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woke up at 5 am to the orchestra of dry lightning and thunderstorms playing out behind my blinds like the fountains of bellagio in the sky. thought about the short conversation i had with v earlier in the day, about affection and the end of things. i watched the lightning blast through the sky and felt so comforted by its loudness, its predictability, its regularity. i liked how i felt like the only person in the world, feeling for the first time in a long time so wholly me again. yesterday evening, on an uber home, i saw the sunset pinks of the sky dance by like the nordic auroras. i see these rare sunset pinks peeking out a lot lately, and for a person who loves the cloud and gloom, i couldn't be more thankful for clear skies. i remember how intrigued i was, that cold november day in bus 72 in paris looking at the faded pastel condensation-ridden windows, the other day heading to school and looking at the burgeoning sunrise through similar windows on the sbs bus. i love the fog and gloom, i love the condensation and pastel skies, i love the thunder and rain. i don't think anyone can imagine how my heart swells when i think of and see these. the beautiful fleeting days. like rewards, pockets of treasures from the muggy heat. sometimes i think i still struggle with my identity formation, but when i'm in the midst of all these, i think i've got it all figured out. 
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i like my writing from 2013 the best, still. it's shocking for someone who always looks at her past selves with such disdain. it has been an unusual and stormy september - most mornings, sometimes when i am still awake, the rains and the thunder come down so heavy that i feel alive again. september has always been mostly indistinct, so i love the surprise of these september storms - it is nice sometimes, to still be able to be taken aback. bus rides to school with the beckoning sunrise and street lights trying to break through the condensation of glass windows, and bedtime listening to rubber tyres past water puddles - they bring me back to winters in paris and london.

i wish to enter into the great human stream, where everything is possible again. 
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But there was something more. “When I hugged him, I could smell our home, and I could smell our mother,” Ghalib said, quavering with emotion. “I was hugging the old Syria.”

Ten Borders
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i don't think i can ever get used to people leaving, or me leaving. i used to think that i was a person tough enough to leave, and then i saw myself crying on a plane to paris. i thought my heart grew numb of people leaving me all the time, and i find again, quite the opposite effect. but when you've grown up so alone, you think you forget the effect of a person until you come back to a Stranger home. any side leaving is a hard thing to swallow.

the week before the j3s got their results, rachel was fretting about it and the work-addict took a week off work after results to think about her future. i told her that what you think of yourself now is so premature to every other self you will be throughout uni, and you think you want a different thing every so often. and in all her 19 year old idealism and naivety, she told me i was so lucky to already be past that, 3 years into uni and already knowing what major i want to study. but sometimes that is the problem... i miss this 19 year old idealism and naivety, i don't think i believe in anything anymore.

i keep catching myself thinking about how we both fell into disbelief and strangerhood. and all the times i thought it was my fault, my stubbornness and unforgiveness, that tore our cell apart and all the spiritual repercussions to myself afterward -- how i stopped believing. mostly because i couldn't imagine how someone i thought so devout could be so cold and forgetful towards me. but as it turned out you were never so devout, and although my own was a lie, i can't help but feel a little betrayed by that. and maybe myself, too. i can't help wondering if a lot of what was between us was a pretense, it sure looks like it from way over here. but i guess i can't guess at myself from when i was 19. god, that was 4 years ago. i stopped believing in myself a long time ago.

in paris a lot of things remained unreal and far off, and certain things still felt possible. i miss that about paris.
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that we had too little time. it’s always time with us: the wrong timing, too little time, and the only time we had afterwards was only in my dreams – our nevertime manifesting only in wisps and shadows. i see you so much in my head, that sometimes i forget we are strangers outside these dreams.

go slowly. i have to get used to it. i talked to you so much when you weren’t there, it’s strange for me to talk to you for real.
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i usually hate beaches because of the sun. but i keep revisiting these pictures from the reynisfjara beach and falling in love all over again. the ways the tides surprised me with that monstrous and beautiful sound so surreal, and how snow started falling and it looked so beautiful bright white against the dark black. how we laughed everytime the foam caught up to us. i love the waters. the sun set at 3pm.
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I read over my old diaries. I sit by the fire of my life in Paris and wonder when this life here will start to burn brightly. So far it looks like those electric logs in artificial fireplaces burning with moderate glow and without sparkle or warmth.

i see sky

Jan. 14th, 2016 12:47 am
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i was walking to the bus stop outside utown at night after dinner, and looked up and saw a thinly cut crescent moon, and it was a perfect chesire moon. the inky sky sort of set apart the brilliant clarity of it all, and i wondered if that bright white splice was a door to the daylight of paris. the Other World, my Dream World with sunlit boulevards and vast, vast sky so unmarred by buildings or man. turning out of rue de beune, the way i took in all that sky made me conscious but not at all shy to the incessant mangled ballerina spinning i did when emerging out to quai voltaire. when they planned for paris, did they know how to make human so small and insignificant because we face so much sky, where even the hausmann and beaux-arts buildings cannot compare to its magnificity? there was one evening where the sky was a lovely gradient and the sun was setting but still to be seen in the pink lit up trails of planes flying overhead. there were so many planes flying overhead that evening. man may think they have conquered skies and clouds, but in paris, i'd like to think that the skies overwhelm us. 
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it seemed so uncharacteristic of me that i chose to fly home a week earlier, but home is not your friends or family friends' apartments no matter how swanky the apartment or district or amazing the city. strange as it sounds, but champs-elysees, passy or edgware road cannot hold a candle to jurong east. i'm still adjusting -- at home, the lights seem coloured differently and the light switches and shower handles feel off; shops have closed and opened in holland village and no more currency conversions or timezone calculations in the head. and as usual, worst of all is the smothering humidity.

my bed still has to learn the shapes of my body, and my eyes do not have the luxury of thick blinds anymore to keep away the morning sun. the sun comes in so strong the way it doesn't in paris or london. i can't believe that just two days ago, just three weeks ago, i was in the hustle and bustle of tubes and metros, and booming metropolises. the other country, the other vocabulary and language, the other person. everything in paris and london will go on without me, and singapore has been too. but singapore is so beautiful to me now -- bare trees and irritating layers of clothes make way for blooming trees and a shining sun, and it is a new day. 
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perhaps one of my more salient traits is that i am extremely passive and underwhelmed -- very few things amaze me anymore. so it comes as a surprise (particularly more so in rear end of 2015), that so much more colours and shapes and beauty have made themselves known to me that have left me speechless

Read more... )
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i never realised how big things are, and how small my world used to be. katie lives in LA and studies in berkeley, and i stupidly asked, "so do you stay at home and commute to school everyday?" and she laughed and said that LA is 3 hours away from berkeley. to me california as a single state should be as big as singapore is, but i suppose conversely it doesn't occur to them that it takes an hour's drive from one end of singapore to the other. i can walk so much now, because my empty wallet forces myself to walk two or three metro/tube stops at each time, and i wonder how much that distance would be superimposed onto a map of home. everything is so big here, and the skies and plains are bigger and wider still (and unfathomably so) that it should make me feel so small. i must be some kind of delusional, because whatever on the horizon my eyes can see is attainable, but unfortunately i could stare at the white skies for so long and never discern the limits of the sky.

and there are seasons here too, and that i can sense so acutely but yet never grasp the fleetingness of it. both transitions to autumn and winter i felt in the dryness of my throat and blocked mucus at the back of my nose, so far from the constancy of the seasons of home. everything at home exists under the white-hot sun, and nothing expires. i went to london when i was 6, and i distinctly remember my mom feeding me so many cherries -- in august this year in london i realised we must've gone to london in the summer of 99 when it was cherry season, because i saw so many bright red cherries gleaming from the fruit carts this time. i regret not going to more jardins in paris when the trees and flowers were still in full bloom -- by the time i gathered enough sentimentality and time, the trees grew bare-boned with nary a leaf on the ground. i miss the colours and the life and the long days and winter is boring. i remember coming home after fall break, and the large tree outside my window flashed bright yellow. after a few days, half the tree had its leaves scattered on the grass and there was nothing to watch from the window anymore. if only i could experience spring in paris, and watch how that tree blooms. 
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that dream


just that it's the opposite

also check out the baguettes on that old french dude, 70 and reinforcing parisian stereotypes
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The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I'm overwhelmed when I see, in an immense sky, the crescent of the moon, or the sun. There, in my pictures, tiny forms in huge empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains - everything which is bare has always greatly impressed me. —Joan Miró, 1958

walking across pont royal after school to my bus stop, airplanes flying overhead and their trails lit up by the sunset

paris, france. november 2015.
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it has been dreadfully cold, in this strange transition from autumn to winter. most of the leaves have been cast onto the ground, pale brown and damp; but there are still some leaves glistening golden in the weak sun, stubbornly holding on to dried branches. the sun sets early now, but the other day i managed to walk to my bus stop when it was still a blueish hue of dark -- i looked up and it was all endless sky to me. sometimes i feel like paris is a gigantic castle on the clouds. as if we were a city plucked from earth and set up so high we never have the clouds to remind us how grounded we are. the onset of winter has come with blankets of condensation covering the bus windows in and out, and it feels like we are placeless. there are no majestic architecture or little symbols of the city for context, but only a shroud of neon colours and vague shapes that surround us. like impressionists gone trippy. look -- what the skies at dusk can do with their clean colours and brush strokes we can do with the city lights and rain, up in our own personal sky. we think that condensation tends to cloud things, but there are dreamworlds painted on the glass of buses only funnily enough, revealed by condensation and streetlights. i can't tell if we are inside or outside the dreamworld. i notice that not one, but two adults use their coat sleeves to wipe the condensation off, as if to glimpse at the reality/dreamworld, like how children use the frosted windows as their personal canvases. it still doesn't feel real sometimes, and even more so now that i'm leaving.

when it was october in italy, i sat outside the doge's palace and at the san marco piazzo and came to terms with how underwhelmed i have been, traveling around europe thus far. and how disgusted i was with venice, the largest tourist trap, when it was the stuff of literature and history in my teenage years. there was a yearning for the times when my imagination reigned and places were myth and fable again. 'his imagination was everything, but he needed to make the trip in order to understand this obvious fact. he took the first plane home.' i used to hate paris, never understood the romanticism, but i think now, even after all the traveling, it is the place which reignited my imagination again.
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paris had a little bit of a cold snap this week. i cant believe that last week there were two days that were so hot i started sweating in my trench. and suddenly overnight parisians snapped from trench coat to down jacket. i'm really hoping it goes back to normal next week -- autumn cant possibly have been only one week before winter comes!

my vocabulary and semantics have changed a bit. when i say dollar, i mean the euro. i reference the arrondissements casually just by their numbers, and bonjour, merci comes so naturally now that it's difficult to adjust in italy. and when its time to go home, how can i switch back to before?

paris was enveloped in a thick fog this week and it felt like we were in Another World, a dreamy alternate reality where the eiffel vanished before our eyes and castles struggled to be seen. (i never used to like the eiffel but it's become a little of a compass for me now. and what is paris without its compass?) an old lady and i, at a bus stop, shivered under our down jackets simultaneously and then shared a chattering chuckle.
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"the human brain sees a triangle, but cezanne does not depict a complete triangle with the trees. and that's what humans do -- we see imperfection and we tend to perfect it."

only lyon

Oct. 5th, 2015 11:15 pm
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it cost each of us 2 pounds to travel to lyon -- highly attractive given that after booking fall break and december break tickets, we are Broke Students. the other day I checked my wally app and the amount I spent in September was staggering; I didn't even know I had that much money to begin with.

i find that most cities i visit after paris and london have the unfortunate fate of always being compared to, by no means of their own faults. in some ways, lyon was Any City, with its developed tram/bus/metro system and small size. for all its qualities that could easily be imitated elsewhere, there is still much to be said for watching a crazy beautiful sunrise atop fourvière hill, rollercoaster-esque rides upon the furnicular and running about old town finding the elusive traboules and beautiful courtyards. also that paris is so inherently associated with france that most other french cities always live in the shadow of paris, it was nice to visit my first french city outside of paris.

the typical french gardens are very classically beautiful -- symmetry and marble statues and grand fountains. despite their famed beauty and manicured images, i never find that they compare to london's parks, especially what with their irritating unpaved paths that could kick up sandstorms and coat my boots in dirt. but lyon's parc de la tête d'or was a nice surprise and a little reminiscent of hyde park, what with the ducks and deer roaming about. deer! they were so cute and so graceful and i've never seen them before -- it makes me want so badly to visit nara's deer park.
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we clicked 'to everywhere' on skyscanner and it brought us to geneva. we ambled onto the train, swiss passes and picnic lunches in tow, and prepared to head to interlaken. grindelwald was not in our itinerary but it seemed the most promising -- we were surrounded by sun and imposing mountains on all sides. we reached too late to do a proper hike, but we crawled our way up to terrassenweg anyway.

i say that switzerland is sublime, in the awe-inspiring sense, and sally tells me that wordsworth and shelley added another connotation to awe -- that of fear. well, the mountains and valleys were certainly awesome in the day -- at night, the darkness descends and the mountains and forests turn into an intimidating black mass reminiscent of english moors. and i never fail to be surprised -- tiny trains with cabins glowing with warmth and light from the inside ascending up into the darkness in some sort of polar express fairytale, and villages in valleys lighting up on the hills was exciting to watch and i felt like a kid again. these are the things of childhood stories and medieval fairytales and they are so real to me now and i am so lucky.

while the world got into a tizzy over the supermoon, we celebrated mid-autumn festival with lanterns and mooncakes imported from the hague by a crazy nut and facetimed with friends at home.

we took a cable car to first the next day and hiked up to lake bechalpsee. the swiss are usually faultlessly accurate to the second but i'm not sure they understand the concept of time -- or geography. a "50 minute hike on flat ground" actually means a 2 hour hike over steep inclines and declines. the mountains about first were impressive, but the lake was underwhelmingly so. by the time we descended we were engulfed by clouds all around and it felt like armegeddon.

most of switzerland we spent in trains, but it never feels like hours when you're watching clouds rolling down the hills or seafoam waves of an aquamarine creek scrambling over rocks. switzerland was literally a plethora of highs and lows (both geographically and emotionally) but i saw colours i never saw and the whimsical stuff of childish fantasy and imagination.

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