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Now Bonded.

July 31, 2009

I’ve begun to sketch again. Traipsed with friends to get some art material because I felt like it’s about time I should get in touch with my latent artist, a persona of myself whom I’ve carelessly chucked aside since I graduated from secondary school and Life hit me with torrent after torrent of other indulgences.

I started doodling today with my calligraphy pen. My figures look a bit disproportionate, the lines streamlined and unwavering – but worst of all, they look static, blank, merely ink on paper. Slightly sore about it but I haven’t illustrated since 2005 – so I guess it’s pretty good for a start. Will start posting some stuff up especially since a friend showed me how to use Macrozoom on my trusty digicam!  Below shows a Macrozoom doodle in ArtFriend while I was trying out some of their charcoal.


My friend in California sent me a link the other day. The Yu-Mei Balasingamchow article about scholarship bonds allowed much food for thought, especially so for my friends and I who are on similar tracks. I applaud her for doing as what good writers should do – stirring up relevant thought processes and spilling your gut – appropriately. I definitely recognize myself in some of her words. That “19 year old self” inking her name on the document – that’s me; “I knew how much an overseas education could cost…I didn’t want them to have to make the pinch” – that’s me too.  But as I read on till page 12 of the .doc (I had another friend copy and paste it into a word doc for me because my firewall’s being an absolute bitch), I couldn’t recognise that persona, and maybe I don’t want to recognise that.

Perhaps because I’m years away from working in the government bureaucracy, perhaps because apart from serving a wondrously blessed and activity-filled 2 month internship that just ended 2 weeks ago, I cannot comprehend the ‘entrapment’ of the “Bonded Period” and the requirements that come along with it, perhaps because even though I’ve changed from a year abroad, I haven’t received an Awakening of the Soul (no, being in New York does not want to make me shave my head and busk naked in Times Square). Unlike Ms Balasingamchow, I don’t know the exact end date of my bond – surprisingly, even after reading the article, I have not had the compulsion to find out.

Incidentally, I met up with a non-scholar friend who studied in London just yesterday and her fortrightness is one thing I love about her even after all these years. Over a steaming bowl of delicious ‘eggy’ Hokkien mee, she blurted out one of her first questions: ‘So, do you feel like a cog in the machine?’ Nearly gagging, I chortled and said, “No! Thankfully not!” And we moved on to other trivial topics that concern our 20 year old selves – boys, schoolwork and those impending career paths.

A cog in the machine. “Hurtling – a precious, precious feeling”. Those terms make a government scholarship bond sound horrible. I feel apologetic and slightly embarassed. Surely, this wasn’t what I signed the next 10 years of my life up for? Reading this article worries me a bit. Most of all because I think Ms Balangsingamchow and I have quite a bit in common. I would say we are both idealists – she a Literature fiend (turned History buff), me – a through-and-through History geek. We both know that in Singapore, there’s a serious lack of financial support for such artsy fartsy pursuits in the academic realm and this was a serious consideration, seeing that we were both from the middle class (It was such an issue for me that I’ve even spoken to an MP about it – but that’s a story for another time). I was seriously toying around with the prospect of teaching, having been in the first batch of Teaching Internship Programme-rs last year, even filling in an application for the MOE scholarship. I wouldn’t dare say I’m a maverick – that’s stretching it; I like being passionate about what I do but still, I do recognise boundaries. For her to take on a scholarship for funding Literature is also a measure of (financial) practicality in some sense.

I am not a person who thrives in absolute rigidity and fixed directives. I like having room to breathe and to be creative. I do have gripes about the very high GPA requirements I need to meet, and the acceleration I have to undertake to complete my 4-year degree in 3 years, but I also understand that the bond, to me, is more than a convenient means to an end. Ms Balasingamchow has had the integrity and the experience of serving out the full term of her bond to write this thought-provoking piece. I have had a chockful of ministry attachments (MinOE, MinTI, MinICA) and one at my scholarship agency. Unfortunately, good writers always take a stand (unspoken rule) and her stand, clearly elucidated, is valid; but also does the job of coloring perspectives. All my internships are vastly different and I must say your bond must be a Fit. To you, to your personality. I probably wouldn’t have liked working in law even though a law degree is a professional one and it trains you pretty rigorously (yes, I did a rather dastardly law internship). I think Ms Balasingamchow did a good job writing this piece, and us as readers must be equally good ones. That means thinking critically about it does not say and taking it in with a rather large dollop of salt (to match the rather lengthy diatribe).

I am not pessimistic about my Bond Period, nor do I feel ‘trapped’. Thankfully, my 8-week internship internship went along splendidly, with wonderful people who took care of me and gave me sufficient exposure and projects (I actually felt upset leaving!) and it makes me really excited about coming back to work. Hopefully, my working life remains as blessed. 🙂 Of course, I know of another non-scholar graduate (one of those Oxbridge types) who had a long conversation with me regarding how he applied twice for my organisation and it didn’t work out – he coined an apt term about how my agency was the ‘most idealistic of the government-linked’ – I guess that’s why it sits pretty with my idealistic personality. And in the past 20+ years of scholarship offerings, we have had a very low attrition rate of bond breakers (almost ZERO) so it’s all well and good here in my little rose-tinted portion of ScholarshipLand.

I pray it remains that way.

It’s a precious, precious feeling.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2009 11:40 am

    Happy for you… yes, soon. Eat. Sashimi. 🙂

  2. August 5, 2009 1:44 pm

    The perculiar definition of scholarships in the island. The perculiar defintion of any thing in this world.

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