I Should Be Studying

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I should be studying,
But what is this heat?
Temperature rises,
Tempers fly.

I should be studying.
I do try,
But reading aloud
Makes my throat dry.

Oh I should be studying
And absorbing content,
Not singing along
To my new favourite song.

What is this sorcery?
I may be unproductive
But somehow my energy
Is rapidly depleting…

Hi brain, are you listening?
Please keep that content in.

Yes I should be studying.
Now excuse me.

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Silver Laces

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Silver laces leaning against
A slightly crooked wall,
Silver nails being drilled
Into this aching jaw.

I wake up feeling like
I got punched in the face.
My food gets stuck
Three times a day.
I sleep early because
Yawning is a pain.

In a few more weeks
I suppose I’ll get used to
Embracing this new identity.

(Argh, that bad pun
Just made my cheek hurt.)

Don’t

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Don’t question me please,
They hit me to the core.
If I can’t answer please
Don’t think of me as a bore.

I wish I could get a hold of myself
And know what I really want
Even if I smile and laugh it off
I know,
I’m a lost sheep
Because of my own decisions.

Again and again
There’s a nagging feeling in my head
That I strayed from a perfect plan,
That everything’s a mistake.

I guess I always knew what was right
But the cowardly me chose the option of flight.

I guess I would always remain
As a piece of driftwood
Floating in a river
Of my own tormented mind.

The web is broken,
The past is frozen.

After the storm, will the skies be clear again?
After the storm, the spider weaves her web again.

A Winter Getaway to Greece

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If you’re heading to Europe for a winter getaway, why not stop by to visit Greece for a few days? While Greece may not be a popular destination in winter, you get to enjoy its rich history without the chaotic summer tourist crowd. (Who needs the summer heat when you live in Singapore anyway?) Having a Mediterranean climate, the weather feels just right, cold but not to the extent of freezing. Moreover, since it is considered the off-peak season, there is a 50% discount for all attractions in Greece.

Where to Go

  1. Athens
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View from the Acropolis of Athens, featuring the Temple of Zeus

A definite must-go is the Acropolis of Athens and Parthenon. Tickets are priced at 10 Euros in winter to enter the Acropolis alone, and 15 Euros to buy a 5-day package to visit various attractions around Athens.

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View from the Acropolis of Athens

To get around Athens, you could use the Metro, or ride on the open top hop-in hop-out tour buses that go to different areas in the city. One baffling thing to note is that you are not allowed to take photos inside Metro stations, even though it isn’t explicitly stated on signs. Nevertheless, the Metro is a cheap option to travel around Athens, with a 90 minute ticket priced at 1.80 Euros.

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Monastiraki, Athens

Good places to buy souvenirs are Plaka (near the Acropolis) and Monastiraki. In Monastiraki, visit the Athens Flea Market located next to the Metro station.

  1. Santorini
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Oia, Santorini

If there is only one place you can visit in Greece, let that be Santorini. This picturesque island is the best place to take stunning photos. To go there, you can either take a plane from Athens International Airport or a ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens. The former is a much shorter journey (around 45 minutes) and saves you time to explore Santorini more. In winter, you get the chance to see the real Santorini without its usual summer crowd lining the walkways and beaches photobombing you. Even half of the locals take the chance to travel during this off-peak season. It is quiet and quite empty, allowing you to have a nice stroll around the towns. It is the perfect place to go if you want to get out of a busy city.

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Oia, Santorini

When staying in Santorini, it is better to choose a hotel in Fira (aka Thira), the capital. (I personally recommend staying at Pelican Hotel due to its location and extremely friendly staff.) There are many shops open in Fira compared to other towns. Although Oia is the town with the most Instagramable scenery, especially its famous sunset, most restaurants (and public toilets) are closed in winter. Instead, you can easily take a bus from Fira to Oia for just 1.80 Euros. The bus ride takes around 20 minutes, though the bus operates with a fixed schedule of an interval of about 1.5 hours. Alternately, you can rent a car.

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Sunset at Oia, Santorini

Whether or not you get to see the sunset depends on the weather. I visited Oia twice, and it was sunny on the first day but cloudy on the second. It is also important that you do not choose a hotel that is too far from the main roads as Santorini has cobbled streets which are quite uncomfortable for walking, and very inconvenient for pulling your luggage.

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Donkeys at Fira, Santorini

In summer, tourists get to ride donkeys around Santorini, but that isn’t the case for winter. Instead, these huge Greek donkeys at hard at work carrying sandbags for renovation.

  1. Meteora

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If you have some extra time, you could take a local tour to Meteora from Athens, where you get a spectacular view of 11th century monasteries on the rock towers, and visit one or two of them.

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What to Eat

  1. Gyros

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Gyros is a type of Greek fast food that is affordable and filling. It has grilled meat, tomatoes, lettuce, french fries and onions wrapped in pita bread. At Fira, Santorini, gyros can be as cheap as only 2.50 Euros for pork, and 2.60 Euros for chicken. It’s so good, you’ll have dogs following you around if you eat it away from the stall.

  1. Grilled Fish
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Kokkinos Krinos: Odisseos 6, Athens 104 37, Greece

My first thought was that the dish was going to be an overpriced grilled dory since the menu did not elaborate about having side dishes or specify the type of fish. However, it was actually a whole big fish, served with broccoli and french fries.

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Perissa Beach, Santorini

Greece is ultimately best explored in winter when it’s off-peak season. In summer, Santorini and tourist attractions in Athens would be stuffily swarmed with people, and you would not be able to take the beautiful photos you desire. In short, it would be a nightmare. If you plan to travel to different countries in Europe and can only stay in Greece for a few days, the Acropolis of Athens and Santorini are the places you should definitely visit. Most importantly, make sure you have a good pair of walking shoes!

Photos owned by Gwenice Gwee

Anthem for the Insecure

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This is the anthem for
All the insecure,
All the little ones
Running round and round
Spinning in circles,
When will we be found?

Oh I’ve been dabbing a little
In this and that,
But I still haven’t found
Just what I’m best at.

I know I’m a mess,
I’m a pile of distress
Hanging on a thread
With my mind slipping off the edge.
I cut off the vines
Connecting me from the rest
I know I’ve given up
I admit it, I’ve been weak.

This is the anthem for
All the insecure,
Spread your little wings
And make them soar.
Forget about the past,
You can’t change a thing
Focus on the present
You gotta make it last.

People say things
But what do they know?
There are some things
Only we can show.

Maybe we don’t have a talent,
Maybe we don’t shine,
But that doesn’t mean
We gotta weep or whine.

This is the anthem for
All the insecure,
There’s something special
In every one of us
You just need a little trust.

They think we’re not successful
Maybe we’re not right now
We might be slow but we’re not flightless
Time will tell.

I’m standing in a pile of dust
Of the past I’ve torn
And it’s hard to piece them
Back together.
But one day I will make
Something even better
And when that comes
Will the past even matter?

This is the anthem for
All the insecure,
Spread your little wings
And make them soar.
Forget about the past,
You can’t change a thing
Focus on the present
You gotta make it last.

Stranger

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You’ve changed
You’re no longer the same
As you were in the past.
You’ve changed.

After these 8 months
Of being apart.
How did you even
Morph into something
So unrecognisable?

How did simple theory
Transform into these strings of formulae?

I don’t understand you.
But I suppose this is the real you
Revealing your true colours after putting on
That disguise for two years.

I thought I knew you but I don’t.
You’re a stranger now, Microecons.

Cutting Threads

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I cut those threads
And watched them scatter below me.
I cut those threads
And avoided going back
To those buildings
Or keeping in contact.

It was my only way
To deal with these uncertainties.

Am I doing well enough here?
Maybe if I didn’t change that track,
My train could be chugging forward
Quickly, without any previous hassle.
Maybe my social life wouldn’t feel so empty.
I might have been too hasty…
Am I happy?

Stop. Drop. Roll.

I need to shed this skin of worry
Constantly draped over my shoulders.
I need to continue moving forward.
I need to change
From a weak, cowardly worrier
To a courageous warrior.

Koe no Katachi – Redemption and its Complexity

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Rather than romance, the greatest themes of Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) were friendship and redemption. It tackles the complexity of people and the struggle to fix fragile ties in friendship.

Note: This post contains some spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie, you can find a spoiler-free version at https://otakudaydreams.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/koe-no-katachi/.

Synopsis

Nishimiya Shoko, a deaf girl, transfers into Ishida Shoya’s elementary school class. After getting tired of helping Nishimiya all the time, the class starts to bully her, especially Ishida. However, when the bullying turns extreme, the class begins to bully Ishida instead. Nishimiya tries to help him, but he retaliates and they get into a fight, resulting in Nishimiya transferring schools and Ishida being isolated by his classmates and friends. The two do not meet after that, but in middle school, Ishida decides that he needs to meet Nishimiya again to make up for his past misdeeds and be her friend.

Opening Plot

The beginning of the movie was quite painful to watch. We see Ishida in the present, getting his pay, withdrawing his the money from his bank account, and the crossing out of the calendar. It is a subtle presentation of how he was preparing for his suicide. A flashback to the past explains Ishida’s situation and his complex behaviour in the past. While Ishida helped to stand up for Nishimiya when some of his classmates (Ueno and Kawai) were criticising her, and even suggested that she should try harder to communicate with the class, he turned hostile after Nishimiya indicated that she wanted to be his friend. That was the start of Ishida bullying Nishimiya, and it got more extreme when Ishida started snatching and destroying her expensive hearing aids. Ishida’s complex and extreme behaviour was baffling to me as he switched sides so quickly, and even became the greatest bully.

Theme: Redemption

The movie portrayed Ishida’s growth in maturity as he learns that suicide was not the key to removing the guilt in his heart. He kept Nishimiya’s ‘For Conversation’ notebook in order to return it to her and learns sign language in order to be able to communicate with her. After meeting Nishimiya at a sign language school by chance, Ishida tried to be her friend. However, he faced the opposition of Yuzuru, who sternly told him to stop going over to the sign language class if he just wanted to make himself feel better by doing so. That threw a deeply disconcerting impact. One’s efforts to redeem oneself certainly could be seen as a selfish act – to do something good not for the person on the receiving end, but in order to comfort oneself. Despite that, it was significant that Ishida did become friends with Nishimiya. His growth was evident in how he faces others – no longer did he see ‘crossed out’ faces, but obtained the courage to move on and cross the boundary he draws between himself and others. Ishida’s social circle gradually increased involving his middle school classmates, starting with Nagatsuka.

Side Characters

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From right to left: Sahara, Nishimiya, Yuzuru, Nagatsuka, Ishida, Ueno, Kawai, Mashiba Source: https://cinema.ne.jp/news/koenokatachi2016091016/

Minor signs of redemption could be seen in the side characters as well, though these tended to be quite messy. Perhaps it was because this was a movie adaptation of a manga that some parts felt quite rushed. For example, the ‘strange’ group’s trip to the amusement park was really weird. Sure, Ishida going with Nishimiya, Nagatsuka, Yuzuru and Sahara was understandable because they have started to know one another quite well. Nagatsuka proclaimed Ishida to be his best friend. Ishida became friends with Yuzuru and (perhaps) Sahara because of their connections with Nishimiya. On the other hand, Kawai, Mashiba and Ueno did not really fit. While Ishida did start talking to Kawai, it did not feel like they became close enough to be friends. I felt that Mashiba was a random ‘extra’, being somebody who only knew Ishida in middle school, and not really a friend, but was somehow lumped together because he was Kawai’s boyfriend.

(Spoilers ahead) Ueno was the second most complex character, with the first being Ishida. She wanted to help stand up for Ishida as an apology of her past betrayal but she still hates Nishimiya, to the extent that she even hit Nishimiya and her mother when Ishida was in a coma. As for Kawai, I was somehow I was always critical of her. She seemed really superficial and constantly acted as the victim, despite laughing along when Nishimiya was being bullied. Of course, her role in bullying was minor compared to Ishida and Ueno, but to deny any involvement was unacceptable. I was critical of her all the way until the end, when she gave Ishida the cranes. Personally, I found Sahara’s character very relatable. She wanted to help (volunteered to learn sign language with Nishimiya) but ultimately ran away by transferring schools when she was bullied as well. As Ishida later pointed out, Sahara was still a coward despite acting like she was now brave enough even to enjoy riding a rollercoaster.

Emotional Rollercoaster (Spoilers ahead)

The most emotional scene in the movie for me was Nishimiya’s mother apologising to Ishida’s mother. It was a direct parallel compared to the past when Ishida’s mother had to apologise to Nishimiya’s mother because of the destroyed hearing aids. It was the point of Ishida’s redemption – his past misdeeds cancelled out by stopping Nishimiya from committing suicide, and getting in a coma in place of her.

Nishimiya’s suicide attempt was really shocking. It was so sudden, at a point of time when she was enjoying herself so much. She probably did that because she felt that after experiencing a state of happiness, it was time to leave so that the people around her could stop worrying about her and enjoy the rest of the lives. (This kind of thinking should not to be encouraged of course.) I believe the moral of the story after seeing both protagonists’ failed suicide attempts is that we should not undervalue our lives, and that no matter how cut off we feel in society, there are always people who care about us.

(End of spoilers)

Despite the drama, Koe no Katachi did not forget about humour. The funniest parts were Yuzuru’s identity, Nyan Nyan Cafe and Nishimiya’s failed confession. The first two garnered the most laughter in the cinema theatre I was in.

All in all, Koe no Katachi reminds us to come to terms with our past and continue moving forward. It is certainly very thought-provoking. The complexity of the characters reflect the complexity in ourselves, like how we sometimes struggle between doing what is right and wrong, and suddenly decide to shut everyone out at times. The struggles and fragile ties in friendship are beautifully played out, making the movie very relatable.

Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/9aRexOtovXY 

Note: The names I have used are the family names of the characters because they are  more commonly referred to that way in the movie, with the exception of Yuzuru.

Random Observations
– Hey doctors and nurses, how can you let your patient just run off like that?
– School festival with Ishida staring at the floor – wow that’s a very shiny floor for you to see people’s reflections so clearly

Haunting

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They haunt me
Nearly every day.
Even after blocking,
They wouldn’t go away.

Yes they haunt me –
The constant tugging
Of my feelings,
That tinge of doubt.

Still they haunt me –
Reminders of the past
Opportunities for the future
I chose to cast aside.

Even now
They cling on like a shadow,
A moth drawn to a light.

Little did they know
That light has been
Extinguished
A long time ago.