Sunday, September 25, 2005

I've just finished my first anthropology honors assignment, so as you should guess, I'm feeling pretty accomplished now. But probably not for long, because I've got the Odyssey by Homer sitting on my shelf (I refuse to look at it), and I haven't even completed the Iliad yet! Okay I need some serious help here. All this Greek Great Books stuff honestly doesn't appeal to me- hopefully i can get through this term without too much mishap. Also finished my German Language Learning Journal, in which I clumsily scrawled a paragraph in halting, ungrammatical German about my life in UM so far and the challenges of rowing, and hopefully my recitation tutor gives me a check plus for that. I wonder why they call the foreign language lessons "recitations" instead of "discussions"? The word "recitations" never fails to evoke mental images of little European children sitting at wooden desks in a small classroom and obediently chanting phrases from a large reader aloud.

Taking a well-deserved break from gym today- actually I wanted to go down to the intramural sports building to erg (use the rowing machine/ ergometer) before dinner, but it's raining heavily out and I can just feel the burning glare of the Odyssey boring holes into my head so I decided to give erging a miss, just for today. Today's morning run was kind of odd, because it was really misty outside and visibility was rather bad. I could hardly see anything a hundred yards down the street, especially when I was running down South State bypassing the Athletic Campus and wanted to cross the road to East Stadium Boulevard, and it was rather hard to cross because cars would suddenly appear from nowhere, making it rather tough for me to get over to the other side.

Ted and I went to check out Harvest Mission Community Church (HMCC) today, which had its Sunday celebrations at the very accessible Angell Hall Auditorium A, which is just 5 minutes from South Quad if I walk, or barely a minute if I run. It's the place where I have my Political Science 140 lectures, so instead of seeing Prof. Inglehart and his powerpoint slides, it was a welcome change to see the church band and Hillsong praise songs on the overhead screen. I must say I'm definitely more accustomed to the style of the worship, much more charismatic in form as compared to at First Presbyterian off Washtenaw, which I visited 2 weeks ago. That was somewhat more traditional and homely, but edifying nonetheless (they had a terrific old grandma with a voice worthy of the opera stage to lead the hymns). HMCC was not bad, I daresay I would feel pretty comfortable there. For some reason it's primarily Asians, perhaps because the pastoral staff are all Koreans or something to that effect. Next week I think I'll be checking out New Life with Ted and Hannah (one of my crew buddies), which has its celebrations at 10.01am (hmmm!) at the Modern Languages Building auditorium 3. And that's where I have my Great Books 191(zzzZZ) lecture and Cultural Anthropology 101 lecture. But I'm glad I went to church.

Proclaim Your awesome power
Tell of mighty deeds
Declare Your future kingdom
Of everlasting peace

And my eyes they look
Unto You always
And I am captured
By your majesty

All of my days
I will sing of Your greatness
All of my days
I will speak of Your grace
All of my days
I will tell of Your wondrous love
Your love in my life
Your love

All Your works will praise You
Your children bless Your name
We speak of all Your goodness
We walk in fields of grace

And my eyes they look
Unto You always
And I am captured
By your majesty

Hillsong: All of My Days

Thursday, September 22, 2005

So. The 2006 Michigan Novice Rowing Roster's finally out- 32 rowers and 10 coxswains. 8 rowers and a coxswain per boat, and our first race's on 30th October. It's called "Head of the Elk" which sounds oddly Native American. Ooh. Wow I'm already looking forward to racing even though we've hardly moved an inch from the launching dock. But between now and then... I anticipate a great deal of hard work, much much more to come. Ironically, that's what I love the most about the idea of being in a varsity sport like this. Okay, everyone who knows me well can testify to the fact that i relish tough training. Even though I may cuss like nobody's business during the process, loudly make known my burgeoning violent tendencies to everyone in the vicinity, and wonder what's wrong with myself for always getting into such situations out of my own free will (like during change parade in army BMT, or casevac, or route marches, or getting stuck in a thunderstorm in the middle of mandai wilderness during navigation exercise, or cleaning my M16 after live range, or turnouts in full battle order, or field pack and bunk inspections, or a gazillion other things that perfectly sane people wouldn't even begin to consider, much less even do), I guess it's the satisfaction you get upon looking back and thinking about the fact that "wow! I actually made it through all this shit!" that is pretty much irreplaceable. And I love it.

It's going to be one tough year ahead, races along the way, different training programs depending on the season (you don't expect us to train on the lake when it's winter and all hell freezes over, do you now), varying lineups, erg time trials, weight training, loads of cardio... and it's all going to culminate in the NCAA Big Ten Championship Regatta at the end of April, followed by the Central Regional Championship Regatta on the 2nd weekend of May '06. There'll be selections for first varsity eight (top 8 rowers in the team), then second eight, and finally the varsity four. I don't plan to think too far ahead just right now- as my coach (she's incredible) says- just take everything one stroke at a time (like in rowing). Just get through the stuff you're doing first by fully applying yourself to it, and then you can figure out the rest as it comes. I saw this quote on the back of someone's high school running team shirt just the other day, and I thought it made a lot of sense. "Just think about how far you could go if you took another step for every time you thought you couldn't."

I guess it's just human nature- at times we think we've maxed out, we've reached the farthest we could possibly go, but in actual fact we're still yards away from the ceiling. Sometimes you need to distract yourself from the pain, the challenge, just grit your teeth and keep pushing. Another saying I've gotten from yet another person's high school running shirt (I don't know why I have such an affinity for reading the back of people's shirts, but you really learn a lot about life from them, especially here in the USA where you see perhaps just about everything you could imagine would take pride of place on a shirt): "Pain is the weakness leaving your body." It's all in the mind- it's the brain, rather than the body, that determines how far you go in the end.

Okay that's enough profundity to last me for quite a while. Anyway, I think I possess the dubious honor of being the shortest rower in all of Michigan Crew history. Simply put, I am a midget, especially when it comes to comparisons with the rest of the crew team. Everyone is at least 5'5" (about 1.65m) tall, substantially heavier because they're taller, which is of great use when it comes to carrying the boat down to the launching point. I've got some pictures of the launching docks in my Flickr album- it kind of resembles the floating pontoon at Kallang SDBA, except that it's bigger and definitely not as rickety. There's this very noticeable downward slant at my end when we're carrying the boat down to be launched, because I'm at the bow seat (the end which crosses the finish line first in a race, since rowing is done backwards) so I carry the bow end. And it is so bloody heavy when we're walking down the sloped boards to the pontoon, because all the weight is on my end since I move down first, and somehow I get kind of squeamish with US$26,000 weighing down on my shoulders at any one point in time. And our coach said something which I found quite amusing, especially the way in which she said it. "I know all of you are strong- whether you're a midget (raises eyebrows in yours truly's direction), or if you're a giant (points at this girl called Liz who's easily 2 heads taller than me and a lovely person at that), so I want to see all of you doing everything together. Teamwork!" Anyway she's an incredible coach- extremely motivational. I was really impressed by the way she took the effort to get to know every single one of the girls who tried out for the crew team, and remembered all seventy-five of our names (and last names). Even if she calls me Fang, like teeth, you know, Faaaaaang? Grrr. But it's cool. Haha! It's that sort of dedication and passion which emanates from her that really spurs me on even more to put in all that I've got, because it really helps to know that someone has faith in you (even if you ARE awfully small in relation to everyone else).

Practice times are a throwback to days in Raffles Canoeing- well, actually they're even heavier now. I've got practice every weekday from 3.20pm to 6.20pm, fortunately none of my classes make it such that I'm unable to go down during that time, because that's when we go down to Belleville Lake, 12 miles from here, for practice. U of M's boathouse is there- it's incredible, nothing like the minute rectangular-shaped patch that RJ proudly owned in SDBA, which housed our kayaks and paddles and smelly life jackets. This really is a Boathouse of standard. There's a locker room, a meeting room, ergometers, and the racing eights and fours are kept downstairs. And the whole team can't wait to get all the crew gear- the Michigan Crew nike shirts, jackets, the complete works. It's got to be earned through nothing less than hard work, which is definitely what I'll be putting in.

Go Blue!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Finally! The last day of rowing tryouts, which lasted for a week. Six days of going down to the rowing machine (ergometer) room where the varsity crew team has its practice, at the intramural sports building. I have a hunch that the tryout schedule was designed in such a way that the coach could then weed out the people who weren't actually serious about training, by scheduling several of the training sessions pretty early in the morning, at about 6.15am. Anyway I must say that I'm amazed at how just about everyone displayed such great commitment by turning up for every tryout session- I fell to talking to some of them and it's easy to see just how much they want to make the team. I miss that kind of dedication and passion and the entire idea of team spirit and camaraderie, and perhaps that's one of the primary reasons I want to be able to join UM crew- to have something to train for, to get the chance to compete, and getting to know a whole lot of like-minded individuals whom I can possibly foster deep friendships with. Anyway, the roster for the 2005-6 novice team will be announced on Sunday- whether it be rower or coxswain or sorry-you-didn't-make-the-cut, I'm glad to say that it has been a fulfilling week, not only because I finally learnt the art of proper technique on an ergometer, but because I've also had the opportunity to get to know some strong-minded individuals, people I can identify with, who have that sort of passion for whatever they set their mind to. I guess it's been a great experience. And it's definitely helped me in taking a break from all the work and assignments that've been relentlessly pouring in, as well as clear my head and keep me from thinking about other parts of my life that haven't been going as smoothly as I'd like.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

i was just thinking about how ironic some things are... After JC i thought i'd never have to do any more timed 2.4km runs. Then it turned out that we did timed 2.4s about a total of 5 times during BMT. After BMT it seemed to me that i'd cleared IPPT for the year, so I wouldn't have to run 2.4 again that year. But I did, twice more in Sierra during combined leadership phase/ service term, and twice after in Air Force Service Term. And I really thought that was it! I'd done about 10 timed 2.4s, so it ought to be enough, right? But No! while loboing in AFS, I did 3 more 2.4s, and took my IPPT for that workyear ( still dunno if they've credited my $200 into the bank account yet, hmmm), which makes it 4 2.4s in AFS.

So after about 13 2.4s, I finally flew off to Michigan and was extremely glad that I wouldn't have to worry about any more 2.4s till next year's IPPT during the summer vacation. Well, guess what, I just did a 1.5mile time trial this morning for day 4 of novice rowing tryouts. Do you know how long 1.5miles is? Surprise! It's a bloody 2.4! Pfffffft. But it was fantastic. Really.

Oh and one more thing I'm delighted to note is that I haven't put on any weight yet! In fact, I think I might've lost some! This is awesome, man. And the thing is, I think I'm eating more here compared to back in Singapore. Today there was an incredible dinner... it was a special dinner, called the "Welcome to Michigan" dinner. The menu was superb- there was baked whitefish, Frankenmuth fried chicken (which is supposed to be way outta this world), smashed Michigan red potatoes (these were awesome), beef and vegetable pasties, Michigan vegetable mix... and those were just the entrees. And there were cream puffs with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce, as well as Michigan fruit crisp (this is really good stuff, guys) for dessert. Arghh I love this place. Well anyway, as I was saying, even though I eat considerably more here I haven't put on weight (HAHAHAHA ALL YOU CYNICS HAHAHAHA I'M GONNA PROVE ALL YOU GUYS WRONG MAN JUST WAIT AND SEE)... I'm not sure why, but I think it's because I walk when I wanna get anywhere in this sprawling campus, I never take the campus buses (unless it's from central to north campus in the mornings when I've to rush for german classes at 8), and perhaps due to the daily morning runs and pre-lunch gym workouts. Okay man i'm gonna keep this up so I can enjoy food yet maintain my fitness lol.

I've a 1000m timed trial on the ergometer (rowing machine) this coming Friday afternoon... Arghh I remember how we used to train on the lone erg in the RJ fitness room just before the machine rowing championships in Feb 2004, and how we used to tumble out of the seat in a flurry when we practiced the mixed 4 x 500m relay. Once I left my shoe in the foot port when I over-enthusiastically tumbled off to make way for philip, which was quite exasperating then but funny now when I think of it. Anyway just thinking of a 1000m timed trial makes me want to cry... I remember all too well the feeling of racing on the rowing machine... my legs were totally Gone after the race. They just subsided into a gelatinous mass. Crap man, can't believe I'm subjecting myself to this again. I wish they had lightweight crew in UM... I know I'm terribly disadvantaged by virtue of my size, especially when one of the criteria to succeed in rowing is that of height. And by height, i mean HEIGHT. like 5'8", at least? And you need mass as well- say about 170 pounds? Okay so I'm nowhere near such gargantuan proportions, neither do I particularly want to be, so I will just have to see where drive and hard work take me.

Either that or I can be coxswain (the so-called commander of the boat, who does coxing and steering, as well as motivator of the crew, and gives the starting commands and plots the race strategies, but who essentially doesn't row in the competition). The coxswain has to be between 110-120 pounds in weight (oh and I found out something interesting too, if she doesn't meet the minimum weight requirement she'll have to carry a weight to compensate, lol) But I'd much rather row... Oh well guess I'll just have to wait and see how it goes. And as I've discerned from 2 years of canoeing, I have a terrible relationship with rudders, and direction in general.

How awfully disadvantaged small people are! I got to know another girl trying out for rowing- she's about my height and she looks real lean and strong- I'm always seeing her in the gym (ah, precisely my sort of person!). She's called Kelsey, from Colorado- and the really cool thing about her is that she used to be a wrestler back in high school. And there wasn't a girls' team, so she took part in the guys' championships, and kicked some serious ass there. Apparently some guys from college wrestling in her weight category quit after losing a bout to her. Man I think that's someone I can definitely be good friends with. Lol.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

How quickly time has passed- it's already been three weeks since I reached Ann Arbor, and I must say I'm settling in pretty nicely. These three weeks have been rather jam-packed with activities... all the Destination Michigan orientation events, like Festifall, Maize Craze, Escapade and Artscapade, buying sprees at Meijers, Target, Linens & Things, meals at South Quad and Bursley and Stockwell (food sucks at Stockwell! phooey), morning runs to everyplace imaginable, gymming at the CCRB, rugby practice, rowing tryouts, and yeah, of course, classes which started on Tuesday. Even though I can't deny that my class schedule seems really good (which it is), the workload already looks staggeringly heavy. It's only the first week of classes and already I don't dare to procrastinate (like how I spent much of my JC life, lol), because once you neglect to do the readings they'll just accumulate and haunt you when it comes to midterms and finals. So far the best class has been Cultural Anthropology- it's really interesting and I think the lecturer's a blast, and to think that was a class I picked to sorta fill up my last open credit slot. I'm still not into the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Greek tomes we get in Great Books- to be honest, if it weren't a requirement I'd never have taken a second look at it.

Haha it's sort of strange how prior to when I came I had thoughts about being subsumed into the some of the more questionable aspects of American culture- the wild frat parties, Greek life, drinking, drugs, that sort of thing. And yeah I guess it is prevalent, well not exactly overwhelmingly so, but it Does exist, just perhaps not to such a large extent as I thought there might have been. Sure, sometimes I open the door of my room and see some topless guy chasing a shrieking, laughing girl down the corridor and disappearing into a room with the door slamming behind them. And I've heard stories about how one of the Singaporean freshies in UM apparently has two druggies as roommates- when he walks into the room it's a purple haze with the pot and all. But somehow I don't know. I really don't give a shit about all the partying and crap like that. Before I reached, I thought I'd at least be curious and go check out one or two of the parties. You know how they say lots of freshmen, when they arrive in a foreign place, they suddenly feel so liberated that they throw all caution to the wind and indulge in wild abandon? I just read a blog which mentioned that scholars, in particular, do this sort of thing because they've been holed up working their asses off in Singapore for too long. Ha I won't say too much, except that it is an unfair generalisation. Anyway, even when some of the other singaporeans suggested checking out the asian frat parties and stuff like that, i just gave it a pass. Nah. I don't know why, but it's like I feel I've got so many other things to do than just getting stoned or drunk or wasted. And there are a lot of people and things (and, well, Organizations, LOL) that are important to me back in Singapore that I guess I'm just here to do my best and live up to their (and my) expectations. Not to mention keeping the faith of the people that I live for. Strange, isn't it? To become a chao mugger here. Lol...

Tonight the music seems so loud
I wish that we could lose this crowd
Maybe it's better this way
We'd hurt each other with the things we want to say
We could have been so good together
We could have lived this dance forever
But now who's gonna dance with me
Please stay

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I've just bought myself a Flickr Pro Account under Ted's influence- so I'm going to be storing all my photos (and some from his camera too) in this place. You can access my pictures from the macromedia flash link at the left of the screen- do go have a look because it's likely that there'll be new photos pretty often, which will allow you guys to track what I've been doing (and also to tell me whether I'm on my way to Freshman 15- please be honest here! I would really appreciate that. Haha.)

I went to watch my first american football game at the Michigan Stadium (aka. the Big House) yesterday. It was the Big Ten Conference season opener- with UM taking on Northern Illinois University, or NIU. I don't recall having watched any other major sporting event live before- the nearest I've ever gotten to is probably National Schools Track & Field which is peanuts compared to this, so it definitely was a great experience. Just to give you an idea of the scale of the event- 110,971 people turned up for the match, which also was the 4th largest recorded turnout at the Big House for a Big Ten opening match. Apparently, NIU isn't a very important rival- so we still managed to get tickets for the match. For the rest of the games coming up- tickets are being sold at astronomical prices, going up to $200 + even, for example like the game against Notre Dame or that against Ohio State. Man. I don't have the money for those! Despite not knowing anything about american football prior to the game, and not being able to see where the ball was till play halted during the first quarter, I managed to get into the drift of things after a while and I must say that I did enjoy watching it pretty much. Even though it's not as flowing as soccer, so a 15-minute quarter ends up 45 minutes long, and the entire game takes about 3 hours to end.

Anyway UM won 33-17. The offence was excellent, but their defence was fraught with holes. Absolutely awful, especially the way in which the first touchdown was scored by NIU. The guy just whizzed past the UM defence. Man.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Just returned from a night of activities that kicked off life in UM proper. Most of the USA freshmen have arrived on campus and moved into the residence halls- so the place has been bustling with activity over the last few days. Streets blocked, parking lots rendered temporarily unusable, buses rerouted- all to facilitate the mass incoming migration of freshmen. My roommate arrived yesterday- she's from Traverse City, MI, and she seems like someone I can get along splendidly with. And I'm really grateful for that fact, can't imagine having to share personal space with someone who'd irk me to no end. So far I think the food at South Quad is just great, I don't know why, but I appreciate residence hall food a lot! Well there's a permanent salad bar, which is good enough for me. And the quality of the food is pretty decent, so I don't have any objections at all. The CCRB (central campus recreation building) has become my new hotspot. Well, you see, it does have a state-of-the-art gym, which I think is absolutely brilliant. There's also a cardio room with so many different machines- elliptical trainers, the quintessential treadmill, ergometer, spinning machine, even a skiing machine thing! I could just go on about the CCRB facilities forever. Although I do have a minor gripe about the pool- it's only 25m long with 6 lanes, and so that's kind of detracted me from swimming while I'm at UM. Perhaps in the winter when it's too cold to run I'll revert back to the pool (it's an indoor heated affair).

I spent my evening at the new student convocation for the class of 2009, held at the Crisler Arena. I don't really like going for such things, but I thought it was a pretty symbolic affair to initiate us into the student body. And I'm glad I went, even if I did doze off halfway during one of the several speeches. I intend to make life at UM a special experience for myself and I guess that's a starting point. There were a couple of events going on simultaneously at Central Campus- Artscapade at the Museum of Art and Escapade at the Union, so Ted (another Singaporean and a newfound friend) wandered around the area pretty aimlessly because the place was thronged with people heading towards the free food giveaways scattered throughout the Union. We were remarking how different varsity life in the States is as compared to Singapore- and no matter how hard Singapore universities try to figure out the secret behind the vibe of US varsities, they'll never be able to attain the same standards. One reason, we figured, was due to the fact that Singapore doesn't possess the same sort of competitive athletic standards so prevalent in the US- like how NCAA sports and the Big Ten and all that sort of thing evoke such strong school loyalties and feelings from the supporters- you'll never be able to find that in Singapore. A pity, but well.

Anyway so far life has been great here- I've got Honors kick-off tomorrow at 9am (which ruins my plans of going to the CCRB at 9plus like i normally do, I'll just have to go earlier at 7 instead bah). We've a book to discuss, it's called "When Germs Travel" by Howard Markel, which I should really get started on. I am filled with a sense of urgency (albeit a bit too late). Okay I'll blog sometime else... meanwhile, enjoy the pictures below! :)

Escapade 2005! Posted by Picasa

Artscapade 2005! Posted by Picasa

A student acapella group called the G-Men- the guy on the screen sang "you make me wanna" by usher, which is notoriously difficult to stay in tune to- and did a fabulous job to boot.  Posted by Picasa

it was held at the Crisler Arena- where the NCAA college basketball games are played. Rather big, but sort of stuffy  Posted by Picasa

New Student Convocation for the U of M Class of 2009 Posted by Picasa

the Big House! Posted by Picasa

speaks for itself... the Michigan Stadium seats over a 100,000 people, double that of the National Stadium. So that gives you a bit of an idea of the size. Posted by Picasa

the room- a bit bare i know, we haven't yet decided how to go about arranging stuff.  Posted by Picasa

someone hung underwear on the sprinkler! and it's from victoria's secret (i looked) Posted by Picasa

some of the s'porean girls at UM and a new friend in green- (un)surprisingly all of us are from RJC. lol  Posted by Picasa