Norwegian Wood

It’s been a while since I last wrote book review because I haven’t been able to read materials other than textbooks for a while (sigh). So the next day after I finished my final 2nd-year exam, I picked a book I put down about months ago, Norwegian Wood, by Murakami. This book is his writing that rocketed him to fame and said to be must-read book by Japanese. Odd enough, this wasn’t my first Murakami book, but Sputnik Sweetheart is. And after two books of Murakami, safe to say Sputnik Sweetheart is still my favourite.

FullSizeRender

First of all, why Norwegian Wood? Norwegian Wood is a song that was always played by one of the characters in this book, named Reiko. Reiko is not even the main role in this book, only appear in the last part of this book.

“Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life. Until that time, I had understood death as something entirely separate from and independent of life. The hand of death is bound to take us, I had felt, but until the day it reaches out for us, it leaves us alone. This had seemed to me the simple, logical truth. Life is here, death is over there. I am here, not over there”

This is my favourite quote from the book, that had me thinking how we view death is a different world, in Islam we call it “Barzakh”. That makes us feel separated from death like death is a distant, not something that follows us every day. Every second passed, we are not getting near to a new day or a new month, or a new year, but a new death. Could be ours, could be others. I grasped the idea that Murakami was trying to convey that death is a part of life. This book has a total five deaths overall as if one is not depressing enough? But as you go down the pages, even you feel death is nothing just a new chapter in this book, or in your life if you can relate.

Another theme Murakami was venturing was sex. It’s not common to find a book that portrays sex could be a tiring thing, sex is always overrated to be steamed and heated process that sparks intimacy. But Murakami did both in this book, he explains quite accurately how sex without meaning, the kind you had with a one-night-stand girl, it eventually wears out its own excitement. No matter how amazing your sex partner, if no purpose lies with you and the person on the bed, you achieve nothing but climax. And how sex without penetration but when it comes to a right girl, it sticks to Toru’s (the main role) mind. I always thought the same thing, how sex is so exaggerated.

Death and sex are two main themes in this book and I find it amazing how Murakami relates the unrelated.

Advertisements

Living in the UK

It took me four semesters, two years to actually write this down. Because I don’t think my life in the UK is any interesting. And of course, most common reaction when I said this, people would believe that I’m not grateful that I am able to pursue study abroad. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for £880/month allowance and paid tuition fees, and it just that. Nothing in the UK actually captivated my heart to call it home. Anyways, in this post, I’d talk about the cost of living, because that’s what people are most interested in; money.

£880/month is actually more than enough for us in Manchester (MARA, please don’t read this). My rent is around market price, £260 for a decent room (including TV license, the internet, and water) and £50 for electric and gas, total up to £310/month. Now that I have £570 left, what do I do with the rest of the money? Well, up to me.

I walk to class, I hate crowds, so I don’t go to the city centre that often (probably less than 10 times a semester), and even if I feel like it, bus tickets cost me £2 (now £3) for a return journey.

I like neither eat out nor take away, so I cook. Because that’s how I was brought up. Mum cooks, we eat. So in the UK, I cook, and I eat. And that way I keep my shape in control because cooking disturbs my appetite. I’d like to think my cooking is not that bad, it is just I always think eating my own cooking, and believe that it tastes splendid is sort of narcissistic. So I usually cook for two or three days meal at once and eat the same meal until it doesn’t feel right anymore. And I spent about £40/month for groceries.

Tax in the UK has a very systematic and clear exemption. Necessities like food and transportation are exempted from VAT (Value-Added Tax). VAT is imposed mainly on luxury goods such as gadgets and branded apparels and the percentage is high, about 25%. So it’s not the best thing if your phone decides to end its lifespan while you’re in the UK. Because phones there are more expensive.

I can’t really tell about entertainment because I hardly leave my room (note that I said room, not house). I watched movies in cinema three times in two years I live in the UK. I don’t hang out at bars or clubs, I don’t travel to other parts of the UK, not even London because I think it’s overrated.

See, now that I put in words, my life there is not interesting but I can assure you remaining allowances really made me a rich kid while in Malaysia. Because I barely touch them. But I have to stress here, living cost in the UK differs according to regions. MABECS (UK university agent) once told me, the nearer you’re to London, the more expensive your living cost. So if you’re coming, choose wisely. Do you want luxurious and fun life in London but sucking your blood, or calm and cheap as mine?

Being Loud

When I was a little girl, I’m afraid of the public. I ran away from kindergarten hafazan competition because in the last minute I got to know that I needed to read aloud surah Al-Fatihah on stage, with a microphone. During assembly, I was always the last person in the queue. 1. Because I was the tallest, 2. Because I don’t want to interact with people. Because of my silence attitude, I was bullied by two girls who at that time were prettier and more attractive than me. Next to my kindergarten, there was a playground. Usually, after school hours, kids would get their clothes dirty by playing there. I always got back home with clean clothes because I didn’t play along, but I did not go back home straight away either. I was ‘recruited’ by those two hot girls to look after their bags while they were playing with others. If they caught me ‘careless’, which means I looked away, not focus on their bags, one of the girls would pinch me, not that cute kind of pinch but the painful one. I didn’t tell my mum until one day she left a definite mark on my skin because I don’t really remember what ‘sin’ did I do that day that I got extra punishment.

In the evening, other kids including my siblings would go outside to play. But I was not interested in socialising. I stayed at home and watch Taiwan or Hong Kong series. I learned reading since I was 5 years old, so I watched these series with the help of subtitles. My passive behaviours became worse.

Looking at my weak and fragile personality that to a level I couldn’t even stand for myself, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs Halimah (yes I still remember her name & even her face because she was the catalyst who shaped who I am today). She called me and spoke to me in private. She urged to speak up when I think things are wrong, be brave to talk in public, defend myself because teachers and my parents are not there 24/7 to take care of me. When people want to pinch me, fight for myself, but don’t hurt people because I’d be the same like those who want to physically and mentally harm me.

Since 6 years old, the moment Mrs Halimah built my confidence, I was determined to change myself. I changed drastically then I don’t remember that two bullies disturbed me after that. If it wasn’t because of Mrs Halimah, I am still Malissa who you can barely hear her voice even in the class of 10.

My social skills are still terrible, but at least I have about five close friends now. I am planning to expand my social circle but people are tough subjects.