2014 – Looking Back

It’s been quite an eventful and somewhat tragic year. The unclosed chapters of MH370, MH17, and Air Asia QZ8501 continue to bring grief to entire nations. The civil war in Syria is fast approaching its fourth year, and with more than 9 million people displaced, is perhaps one of the worst – if not the worst – humanitarian crises in recent history. Violence in the name of religion continued to dominate the headlines, with ISIS, Boko Haram, and the recent Taliban shootings in Peshawar shocking people worldwide. The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, reminded everyone that racial tension is very much alive in this day and age. The umbrella became a symbol of defiance and resistance in the fight for democracy, as protestors in Hong Kong shielded themselves from pepper spray and tear gas with the humble object once synonymous with Rihanna. The Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago, yet the West’s Cold-War-like suspicions of Russia, and Putin’s mission to regain the glory days of the Soviet Union, have climaxed into what is now the Crimean crisis. And what would a year be without an epidemic crisis? In years past we had the flu, cholera, whooping cough, and bird flu, to name a few. This year, the dreaded and deadly Ebola virus spooked us.

2014 was the year of the Scottish referendum, the result of which was clearly a relief to David Cameron, but dampened the spirits of neighbouring regions fighting for secession. India and Indonesia witnessed historic changes in leadership, while Thailand’s first female Prime Minister was found guilty for abuse of power, and was forced to step down. In Spain, the increasingly scandalised King Juan Carlos abdicated and his son, Crown Prince Felipe, became king. We witnessed the fall from grace of Oscar Pistorius, whose five-year sentence continues to divide opinions.

Back home in Malaysia, it seemed as if tragedy upon tragedy befell us. Families and friends still mourn the victims of MH370 and MH17, and Malaysians in general are mourning for the fate of our national carriers. The floods in the east coast and some parts of the west coast are the worst the nation has seen in decades, with some 150,000 people displaced and 10 people dead. The politics of extremism became more apparent even after 57 years of independence, complicated by the fact that our society is not made up of three distinct, clearly defined categories, but rather a matrix, whose parameters are a combination of age, economic status, educational background and race. We united in grief and in aid for the victims of the tragedies, yet deep-seated prejudices and bigotry remain. We still have a long way to go.

On the lighter side of things, 2014 was the year of the “wefie”, thanks to Ellen DeGeneres. It was also the year Germany won their fourth World Cup title; putting them on par with Italy, and second only to Brazil. We also saw impressive kicks from Solange Knowles – though not on the field. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge went viral, and the world reacted with a mixture of shock, confusion, and the type of smirk reserved only for the inane, when Sanrio announced that Hello Kitty was – horror of all horrors – not a cat. In what was described as one of the year’s most significant physics breakthrough, the robotic lander named after the Philae obelisk broke away from the also-aptly-named Rosetta spacecraft and landed on comet 67P, after travelling for more than a decade.

Within the confines of my own life, 2014 has been a relatively good year. I sat for, and passed, two of my Political Science papers – but I still have two more to go, so I’m not celebrating just yet. My classmates and I passed our B1 Level German tests, and will go on to the B2 Level in January. My German still sucks, though. I exceeded my personal target of books read this year, and found some gems along the way. Some of my favourites were B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories & Other Stories; Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened; Sun-mi Hwang’s The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly; Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (Oryx & Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam); Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; George Orwell’s Politics & the English Language; Rachel Dratch’s Girl Walks Into A Bar…; and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling was disappointing, but I would probably give J.K. Rowling a second chance and read The Silkworm. Veronica Roth’s Divergent was painful to read and too whiny and Twilighty for my taste. It is no Hunger Games, by any stretch of the imagination. I tried to read Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, but found it too difficult and taxing. Another day, perhaps. Deborah Brautigam’s The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa was interesting, but too much like a textbook to sit on my bedside table. Also abandoned, to be read later.

This year, I was lucky enough to explore other places and observe their people, and experience new things along the way. The midsummer sun never sets in St. Petersburg, and it was during the White Nights did I watch my first ever ballet performance – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I was dancing around on tippy-toes, doing demi-pliés and pirouettes for days after, with all the grace of an elephant, and to the embarrassment of The Mister. My friend and I experienced the otherworldly beauty of Iceland, where we drove along an empty highway, pausing along the way to take photos. We braved the cold and the dark at the glacier lagoon, and witnessed the breathtaking dance of the Northern Lights. My Iceland trip was a steep learning curve in terms of photography, and being able to see the Northern Lights with my own eyes, and capture it with my camera, is an experience I hope to remember for as long as my memory serves me. A few days in Copenhagen made me realise why it is one of the happiest places in the world, and walking through Berlin, I was struck by how, in such a short period of time, their people have rebuilt themselves completely and moved on from the horrors of the past, and yet pay a tasteful and respectful nod to their history. Andalucía is as beautiful as they say; with cloudless turquoise skies, a labyrinth of cobbled streets and architecture that tells the story of Moorish rulers and Spanish Conquistadors.

Going ever inwards, within the physical walls of my home, 2014 was perhaps a significant year for Muci. He started the year with continuous vomiting spells and endless trips to the vet. He underwent blood tests and dietary restrictions, and is now, much to his chagrin, an indoor cat. He has tried many times (unsuccessfully) to cajole me into letting him out, and very often gives me the evil eye as he watches me walk past the front window. It is for his own health, though; his vomiting spells have stopped, and he is at a healthy weight. I write this knowing full well that cats are not known to have memories the way humans do; but I’d like to think he knows this arrangement is better for him.

I suppose it would be logical for me to say that my knee injury is a dampener to what was, personally, a good year. To be honest, though, I don’t feel that way at all. I enjoyed my time in Zermatt, injury or not; I’m still mobile and all my senses are in good working order. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes on my back, and family and friends to talk to. And perhaps what is most important to me: my thoughts are still lucid and my words still coherent. Everything else is a bonus.

So as we bid farewell to 2014, and usher in the new year, let’s not forget all that has happened – good or bad, for each has its own lesson. It is up to us to learn from all that has transpired.

Welcome, 2015. And happy new year everyone!

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