tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
For the past 5 to 10 minutes I've been practising the dance for Unspoken Words. It's really complicated; precise moves executed at the split second, loads of complex turns that I keep stumbling on, one move I swear I've forgotten. My feet (the right one especially) is aching and I'm frustrated that I can't seem to get this right.

As it is, I've also got the Expo Dance, and all the other random dances, to learn and perfect. I don't have the music for the rest of them, so it's a bit difficult, and I keep crashing into lamps whenever I practice those. But I'm trying.

Maybe I'm just moody because it's That Time Of The Month and my hormones have once again gone haywire. Or maybe I'm tired. But I just can't seem to get these dances right, and it's stressing me. It's the first time since I got here that I'm feeling stressed, and I'm a bit worried really.

There has to be a reason why I'm in the dance team to begin with. From what I gather, they look mainly at your interest and comfort level, followed by talent and experience. I enjoy dancing, I'm comfortable with dancing on stage or in public or wherever. Not shy. But this isn't just random dancing; this is serious, coordinated, steps-and-all dance. The last time I did that sort of dance was two years ago and that was for about four months. I'm not a pro. Everyone else is getting it but I'm stuck.

But yet - I've been slotted into the dance workshop. Sure, no guarantees that I'll actually be performing any of these, but it's a step closer. And there has to be a reason why I'm here and not in, say, something as blatantly obvious as public speaking. Do JC, Hiroko, Nina, and the rest want me to challenge myself? Do they really think I can actually do this? Do they think I have potential? Why am I here?

There has to be a reason for me doing this, besides "oh we couldn't figure out where to put you so let's slot you in randomly". Has to be. I can't give up, not now. I have to still keep on working. Even if I haven't the slightest clue why I'm doing this, or whether I really will be doing this on the Celebrations anyway.

Today we went around downtown Boulder - there was an Asian fair going on. Malaysia and Bangladesh weren't represented; oddly, Madagascar was. I found two metaphysical shops there - one mainly based on books and print material, another on herbs and tools and such. I bought a Bat's Head Root, which apparently make your wishes come true; I just got it because of the whole bat connection. And some faerie dust (glitter) as well. They gave me an engraved blessing candle for free, which was cool. I know the prices probably weren't worth it, but hey, it's something interesting at least. Especially in a shop with a parrot-relative named Romeo who thinks he's a lion.

I just hope the Bat Head's Root will grant my wishes of actually getting these dances right. Please let all this effort be worth it.

I went back to the WorldSmart YahooGroup and saw the photos people put up...it's interesting to revisit them after seeing the actual people in comparison. Especially the photo of the staff; before, it was just a set of random faces. Now it's actual people, with voices and ideas and dreams.

Speaking of the staff: they seem to be really physical at times. Pats on the back and shoulder, high fives, winks, "hello baby" (apparently something Tom tells everyone). I don't know if they're just being really friendly or if they're flirting with me. (It's amusing, at least)

I'll probably be off making some air bandung now; we found some rose syrup at the World Market (yet another place without representation from Malaysia or Bangladesh). It has lime in it, so it'll be a very interesting taste and experience.

At least something to sweeten my mind for now.

(Oh yeah and another thing: does anyone know where else I can promote this? I'd like to have some more people reading this, just to meet new folk and have someone to chat with about the whole thing. Thanks.)
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
This will yet again be a short entry, as I have a headache.

We had a fieldtrip today. University of Colorado - Denver, and the Colorado State Capitol. The UCD trip was to learn more about the Direct Instruction component - college classes. There are classes in Intercultural Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Leadership, and Conflict Resolution. Those taking Direct Instruction would get indepth classes 3 hours a week; the rest of us get a general class once a week, and some other instructional activities.

Let me derail here to explain all this Direct Instruction and "rest of us" stuff.

In the WorldSmart program, we have 3 hours a week for Project Time. In Project Time, you can do one of the following:

* Direct Instruction college classes (usually for credit)
* Special Projects - design your own project
* Internships - there's plenty - Performing Arts, Event Management, Extrenal Relations, News Crew, Operations, Research Assistance, Regional Learning, and so on and so forth

Originally I had signed on for the DI classes mainly for credit. Yesterday they had a Professional Development fair detailing all the different internships - and they all sound interesting! You could work behind-the-scenes of the WorldSmart Celebrations (or WSCs, or "Whiscs", which I'm now referring to as "Whisks"), talk to the mayors of the city to introduce the program, do media interviews, update the WorldSmart website, plan community service events, go to a city in advance and work with the Local Organizing Committee...so much stuff. And I was conflicted. Do the class, or do the internship?

I don't even know if I'll get any credit honoured for this program. I'll only know when I get back. Our college is so disorganized sometimes and after Curtin's snafu I don't think they'd honour it. And the internships have more to do with what I want to do in my life (especially the media and performing arts - I've already expressed interest in the website). I'd rather not go through the trouble of papers and assignments and studying - things I came here to avoid - only to regret it and have it all go to waste.

I talked to my dads (Real Dad and Host Dad) about it, and they both said I could - and should - do the internships. After today's presentations, my resolve is stronger; the classes sound interesting, yes, but they're mainly theory and I'm more interested in practical matters. I'll still have class exposure, even if it's not as long, and I am always free to take a day off and join a class instead if I want to. They'll even write a letter to my college with information about what I did if I request it. So hey, best of all worlds.

I'm applying for the following internships:

* External Relations - divided into two: one deals with admissions and helping potential students enrol in the program, and the other is public relations works - meeting mayors and NGOs, doing media interviews, writing press releases, and managing the WorldSmart website. It should be obvious why I'm applying for this.

* Performing Arts - works behind the scenes of the Whisks, from show planning to preparation to performer prep to performance to post-performance (and all other Ps and letters of the alphabet). Stage crew basically.

* News Crew - not really an internship but a special project. Basically, research the current news and special events and keep everyone updated on what's going on around us while we're travelling. Google ahoy!

I'll also sign on for two Operations-related special projects; the Bus Team, which basically helps out with organizing the bus travel from city to city, and the City Coordination team, who do the morning meetings and make announcements. They're small stuff so it shouldn't be too much work.

I hope I don't drive myself nuts with all this. I probably will, though.

OK! back to the field trip. So after the presentation on classes, we had a historian come in and talk about Denver using a slide presentation. Basically photos and pictures of various parts of Denver history. Denver was a town known for its mining; many people came over the years to mine for gold and silver. Not everyone was successful. It's also one of the highest cities in the US - over a mile over sea level. And the city of Denver was named to basically impress someone in Congress who resigned right before the naming. Right then.

Apparently a few people weren't too happy with his presentation, but I personally was neutral about it. At least it wasn't dry.

We then walked to 16th Street, the shopping area (think Singapore's Orchard Road). I wanted to try falafel and didn't have the time. We were all looking for places to eat - it was FULL everywhere - and we went to a food court instead. Katie, Christy, and Brandi all had Korean food; Cris had salad; and I had meatloaf. Tastes like undercooked hamburger. They also had GIANT baked potatoes (I seriously never thought potatoes could get that large) - with butter, they taste a lot better than the ones at Kenny Rogers that we had on my farewell gathering. The one at Kenny Rogers (in Berjaya Times Square) tasted like flour; this tasted like potato. Yum.

I left everyone alone to get to the post office - 23 cents local, 70 cents international for postcards - and it was quite a long line. By the time I was done, I was rushing to the Capitol for our tour, but it was SO HOT that I got exhausted and decided to go for the later tour. I met up with Ana and Krista, and we moved to under a tree, where we talked about airlines and visas and such. Gaby, Hiroko, Nina, Melissa, Miho (whose name I can NEVER get right) and Cris joined us later. Whee picnic! Almost...

Our tour began at 2:30, and we were led around by Kelly Rose, a very cheery college student. There was a tapestry with the women of Colorado (the only male was Harvey the rabbit, a character in a Pulitzer-winning play written by one of the women in the tapestry), the House ans Senate offices, endless brass and stianed glass, and cannonballs from the Civil War that were now staircase fixtures, meant to be rubbed for good luck. (The brass on those things were pretty much worn off)

Fun fact: The dome's gilded with gold. Denver has a hail problem. Last time, during hail, people would place pans on the drain to catch the hail and the gold that got chipped off from the dome, Now the dome has sealant, so that doesn't happen; also, there are filters on the drains to catch any loose gold dust.

Fun fact 2: Colorado has a state symbol for everything. Including state fossil - the stegosaurus.

Everyone, save for me, Yoga, and Diana, went back to 16th Street for shopping. And then it started to rain heavily. Nice timing. Diana liked Manbai's "Kau Ilhamku"; I just realized that Reshmonu's "Hey Waley" had random Tamil & Hindi at the end, which would amuse Cris greatly since she's into Indian music. Yoga's got requests for Sheila Majid and Siti Nurhaliza.

I need more free downloadable Malaysian MP3s, man.

Katie shared some of her rhymes with me. She writes socio-politcal raps (which kind of work better as poetry, but hey, different strokes and all). It's very different from anything else I've heard; perhaps with some tweaking of the rhythm, and some music, it'll all come together. Twas funny, because we were talking about the raps before entering the bus, and then on the bus there was a talk radio discussion about Korea and the Axis of Evil. Ha.

The water coolers at the facility have cone-shaped glasses. Apparently this is a common American thing.

I just heard from Ivy, my BRATs editor - they were planning a National Day BRATs supplement with writings from youths about their thoughts about Malaysia. I suggested an article about the foreign perspective of Malaysia, and she gave me the go-ahead. Tomorrow there's the Stereotypes activity, which does something similar, so it will be interesting.

My PDA is sending out alerts one hour early. I wonder why.

OK, so this wasn't a "short" entry really. It could be longer but I'm short on details at the moment. Feel free to ask questions, and check out the WorldSmart photo set!

Catch you later.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
It's 11:17 PM, I'm at my uncle's house in Los Angeles, and my body thinks I'm still on the plane because everything is bobbing up and down around me.

Where do I start...

I'll do this in chunks, because there's just a LOT to tell you. First chunk:

Before The Flight To Los Angeles

It was a bit chaotic just before we (me and Mum) left the house to go to the Senai Airport in Johor. Mum kept coming up with random things to add (I had to stop her at the nailcutter), I was trying to transfer some files over to my PDA for reading on the plane, and the zips on one of my bags broke. Thank goodness we had another one that was identical (it's the Hitz.FM bag if anyone is curious) but it took a while for me to convince Mum that the Hitz bag was just fine, no need to push other bags on me. And just before we really had to go, my computer decided to hang. Bah.

We made it to the airport (way ahead of time - there's not a lot to do in Senai) and we made it on the flight, albeit with a gate change in the middle. Nothing major here. (I do remember nattering to my mum about something; I forgot what though.)

My last meal in KL (that sounds drastic) was mee rebus and teh tarik. Noodles cooked in a certain type of sauce ("rebus" means "boil", as in "boil an egg" not "boil water") with milk tea that has been pulled between two mugs to ensure frothiness. I asked for less chillies and they gave me extra chillies instead. Oh well; the teh tarik made up for it.

Dad found a travel bag store and wanted to buy me more bags. Uh, no.

So many emotions were going through my mind...joy, sadness, excitement, nervousness...so many things. I was alternately laughing, screaming, and crying. It was intense. I started to wonder if I had gone mad. I have absolutely no frame of reference for this; I couldn't compare it to anything. This is maddening.

Immigration went without a hitch (tip: if you hold a Malaysian IC, even though you have a foreign passport, you can go to the Malaysian Passport counter). There were free Internet kiosks at the departure lounge, though one computer had some sort of log in problem (and it was a bit on the slow side). There was quite a line to board, but it was pretty painless overall.

This is a codesharing flight between Malaysian Airlines and Air India. It's going to Los Angeles from Kuala Lumpur via Taipei (and perhaps Hyderabad, since there were quite a number of people that started there). Fear the multiculturalness.

I did receive a bunch of phonecalls from those who have been in my life for a while. Even talked to my best friend via SMS for a while. It all seems like I'm going off forever, never to return.

Well, I am returning...but I don't think I'm return the same. Even as I walked through the immigration counter, I had already changed.

[Stay tuned for more chunks coming up...I need to sleep sometime...]
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
In about two to three days, I will be flying off to LA, recuperating from jetlag at a relative's place before going to Denver and starting this.

I always imagined this point in time to be rather chaotic; excited squeals, appeals for last-minute advice, impatience and nervousness peppered with hilarity and good cheer. Good chaos.

Well, it has been chaotic; not in a good way though.

Things are going absolutely haywire. Never mind the events that happened before; now we have bodily injuries (thankfully not mine, but still really unfortunate - send some healing vibes for my best friend please, she broke her toe) and some drama with my college with regards to supplementary work. That's already very suspicious as it is; it looks like the beginnings of a conspiracy. Once I may have been more involved in, had I not been flying off. As it is, they want me (and many others) to rewrite an essay that by all accounts was already fine, and they want it now. Sorry, but I don't have time.

This fiasco with college is making me wonder if I even want to return. The main reason I even entered college to begin with was so I could get people to shut up and stop bugging me about it. I've never believed in grades, in the idea that a piece of paper can determine everything about you. I find the notion of college as a "necessity" to be highly overrated.

Sure, talk about the experience. Tell me that I'll get experiences and knowledge that I won't get anywhere else. Thing is, a lot of the most worthwhile experiences have nothing to do with college. About the only thing I could credit college for at this point was to bring me to some of my closet friends, one of whom is definitely a soul brother (if not a soul mate)...but he's gone away now, to another part of the globe. Anyone else I've been close to are either gone, or graduated. Even my newsletter is defunct. There really isn't a point in me staying.

This fiasco with college has me really disillusioned about the whole thing. Not that I had any illusions about it; but this was really the last straw. Look at this WorldSmart trip! College had nothing to do with this! They wouldn't even support me! I'm doing this on my own! Heck, I didn't need college to land me an interview with the Prime Minister. I didn't need college to get me a webmistressing gig with the coolest person on the planet (as far as I'm concerned). I didn't need college to get me the best times of my life.

I fail to see how all my experience could possibly fade to a random scrap of paper...one with really suspect information, considering what has happened to get those grades in the first place. These grades are not a reflection of anything true.

But enough of college.

I'm honestly rather drained. I haven't the energy to be all excited about it. Everything that has happened in the past couple of weeks have zapped me of any energy. I'm trying hard to stay excited and upbeat about WorldSmart, but it's getting hard to even write anything in my paper journal about it. Let alone anything else.

It doesn't help that I have just received a message from some anonymous person (or annoying moose, as I like to call them) saying Up With People (the people behind WorldSmart and also its predecessor) is a Christian cult. Now I'm aware of its Christian background - for one thing, the US Embassy has told me that. And hey, not everyone gets to sing in front of the Pope. They did have some sort of history with a very conservative group, but no longer.

Thing is though, there has been no major mention of morality or religion or whatever in the 9 months of so that I've been interacting with WorldSmart. The only mentions (besides the US Embassy's note) were an optional section in the form for our religion (I suppose to gauge dietary and habitual restrictions), and the assignment results handed in from people that were open to discuss faith. (I know I'm not the only non-Christian on board.) They did visit a synagogue in a previous semester, but no propaganda or anything. They've been pretty open about it. If they wanted to convert us, they'd have done so by now.

I am still feeling a little bit apprehensive. It doesn't even have anything to do with the religion, but there may just be a clash of opionions, a clash of morals and values. It's inevitable, of course. Everyone is different. But hopefully they won't villify me just out of my very liberal views. Let us be who we are.

A few people on the list have come up with some pet projects for WorldSmart. One of them, Katie, is planning on doing a documentary. I suggested her a Six-Degrees style, following people rather than places...while she's never seen Six Degrees before, she quite likes the idea; it fits in with another idea she has. There's someone else, I think her name is Huning, from China who is also intrigued with the documentary. Perhaps we three can team up and create our own Six Degrees show...though I doubt Lonely Planet would want to buy it. Then again...you never know sometimes...

At least the documentary makes for an excellent independent project. Anyone who wants to gain college credit can claim 3 credits (out of 12) for an independent project. I'm thinking of using the documentary as such a project - I've suggested it to Katie but she hasn't responded yet - but even if that doesn't pan out, I have ideas for my own project: research on traditions.

I am a big fan of traditions, superstitions and folklore. Always have been since I could remember. (Imagine my utter surprise when I found a GIANT book of folklore in our secondary school library. Of all places. It definitely brought my interest back.) With all the places we're visiting, I hope I find a family that still retains tradition, but not in the "conservative fundamentalist" sense; rather, a family that still has its own superstitions of days to sweep the house or charms for good luck or faeries running around the backyard. They don't even need to be completely Pagan (though that would be nice); just a little hint of what their families believed in.

It would be utterly fascinating, finding out such beliefs. And perhaps incorporating them into my own life.

Speaking of families and projects and assignments - the third assignment has come and gone; all about host families. Expectiations, plans, so on. I think whoever is hosting me will be somewhat shocked - hello loud and hyper crazy witchy woman! Then again, I become really, really awkward in people's houses. It doesn't matter how long I've known them for; I still feel awkward. It feels almost intrusive, like stepping into private property (even if they invite you in). Very strange.

It feels like you're walking in on something private and magical and mystical that has been part of their lives for as long as they have lived. Deep bonds that cannot be broached by outsiders and intruders. They could accept me into their family, even if only for a week; but there are some bonds and things that we sometimes can't break into, even if for a while.

Hopefully I'll get rid of this house block soon. I do have to figure out how to do the laundry while I'm there.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
So we have completed the first assignment, and have just received the second.

The first assignment went all right - I did end up initially with too many people, but the grouping situation sorted itself out and soon I was teamed up with Diana from Columbia and Kim from Korea. Initially I thought they would be rather quiet, but instead I found them rather happy-go-lucky and even cheeky (what with Kim's contant opening line of "Call me K, because K stands for Korea, Kim, and I want to Kiss you! Kidding!").

Of course, their personality online and in person may differ greatly. And there would be a major difference between first impressions and jetlagged-week-16-trip impressions. Much needs to be seen.

The first assignment, as mentioned previously, was all about similarities and differences; what do we have in common? What don't we have in common? What were the common themes between all of us - not just the group members but also in WorldSmart as a whole? Kim even came up with a brilliant Excel spreadsheet to collate all our information; at least we were organized.

We came from different backgrounds - we were in different parts of the globe, I was the only one who has yet to graduate from college, we have different faiths, Kim was the only guy. But we also did have things in common - besides a rather jolly attitude, we were also committed to non-profits and NGOs (Diana's with a local group, El Cinco, while Kim is an intern with UNESCO) and we all liked meeting different cultures.

There's so much more that perhaps we do not know of each other yet. Perhaps we have a shared similarity of coping methods for jetlag. Perhaps we all have wildly different tastes in music. Perhaps two of us are fans of the same thing. I'll only know once I get there and actually meet them in person.

Kim wasn't the only flirt on the group...Yoga apparently listed "I am cute (and you're not - kidding)" in his group' "differences" profile. This soon led to "being cute" listed as a similarity instead. Well, there are some fine-looking people in our crew, I'll tell you that much.

The second assignment was all about our goals - in life, with WorldSmart, personally and professionally. The timing of this was rather significant, as I had been reconsidering my goals and aims in life for some time.

So much is changing around me. Interests, relationships, situations. I'm starting to wonder if I still want to go ahead with my dreams, or if my dreams have changed somewhat. My closest relationships are changing. The world is changing. And I'm not sure I can cope with it all.

The past few days I've been in tears; I couldn't handle all these curveballs. I was freaking out. What was I doing? What have I signed on too? What am I leaving behind? What will I be returning to? Will all my loved ones still be here for me when I return? Or will they move on with their own lives, leaving me behind this time? What do I have to do when I return - will there be anything to do?

My goals in life are not clear-cut, not specific. My life has never been specific; it doesn't work that way anyway, something always pops up and knocks your plan upside the head. I do have some sort of an idea of what I want to do, to try, to experiment; I just haven't quite figured out how. In the subjects and fields I'm interested in, it's not easy to plan and book a certain pathway; it's all up to other people, to circumstances. Things can change so easily.

I've caught myself in mid-change and I'm not sure I can handle it.

It took a while for me to complete the second assignment (amidst ongroup chaos of "I need partners!" and "d we need to team up for Assignment 2?" and general grazing of lost sheep), but I did eventually complete it. A mix of sincerity and randomness, trying to make myself sound more coherant than I usually am. Because "I'm not sure what exactly my goals are and I don't think I ever will" isn't exactly the best answer.

I finally recieved The Handbook - or what my dad likes to call The Fingerbook. It is rather thin; I was expecting a larger tome full of rules and regulations. (I will get my hands on larger tomes eventually, as there seems to be some textbooks I need to buy. Darn.)

It was usual information, nothing too unusual - except perhaps for their packing list (similar to the one the Japan office gave me) which emphasised on passports and thank-you cards but mentioned nothing about underwear. Hmm. There were also some information on drugs, alcohol, harrassment...general safety information along the lines of "DON'T DO THAT OR WE'LL BUMP YOU OFF".

This was followed up by a list of General Expectations, sent via email, and I was amused to see information about curfews (don't stay out too late alone) and sex (don't have sex with other WorldSmart crew as it may get too complicated). It's sensible information, nothing along the lines of Bob Jones University or any public university in Malaysia, but I wonder how exactly do they expect to enforce the rules on a group of 18 to 29 year olds, many of whom are out of college and already working. I'm sure there's bound to be one infraction somewhere. It's just the Law of the International Study Trip.

Rob, the person who sent the email from long ago, also made his rounds of phonecalls; I received one from him yesterday morning. We spent about 50 minutes talking about whatever came to mind for WorldSmart - good idea to bring a laptop but forget the printer (and people do ask this); this is not a tourist trip so don't expect to laze around (oh dear); it's not going to be very cold so don't worry about Michelin Man-style winter coats (but I just borrowed one!). I even suggested we do a Blogathon; if we want to join in, we evidently have to arrange it ourselves.

I think he thinks I'm a maniac. I'm sure everyone thinks that.

So it's about...exactly a week before I fly off. And start on this unfathomable journey. I'm still freaking out. But hopefully everything will be sorted out soon.

(Just a note - hello everyone reading this! Whether from Livejournal, Petaling Street, or wherever, Firstly, feel free to pass the word about this journal, as long as you credit it to me, Tiara. Secondly, please comment! I'd love to read your feedback.

There is someone in particular whom I hope is reading this. If you own a giant pillow in the shape of your favourite vegetable - because I gave you one - and you're readng this, please let me know.

Thanks everyone.)

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