28 days left.
I just got off the phone with my mom. My father has been losing more and more weight. Last time I was back, he had already lost a lot of weight. His clothes were clearly too big for him, and his big broad shoulders that used to be round was instead caved in. It pains me to imagine what he look like now.
Well here’s another instalment of my time in Perth. I got a digital camera around that time, so do enjoy the pictures. No more irrelevant image placeholders. 🙂
The year was 2000. At 12 midnight, the Y2K Millennium Bug struck, causing thousands of airplanes to fall of the air… wait that didn’t happen. 🙂
Something worst happened though. George W Bush won the highly controversial US Presidential Election against Al Gore, thus beginning his reign of terror. More conspiracy theories about Lady Diana’s death surfaced on Women’s Weekly magazine. And my all time favourite reality TV series – Survivor premieres.
I was 18 years old, which means I was finally legal. 🙂 It didn’t matter though because for the past 2 years, I had been successfully following my father into casinos without the bouncer checking my ID. They would always check my sister’s ID and sometimes my brother’s too, but never me. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Its my second year at University, and I was beginning to feel the pressure of keeping up my good academic grades thus far. The kiasu spirit in me was failing and I could feel it. When I was in high school it was easier to compete with other students, but its a whole new ball game at University. At Uni, the students here chose their course because they’re good at it and they like it, not because they are required to do it. They’re mostly DUXes, Best Physics and Best Maths students in their respective schools themselves. I was competing with the best of the best in Western Australia, and it was difficult.
It came to a point where I said to myself "Ahhh… screw it. I have had my peak. I was the DUX in my high school; I graduated in the top 0.6% of the state; I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve and its time for me to enjoy life." And that was that. I began to take it easy, stop being so kiasu, get involved with the International Students Committee (ISC) more. And goddammit I need to change my nerdy image.
Thus beginning my transformation, for better and for worse.
THE BAD: As soon as I put less emphasis on my studies, my grades slipped from an 80 average to a 70 average. 🙁
THE GOOD: I finally have a life. 🙂
Instead of burying my head in the books as I did for the past 3 years in Perth, I began going to the gym, organising major social and cultural events on campus, and just meet lots and lots and lots of people. My social circle virtually exploded this year.
It was definitely a refreshing change for me. I had course mates who finished University after spending 4 years of attending lectures, go home and then study a bit more. They graduated Uni without meeting anyone other than their course mates and their lecturers, and they went through their young adult life without even having a girlfriend. Sure they get a scholarship offer and a first class honours in the end, but they’re missing out some of the best moments in life and social opportunities that they simply could not get outside of Uni.
As soon as I began to have more acquaintances, I began to go out more. And as soon as I began to go out more, I began to want to look good. The clothes that I got for free from some Coca-Cola promotion simply doesn’t cut it anymore. So I committed a sin. I began buying my own clothes. Nothing expensive though, just the average middle-priced range of clothing from Levi’s, ROMP and Just Jeans. That’s enough to put a strain in my AUD30 a week allowance from my parents. I did not have a AUD500 a week allowance or a gold Visa card that my friends had from their parents. And despite how I ask/beg/plead my parents, they simply wouldn’t budge. Money no enough. I need more money.
So what’s an 18 year old boy gonna do when he has no money? Work at McDonald’s? Wash toilets? Prostitute myself to rich housewives or *gasp* gay lords? No no no no no. I had to return to my nerdy roots. I rememberer how I tutored Wendy before and I enjoyed it. I decided to do it again, and this time round I will ask for $$$.
I put up an ad offering tutoring services in Physics and Mathematics for high school students. It didn’t take long for a father of a Year 12 student to respond to my ad. My first client. Damn I was nervous. I was shaking when he called and spoke to me. This father was no easy person to deal with. He wanted the best tutor for his child, and he would accept no one without first asking for their resume. A resume?! I don’t even have a resume! I was 18 for God’s sakes! I hastily prepared one, listed all those big big awards I won and faxed it over to him.
Luckily he liked what he saw, and he asked me to meet him at his place so he can introduce me to his daughter, Esther Lee. Did I hear daughter? I was secretly smiling inside. The initial meeting went well. It was supposed to be a meeting to evaluate her progress in Physics so far, but to me it felt more like going for a matchmaking service. I was so nervous I trembled everytime I talked. It didn’t help the fact that Esther is Korean and looked naturally beautiful. We agreed to meet for 2 hours every week at Garden City library, and I charged her AUD20 per hour for the Physics tutoring. It was still the best job ever – I get paid to hang out with a pretty girl to talk about topics that’s second nature to me.
Then I committed another sin. I took my first pay, went to Garden City shopping center and bought a Tommy Hilfiger perfume. Then it became a terrible addiction. My next one was Burberry Weekend, then cK Eternity, then Davidoff Coolwater, then DKNY Man and next thing you know I have this huge collection of perfume in my bathroom and no money left in my wallet. I don’t even know how the heck I was going to finish using all these perfume. I think if I were to go into the coffin and it I still all these perfume left, I want to be sprayed with all of them first before they put the lid over me.
Anyway, near the end of the 2000, two life-changing events occurred. The first was that I ran and won the Student Guild (student union) elections for the position of International Student Committee Convenor (president), thus beginning my first serious step into student politics, and also marking the first leadership role I took. Just for the record, it wasn’t as bad or as boring as it sound. 🙂 But I’ll spare you from the pain and write about it in the next instalment. Heh.
The second occurred in an mirc internet chatroom #ironic which Wendy had introduced to me a while back. (Yes, in the olden days, there were no blogs and the only way for people to socialise online was through mirc.) I had been popping into this channel sporadically back then. Most of the time I was inundated with ‘asl’ when I went online and finished with a ‘gtg’ after 3 lines of conversation.
One day, I was helping a friend of mine do a survey, so I was privately messaging each chatter and asking him/her some questions. Unfortunately for me, I was mistaken as a pervert and subsequently banned from the channel by an operator nicknamed sapphire`LiL`aNgeL. I wasn’t happy. So I asked for mercy. She unbanned me, and strangely enough we began talking. I introduced myself as Kenny…
…And she introduced herself as Nicole. 🙂