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Story by Nicholas Lua, Features Editor | Photo credit to Eun Jung Min
Mid-interview, Jonas Do ’18 and Peter Ooi ’18 start squabbling. Timothy Goh ’18 throws me a half-smile—he later tells me this is standard suite dynamics. The banter between the two escalates when Do complains about Ooi’s refusal to go clubbing with him. Ooi counters with the anecdote of how Do borrowed his shoes, and used them as “emotional blackmail”. The back-and-forth has an edge, but everyone is laughing. A coaster flies across the room at Do, who flings it back at Ooi. The coaster lands next to me and I bend over to read it: “Peace Loving but Combat Ready”. How appropriate.
Suites are a fact of life at Yale-NUS College—the one thing in common we all have. Residential life, the core of the liberal arts model, has its roots in monastic communities aiming to live in harmony. But we all know suite life here (for better or for worse) often falls short of that ideal. Starting with this week, and for the next couple of weeks, The Octant will take a deeper look at suite life across campus. This week, we start with Saga #14-102.
The five men currently living there are Do, Goh, Ooi, Dominic Choa ’18 and Jules Douwes, who is on exchange from University College Utrecht. They all get along and also speak fondly of the two suite residents currently away from Yale-NUS College whom they still consider part of their suite: Liam Holmes, who is currently taking a gap year, and Tee Zhuo ’18, who is spending his semester at Yale University. In their time together, the men have accumulated tasteful nude sketches, eclectic movie posters and the assorted paraphernalia—a family tree, a pair of socks and a Chinese tea set—that make their suite home.
The family tree
Ooi: The family tree has a weird story. Initially most of the people on this floor were from the same DF [Dean’s Fellow] group. And then they came up with the tree. Slowly, as more and more time went by, more and more people got absorbed into the family tree, like me and Tee Zhuo, Alex Pont and Tamara [Burgos-Rojas]. And then, ta-dah! Now the tree reflects most of the people on our floor and some others besides.
Why the socks?
Ooi: (looks at Jonas’s no-show socks) Because Jonas is allergic to socks. That’s why he has half-formed socks. Deformed ones.
Do: (laughing) Seriously, this guy…
Ooi: No lah, because last semester I kept losing my socks in the washer. So I was a bit pek-chek [exasperated] lah, then after that Tim was going to print something downstairs, so he asked, “Eh, you need me to print anything or not? Then I was like, “Yeah, I want socks.” Then he was like, “Okay.” Then he printed these out. I didn’t know what to do with them, so I put them up [on the wall].
Goh: See, your boring story. Nobody wants to listen to you.
The tea set
Goh: Every one semester, one person leaves, one cup breaks.
Ooi: It’s the universe telling us something lah.
Goh: The story actually goes back to Jonas and his monastery days.
Ooi: He was training to be a monk.
Do: I went to a monastery for the summer, last year. That’s where I got the pot. It’s a Tang-dynasty style pot. I brought it back and I shared it with all my good friends, and then this guy (points at Peter) broke two cups.
Ooi: Ah, see. This is where history has just been altered by his biased perspective. I’ll tell you how the first cup broke. Originally, [the tea set] was positioned under the whiteboard, that was like solid lah. So one day we woke up and the whiteboard had dropped and hit a teacup down. And then the second cup broke because I was a little careless lah. I accidentally brushed it.
Do: See? Huh? Still say I lie.
Ooi: Yes! Evidently! I only broke one cup. Right, right?
Goh: It was quite a coincidence because the first semester [of Academic Year 2015/2016], one cup broke.
Ooi: The first cup signified Liam.
Goh: Liam Holmes, who took a gap year. The second cup broke this semester when Tee Zhuo went overseas. So who knows what will happen when the teapot breaks. The suite will collapse?
Do: That’s what I’m predicting. (all laugh)