December 10th, 2017

Charah coffee

In Singapore

It has been way too long since I last wrote. In my defence, I got back to Singapore about a week ago and have been inflicted with a rather serious case of jet lag, feeling lethargic and like a zombie in the late afternoon, and having little energy or will to do anything at night except try to watch Luke Cage and fail massively when I find myself falling asleep. Ergo, no updates.

The jet lag is definitely getting better. I trust that it will resolve itself over the next few days.

Anyway. I haven't been up to much in Singapore. I've seen Mag, of course, and met up with Marc. Other than that, I've just been spending time with my folks, swimming quite a bit, shopping quite a bit too (and more than swimming), and reading for/thinking about/writing a bit of Chapter 4 of my PhD. I have finally managed to sort of narrow the range of issues that I want to talk about, and found a collection of essays that deal with the normative/moral question of nationality and special yay! I am finding it interesting again. The only irritating thing is - and this is a massive irritating thing - I forgot a couple of books which I need for the purpose of writing this chapter. While I have a very vague idea of Dworkin's conception of a political community, it is too vague, so I really wish I had Law's Empire with me right now. Bleah.

Apart from that, I have gone back to writing the story that I'd started writing about Matt. Of course, it's not about him per se; it's about...other things. I don't really want to say too much about what it's about until it's finished. I really need to finish this; otherwise, the whole thing would have been for nothing.

But wow. Writing can be such a struggle, especially when you haven't written anything in almost 10 years, and you're struggling to figure out the best way to tell a story, striking a balance between telling the narrative in terms of the events, and letting the characters drive the story. I'm not articulating this very well (which goes to show I haven't the vocabulary to describe the mechanics of a story) but it's basically about the structure of a story and how I don't have a very good grasp of it. But I read a lot, right? Good writers are also good readers. This is why I don't waste time reading badly written books.

Anyway. On a frivolous note, I reactivated my OKCupid account a few days ago and I have been inundated with messages - most of them extremely shitty. I genuinely don't understand what people who send 'hi' messages hope to get out of it, especially when I stated quite clearly that these 'messages' do not impress me much. These messages tend to come from guys whom I'd never date anyway, so I suppose they're just trying their luck. But why even bother if you're going to put in zero effort?

I have also noticed a couple of weird things about Singaporeans - things that I now find weird because of the amount of time that I've spent in England. First, it seems perfectly acceptable to some Singaporean men to ask a perfect stranger what her plans are after her PhD as an opening question. It seems intrusive to me. I would more likely ask a stranger what his PhD is about than to ask what he plans to do after the PhD. These 'what are you going to do after? Are you coming back to Singapore?' questions seem to rather put the cart before the horse. Because even if I am coming back to Singapore post-PhD, this fact will be neither here nor there if the other party and I are utterly incompatible (which is probably the case for the guys that ask such questions to begin with). So that's not even a relevant opening question. I don't understand why it's such a prevalent thing for them to ask.

Second, this obsession with race is uniquely Singaporean if anything is. I received a message from a guy who asserted his race in his message. 100% Chinese, he said. In his profile: 100% Chinese. I almost wanted to reply, 'Does your race mean that much to you?' but I couldn't be arsed in the end. It also seems to me quite rude for someone to ask, 'Where are you from? You look mixed blood.' Why can I not be from Singapore even if I look to be of mixed ethnicity?

Sometimes, I think it quite ironic for me to be writing about the Singaporean national identity in my PhD when there are times when I feel like I have nothing in common with my co-nationals. I don't share the obsession with the HDB flat. I like food, but I don't care for suppers because I don't want to get fat. I hate the national footwear, flip flops: I hate how sloppy and ugly they are. I like Singlish well enough, but I could never speak Singaporean like a Singaporean does. In fact, I really hate my own accent, and no matter how hot a man is, if he opens his mouth and it's just so Singaporean, I'm immediately turned off.

I mean, there are obviously different classes in society and there's no reason for me to be able to identify with the experiences and way of life of those from different socio-economic backgrounds. I wonder what this means for my pro-nationality argument. I want to say that nationality is about the sharing of a common culture and way of life, blah, but how much do Singaporeans really share? How can I make this argument when I have felt like an outsider in this country for most of my life, and still feel like an outsider?

But it's perhaps because of the way I've always felt caught between cultures, like I belong to nowhere - not in Singapore because I keep getting asked where I'm from even in Singapore; not in Taiwan for obvious reasons - that my identity as a Singaporean is so important. It grounds me to something, even if it is imagined. And perhaps my feeling like an outsider qualifies me for the job: I can be relatively objective about the ingredients that make up the Singaporean nationality.

Oh, whatever. I was really just going to talk about my experience with OKC but ended up writing about my PhD.

Anyway, just for kicks, a breakdown of the number of messags that I've received per day since Thursday night, excluding the ones that I've already deleted:

Friday: 52
Saturday: 38
Today: 39

Lastly, I find it really hard to multi-task. By 'multi' task I mean 'dual' task. I can't think of my PhD and the story at the same time. When I first got back, I was thinking of the story all the time and my PhD suffered. Now, I'm thinking of the PhD all the time and the story is suffering. I really wish I didn't have such a one-track mind.