EXILE ON FENGLUCIA

Life on an alien land
Ai Weiwei’s Chinese Zodiac at Nathan Phillip’s Square in #Toronto (at Nathan Phillips Square)

Ai Weiwei’s Chinese Zodiac at Nathan Phillip’s Square in #Toronto (at Nathan Phillips Square)

The National

—The Rains of Castamere

The TV show is not as good as the books, then so are most book adaptations. However, the visualization and the music are truly beautiful. 

A cup of tea

He is sitting on the patio at a small cafeteria around the corner of where he lives. It has just rained a little. The barista was kind enough to dry the furniture just as the clouds part ways to permit a glimpse of the sun. One could still notice the fading mist rising from the Earl Grey on his table.

He could not read. Even though the streets are surprisingly vacant after a few rain drops and the occasional whoosh from cars decorates the dreadful silence in the air. He puts down the book and looks around. Five people, not including himself, are sitting quietly on the patio sipping their preferred beverages. “That’s a coincidence, if you would call it one”, he thinks to himself. Five years ago on this day he arrived in this city across the ocean. 

Five years is an awful long time for someone at a young age, or anyone, for that matter. It’s long enough to master a new language; it’s long enough to develop a new career; it’s long enough to establish a relationship. He chuckles a little as the thought of relationship entertains him for a brief moment. He has none of those. 

He dreams that he could have any. Ah, “dream”. That is one thing of which he’s never impoverished. In dreams he could get answers he would not otherwise; in dreams he could be spontaneous and romantic; in dreams he could reclaim a lost love. But dreams are not truly real, however vivid they may be. He hopes differently every time he pulls himself away from bed. 

The tea is getting cold, so he takes a sip. “A little milk is nice, but no sugar”. He can’t recall when he started the habit of drinking tea, or visiting a coffee shop to begin with. “What a bourgeois lifestyle. I could get used to this”. He did, superfluously. He knows his appearance is deceiving, he attempts to compensate by reading. Yet he could never be able to conjure anything. He used to paint, but only off actual objects; he tries to write, but only mundane essays. “Perhaps that’s not who you are”. “I believe I can be”. “What evidence do you have?” He refuses to answer his own question. 

The patience of the clouds runs out, the sun could no longer be found. He finishes the rest of the tea and returns the cup to the counter. As he walks to the street, “five years is an awful long time.”

A drop of tear slowly climbs down his cheek, or is it just a rain drop that comes late?

"Not All Men Are Meant to Dance with Dragons"

24 years old, I turned 24 today on May 1st 2013.

The number is quite significant because in Chinese Zodiac 12 years is a cycle, born in the year of the snake, I completed my first two cycles and started my third one this year.

May 2013 marks my fifth year in Canada, that is almost a quarter of my life. More importantly, May 1st 2013 is the 30th anniversary of my parents’ marriage. My folks so far have dedicated 80 per-cent of their marriage years raising me. Their commitment and sacrifice will take me a lifetime to repay. I believe I am finally on my way of achieving that.

The past winter semester is by far the most academically successful one I have had in my five years of post-secondary education pursuit in Toronto. It is not something that is worth celebrating, considering it is my primary purpose of coming to Canada after all. Nevertheless, judging from my recent history in school, it is indeed an indication that I have recovered from what I consider by far the biggest mistake I made in my life. Had everything gone according to what I dreamt, had I had better self-discipline, had I made amends sooner; I would have graduated with a university degree and might have got a full-time job already. Alas, like Kevan Lannister said in A Dance with Dragons, “it did no good to brood on lost battles and road not taken”. It is what one learns from the past and does for the future that makes the difference.

Beyond my expectations, I had my very first professional job interview yesterday with a bank branch. The position is entry level, it is my first step in setting my professional career into motion notwithstanding. I took the initiation because I finally have earned enough confidence in my personal and academic progress after all these years. It is time I seized what I came for.

If the five years in Toronto has taught me anything, which it did with plenty, is that I am without question the maker of my own fate, while the influence of the environment is insignificant in comparison. This belief is echoed in the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire. The story is fantasy as much as it is a reflection of reality. It is especially the case in the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, which I finished a few days ago. (SPOILERS ALERT!) Cersei Lannister chose to conspire against Margaery Tyrell, then she had to endure the fall from grace and the humiliations after the plot backfired. Theon Greyjoy chose to betray the Starks and anoint himself Prince of Winterfell, then he had to live as the tormented creature Reek of Ramsay Bolton after his defeat. Quentyn Martell chose to impress Daenerys by attempting to tame one of her dragons, then he had to suffer the death with fire. Tyrion Lannister chose to murder his own father, then he had to accept the life of exile in the free cities and later being enslaved. Yet he still fought as hard as his waddling figure could to earn his freedom. Daenerys Targaryen chose to stay in Mereen and rule as her queen, then she had to accept the marriage proposal from whom she did not love. Yet she still maintained a decisive and brave mind and finally mounted her dragon. Arya Stark chose to become a Faceless Man, then she had to suffer the terror of blindness to prove her dedication at a young age. (SPOILERS END) All the drastic changes for the worse of those characters’ fate were of their own making, it is what they would do afterwards that could bring them back from the brink of demise.

“Not all men are meant to dance with dragons.” But one is certainly welcome to try. One either dies in the glory of flames, or mounts a dragon to fly across the Narrow Sea to take the Iron Throne.

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Finished the first season of House of Cards. It’s definitely one of the best TV series this year for the outstanding writing and performance. But I’m not here to critique the show, I have no credibility. 

In this show, I feel that I could relate to Congressman Peter Russo. Even though Russo had a disgraceful past, he still had ambitions and vowed to make amends. Francis Underwood’s manipulation aside, he decided to run for Governor and have “A Fresh Start”, as in his campaign slogan. Yet in a brief moment of weakness, he doomed his political and personal life by giving in to old temptations regardless of all the efforts he made. 

The lesson there is evident. A frequent reminder is crucial

You know what Francis said to me when he proposed? I remember his exact words.
He said, Claire, if all you want is happiness, say no.
I’m not gonna give you a couple of kids, and count the days until retirement. I promise you freedom from that, I promise you’ll never be bored.
You know he was the only man, and there were a lot of others that proposed, but he was the only one who understood me.
He didn’t put me on some pedal stool, he knew that I didn’t want to be adored or cuddled. So he took my hand and he put a ring on it, because he knew I’d say yes.
He’s the man who knows how to take what he wants.

—Claire Underwood - House of Cards (2013)

All of us have the capacity in us for great good and for great evil, for love but also for hate.

—George R. R. Martin - Game of Thrones, Emmy Panel 2013

Alone - free - the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal.

—1984 - George Orwell

A return to the close personal chemistry between Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin in the 1990s may be too much to hope for, but the chilly Mr Obama needs to strive towards it. He should spend less time playing golf and more time in Zhongnanhai.

—Barack Obama How will history see me? - The Economist, Jan 19th 2013

(Source: economist.com)

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I’ve been quite inefficient at reading recently, I feel so very guilty.

Finally finished A Feast for Crows. Is it possible to hate a fictional character to the bones? I think so. Cersei Lannister, I hope you burn in all the Seven Hells! 

Now let’s have A Dance with Dragons! 

Be simple, Matthew, life is a simple book, and an open book, read and be simple as the beasts in the field; just being miserable isn’t enough - you have to know how.

—Father Lucas to Dr. Matthew O’Conner in Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

There is pain in who we are, and the pain of love - because love itself is an opening and a wound - is a pain no one escapes except by escaping itself.

—Jeanette Winterson, preface for Nightwood by Djuna Barnes 

You know what man really desires? One of two things: to find someone who is so stupid that he can lie to her, or to love someone so much that she can lie to him.

—Dr. Matthew O’Conner in Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Let’s talk relationships for the first time, and the last time

I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Waterloo writing this blog entry. My plan with a friend got cancelled as he just suffered a breakup with his girlfriend last night. I hope he would get back on his feet soon (it’s easier for me to say than him to do).

This unfortunate incident prompted me to sit down and write about my thoughts on relationships, as I actually have been thinking about it in general of late. 

I think all of my good guy friends either are in a relationship or were in at least one. As for me, the only one that could remotely be regarded as a relationship was the one I had during my first year in university. It both started and ended across the Pacific Ocean (“remotely”, get it?). Not surprisingly, it didn’t last long. So technically I never had a serious relationship. There were a few girls who I adore before university, but I didn’t attempt to woo any of them, because I agreed with my mother that friends were more important at that moment. Though I admit that it could be a little unbearable having crush on girls without them knowing. As a stupid pubescent, I got over them eventually. Things took a brief turn during my third year in university. I finally decided to ask out a girl but she declined. With that, I realized that I am not ready to get into relationships. I haven’t attempted anything similar ever since. 

What are my reasons? First and most importantly, my life is still tangled because of the mistakes I made after I arrived in Canada. My cousin, who has settled down in Toronto, said that I should find a girl who could see potential in me. How could that happen when I doubt the potential in me myself? I had to leave university and go to college with little prospect of an internship or a full-time job. How could I manage a relationship while attempting to pull myself together? I’m not pessimistic, but before I manage to get my life on the right track, I can’t afford the luxury of having a girlfriend. 

Some of my guy friends told me that being in a relationship could change a man for the better, help him mature. I agree that it is so in most cases. Nevertheless, I would rather become an intellectually and physically strong man first than have a girl help me achieve that. I’m not implying that I am a sexist and take shame in women aiding men. On the contrary, I admire independent and capable women such as Michelle Obama and Angela Merkel. But to deserve a woman like them, I should possess good qualities first. This reflects with my first reason. 

A less important reason is that I’m not certain what my expectations of the end result of a relationship is. Do I want marriage and do I want children? Though these can wait until I resolve my first two issues. 

I was told that all these ideas I have are insignificant once I met the “right one”. Perhaps. But until that moment came, I shall hold my current beliefs dear and accomplish my goals as soon as I can. 

Ramin Djawadi

—Main Title

One of my favourite franchise theme music of all time. Let’s embrace the arrival of the third season of Game of Thrones!