Throwback Cultural Journey

We are going to talk about the Cultural and entertainment context reinvention scheme, which is an extension of the English Language Learning Programme.

I recently saw Moulin Rouge the Musical and it was a lot of fun, I kept singing along and it feels really good when almost every song is something you are familiar with, it makes you enjoy it. I’ve realised that a different background in entertainment is another major gap between me and most people. What people watch for entertainment establishes the context for their little conversations and topics, which would be something shared by a large number of people in the general public. That’s why I always try to find textbooks as the main source of improving my English, because it will teach you what other people were told growing up, and it’s the basis of their identity. However, we don’t have a centralised textbook publisher here, but I started a high school course anyway and started reading what other people had read. I have recently realised that not only what we learn from school, but also the music, films and TV shows we watch connect us.

I said I was fascinated by the late 70s to early 90s stuff, basically I mean music, whether it’s from the US, UK or Japan. Well, yeah, I mean the 80s stuff is really important to me. What we’ve done recently is to systematically take stock of what we want and need to do and act on it. So here we bring in our long cultural journey to fill in the missing pieces.

So what we’re going to do is we’re going to have a theme of a year every fortnight, and during that time we’re listening to all the popular music and getting to know these songs that I’ve heard many times and getting to know the artists. Then we’ll watch popular movies from that year and also see if there are any major events that happened that year in Australia and in the world. We might not have enough stuff to know all the TV shows, but at least we’d know the name of it and some of the plots. It felt like we were going to take a ride in a time machine to see how the world had developed and to hear my favourite songs and the pop culture of the time.

I quite like the timeless love songs of the 60s, but that’s probably too far away from me. So we’ll start with 1970. I want to spend a week a year listening to all the hits and then I realise it might be a rush and there might be more stuff to see, especially in the 80s and 90s, we might speed up to four weeks a year, so it’s going to be a very long journey along my English studies and I’m basically rebuilding my cultural background.

I would have to say that the dominant culture in the world is led by the Anglophones, as many of the things I loved as a child, such as Harry Potter, or my favourite baby cartoon Teletubbies, so I would be aware of the pop culture in the global market. I can now understand why Singapore turned itself into an English-speaking country in the 80s, even though the Anglosphere is not very populated, they still dominate the whole world.

Well August will be the month of 1970 and 1971, Elton John has been on my radar a lot lately, I have listened to a few of his albums and I am sure we will be listening to him a lot by then. There’s also Mia in LA LA LAND called Seb George Michael, I recently learned that the really famous song Careless Whisper is from this singer and listened to some of his work, he was gay like Elton John but passed away a few years ago. I’ve heard these less familiar musicians on occasion and now I’ve had the chance to listen to them all! I will be able to understand them all. I will be able to understand the stuff they talk about in films and in the theatre. I will also know some singers or bands when someone says their name, well, that happens a lot when Paul says some names, haha.

I believe this will be another thing that will change my life, just like the learning of English, all of which will be the foundational background for my future life. When I watched Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014, I really enjoyed its soundtrack and all the artists such as David Bowie, 10cc and Jackson 5 are all very familiar to me now, yet I haven’t listened to them much. Oh and they even feature “Mr Blue Sky” which kept playing in my head one morning last month but I couldn’t tell which song it was, then I played all the songs in my shazamed list and finally found it. I also love Bee Gee, I listened to them when I stayed at Monkey Nap Hostel Bangkok, which is where I stayed most of the time in Thailand, but after COVID it was closed. They were playing Bee Gee’s Best of album and I really liked some of the songs on it. There are really a lot of songs from the 70s and 80s on my shazamed playlist and I’m glad I’m going to come across all of them on my upcoming cultural tour. San Junipero from Black Mirror introduced me to the song “Heaven is a Place on Earth”, which I recently talked to a friend about. And ABBA, I don’t need to say anything about it, but it’s a big part of my life.

When the journey reaches the millennium, this takes place after I was born, so I’ll be rewatching my childhood to see what the western world was like back then. Cool, I’ve already played up ‘Pop Hits: 1970’ and really can’t wait to play more.

Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga
Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga

Oh I love this song! I’m hooked on a feeling! 🎵

Tommy 6 Aug 2022 After Midnight

English and Student Life

I woke up today with a faint memory of a dream in English, and I knew it was time to finish this article. We will talk about two big changes we have made which have implications for both the short and long term.

As you know, Australia is one of the most multicultural countries, with most of the society having an Anglo-Celtic cultural background. The people are open-minded and welcoming and, of course, you can live well in this country without knowing English, but the ability to speak English does make a very big difference to your life. It really determines how many people you interact with, how much information you can gather, and how you function in your community. It also has a direct impact on how you understand culture and society.

As a professional immigrant you can have a good life, have a certain level of English and enjoy most of the benefits this country has to offer, but whether you want to see it or not there is still a huge gap between you and the majority of society that will act as a barrier, culturally separating you from others and locking you into certain minority communities. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, people will certainly pursue different lives and we respect all diversity, but you certainly have choices because you are free and there are many opportunities. Everyone from the federal government to the local community wants to help you integrate into the wider world, share the same values with others and connect with a common bond and heritage.

For me, I have really felt the difference that improved English has made to all aspects of my life, especially socially, with friends and local connections making a bigger difference, and these are now one of the cores of my life. Therefore, I do want to make improving my English skills the most important piece of my life, connecting myself to the whole world, not only my own country, the core Anglosphere, as well as Europe, Singapore and beyond. To be able to research and express my opinions equally and freely, to be able to listen to all different types of voices. And most importantly, to fulfil the same roles and social responsibilities as everyone else. So I would say that the focus of my life during these two years will be to improve my English skills a significant amount, which will be the basis of all my future skill development and most of my social life and entertainment. As a result, I will be able to better understand all the books, films, music and theatre performances that I read and even talk to my friends better. I will not have to be limited in what I can say by my lack of language skills and I can talk about anything, anytime, anywhere by avoiding misunderstandings and the fear of uncommunicable ideas. I can talk as much as I used to and it sounds great and makes me envisage how much my life will change.

The transition to English as a primary language has been underway for many years and I think I can now say that the first stage has been completed, which is to think entirely in English and to gather as much information as possible in this English-speaking environment. Some ideas and ways of thinking have also been changed and language not only affects the way you speak, it also determines how your inner world is built. But what we have done is just the beginning, now we need to systematically build my thinking in English and it will be a long journey with a lot of building up to do.

But does this also mean that we need to abandon our current language skills and way of thinking? Of course not, we have been learning and practising the language for about 20 years now and it will inevitably enter my life through all my friends and existing connections. I’m not at all worried about losing it, maybe it will eventually bring my brain into a bilingual state, in any case we’ll see. I don’t mind losing some of it for a better possibility.

As we said above, we have to shift the main activity of our lives from work to study. Yes, this is the second change I want to make to bring myself back to my life as a student. What will be done is to shorten the time spent at work and increase the amount of studying. So, according to my current study plan, I will spend 15-20 hours working to make a living and then spend 20-25 hours completing my daily and weekly study tasks. These will move me towards a different focus in my life, which may also affect the way I live my daily life.

The overall purpose of life will turn from the exploration that began after I graduated from my first degree to preparing for greater development. We will be learning not only English, but also work skills and cultural adaptability. We will be starting another university degree next year, but until then English will be the main subject of study, which will also prepare me for my future degree studies.

For the past four weeks, all the study programmes have worked well because we are isolated from the social network. We do systematic, recreational English training, high school courses, interest-based foreign language learning and some work skills. The learning format is flexible and I’m very happy with the results so far. We’ll just continue for a few more months and then review it.

The future is brilliant, with countless possibilities, and we are building its shape.

English Language Learning Program:

Tommy 6 Aug 2022 Midnight

Balancing and Mental Health

After two weeks of isolation, my mental health collapsed.

It was the first time in recent years that I felt so desperate and wondered if I should end it all. 

I’m a fairly active person who likes to interact with people, but since I no longer go out socially, I just get things on my to-do list done. Active energy consumption for daily activities is significantly reduced. Apart from work, because everything I can start or stop at anytime, the boundary between days and nights completely eliminated. I was just doing the same things, even if those that satisfied me, but everyday was just another copy of the previous day was nothing to look forward to and I didn’t see an end to such a life. 

As a result, bedtimes were getting later and later, and my attempts to adjust my sleep schedule from the week two onwards didn’t work; even if I went to lay in the bed before 1am, I would lie there and stay awake until 4, and then I couldn’t take it anymore. A new sun had risen from the eastern horizon, my previous day wasn’t over yet. I‘m tired but awake when it’s completely bright and then it makes it even harder to sleep. 

I couldn’t bear it any more on Sunday morning, I had been losing sleep and there was this overwhelming feeling coming over me that I simply felt desperate. When I realised this, I knew it all had to stop, starting that day. So I jumped into the shower, cleaned myself up, got dressed and got ready to do my first urban exploration in 14 days.

When I arrived the city, the weather was perfect, the sun was shinning and I’ve never been happier to see all the active people. I went to the contemporary art gallery where there were some new exhibitions, some right up my alley. I stayed there a few hours, resting and enjoying myself. I called my friend, had a few conversations, did some cardio that I hadn’t done for long time. I burned four times as much active energy that day as I did on some of the days I stayed home. I went home early, read, studied and went to bed early as well.

I woke up early the next morning, went for a nice brunch and finished almost all my study task before starting work. It was a great start and I started to release the restrictions step by step. This bad experience made me realise for the first time how important mental health is, it is the art of balance and even if you’re doing the things you love, there can be many factors that you need to take care of to maintain good mental health.

I couldn’t fall asleep easily again after that day, but I’m trying to do more mindfulness and use new techniques to get better and earlier sleep, and it worked.

Tommy 28 July 2022