Songkran

Songkran is Thailand’s New Year’s festival, celebrated on the 13th April each year. I was lucky enough to experience Songkran this year, in Bangkok, as I went to Khao San Road to celebrate it with my housemates. I will share my experience of Songkran.

Many wonderful things happen on Songkran, and I managed to witness a few of the events. Firstly, Songkran is essentially like a water festival, where water is thrown onto everyone, regardless of where you are, and what you are doing. Many places hold water fights, and people will bring along their water guns and other water devices to celebrate. The water is used as a metaphor for cleansing oneself from the past, and to start new. In addition, I saw people bringing along baby powder mixed with water, and they would walk on by as they touched people with it. However, I was unsure whether it was a sign to symbolise something, or just additional fun amongst the new year.

Everyone has a genuine smile upon their faces, and they will wish you a happy new year, even if they do not know you. It was literally the biggest water fight in the world. Do not bring any valuables with you, unless you want it to get wet, or if you have a waterproof bag. Even then, it is not enough! Water comes from every direction, and it is just a joy to be amongst the festivities. Unfortunately, I cannot comment about the other events held on Songkran, because I was unable to witness it all. This post does not do any justice for how amazing Songkran truly is! (I guess you will all have to experience it for yourself!)

I highly recommend everyone adding Songkran onto their bucket list, because it is an experience of a lifetime.

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Now, on to the outfit. It is a custom to wear a flowery type of pattern on Songkran, and so this was my attempt.

  1. Sunglasses – purchased in Malaysia at an unknown store, for an unknown price (sorry for my bad memory!)
  2. Choker – purchased in Bangkok for around the price of 100 Baht (just an estimation)
  3. Off-the-shoulder top – the top came with a matching head tie (which I decided to wear on my thigh as a gun holder), and was bought for the price of 200 Baht at the market stall in Central Plaza, Salaya
  4. Shorts – I bought it a year ago on eBay, and I am sorry to say again, I do not remember the price for it

(Sorry for being so useless and forgetful about the price of each item and where I purchased them from!)

“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

“Comparison is the thief of Joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

In life, it is difficult to not compare ourselves to people around us. We compare ourselves to our friends, our co-workers, our family members, and even people in the media. Even if we choose not to compare ourselves to others, there will always be people who will do that for us, and remind us of that. It is a vicious cycle.

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” and recently I have seen this statement evolve in my life. I am just like everyone else. I most commonly compare myself to my classmates and peers. It has left me feeling dejected about myself and my life. I see my friends doing amazing things, excelling academically, opening up their own businesses, and even starting up their home. And perhaps the most artificial comparison, I even compare our looks.

Sometimes, I feel like a working class girl, playing a middle class game.

However, I realised that I was not being fair to them or myself. Of course, I was extremely happy for them, because they worked hard to get to where they are. Yet, I also need to remind myself that if I was in their position and had their opportunities, I would probably do just as well as them, whatever “well” means, not trying to claim that their efforts are simply a result of their socioeconomic class. Nonetheless, we are different people, and my differences has led me to where they are, despite not having the same start in life and opportunities that my friends had. I should remind myself that I am just as good as them, no better, no worse. I should be happy for them, as well as myself.

Instead of comparing ourselves, we should be praising our efforts, for our situation is unique to us. In addition, we need to empower one another, and support each other in our endeavours. This life is too short to be envious over other people. We need to remember that we are all at different stages of our lives, and we all have different backgrounds and opportunities. Otherwise, we will never know joy if we are constantly focusing on how other people are doing, and ignoring our own lives.

There is no love in jealousy, only bitterness.

Love your neighbours, and love yourself.

Racism: More Than a Black and White Issue

This post has been influenced by the BBC’s televised interview with Robert Kelly and his family, during the discussion concerning North and South Korea. It led me to reflect more on my own experience, as well as the experience of other people I know, when it comes to racism.

BBC Broadcast

The video sparked debates about whether Jung-a Kim was the nanny or the mother of the children in the video. People claim that thinking Mrs Kelly was a nanny was just stereotyping, not racism. However, they have based their stereotypes on her ethnicity. Is this a form of mild racism? To me, it is the equivalent of assuming all Mexicans are drug dealers, or that those who practice Islam are terrorists, which is not true! (Those who say you cannot be racist when it comes to Islam, I beg to differ. People do not stereotype white Muslims as much as non-white Muslims. Therefore, if a person chooses to stereotype a particular ethnic group of Muslims, that is racism).

Let me ask a question. If it was a white woman who entered Robert Kelly’s study room in the same manner as Jung-a Kim did, would people have assumed that she was the nanny?

It was very admirable of Mrs Kelly to dismiss the accusations of her being a nanny, so that others could simply enjoy the clip and move on. However, I do not believe that dealing with racism should be done by ignoring it. How are we supposed to progress if we cannot address the issue at hand? This may appear like a minor incident, but situations like this do occur on a large scale. For instance, racial profiling is an extreme example of what happens when an individual is judged based on their racial identity. Small incidents, like this one, can always lead to a larger one, with society believing it to be acceptable to judge a person based on their race.

Casual Racism

Racism against East Asians tend to be a form of casual racism that is invoked into society as socially acceptable. Mocking their accents, the way they dress, their customs, as well as their facial features, has become part of the common culture of “joking”. People dismiss racism altogether in these scenarios, because they claim that a “joke” cannot be a form of racism. In addition, if you argue against that statement, other people will claim that you are too sensitive. Asking if our name is “Ching Chong”, as well as slanting your eyes with your fingers, is racism. I do not understand how degrading someone based on their ethnicity, is highly amusing? This is not an appreciation of their culture, but rather, a mocking of it.

Beauty and the Beast

On another note, I went to watch the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast when it was released, with my friends. After we watched it, I asked my friend, what did he think of the movie? He informed me that he enjoyed it, but wished there was more diversity in the movie. I was thinking, but there was? He meant not simply black and white actors, Asians too. I realised that for a movie that was promoting diversity in its production, it was not truly promoting diversity at all. (But this is another matter to discuss another time).

Study Abroad

Studying abroad in Thailand for seven months so far, I have witnessed this Western idea taken place amongst a few international students, as well as tourists in Thailand. They want to visit Asia, without having to deal with Asians. They have no desire to actually be involved with getting to know other Thai students, and so create their own separate group. But then they have the cheek to question why Thai students always stay in a group with other Thai students, when they are doing the same with foreign students. (Obviously, there is more to this situation that I myself do not know about).

Understanding

Where do Asians fit within the concept of racism? Why is our experience of racism ignored? Why are our issues made to be seen as less important? Of course, the Asian experience of racism is more varied than what I have spoken about. It is more complex than that.

I am not trying to claim that one group experience of racism is greater than another. I am trying to acknowledge that a form of casual racism exists towards the Asian community. I am not trying to make every issue a race issue. But when racial issues do occur, I cannot ignore it, whoever it is towards. Racism should not be just a black and white issue. It should be a people issue.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak on behalf of other ethnic minorities who experience racism, because I have never been in their position to understand what they have been through. However, I would like to know more about their stories. Nonetheless, racism should be a concern for EVERYONE. Something for us to address, educate on, and solve together.

Friendship

In life, you will encounter many people. Some of those people were meant to stay, and others were meant to leave. Some you will learn from, and others you will teach. You will have friends for-right-now, and friends for life. Whoever they are, make sure you love them and be kind.

I am very blessed to have a group of friends who are fiercely loyal, extremely loving, and all incredible in their own way. Not to brag, but my friends are full of talent, ambitious, intelligent, courageous, faithful, daring, and great blessings in my life.

Unfortunately, I have not been good with communicating with them, due to my busy life, and essentially, laziness. From this, stemmed awkwardness and I realised that if I wanted to remain friends with them, I needed to make an effort or I would lose them. One of the best things for a strong friendship, is honesty. I was holding back a lot of what I wanted to say, fearing that I would hurt someone. However, that is not healthy for any friendship. We all must understand that communication is key, but so is listening to each other’s opinion. By talking with my friends, our friendship kept getting stronger, and I was glad. Something that we should all do with our friends (and those we do not call friends too):

  1. Be Honest
  2. Be Loving
  3. Be Loyal
  4. Be Compassionate
  5. Be Kind

If you cannot talk to your friends about the good, the bad, and the ugly, are they even your friends? Are you even theirs?

In friendship, no one is a burden, and YOU most definitely are not a burden to me.

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The Far Away Friends

Now, these friends, they LITERALLY are far away. I have been lucky enough to be good friends with many people across the globe. However, I have made two special friends, a darling in the USA, and a sweetheart living in France. These are the friends I speak to once in awhile, and I know that, even though we may not be in  constant contact or be able to cross paths with day-in-day-out, we shall remain friends. They had a significant impact on me, during a part of my life when I had to experience change. These are the friends who helped those changes bearable.

This also includes my secondary school friends, who are all now at different universities, or working, and still smashing life!

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The Ones Who Left

Theses friends were always meant to leave my life. They served their purpose and I realised – now looking back – the only way for any of us to move on and into the future, was by letting go. I learned a lot from these former friends. I learned about who I wanted to be, and that was, I no longer wanted to be the person I was, when with them. Although, without them, I would not be the person that I am today, and I can’t thank them enough for opening my eyes and making me wake-up before it was too late. Of course, sometimes I would like to know how they are doing with their lives, but I do not think I will ever know. So with these friends, it is best to say goodbye and, in the words of Walter Disney, “Keep Moving Forward.”

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Childhood Friends

Meeting each other so early in life, and still being connected, is an absolute honour. My girls are absolutely amazing. Be jealous. These are the friends who know WAY too much about you, and have witnessed enough of your life to write an embarrassing book documenting it all! Goodness Gracious. Nonetheless, you know that there will always be a special place in your heart for them, and that even when difficulties arise, you were meant to be friends forever. (Sorry, you’re stuck with me *gives a cheeky smirk*).

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Family

One of the best gifts in life, is being able to call your family members, your friends. My mother and sisters are true gifts from God Himself. Before anything else, they are my family first, but I have the privilege to also call them my friends. They make me laugh, they make me cry, and they make me feel loved, more than I deserve.

And The Rest…

You have many different types of friends, and perhaps you have not worked out the purpose of them being in your life just yet, but in the end, you know that you love them all.

Friends are gifts, so make sure you cherish each and every one of them. Look after them, and they will look after you. Soon you will realise that, even though life may be hard, it is less harder with your friends around to support you.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Ethnically Ambiguous…?

It is quite ironic that I am constantly being mistaken for a mixed race person…and I am not even mixed race…

I will not get offended, or hold it against people who assume I am of a mixed heritage, in the traditional sense (as I am half Chinese and half Vietnamese – barely a mix). Although, I do not think I look like a mixed person. Nonetheless, I do accept that looks are very complex and range widely, so I do understand where people may get confused. I am honestly flattered when people ask me if I am mixed of Spanish, Filipino, or even sometimes an African heritage (and believe me when I say, people have questioned me about a LOT of random ethnicities too). Whasian? Blasain? What are you? Now things become complicated…

Phrasing

Be careful with how you ask a person about their ethnic origin. I personally do not mind people asking me about my ethnic background, but it is the way people phrase the questions that offends me. Avoid saying the following:

  1. “What ARE you?”
  2. “Where are you FROM from?”
  3. “Where are you from ORIGINALLY?”

Just stop it already, these jokes are going to make me laugh. Ha.Ha. Ha. Oh, you were not joking?

Beauty

Sometimes when people ask me about my heritage, I know it is just innocent curiosity. However, when people informed me that it was a “good” thing to be mistaken as a mixed race person, I realised that was a subtle insult to my own ethnicity. It is a generally accepted statement that mixed race people are beautiful (and of course they are, but so is everybody). To assume that in order for me to be beautiful, I must be mixed race, is extremely offensive to me. Does that mean someone like myself, who is from an Asian heritage, cannot be beautiful from being Asian alone? That is messed up. Of course I can! So can everybody else!

Accent

People also assume that I am mixed because of my “posh” British accent (it is not posh, I just use the English language correctly, but some beg to differ). Who knew that a person of Asian heritage could actually be born and raised in an English speaking country, and consequently master the English language?! Shocker!!! (That was sarcasm by the way, in case you did not get it – another British trait I have picked up from being British and all that jazz…)

Belonging

Sometimes, I get confused about where I belong and who I’m supposed to be. I am too “Asian” for the British community, and too “British” for the Asian community. Help!

We are all probably a mix of various ethnic backgrounds, but do not assume that things such as beauty and language acquisition belongs to an elite group of people.

Let me just say, mixed or not mixed, you are all BEAUTIFUL, all races, all ethnicities, all languages, and all people – everyone is beautiful! Beauty is not mutually exclusive to a select race or ethnicity.

Just think before you speak, and remember, that beauty is more than just appearance.

New Year’s Eve

‘Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ – Isaiah 43:18-19

Slightly late posting this, but better late than never! Let’s reflect back on the year 2016.

For many reasons, 2016 was the most challenging, but also the most delightful year I have ever experienced. Firstly, I was approaching the end of my second year at university, and was afraid of how close the future was approaching me, in terms of getting a job. For that, and many other reasons, I decided to extend my degree by participating in a study abroad year programme, in Thailand. Both a blessing and a challenge, that kicked in on September. I was excited to experience a new culture, travel to Asia for the first time, as well as visit other countries nearby. However, it was also the year I got into my first ever relationship, and I feared that the distance would make the relationship difficult to maintain (but that’s another discussion entirely). In addition, the prospect of leaving my family behind for so long terrified me. So far, it is all working out. Jesus took me to places I never would have been able to go to on my own, and He helped keep all my relationships strong and full of love. I cannot thank Him enough for the adventures and love I have received.

Saturday 31st December 2016

I went to Ruby Blue Bar in central London with my boyfriend. We attended a New Year’s Eve event called ‘The Glitz and Glamour Party’.  The ticket included a three course meal, and it was lovelyyyyy! After that, we spent time in the bar/club itself, and looked over Leicester Square on the balcony of the bar.

Below are pictures of our meal:

 

And further along are our outfits (that you can’t see fully unfortunately):

 

I know not what 2017 may bring, but my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus makes me believe that with Him, I can take on anything. May this be the year of growth, transformation, truth, and love.

Come at me 2017!!! (But please me nice to me and my loved ones).

My 21st Birthday

Blessed I was, to be able to celebrate my 21st birthday (back in November) in the beautiful country of Singapore. However, I will not reveal too much about what I got up to, apart from showing you all my birthday outfit, and a birthday video from my friend as a gift.

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  1. Dress – £14.99 from eBay.
  2. Shoes – From everything5pounds.
  3. Accessories – Roughly  £7 from eBay.
  4. Watch – Roughly £15 from Accessorize.
  5. Clutch – A gift from my sister for my year 11 prom (yes, I still have it) and unfortunately do not know where she bought it from.

HERE is my birthday video. Hopefully it speaks for itself, and show a bit of insight about how I celebrated it, and unveil a part of me to you.

Thank you Jesus, for the blessings, for the added year, and for the love.

Big Hair Change – Ft the Little Black Dress

I am approaching my 21st birthday, and for some reason, I decided this was the perfect moment to go for a big hair change. As some may know, I adore my long black hair. It is a part of my identity, how I choose to express myself, as well as my security behind who I want to be – that being a proud British Asian, showing off my Asian heritage. It took me a long time to love the hair I’ve been blessed with, but thanks to my loved ones, I realised it is beautiful. That ALL hair is beautiful, and a part of our history.

Forgive me, but before I had a very bad stigma behind the idea of people dying their hair (and yes, I actually dipped-dyed my hair once too). I always associated the idea of changing the colour of one’s hair with the notion of self-loathing, and for me, that was one thing I wanted to avoid. However, going through the process of having my hair dyed, I realised this was far from the truth. People dye their hair for numerous reasons, which is none of my business, and everyone should be free to choose what to do with their own hair. Once it was dyed, I missed my black hair and wanted to reverse time. Nonetheless, I eventually accepted that I would be a brunette for awhile, and I am slowly liking how it looks on me. It made me appreciate the hair I did have, but also glad that I was bold enough to finally make a change. In addition, it knocked down all the negative connotations I associated with the idea of colouring one’s hair, because I did not do it for the reason of self-loathing. Rather, I was doing it out of curiosity and desiring a change.

The light hitting my hair (and my Thai language notes in the background) *covers face*

 

But, why did I feel that I NEEDED a change?

There are plenty of contributing factors:

  • I’m currently in the midst of a change – living in another country.
  • It is almost my birthday.
  • I am away from my own sense of normality.

Truth be told, I cannot provide a complete definite answer. Although, I know that it had something to do with the feeling that I was at the prime age to go for a change. I’m normally quite safe when it comes to my appearance, an elegant dress here-and-there, a fun-loving colourful skirt, and maybe time-to-time an outfit from this decade. Therefore, I wanted to just test out my image, and see that I won’t die as a result. *laughs*

In all honesty, it is not that deep. It’s just hair. Though, that doesn’t mean you have no right to want to take pride in your appearance, that is not what I’m saying. I want others to understand that being a bit daring from time-to-time will not place you in a life threatening situation. It is fun, and enjoyable. As long as you are content with who you are, just go for it!

You do you.

Side note: here is a checked dress I bought from a Thai market that I accessorised with a thin black belt.

Over and out.

 

Being Different, in a Collective Place

As amazing and beautiful as Thailand may be, I found one ultimate challenge I approached nearly every single day. Being different.

Now, I do not mean that I am something special and unique, who is beyond everyone else – that is not what I am trying to say.

As many may know, Asian countries tend to exist in a collective society, which branches under ‘collectivism’ and by definition (on a political stance) means – The ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state, as a political principle or system.” Now, on a student level, I am trying to say that the students here tend to stick together in packs, doing the same thing, following the same routine of waking-up-partying-sleeping-repeat. I am not trying to put down this lifestyle, by no means, if you can still do this and keep up with all of your studies, good on you.

How am I different?

Firstly, I do not drink alcohol. This immediately placed me out of the circle of your regular student. Secondly, I do not like clubbing. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to dance, hence why back in Sussex I was in the salsa society and enjoyed your regular party around those whom I am comfortable with. However, I am not one who would be up for cramming myself into a packed room full of other sweaty and rowdy human beings trying to touch-you-up. I am not about that life.

Thirdly, I am a Christian. Thailand is not a Christian country, and nor are most of the students here at MUIC. But that is okay, because one of the reason I chose to come to Thailand, was to bring the gospel here.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the pressure to drink and party all-the-time, because everyone else is doing it. I do feel the pressure. However, as long as you remember who you want to be, stand firm in your own identity, you can be strong. I’m not saying don’t do these things. But for myself personally, I most definitely should not drink, because I cannot handle alcohol and get easily drunk – which ultimately leaves me in a vulnerable position.

So I guess, being different is not always a bad thing. This is because you want to live a life that is your own, not someone else’s. Remember, to always do you and follow your heart. With Jesus, I know who I am.

First Day at MUIC

From the moment I woke up, I could feel the pit of my stomach start to make an uncomfortable movement inside, informing me that it was nervous. My mind began to create various scenes and images of chaos, about what could possibly go wrong today, and I felt crap… However, I prayed to God for His strength to be revealed, and I received a beautiful text message from my boyfriend wishing me well (which was around 2am UK time) – and I started to feel at ease. Both helped to calm me down, and I knew everything was going to be okay.

As part of my year abroad, I am studying at MUIC (Mahidol University International College). Back at home, my degree is English Literature, but here I am studying Intercultural Studies and Languages.

My uniform.

I arrived on campus around 12pm to have lunch with a friend at the cafeteria. A bunch of us sat together, and let me just say, Thai food is amaaaaazing!!! It is all cooked fresh, there and then. Hands down, it beats the food back in England, (sorry my fellow Brits!).

My first class was cancelled.

My Spanish class was enjoyable.

Not much to say, apart from the fact that I need to CHILL and stop thinking the worst is going to happen. Everything went well, and the students here are very friendly and helpful, although Thai students tend to be quite shy.

Thank you, MUIC, for a decent first day. *Major thumbs up!*