This is a fitting sequel to my last post over six weeks ago, which I ended by admitting that I was loath to examine too closely what I felt was a rare contentment, for me. Three days since my arrival in Singapore and a week before my departure for Beijing, there is little else to do but introspect. More than a few things have happened since Week 3 of Trinity term, and the summer stretches inexorably long into the distance, it seems.
I don’t think Prelims managed to go that well for me, a large part of which is due to my own fault, of course. The economics paper was exceptionally bad, which was shocking; it appeared that I had quite successfully misled myself into thinking that I had done lots of preparation. Well, either that, or what I deem ‘sufficient’ by Karen standards is clearly inadequate for Oxford. There was some element of time mis-management, particularly with full 3-hour papers. But the small consolation remains that prelims is a better time to uncover flaws in my studying strategies (and scheduling, i.e. consistency/frequency) than finals.
I sunk into a brief but miserable bout of mild self-doubt and moroseness after the exams, but that’s understandable. There was the perhaps irrational sense that my terrible performance in prelims had invalidated my first year of university, in a manner of speaking, since they are intended to measure the year’s performance, but a few days’ rumination convinced me that it would be quite unfair, not only to me but to the various people I’ve met over the year, to dismiss the past nine months as a complete wash.
The earlier point was quickly overshadowed by another unfortunate event. Following a thorough (if intemperate) trashing (including various substances in my eyes) and some foolish and reckless negligence regarding proper contact lens usage, I developed a tiny corneal ulcer in the corner of my left eye. It was fortunately very mild, and the college nurse advised me to check it out at the hospital right away. But it meant a whole morning at the hospital and the afternoon chasing down my prescription, leading to another incident at the Boots pharmacy counter, where the pharmacist refused to fill my prescription without contacting my doctor because apparently it exceeded recommended levels. It was an unnecessarily troubling and ultimately quite stupid affair, and did not improve my mood. I then had to put eye drops in every hour through the night, which led to much grouchiness on my part the next day.
It’s basically healed now, though with a tiny faint scar, which the Singapore Eye Hospital ‘senior consultant’ sniffed at when I asked if I should have some steroids, as the Oxford doctor had prescribed. In any case, the entire affair highlighted the contrast between (as far as I have experienced) the Singaporean and the British systems. Being on NHS means the eye consultation in Oxford was free, and my prescription cost me the standard £7.85 (SGD 15) NHS charge, while making an outpatient appointment at the Singapore Eye Hospital, which is government-funded, I believe, would have cost me at least SGD 75.50, and my parents chose the ‘senior consultant’ option, which put the first consultation at SGD 95 (£49), with £5 for the eye exam, and £20 for the eye drops (including artificial tears, which I apparently needed – but that could just have been the ridiculous bouts of crying that always happens around this time of the year). The British doctor was quite spare with words, told me what was wrong and then gave me a prescription, while the Singaporean doctor labored her point over and over again. The latter also told me that I shouldn’t ever wear contacts again, just because the re-infection rate was high(er) and she’s seen a lot of repeat patients. Also, the location of my ulcer was extremely fortunate, since it wasn’t over my retina at all and thus, did not affect my vision at all; any scarring over the retina would blur my vision to varying degrees. The standard recommendation for the Singapore Eye Hospital is that patients who have had corneal ulcers before should not wear contacts again, whereas most online medical resources (usually from Western sources) merely suggest that one should stop contact lens usage during treatment and for about a month after.
The entire affair could have been avoided, of course, and I do feel silly about having fallen asleep (for a couple of hours) in my contacts, but it’s obviously a huge relief that nothing too terrible has happened.
These two things combined meant I ended Oxford on a fairly low note. I was generally in no mood to engage in lengthy, emotional farewells, and quite unfairly, perhaps, I felt a little distanced, even alienated, from most people.
I did spend the last weekend in England in Winchester with T, which was very lovely and restorative. The lush greenery, the double bed (!) and the skittish fowl (among other things) only made the return to Singapore harder, but in a mere 87 days, the wait of a summer will have fizzled out.
Arriving in Singapore this time (three years since I first left!), I had the strange sensation of having been gone an extraordinarily longer time, though the actual length of the school year hasn’t changed, really. My mom attributed it to my being older (thanks, mom). Partly too it could be the long vacations I spent in different houses in France. Partly the new anchor in my life. Partly the dispersion of friends. It’s something that will hopefully pass – as my initial depression at being in Singapore is lifting somewhat – but even as I fidget at six weeks in Singapore, it strikes me that that’ll still only mean I’ve spent a total of seven weeks in Singapore. No wonder I feel isolated here; the Singapore I remember lives only in my memory. Uncharitably, the rash of apartment blocks colonizing the landscape would seem claustrophobic. But departure itself is a privilege, even an unearned one.