironically told my college's Director of Studies that it was an "Asian thing" and he exclaimed that his wife is Korean and loves to do that too... I'm not sure if he was being ironic as well, since he's actually a PhD in Comparative Literature I think...

Besides the glory and nice dinner, the Shapiro Prize also gives each recipient a book written by a Princeton professor and apparently the identity of the book is kept a big secret every year (so delightfully nerdy right!!! :D). This year we got the book Mozart's Grace by Scott Burnham, a Music professor. He gave us a short lecture complete with recordings of Mozart pieces; I have zero music background, having given up learning the piano as I was about to start my Grade 1 exam, so I didn't really understand it (and probably won't understand the book), but it was fun to see the passion he has for his work and to listen to classical music in such an atas setting.

 New book! I still haven't unwrapped it cause it's so prettily done.

As the dinner ended I had one thing on my mind - Photographs with Important People. So I went up to Harold Shapiro, the ex-President of Princeton who started the prize, and his wife Dr Vivian Shapiro, and thanked them for starting it and asked why they did. After chatting for a bit I asked if we could take a photo:

Me with the Shapiros!!! SO star-struck, and I even got a hug from Dr Shapiro!

I then drifted over to the long line of people waiting for photos with President Chris Eisgruber (remember him? I wrote about his inauguration a while back). Fortunately I had Connections in the form of the people in the front of the line - Kecy, Xuling and Xiaohua (all people who'd studied in Singapore! whoopwhoop for the Singapore education system?????).

Three MASA sophomores with President Eisgruber! I'd neglected to remove the large nametag beforehand...

All 4 MASA people :)

I left that night as a very happy girl wanting more than ever to push my academic boundaries here. I know I whine a lot about the stress and the amount of work, but I actually do really enjoy classes here and even writing and researching for papers. I'm pretty excited about the challenges coming, the chances to take higher level classes, and the opportunities to do stuff I would probably not get the chance to do back home. It's a lot of hard work here, but I know this is where I want to be and where I'm meant to be. All glory to God, from whom all blessings flow.