2016, what a ride

it’s one hour to midnight here in switzerland and i am currently on the train from Bern to Geneva as i am writing this on my phone, using the measly 1GB mobile data i have to post this before 2016 ends in my current timezone, per tradition. 

the fact that i am currently in switzerland as i write this fully summarises the year 2016 for me – too many things have happened this year, both good and bad of varying degrees, which helped shape this year to be the most eventful year of my life. 

2016 in itself felt like 3 different time periods – january to june was the second half of my first year of uni, and i sometimes still habitually refer to that phase of life as “last year”; july to september were summer months spent at home, constituting a different experience of returning home after having been in manchester for a year; and then finally, september until now saw me growing at the rate of an exponential curve graph, to the point that the past four months since i came back to manchester for my second year of uni felt like they barely passed at all. 

i was constantly busy, and i wanted to be, thinking that every second that wasn’t spent meeting new people, joining new events or going to new places was wasted time. coming back to manchester, i was a part of the mnight 2017 committee as a scriptwriter, working as a wordsmith for the nals 2017 committee through online meetings, volunteering at various events around town, applied for two jobs, and grabbed the chance to travel whenever i could. unlike last year, i was out of the house more than i was in. unlike last year, i said yes to everything first before contemplating the pros and cons of doing something. 

there were both good and bad consequences of this relatively reckless bravery i coerced myself into possessing this year: good was of course the fact that i learned so many new things, went through many new experiences and met many new people which ultimately, helped to boost my self-esteem and confidence considerably. a calendar became a necessity in order to keep track of future dates as well as past entries so that i didn’t forget anything that i did this year. i had more memories made, and more importantly, more stories to tell of my second year of uni. 

on the other hand, the bad: exhaustion. both physically and mentally. physical fatigue was a given – in order to juggle everything i had on my plate, i was constantly rushing, constantly running through dates and times over and over again in my mind obsessively so that i didn’t leave out any important things to do. and then came the aftermath inadequacy that was bound to hit after weeks of constantly Chasing. i would come home some nights, recall all the things i’ve done in retrospect, and then feel like i hadn’t actually learned or grown at all, contrary to what i thought. i’d feel like everything i’ve done, the leaps i’ve taken, the risks i’ve endured, all of them were for nought. i’d feel like things weren’t moving as fast as i would’ve liked them to, to compensate for all the opportunities i’d missed in my first year. 

despite that, currently sitting on my train seat and looking back at the year, i can objectively say that i am a very, very different person from who i was last year, even the previous time periods of 2016 before my second year of uni. i definitely still have a lot to learn in comparison with my current growth progress, but i think this year has opened up a pathway that allows me to be braver, more progressive and less afraid in the future. 

in the new year of 2017, i wish for more memorable and unforgettable experiences, for more chances and opportunities to meet new people, go to new places and do new things. i also wish for healthy growth, in both personal and relationship aspects. 

before 2016 officially comes to an end in a few hours time, i want to take this opportunity to give several shoutouts to the people who made my 2016: to my parents, who are always, always there for me unconditionally; to my dogs, heart, ah boy, yuki, constant shining beacons in my life (i hope you’re doing okay wherever you are, heart); to my housemate, rumin, who has put up with living with me with graceful patience for the past four months; to the ballerz and law gang, for being a family away from home; to ken fui, who has listened to all kinds of shit from my side; to joe, whom i reconnected with this year and had a whale of a time with in the uk this year; to bellyn, for a great summer in malaysia; to sakina, whom i had the honour of watching bangtan with in bangkok; to only children & firstborn and g3, for a great reunion of catching up in summer; to cpy, for coming over all the way from melbourne to spend winter break with us in the uk; to the mnight committee, for being great people to work with towards a successful 2017 mnight. 

thanks 2016, for an insightful year. here’s to another great year ahead, to you reading this, and to everyone else in my life. 

Destinations – November ’16 (Part III)

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM

The formulation of my weekend trip to Liverpool was somewhat reminiscent of my Scotland trip, in the sense that I was texting Joe one night in the middle of procrastinating on my jurisprudence essay and when asked when I was actually going to Liverpool to visit her, I immediately checked train ticket prices and bought them on the spot for the next weekend, aka the weekend after my essay deadline and also when Rumin would be back in Malaysia.

The next Friday, long story short (and also because I don’t think I should post the details on such a public platform), I missed my train by a minute. As in, the moment I reached the platform, the train had just left. It was all a very dramatic affair that led to caps-lock texting multiple people in a frenzy but I got to Liverpool in the end, one way or another. Infer from that however you will (or if we meet in person I’d love to recap the entire dramatic adventure again with great enthusiasm).

Joe was already waiting for me at Liverpool Lime Street station when I reached and the first thing I thought of when I exited the station was: wow, Liverpool is so beautiful.

I dropped off my stuff at Joe’s place before she brought me to this quaint Thai restaurant with actual authentic deco (stainless steel plates, stone benches and chilli trays; God I miss Thailand so much). I ordered tom kha gai while Joe ordered green curry chicken. It was an amazing dinner.

After dinner, we walked around Liverpool ONE while admiring the festive decorations. I also got a scarf for myself from Primark.

    

The next day, Black Friday sales were still going strong so we spent a good first half of the day shopping at Liverpool ONE. I really, really liked Liverpool’s city centre in a way that is vastly different from Manchester’s. They call Manchester the second largest city in the UK but it somehow felt like Liverpool’s city centre was bigger and more comprehensive than Manchester’s. Everything was more concentrated in a single square in Liverpool, while Manchester had more roads and shops were more scattered.

    

After finally promising that I won’t spend money on clothes anymore until next year, we headed for Merseyside’s famous landmark, Albert Dock. We didn’t realise how foggy it actually was after spending the whole afternoon in shops until we reached Albert Dock and saw the heavy fog cover over the entire area. Everything looked like it had undergone VSCO’s T1 filter.

    

Joe said that normally one can see a river and the buildings on the other side of the riverbank but this was my only view that day
Joe said that normally one can see a river and the buildings on the other side of the riverbank but this was my only view that day

Not only did Albert Dock feel like a foggy ghost town, it was also very, very, VERY cold, even more so when you’re wearing skirt and leggings. I’ve been in the UK for a year plus and I still don’t learn.

We were starving by the time it got dark because our only meal for the day was toast before leaving the house. We walked one whole round around the dock searching for places to eat, found out they were all pricey as hell, and then subsequently proceeded to this Asian restaurant near Chinatown where we had Korean food. The moment I sat down I could feel my toes again – as well as the acid juices sloshing in my stomach. I had bibimbap and Joe had kimchi stew and it was honest to god one of the best meals of my life.

There were no nice food photos so have this pic of us being happy that we finally found somewhere to sit and eat out of the cold
There were no nice food photos so have this pic of us being happy that we finally found somewhere to sit and eat out of the cold

And then we went to Chinatown of course, to answer our Chinese blood’s calling.

    

That night at home, Joe introduced me to Yuzuru Hanyu and actual figure skating before I watched the new episode of Yuri on Ice while she caught up on Haikyuu!!

Joe made katsu curry brunch for us the next day. Our itinerary for the day included: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Central Library, Anfield Liverpool FC, Everton FC and then the Christmas markets.

    

And then like all good things, my trip had to come to an end. I left Liverpool with an incredibly heavy heart, having made good memories in this city for the past few days with lovely company.

 

Doki Doki for Doki Doki

There was no doubt at all that if there was a con in town, I would be there without fail. This time was no different, except for the fact that this time, I was volunteering at the event, and together with Joe who came all the way from Liverpool, at that.

Joe came over on Friday and she took the full-day shift while I took the half-day one because there was an MNight Teh Tarik session that Saturday morning.

I cannot begin to describe the comfort and joy I felt the moment I stepped into Sugden, which makes this entire sentence sound ludicrous but I did not feel out of place at all; it felt like a second home. Yes ok go ahead and call me a nerd

Joe and I were stationed at the raffles booth from 1 to 3PM, where we tried getting people to sign up for the raffles draw for £1.

At 3PM, we were allowed a one-hour break so we walked around the place visiting booths and taking photos with cosplayers.

    

This group of girls cosplaying as Aqours were called Aquaria Project and they even had a stage performance of dancing to Aozora Jumping Heart and of course I freaked out because I am grade A Love Live trash

    

I met Lara again! It’s become a tradition to take a photo with her each time she turns up at a Manchester con in cosplay. She was cosplaying as Shion from No.6 this time.

I had a short chat with the girl with the pink hair and her entire cosplay outfit was handsewn wtf cosplayers are so powerful

One of the main differences of Doki Doki this year compared to last year was that the event organisers implemented a new rule stating that artists and vendors were not allowed to sell fanart, only original art, which caused quite an uproar on Facebook and I honestly still don’t quite get it either. I managed to strike up a conversation with an artist and she expressed her disappointment and confusion over the new rule, because fanart wasn’t equivalent to art theft or copyright infringement and I agreed. Even though I was technically a third party viewer (as a non-artist), I felt like the rule was pushing artists into an unnecessary corner eg. if you can’t make art that is exclusively original to yourself then you shouldn’t call yourself an artist etc

Another (equally significant) difference is a surge in the number of Mystic Messenger cosplayers this year. It made me very happy.

Joe and I also decided to try our luck with Haikyuu and Love Live mystery boxes respectively.

We weren’t really needed to work anywhere else after our break so we chilled at the movie screening room where Joe managed to catch a few winks and I got the chance to take a break too and by taking a break I meant scrolling Twitter and Instagram in the dark while seated on a mat on the floor.

At 5.30PM, we headed for the centre stage for the cosplay competition and masquerade.

Once the session ended, it was already time to start cleaning up so that was what we did, moving tables and chairs and sweeping the floor. When it was time to turn in our volunteer tags, I was actually very, very reluctant to do so because I had such a fun day and I didn’t want it to end.

I said this before but I’ll say it again: going to cons feels so natural and comfortable to me, it feels like you can be anyone you want to be and no one will give you shit for it. Because it’s literally a gathering of like-minded people dressing up as their favourite characters and getting together to talk enthusiastically and passionately about, well, anime. I loved being able to strike up a random conversation with a stranger about Mystic Messenger and have them respond the same way. Everyone is always so friendly and it makes me unafraid to show my enthusiasm for, well, anime in a real life setting (and not just Twitter!!) without being looked at weirdly. I can scream all I want about something I like and everyone would get it. It made talking to strangers and asking for cosplayers for photos less scary.

Volunteering as a runner at Doki Doki this year was also a different experience from being a mere patron. Just getting insight into the technicalities and operations of the con was already pretty cool in itself, and it felt like being a part of something pretty big. I love that feeling, always have and always will.

(Previous con: Manchester Anime and Gaming Con 2016)

△ BASTILLE, THE BESTILLE △

Two years ago, in the middle of June, Fly FM had a radio contest where listeners who managed to call in and give the right answers to Bastille’s lyrics read on air would win tickets to watch Bastille live in Australia. I remember vividly, sitting in front of the laptop with 20 AZlyrics tabs pulled out, listening intently to the cue to call, and then frantically calling the station with my fingers crossed that they would pick me, please pick me, oh god please. However, predictably, they never did, but I did learn a lot from that experience, such as realising how difficult it is to actually get through the line to a radio station and learning how to google lyrics at the speed of light, as well as building a rapport with the DJ in charge by spam tweeting them out of frustration to the point that when I actually called through (but not during the cue to call), he knew who I was and there was nothing for me to do except scream internally from watching the last shred of my dignity break into pieces.

Two years later found me at the exact same position in the living room of my house, laptop in front of me again, but this time I was clicking into the news that was announcing Bastille’s UK tour for their new album, and despite there being no standing tickets left, I went ahead and bought a seating one anyway. Two-years-ago-Michelle would be proud.

It turned out that getting seat tickets was a good idea because the show was at Manchester Arena, and I didn’t particularly feel like wrestling through the crowd at the pit of a venue so big. I had luck with me when I bought tickets, honestly, because my view was actually perfect, directly facing the stage. Probably the only downside of being in seats was everyone else around me being too chill that me shouting and dancing in my seat made me feel a little out of place. But eh, that’s more of my own problem than anything else isn’t it

Rationale was one of the opening acts - they were pretty good
Rationale was one of the opening acts – they were pretty good

This was during Oblivion – there were no flashes and bright lights, only Dan’s voice ringing through the arena and amazingly, a sea of white light among the crowds as everyone held up their phone torches. It was really beautiful.

If you want to know what it feels like to experience something trippy, attend a Bastille concert. I particularly loved a concept they did where the onstage screen split into multiple small screens and played real life newscasts from all over the world in various languages, followed by more splitting into smaller screens showing scenes of retro TV shows (they incorporated a lot of TV dialogues -that they’d inserted into songs in their Other People’s Heartaches series- into their new album so this worked out very well for them) cut so jumpily that I don’t really know how to describe it besides – trippy. Couple that with the strobe lights that flashed in sync with the beats of the songs and you get an otherworldly experience of being somewhere you’re not. Unfortunately, the strobe lights gave me a bit of a headache for a while that I had to shield my eyes while singing and jumping so that was quite funny. But during Pompeii, despite the lights and everything I gave in and went all out, a good encore to round the show up with.

And oh boy, Dan’s voice was absolutely magnificent, so powerful as it echoed throughout the arena. Bastille really knows how to put on a wonderful show.

Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated:

Destinations – November ’16 (Part II)

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

The gap between my last Destinations post and this post is actually longer than the gap between my reaching Manchester from Scotland and then flying off from Manchester to Amsterdam, which was a mere four hours or so during which I swiftly replaced my luggage with fresh new clothes and had homecooked lunch at Q3 courtesy of Yee Lin and Nicole.

And then the five of us, Ash, Ernie, Jia Yang, CC and I took an Uber to Manchester Airport for our 8PM flight to Amsterdam.

It must be emphasised, before I continue, that the conception of this trip literally appeared out of nowhere. I still remember it was the evening before we went to Old Trafford to watch a football match; it was exactly the five of us having dinner at a Chinese restaurant when Ash suddenly said, out of the blue, “Let’s go to Amsterdam next week” and I actually entertained the idea, because I responded by saying “Let’s go” albeit not expecting a legitimate end result, and definitely not expecting the instantaneous formation of a Whatsapp group and then actually buying flight tickets and booking an Airbnb on the next day itself.

So that…was that. And less than a week later, we were off to Amsterdam.

White wine is the breakfast for champions.

This wasn’t my first time in Amsterdam; I’d been here during spring three years ago and I had nothing but fond memories of this picturesque European city that doesn’t give me pressure and stress the way a lot of cities do (see: London, KL). The city of Amsterdam by day boasted uniquely beautiful Dutch architecture and quaint canals, as well as confusing streets accessible by vehicular contraptions in the forms of bicycles, cars and trams.

    

Forget spring, fall is literally the loveliest and most scenic season. Not to sound fake deep but the yellow-orange hues of autumn leaves tell better relatable stories of a person’s aged experiences than the vivid multi-colours of spring’s floral blooming.

We had authentic sushi for lunch. Humans are such predictable creatures
We had authentic sushi for lunch. Humans are such predictable creatures

Churros is only one of the many things Ash likes about Amsterdam
Churros is only one of the many things Ash likes about Amsterdam

The one at Rijkmuseum was crowded so
The one at Rijkmuseum was crowded so

We had bottomless spare ribs at a “sports satellite” cafe near Centraal for dinner before exploring Amsterdam at night in search for the famous The Fault in Our Stars bench.

Alright, here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s entirely irrational to have high expectations for a landmark bench of a well-known young adult romance movie. After all, they shot a movie here. Here’s another thing, two things, in fact: 1) it may not look like it in the photo, but amazingly, it started pouring when we found the bench, so this photo was taken in a literal hurry 2) the bench faces the canal which means that in order to take a full frontal shot of the bench, you probably need to cross to the other side and be equipped with a camera of rather good quality so all this added up to a not-so-good impression of the TFiOS bench but really, am I qualified to make a statement like that? At least there wasn’t a single dull moment at Amsterdam, and that I can appreciate whole-heartedly.

I've been here twice and twice the most I've ventured is past the front entrance
I’ve been here twice and twice the most I’ve ventured is past the front entrance

    

Amsterdam at night is an antithesis of its day counterpart. You think you know what I’m about to say but I really love how different the canals look at night; when it’s bright out they’re cosy little streams of water but at night, the reflections of streetlights and the glow of signboards off the surface of the canals give off a distinctive vibe of being somewhere else completely different.

I fell in love with Amsterdam three years ago and I fell in love with it again, with different memories and experiences this time around to attribute to one of my favourite cities.

And alright, the city wasn’t the only thing that I fell in love with; I learned that by discovering the addictiveness of adventures and adrenaline, even right to the root of the spontaneous foundation of this trip itself. My default position in life has always been within the range of my comfort zone, and taking chances like this always reminds myself of how rewarding the act of not overthinking things and just doing it can be.

Anyway, verdict: 10/10 would do it again.

(Multiple photo credits to CC and Jia Yang, tq)

Oh No, Anxiety Arising

a messy poem (?) by an anxious person at 4:38am

it’s almost 5am

the fifth night i’ve seen that digit on my phone screen before i fall asleep

maybe it’s because of this

or maybe it’s because of being in my head for too long from essay solitude

because oh no! 

my stomach is sour, my tongue bitter

my thoughts race, my fears roar

lying in the dark i suddenly feel the world against me

dip my toes back into the vat of diesel tangled together with the rusty anxieties and doubts i’d left on the shelf for so long

so familiar, so unwanted

the viscosity pulls me down and i’m reminded of everything i predominantly dislike about myself

that everyone sees it too and it’s only a matter of time before…

my failures and mistakes all stand before me like regrettable phantoms that i never want to set eyes upon again

but i’m tired, i’m so exhausted

my mental fort has crumbled to the ground

all systems of security have failed

all that’s been protecting me from myself all this while

has been grinded to dust in the face of fatigue and loneliness

and it feels like a relapse everytime

worse than being in a perpetual state of misery

because you’ve tasted a life you want to lead

free of your own mental chains

only to wonder if it was bound to come to an end anyway

it’s too easy to be your own mortal enemy again

when you have nothing but the flashes of white in your vision from staring at a screen for too long

i don’t know how to write poems

this is not metaphorical enough! you scream from the void

and yet words are all i’ve ever known to alleviate any affliction

Destinations – October ’16 (Part I)

i. GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

I was already supposed to pay Scotland a visit the first week I got back to Manchester, but because there was just so much stuff to do, the tentative prospect of a trip up north had to be postponed until a week before reading week when Ken Fui asked when was I ever going to go to Scotland and I promptly checked my reading week timetable and said, “next week”. So I went on Trainline and bought tickets and that was the first half of my reading week done.

That Friday, I only had a bowl of cereal after coming back from my seminar that ended at 2PM, and then I had to rush through packing before boarding the 5PM train to Glasgow. Hence, my 4-hour journey to Glasgow was spent 1) ignoring the consistent growl in my stomach 2) staring off into space because I couldn’t do any work on my laptop without feeling like I might puke 3) wondering how bulletpoints 1 & 2 even work when they clearly contradict each other in terms of the contents of my stomach (or rather, lack thereof).

But I did reach Glasgow eventually after what felt like eternity and Ken Fui was there to bring me to his place where he had cooked spaghetti for dinner and I was so hungry that I had seconds. MVP of the day, honestly.

We also watched Ao Haru Ride in the spirit of cheesy sappy Japanese teen movies after being inspired by Orange. Definitely laughed at the drama and ridiculousness more than anything else.

The next day, Ken Fui had a group project during the first half of the day so I got to hung out with Ming! The story behind how I knew Ming is a rather interesting one: we come from the same college albeit different batches but I only properly got to know her after accidentally coming across her on the Internet. I’d talked more to her on the Internet than in real life prior to that day, which may seem odd to many but not surprisingly, is how most of my friendships have transpired to be.

Our first Glaswegian destination is The Lighthouse, a quirky 7-storey arts centre with salty Brexit-themed modern art, trippy strobe flash videography and an overview of the rooftops of Glasgow at the topmost floor.

And then we went to visit Ming’s university, University of Glasgow, where some of the Harry Potter film scenes were allegedly shot at.

You're not really in Scotland until you see a Scottish man wearing a kilt playing the bagpipes
You’re not really in Scotland until you see a Scottish man wearing a kilt playing the bagpipes

After that, we went to the Kelvingrove Museum to look and appreciate fine art like the civilised and cultured international students we are by coming up with captions for medieval portraits and uploading them on Snapchat.

We had doughnuts outside the museum while waiting for Ken Fui
We had doughnuts outside the museum while waiting for Ken Fui

Ming had to leave after 4PM so Ken Fui came over after that and he had no idea where else to go so he said, “Why don’t we go see the big ship at the Transport Museum” even though the museum closed at 5. It wasn’t like I knew what else to do either so I said okay, and then halfway through the 20-minute walk to the museum and the ship, it started raining. But we were already halfway there so there really wasn’t anything to do but continue moving forward.

We did get there in the end in one piece. The ship was pretty big, I guess.

My legs were already half dead by that time so I suggested getting an Uber back but the price surge was 2.0x so in the end I managed to drag my legs and torso all the way back home anyway.

ii. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

We bought train tickets to Edinburgh the next morning and after getting off the hour long ride, I bought a chai latte from a small vendor next to Edinburgh Waverley because it was one of my favourite drinks at that moment and also because it wouldn’t hurt to have some taste sensory enjoyment to go along with the sight sensory one, because Edinburgh is so beautiful.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

    

We walked the Royal Mile all the way to the Palace, took photos of the Scottish Parliament and (half of) Arthur’s Seat, walked around city centre and ended up at the Scottish National Gallery to resume my cultured escapade.

And then it was already 4PM, which also meant sunset was upon us, so what more suitable time to go up Calton Hill than that

Every minute spent on top of the hill was so breathtakingly beautiful.

Aaron invited us for dinner after that and conveniently enough, Daryl also knew Aaron so it was a reunion of different friends from different stages of my life. Frankly, it was pretty bizarre, but the really good kind.

Early the next morning, I said goodbye to Ken Fui before departing for Manchester, where I would have a brief respite before embarking on my next adventure in Amsterdam.