Every four years, I find myself glued to the television watching sports that I know nothing about but somehow find myself an expert in. Some of these sports seem like activities I did in the schoolyard or friends’ backyards: trampoline, badminton, table tennis, handball. How many people knew which sports are included in the Modern Pentathlon? (Which leads to the question a friend of mine asked: what was the Ancient Pentathlon?)
Here’s a sample of my armchair commentary:
Platform diving – “Oh, that landing was terrible!”
Swimming – “She didn’t have a strong enough push off the starting blocks!”
Hockey – “What kind of refereeing do you call that?”
Long jump – “Watch that takeoff board!”
The reality is that I am as unfamiliar with the rules of pretty much all of the 28 sports that featured at the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the millions of people who watched around the world. Still, this two-week event dominates the news around the world and captures the imagination of even the least sporting of audiences. Why?
On August 3rd, 2015 (exactly twelve months ago as I write now), I set off on a much-anticipated holiday to London. It was a trip that I had put into motion twelve months before that, when a few friends and I agreed to meet there to see British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch return to the stage to star in Hamlet. It was unusual for any stage production to start selling tickets a year in advance but Cumberbatch’s popularity was on the rise (and continues to do so) and the anticipation for his return to the stage was beyond belief.
I love travelling and seeing the world. It is one of life’s privileges that I do not take for granted. These days, travelling seem to require a little more care and thought. I remember my first solo trip some twenty years before, when my biggest concern was being mugged or losing my traveller’s cheques. Getting lost was not such a big deal as you know you can always rely on some friendly locals to help you out. The world has changed a lot since, some for the better and some for the worse.
It seems like a lifetime ago now that I was obsessed with a little show on the USA Network called White Collar, starring the ever hard-working Tim DeKay and a little-known Texan named Matt Bomer. Well, it has now been about eighteen months since we bade au revoir (which, incidentally, is the title of the series finale) to the show that inspired me to write fiction for the first time since high school, and also helped me make friends around the world through the power of Twitter. In the years since the show premiered, I have met many of these friends in person, and most of the writers from the show as well.
Over the course of the show’s six seasons, I, along with thousands of dedicated and loyal fans, followed the cast and writers on Twitter and looked forward to behind-the-scenes photos of the hardworking team goof around in between takes. Oh, how I have missed those!
My visit to New York in April 2013 was planned around the season 5 production schedule to allow me to visit the cast on location, however, a production shift meant I missed out on meeting the cast in person but the writers were kind enough to meet me for a drink in Los Angeles. Despite that disappointment, I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to participate in a press call with Matt and Tim (for the second time!) on behalf of LenaLamoray.com ahead of the Season 5 premiere. You can read the full report here but below is an excerpt from my Q&A with Agent Peter Burke and Neal Caffrey about Season 5.
Many of us take our schools for granted. It was a place we had to go to as children, similar to our parents having to get up to get to their work places. It was just something we did – no questions asked. We never had to actively think about it. School is a different experience for each person, and as they say, it is what you make of it.
I went to school in two countries: Hong Kong for my early education and then Australia after fifth grade. The two education systems were like chalk and cheese back then. I can’t say for sure that I enjoyed school very much in Hong Kong. I was not a very good student, owed largely to my laziness in a system where studying hard was considered better than studying smart. I got “in trouble” more often than was considered acceptable which was not hard because we were not allowed to talk in class and if you were caught speaking Cantonese during English class, that was automatically a reportable offense.
Looking back now, I can laugh about those incidents. I was caught chatting with my classmate more than once but that hasn’t turned me into a serial killer. I received detention a couple of times (I cannot even remember the reasons but most likely for talking in class – again – or forgetting to do my homework or some such), a secret that I managed to hide from my parents for about twenty years. I remember very clearly my second grade maths teacher making the whole class repeat the word “quotient” about fifty times because we had forgotten what it meant.
When my family left Hong Kong to come to Australia, it was to offer my sister and I a better future. School could not have been more different from what I had known for the previous seven years. Our teachers encouraged creativity – we painted and wove baskets and made ridiculous keyholders (which I needed Dad’s help with). We ran in the playground (I fell over because I have two left feet) and played handball (challenging the boys). In sixth grade, I was part of the school radio broadcast where we read Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach over the PA system to the entire school. It was magical. Grades mattered but were not the most important part of our school-life.
Time marches on. We say we are grateful we have not had a “World War” since 1945. We say we shall not repeat the “sins of our fathers”. And yet, every day, when you turn on the news, it feels like the world is very much still at war – that it has always been at war. Terrorism attacks, crimes, massacres – these are our everyday lives.
The world is getting smaller, despite the population continuing to rise, because technology has allowed us all to grow closer to each other. We can communicate with friends and family with the touch of a button any time of the day. We can fly to the other end of the Earth faster than ever before (though I would still appreciate it if I could get to London in less than twenty-four hours). And when there are terrorist attacks or violence in other parts of the world, we still reel with the pain as if it had happened in our own backyards.
2016 marks the 101st anniversary of the Gallipoli Landing at ANZAC Cove. It marked Australia’s greatest military defeat, alongside our brothers-in-arms across the ditch, New Zealand, yet April 25th is a day we now spend each year to honouring the more than 102,000 service men and women and nurses who have died in battle. Some have questioned why a country would commemorate a day of such a loss. Former Governor of New South Wales (2001-2015), Dame Marie Bashir, commented in a presentation last year that Australia’s participation in WWI, and the Boer War before that, was critical in the country’s identity as Australians as Australia became a Federation in 1901. As we say the words “Lest We Forget” we are honouring the memories of those who fought for their new country and the sacrifices they made to look after our own.