The Quiet World

there should be a legal limit on how many people you love are allowed to walk out of your life in a month.
Like in Jeffrey McDaniel’s Quiet World-

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.
yes. let the government regulate our emotions, so that we will not have to feel.
my brother left this morning. and he left me with madeleine. i will take her to all the places i used to know. we only have a month together but it will be a glorious month. is it possible for me to withdraw even further into myself? penso di sì. spero di sì. è necessario di sì.

i burnt myself on the toaster today and there is a little red welt on my arm.
my brother also left me with his mobile. it doesn’t have a camera, which is perfect for my purposes. the past two weeks without a mobile were interesting. i had to make very precise plans, and was almost always early or on time in an exact place. i love precision. and the fact that people can’t just call me up to cancel or change plans. mobiles encourage fickleness, lateness, and a general lack of commitment. i remember whenever he called me up to meet for lunch at a specific time, i would be there at that time, and he would call me 5 minutes late and tell me he was still in his room. i was hardly annoyed. just sad, that his word counts for so little. it also indirectly tells one how important or not they are to another person, doesn’t it? you’d hardly be late if you were meeting the president.

it makes things a bit more inconvenient for myself and people who are trying to contact me. but that also means that they only contact me for important/urgent things. ms. tan called me this morning to fix some things on the website we were working on yesterday and was shocked that i didn’t have a mobile. i think bibi told her when she was trying to get my number. i told her i didn’t want to be contactable just yet and she was utterly disgusted. and i always get my parents to ask who’s on the line now so i can screen my calls/mentally prepare myself for boredom or favours. she must have been really disgruntled when my mum asked her to identify herself. lol. poor thing.


I’m not sure if i missed the babies. There were almost no children/babies in cornell. it was strange, no crying, no sound of squeaky little voices, no inane questions, but also very little cuteness. When I was on the plane back i was reminded of how squally babies could be, as one a few seats in front of me was bawling his lungs inside out. come sunday i had to feed avocado yoghurt to baby jairus (whose acquaintance i was pleased to make just that sunday. he was born after i left) and play with baby joseph (2.5 yrs old). i gave him his crocodile book and he loved it. liansi had trained him such that when asked “where is jiejie ivana?” he would yell “new york!” which was so cute. he couldn’t even say my name the last time i’d seen him. and now he can recognise me and tug at my hand to take me places and thrust his little blue school bag at me to carry it for him. entitlement starts early, i see. he’d gone through my entire bonjela album on fb and liansi says i shld write a book with those photos.

did i miss the children? not particularly. they were cute, but i had all these hilary mckay books in my collection at cornell that were filled with the cutest children you could ask for. after reading about the exiles or the cassons there are few children you’d find more entertaining than them.

The shepherd’s pie ytd went well. yuanjun did the taters and carrots and said it’d be the first and last time he’s cooking. How boys can eat without any qualms about not helping out (preparing, washing up) is beyond me. he asked me if i’d expect my husband to help out in the kitchen. haha. i think not, actually. i prefer doing things solitarily, except the simplest, most menial tasks in which i suppose some man-muscle might be handy, like mashing potatoes. but even then some of them are too careless to be trusted with that and leave meteorite sized lumps in the taters. to be allowed in the kitchen you’ve got to take pride in your cooking and be willing to do things exactly right, without stinging on the work out of convenience, a characteristic that isn’t too prevalent in my guy friends. we also saw two weeks notice, which never gets old! but which also means i have to watch something else with occ.

the upside is, i found my library card! and my ez link card! and my ic and all that other junk in my dad’s drawer and now i can borrow books/dvds again. and i found out that carol is working buona vista so i guess i’ll get to see a lot of her. :) she refused to pick up any of my calls because my home number was foreign and she thought i was a pesky insurance salesman who wouldn’t stop calling. (i never pick up for foreign numbers either). i asked her which too-free insurance salesman would want to call a penniless college student like herself! who spends her paychecks on new gamecards instead of saving it for a rainy day. if she’s not spending it on gamecards she’s splurging it on holidays with me :) we are both bad customers for insurance salespeople.

On the road

Today we were sending my ah ma to church and she was very glad to see me! i love my ah mas. She saw my ring and started trying to talk to me in chinese
“你的戒指很美 leh”
*thinking of something coherent to say back*
*she grabs it and puts it on her finger*
”从哪里买的,美国啊。很美 leh。“
that’s how my totally hip ah ma became the proud possesser of some teenage promise ring from the ah-girl. obviously none of my grandparents can pronounce my name. if ‘dorcas’ can get mangled into ‘locker’, can you imagine what they’d do to ‘ivana’? zheng yuan’s parents call me ‘iwana’.. and then i realised there is no vee sound in the chinese language! how weird is that?

kitchen noobitude

i’ve been cooking a lot the past week because i didn’t really get to cook at all in cornell and i missed cooking. there were hits and misses, and here are the few things i’ve picked up, and that has to be recorded since they don’t appear in recipes and can only be gleaned from experience.

On emperor chicken.
– Use the whole spice satchet even if it looks like it’s more than enough.
– Use dates/wolfberries as stuffing.
– You do not have to skin the wings. and most of the skin will sorta melt upon steaming into a disgusting, greasy mess.
– The satchet says to steam (on low fire – not specified) for 2.5 hrs, 2 hrs is enough.
– Removing bits from inside the chicken is disgusting. You can always use a spoon and hope no one notices there’s stuff still in there.
On scallops.
– You boil them, and then you cool them. Do NOT leave them in the saucepan and then go for a bath. Yeah i guess this is rather obvious I just wasn’t thinking. scallops are difficult! Also, most dishes with scallops are boiled first, before lopping the sauce on later.
On steamed fish
– Removing the innards means removing all the red bits inside the fish. Most of it should have been removed by the fishmonger. or the pescivendolo (awesome italian vocab!). Make sure he removes the scales too! don’t be a noobcake like my mum.
– Cut a few slits on both sides of the body of the fish so it can be steamed thoroughly and the sauce can make its way in.
On waffles
– Always grease the waffle machine! Just because the dining halls do it for you does not mean your personal waffle machine will be automatically greased!
– Pour the batter to cover about 70% of the mould, obviously not the whole thing because self raising flour expands, as the name indicates.
– When the recipe says ½ tsp of salt, it means a pinch of salt. Then again what kind of noob puts ½ tsp of salt in a waffle batter recipe? Obviously it’s too much.
On soufflé
– Ramekins are difficult to find.
– The egg whites must be thoroughly beaten. Until there are stiff peaks.
On random stir-fry dishes
– Do not mix chinese sauces with western sauces. Or chinese sauces with western condiments.
– Nearly the only pepper that goes with chinese food is white pepper.

Ok more will be added as and when I try new things. This week I did a lot of chinese cooking, but monday i’ll be doing shepherd’s pie with yuanjun, which i shld already be fluent at but you never know with the lack of practice.

The vine

Terence’s parents sent me home after the first session of the young adults retreat today. It was pretty good, i enjoyed the speaker, although I can’t return because I’ve committed tomorrow to someone else. it was interesting talking to his parents in the car – i love talking to adults, and it turns out the adults in my church back in sg are pretty cool too. they told me a bit about aware, while i told them about the ethnicity breakdown of campus crusade. his dad thought i was studying law for some reason.. he’s either confused me with rebecca or with my brother (why am i surrounded by lawyers? it’s like God knows i’m gonna do something criminal). his dad said i was good at languages (more like recalcitrant arguing and refusing to concede any point because of thick-headed stubbornness) which was why he thought i was doing law, and was mighty surprised that i was majoring in mathematics.

i don’t know, i feel those are the exact kind of people i can make friends with, the people who understand me immediately and who i don’t really have to explain lots of things to. the people who might be interesting to talk to, and who are okay with being fallible in front of me. slowly my generation and my parents’ generation have converged, and my friends’ parents seem so much more interesting than my friends. i told them about how everyone knew each other in ithaca and how polite the culture was, and how i got a rude shock today when i was shopping for letter-writing stationery in popular and this bunch of schoolgirls was in my way. i was sorta waiting for a gap to open up so i could slip through because i am too much of a scaredy-cat to say anything to them but this girl’s friends pulled her aside cos they saw that i wanted to pass, and she was annoyed with them and exclaimed “say excuse me lah!” in an irritated fashion. her friends looked at me and gasped, because i still strike fear in the hearts of children :D and they were frightened of me and thought i was going to scold her/report her/call up their school or something (have i really reached that aunty-looking age?!). by the way i disagree with this whole terror tactic with schoolchildren, because i have a phobia of teachers and of being scolded by teachers. if they do scold me i cry for quite a bit because i’m made of pudding inside and can’t take harsh words. i swept past her because it’s simply not worth my time to condescend to feel anything about the likes of her, when i have so many more interesting things to think/feel about. i’m not sure if letting it slide was good for her though, and in hindsight i might have reacted differently. you just don’t snap at your seniors like that. perhaps i am being a prude. but you don’t!

on a side note it’s becky’s birthday today. happy birthday rebecca! i got her a card already and will mail it tomorrow. i have 3 other people to write back to which i have put off for forever.

The message today was a good reminder. I feel like i am one of those sterile branches that are about to be chopped off. what would you do if you were in my position? if i offer to be the pianist for crusade it’s a weekly commitment. it’s not like i have terribly important things to do with my time, it’s just that having that extra time and the option whether or not to go for crusade makes my schedule more liberated. it’s not necessary, of course. also i am still trusting God to provide someone other than me. He knows I can play, and I can serve, but I know that I am not indispensable and there are other people in the community who are capable and should have appreciate the opportunity to respond to God’s calling and to serve in the worship ministry. But I’ve held out for quite long now and nobody seems to be stepping up, which is a bit of a disappointment. still, I will trust in God to provide.