Sunday, 24 December 2017

Xmas 2017

Third Christmas that I've now been back for. It's insane that I went through a phase where in the past, I had "better things to do" during this time of the year. Although to be fair, the return trip to Sydney was fairly cost prohibitive in my younger years.

This year's Christmas would be a little different. For years, and I mean years. Christmas has always been held in the Southern Sydney Suburb of Blakehurst. This year, however the aunt that usually hosts the Christmas event had serious operation. Fortunately, another aunt picked up the baton and Christmas Eve festivities would take place in Menai. Christmas Eve always has two fundamental rules: Mountains (seriously) of food and the countdown to midnight, followed by unwrapping of presents.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Careening through the darkness

Hypothetically speaking, if I had this blog in University or high school, what would I have written about? Exams, hanging out in front of arcades, girls, getting my license, underage alcohol consumption, sports tryouts? I fantasize about the content, in my head it doesn't make for good reading. Things felt a lot simpler back then, it was really only one external pressure. Graduate and find a job. At least that's what it felt like back then.

It's the first weekend since the end of the semester. School, has taken over my life and inevitably, taken over this blog. So when school finishes and you have the ability to reclaim your life and go out for a 'big night'.

Big night indeed. I've woken up on my sofa with: a 2K bill, a black eye and my concierge telling me that he found me sleeping outside the apartment building security door.

It's the first time I've not remembered a chunk of the night. It's also the first time I've googled "How to tell if you've been roofied". This is a stark reminder as to why I started a masters.

Monday, 11 December 2017

End of Fall Semester

I sit here on my sofa with a relatively clear mind; I feel so liberated and free. It's the first time in over a month. Final exams are done and the fall semester comes to a conclusion. Hopefully, it also means that one of the most intense three month passages in my life follows suit. My brain, feels like it's had a lobotomy, or as if somebody has pulled it out of my skull and tried to wrung out all the knowledge.

It will be interesting to see what happens. One paper was so hard, I wouldn't be surprised if I failed that subject. The other, I'm quietly confident. Although, it will be interesting to see how Hong Kong style grading works. I suspect a 50/100 doesn't necessarily equate to a "Pass" mark.

So, what were the highlights? Well, I actually found the course work interesting, however the volume, variety, velocity and veracity were slight overwhelming (that's a data mining joke). It's fascinating being in a predominantly mainland Chinese class. They work incredibly hard and have a ferocious capacity to study. It's also an adjustment to understand where these kids come from.

One of the 22 year old students, describes his ambition, he would love to get a job that pays even 10K HKD a month and stay in Hong Kong. He talks about excitement about a 300 RMB keyboard prize and how he shares a flat with 4 other students and uses his suitcase as a desk.

Another Korean kid lives in an 3 bedroom apartment, for less than 8000 HKD a month, the catch? He has to house sit 5 cats "They shit and piss everywhere, it's a nightmare during exam time". Then there's me ...

"Almost anything will work again if you unplug it" - Anne Lamott

Monday, 20 November 2017

Pause. Reset. Refocus.

The class schedule this year has been erratic, last minute changes to assignment deadlines and presentations have made planning for trips extremely challenging. The stipulation is that during the course, students should try to be in Hong Kong for the entirety of the semester. My strategy for this is to book all trips ahead of schedule and ensure that I have travel insurance and a decent cancelation option as not to absorb the costs of a forfeited fare. I have already started to get used to the internal struggle, with the usual questions being tabled: “should I really be traveling around and compromising grades?” which is always countered with “should school really be dictating who I hang out with and how I spend my time as I get older?

I desperately needed this trip - Psychologically I yearned for some therapy or release valve for all that anxiety. Deep down, I knew that it wasn’t as simple as going on a trip. In any case I managed to get to Bali. The reason for the trip was because my dad’s best friend’s daughter’s was getting married. From a trip perspective, it was therapeutic in the sense that we were in a resort, with not a lot to do. I managed to have some quality family time and even catch up on some sleep. We had a nice group dinner by the beach on the first evening with the wedding on the Sunday.

One of the more enjoyable parts of the trip was witnessing the interaction of my parents with their university friends. It was as expected, a barrage of the same line of questioning “How’s Hong Kong?”, “When are you getting married?” and of course a dad joke. So many dad jokes. As I watch them interact, I see who the instigators of the group are, and try to match up individuals with characters in my circle of friends. For example, there’s the uncle whose smuggled a bottle of whisky to dinner, there’s the other uncle who is always encouraging people to drink, there’s the quiet uncle and then there’s the uncle that doesn’t drink. One of the uncle harasses a twenty something “Hey, f**k you, drink that now!” while I overhear my dad consoling another young adult “You should stick your finder down your throat if you want to throw up”. I guess group dynamics remain constant even through the generations.

With the aunties, I overhear them talking about how the men have gotten “grumpier” and “more forgetful” over the years. There’s idle chit chat about which degenerative disease such-and-such has, or what stage cancer was recently found. All of my parent’s friend’s children are married. My mother is grilled as to why her two children still remain unmarried, she brushes off the questioning with a “my kids have their own lives, they can do what they want”. The conversations bring a smile to my face but also exposes a certain emptiness that I was not expecting. I often forget that as I get older, so does everybody else around me. Parents included. This alone was the grounding experience that I had wanted, but not expected in this manner. I feel already closer to home.

"My kids have their own lives, they can do what they want" - Mom

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


HKUST. Officially known as the Hong Kong University Of Science and Technology, but also jokingly known as the Hong Kong University of Stress and Tension. When a professor makes that joke, you know that there's an element of truth behind the moniker.

The weekend that just passed, I spent a total of 12 hours working on assignments and participating in group project discussions. The way I look at it is, if I weren't studying, I probably would have hung out with friends for 5 hours, slept 2 hours and pissed away the remainder. The grass is always greener I tell myself. I think the biggest thing, is how much time I have had to spend in my head, the internal dialog runs wild. There's been many moments, I've asked myself "Why are you doing this? You have a good job".

I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted - My sleep has been compromised. I tell the doctor that I'm a hot mess and that I haven't been able to sleep properly. She looks at me and writes me a prescription for "stress and anxiety", which equates to sleeping pills and beta blockers.

Before I leave she perfunctorily asks "are you having suicidal thoughts?" - "No, I just want to sleep".

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Class contact time

I admit, the part time study is starting to get to me. The after work hours and the commute started off fine, but as we progress into the semester, it nags and claws at me. Even with only two subjects there's a lot going on right now. My mind is constantly busy. Work. School. Socially. It is not an even distribution of my time or my thoughts. 

I usually get to campus early and find somewhere quiet to sit before class. There has been a lot of recent press on the psychological effect of push notifications. It's silly, but I look at my phone waiting for that message. This isn't healthy. Not sure if I can keep this up.

"And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you've been here before?" - Bastille