Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A very brief history of the so far

Jolted into writing something here by something TS said, haha. Guilty as charged. What has changed since March? So much. Spring semester flew by, it was full of extreme highs and extreme lows. All of my classes I loved and was challenged by in many ways - maybe "love" is too strong a word for COS126, but definitely by the end I really enjoyed GER210 (and was given undeserved grace in that class) and SPA207 and my two amazing history classes. I would say HIS421 was pretty defining - got to go to Athens and Crete on Princeton's tab during spring break, discovered more of an interest in early modern Europe, slogged my butt off writing the longest paper I've ever written (and the one I'm proudest of, probably), attended an amazing conference organized by Prof S (I had the poster on my room wall for ages), got a job working as one of her research assistants, and discovered that maybe, maybe, this path is one I want to venture down upon. I spent a lot of time with R sitting in our corner in Frist laughing and angsting and squealing over cute things (and studying, of course; ostensibly that was why we were there). I continued to struggle with having discipline in prayer, devotions, and approaching life with a worldview that recognizes and is transformed by the gospel. At the end of the semester I worked the 60th Reunion as a site manager which taught me so much about teamwork, managing people and dealing with stress and unexpected situations. That was an overly brief summary that does no justice to the tumultuousness of those few months but, what can I do? Words are brief, the tasks keep coming and things never sound quite the same as they do in my head.

I am now in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I am discovering again how much I love a travel with purpose, with unexpected people and conversations, with time enough to venture forth but also to come back to a warm bed and reflection. I also want to speak - however hesitatingly and brokenly - this beautiful language, and experience more of this world that has been so far from me and yet that I have brushed with the tips of my fingers early on, flipping through the works of Borges, Cortázar, Vargas Llosa and friends (or frenemies). I am also journalling somewhat frequently (I spelled that frecuently and stared at the red squiggly for a while not knowing why - I take that as a positive sign that the phrase con frecuencia is becoming less foreign to me) for my program in Spanish, so perhaps when all this is over I will post some translations here. Needless to say, my thoughts unfold themselves more unelegantly than normal in Spanish, but I try my best.

Read this today: A list of 50 great love poems from 30 different countries and was struck by quite a few. Glad that I can use here the word "globalizing" in a sense that is menos mal than how us hipster pseudo-intelligentsia would use it. I am profoundly aware of the presumption in my self-deprecation, and as a result confusion reigns. But anyway:

Before You Came

Faiz Ahmed Faiz1911 - 1984
Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, of thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don’t leave now that you’re here—
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


"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


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.)