Of Washing Machines and Awkwardness

Tembusu. What does the word mean? What does it stand for?

Tembusu is first moving in, and realising you forgot to bring some of your stuff. You curse, and you make the trip back home. It is staring at the washing machine and having the sudden realisation that, oh dear, I have no idea how to use this. It is gazing wistfully at the ever-growing pile of laundry, that somehow seems to replenish itself. It is decorating your room, but giving up halfway because you’ve become too lazy. It is stocking your bookshelf with a combination of books you like to read, books you want to show off to visitors when they come so they will say ‘Ooh you’ve read this? Wow!’ and books you want to read eventually, but will likely never do so because university life hits you faster than the Shinkansen. It is cleaning your room every week and wondering how you can lose so much hair without going bald.

Tembusu is first meeting your fellow floormates, starting off awkwardly, but soon blossoming into genuine friends. It is bonding with your housemates, revelling in the camaraderie of sharing a common animal. It is soon realising that all-guys floors are… not as active as all-girls floors or mixed gender floors. It is passing by that guy or girl on your level and not being sure whether to say hello, because you’ve never seen him/ her and aren’t sure if they’re a phantom or just a visitor. It is opening the fridge in the pantry and realising the meaning of the phrase ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’. It is studying with housemates in the lounges and complaining about your lives and the work you have to do, while simultaneously putting off the work you actually have to do. It is ordering late-night suppers and expanding your ever-growing waistline. It is suddenly bumping into that guy and girl that you aren’t quite sure what’s going on between them, but as a Bro, you nod hello and carry on your way. It is cheering for your house during the House Games, and feeling the house spirit flow through everyone present.

Tembusu is going for a run one day, and playing floorball the next. It is wondering about ‘Chukball? Oh TCHOUKBALL’, and realising that the sport is actually quite fun, albeit dangerous to bespectacled players. It is lamenting the fact that every single interest group crams their activities between Tuesday and Thursday, so you can’t participate in everything. It is going for tCali and wishing that you had robotic arms so you wouldn’t feel such pain ever again. It is finishing off an article for Treehouse and feeling proud, until you realise nobody reads Treehouse. It is rushing from one interest group to another, feeling fatigued but happy at the end of the day.

Tembusu is wondering where your laundry has gone, and hoping that someone hasn’t stolen it. It is looking at a dirty toilet and silently cursing the culprit because CAN’T YOU AIM PROPERLY. It is going down for breakfast, only to see the exact same dish that has been served every week thus far. It is going down for dinner, and desperately hunting for people to eat with so you’re not ‘that guy who eats alone’. It is meeting an acquaintance in the lift and not knowing whether to make a conversation or not, so you nod awkwardly and gaze at your phone, despite there being no reception in the lift. It is seeing someone enter the lift, press the button for a floor that is just above one that has already been pressed, and seeing everyone shoot daggers at the person, who may or may not have realised the grave error that he/ she has just made. It is wishing that if only you could shut yourself up in your room and relax, without being labelled as anti-social or a phantom.

Tembusu is where an atheist, an agnostic and a Catholic can have a conversation about whether God exists. It is a place where people do activities because they actually want to, not because there are points attached to it. It is where you can have intellectual conversations on the nature of Man and politics. It is where you feel comfortable expressing your opinions, without fear of repression, as no topic is too ‘liberal’ to breach. It is meeting your Residential Fellow, and chatting to him/her like old friends, realising afterwards that ‘Oh man, he/ she’s actually a professor!’

But most of all, Tembusu is Home. It is where familiar faces, environments and memories all blend, to create an emotional longing within you whenever you think about the place. It is entering your room and feeling relief wash over you as you jump onto your bed, only to bounce back out because, ouch, it is actually pretty hard. It is where life can be tiring and hectic, and sometimes you wish it weren’t so. It is where, as an introvert, you feel slightly intimidated at all the extroverted people, but you’re glad for their presence. It is a place where hopes, dreams and expectations combine, to make you realise that it truly is a home of possibilities.

Photo by Quek Yong Jian.

About the Author
Isaac is a Year 1 FASS student, intending to major in Political Science. He wants to explore and understand the world, but is content with just surviving in university for now. He loves the works of Haruki Murakami, and finds the magical realism in everyday life.