terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Back To School

It's taken me almost a month, but I think I'm about ready to write about that last trip. There's nothing like a little collegiate pride from attending a UBC (go T-Birds!) event last night to help get me out of my funk.
Last evening, there was a whole roomful of frosh and exchange students from NUS (about thirty-ish in total, if you want to get into specifics). A far cry from my day when there would be, at most, seventeen Singaporean students per year (and seventeen being a bumper crop year -- it's usually only about seven every year). A roomful of young people whose lives are about to take a turn for the interesting. And it's all about experiences: of meeting people from all across the globe, of learning the joys and pitfalls of North American dorm life, of being in poetry classes taught by Quartermain, of snowboarding on Whistler-Blackcomb in the winter (can't ski -- bad knees) and mountain-biking down the same mountains in the summer, of white-water rafting trips available within two hours of the city, of five-second freefalls and wide open spaces and a slower pace of life. Things that have kept me going back to Vancouver on two occasions now (one of which I will write about in the next post).
All the major faculties were more or less represented last night: Kit was there for Applied Science (Engineering, for the uninitiated), Sam for Science, Karen for Commerce and me, for Recreation and Other Nocturnal Weekend Activities (otherwise known as Arts).
To even have a send-off? Unheard of twelve years ago. Twelve years ago, we were lucky if SIF organised a pre-departure seminar with stuffy registrar types sitting in defensible positions behind a power table on a panel.
Twelve years. There's an entire generation of Singaporeans who have gone through UBC after us.
Just as well the four alumni who turned up for last night's 'do were people I knew way back when and who had graduated at or about the same time -- my year being the median. There's nothing like being an alumnus from the mid- to late-90s to make us feel our age; we need that guy from the last big event who had graduated from UBC Medicine in 1957. But I suppose this was too low-key for the busy corporate people to show up and network.
I guess I wasn't as surprised as the rest of them when we were watching the university corporate video, having recently been back to UBC. But the changes since my time have been too many to count, and not all of them pleasing. For starters, the Main Library, long-time symbol of the university, isn't going to remain a library long. From what I gather, it's about to become a high- class residence/ housing project.
How wrong is that?
It's like turning the National Library over to a profit-making organisation so that the latter can further profit from it.
Oh. Wait...
One of the parents, well-dressed, well-spoken, from last night, while I was handing out the folders complimentary of the university, made the comment, when I asked him if he was a student, that he was "too old" to be one.
One of the nice things about North American (particularly Canadian ones) and Kiwi schools is that there genuinely is no age limit to education. I've had 50-, 60-year old classmates and they were definitely not at the stage where they're thinking they're too old for anything.
It's sad when we don't have the same mindset here. It's sadder that I know people in detested dead-end jobs and who say the same thing: I'm too old; I can't change now; I can't do anything else. If nothing else, I am in my third career since graduating from UBC, and I'm still not sure is this is the thing for me (actually, yeah, it is my thing). But, by golly, I'll be doing my best whatever it is that I do before I get bored and move on. I think that's a whole lot better than staying in one place and on one mind and suffering for it, and not doing anything about it but complain and long for better days/ ways.
There's got to be more to being educated than this.
It's, after all, still Tuum Est.
Bonus: Might have another photo gig lined up after last night. Who said networking wasn't possible for low-key events? Thank god I go for these things because really like my alma mater and not to network.
PS: Being at the event last night is also making me ponder a post-grad degree in one of those spiffy fine arts institutes in New York. Of course the missus is all for it. I'm keen, but also not too wild about living in New York in my old age; it seems more a city for the young and energetic.
PPS: After a break of close-to-two-months, we're restarting the weekly (if!) D&D game tonight. Should be fun if I'm not too rusty (and if we get critical mass). But it'll be good to bring up my Geek! quotient some; been doing too many cool things lately (one excuse for not blogging).
On other hand, things have gotten to the point in the other game where I'm ready to call it quits over player differences. I come to be entertained and to enjoy myself, not to be aggravated. And you know, you can put certain personality traits down for your character to have, but anyone with half a brain will know that you're only playing you. Not too much of a stretch there.
How playing someone who pays attention during the game, gets along with others, doesn't break things and doesn't cause the death of others? I'll even settle for 'absent'. That ought to be worth an award or two.


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