Sunday, April 28, 2013

A lil' breather

Finally done with second year exams, and I have a little room before summer school starts, but boy, sometimes, I feel that I'm more busy after the exams, with all the socializing and get together. Confession: I really like to delve into work to kinda "get away from people". Not that I don't like people (maybe I don't), but generally, socializing sucks my life force equally as much as when I am working. Usually after a strenuous term exam, I'd give myself 3 days to kemas things, get stuff in order, and extra 4 days to rest, and then I'd go out and about, but it usually doesn't work that way, people go out after the exams pronto and then they'll be going away elsewhere while I stay here in the comfort of my house. It's hard to get my ass out of Hamilton, sadly.

So, today's blurb will be about the stuff I think about (as usual) in Canada.

1. School. duh. That takes up like 90% of my time. I hardly ever have time to do some leisure time reading anymore, except for some articles that I got off the twitter accounts that I follow (mainly tech magazines, science journals and some random sites. Well, I thought, I'm in engineering, I should be up-to-date about today's advancements in technology). I don't tend to follow friends on twitter, I have Facebook for that. Twitter makes all those updates easily accessible, and I don't look much for interaction in Twitter anyway, with a limit of 140 characters, it's hard to express yourself at length.

2. I had the Arts versus Science crisis. First year, pro-Arts. Second year, pro-Science. I don't know, I kind of shift between polar stands very easily. I really love Engineering now, and at the same time, I can appreciate the need for people in Arts too, although I still envy their jaduals, but then again, I really like to delve into work to get away from people hmmm ....

3. When I took up Religious Studies and went to RIS, and met all sorts of muslims, and people, generally here, I kind of, had an on-going crisis of faith. Not in a sense that I want to convert to a new religion or anything, well, I guess, I've always had that crisis of faith since from a young age. Beginning from my love of science when I was small, and my constant questioning of God, and my wondering if we had discovered everything we needed to know with science, then everything would be explainable, and God would just be something people are holding on to. Because of that, I kind of was sent to "counseling" sessions with the ustazahs, and I've never really spoken of it for a very long time. Five whole years, I just did what I was told, although I've learnt that I enjoyed reciting the Quran the most. I went along with whatever they taught us in high school. Taylor's was the turning point, when I really started thinking about religion. That was when I felt what I was taught in high school, and what I perceived was the reality started to not tally. I felt everything coming undone, and I had to ask myself if I really was certain with what I believed in, or was everything that I was taught was right. Well, yes, the tenets and principles was never wrong, but what I questioned was the methods, and I had to learn to discern for myself which part of it was really part of the actual teachings of the religion, versus what was conceptualized from societal norms and scholar opinions that ended up being imbued with the teachings of the religion. I was afraid of bad religion, and having no religion at the same time. Not believing in a God scares me, because I was afraid of not having anything to hold on to, when Science fails, but at the same time, I was also afraid of believing in a false "God". When I came here, I had a completely different view of religion, from which I was accustomed to, growing up, and I find that the way people approached religion here seems more compatible with what I believe in compared to my experiences when I was home. To quote a friend, she said, "The thing about Islam that I learn in Canada is.. its not about how similar your dress is with me to make you a good muslim, instead its about "Hey sister, wanna come pray together?"."That says a lot about the Canadian experience. If I were to be Western-biased, it's pretty much because of the way Western muslims treat religion. They have their own identity crisis of being Western and being muslim, and you don't have that kind of identity crisis back home, because you always associate race/nationality/timur-ness with the religion, but the way they speak of religion is in terms of values and principals. It sets me free. I'm not saying that rituals aren't important, but the real reason for rituals is to realize a much bigger aim of practicing good values and principles in your daily life and in everything you do, which you can really see is what they emphasize here more than back home. I don't think people even dare say things to compare who is more religious than the other, or if one way is the only way. There is no imminent polarity in religion as I had seen back home. Sometimes, I wonder if my fellow Malaysian friends who have been abroad realize this too, or if I'm being too receptive, or if they still cling on to the Malaysian way, I don't know, but I have a feeling that it's going to be hard to articulate about what I feel about religion without being chastised or judged from people back home. (jyeah I'm hipsta muslim liddat yo). 

3. Values. People have often told me that there are differences between ke-timur-an values and Western values. I didn't really believe it, I thought it'd be the same, and I kind of seamlessly accustomed myself to Canada when I first came here. That was, before Philosophy class. I'm not sure if it's the social conditioning that I've had or if it really was the "challenge of being influenced by the West" that people back home are so afraid of. I find taking an ethics Philosophy class to be one of the most challenging things I've ever done in my life. Yeah it's just a one term three unit elective course and I've only written two baby Philosophy essays for that course, but I'm telling ya, it was one of the most mentally, intellectually, emotionally challenging courses I had to take. Some people would say it's easy and some people would go like "yo girl, why'd ya stress yourself out and not just take a bird course for an elective ? " I was kind of regretting that I took Philosophy, got out with only a B+, but at the same time, when I looked back, it actually taught me some things, although I was profusely complaining about how hard it is on Facebook. What was hard for me was that, any stand regarding an issue was free for all, you can take whatever stand you want and argue whatever you want, BUT with a catch of course. There's a way of arguing it, and to argue effectively is to abide by not making any logical fallacies. That was really hard for me to mentally accept it. Like, who makes these rules ? Who determines what's arguable ? Were they made by only considering values from one community, what if other people had other values, are you going to be disregarding all values that people hold just to argue for a case ? Are we supposed to strip everything that we are just so that it matches up to your playing field to argue for the case ? Not that I was scared of "being influenced", it just made me realize that hey, I didn't realize I grew up holding on to these values all this while. Sometimes I felt vengeful inside "eii Mat Salleh ni mentang-mentang dia rasa benda tu betul bagi dia. So, semua yang tak ikut values dia semua tak betul." For example, like there was a debate in class about incest or something like that. Sometimes you feel compelled to argue it based on what you were taught was right or wrong, but then the opponent says that your argument is invalid because it was made only based on sentiment, or that the argument has a logical fallacy, or does not fall within the premise of the discussion. It kind of forces you to think, how do I convince someone who has a completely different set of values than you to see your point, and the main thing you have to remember is when you try to convince someone, you can't simply force the person to accept your values for the person to be convinced. Even people who shared the same values as you may still not see it the exact same way that yo do, so you kind of have to frame your arguments so that you play on your opponent's turf and turn it against him. That is not that easily done. All those debates that I've participated in, and all those kedai kopi debates on Facebook is nothing in comparison in arguing properly in a Philosophy class. It sometimes make me think twice about arguing on Facebook, and it made me self-conscious about the way I argue, of the logical fallacies that I make. Sometimes, I just refrain from it. Not that I'm afraid to argue, heck, people who know me know that I'm a Facebook exhibitionist, and I'm really obsessed about driving my point home, but it's just that I know it takes up a lot of my brain power to think it through about arguing, and I kinda needed that brain space for school. Refer to point number 1. Explanatory. Again, I know my priorities lie with my major, rather than elective course, or personal pursuits. I would probably not risk taking another Philosophy elective (I completed my complementary electives requirements anyway, so I don't have to take anymore) to make my grades suffer, but Philosophy is still an interesting field to read about in my free time.

4. It only occurred to me this year, after two whole years, that I am a foreigner in a foreign country. I applied for a few jobs and got quite a number of interviews, but to work off campus, I needed an off campus work permit, and I only knew that I needed one first before I can get a job offer. So, the fact that I needed a work permit, finally hit me that hey, I'm a foreigner, I need a work permit when Canadians don't. I'm not Canadian, and I'm not in Malaysia either. I don't usually go around telling my Canadian friends that I'm an international student, and they don't ask and they assume I'm Canadian too, but when I asked them about the work permit, only then did I realize, hey, they're Canadians, they don't need a work permit, but I do, and that's when they'll realize, eh I'm a foreigner. Being a foreigner, it kind of changes things a little. There's always that stigma that this person is a foreigner, English is not their native language, they may not understand the context of certain slangs, or don't speak good English, they eat different shit for breakfast in the morning. You know. So, I don't really go around telling people I'm an international student. Well, obviously I'm not Caucasian, but a lot of Canadians are immigrants, so they kind of assume I'm like some second generation Canadian immigrant who came from a land far far away, but because I've resided in Canada for a long time, I've become "Canadian". You know what I mean ? Like, I'm not some weird awkward alien who came from far away. I kind of introduced myself as Kamilah, so it sounds like something that they could pronounce, but because the McMaster Registrar has my name as Nurul, so when they look at my Registrar name they're like, "Oh, but I thought your name is," but then it turned out the second generation Canadian immigrants also do the same thing, so. It's like, "hey I am/was foreign too!" So we start talking about our different countries and how it compares to Canada. A second reaction I'd get when I tell them that I'm not Canadian is they assumed that I came here to start "a better life", hence, "I'm leaving my country for good", hence "I will be Canadian soon". In my mind, I was like, "you people think this place is much better than any other country" (which could probably be relatively true, especially if you came to Canada to start a new life away from war-torn countries), but then I had to explain that I'm on a contract, and they'd go "oh you're so smart", so I kind of don't bother telling them the whole story, and I just smiled and say, "Well, I still got my family back home, and it's not really easy settling down when you gotta get a stable job and bring people over here." But when I actually explained to some people how the schoalrship thing works they go "You have such a nice government." and the most amusing question is, "So, after four years, does Malaysia want you back ?" Yeah, but listening to stories about how some people got to Canada, I kind of realized that it's not easy to settle down from scratch and bringing the whole family to a different country, and I kind of realize that there's a whole bunch of countries with whole different stories than Malaysia. I've only read about those countries in books or articles all this while, and here I am, I have the chance to talk to all these people from different countries, syukur, alhamdulillah. It's really amusing and amazing at the same time.

So, I think, so far, that's all for today's blurb, I'm going to resume my nap. Toodles. 

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