I'd initially wanted to do a post on the weekend (or the 492042914 posts that I have yet to catch up with) but Lulu reminded me it was Teacher's Day as she left a few messages on the walls of our Sociology professors and tutors. I remember it being a little odd as we gave some of them Teacher's Day presents during our last year of undergraduate life since they were technically 'professors' rather than 'teachers' but it was a great opportunity to express gratitude all the same. Three of them, in particular, stood out. I read Sociology as my second major and it would be a blatant understatement to say it changed my life. Lulu and I were both Psychology majors who deepened our friendship during Sociology lessons. As the number of Psych|Soci double majors dwindled whilst many dropped out to pursue only one, Lulu and I ended up taking more than the prerequisite number of credits and sitting in extra classes. It wasn't just because of Lulu that made this time stand out but because of three amazing people whom we christened as Sage, JLo and Mafia.
Nowhere in my memories of school life had I ever liked school. Or looked forward to class. I was a horrid student who didn't like attending (well, that would be a euphemism), talked too much in class, daydreamt and slept, redeemed in the eyes of English language teachers only for my writing abilities and the fact that good grades proved the nastiest of nasty teachers wrong. I never really came alive until intellectually until I stumbled into Sociology accidentally without even knowing what the hell it was about. But, more so than ever, it transformed me from an arrogant student to one who learnt to respect knowledge. It taught me alot about reaching out beyond me, myself and I. It also fired in me a genuine curiosity that was never satisfied throughout my years of education. I loved poring through books and encyclopaedias during my own time but I remember being debunked by some teachers which irked me massively. Sometimes, creative expression was also stifled. It was choking. Education was nonsensical to me--but I knew I needed the 'piece of paper'. I must say that throughout my entire education till today, Sociology modules burn most strongly within me. These three individuals that I pay tribute to struck me so deeply for many reasons. There are the titled individuals who are sometimes a little too boastful about that title, and then there are the parochialised ones whom I find quite narrow-minded and obsessed with their own subfield within a subfield. I found these three, however, to be wise, open and intriguing. Most importantly, they had a very deep-rooted sense of humility, which won my respect.
I remember Mafia as a rather scary and intense person, what Lulu and I called a Mindfucker. Tutorials were insane. Somehow philosophy and anthropology and sociology came together, with treatises on free will used as interpretive grids for understanding the Singapore sociopolitical framework. Classical theory lessons on Dead White Men-- Durkheim, Weber and Marx-- with Kant, Nietzsche and Bentham thrown in. Oh my God. Those lessons were heaven, and I'd happily wake up to go to school. Lulu befriended him, and soon we were sitting in his office stealing food and discussing epistemology and martial arts and Chinese culture. Fascinating. I think I was rather afraid of JLo too-- he'd get really upset when students were late, and I always found him so intelligent you'd always think you were palming him off or he'd expose some loophole. JLo's modules were dead-intriguing too. Mostly on macro-sociology, focusing on power, politics and most poignantly-rooted in my memory, the development of underdevelopment as a result of colonialism. He did a lot of fieldwork in Vietnam, and his passion about the plight of underdeveloped nations (let's not get into theories here) was moving. I was so sad when he left for Hong Kong, but was relieved I had taken most of his classes he offered. Sage was another level altogether. He was encyclopaedic to say the least. Lulu and I marveled in his office looking at all his books. And attended his classes religiously. We even heard his 'Belief and Believing' lecture thrice and laughed at the frequency when we realised. Amazing stuff like Sociology of Religion, Sociology of Food, Culture and Ethnicity, he shed light in ways that made us view things not from an ethnocentric point of view but rather from a standpoint where you see the action rather than cast moral judgments. Lulu would laugh at me that Sage was the only person who'd make me stutter when I spoke-- a far cry from my usual-confident self-- but when you stand in front of such wise yet humble people, you confront your own arrogance. He'd tell of his fieldwork with the tribal people in Malaysia, and I'd always imagine a Welsh-Jew in the 1940s (or 50s?) going into the jungle and living with the people there, learning their lifestyle, culture and language, with supplies air-lifted in by army helicopters. Educated at Cambridge himself, Sage was instrumental in inspiring me to pursue my Masters here.
I was no longer telling my mother things like, "The teacher takes 6 hours to teach a concept (not lying here), I'll learn it myself in one hour and in exchange, let me stay in and sleep (or watch MTV awards), I promise you an A". These three left in me deep impressions, and lit the spark in me. I must say that I have been extremely fortunate to have met not one, but three amazing educators in my life, even if I had to wait till I went to university. Sage and JLo also wrote referrals for my Cambridge admission-- even more reason to thank them; whilst Mafia and JLo helped defend my case during a case of mistaken plagiarism when I stupidly posted one of my justpassupforcredit assignments online, where JLo later said he would have suspected that I got my assignments off somewhere due to the quality of the work, which was a nice compliment in hindsight. I'd also say that under their tutelage, I was better equipped to mentor younger students when I worked as a tutor. It makes you realise that working with young minds can be precarious-- you can make or break something (or screw minds over). I was fortunate never to be broken by some of the most horrid teachers ever, and even more blessed to have had these three inspire me. Newton once spoke of the Giants on whose shoulders he stood upon. So thank you my own Giants, and Happy Teachers' Day.
These shots mark the end of my undergraduate life-- Graduation. Just a year ago. I had mixed feelings about it, sitting somewhere in some gown listening to a few hours of speeches till your ass ached just to receive some piece of paper. My father, who came from the same university, didn't attend himself, a fact that I was unaware of; and when I announced to my mother that I wasn't attending, she was a bit stunned and said, "You really are your father's daughter, he didn't attend too BUT you have to attend". In the midst of a shopping ban imposed by her under the rationale of "how are you gonna ship them all to Cam?" I bargained for the purchase of a new top and bag for the event. Disgustingly superficial, I know. That I fully and sincerely acknowledge.
- Fell in love with the amazing beige ruched top at Marciano-- their stuff are always SO gorgeous even if they are a bit expensive. So I got it anyway. As you can see I probably was more excited about what was under my gown. Disgusting, I know. But I tell myself, I earned the right to be that disgusting.
- Those amazing amazing amazing 6-inch cobalt blue velvet shoes from RAOUL. Budd had called me to a sample sale and I skippedsomething, hopped into a cab after a work assignment and trudged into Hyatt Hotel, where scores of people were coming out with red plastic bags (like market bags!) as though from some cult. There, I saw her whole family, where her father was queuing up and her mother and sister were picking out stuff. You have to hand it to her family-- they make stuff like this an entire family affair!
- The flowers in the shoes were from D whilst he was in Cyprus. There is a strange story behind this, because we'd just changed the auto-gate engine and heard it click shut before leaving the house. Somehow when we went back, the gate was slightly opened and someone had left a bouquet by the door. Which was odd. But it was good, because if my (horrible) neighbour had pretended to take it on our behalf, she'd have thrown it into the dustbin and I would have never known he sent flowers, much less use the shoes as vases for them ;)
- Love this Sara Sturgeon skirt. Made of heavy wool and with a silk wrap. Heaven.
- Wore a gazillion rings, looking like a gangster.
- That Guess? satin clutch was lust at first sight. Since I negotiated a Graduation Bag (I paid for everything anyway), it had to be it.
- The necklace was my Gran's 21st birthday gift to my mother. Since Gran brought me up and was always insanely proud of her grandchildren for having an education (they were dirt-poor then), it was especially poignant to wear this. She passed on in 2007. The pendant's my mother's.
- The two girls taking photographs with me are Lulu and The Bimbo. My thesis group mates. :)
- The Carebear's from Lulu. She gave us three each different ones, saying I bring her luck and hence the four-leaf clover. Plus I used to love Carebears as a kid. I forgot to claim my free graduation bear. I also didn't take many photographs that day because of my mother's health.
- My parents wore pink unanimously. Today, the first of September, is their 26th marriage anniversary. I thank them for everything. Most of all, whenever I see them, I see love. I am quite skeptical, and think most people are delusional. I also sometimes wonder if love is even possible. But when I look at them, I see pure love of two strong, individual people who are willing to be transformed by each other and who love and support one another. I've seen couples hate each other, as a private investigator I watched affairs of all shapes and sizes. I know couples who fall apart the moment one retires or when their children grow up. My parents, however, have grown even stronger and lovelier since my dad retired years back, going about their lives and keeping the banter alive. That is a living reminder.
- Memories of my last year of undergrad life: few lessons because I finished most off in my first three years (yay!); working loads and never earning so much money in my life before (double yay!); graduating with a perfect GPA for my final semester and Dean's List for my final year (shocking); First Class Hons (wahoo!); no sociology lessons (because I secretly took extra lessons already without being caught by the system or having to pay more fees); getting my acceptance note into Cam and hence unable to study for my last paper of my undergraduate life (it was open-book anyway); studying zebras for a year in the zoo to write up my thesis; etcetera etcetera etcetera. I am quite proud of those anyway. Not bad for. . a girl who worked more than she went to school. Soon it strikes me that I will be attending my Harry Potter-esque graduation at Cam. Apparently we can only wear muted low-heeled shoes. Disaster. Disgustingly superficial once again. I know, I know.