Virginia Woolf

“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”

Extract:

Saturday 5 September

And why couldn’t I see or feel that all this time I was getting a little used up & riding on a flat tire? So I was, as it happened; & fell down in a faint at Charleston, in the middle of Q.’s birthday party: & then have lain about here, in that odd amphibious life of headache, for a fortnight. This has rammed a big hole in my 8 weeks which were to be stuffed so full. Never mind. Arrange whatever pieces come your way. Never be unseated by the shying of that undependable brute, life, hag ridden as she is by my own queer, difficult nervous system. Even at 43 I don’t know its workings, for I was saying to myself, all the summer, “I’m quite adamant now. I can go through a tussle of emotions peaceably that two years ago even, would have raked me raw.”

I have made a very quick & flourishing attack on To the Lighthouse, all the same—22 pages straight off in less than a fortnight. I am still crawling & easily enfeebled, but if I could once get up steam again, I believe I could spin it off with infinite relish. Think what a labour the first pages of Dalloway were! Each word distilled by a relentless clutch on my brain.

From ‘A Writer’s Diary: To The Lighthouse”

Quote image is of authentic signature of Virginia Woolf from one of her signed books.

My Learning Italian in Rome

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The Vatican City in the background

The Review

This was my written review on the social media, facebook about Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci in Rome. It considerably sums up my immediate thoughts on the school as soon as I finished a 2-week intensive course on Elementary Italian or Elementare Italiano I & II in December 2016.

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“The two weeks I spent on the intensive course was unforgettable. The teacher, Chiara was very friendly, extremely patient, sincerely caring, and was always on time & prepared for class. The other teachers who conducted the extra classes also showed similar positive traits. The staff worked very hard to conduct lessons professionally using the highly effective technique of full language immersion. The classes were engaging with the right amount of learning, fun & games related to the content. Free extra sessions on culture or grammar were provided by the school and the staff also organised language tandems. Now I look forward to return and continue my Italian-language studies with Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci when the opportunity permits me and I would recommend the school to anyone who wishes to learn Italian in Italy. Molto grazie.”

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Basic Italian conjugation

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Class vocabulary games

The Classmates

In class, the learning is only half of the experience. The other half would be meeting people from all walks of life. My classmates were from Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, USA (New York), England, Madagascar and Canada. Generally, their ages ranged from 18 to 30 somethings and their backgrounds from one who is in finance, a special ed teacher, an architect, an art student, a student of philosophy, a pianist and a couple of vocal opera students.

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Lunch with classmates

The Accommodation

One could book accommodations through the school. However I preferred to look one of my own as I wanted to be close to the Vatican City for some odd reason, and a place closer to a Metro station for about €40 per night. The 1 bedroom room apartment was a delight because of its vicinity to the Metro station; and the Italian restaurants, coffee bars, convenient stores and laundry service around it. The caretaker, Mauro was a helpful gentleman and always obliging to my requests, not that I had much and I was an easy-going guest.

My routine on the two weekdays was to wake up at around 6.00 a.m. and after getting ready, I was out of the door by 6.45 a.m. to walk to a local coffee bar for a cappuccino and sometimes a cornetto if I had the time, then to the central bus stop off via Cipro. The bus was usually on time and arrived between 7.00 a.m. to 7.10 a.m. Normally, I would see the same friendly faces but we never talked but would just exchange smiles. The bus rides passing by Garibaldi and River Tiber were always fascinating as I remember admiring the facade of the Roman buildings and The Vatican City.

The Eternal City

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. As I was doing a lot of walking and desirably shedding calories, I felt no guilt when it came to indulging in a typical cucina italiana e cucina romana. 

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cernia ravioli

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ravioli fresca

Sightseeing comes naturally and as Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci was a stone’s throw away from Piazza Navona, a 5 minute walk was all it needed to arrive to the square.

On other days I booked tours via Viator to visit The Vatican City, and The Colosseum. The reason for the tour to the former was that I wanted to see Pope Francis during one of his Wednesday’s Audience. This is how close I got to him:

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An audience with The Pope

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The Colosseum

But for most of Rome, one does not need a tour guide. Many a times I just took the Metro or buses and got myself lost. There is so much to discover and explore.

Scuola LDV

I basically googled Italian school in Rome, and it brought me to several websites and most school are recommended highly by their former students in the reviews but I eventually decided on Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci, because it was located quite central to many main attractions like Piazza Navona and The Pantheon. Booking was done via LanguageCourse.Net and I had corresponded mostly with their staff, Angela. The payments was done online prior to my arrival in Rome for a course fee of €378 for 2 weeks of intensive courses, €90 for 2 private lessons and€70 for an inscription fee. At the end of the course, you receive a certification that you completed the course. There is no exams for the elementary courses.

Bawang Putih, Bawang Merah: A Retelling of a Malay Fairytale (Prologue & Chapter 1)

Prologue

Malay fairytales were passed on from generations to generations through the oral tradition in the area of Maritime South East Asia. A generally known fairytale of a Cinderella variant of Malay Archipelago is ‘Bawang Putih Bawang Merah’ (literally translated meant garlic and red onion). It is a fairy tale because of its happy ending where the poor victim of circumstances is eventually married off to a prince and they live happily forever and ever. (In Vietnam, for example, such a fairytale is also found in ‘The Tale of Tam and Cam’.)

None of the available text versions of Bawang Putih Bawang Merah explores the characters in detail. This retelling of Bawang Putih dan Bawang Merah tries to explore the various psyche of the characters and presents to the reader a deeper psychoanalysis of the characters and their traits.

 

Characters

  • Merah

a young daughter of Mak Kundur and Pak Sukam

  • Mak Kundur

a woman in her late 40s, murdered tragically by Mak Labu; first wife of Pak Sukam, biological mother to  Merah

  • Pak Sukam

a paddy field farmer, father to Merah and Putih, died from a chronic bee sting

  • Mak Labu

a woman in her early forties, second wife of Pak Sukam, mother to Putih, step-mother to Merah

 

Chapter 1: Invisibility

On nights like tonight, Merah finds peace and the oneness with God. As she is staring up into the open sky, she admires its bountifulness and infinite ravine of nothingness – yet in her heart, it was plentiful. Sometimes, she closes her eyes as if trying to memorise all the different celestial points and feeling at one with those glittering stars.  Her thoughts fly a thousand miles a minute; reaching into the infinite spatial vastness of the dark yet glittery night sky. “What a beautiful night,” she exhales. God IS great. Nothing can spoil these perfect moments of tranquility and solitude. Yes, nothing! Tonight, Merah does not seem to mind the shouting, squealing and yelling from Mak Labu who hasn’t spared Merah a day off for a little moment of rest and self-reflection.

As fast as a passing star, her mind suddenly recalls a painful memory – the evening she lost her beloved mother. Her heart shatters a million pieces as now, all that is felt within her is an emptiness and void irreplaceable even by the quadrillion stars she sees tonight. She gently wipes the tears that flow down her cheeks while looking around to the left, the right and left again to see if anyone had caught her in tears. No – no one must know how she really feels. Merah has to stay strong to face what is deemed to be her duty as a filial daughter. A daughter to the only living parent she has now.

“But she isn’t my real mother. For my real mother, the one I love, is gone now and gone too soon.”

Merah thinks to herself but without an ounce of self-pity. “I should go back in there now,” she recovers herself thinking aloud and she quickly stands up, almost tripping and missing a step. ‘In there’ lies hell. ‘In there’ lies evil. And ‘in there’ lies darkness as dark as it can ever be. ‘In there’ is the house where she lives with her step-mother, Mak Labu and her half-sister, Putih. “Steady,” she reminds herself to be as quiet as a mouse and not to make the slightest sound even if she cannot help the creaking old wood floors while walking up the back stairs to get back ‘in there’.

“Merah!” The squealing begins again – as harsh and as intimidating as always. Merah’s heart begins to sink yet again:

“I am invisible.  I MUST try not to get anyone of their attention.”

To be continued

CHAPTER 2 >>

 

 

Long distance relationships

As hard as it already is to keep together a relationship between two people from the same town, city, state or country, it is even harder to do when two people are from different continents. The reasons obvious – being physically separated by the masses of land and oceans. Emotionally, a long distance relationship is indubitably painful.

There is no coffee time together. No better half to smile upon or gaze at. No smile is returned. No hand to hold. No body to spoon and cuddle in bed. No lips to kiss. No one. Plain no one.

What there is – an image of the beautiful face of the one you love, in your head. What there is – a swelling fondness for a person so dear – but it is only left and felt in the lonely heart.

Even more daunting is when jealousy creeps and crawls in and extremely terrifying when trust becomes an issue.

The way long distance relationship works differs with the times.

In the past, when lovers are separated by distance, they keep in touch by exchanging intimate love letters to each other through the post. A love poem or two exchanged. A photograph or two are slipped in and enclosed in the envelope as well.

Each and every hand-written letter is sent out with such fondness that you even wished it was possible for you to enclose your physical heart.

Then, when one awaits a reply, a day would feel like a week, a week like a month, and a month like a year.

The reasons for the separation could be due to one furthering of one’s studies; or employment opportunities elsewhere; or the tragedy of being separated by war.

These days the separation is as tragic as war itself when one is a refugee seeking safety in far distance lands.

In the internet age, letter-writing is seen as an inconvenient option. Easier digitized methods of communicating of no need to mention here, make it easier to keep in touch.

But – the absence, the sense of loss, no coffee time, no better half to smile upon or gaze at, no smile returned, no hand to hold, no kiss and the burden of distance – is all the same.

 

 

Everything In Its Own Time

Among many artistes and musicians out there, one of my favourites is The Indigo Girls’. I have been an ardent fan of their music for a very long time since I discovered they made the album, Strange Fire. Since then, I had found myself purchasing their studio and live albums on CDs, and in recent years downloading their music from iTunes. Their most recent studio album was in 2015 called One Lost Day. In 1997, they made a studio album, Shaming of The Sun and one of the best tracks from the album is ‘Everything In It’s Own Time’. The words to the song that was written by Emily Sailers are immensely meaningful and poetically lyrical.

“But we own nothing, nothing is ours
Not even love so fierce it burns like baby stars
But this poverty is our greatest gift
The weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift”

Some years ago, with some time in my hands, I recorded my own cover of the song using a music program called Antbytes whose CDrom I’d purchased from a seller on ebay. And this experimental cover version was a birth child of that. Suffice it to say, I must warn you that my painful attempt is not at all great. Indeed, no cover or rendition could match up to the supreme piece of artwork back in the studio or live by the duo themselves. The original version by The Indigo Girls is available on the album, ‘Shaming of the Sun’ (Epic Records/Sony Music Entertainment, 1997) and on iTunes and on Spotify. Please drop me some of your takes in the comments section below.

Here is my attempt of the song:

The album artwork:

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Album artwork and lyrics: Credits © indigogirls.com

Full lyrics:

Remember everything I told you
Keep it in your heart like a stone
And when the winds have blown things round and back again
What was once your pain will be your home

All around the table the white haired men have gathered
Spilling their sons’ blood like table wine
Remember everything I told you
Everything in its own time

The music whispers you in urgency
Hold fast to that languageless connection
A thread of known that was unknown and unseen seen
Dangling from inside the fifth direction

Boys around the table mapping out their strategies
Kings of mountains one day dust
A lesson learned, a loving God, and things in their own time
In nothing more do I trust

But we own nothing, nothing is ours
Not even love so fierce it burns like baby stars
But this poverty is our greatest gift
The weightlessness of us as things around begin to shift

Remember everything I told you
Keep it in your heart like a stone
And when the winds have blown things round and back again
What was once your pain will be your home

Everything in its own time, Everything in its own time