A month after coming to the UK, my phone got stolen.
First came the immediate panic of petting down my coat and shorts pockets followed by a frantic search in my bag right in the middle of an aisle on the ground floor of Monki on Carnaby Street, all the time thinking “I’ve scared myself shitless multiple times before, this time won’t be any different. It’ll probably turn up in my pocket or in my bag any time now” but feeling my heart sink every time my palms turned up empty.
Then came the announcement from Janice that “it stopped ringing” and so did my heart but I fought to think of what’s next, what’s next that I can do to stop my phone getting further away from me because the alternative would be to launch into a full-fledged panic and I couldn’t be having that when I still at least had the chance to maybe do something. In the middle of enquiring about CCTV footage and being told the person behind the counter didn’t have the power to do that, I walked out of the shop multiple times, just staring people up and down, crime investigation TV serial shows flashing dramatically across my mind in a state of desperation, making me believe for the slightest moment the most absurd notion that I might catch the thief red-handed by, I don’t know, noticing someone’s fishy behaviour or maybe being noticed and chased after by a vigilant passerby but that’s not true, because they are exactly what they are, exaggerated TV tropes to reel people in from the absolute realness of real life.
And then the dawn of realisation that my phone, my safety anchor of distractions and reassurances and also storage vault of photos and messages, was truly gone. Thousands of people walking up and down Oxford Street with their phones in their hands or pockets yet I was the one to have fallen victim (later on in the police station, I received a phone call from Ee Min in distress telling me that her phone had also been pick-pocketed in the exact same fashion as mine with an hour interval between our incidents a few miles away at Borough Market). But what felt the worst was the absolute helplessness of it all; it all happened so fast and theory dictated that something could be salvaged only if I acted quick enough (three-second rule and all its variations) but even after doing all I could do, searching Monki repeatedly, erasing my phone at the Apple store, lodging a report at the police station, they were merely necessary steps I coerced myself into focusing upon so I didn’t have the time to stop and throw a pity party for myself. London was so big but at the moment I felt so, so minute in this huge bustling city of hectic activities and rushing people.
At the police station, there was a giant poster with the words “BEWARE OF PICK-POCKETS, DON’T LET A STOLEN PROPERTY RUIN YOUR DAY” and I could only be the human embodiment of the laugh-cry emoji
Getting a new phone immediately the day after because I didn’t know if I could cope with the 5-hour coach ride back to Manchester without any form of distraction, accompanied only by my intrusive and self-abasing thoughts that would lead to god knows what.
Feeling the highest degree of guilt and disappointment at myself for being so weak and pampered with the immediate remedy of a new replacement and not enough punishment because it seemed that I was angrier at myself than my parents even were.
And yet unable to even fathom the rest of my days without my phone because it has always been the one thing connecting me to other people, the one thing that allows me to call for help anytime and anywhere especially when I am alone.
The tainting of The Thing aside, it was so great to see Janice again, a familiar face in a stringently foreign environment that still keeps me on my toes. It provided a warming sense of comfort made better with Malaysian food escapades at the Malaysian Hall and Roti King at Euston as well as a transatlantic Google hangout with Bellyn till 4AM.
Places don’t really mean anything, it’s the people that matter the most, and I keep thinking about this because if this is true, then what am I doing here?
When I started getting into Haikyuu five months ago, I never thought I’d live to see the day that my getting into this animanga/fandom would lead to me actually playing and considering committing to the actual sport of volleyball. It’s really funny how this animanga/webcomic-to-real-life-sport thing happened simultaneously to me, Effie and Ellie – Effie started investing in ice hockey tournaments after reading Check Please! and Ellie, like me, started going for basketball training sessions in her uni thanks to KNB. And then of course there was Bellyn, Taliza and Karu who were also in volleyball hell with me at one point or another.
As it is, on Saturday, I played volleyball again. The day before, I was excited to find out that there would be a free volleyball social play session at Sugden (which was only five minutes away from where I live) so despite sleeping at 3AM the previous night, I got Carmen to go for volleyball with me. And it was so much fun! This time around, compared to the previous UMVC team trials, there were coaches teaching us the very basics and the court wasn’t as crowded. We each got chances to toss, volley, dig and spike throughout the two-hour session and I might just be wholly syok sendiri but?? I think?? I might have improved quite a bit (just a bit though) at receiving and my arms don’t hurt so much anymore. I only got a spike over the net though so that’s predictably appalling. One of our coaches was a setter and I was mesmerized everytime he did a toss because his movements were so fluid and smooth and his toss quiet, bouncy and high in contrast with mine which were loud and always flew off in directions I didn’t want the ball to go to.
(After the session, I asked him about this and it turns out the ball doesn’t touch our palms during a toss; only the finger bases.)
After that, Carmen and I walked to Chinatown and had Korean food for lunch. Even if we hadn’t been hungry and tired from the accumulated soreness of handball (which hadn’t faded away yet even after three days) and volleyball, the food would have still been pretty good so I knew it wasn’t just the growling stomach talking. We then spent the next few hours shopping at Primark and Aldi and despite returning home that evening extremely worn out, it was a very enjoyable and fulfilling Saturday.
That night, at 2AM GMT (8PM in Iowa, 9PM in NYC and 11AM the next day in Melbourne), I had a three-hour Google hangout with the gang (with a missing Zitian) and the familiarity and comfort of seeing and talking to old friends again felt so incredibly nice, even if I was struggling to stay awake most of the time. In the end, the hangout ended with Bellyn taking us on a short tour around NYC at night while on her way to the cinema and Taliza, Harris, Karu and I playing Sporcle until my eyes were watering and I finally went to bed at 5AM.
I love and miss my friends who are scattered all around different parts of the world very, very much and I am so proud of us for getting to where we are now. :’)
Understandably, I woke up at 1PM the next day and had an hour to get ready before I was to meet up with Carmen to head for Trafford Centre. I’d been there once with Ee Min, Yee Lin and the rest during Student Night but the place was just too huge to explore till the ends in one night. Carmen and I took the bus from Piccadilly Gardens and then it was a 30 minute ride to the outskirts of the city.
Trafford Centre was packed on a Sunday but we managed to brave through the outrageously long queue at Five Guys and had a very Western late lunch of cheese burger (Carmen), bacon and cheese dog (me) and Oreo vanilla milkshake (we both shared one).
Approaching 6PM, I was beginning to get very jumpy, out of nerves and excitement. We went to the Trafford Centre bus station to find out that great, Carmen and I could take the same X50 bus because it stopped at Salford and then Piccadilly Gardens after that.
When the bus driver told me that the bus stopped at “The Imperial War Museum, it’s near The Lowry”, I took that to mean that “near” was at the very most a 15-minute walk distance. So after I said goodbye to Carmen and asked the bus driver again for confirmation of directions to The Lowry (“Just go straight and turn left”) I alighted from the bus, a spring in my step from excitement to finally see Dan and Phil in person at their The Amazing Tour is Not On Fire (what a mouthful) show with tickets I’d bought back in March (before I even firmed my choice at Uni of Manchester lol) when the tour was very first announced.
But it wasn’t until the bus pulled away and silence settled in that I realise that I was completely alone on a dark street devoid of life or moving vehicles. Never mind. If The Lowry was where the bus driver said it was, it wouldn’t matter since I’d reach the place in a short while anyway. But after approximately five minutes of walking and no sign of a left turning at all, I started to feel nervous laughter bubbling in my throat as I whipped out my phone and with trembling fingers pulled up Google maps only to find out that The Lowry Theatre was 2.3km away from where I was standing.
And thus commenced the piercingly cold and harrowingly long journey by foot along deserted streets under a darkening evening sky to watch two giant nerds from the Internet that I’ve invested a good three years of my life in.
It felt endless. I was clothed in a sheer cardigan and a midi skirt and 20 minutes into the journey, I wasn’t sure if the ache in my legs were from sports or the lower half of my body turning numb from the cold. I was also getting increasingly worried when it was already 7PM and I still had more or less 1km to go. I was silently fuming at the bus driver but also wary that maybe I had indeed missed a left turning but decided I didn’t want to find out if the latter was true because I couldn’t handle any more additional stress before I actually reached The Lowry. The only thing keeping me going was the prospect of seeing the two tall nerds very soon and also that this would make a great story even though I felt like crying just then (but that would make things worse because it would just be cold tears and I couldn’t possibly get anything from that).
With 300m left on Google maps, I decided I still had time to spare before the show started at 7.30PM so I entered a mini supermarket at The Lowry Outlet to massage some senses back into my frozen fingers that were spewing typos all over the place as I livetexted my journey to Ming. And then finally, finally when The Lowry Theatre finally came into view, it was like a beacon of holy light dawning around me and honestly? D&P were left forgotten because I was just glad to have reached my destination alive and breathing.
Still incredulous of my wintery walk for 40 minutes, I stupidly asked two girls with cat whiskers drawn on their faces if this was the line for Dan and Phil and then proceeded to invalidate my own question with “of course it is what am I saying” before blabbering about my getting lost and having to walk for about an hour (exaggeration for maximum effect) to get here and I was expecting them to turn away in fear (I would’ve) but they were so nice and even looked at my ticket to help me figure out which door I was supposed to go through.
A couple of observations made prior to the commencement of the show: 1) there were a lot of parents (and even grandparents) around 2) pretty much everyone had Sharpie cat whiskers on their faces and/or llama hats on their heads 3) I felt like the oldest person in the room (excluding parents and grandparents) 4) everyone was really excited!!! I was excited too, but these people were really excited, like screaming excited. I guess I probably would’ve been the same level of excited seven months ago but that’s alright because I didn’t exactly have anyone to scream with in real life at that moment anyway. Still, it was really entertaining to take in the shenanigans of the IRL Phandom (oh my god this is actually terrifying now that I think about it in more detail) around me and realise how popular and huge D&P have truly gotten over the past few years. They are practically full-blown celebrities. This was nothing different from a One Direction concert.
And then the show started and I don’t think I’m allowed to comment much about it because #spoilers (no one was allowed to take photos or videos throughout the entire show because they will be releasing videos of the show online after the tour or something) but it was a really, really fun and enjoyable 1.5 hours and I think I was more entranced by the fact that I was looking at Dan and Phil with my own two eyes after years of looking at them move and talk in the small Youtube frame and they were real people holy shit and they were so? beautiful? Now it just sounds like I’m describing sculptures in an art gallery but for all it’s worth, they might as well be on par with that.
The show ended on a high note (haha, #pun) which made their departure from stage even sadder (I was half expecting people to chant encore) because it was back to staring at them on screens again. What would’ve made the night perfect was an actual meeting with them but who am I but a mere simpleton who can’t afford to fork out £80 for a VIP ticket good god
My ride back was in my first Uber, and after being traumatized by walking alone in the cold, sitting comfortably in a warm car back to Weston for free was breathtakingly incredible and my driver was so friendly – he mistook me for an American (“I thought you’re from America! You have an American accent!” “???!!!!”) and lamented about drunk football fans in his car that threatened to smash his windows when he said he wasn’t a supporter of Manchester United. I didn’t mind the small talk one bit, being in such high spirits from D&P, coming back with stories and actually surviving the night in one piece. And that was all I could really feel, really, when I reached Weston and thanked the driver profusely, that after all that I went through that night, I was back in my room safe and sound. Life is so exhilaratingly amazing sometimes.
And now as I am sat before my desk tired after a full day of lectures but insisting that I write this anyway before I forget all the little details that are as if not more important than the general content itself, the previous night feels so far away but then I remember that it was actually a thing I did and by myself at that and it gives me great encouragement that I am capable of many things and adventures in spite of my fears and anxieties (I feel like the moral lesson at the end of each blogpost is basically pretty much the same but that’s okay because I need the reminder always).
I walked back to Weston alone this evening after having a subpar ramen dinner at an underground Japanese diner with Yee Lin and Ee Min and the weather was perfect, the route I took was quiet and clean and the view of the evening sky was picturesque. I felt absolutely serene and tranquil. And happy. Despite the terrible ache in my legs and scraped knee from playing handball the previous day, I was happy. I’d survived week three and I will continue to survive, was what I told myself as I took the now familiar path back, deliberately taking a slow stroll so I wouldn’t reach my halls so soon just yet.
And that was the first time since coming here that I wanted to not go back yet after the day’s work was done.
I get these bouts of feelings of success and triumph sometimes, like I did this evening or when I managed to get my laundry done or stock up on all my necessities or make rounds meeting people to buy textbooks from them. They are all small victories, I know, but I feel so accomplished everytime and I’d tell myself: this is it. This is me being an adult and doing things on my own and being adequate enough for myself and everyone else. I can overcome my anxiety and I am ready for university life and adulthood. There is a next thing I can look forward to and anticipate for, a rising light in the horizon that doesn’t make everything look so bleak anymore.
But sometimes it also feels like a one-step-forward-two-steps-back thing wherein on the very same day itself, I’d lie on my bed or sit before my desk and a stray thought would slither through the cracks of my mental gears, bringing back memories of home, of Sunway, of Japan and literally anytime else that I’d felt were the highest zeniths I’d experienced. Because there is no need to mask the fact that I still cling very desperately onto these pieces of regalia, making a shelter out of them to promise myself of better things to come and to reassure myself of their continued presence, despite them being very far away both physically and metaphorically. The creature of habit in me oftentimes still find it difficult to place complete faith in things that still scream foreignness at me.
I imagine currently, at week three, I’m experiencing that phase of change akin to the period of time post-surgery when a body is trying to make up its mind whether to reject or accept a newly transplanted organ (a crude image to use as an analogy but I feel like the appropriate situation warrants this accurate comparison) and it’s like just as you start to think that the transplant is compatible, a complication pops up and you have to fix it quickly before the next complication appears and then before you know it, the entire transplant becomes a complication. So what this translates to is that sometimes I’m “I am a capable and responsible adult : D” while other times I’m “what on earth am I doing why am I here D :”
But just like the definition of the word “phase”, it will eventually arrive at a solid conclusion and maybe that will be in a week’s time, or a month’s, or a year’s, but I really hope when it does, it will be one of acceptance, and one wherein I can start to call this place home.
Last Saturday, Weston Hall organised a trip to Whitby for only £5 so despite not knowing where Whitby actually is and going against my natural instinct to sleep in and laze around on a weekend, I agreed to join the trip with Rumin.
It turns out Whitby is a sleepy coastal fishing town on the eastern shore of England. And when I say sleepy, I really do mean so because of the perpetually gloomy sky (Rebecca, a British Chinese who is also a Weston Hall resident whom I knew through Rumin, reminded us that this is how English weather actually is in contrast to the sunny days we’ve been having in Manchester for weeks now), colder and windier weather and also the fact that the tiny village is mostly populated by senior folks walking their dogs on leashes. It was the first time I’d seen so many senior citizens and/or dogs in the UK.
The bus journey to Whitby was rather tumultuous; I was greeted once again by my good ol’ friend motion sickness and the driver had to pull over with 30 minutes left into town and I had to walk into the nearest butcher’s shop to bashfully ask for a plastic bag that served as a mere placebo because the absence of it only made me more anxious and thus, made the nausea worse. Rumin brought up that if I did puke in the bus, at least it would be something I could write here. I didn’t puke, but I’ll write this in anyway.
Ironically enough, it was also the first time since landing in the UK that I felt the particular English vibe from my surroundings, if that makes sense? Manchester felt very internationally-influenced. Well, that’s because it is (especially walking along Curry Mile, you’d think we weren’t in the UK at all) and I reckon that’s what makes my experience in Manchester so far so different from my experience in Bath when I stayed with Sa Pek two years ago. Manchester is also an incredibly modernized metropolis, suitably catering to the interests of Generation Y evident in the form of bars, clubs, shopping outlets and fast food joints at every bend of the road and nook of the street. In contrast, Whitby is filled with narrow, winding paths flanked by tiny and quaint shops and cafés. There seems to be a niche market for fudge, toffees and sweets in the quiet town of Whitby.
We then climbed to the top of a hill where the Whitby Abbey was situated, overlooking the entire town.
Probably the climax of this trip was lunchtime, because we had fish and chips at a town that offered an array of restaurants serving specifically traditional English fish and chips. We had ours at a place called Quayside that had a long queue (you know something’s good when you have to wait for it) and a poster stuck to its display window claiming the bragging right of winner of the National Fish & Chips Award 2014. I really ought not to be surprised anymore by the absurd amount of things people give awards for but I was still astounded by how…English that was.
After lunch we continued strolling around with ample time to kill.
AND THEN WE WENT TO THE BEACH!!!!!!!!!!
The last time I was at a beach was probably two years ago during the Northern Road Trip at Batu Ferringhi. The Whitby beach was cold and windy and looked the part for the setting of an RL Stine book but it was actually pretty soothing looking at and listening to the waves washing ashore as well as the multiple dogs running around in the sand playing catch with their owners.
Despite not actually doing anything in Whitby for the whole day (we did do some shopping though…in Poundland…I bought nine rolls of toilet paper, two tubes of toothpaste and three packets of biscuits, all only for £4. You have no idea how happy I was to find a toilet roll pack of nine for £1 I’ve never seen such a good deal before in any other Poundland/Poundworld franchise in Manchester) we were pretty exhausted by the time we were to board the bus back to Manchester. Rumin was functioning on merely three hours of sleep the previous night and I had a motion sickness pill before the journey started so we were both out for the whole two hours plus of the return journey.
Overall, this weekend getaway wasn’t exactly exciting or stimulating, but it was pretty nice to go somewhere different for once. I’ve only been here for almost three weeks and I’m already starting to get bored of Manchester, which is highly worrying. If anything, I got to see a lot of dogs that day and that in itself was already worth the £5 trip. Always the dogs. I’ll always do it for the dogs.
Despite the tears and frustrations and headaches it induced, I count it as a small blessing that the complications that arose concerning the issuing of my flight ticket managed to at least occupy some (if not all) of my time and thoughts just a few hours prior to flying off, as the alternative would probably be a breakdown about leaving home and my parents and everything I’ve ever known to fly to a foreign country filled with strangers.
But in the end, the ticket arrived the night before I was to fly and things were finally final but I still felt like I couldn’t really register what was actually happening.
The airport scene was as if not more horrible than I’d pictured, and it still makes my chest heavy even when I think about it now. It was a vicious cycle of me crying and my parents crying and then me crying even harder because they were crying and then came the painful ripping off of the band-aid I’ve known as the comfort of home and my parents all my life at the goddamn descending escalator to the international departure hall. I couldn’t stop crying, and frankly, I didn’t care that I was red-rimmed around the eyes and sniffing back snot in front of so many people (and future university mates at that) because I didn’t have the available mental capacity left to hide my feelings from the rest of the world.
My last conversations in Malaysia besides my parents were with Taliza, Chok, Bellyn and the Shiba Inu whatsapp group comprising of Mei, Ellie, Effie and Atikah, which made the farewell less painful and frightening. And when I was finally seated comfortably (as comfortably as I could, anyway) in the fourth seat to the right of the middle aisle on the flight to Amsterdam, feeling the convulsions and tremors led by the rumbling of the plane engine ready to take off, sensing the briefly startling weightlessness and pressure against my temples when the wheels were no longer in contact with the runway ground, all I could feel was an odd sense of tranquility, suppressing both the heavy boulder of fear and fervent spark of excitement that were dwelling on completely different ends of my emotional spectrum.
The flight was fine; there is literally nothing else I can say to describe it besides the fact that I was doing some heavy repressing the entire time as I struggled to sleep while being jolted awake by anxiety several times and having to watch anime or read fic on my phone to remind myself that I am here, I am doing this, I am quite literally on a plane to a country 10,000km away from home to attend university. And ironically, the disbelief kept me grounded (haha).
Upon reaching Amsterdam, I suddenly acquired the energy of a million suns, despite running on at the very most an hour of sleep and facing a 5-hour transit for my next flight to Manchester. Unlike many other times back at home, I didn’t allow myself to think about running away, mostly because there was no way I could do that, and also because I managed to convince myself that I didn’t want to, and it wasn’t untrue because university in UK was something I’d been looking forward to since before A Levels even ended. So when I finally touched down at Manchester airport, feeling the highest degree of exhaustion and physical grossness, my heart was a leaping organ of joy and anticipation, taking all my surroundings in with a huge grin on my face. The green signboards with the Transport font along the road, the chilly antithetic weather of the English lands, the Northern British accents that felt like music to my ears at the time; I took everything in greedily, feeling so so excited to be in Manchester, befuddled by the newness of everything around me, ready to set out and explore anything and everything. I was slowly developing a migraine in the bus from the fatigue, but I was still capable of romanticizing everything I saw and heard and felt.
Perhaps more than anything, I was most excited to reach my room (as I’d mentioned before in the previous post, owning a room of my own in university was one of the things I was most excited about, don’t ask me why that is because I probably can’t give you an answer you won’t frown in ludicrousness at) in Weston Hall. Immediately after dumping my luggage in my room, I ran out to meet Rumin, who had already arrived a day before on a different flight to London. Despite being absolutely drained of all energy (I was already beating my record of still being conscious and moving after 24+ hours of being awake when I went to Japan) I still had to get bedsheets to sleep in so I followed Rumin to city centre where I got bedsheets and a duvet from Primark, had my first meal in UK (in a Japanese restaurant, how predictable) and bought some necessities from Wilko before passing out at around 10PM before I really had the time to start ruminating about a new routine I was about to have and being intimidated by a brand new set of four walls surrounding me.
The first week of orientation and welcome week was spent Chasing. That is the most accurate term I can come up for how hectic things were that week. As it rightfully should be, many would justify, since there was no lack of events and activities listed out in the little Welcome Week itinerary we were each given.
Like I said, I don’t remember specifically what I did during the first week; the only memories I have are of flurries of activities rushing to the next best thing on the itinerary and we would only stop when we were hungry and/or our tired limbs couldn’t carry us any further only would be retire for the night. I did the international check-in and collected my BRP and student card, visited Primark, Arndale (which was the main shopping mall of the city of Manchester) and the outrageously ginormous Asda to stock up on food, toiletries and homeware, paid the Student’s Union bar a visit at night to further our education on the English social drinking culture, took photos at the critically acclaimed Manchester Gay Village and went sightseeing around Old Trafford and Salford (during which I took photos of the Etihad Stadium to show my MU supporting friends and received unaware backlash as response).
I slept really well that week because I was usually dead on my feet each time I came back and there was no time to even stop to think about anything else.
The previous excitement I’d felt at Amsterdam wasn’t entirely gone, but I could also feel some sense of disappointment trickling in. I’m not sure if they were fuelled by repressed homesickness and a craving for familiarity in the form of friends and fandom or if I’d subconsciously harboured a set of ridiculously high expectations for uni, of which they weren’t met at all.
Freshers’ Fair was pretty exciting, I signed up for a lot of clubs and societies purely based on the question of “What would the ideal Michelle do” so I signed up for the uni magazine editorial board, the creative writing society, the journalism society, the UoM blog society, the anime club, the volleyball club and the basketball club.
That weekend, MULS (Manchester University Law Society) had a bar crawl event at Fallowfield and despite the whole bar scene not being our thing, Ee Min, Yee Lin and I decided to check it out anyway since we were granted free entrance given our membership status. It was a 30 minute walk from Victoria Park (where Ee Min and Yee Lin are staying at) in the immense cold and when we got there, only KY, CC and Jia Yang got drinks and then we huddled around a table and played spin the bottle on my phone to make the guys’ £4 entrance fee worth the longer period of stay. And then it was another long walk back to Victoria Park where I stayed at Yee Lin’s place in Canterbury Court for the night. We woke up at 1PM the next day and lazed around Opal Gardens (Ee Min and CC’s residence) reading, watching anime on the projector in their common room and playing badminton.
It was a really relaxing weekend and I loved the contrasting lazy inactivity compared to the busyness of the entire past week. It was good recharging time.
I also cooked lunch for myself during that week and it tasted bland but it was actually Not Too Bad.
On Sunday night, it was mid-autumn festival and I was silently lamenting not being able to eat mooncake this year (I don’t really eat a lot of mooncakes back home but I guess you don’t realise what you’ve lost until it’s gone) when my Chinese flatmates offered some pieces of the HK-style mooncakes they got from Chinatown and I felt really warm and happy that night as I chatted with my flatmates over free pizza after that.
Law induction week started on Monday, and we attended our first lecture introducing us to the basic aspects of law – human rights and morality. It was very general but it got our rusty mind gears going after nine months of stagnancy but honestly? The sessions were pretty interesting and thought-provoking and I just hope this optimism for my law degree course lasts throughout the three years (it usually never does).
On Monday evening, I played volleyball.
And this is kinda a huge thing!!! I mean, I did play volleyball before with Bellyn and Yu Chia but this was different because this was the real thing and it was on a real court in a real sports centre overlooked by a real volleyball coach and it made me so nervous and excited at the same time. It was team trials so naturally I was worried because I’ve never actually really played Real Volleyball TM before but it turned out that I wasn’t the only one. There was a massive turnout and honestly I was a bit sad that there wasn’t any real coaching but some people tossed for us (I received all of them really badly) (but our setter was a Chinese girl and she was wearing a volleyball jersey and she was so pro I couldn’t stop staring everytime she tossed and received) and then we rotated through games of six people like in a real game!!!!! I avoided the ball a lot of the time to the extent that someone asked why I didn’t go after it even though it was heading right for me (it was heading right for me and my face so I got scared and dodged) and I got so embarrassed and started running after the ball everytime after that. I managed to get one serve over the net though I was so happy and proud!!!!! Overall I didn’t really get to play a whole lot (and whose fault might that be hmm I wonder) but it was so immensely fun even though I sucked and I honest to god want to join the free weekly training sessions in October.
Who would’ve thought I would be a cooking and sports enthusiast at 20 years old????? Not the Michelle of the past 19 years
Tuesday night was spent eating Thai food in UK for the first time at Try Thai in Chinatown with Jovaynne, also an Alor Setarian who I was meeting for the first time. She’s a really lovely person and my social ineptness usually means that I’m terrifyingly awkward around people I’m meeting for the first time but that wasn’t the case this time; I felt very at ease with the company and had a great night out overall.
There was a gathering held by the Malaysian Students’ Society Manchester on Wednesday afternoon at Whitworth Park and the huge Malaysian population in Manchester no longer surprised me, although the large number of Malaysians taking law kind of did. I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone but I can literally walk along any road or sit down at any café and hear the all too familiar Manglish accent coming from behind or the table next to mine.
It feels very comforting to be honest, like there’s a certain kinship between us as a group in this foreign white country. Like I know the whole “don’t just stick to Malaysians when you’re overseas” thing and I agree with horizons expansion but I can’t help but feel a social barrier prompted mostly by cultural differences when it comes to foreigners. Not saying that I’m running away entirely by this form of intimidation but there is a hint of determent that requires an abnormal amount of effort and some days I can’t even pick someone to call when I’m feeling bad so I’m working on that, even though it might be at a supremely slow pace.
Towards the end of the gathering, my head was starting to feel really heavy and I could feel the first traces of a headache settling in, coupled with sudden nausea churning in my gut. I felt so tired and my lazy eye was starting to throb and hurt but activities weren’t over yet and I couldn’t afford to shut down and be quiet when my mind was constantly going “Don’t leave a bad first impression or you won’t even get a second one” and I didn’t want to turn quiet and unapproachable when everyone was going around making sociable rounds between conversation groups but I was also so exhausted and I’d been in the cold in a mere cardigan for 2+ hours. I felt like I had an unspoken self-obligation to fulfil, something that I had to do or suffer the horrible consequences of ruminating regret and guilt later.
In the end, I gave in and went completely silent, secluding myself from the crowds despite the fact that there was a tiny part within me that was still ringing the “Go and socialise!!!! Be sociable!!!!”. But I didn’t have the mental or even physical capability of any more social interactions, feeling comfortable enough when it was only me, Ee Min and Yee Lin walking to the bus stop in front of Students’ Union. On the bus back to Weston alone, I started to feel the energizing effects of recharging. Upon reaching Weston, the headache was gone and my stomach didn’t hurt that bad anymore.
But that’s the irony, because the relief of finally recharging alone was swiftly replaced by the ten-tonne feeling of loneliness as I lied down on my bed because everything still felt so new and fragile here and it made me so afraid. Everything and everyone and everywhere felt so precarious because they still felt so foreign, like I’d not nailed in the solid foundation allowing me to cling onto that will breed familiarity and comfort and stability. And that’s pretty problematic right! University is all about tearing away from a safety net and learning to be independent and brave and going on adventures and trying new things just like what all the kids do these days! God I feel so old and bitter since coming here
And yet there I was, feeling so inexplicably alone as I wept at my mum’s Facebook messages and masochistically watched and scrolled through old videos and photos that just led to more throat constricting feelings.
It also didn’t help that I kept on drawing comparisons about my new beginning in university with my previously new beginning in college, wondering where I went wrong this time when I was able to be so outgoing and optimistic during the start of college. I was trying to hit the middle ground between being sociable enough that I wasn’t unapproachable but also not too sociable that it would be a false and misleading representation of who I really am and would thus lead to extreme exhaustion to keep up the image.
It has been some pretty tiring weeks in university, even more so that I’m still trying to establish an identity for myself here, one that wouldn’t leave me feeling lonelier than I already am but would also enable me to feel confident of myself and do things on my own. I’m struggling at this more than I thought I would, but hopefully once classes start and there is a regular routined rhythm I can fall into once again, things will get better and even if they don’t, at least I’ll be occupied enough to not overthink things.
But in all reality, things probably aren’t as bad as they seem. In fact, if I was able to get my head out of the vicious funk I’ve been in, I’d be able to see just how fortunate I am and how many great things lay in wait for me. And I am able to see it, just that it’s drowned out by the intensity of emotions I’m still feeling from the new environment and such. You’d think I’d be able to adapt quickly by now, judging by college and other things I’ve done but no. But then again, university is truly incomparable and at this point I’m just going in circles contradicting myself aiyo how to become lawyer like this
TL;DR, I did a lot of things since coming to Manchester but sometimes I come back to my room and feel sad. It’s okay, though. To paraphrase my good friend Mei, “I’ll survive this”.
About time I did one of these! One of the things I looked forward to the most prior to coming to Manchester was having a room of my own and decorating it to suit my whimsical needs. I daresay it is probably the one thing I am most proud of since coming here, which tells you a lot about my priorities in life.
I am currently staying in Weston Hall in the north city campus, about a 5-minute walk to city centre and 15-minute walk/5-minute bus ride to the main university campus and the law buildings.
And now my room!
Incredibly comfortable and thick duvet from Primark and Broccoli all the way from home.
My view is nothing special, literally facing a carpark building. That and the strategic street location leading to Oxford Road that is usually filled with drunk party people on weekend nights.
Ah yes, my arsenal of anime posters that I always provide multiple warnings about for people entering my room for the first time. I really don’t have to justify myself but it made the place feel more like a semblance of home (or what home means to me anyway).
Please notice: my DIY Milk bag, black clothes hamper from Primark (I’m getting everything in #aesthetic black) and also my new pair of turquoise New Balance that I got for £35!
Semblance of Home #2: extremely important wall of photos and stuff given by family and friends that got me through the first week of homesickness.
Door. Hallway. New winter coat from New Look. Really comfy Daiso socks that I wear at night.
Exciting times in the toilet.
We don’t speak of comparisons to SMR because it makes our hearts ache.
So there you have it! I’m slowly approaching week two of Manchester now and things have been up and down…fairly frequently…but as I’d said, it’s only week two and I’m trying not to let my negativity and pessimism run wild. I’ll come back with a more proper update soon.
Right now it is 12:28AM and I am partially covered in the incredibly snug and warm duvet I got from Primark for £12. My feet and shoulders ache from walking in the cold with a heavy backpack hanging from my shoulders, but my heart is warm with intense gratitude. My friends have just walked me back to my halls in the freezing cold at night for more than an hour, carrying bags of groceries, a glass bowl and a box of food stuff while I managed to once again, get lost on the way back despite the help of Google maps. An hour prior to that, I had my first homecooked meal in the UK and they were all simple dishes of rice, chicken, vegetables, omelette and mushroom soup, but it was the best meal I’ve had so far since coming here (as it should be, considering the fact that all I’ve eaten since coming here is a nonstop influx of fast food that doesn’t deviate from the likes of pizzas and burgers and fish and chips). It’s only been a week here and I’m already tired of English food.
A week. I tweeted this before; this week didn’t feel like a week at all, it felt like forever. I’ve been so busy since coming here that I hadn’t actually had a proper time to really rest and indulge in comfortable silence and not actually being obliged to do anything.
This being ironic because it’s moments of alone time that really brings out the resurfacing of homesickness and missing people.
Despite being so incredibly busy, I can’t actually recall anything in specific detail if you asked me what I’ve done. It just feels like a giant bulk of information that I need to sift through thoroughly to truly remember where I went and what I did.
It’s quite baffling that Welcome Week would be busier than the actual starting of classes but eh, it’s a good way to keep busy and occupy the mind from wandering off to negative places as it is especially prone to when I’m placed in a new environment and with new people.
I’m too exhausted to write about all the lessons I’ve learned since coming here, the profound discoveries and milestones I’ve made like I’d experienced in Sem 1 in Sunway. I blame this on fatigue but if I were to really think about it, there aren’t actually any magical revelations I can weave long hyperbolic tales about here since the first week has really just been trying not to think about home too much and hoping to Skype with my friends and parents as much as I can after coming home from the day’s activities besides attempting to make my room seem as homely as possible (which, in my case, translates to pasting photographs and anime posters on my wall) . But all in good time; things are improving and I’m trying to keep an open mind. After all, I am in one of the largest cities in the world, attending university as a law student. This trope is already a fic/story/TV show/movie waiting to happen, and my tale is literally only just beginning to be written.
“I’m too tired to write melodramatic hyperboles,” she says as she does exactly just that
But aside from that, there are many challenges to face, and while I cowered in the face of several of them, I triumphed in more. Taking the bus alone, attending a meeting despite knowing no one, making small talk with foreign strangers (the mental checklist of Generic Questions to Ask Strangers For the First Time: 1) Their name 2) What course they are studying 3) Where they are from 4) Where they are currently staying at 4) When did they reach Manchester 5) Have they attended any of the orientation activities 6) Have they met their flatmates 7) Was Manchester their first choice; the list goes on if I’m not too nervous to remember them – sure it’s pretty generic but it helps by easing the tension of first impressions and paving the way for other potential conversational topics) and even signing up for the university’s volleyball team (pretty bold move when I don’t even have sports shoes yet). The weather has been nothing but cold (and rainy in between), as expected of Manchester and I’ve never missed the Malaysian heat more.
There’s definitely more to talk about, but in a later, more “official” post with a room tour perhaps when it’s not past midnight and I don’t feel like the lower part of my body is immobile. University life in Manchester is still more daunting than it is exciting, but I’m being as optimistic as I can, anticipating the greater things and reassuring myself in the face of the lesser ones.