Category: Australia


In July, 2009, my brother sent me an email about a competition offered by totaltravel.com entitled: “Win a family holiday in Canberra! – Wrapt in Canberra”.

Apparently, ‘wrapt’ is the archaic form of wrapped. Perhaps it is implying one needs to be bundled up with >10 layers, or a pun to being ‘rapt’ in the city.

The question to be answered was this:

“What’s your favourite winter experience in Canberra? (50 words or less)”

Now I thought that was quite a funny question because winter in Canberra can get pretty darn piercingly cold, and I remembered when I visited for my brother’s graduation for his undergraduate degree, it was quite a bleak and desolate place when the icy winds engulfed the town. Nevertheless, I thought I might get my creative writing juices flowing and went ahead with this entry:

Canberra’s beautiful scenery is shrouded in an aura of mystique as the misty fogs waft through the maze of mountains, architectural masterpieces, and national landmarks. The tranquil streets impart a bittersweet enchantment as the wintry winds sweep through; a uniquely mysterious beauty no other Australian capital city can parallel.
(49 words!)

Now perhaps it was the slightly melancholic words ‘shrouded’, ‘fogs’ and ‘bittersweet’ (Canberra does look slightly dramatic/melancholic in winter…can’t deny that, but melancholic drama often has a lot of depth…), or the slightly wild and abstract undertones, but I didn’t win. Well, I thought I might use this as an easy post to this much-neglected blog of mine (it takes a long time to write an eloquent and crafted prose!). Nevertheless, I got to visit my brother and his fiancée during a more hospitable season (summer! But it was still cold!) at the end of the year, and had a great time :).

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Is it not almost inconceivable to the mind that this moon is the same one that friends afar separated by the oceans can see; the same one that ancestors from a thousand years ago once gazed upon, perchance thinking these exact same thoughts?

Some memories of Moon Festival from HK:

I’ll miss playing with the red candles’ wax on park benches since they prohibited it 10 years ago (as I saw on TV) – moon cake tins then became the new base on which to create the red sculptures…

The simple joy that the beautiful paper lanterns could impart, and how connected we felt when we saw other children also holding their beautiful paper lanterns passing by the park.

The roadside shops dedicated to the myriad of different handmade lanterns…and how special we felt when we got the expensive and unique rabbit (with wheels!) lantern. I lamented how the lanterns the children held became progressively more plastic/electric-ised as I grew older.

My love of the lotus seed paste in mooncakes as we ate it under the moon… so much so that I would pick out the prized duck egg yolk core. Oftentimes I’d play around with the smooth, oily, lotus seed paste, treating it in a play-doh manner and rolling it into shapes of 1cm balls/cubes, before eating each artistically crafted morsel.

The legend of the ‘lunar deity’ is a fascinating one, yet, as much as I squinted my eyes, I could only see a rabbit in the full moon.

Living in Australia, this yearly ritual never occured. It’s not mid-autumn, it’s mid-spring here. But the moon that I gaze upon, shall never be changed.

中秋節快樂

There is a part of me aching to go to a university steeped in history, prestige and acclaim. I want to be part of that culture, perhaps so that I can feel like an elitist snob. 😀
I seem to notice there being a superiority complex in UQ. The group on Facebook titled “I GO TO UQ THEREFORE I AM BETTER THAN YOU”  is just one example. While I praise the creators for being able to spell ‘than’, using capitals for emphasis, and the very discerning use of the word ‘therefore’, such feelings of superiority toward other universities are quite unhealthy. It also seems there isn’t this problem in other Australian states; there isn’t a “I go to UniSyd therefore I am better than you” group, and from what I remember from my conversations with people there, it appears Sydneysiders respect those who attend UTS, Macquarie or the like. Or in South Australia, I seem to sense there’s an equal ranking between students of the more eminent University of Adelaide, and other institutions like Flinders or Uni of South Australia. I have, however, noticed that an aggressive elitism is also shared between Melbourne Uni and Monash, with the former constantly belittling the latter much like UQ students do to other unis. Must be the stupid Queenslanders and Victorians! I must say I am making a huge generalisation here, and apologise to many of those who do attend the universities and hasn’t fallen prey to the aforementioned pompous attitudes.

I have to admit, part of my reason to want to go into Speech Pathology back then was because I had a chance to go to UQ, a prestigious, sandstone university, no longer taunted (self, psychologically) with the inferiority associated with attending a non-sandstone university, a chance to reunite with my old high school friends, a chance to mingle with high-class, intelligent people.

No, I had to fight all those desires, and tell myself I TRULY wanted to be a dietitian, and not to be blinded by an elevation in ‘university superiority status’ or ‘social popularity’.

But it took a fair bit to fight such desires. It seemed like fate had conspired for me to stay in Brisbane, to stay in QUT. Why do I say that? When I felt desperate to leave QUT, to stop such feelings of inferiority, I was looking for alternatives. First it was thinking of any possible subjects I could do at UQ, and Speech Pathology seemed a plausible option. Yes, I think my desire to leave QUT even clouded me into thinking that I could accept being a speechie. My heart kept pulling me toward Nutrition and Dietetics, I could feel it, but I kept pulling it back because I knew I’d have to stay at QUT and because my mathematics (needed for chemistry) skills aren’t so good. In the end, I listened to my heart.

So after I decided I wanted to be a dietitian, I was still yearning to attend a ‘sandstone uni’. I looked interstate, desperately hoping I’d have a chance.

Victoria: Monash: “Non-school leavers: An applicant’s entire academic record will be taken into account and short-listed applicants will be required for interview in early December 2008. Entry is competitive.” Considering I didn’t do well in my first semester of university, I think it was plain obvious that Monash didn’t welcome me.
ACT: University of Canberra: has a Master of Dietetics, but that would mean I’d have to study for an extra year and also a slight chance I wouldn’t be able to get in.
SA: University of Flinders: considering its prestige is about the equivalent of QUT, I didn’t see why I should move so far away, to a place I never really liked living in (I lived there for 1.5 years).
NSW: University of Sydney: this seemed like the absolute perfect option! Not only could I continue the legacy of my parents’ attendance of Australia’s oldest university, I could actually live in a big city, oh I like Sydney!! My grandma lives there and I could live in her apartment! Yay! Perfect right? Wrong. The Nutrition and Dietetics course is actually just a major in the Bachelor of science, along with all the mathematics that goes with it. It’s even more tough than Pharmacy, where there are no mathematics subjects, and public/community health is pushed to the peripheries with only a few subjects starting in the third year. To make it even worse, despite the relatively low UAI required to get in (93.85, equivalent to OP 4, whereas QUT had an op cut-off of 3), to get into honours year (fourth year for accreditation as a dietitian), you have to get minimum of credit average. Even though it’s quite likely that if I studied hard it shouldn’t be any trouble, but when there is that question of doubt hanging over your head, it’s not really that nice. You already have enough to worry about when you’re studying in university, let alone to worry about whether or not you’ll ever be able to pursue the career you so wished to have! So it was an unfortunate no.
QLD: UQ: UQ seemed to want to taunt me by introducing a new nutrition major and Master of Dietetics for 2009. I thought it was perfect for me, even though there is that slight possibility I may not be able to enter masters, plus an extra half year of studies. All my hope was placed on UQ now: and it was quashed. I looked further into it, and the new degrees were going to be taught at the IPSWICH campus. Yes, Ipswich. Now I’m open to living independently, but if I’m going to move out of my house, I’m doing it so that i can receive quality education. But the thing was, the new nutrition major was going to be offered within the Bachelor of Health Sciences, a degree that is for the laziest of people who just want the easiest way to get into a health career (note, OP 16 cut-off), which is precisely why it was relegated to the boganville town of Ipswich. Do I really want to live in the hole called Ipswich amongst classmates who don’t give a shit about their education? Do I really? no. Furthermore, since it’s a new degree, being their guinea pig isn’t the wisest of ideas.

I was despondent. One after another, it seemed that there was a conspiracy to prevent me from leaving Brisbane, or from attending a prestigious university.
I don’t hate QUT. I think it was more of a very very bad nightmare I had during that semester of design. And having went to a ‘prestigious high school’, I probably became a little elitist myself, and thought I had to go to a ‘reputable university’ just to maintain my status quo. Well, I don’t want to think like that. You stand on your own two feet: you don’t rely on your attendance of university or your grades to measure your worth, and whoever does is not somebody of substance anyhow. Yeah, I’ll have to live with the taunts of “I GO TO UQ THEREFORE I AM BETTER THAN YOU”, I’ll have to separate from many of my friends, I won’t have the honorific title of “Group of 8 University graduate” to lean back on, but at least I’ve learned early on that prestige isn’t everything.  If I could fight this irrepressible urge, it means I am truly choosing a job for its job, not for the pathetic 4 years of studies and the enjoyment it can provide me in that short timeframe, or the foolish pride it would afford me from being able to boast about my “high society” education. It was pretty funny: my little brother was playing with his little friend. They were getting up to some mischievous things, so I chided them. The friend ignored me, and Robbie matter-of-factedly said “Listen to my sister! She went to Brisbane State High! She is very smart!” and at that point I just rolled my eyes, “So what?!”

While I realise that indeed, UQ, and any other sandstone university for that matter, is a very good university giving quality education to its students who no doubt are intelligent to be able to enter in the first place, it doesn’t give them prerogative to regard others with contempt. Many people have considerations other than eminence when making a choice of university; many have no choice but to choose another university because it is more suitable for the degree they want: it is not necessarily because of a lacking OP (or intelligence, for those who erroneously believe the two have a strong correlation). Four years on from now, and everybody’s going to be slaving away as a novice in the lowest of ranks, the graduation certificate you receive is only a license to a lifetime of learning, and which university you went to or what GPA you got would be the most trivial of matters. Ultimately what is important is your character, rather than the shadow of pride that prestigious education or good marks confer.

I just had this sudden urge to go hiking up a mountain under the moonlit starry sky. It’s a shame walking around at night is a ‘dangerous’ risk to take in Australia. When I was a child in HK I had fond memories of roaming around the city and natural places at night with no fear. I even remember hiking up a hill, making a stop at this fluorescent-lit house (houses are rare in HK).

How I crave to relive the joys of wandering around and engulfed in the mysterious shrouds of darkness without a speck of trepidation. A beautiful, serene, exhilirating experience, to walk up a mountain when the sun and creatures, who usually so harshly shines or eyes, have been doused to sleep. Where palpable objects become indiscrete shadows, where sounds are amplified tenfold, where there is the rare occasion (one that daytime does not permit) of simultaneously experiencing both ends of the spectrum of stimulus: of the intense allure of the moon, to detecting the most subtle nuances of the dark, unfamiliar habitat you have intruded upon. Where all surroundings seem inextricable, everything falls into its place, is one with the universe. Alone, yet invigorated, while relishing in being one of the few individuals still awake and blessed to appreciate such a thrilling yet uncanny atmosphere that only the hours of darkness offer.