North

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My eyes darted around, careful to remain subtle. And in a moment of daring, I spoke.

“Mama?”

No response, complete silence, save for the harsh scrubbing against the washing board.

“Mama?”

Ma’s eyes finally turned ever so slightly to regard me. “Hush, child. We got work,  an’ I ain’t fancy no whippin’ just ’cause you got it in you to be noisy. ”

I opened my mouth to protest, but clamped it shut and looked down just as I heard the familiar click of dress shoes hitting against the ground.

 

It was already the fourth time this month.

 

“Started her monthlies yet?”

Mama kept her head low. “No, sir. ”

 

Fear- or anger –  I didn’t know which, welled up in me.

I’d had the curse for two months now, how long could it stay hidden?  If I got found out, I’d be sold to the highest bidder faster than I could blink.

 

But I was mad too. Oh no, not only at Best Friend, but at Mama too.

 

She was weak. I hated it; sometimes even hated her for not being strong enough. Not strong enough to stand up to Best Friend. For saying ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir’ in that soft, subdued tone she always used when around him. I despised being born to a slave; it made me one too.

 

On sleepless nights, I’d lie and pray, to be something, anything but a slave. Even Best Friend’s worst kept dog.

” Well, listen good. The minute she’s old enough to bear, I’ll have someone ready to buy her. ”

I glared hard at the ground. How would he feel if someone took Amy away from him? He really was the Devil’s best friend.

“Yes sir. ”

 

 

A cool, hard hand clamped tight over my mouth as I lay on the ground, half-asleep.

“Mmph! Mm!”

“Hush. It’s me. ” I heard Mama’s voice.

“Mama? What you doin’? ” I asked, looking at her haversack. “Where you goin’? ”

“Not me, hun. We. We goin’ North. ”

I was wide awake immediately. North. Where we’d be free. But one thing…

“But Mama, how we gettin’ there? ”

“We walk.

 

Lazy John, true to his name, snored on the chair by the door. Mama used the chance to move in and unlatch the door.

For once, as it swung open, it didn’t screech like a dying animal.

“Mama…? ”

“I oiled it. Shush! ”

 

It felt great to be outside for once. Not under the boiling heat, not practically dying of thirst. Just the cool, silent night.

But this was where I made a huge mistake.

“Let’s go. ”

“Wait, Mama. I wanna- ”

“Hurry! ”

 

The clattering of hooves and the whinnies, froze me in my tracks.

No. Not right now.

Hadn’t he left for business?

No. No.

 

“RUN!”

Mama’s shout jolted me into action.

The heavy thumping of boots and loud swears filled the air as the door swung open, Lazy John now wide awake.

 

“MAMA!”

“Don’t you worry your lil’ head, now hun. ”

“But Mama, we’ll be caught an’ whipped till the meat hangs off our backs, ” I sniffled.

“Trust me, hun. We’re goin’ North. ”

 

And for some reason, those words filled me with joy. So much that I thought I could fill the whole wide world.

“We goin’ North, Mama. ”

I heard Mama shuffle in her bag for something.

 

“Yes, hun. North. ”

And Mama’s cold knife moved against my throat.

 

April Ang (2H)

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

JL

How does a Magizoologist work on the go? He takes his work with him, of course! Newt Scamander’s suitcase is enchanted so that it’s bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. To avoid embarrassment at US Customs, Newt can flip a switch on his case to hide its contents from No-Maj eyes.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or simply Fantastic Beasts, is an upcoming British-American fantasy drama film inspired by the book of the same name by J. K. Rowling. It is the first installment of a trilogy and is a prequel of the Harry Potter film series and directed by David Yates. The film was written by Rowling as her screenwriting debut and is scheduled to be released on 18 November 2016.

The story revolves around Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) arrival at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), for a meeting with an important official. Central to the story and this meeting is a magically expanded briefcase which houses a number of dangerous magical creatures and their habitats. When the creatures escape from the briefcase, it sends the American wizarding authorities after Newt, and it threatens even further the state of magical and non-magical relations, which is already in a dangerous place, due to the threatening presence of the fanatical New Salem Philanthropic Society, an extremist organization dedicated to the eradication of wizardkind. The story tells of what effect this devastating mistake has on the state of wizard/No-Maj (the American term for a non-magical person) relations in New York City’s community of wizards and witches in 1926, the effort to correct the mistake, and the horrors of the resultant increase in violence, fear, and tension felt between magical and non-magical people.

 

I am already looking forward to this movie although it will not be released until November, as it will be directed by the director of the last six Harry Potter movies. It has been five years since the last Harry Potter movie was released, and this prequel will definitely provide a fresh look and more information on J. K. Rowling’s diverse Wizarding World. The movie is set in 1926, which will be something new, as the Harry Potter series was set more recently, in the 1990s. This movie will be a must-watch for Harry Potter fans worldwide, and the trailer was released recently, so I highly recommend you check it out!

 

Trailer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWXUQq7OsKQ

More Information: https://www.pottermore.com/explore-the-story/fantastic-beasts

 

Jocelyn Lim (3J)

Short Story

I don’t really like how I look. Mom says we were all made to be exactly the same, but my friends all seem different. They have all these fancy squiggles and lines on them, but I can’t find any on me. I wish I was more squarely built- I’m way too rectangular. Besides, no one else on this land seems to understand me. When Mom left me at the factory, she told me she’ll be back. But who knows where she went- I never got to see her again.

Every Wednesday, there are these long things- fingers they call them- that bang furiously on us. We don’t know what or why they are doing this- but it hurts terribly. We all scream but the fingers don’t hear us. Sometimes we get lucky, and don’t get jostled with for a week. Yet most of the time, we are being attacked every second, and sometimes the pain is numbing, but mostly it is sharp.

I know something I can do- I can escape.  I saw number 5 try the other day, but she was fitted right back in. Maybe I should take a risk, I can do this.

So I tried with all my strength. I was certain “M” almost woke up to catch me red handed- but it turned out to only be a slight stir in his sleep.

The superglue they used was way too strong. There’s no way I could escape.

No way.

Maybe I should just accept my fate-

As a space bar.

 

Nicolette Kum (3W)

Opinions on Society

hi

What is beauty, exactly? It holds so many meanings, yet in today’s society, it simply means being skinny, having flawless hair and skin, perfect makeup and expensive clothes. Self-image and beauty is a huge part of the modern society, and this mental image is reinforced everywhere around us, from advertisements, social media, to the toys that kids play with. Famous celebrities, whom so many kids and teens idolize, are the epitome of the modern society’s definition of beauty, influencing so many normal people to think of themselves as “fat”, with “ugly” not far behind. They might also get harassed and bullied in school, just because they wore shorts size bigger than zero.

These people might then get depressed, anxious, and upset, seeking the comfort of food, or the opposite- starve. In fact, thousands of people are hospitalised for eating disorders such as binge eating, anorexia and bulimia every year. These people were wrongly labelled and their depression and insecurity were due to the narrow definition of beauty,  causing them to be trapped in their own dark world and separating them from the rest of the society as they think that their disorders further prove that they are imperfect.

However, that’s not true. Beauty isn’t just about being skinny, having the latest clothes and mindlessly following the rest of society. It’s about being unique and standing out, having your own style and not being the stereotypical American girl. It’s about being confident, and ignoring any snide comments. After all, what is beauty if everyone is the same? Beauty is happiness, appreciating whatever you are given. It is simplicity, and even the simplest things can be beautiful. It is the moments you feel proud, alive and free.

That is beauty.

 

Chen Yu Yang (1T)

Opinions on society : Is it Safe?

As technology advances over the years, many applications and platforms have been invented and created to ease the cost of living, especially in Singapore, in terms of item purchase, overseas accommodation, transport etc. as they provide a cheaper option for people. However, apart from the fact that these platforms are more economically-friendly, one of the major problems that these platforms pose is safety.

Carousell, a Singaporean e-commerce company, provides consumer to consumer sales services via a mobile application. It is headquartered in Singapore. It operates in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the United States of America. As a frequent user of carousell to buy posters, merchandise and even selling my used items, fear is inevitable as it mostly involves meeting up with strangers for collection and payment or paying via bank transfers in some situations. Although no cases of scam has been reported thus far, I do feel that it is still not safe especially for teenagers who are mostly alone to meet up with strangers or make payment through bank transfers. Thus, I feel that this platform of purchase has risks involved and people should take more caution when participating in such transactions.

 
‘Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodation around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetise their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions. Although I have not used this platform as of now, I am actually anticipating how it will turn out like especially living overseas in another stranger’s house. I do feel that this platform is really meaningful as it allows a better insight into the country’s culture, way of life and experience it personally. I deem it as a really refreshing experience for many travellers who are used to putting up at luxury hotels or resorts, as it also helps to train individual adaptability to foreign environments at the same time. Although it also involves a huge risk of conflicts with the owner, or facing insecurities and anxiety of staying in a stranger’s house not knowing what to expect, it really enhances travel experience.

 
Uber Technologies Inc. is an American international transportation network company headquartered in San Francisco, California. The company develops, markets and operates the Uber mobile app, which allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars. As a frequent user of UBER, I really enjoy this experience as compared to the typical taxis, one because it’s definitely a cheaper option and most importantly, because I find that it improves the bond between locals (considering the fact that the driver is a local). Although the comfort level differs from the model of the car, I still find it a unique experience riding in a foreign car. Using this platform locally may be safe, however I feel highly apprehensive using this overseas in a foreign country. Once again, this platform does have it plus and minus points but overall I still find it safe to use.

 
In conclusion, through the innovation of these few prominent platforms the way and cost of living is indeed improved, and most importantly through the risks involved, people, especially teenagers, will be able to take more caution when involving themselves in such platforms.

 
Rachael Fong (2L)

Food Review – Pork Floss Ice Cream

Taipei is undoubtedly a food haven, with a wide variety of mouthwatering food for all food lovers to try. Ximen is one of the places in Taipei that offers an abundant selection of famous delicacies ranging from noodles in rich oyster broth to crispy and juicy fried chicken. One of these delicacies includes Snow King ice cream.

Contrary to the initial impression you would probably have of Snow King ice cream, it  is actually a very unique ice cream shop. Unlike the common flavours sold in the market, this particular ice cream shop sells 73 ice cream flavours. Some of these flavours such as mango are seasonal while others such as strawberry and peach are available all year round. Snow King ice cream’s specialty flavours include pork floss ice cream, sesame oil chicken ice cream and stewed pig’s feet ice cream.

The first ice cream flavour I tried was pork floss – one of the best sellers and also the only one of its specialty flavours I felt that I could stomach. Like any other ice cream, it was creamy and milky. However, what differentiated it was the distinctive salty taste of pork floss and the wisps of it that were well mixed into the scoop of ice cream.

My second flavour was watermelon. This flavour has a refreshing taste and its texture is also similar to that of watermelons – juicy and slightly crisp. The small chunks of watermelon buried in the scoop of ice cream certainly provided an element of surprise. All in all, the ice cream really captured the essence of the watermelon.

My third flavour, yam, topped the ice cream treat off with a sweet yet light taste. It tasted similar to yam paste and its texture was also equally thick and creamy. Furthermore, top grade yams were used to make the ice cream so you can definitely be assured of the quality and freshness of the ingredients used in making the various ice cream flavours. Yam certainly left a satisfying and comfortable aftertaste, and I would recommend that you dig into it last if you ordered a couple of flavours in one go.

The service provided and hospitality shown by the shop owner all goes to show how warm and welcoming his personality is. He makes all patrons feel at home. To make the shop more tourist-friendly, there are both Chinese and English versions of the menu available. If you plan to visit Taipei during the holidays, do stop by this ice cream shop and try their unique ice cream flavours!

 

Chloe Kho (2P)

Music Favourites

Queen of Peace is a song by Florence Welch and her record producer, Markus Dravs. It was recorded by the British indie rock band Florence and the Machine and first appeared on the group’s third studio album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Queen of Peace was featured in a ten-minute double-feature music video that also includes the song “Long and Lost” from the album as well. In this song, the signature African-goth drums that were in her previous songs are replaced by a dry, mid tempo Motown backbeat accompanied with the sounds of the tambourines and the orchestra.

I am captivated by this song and its lyrics. Even though the tune is an upbeat and catchy one, the lyrics are a lot more profound and share a deeper meaning. For example, the verse “oh, the queen of peace, always does her best to please, is it any use?, somebody’s gotta lose” . Even though it’s presented in a light tone, the deeper meaning behind it is really true in real life situations. In real life, I feel that this line is very relatable as the leader cannot please everyone as everyone has different opinions. Even if the leader pleases majority of the crowd, the minority will be unhappy and therefore, not everyone will be pleased.

If you haven’t heard the song, find some free time and have a listen! Trust me, it’ll be worth the listen. You could listen to the whole album as it is quite good too! Be sure to check out Florence’s other albums, Lungs and Ceremonials!

queen

 

Germaine Ong (2L)

 

Food Review: Omurice

Have you ever heard of the dish called Omurice? Omurice originated from Japan and is otherwise known as Omelette rice. It is a much enjoyed dish that is well received in other countries, and countless restaurants around the world have even created modified versions of Omurice while still retaining the original flavour. Indeed, Omurice is an irreplaceable dish that has added a touch of creativity and uniqueness to modern Japanese cuisine, and it has been featured on a large number of food reviews written by international tourists and the Japanese alike.

Omurice basically consists of fried rice wrapped in a delectable fried omelette and is usually topped with ketchup. Designs of ketchup of the Omurice is also not uncommon. The dish not only satisfies the taste buds as well as the stomach, but is also aesthetically pleasing which really entices people to consume it.

The first bite will burst into a sea of sweetness combined with the fragrance of the rice which is further enhanced by the slight saltiness of the omelette. You further savour it by munching on the rice which complements with the omelette and the ketchup that is fully distributed. This can be what attracts people to eat it on a daily basis.

Omurice is a well-known dish among the Japanese. Although it may look simple, the dish is packed with proteins and carbohydrates and Vitamin C from tomato. Now you can definitely eat this often with the knowledge of its nutritional benefits.

Do check out the recipe if you want to make it yourself as making the simpler version of Omurice is not of high technical difficulty for people with culinary skills. However, it is available in places that sell Japanese cuisine and you can try it there.

Take a bite and you won’t regret!

 

June (4L) & Calista (4L)

Opinions on society: Negative uses of Photoshop

I recently chanced upon an article which talked about the various feats that photoshop can accomplish. However, does Photoshop really have that many benefits? If you don’t already know, Photoshop is an image-editing software that is commonly used in print media such as magazines and digital images. Through the use of Photoshop, a person’s entire appearance can be altered or even an entirely new person can be created.

This leads me to think about how Photoshop can cause negative body image issues. Teenagers these days are very concerned about their appearances and many of them tend to have some dissatisfaction with their bodies. Furthermore, these teens are exposed to many false appearances which are created by Photoshop itself. I believe that the negative message that those photos represent, especially to someone who is already struggling with their image, can impact them terribly. Many teenagers also believe that beauty can only exist in an unachievable body type and they get the impression that it is healthy to look like the models they see on the covers of their favourite magazines. I must agree that even I myself sometimes chance upon a magazine and go “hey, how I wish I could look more like her”. That’s how Photoshop plays a part in setting such unachievable standards and this contributes to the negative impact it has on teenagers. These may also result in eating disorders in teenagers who are trying to achieve unrealistic body goals. It has been proven that the number of teens (especially girls) being diagnosed with eating disorders are on the rise. It was also reported that girls who often read magazines were three times more likely to be engaged in extreme weight control behaviours! I strongly believe that this is because in magazines, advertisers commonly alter their photographs using Photoshop to enhance the appearances of their models which leads to an impression that “perfect bodies” do exist. For example:

photoshop.jpg

The purpose of this article isn’t to ask you to download Photoshop but it’s to remind teenagers, such as you guys that nobody is perfect and that we should all stop trying to hide our flaws and start embracing them instead!

 

Fiona Goh (4F)

Headlines

Amongst tensions between South Korea and North Korea, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has stepped up to say his country has developed a hydrogen bomb, a step up from the less powerful atomic bomb.

The work of Kim Il Sung “turned the DPRK into a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate a self­reliant A­bomb and H­bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation,” KCNA quoted Kim Jong Un as saying.

A hydrogen bomb, also known as a thermonuclear bomb, uses more advanced technology to produce a significantly more powerful blast than an atomic bomb.

These claims have sparked discussion and concern, many speculating if the claims are really true. But the United States and outside experts are sceptical. In Washington, the White House said it was doubtful that North Korea had developed a hydrogen bomb, but ascertained that Pyongyang remained a threat.

Following this claims, North Korea announced on 6 January, that it had successfully tested its first hydrogen bomb, the fourth time it had detonated a nuclear device.

On Jan 6, 2016, news reports in Seoul reports that seismologists detected a 5.1 magnitude tremor next to North Korea’s main atomic test site. However, Dr Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum, is skeptical, saying that “They could have tested some middle stage kind (of device) between an A­bomb and H­bomb, but unless they come up with any clear evidence, it is difficult to trust their claim.”

Only a few countries are known to have hydrogen bombs: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China and India.

Warfare is a dangerous thing and it can be close to us, peace and security should not be taken for granted. Anything can hit close to home, so we should always be on a lookout and keep up with headlines.

 

Sarah Lam (4U)