January has been a big and busy month for me! I do know, though, that it’s only going to get busier…
CHRISTMASI spent a beautiful Christmas with my family back in Singapore. Mum’s birthday is just before Christmas, so we basically had two days of food and funtimes! It was really great to be back home with the cats too, especially Mila, who’s terminally ill but managing alright. Whenever her arthritis complies, she runs around having fun and playing, and she goes out for her walk every day even on the bad days, which she never used to do (she’d just stay inside sleeping). I think it’s like with humans – when you brush death, you have this sudden, ecstatic urge to start living. I’m so glad she had the strength to stay on until New Year’s. Freyja, Oliver, and Molly are also doing well. Molly is ridiculously fat now, it’s amazing. Oliver is still moody, but we’re also seeing that he’s starting to get on in years! I think he’s being a little dramatic about it though 😉 Freyja was up to her usual antics of course!
The rest of the trip was a lot of eating, naturally. Singapore is a foodie paradise. Honest to god, most of the time and money I spend there is eating all sorts of delicious munch. We also went many places – there was a Christmas market and carnival, and they brought back another old-style carnival too, though the rides were all European (since the event was European-sponsored) which was a bit of a shame…was looking forward to the nostalgic, old fashioned rides from childhood! I went to an exhibition with artefacts from the Natural History Museum in London, we went to the zoo and to the Night Safari for the first time, we went to a secret bar, and of course, did some shopping. I think one of my favourite days was when we went to the northeast, an area called Pasir Ris, for roti prata and teh tarik. I loved it because it’s so far out of the city and there’s not really much there, so it’s really the real Singapore, no tourists, no ridiculously rich people. Just normal down-to-earth aunties and ah kongs. I felt really, properly at home there.
The first and most important thing – I passed all my finals with good grades, so I’m very happy and relieved.
We’ve been back a while now and I’m really enjoying this year. The topics are far more linked in terms of content which is great, and makes a lot of reference to previous years, which I think last semester wasn’t very good at doing. We’ve got International Law, Foreign Policy, International Political Economy, and an extra course on the EU, plus my usual French and Spanish classes, and two seminars – Sovereign Wealth Funds, and Trumping the Media – which, as far as I understand it, is basically an exploration of the debacle that was the state of the press in 2016 and much of 2017.
Also…I’m going on a semester exchange next year to Moscow! I’m absolutely stoked! It’s going to be so good. I’ll be at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (usually just called HSE). I’m looking forward to the exchange for three main reasons:
1) Learning Russian! I’ve always wanted to but never had a really solid reason, so it was always relegated to the backburner. No longer!
2) Learning more economics and law related subjects (those are my main struggles). I’m a liiiittle concerned about not doing courses that fulfill credits for certain mandatory courses, but my reasoning is that they wouldn’t have set the uni aside for IR students if it didn’t have what we needed. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it during next year’s enrollment.
3) Learning more about Russia! I can’t wait to explore the culture and society more, to learn Moscow, to go to the Bolshoi Ballet and visit museums and make friends and read literature.
I’ve been hard at work on my original novel. I’ve given myself a deadline for the manuscript – August 2nd, the day Pitch Wars begins. I think the initiative is great, pairing amateur authors with established ones, and working us towards agents and deals. So I want my work to be as polished as possible by then! I’m going to be doing some character studies this week, I think, while I work out some kinks in the plot. Always a important to analyse thematic implications of doing the same event in different ways or changing the timing, and seeing what works best for the story one wants to tell.
I’ve also joined Gabriela Pereira’s diyMFA bookclub – essentially, doing an MFA without going to university or paying for anything. It’s good fun and the prompts and advice are enjoyable for thinking in different ways about writing and the writing life. I’m a little behind on fulfilling the prompts, so I hope to do them all by week’s end! I don’t want them dangling into February for too long.
So the tickets are on sale for Oxonmoot 2018 already and ummm well yES I’m going! I had such a good time last year going 120% nerd with everyone and I can’t for Round 2. Me and some other ladies might be doing some a capella music.
I’m also considering submitting paper. Of course though, I haven’t started, and to be honest I’m nervous about contributing. I really want to do a super meta analysis of geopolitics in Arda because they’re so interesting. First Age Beleriand is cool; Númenor would be AMAZING to analyse (esp. given their relations with coastal communities + kicking Sauron’s ass before he kicked back). The War of the Ring would, of course, be ideal, but the problem here is that I’m fairly sure a book already exists applying IR theory to the Third Age. Which is why I thought Second Age would be exciting! I’m just worried about how it will be received (which is maybe something most folks worry about). Most people would probably be happy listening to applications of life sciences to the lore (like last year) but the pol sci field is a whole other ball game beyond literature or science and just…idk if I should do it.
I know that sounds like a weary corporate seminar, but I’ve no idea how else to call it. I’ve been trying to take better care of myself since the start of this year. Last semester I know I was cruel to my body – what I was putting into it, what I was doing with it (nothing, really). This year, I’ve started to pay better attention to what I eat. My diet hasn’t necessarily changed much, but I’m trying to diversify it while keeping costs low, and incorporating more vegetable products when I can (I’m still a child basically and never want to eat my vegetables, so this has been harder than you may think!). I’m making sure to have three proper meals a day – tough for a student! – and to drink more juices and teas and less coffee (I’ve got a caffeine immunity, so again, the problem of excess).
I’ve also gotten back into yoga. I could have picked any physical activity, really, but I chose yoga because I wanted to do an activity I was familiar with, that was an Eastern doctrine (to keep my heart close to home!), and to restart my meditation/mindfulness practice. My breathing after I did my first salute to the sun in more than five years was so free and full. It felt so good to actually be using my body, to strengthen my muscles and prove that it’s not destined to forever be small and weak. I’m keeping a habit calendar to make sure I keep up a regular practice now, along with my writing and language learning.
And that’s it. Bring it on, February! This is gonna be a big month, too.