Unsettling Bridge

In my last post I shared a short story I had written in Chinese. The back ‘story’ behind it is that I was thought of a story to myself on the way to class one day in order to distract myself from the long walk to my department. The strange thing was that I was thinking in Chinese, and so I tried to remember the details to share as a post. I told some people that if they didn’t understand Chinese it would be possible to get a ‘rough idea’ using Google translate, but I noticed that this option doesn’t catch linguistic nuances. For that reason, I am now translating the (very) short story into English for you to read. Fyi, my stories tend to be a bit dark.

I will share my social media links in advance to limit disruption to the plot. Feel free to follow if you wish to~ 保持联系~多多关注: https://www.youtube.com/c/GoodLuckNabs1  https://www.instagram.com/nabblo/ . Click here for the Chinese version of the story.

A girl was walking along the road. In such a busy city, there was not even one person in her vicinity. In a moment, silence befell the place. Everything became lonely.

She saw a man in the distance. He was standing beside the bridge and she walked to his direction.

Her: “Are you lost? Let me help you.”

He gave no response.

Her: “Hey, are you okay?”

He looked like some sort of professional. He was wearing a suit and his top buttons were undone. His trousers were muddy and his tie was on the floor. She also noticed that his neck was bruised with red marks.

Him: “I want to give up.”

Her: “Give up what, I don’t understand.”

Him: “Life is unfair. I’ve worked hard. Struggled.”

He started to cry, his tears flowed into the sea. The girl put her things on the floor. She slowly approached him.

Her: “You’ve worked hard. This world is cruel. Tell me your worries.”

Him: “I’ve failed. There are no other options. I must go.”

He was about to mount the bridge.

Her: “What are you doing! No. Don’t.”

Him: “I must jump.”

Her: “Wait a sec. I understand how you feel. I’ve been through this hopelessness. I can help you, first come here.”

Him: “How can you understand my heart? My unbearable pain, no one knows it.”

Her: “I want to know. Help me understand, I will not abandon you.”

Him: “Everyone else has have abandoned me. I’m tired and I want to leave too.”

Her: “If you jump, how will that affect me? Come here and I’ll hug you.’

Him: “Sorry. I want to return to the real world. I’ve worked hard.”

Her: “You can rest your burdens on my shoulders.”

He mounted the bridge.

Her: “Don’t jump, okay? You won’t. I’m really worried.”

Him: “If heaven exists, it will have angels. I know that after you also leave you will definitely come back to see me.”

She started to cry. The sea was full to the brim with their sadness.

Her: “I haven’t left yet. Don’t leave. I promise I will never leave you.”

Him: “Sorry, I’ll take my leave. See you next time.”

Her: “Don’t you leave. You won’t want to do this. Let me hold your hand.”

He reached out his hand.

Closed his eyes.

‘Good luck world’




在这里可以读英文版。Click here for the English version.





























她: “我还没离开呢。你也别走哦。我保证我永远不会离开你。”






Should I be learning Arabic instead of Chinese?

eb86ef91-26ec-42a6-ba80-8fae94ebd3d3My religion never puts me in a box, but everyone else seems to try to.

For the past month or so I’ve been living without my Mac (laptop). Woe, 1st world struggle. Although most might not believe me when I disclose that I actually don’t like technology and social media (or our dependance on it), it was stressful trying to make it through the hurdle of end of year classes (and extra-curricular responsibilities) without my work files etc. In terms of losing ‘prized possessions’, I’ve always been scared of losing my videos and photos. I’ve lost things before and at the end of the day you just move on. A few days ago I was relieved to have had everything restored. How does this tie in to the title of this post? 等一下 and hold on a moment.

A few days ago I visited an acquaintance who fixed my Mac. By fix, he simply replaced the hard drive cable from inside the Mac. This is something no-one dares to teach at the Genius Bar, so I’m telling you instead. Also, pls back up your laptop. But moving on. Eventually he decided to navigate my religious identity. He pointed out that I was wearing a headscarf and that it probably was not for fashion purposes. So yes, I’m a Muslim. I can’t remember the specifics of our conversation because we then spoke for a while on topics ranging from Islam, the commercialisation of Christmas, and loneliness in the UK. It was really interesting, but I sensed an undertone of Islamophobia.

He said that he didn’t want to sound ignorant, but I said I didn’t mind answering his questions. After confirming my religion, he told me he saw a strange woman on the tube (London train) recently. He said there was a woman sitting opposite him with her eyes closed and clearly muttering something to herself. He asked me “is that normal in Islam?”. Reactionless I responded, “was she listening to music? or maybe she was meditating”. He was adamant that she was praying. Fair enough. He told me that he thought she was trying to squeeze in an extra prayer during her commute. I explained that Muslims do pray five times a day, but it involves prostrating and moving from a standing to sitting position. Although people who are ill do sometimes pray whilst sitting, and I’ve seen people pray on aeroplanes using the small seat table, it was unlikely that she was performing that prayer. I wanted to suggest she may have been reading a dua, but I did not have it in me to explain this one. ‘Dua’ also translates as ‘prayer’, but is more of a supplication and not a physical act. He mentioned the woman on the train again a while later and in other words said she looked crazy.

When we were waiting for the Mac to restart he decided to ask me what I was doing. I told him I was reading an undergrad degree in Chinese Studies. Like most people, he thought it was quite strange. However he was insistent that the weird part was that I was not learning Arabic. According to him I should have been learning Arabic instead of Mandarin, and perhaps be pursuing Middle Eastern Studies rather than Chinese. “But you must be so good at Arabic, why are you doing Chinese?” he asked. “I can read Arabic slowly but I don’t understand any of it. I’d love to learn it one day but I find the Chinese language very interesting” I replied. This went on for a while. I told him that religious scripture in Islam is written in Arabic so Muslims are required to at least learn how to read it it, but I wouldn’t understand what it means without translation. (Sidenote: I was recently gifted my second Chinese Quran. It has Chinese and Arabic side by side, and I found that the Arabic is easier to read and the Chinese is easier to understand!😂).

Somehow we moved on to the topics of judgement, and I told him how Muslims’ acts are dealt with according to their individual intentions; to divine intervention and how as an atheist he thought it was crazy for people to be praying to something that does not exist; and so on. At some point in the midst of this he asked if it was okay to ask about ‘Muslim things’ and of course I said it was fine.

We spoke about some interesting things (and I haven’t even touched on the ‘loneliness’ issue) but it got me thinking. I also want to point out that for a moment that he is a nice guy. Anyhow I got to wondering why people expect me to be learning Arabic instead of Chinese? Or why it is expected for me to be pursuing something that seems more ‘typical’ of a Muslim.

My first encounter with one of my professors was during Oxford interviews. He awkwardly half shook my hand and apologised for the physical contact between myself and a male like himself. As I was just sitting down for the interview to begin, he asked me:

“Isn’t this a bit strange for someone of your background?”

“What background?”. I thought to myself but not to jeopardise the interview I did not ask aloud. Maybe he expected me to be studying Law or Medicine. After 3 years I’m realising that maybe the ‘background’ was being Muslim. Or maybe he was talking about something else entirely. I never got to ask him, but if you’re interested I’m sure I could talk about racism at Oxford another time. I mean have you seen the admission stats?…

I’ve lost my focus a bit now but I realised there’s so much to say and I apologise if it’s not wholly coherent. I will probably do a separate analysis of my identity at some point because of an exciting project I’ve become part of. I’m an affiliate model for a project that aims to empower women of colour. I’ll leave it at that till things become more public, but just the group shots I’ve seen so far are amazing!

So back to where I was initially. Why should I be studying Arabic? I’d love to learn Arabic in the future because it’s a beautiful language, but I don’t see the need to only ever purse things that are remotely Islamic because I’m a Muslim. I can do whatever I want and I know my own limits. The same goes for you. Some people have problems with my beliefs or the way I dress, but so long as I’m not hurting anyone, I couldn’t care less~

Some people tell me to respond to ‘negativity’ I’ve encountered with profanities, but I’ve thus far always opted for patience and trying to offer information. I usually see the good in people and some people have called me naive in the past (maybe the two are linked, who knows) so passive prejudice usually goes over my head till I reflect on it later or if I’ve retold a scenario to someone and they react in disgust/shock.

I don’t always like to share my views on Islamophobia or racism because I feel like our newsfeeds are oversaturated with the same sentiments. I sometimes share negative encounters I’ve had with people because whilst I’ve become accustomed to certain attitudes, many people don’t even know they exist. I talk about things that are important to me, but the overly ‘social justice warrior’ thing is not for me. However recent reflections made me think of offering a new view to the table.

I believe in tolerance and acceptance, lot’s of people do. However from my recent experiences it seems that the efforts of Muslims being accepting of other beliefs is not often reciprocated.

Atheists at my university say similar things to the man who fixed my Mac. Things along the lines of ‘religion being crazy’, ‘believing in nothing’ and so forth. How awkward when a person of faith like myself is sitting right there. They’re entitled to their views, but why condescend views that are dissimilar to your own? Muslims get a lot of hate, but so many of us persevere through it. In many cases Muslims feel the need to go beyond what they are expected as basic good humans in order to prove that they aren’t the same as muslims who are posed negatively in the media. Why must we do all of this if we are not awarded basic respect in return?

Sidenote 2: a friend responded to the picture at the start of this post by telling me to point out the Muslim tradition/hadith (saying) of ‘pursuing knowledge even if it means travelling as far as China’ (已经住在中国的穆斯林会理解这个俗话表达追求知识会使你去远方的地方), and how I was achieving that in a literal sense by studying Chinese haha. But my associate was not Muslim so they would not have known of such saying.

I didn’t originally think this post would extend in this direction, but I guess that’s what blogs can do. I hope no one is triggered, I really don’t mean to offend. While I’m on the topic of direction, I’ve noticed over the years that some of my most popular posts are those to do with ‘life advice’, or those that offer life lessons For instance ‘Being busy and idioms to help’ and ‘Blind men touching the elephant’. I am still going to continue writing about East Asia (languages & culture etc), but I want to formally acknowledge that I may also continue to write posts like today’s piece. I basically wanted to highlight the popularity of ‘lifestyle’ posts on my blog in two aspects. One being through fables and sharing advice, and the other on exploring social issues. Looking at the timeframe of my blog, the latter is more of a recent development. Hopefully this blog will also be getting a new design, but I’m holding on to a promise that was made to me a few year back😅

Lastly before I forget, a few weeks ago I was keen to share a spontaneous story I thought of in Chinese. But then my Mac broke down. Now that things are running in order again, I’ll see how much of the story I remember. Disclaimer: my stories tend to have dark narratives ✌🏼

If you want to read more of my content, the few phrases highlighted in blue in this piece lead to other relevant posts. Have fun exploring~

If you don’t tie yourself to stereotypes, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼欣妍 – From Xinyan.

         R&B + a candle with petals





What does 㷩 mean?

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 15.20.00

Hey there world~ So I just came across the character 㷩. I was typing up some class notes and one of the suggested characters on my keyboard for some pinyin I was typing was 㷩. I selected the word because I felt like if I didn’t I’d lose the chance to interact with such a strange character (full on nerd mode). Naturally I went to look it up online and as you can see in the opening photo, it does not have a definition. 

What does this lead me to then? Defining it myself of course.

In some of my previous posts focusing on radicals I have explored the notion of discussing possible meanings behind Chinese characters, however this character in particular gives me the opportunity to share with you one of my greatest fascinations with the Chinese language.

The fact that this character does not have a dictionary definition gives us the chance to dissect the radicals comprising it in order to seek out the overall meaning for ourselves. We may be guessing and it may be inaccurate, but its a fun exploration. I think it’s through exercises like this that we can truly appreciate the art of the Chinese language. Maybe that’s just me.

So let me show you what I mean.

㷩 is comprised of the radicals 臣, 已 and 火. There is a stroke on the left of the character that I cannot make out but I’m hoping it’s not largely significant. Anyhow, each of these radicals are also independent characters which several meanings. The commonly used meanings are as follows: vassal, already and fire. Is there any way we can combine these meanings to create a holistic story? Maybe ‘the vassal has already burnt’. Now that you get the idea I have been proposing, I’ll leave it to you to find a meaning.

As I wrote out my ‘definition’ I realised that the concept is minutely similar to the work we tackle in Classical Chinese lessons. Speaking of which, I shall try and ask our professor if she knows the meaning of 㷩 in our next Classical class and then report back to you!~~

This is the kind of stuff that goes on in my head. It’s interesting to explore and reflect on but it can get a bit much. Have you got suggestions for other characters this can be done with?

If you try to define a word with no meaning, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan.

I was originally going to title this post “words with no meaning”, but then I know that would lead to a philosophical discourse on quantifying meaning and I don’t want to get into that right now.

Distress above and below the heart


Hey! I wanted to briefly talk about a new word I encountered in my morning news class; ‘忐忑’.

I find it to be such a cool character! Yes, I can be a nerd sometimes😛. Also this reminds me of a post I wrote when I first started this blog which similarly dissects a character that merges the radicals 上 and下. I’ll leave a link here for your reference.

忐忑(tǎntè) means ‘distressed’. It’s also part of the phrases 忐忑不安/忐忑不定 which means ‘uncertain’. I like this character because it couples the two opposites 上 and 下which mean ‘on top’ and ‘underneath’ respectively, and joins them as a meaningful pair. The repeated 心, meaning ‘heart’ at the bottom of the characters is also significant in relaying meaning. When these radical components are combined I feel that the visual result is also beautiful.

Now maybe we can consider how these individual characters came together to convey the meaning of distress. My initial response is that when your heart is fluctuating it would lead to distress. I sensed this from the hinted directional meanings of 上 and 下which could indicate the changing ‘phases’ of the heart. 心 in Classical Chinese (from which Modern Chinese derives its meaning) combines the meaning of both the heart and the mind. Therefore we could read this ‘fluctuation’ as an internal distress, similar to when you mull over a decision in your mind.

So there’s my reading, what’s yours?

If you muse over the reading of a character, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍– From Xinyan.

Happy Birthday Jason,

Jason this post is my small gift to you. Happy 30th birthday.

Homeless 3.png

Today I bumped into someone I met almost a year ago. I was leaving ‘Westfield’, a shopping centre in Stratford. It’s ironic that this encounter is laced by a symbol of materialism. Anyhow, as I walked across the bridge to exit the centre I saw a man I knew I recognised. He was there sitting in the middle of the bridge with his backpack and a hot drink. I approached him and told him that I had spoken to him last summer and whilst he probably doesn’t remember me, I would not forget him.

Last summer I was creating a digital picture as a submission to my friend’s magazine. The theme of the zine submission was ‘Home’, but all I could think about was home-lessness. At the back of my mind this may be what inspired me to create Pray It Doesn’t Rain. I decided to photograph some homeless people and use the portraits for some sort of collage. After having dinner with a friend at Westfield one evening last summer I came across a man I wanted to speak to about my collage. He was sitting in the middle of the same bridge with his backpack and a sign asking for donations. It was cold and I had little to offer but we spoke for some time. Before I left I took his photo and explained the concept behind my project. When I went home I wondered if I would see him again to show him the collage when it was finally completed.

I sorely regretted not getting his name.

So today by some miracle there he was. In the same place in the middle of the bridge. And after almost a year I found out that his name is Jason. I feel that a name is a powerful thing. It’s tied closely to our identity and one thing no one can take away. I gave Jason some biscuits I had in my bag and we spoke for a while. I reminded him about the photo I took of him the last time we met but unfortunately, I did not have a copy on me to show him. I also told him about the film I made recently that sheds light on the problem of homelessness in Oxford. He said he would watch the film using a public computer at a library and also share some of his personal perspectives.

Yesterday was Jason’s birthday. I told him he does not look 30, and he said that I don’t look like I’m 21. He said that last night he spent his birthday crying on that same bridge. It really hurt to hear that. As we were speaking he was wiping blood off of his nose. He told me he had a nasty encounter last night and I can infer that people had attacked him on the bridge. He was assaulted on his birthday. Jason, I’m truly sorry. I’m sorry that people can be cruel and that your situation has not improved since the last time we spoke. I am certain that things will get better by the time we next cross paths, should we meet again.

I have no means of contacting Jason to share this with him so I shall simply leave this in the comments of my film in hopes that he may see it one day. The photo at the start of this post is the collage that I mentioned earlier. I hope you can now finally see the result. The details of the photo are well thought out (inspect it closer to see a few) but I can’t deny that the end product is not what I had hoped for. At the time I did not have Photoshop and I used Microsoft Powerpoint to make that. Yes…Powerpoint. I’m not actually sure what happened with the zine, but nonetheless the meaning behind my picture is there indeed.

Thank you for reading, and happy birthday again Jason. If readers take away anything from this post then I hope you can just be kind to those around you. How many Jasons will it take for the rain to stop?

If you create a birthday message for someone you may never see again, good luck 世界。

此致敬礼,欣妍 – From Xinyan (Nabeela).

Ps. As I am just uploading this post I received a notification that my article for the Oxford Cherwell about my film has just been released. Let’s read it together. Here’s a link~