MY FIRST ENCOUNTERS

 

BY Julian Yap Joe Nin

2011 was my blind side.

So many unexpected and interesting events happened to me that year.

I moved to England, the land of the Brits.

It was my very first time living in a foreign country that was incredibly far away from home.

All I have ever known was back home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I have lived there for over 18 years of my life.

Now, all that is about to change.

A flight time of 15 hours. A time difference of 7 hours. An extra hour in the winter – now, THAT was a big challenge.

Kill me now.

Feeling like Amanda Woods in ‘The Holiday’ right now. LITERALLY.

Definitely looking nowhere close to Cameron Diaz, all glamorous and sophisticated in the snow wearing heels.

First of all, are you insane?! That even possible?

After all, this is LA. This is Hollywood. Anything for the big screen.

2011 was truly the turning point in my life – I became an adult. A young man.

I had to grow up very quickly. I had to be independent. I was no longer the little boy constantly being spoon fed by my family and friends. It was up to me to make something amazing out of myself and to become a name I was proud of.

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Cameron Diaz as Amanda Woods in ‘The Holiday’ // Pop Sugar

In the first couple of months, I was made fun of my accent. I was constantly mocked.

A lot. Honestly. Not kidding there.

I thought my English language was great until I moved to Canterbury, Kent – a historic English city just an hour away from London, filled with more English and European people than you can count at your fingertips.

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// Giphy

I had to attend to the British enunciation and pronunciation of words pretty much from the get-go if I was going to fit in with everyone here.

Surviving in England was tougher than competing in The Hunger Games.

It was all or nothing.

The elongation and addition of words behind sentences were also extremely important.

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// Giphy 

Manners are everything in England.

Still is.

No one can dispute that. NO ONE.

Not even the Queen herself.

Another thing.

I was insulted all the time and would always take it so personally. Did the British folks all just have a personal vendetta against me?

Nope.

It was just extremely dry humour and sarcasm that I did not get AT ALL. I learnt quickly that this was their way of showing affection to you if they were messing around with you.

Initially, it was a struggle.

But, look at me now.

Ask anyone in my global cohort from London. P.S. Am specially talking to you, Casey, John, Andrea and Tanita.

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OR anyone in Alan’s Sports and Society’s class or even my family.

They’ll tell you how I turned out.

All I can say, now – I love the Brits and they’ve definitely turned me into one of them.

Thanks for being brutally honest with me, England.

Looking back, I hated what I sounded like.

Yuck. Gross.

And now, drum roll please.

Rolling into 2012, this year was equally as memorable as 2011 for one reason – it was my very first time watching an NFL game and what better first game to watch than the SUPER BOWL?!

It was the highly-anticipated NFL Super Bowl XLVI game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots.

I still remembered that day.

Everyone in the three flats at Keynes College, S-block 9, 10 and 13 have gathered at our kitchen, all stocked up with popcorn and dozens of beers ready to watch the game.

Of course, the New England Patriots were in this game AGAIN.

To me, this team’s always like that clingy girlfriend/boyfriend who just would not go away.

Give me a break.

So, each and every one of us were cheering for the New York Giants.

Including Sofia Vergara. More like her “NEW YORK YIANTS”.

I just love her.

Well, they bloody won over the Patriots, 21-17 and all of us just decided to get drunk and drink the night away.

No one puked. That’s always a good sign.

A lot of dancing happened though.

It was an incredible night. It seemed a lot like this. P.S. Hey hey Johann, Nolwenn and Virginia, miss you two so much!

But for the record, the game was not what my friends and I were most excited about.

It was the HALF TIME SHOW.

LMFAO, Nick Minaj, M.I.A and Cee Lo Green performed but I was undoubtedly watching it for none other than the legendary MADONNA.

That woman can sure as hell put on a show and is one of the best entertainers to have ever graced this planet.

Watch. Especially “Vogue” – probably my favourite part of the show. That entrance and set design for that performance was just OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Madonna’s song is also giving me so much ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ feels right now.

Who could ever forget this film?

Stunning Anne Hathaway after her makeover and those outfits are still on FIRE today.

However, one memory I still distinctly remember was back in 2010 when Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading role in ‘The Blind Side’.

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The Blind Side // Wikipedia

I may not know much about American football but this film is very significant to me up until this day because it was what first exposed me to the NFL and the game itself.

What’s the film about?

Simple.

A homeless teenager with a troubled upbringing rebuilds his life and discovers his prowess in American football when he is taken in by the Tuohys – a wealthy upper-middle class family in Memphis, Tennessee.

Honestly, I love this film and it remains as one of my all-time favourite films.

But, I really did not learn much about the game of American football itself.

What I did love about this film more than anything is what I love about Alan Abrahamson, my USC sports professor and the first thing he taught me on my very first day in his class.

Sports is a prism through which you can have a conversation around any of the world’s issues, be it environmental, social, political and entertainment etc.

This could not be any more true and ‘The Blind Side’ as a film was so brilliant in doing just that – showing that sports is more than just an ‘activity’ in itself.

This notion of popular culture is very prominent in the film where social issues such as inequality and education are particularly highlighted.

Based on the true story of NFL player Michael Oher, this screenplay depicts the struggle of him as a black man to be accepted in a dominantly White society.

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Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher in ‘The Blind Side’ // Haiku Deck

What’s amazing is the fact that the film’s director John Hancock is not afraid to draw our attention as an audience to the difficulties, ethnic minorities face in America – blacks experiencing mistreatment and discrimination from white communities.

Think back to the scene where all the whites move away from Michael as he sits alone by himself in the gymnasium watching the volleyball game.

Or when people within the Toughy community such as Leigh Anne’s lunch buddies, question the safety of her daughter Collins, living under the same roof as Michael, making a judgment solely based on his appearance.

Harsh reality. But it happens.

What I love the most about this film however, is how it only just takes ONE person to completely change someone’s life for the better with regular acts of kindness regardless of their race and ethnicity.

The Toughy family is a living, breathing example of how there needs to be more love and humanity in this world.

Sports is not just about talent and winning.

In the NFL in particular, it is about celebrating the diversity within the team and making the most of out what each player has to offer on the field in order to come out on top.

Take it or leave it.

The game is going nowhere. The players however, can easily be replaced.

It is not always about you. But, it is ALWAYS about the team.

One more thing.

Sandra Bullock.

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Final scene in ‘The Blind Side’ // Giphy

Let’s just end it with that.

Cheers

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