melanie liang

To share my little thoughts and experiences in this big world

Month: August, 2014

Insights from Morocco

It wasn’t very easy backpacking as a student on a tight budget. There were times when I just had to stay completely motionless in an 8 hour taxi ride just to conserve energy under the scorching weather. Most of the time we slept without ventilation, and there was once I resorted to bathing with a sink because the shower system was practically non-existent. But it was indeed an intriguing experience which I would have never imagined myself to have.

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The city of Marrakech was so vibrant, the natural landmarks along Tinehir and Merzouga were amazingly beautiful for a city girl like me, the sands of the Sahara desert was pleasantly soft, and the city of Fez was so rich in history and culture. Morocco also has the most homogenous cities I’ve been to by far, with absolutely lovely people who went out of their way to help us.

If people were to ask me what I liked about Morocco, I would say…

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I loved the way I ended up basking along the streets with some random Argentinians because there’s beauty in such spontaneity.

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I loved the way people are kind and helpful toward each other, not only to tourists.

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I loved to watch the intrigued faces of people as if they’ve never seen Singaporeans before, and how they say random Japanese words to us on the streets.

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I was fascinated watching a family share a large stew of Tagine together with their hands; how nimble they were with their fingers, eating with a subtlety artistic manner. You just have to see it to understand! And I love how they kept wanting to invite me to join them when they saw me staring at the way they ate.

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I was impressed by one of our tour guides at the Sahara desert. He’s 18, used to be a nomad. When I asked him how did he become so fluent in so many languages and so equipped with much knowledge, he said he attended the school of life; simply by interacting and learning with people all around the world. School was too far away from the desert for him.

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I was inspired by an Italian man called Lorenzo. We met him at the Sahara as well. We talked about many things under the blanket of stars at the desert. As a 40 year old, I must say he is a very passionate man. Passionate about stars, about children, about learning, about love. I think to be truly passionate about something requires courage. Courage to stick with your believes against social pressures. I also realized that the contrasting social norms between western and asian cultures that shape our behavior may also lead to varying concepts of Love, something that seems universal yet understood and practiced so differently.

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On the way from Fez to Tangier, I was warmly touched by the Arabian woman who carried her 4 year old daughter on her lap just to make a seat available in the train for me and my 10kg backpack. It must have been very uncomfortable for her but she put herself in an uncomfortable situation for a stranger like me, when others just preferred to stretch out their legs and occupy two seats. There were no exchange of words, just smiles, but a whole lot of gratitude.

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I’ve only conquered a third of my travels before studying in Scotland for the semester, but I must say the beauty of Morocco and its people in itself made me realize quite a few things. Yes there were many unpleasant moments. I hated the painfully long bus rides, the heat, and the lack of hygiene in the streets, but sometimes, learning and experiencing only starts to happen when you step out of your comfort zone.

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Having strong interests in astronomy and constellations, Lorenzo said something to me about the relativity of light and time in our perceptions on Earth as compared to the universe. I interpreted it as such – compared to the universe we are like nothing but grains of sand in time. Every minute that we hold so dearly in our hands is nothing compared to the time that has already passed by the time Light hits our earth. Why are we always striving to do something at every minute? God created so many beautiful things around us, how could we not see it?

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I see beauty in the way strangers along the streets interact as if they’ve known each other for a long time. I see beauty in the shadows created by the contouring of sand dunes. And now in Seville I see beauty in the music of buskers lifting my spirits as I walk past the architectural beauties along Santa Cruz. That’s why I like traveling. It opens up my mind to see beyond myself and experience so many wonders of life.

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Not-so-boring afternoon

I am currently enjoying the wonders of music; how it makes me so emotional, makes me smile to myself and makes it so difficult for me to avoid getting up on my feet to dance. And this feeling is addictive, it’s like a drug. I wonder what would happen if everyone listens to music together in the office…

What is it about music that stirs up so much emotions in me? Is it science, like how the right blend of sounds when detected by our brains triggers emotional reactions within us, or is it just an amazing gift from God which happened to become a universal language so robust across time and across generations of people. OR maybe I am just way too bored in the office today.

I don’t know how the effect of music on me could be so strong but all I know is that it absolutely amazes me. I think one of the greatest gifts that I’m thankful for in life is to be able to just sit down and appreciate good music, and the existence of music itself. It’s like, even the dullest moments can come to life, and the emotions stirred up inside you then amusingly colours your interpretation of daily routines that would otherwise seem meaningless. At least for me.

Either way, the elements of a song (the tune, the rhythm, the timbre), the psychological effects of it, and even the concept of seeing music as a universal language is definitely spicing up my boring afternoon today.

My fear of being too comfortable

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Humans are said to be rational beings. Are we really rational? If we are, why is it that we don’t seem to discern between what are feelings and what are thoughts; between being alone as compared to being lonely; or being too comfortable as compared to being contented? Sometimes we can’t even discern between instances that are pure coincidences as compared to things that are “meant to be” (fate, religion, whatever you believe in).

Maybe we’re both. The act of thinking seems like what rational beings would do, yet our feelings are irrational. Should we listen to our rationalisations, or our feelings? If there’s a straightforward and full-proof answer to that, maybe the word “regret” might cease to exist.

On a side note, I might have a fear of being too comfortable with the way things are. Not that I’ll put myself in uncomfortable situations for no good reason, but I just think that sometimes, being too comfortable with the current situation would make me stop questioning what I’m doing. Being too comfortable might set me in a meaningless routine which goes on merely for its own sake. I am still contented with my life though (I sure hope so). I think that contentment and comfort are separate entities. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know (who is to determine what’s right or wrong anyway…), but to me, although I can feel contented with where I am and what I have, I still see the need to question my purpose of doing the things I do in order to stay where I am and protect what I have. I actually don’t think I make any sense at all. Perhaps it has to be put into context as to why I’ve been questioning myself these days. And perhaps I think too much about everything.

There are pros and cons to this way of thinking, obviously. While I continue to learn more about myself and try to understand why people do what they do, I might be missing out on the chance to just feel and not think, or the choice to just let go and let nature take its course…