You and I used to fancy ourselves as birds, and we were very happy even when we flapped our wings and fell down and bruised ourselves, but the truth is that we were birds without wings. You were a robin and I was a blackbird, and there were some who were eagles, or vultures, or pretty goldfinches, but none of us had wings.
For birds with wings nothing changes; they fly where they will and they know nothing about borders and their quarrels are very small.
But we are always confined to earth, no matter how much we climb to the high places and flap our arms. Because we cannot fly, we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us. Because we have no wings we are pushed into struggles and abominations that we did not seek, and then, after all that, the years go by, the mountains are levelled, the valleys rise, the rivers are blocked by sand and the cliffs fall into the sea.
”—Karatavuk, Birds Without Wings by Louis de Berniere (via le-kismet)
“He knew himself to be something like a garden where the only flowers were those of potatoes, ragweed and neglected onions, but where a true gardener would have been able to drape the trellises with vines, and coax up tulips from the earth.”—Bird Without Wings, Louis de Bernieres.
"Imaginations of China have largely come from Americans’ assumptions about themselves and not from the reality of Chinese linguistic, historical or cultural similarities."
- Jespersen, American Images of China, 1931-1949 (preface, xv).
This reminds me of a conversation thebrownflower and I had with this seemingly nice old American lady in December last year. She looked at us earnestly with her big brown eyes and asked, ‘Did you girls have milk and dairy products when you were growing up?’ It turned out that she had a theory - asians are smaller because of the lack of calcium in our diets. This lack of calcium is due to 1) our families being unable to afford dairy products, 2) asian countries did not have access to dairy products. Thebrownflower and I were stumped - we weren’t sure how to answer her question without offending her (aha, confucian values here?). We ended up smiling politely, indicating our answers with swift nods. Someone poured more beer, and that was the end of that conversation.
JIA: So what do you save for? Me: Graduation trip to Europe in May. JIA: Hmmm, what about the big picture? How old are you? Me: 22 going on 23. JIA: What about retirement? Me: ?!?!?!?! That’s kind of far away? JIA: I started saving for retirement at 21. Me: Erm.. okay? JIA: Maybe I’ll see you around in 10 years. Me: What? As an insurance agent? JIA: Yeah, since you aren’t saving for the big stuff yet.
** Once again, the developmentalist, economic-driven discourse of aspirations in Singapore has manifested in my everyday life. Considering how I just wrote a proposal on it, I was amused. And JIA’s argument is flawed - if he started saving at 21 for retirement, for the ‘big stuff’, and he is now working as an insurance agent, why would I be one in 10 years? I don’t get the logic (or lack there of).
Saving up for retirement in your twenties probably mean you hate your job and can’t wait to get out of it - I don’t want to get a job like that!