Foreign Grounds.

by The Dreamer

Yesterday made my head swim, the same way Lana Del Rey’s songs made me drunk and gave me the illusion of floating on a pool in slow motion.

Change. I love it, but I never said that I was good at apprehending it. After nearly four months of chilling out and sultry afternoon heat and being smothered by fiction, I was suddenly thrown back into a routine and reality. And it made my stomach twist in ways that made me want to curl up and not lift my head. I couldn’t swallow down my breakfast and I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes in the school bus. I tried to imprint the turns and landmarks we passed by, but everything brushed past me like a frigid fog, reminding me of the faces I’m going to meet and the words I’m going to have to speak and the sounds that will echo in my ears like a broken radio afterward. Sends a chill down my spine.

My sister then proceeded to dump me in a corner of a canteen, where my yellow-and-green uniform became a circus attraction to the boys around me. Shit. I tug my sweater over my head and pull it as low as it can go. Ten years in a girls’ school and suddenly with the overwhelming presence of testosterone I wasn’t sure how to act.

The other lost souls – Cherylene and Mindy – were such a relieving sight that I physically sighed a breath. We were in foreign grounds, feeling like intruders, feeling like we don’t belong.

I don’t remember ever feeling like this – not in the first day of attending primary school and secondary school. I remember feeling excited to make friends, feeling awed by the bigger compounds and the better facilities. Perhaps the multiplication of hormones in my body has heightened my senses and awareness and made everything so goddamned awkward.


I enjoyed the comments we made to lighten the atmosphere though.

“Turn around when I tell you to. NO! Not now. And not at the same time. I don’t want it to seem like we’re checking him out, because we’re not. But look at that ridiculous amount of hair gel that guy puts on his head! It makes me laugh. Poor guy, thinks we’re checking him out.” – Mindy.

“What ?! Why do the guys have to give up their seats for the girls? No! Whoever is here early gets the friggin seat. Boohoo to the latecomers. Total demonstration of why gender equality never works. ” – Mindy

“Shit man. Look at that parade of leg hair.” – I can’t remember who said that. I probably thought it.

“Why? What is the point?” – us as we look judgmentally at a girl who had blatantly put out the most fluorescent of pink lipsticks and mascara and eyeliner and strutted around like a queen

“Leg. All I can see is leg leg leg. Leg that stretches on to eternity.” – Me, as I gape at the long slender legs of many many guys.

“Gurrrrl. If a guy gonna judge you cause you got some arm and leg hair, he ain’t the guy for you.” – Mindy, when I started feeling conscious of my curly wurly leg hair.


My orientation group was fairly friendly. I just went for it, plastering on the biggest smile the curves of my lips could withstand and turning around to the chatty groups of girls behind me. (Did I mention totally ignoring the emo guy beside me. I mean, there was literally something wrong with that dude. He kept grunting and burying his head between his knees when I tried to turn towards him and introduce myself. So I left him alone.)

“Hi, I’m Jean.” I said to them. There. I put myself out there. The most basic way of making acquaintances. And Ta-da! Suddenly I had company.

Honestly, it must be the way my face seems open or something, I never really have problems making friends. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m so social and confident, but literally, I’m just faking it till I make it. And it actually works. So whoop-de-doo. When I try to start a conversation, I bump my shoulder to his/hers (unless, of course, there’s an obvious height difference and I end up bumping their hip or something) and then go, “Sorry, your name slipped out of my mind. What is it again?” And then I proceed with the conversation and it flows so easily when you know literally nothing about the person.

I probably also give credit to the way I  smile in a what-I-hope-is-welcoming way. God. My facial muscles are still tense right now.

I remember going up to this guy (which, to be honest, is the only fairly-decent guy in the group) who is called John and saying, “You know. My name is Jean, but in french, it’s called John too.” And then he goes “Aw, that’s cool mate.” (He really said that word-for-word.) And then I point to his shoes and say, “Why do your shoes look so weird.” And then we ended up talking loads. And then we fist bump and yay me.

I guess I can’t really expect the day to run smoothly at first. It’s bound to be heaps of awkward and misery. But I’m keeping my mind open and accepting.

Shoulders back, stand up straight and don’t look away when someone’s eyes connect with yours. Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact. Your smile is slipping, put it back on. ARTICULATE. Talk. Act normal. Everyone that you’re worried is looking at you is actually worried about you looking at them. (This is my trail of thought basically the entire day in my attempt to socialize.)

I’m glad that I re-watched this video of my big sister, Carrie before I stepped into the foreign grounds. I just have to suck it up and make the best of everyday and every chance. I just have to remember that I’m wearing my brand new pair of Adidas shoes, a reminder that impossible is nothing. 

j e a n x x

钧 x x

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