Cheers for Appetite
Learn to travel, travel to learn. Growing up, the increasing appetite for knowledge and progress as a learner is truly empowering.
'Years, gone. Since when has the timid girl grown up? I still recall the time when she could only communicate with her English-speaking playmates with broken language, and silently watched her friends swim in the lovely lake during a vacation. How is she empowered as a conservationist? Can it be, can it really be her, who pro-actively engages in all kinds of activities and indulges in broadening her horizons?'
-My invisible friend
Impulsive Parabola (2005, 2008)
We communicate.... via facial expressions. Yes, almost completely. But not quite. The walkie-talkie was shaking in my hands.
'Hello... hi... hello...' Embarrassed and apologetic, my voice sounded no louder than a whisper.
'Hi April, Danny speaking! Mikey, are you there?' Another childish voice echoed in the room. I could imagine his smiling little face – though we were only metres apart, it was really interesting to use a brand-new technology. But it was not so enjoyable when I could hardly communicate.
'Mikey speaking!' Another cheerful voice declared. The three of us, aged 9, 8 and 10, were spending a lovely afternoon together. Sweet smiles and devoted dreams, a perfect parabola is thus created.
Parabola: left bound. I embarked on the journey. A quest of life, it could have meant a cunning death, or a true inspiration; or even both. For me, it was the most empowering trip.
Climbing the mountain was tiring. Mikey ran away for the barbecue, while Danny and I insisted on finishing the walk. By the time we got down, I discovered a new geographical formation – the swamp. However, as a 9-year-old, I was not able to identify it but instead curiously stepped into the marshy land, too late realising that I could lose my life there.
Parabola: Maximum Point. My feet, my legs, my whole body... sinking... freedom... life... I was sure that I could not swim. I was drowning. Slowly, and painfully. But I was not completely hopeless, for the life jacket, I suddenly remembered, was on. Fully aware that catching the steady ground was truly my lifeline, and shaking madly, I gathered all my strength to get up from the sticky place. What longing to live seized, enclosed and owned me at the moment between life and death? It was truly a life lesson.
Curiosity was not entirely good, I thought (for it did kill the cat, after all). However, it was an impulse to learn.
Parabola: right bound. We wandered around the sleepy island. Danny read stories to me in English, and showed me the beauty of conservation through generously sharing the coin that he got for recycling; in return, I taught him some Chinese characters and sent my sincere acknowledgements. We learnt from each other. Yet, I still needed a trigger. And it sparked, as Danny's mother waived the latest Harry Potter book at me with a slight look of pity, saying that it was for her youngest son. The book was so brand-new and inviting that my heart cried out in desperation: I could not understand the English language for sure, but a yearning for improvement struck me with a loud 'BANG'.
The trees on the island, I recalled, were beautiful. The leaves were so vivid and stunning that I could not believe in their fall. So hard did I wish that the scene would pause and stay eternal! However, my parabola could not wait to kiss the x-axis. Instead, it extended to become a pattern - learning – a continuous process, a quest of life and destiny. The leaves fell and the years slipped away from us.
Sine Curve. In two years time, I had finished the entire Harry Potter series in English. During the three years that our paths failed to intercept, my English skills improved immensely; for instance, I was appointed as the English broadcasting station leader in both Primary and Secondary Schools.
Driven by an impulse that originated from watching my British and Canadian friends swim in the lake surrounded by fantastical trees and sweet fragrances, I learnt two strokes within eleven days.
It was another August that we reunited, in San Juan. Danny was much taller, and his hair had turned from blond to light brown. His smile though, was still naïve, and the time that we awkwardly communicated reminded me of my own growth. I was not shy anymore, but became the active leader of the conversations.
Danny's mother was shocked yet glad to find out about my progress. This time, she cheerfully waved a copy of 'Diaries of a Wimpy Kid' at me, saying that it was for her second youngest son, and that I could easily understand the language this time.
Future, bright and alluring. What is it? I do not know. But it will be led by the impulse to learn.
The sine curve continues.
Bubbling Passion (2007-2009)
Remarkable. In three years' time I had changed so much. Among these changes is an eccentric hobby of observing volcanoes.
A Volcano Tour was conducted – from the Cascade Range to the Big Island, I examined the rocks from different places. Bubbling with great passion, the crater spat out smoke that smelled extremely unpleasant. The audible sound of the gurgling lava signified the danger. My heart pounded, scared but brave. Madame Pele could destroy everyone, but she chose to wait.
How did the trips empower me? Well, through these tours, I have been introduced to an environmental protection group called the 'Natural Resources Defence Council' back in Yellowstone National Park, which has been informing me on conservation to this day. Conservation has since then become my greatest passion: at BCIS, I have relaunched an Enrichment Activity called 'Roots & Shoots', which focuses on animals, people and the environment. I hate the illusion of 2012 doomsday: surely, the difference between man-made and natural disasters have to be stated. The tour enabled me to see the true identity of unveiled nature.
Enrolled at BCIS and the Oxford summer programme, I seized the opportunity to ask friends of different cultures the word for “volcano” in their languages. Vulkan, volcan, vulkaan, vulcano, 화산, vulcão, ηφαίστειο, and volcán... A love of linguistics arose.
Impromptu Speaking (2011)
Where would you expect to live in a place where they earn money for arranging 'Ghost Tours'? Hmm, the filming location of 'Casper the Friendly Ghost'? Nope. The answer probably includes a wide range of places, including Oxford.
It was a rather calm night. As my Cypriot roommate and I waited for Curfew, I tried to entertain her. However, it was a grave mistake which filled my heart with guilt for days.
'Angeliki, do you know that they even earn a living by having Ghost Tours here in Oxford?' Drowsily, I asked her half-jokingly.
The moonlight slipped into our room. Gently yet cryptically, tranquility encompassed the city.
'No...' She sounded unsure. I could not make out her countenance, but her facial expressions, judging by what knowledge I have acquired in Psychology, seemed rather uncertain.
With a grin of triumph, I cheerfully talked about the brief history of the notoriously haunted city, just as our Counsellor announced that we were then ready for Curfew. A listless goodnight signified that another day was over. But it was something more than that.
The raining morning educated me with a life lesson, for Angeliki spent the night sleepless. I was able to come up with a persuasive speech which aimed to comfort both of our unrestful hearts. There was not another choice, because it was my fault to foolishly assume that no one could actually believe in the supernatural.
Bouncing Lightbulbs (1996-2013)
I never really understood why people would say 'it's all Greek to me' to describe anything abstruse, until that night.
All the complicated alphabets created more than ten super-long words. No offense – I love their names – but the point was that I would struggle to remember them. It was during the Evening Shout when I accidentally seated myself among a big group of Greek students. Very enthusiastically, they made self-introductions and listened to my own. After a while, however, the habit of speaking their native language invaded them once more. Question marks occupied my mind...
Apologetically, a boy named Christos (pronounced as 'Greece' - at least that’s how it sounded) smiled and sympathised with my confusion. I whole-heartedly thanked him for the understanding, but a seed of learning some basic Greek was planted and stuck in my brain. Currently, I am learning some basic Greek on the BBC, while reading a book associated with Greek culture, for it is enlightening to find out about this ancient civilisation. Sometimes, these lightbulb ideas just seize me in my excitement – I can feel them flow right through me.
Emailing friends of different backgrounds, challenging myself through a tough expedition trip of intensive hiking and camping, and reading extensively all provoke my growing appetite for learning.
So now readers, cheers, and bon appetite.