An Ocean Apart, A World Away by Lensey Namioka

An Ocean Apart, A World Away by Lensey Namioka
Publisher: Laurel Leaf | 2003 (first published 2002) | 197 pages
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The synopsis that’s printed at the back cover of the book urged me to buy and read it. It’s about a gutsy 16-year-old Chinese girl from post-Revolution China and she needs to make an important choice. A) Go to medical school to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor. B) Run off with the exciting Liang Baoshu who has confessed his feelings for her.

Yanyan is not a girl who bows down to conformity. She is fascinated by science, the treating of wounds and health improvement. That’s why she wants to study medicine so she can become a doctor and save other people’s lives. Lucky for her, her father fully supports her decision considering it’s 1921 in China where women rarely attend university.

Yanyan’s Eldest Brother is taking martial arts lessons and Liang Baoshu is his classmate. Baoshu and Yanyan got better acquainted while on a trip to Shanghai where she was going to say goodbye to a friend who’s going to work in America. After an unpleasant incident at a dangerous Shanghai alley, Liang Baoshu became even more impressed with Yanyan’s courage.

When he asked her to accompany him on his quest to restore the Manchu’s Qing Dynasty, Yanyan has to decide fast. If she were to follow him, she’d need to ditch her plans of studying medicine. It would also break her parents’ hearts if she went off with Baoshu. Her father has high hopes of seeing his daughter succeed in the sciences and to bring about changes for the development of the country.

She finally made up her mind to refuse Baoshu’s offer and prepared to sail off to America to Cornell University. For her, it’s career first, love put on hold. In America, she managed to make a few new friends who helped her overcome her culture shock.

I found An Ocean Apart, a World Away an entertaining and informational book. It’s a small paperback and cost only RM12 at Popular. I found it at the Bargains’ section. It was indeed a lucky find!

Issues of prejudice and stereotype were also cleverly incorporated into the story. For example, Chinese girls were expected to be good at cooking and embroidery. Well, Yanyan can’t cook a simple dish to save her life. She doesn’t even know how to cut vegetables!

Another assumption is that Western men with big noses can’t speak a word of Mandarin. Yanyan, her Eldest Brother and Baoshu discovered the contrary in an embarrassing situation on the train to Shanghai. Eldest Brother and Baoshu were insulting the Westerner in Mandarin without knowing that he can understand every word they said! Lesson to be learnt: Never speak ill of others in their presence, even if you think that they can’t understand!

I found the ending quite unfinished actually. I’ll have to read Ties That Bind, Ties That Break, which is the companion novel to this one.

I Want An iPod!

I’ve been listening to music ever since….I can’t remember when! When I was younger, my parents would listen to Radio 4 (or now known as Traxx FM) with the voices of Patrick Teoh and Yasmin Yusoff blaring out from the radio.

They then switched to Light and Easy (now LiteFM). I was already in my teenage years then and would protest every now and then to change the radio channel to Hitz.FM. Light and Easy played all the old songs from ancient times, that’s what I thought. On the other hand, Hitz.FM was the cooler channel with the latest hit songs. Well, I didn’t know how to appreciate music from the 60s, 70s and 80s then.

So whenever the opportunity arose, I would secretly switch the radio channel to Hitz.FM. I’d then wait until my parents realize that they’re listening to a totally different channel and make me switch back. Haha!

Right now, I have my favourite songs on my computer and I can listen to them whenever I want, as long as I’m at home! It’s kind of difficult as I can’t carry my computer around with me wherever I go. Getting an iPod would be really convenient, don’t you think? Therefore, wherever I go, I can bring my music along with me!

Earth Hour 2009

If you listen to the radio or watch tv, you might have come across these two words: Earth Hour. No? Then perhaps in the newspapers or magazines (not sure which ones) but the word is being spread.

So what do you do to make Earth Hour 2009 a success? Simple. Just switch off the lights and all other electrical appliances this coming Saturday, 28 March 2009 at 8.30pm, if you’re staying in Malaysia. But I’m not sure if we’re all supposed to sit in the dark or something. If you have a case of achluophobia or fear of darkness, do get some candles ready. All lights should be switched off for an hour.

And don’t forget to visit Malaysia’s Earth Hour website and sign up. Their target is 5 million sign ups for Malaysia. But Earth Hour hopes to get more than one billion sign ups all around the world?

You can also cast your vote on the buildings and structures that you think should turn their lights off. Hmm…should the lights on the Penang Bridge be switched off? But what about the cars traveling on the road? I’m pretty there’ll be some cars out there at 8.30pm on a Saturday night. It wouldn’t be a great idea to drive in utter darkness.

Alright, I’d better get back to my studies. Have a great hour of being environmental-friendly on Saturday!

Me, a Florist?

I didn’t know why I wanted to become a florist when I was 10 years old.

In class, my teacher asked every one of us what our ambitions were. When it was my turn, I answered that I wished to be a florist when I grew up. The teacher asked what kind of plants I’ll plant and I said, “Roses”. She then blurted, “Romantiknya…” (How romantic) and the class began laughing.

I blushed and thought that I should have named some other flower like orchids or tulips, anything but roses!

Perhaps I was partly influenced by all those Enid Blyton books I read that time. I learnt of bluebells, snowdrops, hedgehogs, robins, etc. Erm, were there bird baths? As for the roses, we had a rose plant at home. Pink roses would bloom every now and then.

I didn’t bother to find out what bluebells or snowdrops were, so I’ve been left wondering for years and kept guessing on how they looked like. I thought snowdrops were literally snow drops, something to do with snow!

Well, maybe that’s what inspired my dreams of becoming a florist. I would plant all sorts of flowers, roses included, and then sell them in my flower shop! For a 10-year-old kid, it seemed like a grand idea.