Thursday, January 16, 2014

(Migrated from Live Journal)

Four years on from my last blog entry, my hiatus is over.

It’s difficult to summarise what these four years have been like. So much has happened, and so much has changed. Where do I begin?

In the summer of 2010, I took my university entrance exams in Taiwan and I started studying in one of Taiwan’s best universities. There I started learning Russian and business administration, the former of which resulted in me meeting some of the most influential people in my life.

In the summer of 2012, I travelled to India with my friend Eric, a strong-willed guy, to work as a volunteer. The experience there changed my life forever. I met people there that made me want to be better; I met people there that made me want to grow up. Namely, Maria, Kate, Nilsu and Betül.

I have mellowed a lot since 2010. I have become calmer, mentally stronger and physically older, yet there is still so much room to grow, so much more maturity to acquire. By the way, I use the word “old”, but actually at the age of 24, it can be said that I am still peaking. I think I realised after joining the Dragon Boat team in university that around the age of 20-21, the human body is at the perfect stage for moulding. The body, having acquired the necessary energy to shape muscles and a strong immune system, is at the perfect point for shaping. It goes without saying that regular exercise at this point does wonders for anyone’s physique.

Our Dragon Boat team, Rock ‘n Row, trained for half a year to compete in the national mid-autumn Dragon Boat Festival held in June 2012. We of course didn’t win, but the experience was invaluable. To train as a team, strong group discipline was required. And for those fully committed, the lack of discipline in others was frowned upon and deemed disgraceful. It teaches many things, being in a sport team. For one, everyone is supposed to work just as hard as the other person, which means you’ll have to learn to pick your socks up. Leadership is invaluable, and respecting the captain of a team out of principle is a priceless lesson we learn for the future. Rock ‘n Row would later be invited to an international competition in Singapore, which made me incredibly proud. It was a great time in my life, but even that was one and a half years ago now.

After the summer of 2012, I took the decision to do an academic exchange in Russia (which is actually where I’m writing from at this very point in time). The build up to August 2013 was immense. There wasn’t a lot going on in my life besides me desperately looking for a chance to visit the Motherland. And I was overjoyed when given the go-ahead for the autumn term of 2013.

Remembering my early thoughts about learning Russian in 2010, I would never have imagined myself travelling thousands of miles for anything like this. Now that I’m here, I can honestly say I have no regrets. I came to Russia in the name of love. A love for this rare (and oh, so difficult) language I had chosen, and love for a belief; love for a value that I wanted to prove right to myself – perseverance.

It is January 2014 and I find myself in my dorm room in Nizhny Novgorod, the city in which I study, looking back at the last five months. I have met some amazing people, with whom I hope to keep in touch with. But there are always two sides to every coin. Isn’t that just always the greatest life lesson? Put your trust in humanity, because being a pessimist is for losers. However, if your optimism and openness is not rewarded, reserve every right to back right off. I try to always tell myself that there exists no such thing as a bad experience, just an experience. This is one of the hardest things to do as a human being because human beings have feelings; human beings are filled with unnecessary emotions that threaten to drag you under the frozen waters of the Volga any chance it gets. But if one is able to take a step back and objectively (yes, good luck) look at one’s experiences, it’s safe to say that there is a lesson to be learnt out of each one. I’m not trying to sound cliché, even though this topic is spoken of way too often, I am just trying to relay the experience of the past five months to myself, so I know my time here has been well spent.

Russia is so different from anything I have ever experienced, and my impression of this mysterious country is forever evolving. It would be impossible for me to even try summarise it in this post. Perhaps it can be left for another time.

Oftentimes I wish I could go back in time and slap myself in the face for the things I’ve done wrong, but most of the time I wish I could tell the John of 2010, “Man, everything you’ve ever wanted to do in your life, if you don’t give it a try, you will regret it forever.” Why? Plainly because I value every experience I have had in my life. Yes, even the “bad” ones, without which I would be soft and squishy, not knowing that there exist bad things in the world of man, unnecessary poisons that even the greatest amount of good will cannot change. Or as Mycroft Holmes so eloquently and simply puts it: “There be dragons.”

It’s good to be back writing again. It’s something I easily stopped when my life was occupied by important things; important people. But at the end of the day, everyone needs a place to rest, and a place to gather their thoughts. I hope slowly, slowly, I will be able to pull out all my thoughts from the last four years and jot them down in this little blog of mine.

My courses ended at the end of December, and with two months left in Russia, one of the main targets of mine has become to pass the Russian language proficiency exam, namely TORFL. It’s interesting to see myself so engulfed in the material from time to time, as I have never been one who is able to properly ‘study’. The exam takes place in four days time, and here I am typing a post. Doesn’t that just say everything there is to say about me? JSF.

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