Friday, 30 July 2010

"Don’t forget you’re going there primarily to study!"

Applying for a visa to study in the United Kingdom was quite a daunting task. Up until now, all these formalities were taken care of by my parents; all I had to do was to turn up and have a good time. But now that I would be living by myself for a whole year with my parents around 6500 miles away, I was apparently old enough and responsible enough to take care of this all on my own. After reading a zillion documents on which form to complete (I had to fill in two out of 2892632 forms on their website) and how to complete them, filling them out by hand, rewriting all my information after finding several mistakes, submitting an online application after learning that all my previous work was wasted, and waiting several days filled with dread (okay, I’m dramatizing, but still, you get the idea), I’m happy to announce that I’m (finally) tension-free – I GOT MY VISA.

So I gleefully turned to the next task – packing. I love packing. I don’t know why people grumble about it so much; you just take a bunch of stuff and unceremoniously dump it in a bag. No need to bother with the organization of it all, after all, who cares about all that when you’re allowed 40 kilos on the flight?

But when you’re a girl, you end up wanting to take much more than you need. My bed is now filled with clothing, arranged in several piles. I’m going away for one year, gotta take ALL my clothes with me, right? Wrong. Mom walks into my room, gives one glance at my bed, and shudders involuntarily. You have too many clothes, and you won’t be taking all of them. I already have one bag filled with bedding and utensils that are necessary. Because clothes are apparently not.

Then, shoes. I pulled out all both my trainers, all my flats, and all my heels. Dumped both trainers and all flats into the bag, and then handpicked, after much hesitation, six pairs of heels. Like I said before, I’m going for a whole year. And fresher’s week (or WeekOne as it is known in Nottingham UK) is supposed to be full of hardcore partying – I can’t possibly wear the same thing twice, right? Again, wrong. How can you wear heels when it’s snowing? Like it snows the whole year around. I gave in a little, but just a little – I packed four.

Next, bags. Now bags at least you will admit that variety is required; the argument of whose gonna keep track of what shoes you have on doesn’t work here. So I take all my bags out of the closet, unload them on my bed, and again, after much hesitation, I pick six. Luckily there was no argument there. Clearly moms also feel that six bags are alright. Or maybe they’ve run out of silly excuses - no need to pack sleeveless clothing, it’s always cold there, or why do you need so much stuff? Its only one year, you’re not moving there!

And then dad walks in. His eyes sweep across the mess that is my room, and delivers the mother of all silliest statements - Don’t forget you’re going there primarily to study!

Kill me now.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

6 things to do during the holidays when you have tried all you can and are still bored beyond words

It’s the summer. That time of the year most looked forward to. Brilliant weather, amazing sales, travel discounts, and most importantly, not having to wake up at 8 AM in time for lectures. If you live away from home, it’s time to visit your family again and have great home food. If you’re the workaholic type and are reeling from the prospect of relaxing and doing nothing, don’t fret – summer internships are just tailor-made for people just like you.

But that’s it. While it’s the longest break from university life (just under four months), all of your friends are all over the world, so it’s not like you can hang out or something. Instant messaging is always an option but that’s just to keep in touch and assure your friends that although you’re having a great time, you still miss them and you haven’t forgotten them. Facebook is no different from email, except that people are on it more often and everyone can read what you write to everyone else, thereby promoting group conversations with ease. But again, it’s just not the same as actually being with each other.

So what to do during the summer? Your internship has ended. No more waking up at 6.30 AM and getting ready to sit in an office which has an air-conditioning system that is permanently stuck on five degrees. Forget light sweaters, fur coats are what you need. You’ve shopped so much that there’s no space in your closet anymore and you’re arguing with your mom about living in a house that’s too small to hold your 213,203 pairs of shoes. Is there anything left to do?

Fret not – I have brainstormed and come up with some ideas. And while you may not like them, they are ideas nonetheless!

1.       Travelling
This doesn’t necessarily mean spending millions and flying to Spain in order to join in the WC celebrations, hoping to catch a glimpse of David Villa (sorry, I just like mentioning his name). This is more like taking a break – head to a hill station to escape the summer heat, or to a nearby island to soak in the sun, sand and all the good-looking people who are bound to be there. Go and visit your cousins, have a reunion of your old school friends, make a trip together. 

2.       Relaxing
Yea I know, just staying at home is comforting enough. But what’s even better? Book a day in one of those peaceful spas – mud baths, steam rooms, aromatic full body massages, and the like. You’ll end up having the laziest day of your life, yet you’d never feel more full of energy. However, I do not recommend acupuncture – you want a lazy, calm day without any tension whatsoever, not a feel of what a torture chamber must be like.

3.       Be creative
This is especially for those of us concentrating on science during the rest of the year. What about our creative skills, nurtured during our younger years yet abandoned when most required? I was looking up CVs the other day (yea, that’s what my life involves now. Whoopee. ), and most employers receive so many that they devote a maximum of ten seconds for each one. What will make you stick out? No I’m not saying we should all start off with writing CVs now. But there are other ways. Spend your time on a painting. Make a scrapbook or a collage. Learn to sing while strumming a guitar. Draw a sketch of your favourite person. Write your own tune. Experiment with your look.

4.       Organization
Those who are messy and can’t be bothered or never have the time to pick up their clothes from the bed (or floor) and put them back into their closets can use this time for precisely that. Clothes can be hung on hangers or folded neatly on shelves. Shows can be lined one after the other or else put into their boxes and stacked in shelves, instead of being chucked under your bed. Yea, sounds fun, doesn’t it. But it can be made more interesting, by for example having a delicious snack or blasting loud music while you reorganize your room. Paint one wall a different colour. Print out some photos of you and your friends, and paste it all over your closet. Same goes for posters. Throw the old stuff away, whether it is torn clothes, broken shoes or old notes.
5.       Exercise
Yuck. I hate this. I wish we could all stay healthy and fit (and slim) without exercising. I keep telling myself that during the holidays I’ll go to the gym and become fit. It’s been one and a half months now, and I’ve been there just once. Exercise in the gym thrice a week. Get a personal trainer if you’re not sure about what to do there. Swimming is great for a full body workout - go swimming to get toned. Most people pig out during the summer and end up putting on weight due to a lack of exercise. While you may not be doing all this in a regular basis, it’s imperative as it makes up for the daily routine that isn’t in place anymore.

6.       Blogging and the blogosphere
See what I’m reduced to?! This is already my third post of the month, and it’s not even been three weeks. BUT, it’s a great way to improve your writing skills. Not to mention that instead of always having a topic, like you did for your essays way back in high school, it’s time to be imaginative and write about anything and everything you want. Applying to universities, especially abroad, require writing quite a number of essays. And these essays call for a more-than-satisfactory grasp of the English language that not many have. Enter blogging. If that’s not what you want, you can always browse the blogosphere and find some hilarious, well-written posts or various topics.

Wasn’t this an interesting read? (No I’m not a prude. That was pure sarcasm). But once you give these a try, you’ll have a look at that calendar and realise its back to the routine in no time. And while this may sound unbelievable, its true - a part of you will be looking forward to that. I certainly am. 

Monday, 12 July 2010

A World Cup To Remember

It’s the aftermath. The end of the drama, the upsets, the tears, the controversies. Well maybe not so much the controversies. There will be never-ending talks about goal-line technologies until they are actually in use. Controversial coaches will exist as long as we have Maradonna (who, by the way, promised to streak across the football field if Argentina won. I think it’s safe to say that we are all glad, semiconsciously at least, that that didn’t happen. Unless of course, your name is Hathim or Hanim. Then you must be sorely disappointed.).

Yet while Spain satisfied their hunger for a trophy and became World Champions, a certain octopus hogged the limelight. And continues to do so. The main reason for this post is actually to marvel at the wonder that is now Paul. Yes I know, there are plenty of news articles about this intelligent eight-legged creature, but I want to just stop and admire. It’s amazing that a cephalopod has 100% accuracy at this World Cup. For those into math, what are the odds of having eight consecutive correct predictions? One in…wait for it…two hundred and fifty six. 1/256. He’s every bookmaker’s envy. He’s the know-it-all. And I’m completely fascinated by him.

He’s an instant celebrity. He’s a global talking point. He’s trending on twitter and is amongst the top searches at Google for the past fortnight. Google him and you’ll get about 8,290,000 results. People at my workplace take part in this football fantasy league thing where they pick teams or footballers most likely to score (sorry, I have NO clue what on Earth it’s all about), and they all say that they base their decisions on Paul.  

The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

“Paul was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, and then moved to a tank in Oberhausen, Germany. The animal rights organization PETA stated it would be cruel to keep Paul in permanent confinement. Sea Life Centres responded that it would be dangerous to release him, because he was born in captivity, and is not accustomed to finding food for himself. According to DPA, local businessmen in Carballiño, a community in Galicia (Spain) collected about 30.000 Euro "Transfer fee" to get Paul as main attraction of the local Fiesta del Pulpo festival. Manuel Pazo, a fisher and head of the local business club assured that Paul would be presented alive in a tank and not on the menu.”

LOL. That menu comment cracked me up. Because obviously that was meant in jest. But I’m sorry to say, Manuel Pazo is not the only one whose secret desire is to make calamari. Paul “predicts” by choosing a mussel from one of two possible containers, both marked with national flags. After Paul predicted Germany’s loss to Spain in the semis, angry German fans showed their feelings by taking to cruel anti-Paul chants following their team's loss, and a Berlin newspaper printed a headline recently reading "Throw him in the frying pan."

“Into the deep fryer!” one German tweeted Thursday morning. “Grill the octopus oracle,” another commented. “Throw Paul in the saucepan.” Crowds started singing anti-octopus songs.

Shame I tell you.

Well, while others talk about Thomas Müller as an upcoming star, Spain’s dominance as the best team in the world, or Fernando Torres’s worrisome injuries, I for one will remember this World Cup for Paul…the octopus.  And after all the hype from the WC 2010 has died down, the octopus will go on living the life he was meant to live – outside of the headlines and inside a peaceful tank.

All facts from Google. 

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Suffering from the World Cup Fever

With the Football World Cup going on, there is hardly any chatter about anything else in the sporting world. Wimbledon, one of the most important tennis tournaments in the year, went by with hardly a murmur. And did anyone even know that there was a French Open over the weekend? Probably not. Roger Federer losing in the quarterfinal? Bleh, BRAZIL LOST TO THE NETHERLANDS.  Lee Westwood got injured and is ruled out of next week’s Open?  Cheh, Thomas Müller picked up a yellow card and is ruled out of the semis against Spain! 

The World Cup Fever is still going strong.  Here in Malaysia, the majority of footie fans (and there are plenty) will wake up at 2.30am to watch the first of the semi finals, Netherlands vs. Uruguay. And those that don’t are just getting their eight hours before they have to be up tomorrow night for the much awaited Germany-Spain encounter. 

The major upset? Brazil. Without a doubt. Especially when they were the first to score, most believed it would be an effortless win. Not to take anything away from La Oranje, but who on Earth expected that they would knock out the best football team in the world with an amazing come-from-behind victory?  

Would Argentina’s loss in the same round be called an upset? Well yes, on paper. But they were clearly second-best out there. In fact, Germany made them look like amateurs. Not to brag or anything, but I’d predicted a considerable thrashing by Germany, and took great pleasure in everyone else’s shock over their win :)

But there’s still a lot of football to be played. The semis in the next two days and the finals over the weekend. Any bets, any ventures? Here are mine:

Netherlands def Uruguay 2-0
Germany def Spain 3-1

Third place:
Spain def Uruguay 2-1

Germany def Netherlands 4-3