Sex toys don’t cross my mind very often. In Taiwan, Dango asked what would I set up if I had a shop at the night market. The night before, she pointed out a sex toy store just above a family estate and I think it was on the second level or something. I can’t really remember, but my reply to her was something along the lines of ‘because there is a toy store hence they have a big family’. I was considering the profit margins of selling sex toys at the taiwanese night market, but in a more refined manner. Not use girls with overflowing assets to sell the toys, but market them as having a health benefit (the various hormones) and giving good recommendations to clients/clear instructions for use etc. I don’t think the toys are customizable, but the service for the toys can be. I had a quick look at the offerings available in Singapore- the Bible says do not lust or commit adultery, so basically anyone who is single and lustful cannot add on to his/her lust by browsing discreet product sites.
Okay, so, THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE. Especially the ones meant for guys, why are they so expensive? One of their models that looks like a spaceship, it was featured on buzzfeed. Wait let me find the video. It is the very first toy on the table!
On the website- the shop’s link, R21 lol, it was originally priced at $325SGD. And I wonder why no one wants to buy it. Ok I don’t know how many units go out each month and I am guessing that the market in SEA is quite big, because of the conservative attitude towards picking up girls and casual sex. Why not just use a battery-operated machine to fulfill your physical needs, while theoretically remaining a virgin and pleasing your parents lol.
They have a video that explains each toy- how it is meant to be used, what are the tactile bits for (all the rubberized knobs) and how can one maximise his enjoyment etc. It is weird that they don’t do demonstrations online on real people and film the reactions but I suppose that would elevate a toy site to becoming a porn site, which is probably banned in Singapore. My question would be- is there some way to make the online shopping experience for toys better? There are no client reviews and the measurements provided are skimpy at best. And given the large range of product offerings, how can one find what is most suitable for him/her? I didn’t know what a ‘ben wa ball’ was until I went to that site.
I am not very interested in the guys’ buzzfeed video, I have heard quite a few people say guys can’t think with both heads at the same time. The female version is here, but the video doesn’t say much too. I wish they had a set of criteria on how they would rate the toys so that we aren’t just looking at Jen and the vague interior of the store, but actually get useful information on what viewers can purchase. Like to demonstrate their uses (not on their own bodies, but just turning on the toy etc), plus get a bit of interview in with the store manager. I always wanted to know how sex store managers would answer awkward sex questions from dodgy looking people. Plus, I think they only purchased maybe 1-2 toys each. The video has close to 10 million views though. Okay maybe it is just my style of jamming information into everything I create.
The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
― George Carlin
Sometimes I sit around waiting for my emotions to come back to me. It’s like literally feeling nothing at all, and then slowly, over a few days, something again. I like to write about feelings and experiences, and not having things. The same reason why I am not able to appreciate a lot of social media- usually there’s a person in the centre of the photo just posing, and I don’t feel anything when I look at that photo. I find Instagram weird, after a week or two or using it, all I’ve learned is that I get distracted by huge boobs and tattoos and piercings on my recommendations channel.
This is a feeling on the bus, balancing a box of cupcakes on my knee and waiting for the sunlight to hit the windows at the right angle. It isn’t a filter or any effects, I didn’t edit the photo at all. It is just that moment of going home, knowing that I just ran some errands successfully and I am seated at the last row of the bus hence I am very unlikely to give up my seat to anyone pregnant or old. I just really love watching people and grass go by, quietly, with no one disturbing me.
After cupcakes I walked around- there’s a booksactually bookstore in the area. I found a book titled ‘In Therapy’ by Susie Orbach, the spouse of Jeanette Winterson. I WAS SO TEMPTED TO GET IT. I really like reading about psychotherapy, but the mark-ups of the books as compared to bookdepository is 4-12$. And I can get cashback if I shop online. But if you don’t want to spend three weeks waiting for your order to arrive from the UK then the outlet actually is a pretty good choice for books, they have all the interesting authors, plus most of the titles that I want usually only have one or two copies in the whole of Singapore so the national library catalog is usually not an option.
I had Burmese food last night. The food was good, the company was even better 😊 He’s an ex-colleague from the company I did my internship at. I really like his personality (although he’s taken already)- he is that sort of guy who is calm and able to enjoy just walking. Walking as the main event, and not walking as a nuisance that you have to do in order to talk to me. After dinner, he introduced me to various Burmese snacks and his commentary goes along the lines of *points at the English translation* “I wanted to get this for my friend, but when I was waiting at the airport I was reading it and I thought I better keep it for myself”. It was really hilarious, I think they used a word translator but not even of one of Google’s standard. And walking along the Singapore River to esplanade etc, just admiring grass. HAHAHAH it sounds so unexciting when typed out but the thing is, his humour is along the lines of “I can show you the Singapore river…to a Singaporean.” That’s when I really know that he is not trying to impress me with something, and he is just being a friend and doing what he likes too. It’s not as if he has nothing better to do, he has a tonne of other things to do. I value sincerity and authenticity in people. Some people are really sincere but they try too hard to impress others (sounds like me actually).
Feelings are hard to share on Instagram though. Or that moment of sitting by the river, with people chatting behind me, him taking a panorama of the city, and me wondering- will I be so peaceful again in three months? Will I be able to find such good friends at my new workplace? Will I meet a person from a different country, who is willing to spend time with me so that I can get to know the culture of his country? The dishes were very different from the Chinese dishes that I am used to, including the tea leaf salad! I bought a pack to bring home for my dad.
It’s not a steady panorama because I was laughing at him when he was trying, I’m an annoying distraction lol. But that’s the point of things which are not well done. It doesn’t need to be perfect for me to remember the feeling. A lot of things which appear perfect, are intentional. And to me that takes away the value of the moment.
Before I got cupcakes I wrote this on the bus. I think I was just in a very cat’s-tail kind of mood. You know the kind of mood where you don’t want to talk to anyone and just want to be left alone, but you have no clothes on and everything feels kind of strange so you start writing, and your writing is as comforting as a furry cat’s tail on a cold day. It is snug and warm and it guides you to better food.
Today is a day when I am really aware of being single, because a lot of couples around me are celebrating some sort of milestone in their lives. It is a literal ‘the heart is aching’ that cannot be solved by a sale at nana & bird, because I am longing for a relationship, something warm and with heartfelt emotions that I can feel, a guy in my pocket or online all the time. I want to be comfortable and I know that if I agree to date someone, anyone, I will always have someone to talk to. Someone who will listen to all my stupid thoughts, and care for me, and it will not be just friendship. Even though I will just see him as a friend, and not feel anything at all, and I will probably have to work very hard to look interested. But it doesn’t matter because people, some part of them at least, are just mirrors for our needs and wants. At the very least I will get a look into his life and his struggles and I can offer beautiful and meaningless advice, because I know that I will not GAF. Delicious, delicious emotions, all for free. It’s like a personal reality TV, and I can be as dramatic as I want.
Note to self: Don’t be stupid about relationships.
The title of this post is from an article about Before Sunrise. My friend recommended three movies- Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Am halfway through the first one, the style is really unusual. The director Linklater is famous for his 24-hour storyline.
‘Yes, Sam, the highest honour that the King of Dwarfs can bestow.’ Sybil’s eyes glittered. ‘Blackboard Monitor Vimes; one who can erase the writings, somebody who can rub out what is there. That’s you, Sam, and if you were killed the chanceries of the world would be in uproar and, Sam, regrettably they would not be perturbed at the death of a housemaid.’ She held up a hand because he’d opened his mouth and added, ‘I know you would be, Sam, but wonderful girls I am sure they are, I fear that if they were to die a family and, perhaps, a young man would be inconsolable, and the rest of the world would never know. And you, Sam, know that this is true. However, if you were ever murdered, dread the thought and indeed I do every time you go out on duty, not only Ankh-Morpork but the world would hear about it instantly. Wars might start and I suspect that Vetinari’s position might become a little dangerous. You are more important than girls in service. You are more important than anybody else in the Watch. You are mistaking value for worth, I think.’ She gave his worried face a brief kiss. ‘Whatever you think you once were, Sam Vimes, you’ve risen, and you deserved to rise. You know the cream rises to the top!’
‘So does the scum,’ said Vimes automatically, although he immediately regretted it.
-Terry Pratchett, Snuff
There is a distinction between value and worth. Readers see that Sam Vimes has more money and power than any chambermaid, yet Vimes knows that all human beings are equal and that he doesn’t have more value than a servant in his house just because he has five or six titles to his name. He is just worth more to the politicians in his world, because of the leverage his name represents. The amount of ransom money paid for him will be a lot more than what is paid for a gardener or a cook.
To rich people it must seem that the ordinary little people- perhaps because their lives are more rarified, deprived of the oxygen of money and savoir-faire- experience human emotions with less intensity and greater indifference. Since we were concierges, it was a given that death, for us, must be a matter of course, whereas for our privileged neighbours it carried all the weight of injustice and drama. The death of a concierge leaves a slight indentation on everyday life, belongs to a biological certainty that has nothing tragic about it and, for the apartment owners who encountered him every day in the stairs or at the door to our loge, Lucien was a non-entity who was merely returning to a nothingness from which he had never fully emerged, a creature who, because he had lived only half life, with neither luxury nor artifice, must at the moment of his death have felt no more than half a shudder of revolt. The fact that we might be going through hell like any other human being, or that our hearts might be filling with rage as Lucien’s suffering ravaged our lives, or that we might be slowly going to pieces inside, in the torment of fear and horror that death inspires in everyone, did not cross the mind of anyone on these premises.
-Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
A concierge who falls ill and passes away is not noticed by those who live in four thousand sq feet apartments, because he was never worth much anyway. Just a concierge, someone who picks up the carpets and takes them to the dry-cleaners, and someone who signs for parcels. His salary might not be much and to others he is easily replaceable, because there are many other concierges who will take his place for the same salary. But to Madame Michel, her husband was a valuable person.
At church, there are a few constants. Firstly, the elegance of the sermons. Secondly, would be the feeling that God must be watching, and lastly, it is designer bags. I was talking to a friend who is well-versed in the various designer brands and he told me that in church, it is as much a social event as it is to worship God. Especially for long-term goers, it is a place where you know that you can carry something and be seen as slightly better off than the person sitting next to you. When I entered the lift at church last week, there were three ladies apart from me- let’s call them elderly lady, Balenciaga mini, and Chanel jumbo. Those weren’t the only ones I saw when I was at sermon. I thought to myself, why would people carry these things to church? Maybe they use them every day, for work, but in church you are not supposed to cause your brothers or sisters to stumble in their faith, or incite envy. To me it was a division between the haves and have nots, until I looked around and realised that maybe I am the only ‘have not’, because everyone else seems to ‘have’.
I know I haven’t started working yet and anyway the demographic of the church is such because of its location, located in a wealthy district in Singapore. So we met on Sunday and we were eating at a dimsum restaurant, and a friend I met for the first time, she mentioned that she was trying to ask a younger girl (around my age) to church. But the social background of the girl is that she lives on the margins of society. And then another friend asked, what can we do to make her feel more comfortable, after all she is really new. The response was ‘nothing, there’s really nothing we can change about it’.
And the thing is, it is true. Because we can’t make other people stop wearing the brands they wear and stop eating at the places they normally eat at for church lunches, for it is their choice. But the people whom we are trying to bring to church are the sinners, the prostitutes, the ex-convicts, people who feel unwanted and have gone through despair and would really benefit from understanding God’s grace. Not just the rich Pharisees or people who are already comfortable, because the barrier to entry, the feelings of ‘should I go in, will they accept me’ are lower for those people. If I feel so out of place there (and I come from an pretty average family), then how would other people feel?
I can speak the language in church and blend in with my makeup and dress sense and body language, and I can afford to pay for the things suggested so far, but the thing is, I think money is just an afterthought to some of them. They don’t even consider the fact that others might not be able to pay for something like a retreat overseas. They are pretty nice and genuine people. I don’t think they intentionally do what they do- it is just part of their lives, that they can rotate Celines with Chanels and not give it a second thought that maybe, just maybe, it would be nicer if they brought along unlabeled or simpler things.
Actually, wait, that’s the worst part. That it is not intentional. I still think that Christianity is a very valuable religion, but sometimes the acts and words of the Christians around me just don’t jive with the teachings. To me, it just seems like God has blessed them more, way more than the people I saw begging at the night markets in Taiwan, to the point where they are no longer conscious of what they have because they have had it for so long. That layer of social security is there. But aren’t we all equally valuable?
P.S. I start serving in children’s church this Sunday. Eating Burmese food later with an ex-colleague! Wheeee.
I finished reading Jeanette Winterson’s “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” I was expecting a happy autobiography, after all I had never read any of her books before and the photo on the cover of the book was of a really smiley child holding a beach ball and looking like she is enjoying her day out. What I got was instead a travel back in time (this is exactly why I like books), connecting me to her childhood and all her layers of insecurities that she carried into adulthood as an adopted and unwanted child. Unwanted because her adoptive mother was a strict Pentecostal Christian and had a fond way of loving Jeanette, by locking her outside the house and in the coal hole. Winterson was given away when she was six weeks old, to a family that looked alright on paper but was all sorts of weird in real life. She only found closure when she wrote Oranges, and became famous, and decided to find her birth mother when she was finally ready.
Her memoir reminded me of Augusten Burroughs, the alcoholic writer- they were both raised by trying mothers, both relied on literature and writing to get them through hard times, and both had a difficult education. Winterson managed to get to Oxford although she fared very badly before the A-levels, and had to work at the markets and live in her borrowed car (the Mini) because she left home when she was 16. Burroughs didn’t even get a formal university education, and he wrote that he had spelling mistakes in his copywriting when he first started sourcing for jobs.
Both survived and thrived, and left their past …I wouldn’t say behind, but it is not the main part of them. Both are not using the names they were born with. And both are homosexual, and happily (currently) married to their respective partners. When I look at both authors and their works, I don’t see brokenness, although both did consider (and attempt) suicide. I see a lot of bravery, of human imperfections and fuck-ups and cat scratches on the skin.
The parts of Winterson’s novel that spoke to me were about decision making and the bible, and how her mom was passive-aggressive and how she was a ‘working-class experiment’ in Oxford. It’s not really about how she was adopted or even her homosexual acts. For example, I really liked this bit.
I am not entirely happy about that, but when I did live with someone, and for thirteen years, I could only manage it by having a lot of separate space. I am not messy, I am organized, and I cook and clean very happily, but another presence is hard for me. I wish it were not so, because I would really like to live with someone I love.
I just don’t think I know how to do that.
So it is better to accept my not quite adjusted need for distance and privacy.
I am exactly the same. While I love people, I really, really, really need to live alone. I can accept housemates, but not roommates. And the house has to be of reasonable size, I need my space to roll around and do stupid dance moves. I just can’t relax around people, even my parents- I don’t like it when my mom sits at the same table as me when she is doing church accounts stuff. Not because it is church, although since a few years back the only thing my mom does/reads/talks about is church, but because I don’t like a human being to be in such close proximity. I love babies and dogs though, they are the few exceptions to my “NO ONE SLEEPS IN MY ROOM” rule. If the babies have exceptionally well-groomed hair, then two or more are welcomed.
Also, this part:
Sometimes you have to live in precarious and temporary places. Unsuitable places. Wrong places. Sometimes the safe place won’t help you.
Why did I leave home when I was sixteen? It was once of those important choices that will change the rest of your life. when I look back it feels like I was at the borders of common sense, and the sensible thing to do would have been to keep quiet, keep going, learn to lie better and leave later.
I have noticed that doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it.
And so she packed up, got into her car and started her new life. She had her girlfriend and her books, and that was enough for her.
Living with life is very hard. mostly we do our best to stifle life- to be tame or to be wanton. To be tranquillised or raging. Extremes have the same effect; they insulate us from the intensity of life. And extremes- whether of dullness or fury- successfully prevent feeling. I know our feelings can be so unbearable that we employ ingenious strategies- unconscious strategies- to keep those feelings away. We do a feelings-swap, where we avoid feeling sad or lonely or afraid or inadequate, and feel angry instead.
I have a tendency to work and work and not feel, because feelings complicate things. Hence, I (used to) block people online and delete everything, and throw away all my old diaries etc. But I still can’t walk that line between remembering and keeping. I remember, it is part of me- I am made from all the bits in my past. But I don’t want to keep those memories, let them be gone so that I will have space for new memories. I also don’t know what my working style will be like when I do eventually start work. There will be new people, new bonds to form, new ones to break and leave behind. Typing it out makes everything seem orderly and superficial, but in reality I will be carrying around pockets of emotions again, ready to hide them and sit on them so that they won’t affect my work.
Freud, one of the grand masters of narrative, knew that the past is not fixed in the way that linear time suggests. We can return. We can pick up what we dropped. We can mend what others broke. We can talk with the dead.
Winterson’s pain reminded me of what I watched earlier, on youtube. My newest obsession- her real name is Kristyana Truong, she is a Vietnamese American.
Peachyanas is a really honest and straightforward person, and she admits that she is selling sexual pictures to make money, to fund her long-term goals. That’s respect. I would never be able to do that, even if it delays my goals. Because I am just a really private person, I don’t want any part of me to be floating around on the internet for other people, guys and girls alike, to see. Go to her youtube account, and don’t judge her based on her Instagram photos alone haha. I love her body and her face, plus her makeup skills are really good! Sometimes she goes a bit cray but that’s fine for me.
She mentioned something that I went through last year- when I felt that I was just faking extroversion and being happy at my internships, when internally I just didn’t feel good. But I wanted other people to like me, and I wanted to impress other people. After all I am a human being living amongst other human beings, I have to at least smile when I meet people. But I knew that I wasn’t being genuine and the longer it went on, the worse I felt, because I felt like I couldn’t stop and I didn’t know how to get back to the person I was. Like there was Jessica at home, being a bit dazed from the day, and Jessica at work, trying to make it through the day. And a thick glass wall in between the two.
I am a little scared of the adult world i.e. when I start work in July, I won’t be able to take breaks like I am doing now, I won’t be able to refine my ‘mask’ because I won’t have school holidays. Hence I’m reading a lot now- it is called bibliotherapy, or the art of using books and stories to resolve mental and emotional issues. It’s not like I have any issues to resolve, and it’s odd because the books recommended online for anxiety and self-esteem, I’ve read them, like ‘The Elegance of The Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery or ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera and I don’t feel that they are very relevant at all. But anyway, they are sitting on my bookshelf so I’m going to re-read them before work starts. If anything, I can memorise quotes to keep my brain occupied on the train.
I’m going to finish reading The Book of Joy by tonight and then return to the library tomorrow to find the other books recommended on the bibliotherapy website. The Book of Joy, while highly recommended by other Buddhists, is really boring for me. Sigh. I can’t seem to read it, and I usually can get through books quite quickly. But anyway. there are customized bibliotherapy services, where you fill out a form and then consultants tell you which books you should be reading. But frankly I think books speak to everyone differently. I never, ever understood 1Q84 although I’ve read it I think 2-3 times. Maybe I need to do like 10 times for each book that I do not feel for. But then I would never get through my bookshelf, LOL.
Happy times are great, but happy times pass- they have to- because time passes.
The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal-centred.
What you are pursuing is meaning- a meaningful life. There’s the hap– the fate, the draw that is yours, and it isn’t fixed, but changing the course of the stream, or dealing new cards, whatever metaphor you want to use- that’s going to take a lot of energy. There are times when it will go so wrong that you will barely be alive, and times when you realise that being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else’s terms.
The pursuit isn’t all or nothing- it is all AND nothing.
During the Vipassana 10-day course, we were told to maintain noble silence. It meant not speaking at all to any of my fellow course-mates, even when there was something wrong we were told to communicate it to the servers, who will then resolve the issue for us. The same applied to eye-contact or any gestures that could act as a channel of communication. The purpose of noble silence was to cleanse the mind and prepare our bodies for deep meditation. Frankly I found it relieving. It was a pleasure to not have to care about what anyone thought or said about me, because there was minimal contact.
Only on the second last day when I was sweeping the floor did I speak to another student, to ask her to move her luggage so I could help her sweep her section of the dormitory. No, I wasn’t being kind or trying to be social, I just needed some action after nine days of not moving. We weren’t allowed to run around the centre or practice any form of physical activity, and sweeping the floor was my way of getting some exercise. I also swept the floor outside the meditation hall, that was how intensely uncomfortable and boxed-in I felt with not being able to move whenever I wanted. Ok now that I’m thinking about it I must have looked rather odd haha. But the broom was available and sweeping was better than sitting outside the hall, because I would get bitten by more mosquitoes.
Noble silence was also ‘relieving’ in a negative way- it showed me true human behaviour. Because we were not allowed to communicate to each other, so if someone did something wrong we had to act like nothing happened, we saw nothing, and we could not ask the person to correct the mistake. This manifested in many ways. During meal times there would be a few people who would rush to the dining table (because it was buffet style) and sniff at the food, because it wasn’t labelled. They would then pick and choose what they wanted. Frankly I was quite uncomfortable with the sniffing because I don’t like the idea of human faces being so close to my potential food. It was terrible table manners, but because no one could say anything, it just continued till the very last day. Also, while the placards indicated one apple and one banana each, there was a lady who took two apples and two bananas. None of us said anything until the server saw and asked her to replace it. We were living according to our own standards and being completely self-absorbed, secure in the knowledge that no one would rebuke us, all because of noble silence. Or just silence, I don’t think there’s anything noble about taking more than your fair share.
There are eight kinds of silence and 12 kinds of noble silence I think- some types of silence includes the silence of coldness, which is what I practise on family members and friends when I don’t like them. People I do not enjoy talking to and do not want to communicate with. Even when I am asked a question, if I think the person doesn’t need to know or is asking a stupid question, I refuse to speak or make any movements. There’s also the silence of confusion, which is what I practise when I don’t know what to say, and I don’t want to be wrong. There’s silence of the hidden, which is all the things I don’t say and the things that I don’t do, a lot of which is tied to my past. And there’s silence out of fear– not wanting to be singled out as a minority, not wanting to express my views. This silence is practiced usually in church because I have a lot of extraneous opinions and feelings that will not meld with Christian teachings (i.e. homosexuality). And finally, there is silence out of indifference.
With noble silence, the types of silence that I practise would be the silence in listening. To listen to each other mindfully and without interrupting. Silence of creativity, in striving for artistic endeavours, like writing, when I am completely still and quiet. Silence of solitude, which is something I practise whenever I have to think or read a book or enjoy my mochi desserts. Just purely appreciating being alone and being given the space and time to think by myself.
While we practised silence in the 10-day course, we were not taught about the reasons behind noble silence. It was only after that course then did I do some basic research and basically it is an art to keep us from speaking every word and harmful thought that comes to our minds, to keep us from causing suffering to ourselves and other people. The right conduct, and right speech. But instead, some people got too comfortable with their own worlds, including myself. For example, we were given three large water containers to scoop water from so that we can wash our utensils and bowls etc after our meals. The water containers were placed outside the dining hall, we all shared the same scooping bowls that were left floating in the container for the next person to use.
Sometimes I would forget to wash the sides of the bowl before placing the bowl back into the water container, there would be remnants of soap bubbles, and the girl next to me would do it for me. It wasn’t intentional, but I have a strong feeling that if I was watching myself carefully, I wouldn’t have done it. Because 99% of the time in real life I am watching my actions and my body language, either hoping to impress people or at the very least, hoping to not offend them. It is only when other people cease to matter then can my brain let go and truly relax. This usually happens after a long day at school or at work, and then when I’m done bathing I just strip off all my clothes and dive into my bed.
There was one time when I was entering the toilet outside the meditation hall, I think it was the break after a session. There was an Indian lady taking toilet paper (there are large rolls per toilet, but none in the individual cubicles) and she did not want the one hanging off the roll, so she tore off that piece and threw it onto the floor of the cubicle nearest to her. And then she took her needed toilet paper and went into the other toilet cubicle. I saw her throwing it on the floor, and she saw me, but I didn’t move or show any signs that I saw what she did or that I thought it was wrong because we weren’t allowed to make any gestures. (I am both obedient to rules and indifferent.) She literally just threw it on the floor of the toilet, which will inconvenience the next person because the floor was damp and muddy from the footprints. It was also a squatting toilet. In real life without noble silence I would have said something because her behaviour was really selfish. But in silence, there is nothing to be said.
Also, in the first two days of meditation, there was a fan at the meditation hall behind me- there are four rows of students, in front of the first row there is one fan, and behind the last row there is another fan. The issue was, the fan in the front row was oscillating perfectly, but the one at the back wasn’t. So we would position it in the middle so that it was ‘fair’. But towards the end of the second day (or maybe third day, I can’t remember), there was a lady at the front, sitting towards the right corner of the hall who decided that she also wanted the fan at the back. It was a bit ridiculous to me because she was literally in front of the front fan, and the one behind me couldn’t oscillate so when she crossed the hall (four rows of students) to turn the fan towards her, she caused the currents of wind to completely miss everyone on the left side of the hall. I.e me and about 9 people. But we weren’t allowed to make gestures or say anything to her, and we weren’t allowed to move either.
Thankfully by the next session I think someone alerted the server, who then tied a piece of red string to the oscillation string (the one you pull to make the fan turn) to the switch, and secured it so that the string was taut and it would continuously turn, providing wind to all students in the hall. I was a bit mad at the lady because I could see the students around me sweating more and moving more, plus she already had a fan right in front of her- it wasn’t like she was in the middle of the hall. I think my mindset was that things have to be fair, there is a standard of parity that everyone should adhere to. For a while I was unable to practice equanimity and watching my bodily sensations rise and fall away, all I could think of was the beads of sweat forming on my forehead and upper lip.
Smaller things were the sharing of pillows. When I got to a session late, I realised that one of my pillows were gone- I had three. Most people had two to three pillows. I looked around and then I realised that the girl next to me took my pillow, but she gave it back when I looked around. I thought to myself- she probably took it because she has only one pillow and so if I have three, I should share. And so, I rearranged my spot and passed her the pillow, without making eye contact. When the session was over, she left first, and when I glanced at her spot I was like “wtf?? She has four pillows? Then why did she take my pillow in the first place?” I know, I know. It seems petty. But when you are meditating for ten hours, pillows are very important or you will suffer butt and leg cramps. And she didn’t just have normal pillows, she got an extra-large one that was used as a seat- make that two seats, and three normal pillows. I still didn’t say anything, I decided that I could live without three pillows. But I totally judged her until the end of the course when I actually got to know her as a human being.
Practicing noble silence was freeing for me as a loner and a highly introverted person. I didn’t feel pressured at all by the fact that I didn’t have to talk to anyone. Because in my mind there was a barrier between me and other people, and I was so comfortable with silence that by the third day I was changing openly in the dormitory, just taking off my clothes and sometimes not even bothering to wear a bra. We were all a little guarded and uncomfortable at first, it felt like a prison hall. But after a while we just started removing our clothes casually, as if it wasn’t an open environment.
In my mind, there was a question. “Who are we, really, as human beings?” Are we really the humans who talk to other people and have day jobs and commitments and families, or are we really unable to be ourselves until we are alone. So much of what I did- that talking to people, behaving politely, wearing non-revealing clothes- is tied to a social contract that says that I have to do things a certain way.
Love takes off masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
I can’t just wear a bra and a transparent tank top out to a shopping mall, some nosey aunty is definitely going to scold me. But if there were no restrictions or self-imposed guidelines, humans might live differently. Without that social mask or the need to be polite. Especially to our relatives. It’s kind of ironic how some of my grandmother’s relatives can be offended when I don’t turn up for CNY, but they have done nothing for me to want to attend that ‘family reunion’.
In silence, I was fully self-absorbed. Because I was unable to connect to other people, I could only observe their body language and guess at how they are feeling that day. But I didn’t even know their names, their jobs, their ages. Without that connection, I was only able to feel my own misery and I could not see them as worthy human beings to care for and to smile at. And observing body language doesn’t help without context, and after a while I stopped because it just felt like I was directing them as puppets in my head, directing my own play and writing my own script.
Noble silence only works if everyone is practicing it together, if I were to take a vow of silence on my own, with everyone else communicating around me, I would be an outcast. Which is why slotherious is important to me. All the things I cannot say, or all the things that I don’t know if my friends would want to hear. I have great friends, but they are not me. I am the only person who is able to inhabit my body and understand my brain, and practice equanimity when things go wrong in my life. To look inwards and to look at my mind and my heart, that is what I want to do for slotherious. As a record of my only life.
We are all special and unique, yet strangely the same.
I don’t get to control the directions my dreams go in, although I know some people are able to do so. I slept at 10pm and woke up at 4am with the most horrible feeling, because I dreamt that A (let’s just call him/her A) got married and shared a whole photo album of his/her marriage photo shoots with me. It wasn’t just one photo shoot, he (let’s just use he, although I am trying to keep my blog as impersonal as possible) had a whole collection from when he met H (for her, although in the dream they met in Italy, but I didn’t want to use ‘I’). It was their first date up till the pre-wedding preparations and everything was lovely. There were photos of sunsets and him alone and her alone and I just wanted to tell him to cut off all contact with me, because I can’t wish him well for the wedding. I mean, I definitely would want it to go well, but I was just so upset that he met her and I am just an outsider to their union. Pretending to share in his happiness would only hurt me.
It was a mix of being jealous, and upset, and wishing very fervently that it didn’t happen and if it did, then I’m definitely not getting out of bed today. I was still half-awake then, and that feeling only lasted for maybe fifteen minutes. It took me about fifteen minutes to be fully awake and realise “hey he’s not married in real life, Jessica stop being a stupid dugong.” And then I realised that he might as well be married, because it’s not like we have a future together. It is just delaying the inevitable, because whether married or not, I still do not get what I want. Which is an insight into his personal life and listening to his goals and thoughts as a confidante.
I remember scrolling to the bottom of the photo album- he shared a link online with me- and I saw the girl and I was like… “ok she is not compatible with him, she has such small eyes”. And then I saw her as he did- she had a personality, she has a great body, and she was a lovely and adaptable human being. Perhaps my head was just projecting the kind of person that I wanted to be onto her, but it was then I realised that what he fell in love with wasn’t the external appearance, but the internal bits of her. Someone he could relax with, with no fixed notions on how to live a life and also patient, outdoorsy, great at sex, and an understanding friend.
Good people do exist in this world, I know this because I have great friends who are all of the above (ok I don’t know about sex, I’m just describing the dream, but you get what I mean). She was everything that I am not. She had the right family background and good health, she wasn’t self-conscious like me. By that I mean that my personality is good too, but I can see my flaws clearly and I know that there are hidden flaws that I can’t see too. How attractive a person is depends on the mix of personalities in the relationship, someone who is an attractive beef-rendang-fried-rice set might just be maggi mee to another person, y’know?
The dream was so real. It wasn’t like I was dreaming some far-fetched scenario about dinosaurs and dragons, as I normally do. It was as if it was real life, and the pain was real too. Knowing that I am a whole person and she’s a whole person and we are two different people, hoping that he would choose me but nope. A is a very attractive person- all my friends are- and attractive people will definitely have other people who are crushing on them. That is normal, that is something that I have to live with. And so I got up, brushed off all my thoughts about hiding in my room for the day because it is just a dream, and I started reading Quora posts about how people were invited to their crushes’ wedding. One quote that I really like: You also realise that this wasn’t meant to be…like the rest of your life that doesn’t go as planned.
Here’s another quote, by Cheryl Strayed.
We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but to salute it from the shore.
I don’t think I was jealous though. Maybe a little, because I would have liked to be on the receiving end of his care and concern. But it was more of a deep sense of unfulfillment and lost hope. Thoughts that ran through my head were “they are so physically incompatible” and so much of compatibility in my head is tied to attractive features and external beauty. Which is really ironic, because I know that in long-term relationships, if there is anything other than superficial lust, it has to be on the level of personality and the somewhat cheesy union of the souls. I follow youtubers like fatgirlflow and glowpinkstah because they are such beautiful people in alternative relationships. Fatgirlflow has a husband named Nate who experiments with cross-dressing and wears a little bit of makeup, glowpinkstah is a lot heavier than her husband, and they are from different countries and backgrounds etc. Here are the two videos:
I also thought to myself about why I do not want to commit to a relationship now. It is not just having high standards, I think I am not at the stage of my life where I am a whole person yet. There are many parts of me that I am still changing, albeit very slowly, and I have other priorities to handle. I would think that if I am fat and lazy and stopped working etc (barring conditions of poor mental health), and if someone still loved me, then he or she is just putting me on a pedestal that I do not deserve. Because I can see all my flaws clearly and I do not think I would be attractive in a long-term relationship with someone who is more than a friend. Friends are great, boyfriends/girlfriends require that emotional commitment because you can’t have more than one.
Perhaps I just need to discover what they say about relationships (and none of my friends are in peaceful and loving relationships with no interference from the external world lol)- that I have to first love myself. It is not about what I look like, although hygiene does play a role. It is about how I express myself, how I adapt to the moment. It is about all the whole lives that other people have which I know nothing about, and I have to accept that A, and many other people, will move on from the original period of memories that we shared. Maybe because I value the raw bits in other people- the stinky, messy, okay maybe not stinky, but definitely messy and disordered and confusing parts in other people- that is why I find it difficult to share personal thoughts with just one person. I am like an open book, anyone can read me if they can understand my language.
Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realise there is no choice but to let it go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
I plan to keep this blog as impersonal as possible i.e. without names or anything that can identify me as me. I don’t know if I have managed that so far. But anyway, my travelling partner for Taiwan was Dango! The Japanese chewy rice balls with red bean paste, soy bean powder or sweet soy sauce, that’s her. She can be found at Isetan for roughly $3.30 I think. Lol.
I left for Taipei two days after I got back from meditation, and I think meditation really helped with my anxiety in a new country because I had food sensitivities and my stomach always acts up when I am anxious. Also, I had to bring my medicine along for the trip and having that few days of silence really helped to calm my mind when I was on the plane and silently freaking out about how claustrophobic everything felt.
But first- the thank-yous. It was a damn good thing that I had a travelling partner because I absolutely suck at reading GPS instructions. Thanks to my lack of skills, we boarded the bus in the opposite direction, stood at the wrong bus stop (because the café wasn’t open), took longer routes on some days, and was late for the high-speed train to the airport on the last day. But Dango was calm about everything- I wanted to avoid touristy areas because of the people, and she was really nice about letting me chill out and just enjoy Taiwan as it is on a normal day, without the tourists. She was worried that I wouldn’t be able to answer other people when they ask “what did you do in Taiwan” but I told her that I don’t go to places and learn new things because I want to impress other people. If I stayed in the same spot for the whole day, then that’s exactly what I did, without any embellishment about how hyped up the experience was.
And on the second last day, we did spend almost a whole day just travelling to and fro one place- Gao Mei Wetlands, where Dango got really sunburned and mozzie-bitten. I just turned brown and my skin peeled a little, but I applied aloe vera before leaving so it was still ok. It was literally just catching crabs, snails, swirling them vigorously in the ice cream cup and debating about whether the little fishes were still alive or really dead. And eating hotpot at night. I remember asking D. if the fish was dead because “it is not swimming, it is rolling, but then it is rolling against the current so I don’t know if it is dead?” Fishes there are strange creatures. Why roll in such a funny manner, it makes you easier to be caught.
With regards to travelling experiences in general, I don’t want to have an idea of what I could have done (we couldn’t go hiking because by the third day my feet were dying. It was all swollen because we walked so much in the first three days) and compare what I actually did to what I wanted to do. I just wanted to do things, and eat food, and enjoy being there. If it wasn’t for Dango, I would have been seriously lost and also unhappy with anyone else who wasn’t that adaptable or calm. Some bloggers do in-depth blog posts of all the things they ate, did, all the people they saw or where they travelled to. For me, I have learned how to live in the moment- I didn’t take pictures of 90% of what I did, and I am only uploading a few that I really like.
People show really blissful things on Instagram- how can I take a picture of my feelings when we realised that we might have missed the HSR? My heart literally stopped because we only have 15 minutes or so to get to the train station but the driver said “Dong Men” and I thought “fuck, that’s another district???” We later realised that he meant to enter by the east gate of that station as it is the fastest way to board the train, and not a completely different place.
Meditation also really worked when we were screwing up left right and centre- when D. had really bad sunburns and mozzie bites (in a line), and I couldn’t do anything but ask periodically if she was better. Answer: no. The mozzies in Taiwan are vicious. I got bitten too but mine were small, probably because I already had 14 other bites from St John’s, I guess my body just gave in to the inflammation and didn’t even bother protesting. By focusing on the moment, I saw that everything was impermanent- the heat, the bites, the crowds, the night market smells. One can only go with the flow and appreciate the good and the bad, everything will go away. The only constant was my cramping foot (had to cab a few times because of my foot pains) and looking at Taiwanese boys. I have a tendency to look at a guy doing something sweet- like slicing bananas for the crepes at the food stall- and think “ooh he seems like such a sincere and good-looking guy!!” And I got judged by D so many times because our ideas of beauty and who is attractive is quite different. He was slicing bananas so intently!
Probably because it is easier to appreciate strangers in a different country than actual Singaporean boys, because I understand the Singaporean mentality and I do not like it. They all seemed so guileless and simple. As compared to the sometimes-inflated male egos I see around me. It’s like what a friend told me about picking up girls at bars, I think she said that Singaporean girls are more snobby compared to Thai ones, who are friendlier and less self-absorbed. I know that I sometimes think too highly of myself too. Anyway, I wrote the ‘guy at the night market slicing a banana was cute’ into my journal.
On the plane back there was a rather cute guy too- nothing special in terms of looks, but he had a nice body. I can’t even remember his face, just what he wore. It is not an outstanding body but it is just a slightly toned body, and I was just silently applauding myself for booking that flight because sometimes, the average ones are the attractive ones. They are just so normal it’s cute. I don’t know how to say it. Rather than a really hot guy who knows he is hot. In Taiwan I was just a nobody, and that felt good. In Singapore I am also a nobody, but I am nobody trying to climb up the totem pole to be a somebody in the company etc. The pace of life is different because when you are travelling you don’t need to do anything at all, if you want to drink your night away you can. But in Singapore there are people to answer to if I reach home too late, or if I stay at home all day long. Tolerance, tolerance.
For travelling partners, the temperament, likes and dislikes should match. Sometimes I am really attracted to a person because that person is so different from me. But if I had gone to Taiwan with someone who was a stickler for itinerary and time, I might not have enjoyed Taiwan as much as I did with Dango. Because I dislike being rushed and made to feel like I am not doing enough. I like to just exist and chill out with cats who don’t even raise a paw to acknowledge that I am there. Likes and dislikes because of the rooming issue, and food, and deciding on which attractions to visit. I dislike crowded areas, but to other people, crowded areas might mean good things. And if I’m sharing a room with the person- it is difficult to compromise on sleeping patterns like lights/no lights etc. Or the quality of the bathroom in the hotels. To me I just need a clean private bathroom with warm/hot water and free toiletries. I slept pretty well for all nights because all that walking tired me out, but I think D. was pretty much tortured for the whole week LOL. High standards for bathrooms. If I could change things I think I would have budgeted more for hotels, so that the bathrooms would be nicer.
Ok highlights of Taiwan- the things that I will remember. To me, making mistakes is how I learn. I didn’t record a lot of things because I was just concentrating on enjoying the moment, but there was a night when we bought tickets to watch Alien Covenant. The movie theatre looked really shady from the outside and it was the 11.20pm show, but when we got in it was a pleasant surprise. The theatre was roomy and comfortable, and the corridors were all well-lit with a greeter at the counter. Everything was nice, it was just the exterior of the building that looked like a run-down mafia hideout.
Also, I was directing using a GPS one afternoon and thanks to my skills, we took a bus in the wrong direction. I only realised after a few stops and we got off, but thankfully it was a really populated district and I actually got to buy face masks there, plus I got to eat rather tasty beef noodles and pig’s ears! It was a set meal- side dish, noodles and beef soup, and a drink, for 135yuan. That’s about 7 dollars. I appreciate the small daily things and till now when I think of my mistake I am still quite happy that I made it. It was like when D’s GPS also screwed up and we got off a few stops earlier than when we were supposed to get off. It was rainy and cold, and we walked to the food stall opposite the bus stop (in Taiwan the bus stops are just signs stuck on a metal pole buried in the ground, usually without a shelter) to get fried chicken. It was good fried chicken, and the aunty selling the chicken was really nice. Without that GPS mistake we wouldn’t have eaten that fried chicken haha.
Other experiences: I tried my best to drink a few different sorts of coffee every day. I wanted to document all the different Taiwanese brand coffees and milk teas, but frankly I threw away probably 50% of everything I drank. It just wasn’t to my liking. The ones that I liked was a matcha drink from a café at Daan Park and the Chun Cui He series lol. By the way, that series is really popular in Singapore but it is 2.8x more expensive than the ones in Taichung. With that price difference, I don’t think it is worth drinking. In a blind taste test it would be just ordinary milky coffee.
Also- I was overjoyed when I found leuchtturm1917 notebooks at Eslite bookstore. It’s really expensive in Singapore. When I checked a few months ago, I had to buy it from grouphunt (an online store that orders things in bulk). On qoo10 it is still listed as 59.90. I got it for roughly 32dollars each (bought 3, because I couldn’t carry more) at Eslite. Also, the service standards in Taiwan are really good! The waitress changed the vegetable soup at the hotpot place even though I didn’t ask her to, she just walked by and saw that the soup was burning, and started scraping the bottom of the pot. I still don’t know how she could tell there were charred bits cause the vegetables were all floating at the top.
I will miss the breakfast foods in Taiwan. I had pork floss sandwich three days in a row from a roadside stall near the hotel because it was super yummy- pork floss with egg, a bit of mayo and condensed milk (I think) and sliced cucumbers, with two pieces of toast. And it was only 25 yuan, roughly 1.20SGD? It was really good! I love eating in Taiwan. The night markets were okay- the night market smell is very strong haha. All the fried food. But there was a really good grass jelly and soy bean milk store at Shihlin Night market and the aunty was super nice also. I also liked eating fried pork ribs lol. But other than that, night markets are not really my thing, because of the people and the pushing. It stresses me out when people are pushing me. Oh and there was a prata + pork floss store!! With egg and it was really good, loved that combination. I think that was 2+SGD. Dango had a lot of onigiris from the convenience store, and I bought random egg rolls here and there with chilli sauce and chicken bits inside.
Learning to find bits of joy every day, and accepting things when they go wrong. Recognising the moment for what it is, and not what I would like it to be. I.e. I was really wishing for a wheelchair or a tram when my foot was cramping up. Also, some slight miscommunication during the trip. It’s like when D says ‘eat at train station’ I’ll think of the train station at the end, whereas she means the one at the start of our trip. One thing I learned about travelling with the same person every day is that I absolutely need to be alone at the end of the day. The hotel room was pretty quiet because we were both recharging and watching random things on our phones haha. It was good. If I had roomed with an extrovert I think I would have smothered him/her with a pillow by day 3.
When I got back home I was unpacking- I didn’t tell my family where I was going, neither did I buy souvenirs for them. I bought some snacks like tarts and biscuits and sun cakes, some makeup and skincare for my mom but that’s about it. Honestly, I don’t fit into the Asian culture where a family is a unit. I am definitely an individual, and I dislike feeling the pressure when I have to attend family things, and when I have to answer questions about what I am doing with my life. Not because I can’t answer, but because I don’t want to. Why should I justify any part of what I do to ‘you’, just because you are some relation by blood or marriage. Moving out is not possible now, or at least, I thought it wasn’t possible. But in Taiwan the fresh graduates only earn 800+USD a month and many of them do part-time jobs, there aren’t that many brand name shops in Taichung either. It is just the standard of living that I am used to, if I am willing to lower my expectations and move out to a small room in a HBD unit etc. We’ll see in 2018 what happens. I am not in a hurry to rent a place outside, but I am also ambivalent about the concept of family ties.