Category: Culture/Anthropology


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

I’m wondering if it’s hypocritical of me to yearn for braces, yet disapprove of plastic surgery. Where does the line for beautification stop? Is it that I approve of braces because it’s only ‘natural’ (as mother nature intended, but obviously a screw-up happened somehow for some with unlucky genes) that a smile is straight, thus making braces an evolutionary necessity? Is it because crooked teeth are so ghastly that it entirely warrants the alteration of one’s appearance? Or is it that practically EVERYBODY with crooked teeth (I mean severely crooked teeth here, not teeth that are near-perfect that aren’t perfectly aligned) will get braces to correct this problem? So that would make me a conformist? But I know I’m not. No, perhaps it is precisely because everybody has normal teeth, that I don’t want to stand out with a grotesquely deformed smile.

What about plastic surgery? Considering I am against this procedure (unless a person was deformed in an accident), but how is it different to the straightening of teeth? Both is changing the natural appearance of a person. Maybe it’s because a relatively straight smile is just a person’s right, every person should be entitled to an un-malformed smile; it’s when you’re expressing your happiness, how can you feel ugly when you express your happiness?! But plastic surgery…is different because, to be honest, no person on this earth has a ‘deformed’ face (excluding those with inborn or external accidents), and so in essence, everybody has a ‘beautiful’ face, thus making plastic surgery an unnecessary aesthetic improvement. I guess if you view it in terms of severity, it justifies braces but it doesn’t for cosmetic surgery; many people have ‘deformed’ teeth, so many people get it fixed, it doesn’t make them conformists that it just so happens to be a common problem among the human race. However, I get quite irked when others with near-perfect teeth are nitpicking and complain of their ‘crooked teeth’. Those who have just slightly bent teeth that is hardly noticeable would have little grounds to get braces.

On the other hand, it is extremely rare for people to have a ‘deformed’ face, and naturally they want to fix up this abnormality, a completely natural desire, but those who don’t have a ‘deformed’ face but just want to make themselves the ‘ideal’ is doing so for vanity. It can also be said that braces do have some functionality as well, like making chewing and cleaning easier, but that’s not so for the purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery.

Maybe I’m just trying to rationalise my hypocrisy. Maybe. or maybe not…

Either way, even though people strive to be the face of ‘perfection’ in their own vanity, I guess it is their right, and I accept it. You could even say that part of my criticism lies in the possibility that I am actually subconsciously jealous: jealous that these people are going to be more attractive than they really are just because of some operation they had. But I have not been through what they have been through, so I can’t judge them.

What about transexuals? I don’t frown upon it, although I do admit I find it rather bizarre. I guess they can’t help their feelings, and in this case, plastic surgery is more about fulfilling a sense of identity rather than narcissism.

All things aside, I know I want to get braces. And today, I finally got them. My mouth is full of metal: it’s painful, it’s uncomfortable and distracting, it sucks the joy out of eating, it makes ugly teeth even more conspicuous and ugly, it has made oral hygiene 10x more tedious, it traps bits of food in every imaginable nook and cranny that refuses to dislodge even with rigorous rinsing, it impedes speech, but boy am I very happy. 😀 For 10 years (approximately) ever since my teeth started overcrowding, I’ve been longing for it intensely, ever so self-conscious and ashamed whenever I smiled or laughed. And while most people were lucky and got it in their younger years, my patience paid off, and I am finally on my way to a more beautiful smile.

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.