Young, Growing, Glowing

I’m writing this at the tail end of what has been the. best. week. ever.

Like, how do I even tell you? Ok I guess I’ll start by saying that we had a 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving break. Work-wise, that meant the past couple of weeks were rough—we only worked 3 days this past week and I kinda only had 2 proper days of work the week prior because I did the bootcamp program thing. And that’s pretty much why I didn’t blog last week: I was just so groggy and tired. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but one night, I came home at about 11 pm. Meals were skipped. Sleep was sacrificed.

I think that’s something I didn’t expect from the job but makes total sense… that is, no matter what, an episode comes out on Monday and all the work that goes into putting out an episode has to be done by Monday, regardless of what’s going on. Obviously all this “cramming” can be avoided with planning ahead but you can only do so much planning when your work also relies on other people, etc.

So yeah, that meant this 4-day weekend came at a REALLY good time and it turned out amazingly well. I spent it in Philly, which was just such a good decision on my part. On Thursday morning, before I left for Union Station, I did kinda feel a little lazy to travel… I felt like maybe I should’ve just vegged out at home. But I am beyond glad I went. It was just like a “balik kampung” feeling.

First of all, it was just surreal to be back in Philadelphia. Honestly, part of me felt like I never left. To top it all off, I stayed at my friend Oliver’s place while he was out of town for the holiday and he lives literally across the hall from my old apartment. So walking into that building, pressing the elevator button and trekking down the hall just felt so natural and automated. It was a bizarre feeling, to say the least. And walking through campus was just overwhelming. As I walked up Walnut Street, it just sent flashes of memories through my mind like a bunch of scenes from a long film spliced together. I don’t know how else to explain this other than to say it was magical. It felt like home. Really, it felt the same way as when I go back to KL for summers. It was intoxicating and confusing. I especially appreciated this because the feelings weren’t purely saccharine; they were complex and tinged with the bitterness I felt every time I landed at the Philly airport. As I rode through campus, I couldn’t help remembering all the times I’ve gone down that same street at the beginning of the semester, feeling groggy and annoyed that I had to be back on campus and now those memories of resentment just make me chuckle a little. It’s funny.

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LOCUST WALK!!!!

And of course, it was amazing to see my friends again. Ken and Vera both came to Philly for the holiday, and our friend Selina is still at Penn so we all hung out together. It made me really miss Shahirah, May May and Hui Jie though. On Thursday night, we got dinner at Banana Leaf (and had kangkung belacan!!!!) in lieu of a “proper” Thanksgiving dinner (we all didn’t have kitchens so like, can you blame us). That night, we decided to go to the Philadelphia Premium Outlet mall thing for Black Friday shopping—something I’ve never done but have always wanted to try for the sake of it. PPO is only like ~30-40 minutes away from Penn but my goodness, the traffic!! We were stuck in the car for 2.5 hours! I have to say though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it because it felt like we were on a real road trip and I appreciated the length of the drive since it meant we almost went through Taylor Swift’s entire discography.

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MayMay wasn’t there but Ken and I got to talk to her for like 2 hours, which was nice ❤

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Shopping was kinda fun and I’d say it was worth it because I got some insane deals for things I actually needed, so I’m not complaining. It was pretty cold though and by the time we left PPO it was like… 5 am or something. We got back at 6 and by that point it had been like 24 hours since I woke up the morning before. I slept ASAP but if you’ve ever fallen asleep as the sun is rising (and if you’re a normal college student, I know you probably have…) you’d know that it’s not that easy. Like, your body is trained to get up with the sun… so by 8.30 I was having trouble staying asleep. I fought it for a bit but eventually I decided to go get Federal Donuts. Because here’s the other thing about my trip to Philly: I had a mission. And that was to cross off all the items on my craving list. I kid you not, last week, I even called all the restaurants I wanted to go to during my trip and checked what their holiday schedule was like. So yeah, I had fed nuts for breakfast, and then I had brunch at Beijing (where I was reunited with my all time fav, walnut shrimp) lol.

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And then soon after, I had to get ready to leave because we were heading out of town to Wissahickon Valley Park for some hiking. I gotta say, I was a teensy bit nervous about it because I am not athletic but it was like…….. not even a hike. It was just us walking for 2+ hours. The view. was. beautiful. It was nice to be in nature after spending 5 hours participating in senseless consumerism the night before, you know? Plus, I had been yapping to Ken about wanting to see golden trees, so I was super happy when I got what I wanted. The park had the lingering autumn leaves in all its glorious colours and we had so many laughs going through the trail, taking pictures, telling stories. It was serene, the weather was absolutely ideal for hiking and the company was perfect. It’s one of those things I know I’ll remember for a very, very long time.

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Then, for dinner, we had Korean food and I had some reeeeaaaal good dukbokki. We talked at dinner for hours and it felt just like college again. I loved that the conversations weren’t about like… “so where do you work? What do you do?” and it’s not because they already necessarily know what I do at work, but it’s because they know me, and they have more to talk about with me than jobs and what it’s like living in DC, etc. Over dinner, we talked about some of the things we were grateful for throughout our time at Penn and it made me realize again what I already knew: we had a good thing going. As much as I didn’t like school, I loved my friends and I loved that we had a community. I’ve said it a few times on here already, but that’s what I so sorely miss now that I’ve left school. It really is so easy when you have a group of people who feel like family and for that brief day, it felt like I had it again.

That night, I came back to Oliver’s place and I. just. crashed. I mean, at that point, I had gone shopping and hiking on very minimal sleep so really, it was inevitable that I fell asleep at 9 pm. I woke up almost 12 hours later and I just felt utterly renewed. It was beautiful.

On Saturday morning, our last day there, Selina hosted a cute little brunch thing at her lovely apartment. She had a cheese board and grapes, which I always appreciate, and she served us old town white coffee + kaya toast. It doesn’t really get any better than that. At brunch, I also got to see my dear Kimmy, who’s now a sophomore!! Recall that I met her in a creative writing seminar when she was a freshman and we became fast friends. I was so excited to see her again and I spent pretty much the rest of the day with her. We played air hockey and ping pong on Selina’s roof top for a while, which was insanely fun (Kim and I won air hockey!!) but I was still on my quest to cross things off my craving list, so after brunch, Kim and I went to Han Dynasty for some good ol’ veggie dan dan noodles. We caught up, talked about everything under sun… and then we went back to the Ludlow house to take a nap hahaha.

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I just want to take a moment to say that I love the Ludlow house. It started off a couple of years ago as Shaun, Lian Han and Ken’s scrappy lil home. Later, May May moved in when Shaun graduated and Hui Jie moved in when Lian Han graduated the semester after. So that house just became more and more so a home base for me and my friends. I love that the “legacy” of the house is kinda still being continued now that Kim and a few other Malaysian/Singaporeans are living there. It just makes me feel so happy. When Ken, Selina and I talked about the house with Vera the other day, Vera pointed out that if this was a novel, the house would really be like a character in and of itself… and she’s right. And that’s really cool.

But anyway, I loved that I got to hang out there again. The place looks and feels really different, but still the same in some ways. It’s cleaner and nicer and more packed but still really homey. I took a nap in Kim’s room which was nice because it’s the kind of hang out you’d have with someone if you had an abundance of time… even though we didn’t.

Then, for dinner, just before my bus, I saw Jamie at Zavino’s. At first I thought I wasn’t going to get to see her since she usually visits family for break but she got back in time for me to catch her and I loved that we got to split some ricotta + rosemary flatbread together because that meal and that restaurant is just super special to me and I have many fond memories of being there with Jamie. She’s a senior now and it’s such a strange feeling seeing her go through some of the things I went through just a year ago… it’s funny how much things can change in a year.

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But yeah, then I had to head out to catch my bus at 6.45 and head back to DC. It was a pleasant ride back and I’m thankful I didn’t get motion sickness either on my way to or from Philly—that’s usually a big problem for me.

Today was mostly just recuperating and relaxing, enjoying the last of the weekend before I head back to the grind tomorrow morning. I would’ve loved to spend a bit more time in Philly but a) Ken had left anyway and b) the last time I returned to DC on a Sunday evening, I felt like shit the rest of the week so I’m definitely glad I came back on Saturday night.

I had the loveliest day today, though. I got copious amounts of sleep. I did my laundry. I went to the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall, which was really nice because even though I’ve been in DC for a couple of months now, I haven’t been back there since I first visited DC with Shahirah over 3 years ago. I watched people ice skate at the sculpture garden, and it made me really excited for winter holidays with my family again. I saw the sunset as I walked back up town. I got groceries at Trader Joe’s. I came back and made the. most. delicious. loaf of banana and chocolate chip bread while watching X Factor UK with my roommate. And now I’m just winding down preparing to sleep and writing this.

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I really am so thankful for this weekend and for where I am in life right now. Weekend trips with 3-hour bus rides, karaoke drives with friends, shopping til 5 am, fitting 10 people in a tiny little living room, taking long walks alone in the city without having to answer to anyone… it’s the kinds of things you can only really do when you’re young. That confusing feeling of not having a “home” anymore? That’s what it’s like when you’re young and rootless and growing. And sometimes it’s scary or just flat out annoying but there are moments that just feel like pure gold—like your heart is glowing.

What I’m about to say is so cheesy, but a few weeks ago, I was on my commute home from work and I was changing lines on the Metro at Gallery Place when I thought about how insanely lucky I am that things worked out the way they did. A year ago I felt kinda lost. Graduating felt like jumping off a cliff and freefalling. But I realized that day that you only fear falling if you don’t know you can fly. (Told you it was cheesy.) But it’s true. I still am rootless and a little bit aimless but I’ve figured it out before and I can figure it out again, and again, and again. This weekend really felt like everything will always turn out ok and even if it doesn’t, there will be moments of pure gold in the midst of everything. That’s just what it feels like to be young and growing.

 

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Ok can we skip to the part where we become BFFs already?

I’ve been in DC for over 2 months now and in some ways, it just keeps getting better. I know neighbourhoods, grocery stores I like, bus routes and coffee places I prefer. I no longer struggle to wriggle my keys into and out of my apartment door. I no longer have to read the signs when I’m changing lines on the Metro on my daily commutes and I figured out the best places to consistently keep my work ID and Metro card. These kinds of things make me really happy.

But I miss the depth of my life in Philly. I don’t consider myself a person who gets lonely much. I rarely feel like I need people, or a certain person to be around me. But maybe that’s what I’m feeling right now? As in, I miss making extra pancakes for my friends. I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast on Saturday and was like… these would be great to share but guess I’ll just make them for myself?? I miss texting my friends when I have baked goods and have them just walk over quickly. I miss how those quick visits sometimes turn into late nights on the couch talking about every and anything.

I have a birthday coming up and as much as I have enjoyed the company of my new friends (I honestly cannot stress this enough—some of the people I’ve met these past few months are the nicest, most talented people I have ever met) I just want to be with the people who already know me really well.

I don’t really feeling like throwing a party with “nice to meet you” and “what do you do?” and “I just moved here from Houston in September”. I want “I was at Hubbub and I moved seats twice to move closer to my usual spot with the power outlet”. I want “this wedding photographer just requested to follow me on Instagram for the fourth time”. I want granularity. I want inside jokes. I want people who know where Damansara is and what cendol is. I want 2 a.m. conversations in Manglish.

I think that the kinds of friends I miss are the ones with a shared history. And I know that a shared history can be developed over time, but I guess right now I feel a little impatient. I also know I have my all my friends at my fingertips. I text May May and Sha all the time. But they’re not here.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t mean to suggest that I’m making no headway or that I don’t have fun because I do! I love it here and I absolutely adore the friends I’ve made in DC (though I’d appreciate it if we could become BFFs quicker because I’m bored, y’know?). Last night I made nasi lemak and invited Ken’s friend Vera over for dinner. I met Vera during Thanksgiving a couple of years ago while she was visiting Ken in Philly and we reconnected during Ken’s recent visits to DC. I totally knew we would get along, and I was right. We hung out just the two of us for the first time last night and I had such a nice time.

I could’ve talked to her all night, but I also wanted to go to Claire’s birthday thing the same night so I decided to bring Vera with me, and I’m glad I did! Vera is so good with new people and it was so much more fun having her with me. It’s also nice to hang out with work people like Claire, Benjamin and Rachel outside of the office. Claire is a huge denim enthusiast so she had a denim theme and I have to say, it’s such a good one because people always have so many opinions about colours and not everyone has polka dots or whatever. So props to Claire for picking a pretty accessible and fun theme haha. I also met a couple of people who did Fulbright in Malaysia in the past and it was SO EXCITING. We bonded over laksa and char kuey teow and it brought out all the –lahs in me instantly.

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BIRTHDAY GIRL

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Vera and Benjamin turn parties into French lessons.

I’ve also been reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in ages. Yesterday, I saw Bu for coffee. I know Bu from following my dad to work when he was training BNM’s fresh grads. I’ve kept in touch with a number of the people I met there, and Bu is one of them. He’s living in DC now and we talked for like two hours. It’s sometimes nice to see someone who has a lot of mutual friends with you, especially when you’re in a new city. The familiarity is lovely. He also has been here for a bit longer than I have so he gave me advice about the city and you know, working and life and all that.

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Today, I had lunch with Alya. She’s my parents’ friends’ daughter and she was probably my first friend ever in my whole life? Or at least, the first friend I remember having. We have quite a few pictures together of us as kids. But I haven’t seen her since… we couldn’t even remember when. More than 10 years, for sure. It was cool to catch up now that we’re both living in the same city! We had veggie ramen at this cute place in Adams Morgan (I love that neighbourhood) and it was amazing.

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So yeah. It’s all good. In fact, it’s great. It’s just not home, but that’s ok. We did it once and we can do it again (did I ever tell you that when I talk to myself, I refer to myself as “we”? It’s like the me who’s speaking is different than the me I’m speaking to).

Until next time 🙂

Butterscotch Blondies, Bootcamp and… Being Bad at Blogging

I love me a good alliteration, y’know?

I just made some black pepper tofu stir fry thing and am now just chilling while Pitch Perfect 2 is on (you know how much I love movies with songs and coordinated dances!!). Work was pretty chill this week so I’m trying to use the downtime to kinda frontload stuff and get ahead.

This morning, I brought my butterscotch blondies to work because they were so good and I know if I didn’t share them, I would’ve end up eating it all myself… and that would’ve been so bad. I think people liked them but they weren’t as amazing as they were yesterday. I was FaceTiming May May yesterday while the blondies were in the oven and when I took them out she witnessed my sheer surprise when I tasted them for the first time. I liked that May May was at least “there” for that because I definitely miss baking stuff and just texting my friends saying like “hey guys, I made this, come over to try some if you’re free”. So it was at least nice to share it with people at work.

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Got a chance to try out this snazzy new toy I just got ON SALE AT TARGET!! I’ve ALWAYS wanted a Kitchen Aid.

Also, this week, I’m hoping to hear back about whether or not I got into this audio production bootcamp program thing that NPR has for interns. It’s this 2.5-day program where we get like a crash course in audio production from some senior editors and at the end of it we get paired with a mentor from the newsroom or something like that. Everyone who was interested had to take this test of audio proficiency last and out of the 20 or so people who took it, only 8 people will get in. I’m kind of not a fan of the competitiveness it adds but it is what it is, I guess and if I get it, cool, and if not, it won’t make or break anything.

We (we as in the How I Built This team) also just announced that we’re putting on a couple more live shows this year, which is exciting! The next one is on 30th Nov in DC. Guy will be interviewing Robert L. Johnson, who founded BET and I’m so excited that it’s local because I’ll get to go!!

In other recent updates, Ken came to visit again! We went to Thip Khao, which was that Laotian place I took Jamie when she came a couple of weeks ago, and it did not disappoint. The fried catfish and tofu laab were just amazing. Before dinner though, I took Ken to NPR to see the studio and my office and he seemed to really enjoy it, which made me really happy! I loved getting to share my “new world” to an old(er) friend.

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After NPR, we came back to my neighbourhood to get dinner and the wait for the restaurant was like an HOUR. It was raining so we couldn’t just walk around and there weren’t any restaurants in the area that were nearly as good so we just went to this random place nearby to wait. At first, Ken suggested we go to Five Guys to split some fries but then I was like no lah, and suggested we go to this place called Z Burger??? because a sign said they had milkshakes and I had been craving milkshakes. But we walked in and I got distracted by onion rings!!!! Hahahaha. So we ended up getting onion rings and… fries. It was good though! I grilled the guy at the cashier over what kind of onion rings they had (breadcrumbs? floury? big? small? how many do you get? etc) and he seemed very amused by my indecision haha. But he gave us “Z sauce” which was thousand island + cajun and was just amazing with onion rings….. and….. this paragraph has evolved into a paragraph about food and isn’t about Ken anymore but um… basically it was a fun weekend. Here’s a picture of me and my preferred ring that Ken took:

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Anyway, I think that’ll be all for this week, haha. I’m going to febreeze the hell out of this apartment to tone down the black pepper smell lol byeeee!

OCTOBER RECAP

I just got back to my apartment after a good dinner with some fellow Malaysians. It’s been raining in DC all day and it was so good to cosy up with some asian food and speak Manglish about like, places to eat in Damansara or whatever. Now I’m curled up in a chair while X Factor UK is on—my roommate absolutely loves this show and she’s so animated that I feel like part of the fun of watching TV with her is just watching her reactions.

Anyway! Guys! October is coming to a close and it’s been such a fun month so I figured I’d just go through some highlights that I’ve been meaning to write about BUT I’M SO BEHIND, I KNOW. So let’s catch up:

Lunch with Guy

In the beginning of October, Guy (the host of the show I work on) had a couple of hours suddenly free up in his calendar so he asked Benjamin and I, his two interns, out to lunch. First of all, we went to Indigo, which is this amazing indian restaurant 10 minutes away from the office. When I first moved to DC, I was totally aching to find good east asian and indian food so I was thrilled to find one so close to the office! He gave us some advice: don’t wait for permission, everyone sucks when they start out at something. Talked about how things are going for us, our families, what we studied in school etc. It was just a nice time. He’s SUCH a busy person that I’m so grateful he chose to spend a whole hour of his time with me and Benjamin.

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John Green

This is a little nerdy but I’ve been watching John and Hank Green on their Vlogbrothers YouTube channel for a really long time (here’s one of my favs) on and off and I’ve read all of John Green’s books. I still remember reading “Looking for Alaska” for the first time with my friend Nabilah and totally loving it. I think the best thing about them is that they created a corner of the internet where it was cool to care about your grades, to like poetry/science… and when there were a lot of articles online about how silly teenage girls are for liking Twilight (and even still today… all those disparaging articles about millennials!) or whatever, John and Hank Green always stood by young girls and young people and I think that’s really cool. They also created CrashCourse and SciShow and all these things on the internet that encourages kids to learn about science and economics and health care and history! Ok, you get it. I think they’re super cool.

So yeah. John Green is an author and he just came out with his newest young adult book, “Turtles All The Way Down” and at the center of the story is this girl who deals with her mental health. The book explores themes of what it means to be and still manages to keep it relatively light. Overall, it made me realize I’m definitely not in the demographic of “young adult books” anymore. It felt a bit too young for me for sure (plot lines were not airtight and dialogue was quite annoying) but I still enjoyed it. “Turtles” was very John Green in that it is chock-full of Tumblr-esque metaphors and spot on descriptions of emotions.

Anyway! So, John went on a book tour with his brother Hank and I was so pleased that DC was one of their stops. Philly was not! So this is just another reason that DC is an upgrade from Philly haha. He did a reading, Hank (dressed in a Turtle suit) gave a presentation on some animals lol and they performed some songs (one of which was about quarks! told you: nerdy!) together. My favourite part of the night was when John read a letter dedicated to his late mentor and friend, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who died earlier this year. In the letter, he talked about how Amy told him about British soldiers in World War 1 who sang “we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne before the Battle of the Somme. And after the letter, he had us all sing that together and it was such a beautiful moment of togetherness. It was just such a good night, full of wholesome fun.

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Improv night

All the NPR interns this semester are on this group chat and it’s like a good way to get people together for events and stuff. Last Tuesday, (actually maybe it was the Tuesday before that?) the Washington Improv Theatre has free performances and a bunch of people were planning to go. I don’t usually hang out with the other interns just because… I like to just come home and cook after work lol but the Invisibilia intern was coincidentally performing that night so I decided to come out! I’m pretty glad I did, because it was a lot of fun. The show wasn’t the best improv I’ve seen, but it’s always fun to see someone you know perform live. After the show, I went to get ice cream with some of the girls and I really liked getting to know them better. It made me realize that before this, I feel as if I wasn’t really “living” in America, and then now I am… which is interesting. Ice cream was really good too!! I got lavender and coffee from Jeni’s and I think it’s definitely worth the hype.

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Jamie’s visit

My super good friend Jamie was in town last weekend and it made me so happy to have her around! I missed having the kinds of conversations you have with people who know you really well. I mean, I love all the people I work with now but I’ve still just met them. So it was nice to kind of “let loose” a little bit? She was only here for the night, though. I picked her up from Union Station, we went to the Mac there for a bit and then went to dinner in my neighbourhood at this Laotian restaurant called Thip Khao. I kid you not, it was the best asian food I’ve ever had in the US. It really reminded me of traditional Malay food while being really distinct at the same time.

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My fav pic of Jamie!!

Then, later that night, we went back out again for ice cream and walked around 14th St, which is probably my favourite part of DC. The next morning, we took a nice stroll down 14th St and got brunch. We walked all the way down to Mt Vernon Square, and had coffee and at A Baked Joint. I had the most delicious rosemary and goat cheese biscuit with an egg and some hot sauce. It was AMAZING. And after walking around a bit more, we came back to my apartment in the afternoon and… took a nap LOL. Jamie had an event at the Singaporean embassy that evening so she left after getting some rest. She said she felt like she has completely rediscovered DC and Jamie can be tough to impress so I take that as a job well done for me as a newly-minted DC host!! Hehe.

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Instagram takeover

One of the ways I learned about life as an NPR intern before I even applied was by following the NPR interns’ Instagram account, @nprinterns. It was so cool to see all these people go to Tiny Desk concerts and make new friends and discover DC together and this past week, I got to do a “takeover” myself!!! It felt like… getting your own star on the Walk of Fame hahaha L O L. Here are some of the things I posted, including HIBT’s guac-off! We had a guacamole competition last week, and it was amazing.

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Two weeks ago, I went to New York

I put fun in inverted commas because work is actually pretty fun and I want to be very careful about defining my life as only what happens outside of work, which is where I spend most of my time (and vice versa).

Anyway, my recent New York trip was two weeks ago now but I still want to immortalize it on here. It was the ever-so-controversial Columbus Day weekend, and we had Monday the 9th off of work so I decided to take the Megabus up to the city since tickets were also pretty cheap. I basically spent the whole time just meeting my friends and catching up with people. First, I met my friend Eliza who was one of my hallmates in the Quad during my freshman year. Then, I had dinner with Ken near Columbia, where he’s a first year PhD candidate!!!! (Sorry, I just get really excited about that still) He had two friends visiting him that week, so we all had dinner together at this pizza place and I absolutely loved the food and how quiet it was around the Columbia area. It was really nice to see Ken and I got to see his apartment as well, which was cool. It felt a little strange to be in a dorm with my college friend—just in a different city. Made me miss all my friends a bit more.

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Eliza!

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Ken

That weekend, I was staying with my friend Sarah, who I met earlier this year in January. You might recall (if you’re a loyal reader, I guess? I think I have like what, 7 of those?haha hello!) that she took me to see WNYC, where they produce some of my favourite podcasts like Radiolab, More Perfect and Freakonomics. I absolutely enjoyed staying with her because, like I said the last time, I feel like I’ve been friends with her for ages even though I’ve only kind of hung out with her 2-3 times. That first night I was there, I met her at the 42nd St subway stop and we were supposed to go to Brooklyn together but there was a power outage on Canal St that night so we ended up stopping at the next station for like 20-30 mins!! At the next station after that, we got stuck for a bit longer so Sarah and I were just like… ok, no way, we have to change trains. Everyone was just like running around trying to find an alternate route home. And it was so humid, we were all just like, totally drenched down there. It sounds awful, and it most definitely was, but it was also a hilarious bonding experience. Sarah kept apologizing to me on behalf of the city of New York and I was just like “meh, I’m young” LOL.

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Me (in my PJs) and Sarah before she headed out for work

The next day, I had brunch with Iman, Keyan and Zohair. Keyan was visiting from Harvard, Zohair works in New York and Iman is at NYU Law. I felt so unbelievably happy to see my MSA friends again because they were really like an extended extended family for me at Penn. Really, I’d say it just felt super cosy to get together with them again. A few years ago, I thought I wouldn’t be able to see all my friends again after graduation so it really just feels so good to hang out with them post-school.

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Keyan, me, Iman and Zo

After that, I went to the Glossier showroom!! I’ve been curious about Glossier for over a year now, ever since I heard Emily Weiss, Glossier founder, on a podcast. I’m a no-make-up kind of ~gal~ but lately, I’ve been a bit braver and rajin-er so I’ve really been trying out a no-make-up make-up look haha and Glossier is totally perfect for that but I was too scared to make the investment without trying stuff out first. I absolutely loved the Invisible Shield and Generation G lip stick/balm things buuuuut I guess they’re just going to have to wait for my birthday hehe.

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Stumbled upon this sign in Chinatown!!!! Made me miss home a lil bit more

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I was walking around after going to Glossier and stumbled upon an Outdoor Voices store and they were giving away free Stumptown cold brews!!

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I also stumbled upon Canal St Market near Glossier and it was full of all these cute little bits and bobs—this is literally the best thing about New York, there are gems at every corner.

That evening, I went to Gong Cha and got my utmost fav winter melon bubble tea and caught up with my friend Andrew, who I worked with on a club called Sangam back at Penn. I really looked up to him in college and it was nice to see him again after over a year. We talked about growing up and stuff and it was just really nice to catch up. Sarah and I had dinner after that at this Malaysian restaurant and it was so absurdly mediocre but I still enjoyed it. Part of it, I think, was getting to speak Malay with the waitress haha. Since I don’t live with Shahirah anymore, I never speak Malay anymore and I had no idea that I kinda missed it. (Btw pa, if you decide to FaceTime me speaking bahasa baku, my reaction is going to be -_- because that’s such a lame dad jokey thing to do lol)

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The best mediocrity I’ve ever experienced

Thankfully, the second night, Sarah and I had no problems on the MTA. We got back to Brooklyn in the perfectly decent amount of time. I hung out with her and her roommate/cousin and it was just a nice chilled night. I was honestly glad to stay in because the weather was so crap that whole time. It was most certainly crap the next morning as well. I got breakfast with fellow NPR intern, Alice that Monday morning in Brooklyn because she lived not far away from Sarah’s place. I weathered an awfully windy gloomy humid morning to meet her at this cute breakfast place (probably the most reasonably priced sit-down meal I’ve ever had in New York). I met Alice at the internship orientation thing last month and she’s working on probably the most successful NPR podcast, Planet Money so I was really interested to hear how she’s doing and what she’s learning and all of that.

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Me and Alice in crappy weather

After breakfast, I just cleaned up at Sarah’s and made my way to Penn Station to head back to DC. I managed to snag one last New York goodie there—a slice of cake at Magnolia! Then I had to suffer through the 5-hour bus ride back. Let me just tell you, that I sometimes get car sick on a half an hour car ride so me being on long bus rides is always a….. story. I’m always equipped with Panadol, some vapour rub, some mints and snacks, a drink. It didn’t help that I sat close-ish to the bathroom, where the smell was… well, you know. Ugh. Could not sleep the entire time, either. And let me just add that I was already damp because I was stuck in a drizzle while waiting 45 minutes to board the bus. It is a TRUE WONDER how I did not get sick that week. But I made it back to my apartment and right after a good scrub, I made myself a good bowl of maggi kari and went to bed.

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This is what the weather looked like the whole time I was in New York

I honestly don’t think I wanna do many more weekend trips haha, wow, I guess I’m getting old. It’s just that, when you’re working, a weekend trip feels like you actually lose the weekend. You always feel like you need a holiday to recover from your holiday, you know? And I was just so tired that whole week! It wasn’t like in school where like if I arrived Sunday night, I could go to class on Monday from let’s say 10-3 and then just curl up in bed. I was actually debating going back to Philly for Homecoming in November but a) I don’t want to spend that money and b) I like spending the weekends resting these days because I’m officially old and boring. Just at this very moment, I got struck by a strong craving for a Hokkaido cheese tart. Sigh.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like spending weekends resting. This weekend was perfect. I slept in on Saturday, spent the afternoon doing my groceries and then had Jamie come visit me that evening for a night. I initially was going to write a short thing about New York and continue to write about Jamie’s visit but we’re at 1300+ words right now so I guess that’ll just have to wait! Haha. Be back soon! 🙂

Anthony Bourdain in Sarawak, and then some thoughts on work

It’s Friday night and my roommate is out of town so I have the TV to myself. I was scrolling through Netflix for something to watch and after giving up on a crappy Jennifer Aniston, I found Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series. I initially was looking for the episode on Tehran because I was told by people at work that it’s really good. Then, I saw there was an episode about Borneo… so like, there was no competition. I had to watch that one. I thought it was going to be something about the Indonesia part of it but was so pleasantly surprised that it was actually about the Malaysian side of Borneo. Sarawak in particular. He even started out the episode in KL… with a plate of char kuey teow! And then he went off to Kuching, for some Laksa Sarawak, which just left me in fetal position on the couch.

IT WAS TORTUROUS. I did not expect that at all, but man, I was writhing in pain. I don’t think about home that much anymore… I don’t spend a lot of time fantasizing about the food or places as much. I wasn’t sure if I just loved it less or if I just got better at being present wherever I was. I guess it’s really hard to tease those two apart. But I really felt it in my gut when I saw vignettes of home: everything from the penambangs to the twin towers. It’s like the US is on my skin, but home is deep in my bones.

But umm, since I’ve started writing this… Bourdain has gone to visit his orang asli friends deep in the Sarawak forests and they’re now celebrating Gawai with pork and tattoos and alcohol and I can’t relate to it anymore HAHA so let’s change the subject!

Work was good this week. Another featurette squared away in 4 days! Monday was off and honestly, I’m not such a fan of public holidays anymore just ’cause no matter how many days we work, an episode comes out every Monday morning so a day off doesn’t mean less work, it just means less time.

Ok now here’s the thing about me and working on these featurettes. I thought I’d feel a bit better at it because it’s my second time helping to produce a segment of the show but the story was a little different this week and I quickly realized that even though to a listener, most of the How I Built This stories sound the same… to a producer, especially a severely inexperienced one, it’s a slightly different challenge everytime. So it wasn’t a lot easier. It actually wasn’t any easier at all. And I think that’s annoying just because I desperately want to get better… of course, part of it was wanting to get better for myself, but a huge part of it, I’m not gonna lie, was just about wanting to get better so that I can stop taking so much of other people’s time!

I know everyone says it’s not a burden when I ask for help… and I believe them. Truly, I do. But the objective fact is also that I’m doing something they could do in half the time—maybe even less than that. And I just, ugh, that just annoys me y’know? Working with my editor is getting a bit more painful not because she’s gotten more strict or garang or whatever… she’s as nice as ever but I think in my head it’s like “ok, it’s been a month and I still haven’t totally got this.” So, every criticism is a bit more annoying not because it’s harsher, but rather, because I have quickly-rising expectations for myself.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that my high expectations for myself have always both been a hindrance and a propeller. I don’t like doing things I don’t do well. That sometimes means I go all out with the things I do. But that also sometimes means I don’t try. My editor told me to take a stab at the first draft of our featurette this past week and my first impulse was to shy away from the chance. I agreed to do it of course, because I hate being a coward and because I knew it was good for me… but I have to acknowledge that I felt a strong urge to decline responsibility. I think she noticed my reluctance and she was very understanding. She gave a nod to how intimidating the task seems but encouraged me to try. At that very moment, I almost laughed out loud, because I remembered the time I got into the car for a driving lesson and the instructor told me to switch seats with him and drive the car and I was like “no, thanks”—because everyone knows the best way to learn to drive is by watching from a passenger seat, right? LOL.

This week, only 1 or 2 lines of the draft I wrote actually made it into the final edit. Only a few of the clips I chose survived my editor’s scrutiny. I don’t take it personally and I respect her every decision and I see her reasoning. But when I continue to miss the mark, it can feel like I’m not learning. I know the truth is that I’m probably just not learning as fast as I want to, but that I am still learning. I guess sometimes it doesn’t feel like that.

I want to be good, you know? I want to be really good. I know these things don’t come quickly. I know I should be patient but the fast pace at which things move at makes it difficult to tolerate inefficiency. I find myself wishing I could learn new things now the way I learned new things back in school. And I don’t mean Penn school. I mean like… Form 1 school. You learned everything part by part. I remember being asked to do countless fraction problems, and on a separate part of the exercise book, there were just factorisation problems or whatever. And then on yet another part of the exercise book, they’d give me a word problem and in trying to solve it I’d realise, OH, the solution involves both factorisation and fractions, that’s why they drilled us on the basics first. It’s kind of like how in Karate Kid, Jackie Chan made Jaden Smith take his jacket off and on constantly. It felt so pointless, and then when he got into a fight, he realised he had really gotten down all the tools he needed.

I guess in an exercise-book version of learning to do my job, I’d be asked to first do nothing but practice cutting tape in a way that “preserves natural breaths” for a whole day. Then the next day, I’d spend the whole day learning how to balance sound levels. Then the next day, aligning music. The next day, adjusting the gaps between sound bites/making sure the pace sounds right. And the next day another thing, and so on. I think I grew up learning by drilling in the basics until it became so painfully tedious, and now part of me still clings on to that system. Maybe because when I was a kid, I tended to be a bit “ahead” in my classes; I got so used to not moving on from one concept until I got totally bored of it. So in college, and now at work, being thrown into new things at such a rapid pace and expecting to learn and improvise on the go kinda puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve been out of school—high school—for years now and I still get so insecure about trying new things and not being perfect… but there’s no point denying it.

But here’s what I know I have picked up from my schooling years (all my life, basically). I know I have a feel for how to work with people: update the people I’m accountable to on where I am with my work, give them a sense of what to expect from me in the coming days or weeks or whatever so we’re on the same page, make sure I’m clear about what I can and can’t do. I also know I’m able to plan ahead and manage my timelines. I always ask myself “have I taken the fish out of the freezer?” and I don’t mean it literally. When I first started learning how to cook, I kept making the mistake of forgetting to defrost my fish and come home excited to cook/eat dinner… only to remember my salmon is still frozen. It’s such a good metaphor I think, for how sometimes you have to do something now so that you can do the thing you have to do next week. And I’m definitely not great at that, but at least it’s something I’m quite aware of. So far, at work, there have been a couple of times at least where I’ve been glad I was looking ahead and avoided getting stuck.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, honestly haha. It makes sense in my head, I swear. So yeah. That’s my thoughts on the week. I don’t know how long I can keep this up honestly, because the things I’m doing are quite repetitive and this first month, I’ve always had new things to say about the job because of this steep learning curve but as things progress, I’m curious to see what I’ll have to say (or if I’ll still have things to say).

Ok, I was planning to write more about some stuff I did outside of work this past week but this is getting a bit lengthy as it is so I’ll get to that next time. Until then, thanks for reading!

My First Featurette!

Guess what came out yesterday! A How I Built This episode with a featurette that I helped produce! I actually had a hand in editing a small part of this episode, for the very first time and I just can’t get over it!!!!! (Listen to it here)

So, the show, as I think I’ve mentioned, is all about entrepreneurs and the story of how they got to where they are. At the end of the show, there’s a ~4 minute featurette about a product/company that one of our listeners is building. They write in to us (at build.npr.org in case anyone wants to submit something!) about what they’re building, how long they’ve been doing it, some ups and downs they’ve been through… and I sift through all those responses for ones that stand out.

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Very generally, how it works is I usually call a potential guest up, chat with them for about 10 minutes, get a sense of the story and then take it to my editor, who decides what we should feature. Once we’ve got our pick, I do a test run with our guest (who we always interview remotely through an app and our studio and like… technology) and take care of other logistics like booking a studio booth in the office to record in, etc. I had to learn how to operate this small switcher thing so that my editor, our guest and I get to all be on this call at the same time and have it be recorded right into this software we use to manage audio files. The interview lasts about an hour, and then I get the audio file, listen to it, pick the best sound bites and try to carve out a narrative (which is harder than you might think, because in an hour long interview, the parts you use for a FOUR minute piece tends to be all over the place). As I pick clips, I’m also trying to write a rough draft of a script which will tie all the sound bites together…

…a draft which always gets pretty much entirely rewritten by my editor LOL. I feel like in the past I might’ve been totally crushed by this but, I don’t know, I don’t even mind. She’s such a kind and brilliant person that I just totally respect all her advice. I am constantly amazed by all the things she points out and thinks of so I’m always perfectly happy reworking things for her.

Anyway, after we’ve got a script, we take it to the host, Guy Raz, who “tracks” the whole thing. What that means is he listens to the soundbites and records his narration for the story as per the script we prepare for him (which he sometimes modifies a bit as he sees fit). And when he records stuff, he always does multiple takes on sentences and I have to pick the best one. Sometimes that means picking the first part of the second take and the second part of the first take, etc and editing it so that it sounds seamless. I’m not very good at this yet so I’m relying very heavily on help from all the other people on my team.

It was so much fun getting to edit my first featurette! Even though I still suck, it’s cool to see how much thought and care goes into crafting even a 4-minute post-script of an episode. I’m being pushed to think about things like, is it capturing the whole story? Are we leaving out anything important? Am I including anything superfluous? How do you make the story catchy while staying fair to the guest? and all of that stuff. Plus, I absolutely love how much attention is paid to detail: the words, the pace, even the breaths… everything needs to sound natural. The featurette (and the show) has lots of cuts for brevity, cuts to take out awkward umms and uhhhs but it’s edited so that it doesn’t sound like you’re just jumping from one part of the tape to another, if that makes sense. It’s kind of like how people try to avoid jump cuts in video.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of hearing my own work on a podcast—an NPR podcast, no less!—for the first time. It is certainly bizarre and was by far the highlight of my week.

Anyway, I’m sorry this is late! First, I wanted to wait until Friday so I could write about the process from start to finish. But then on Friday I was just too tired and on Saturday morning I headed out to New York City for a nice lil trip for the long weekend. As I type, I’m eating a slice of cake from Magnolia (SO GOOD!) while watching The Lizzie McGuire movie, haha. I got back last night and am pretty tired so I’m just taking it easy tonight—I even passed up my ticket to see a Rupi Kaur reading this evening.

I hope you enjoyed this and that it wasn’t too boring. I know I’m probably just nerding out over this on my own. I’ll write about the trip in a few days but for now, I’m going to just…. take a shower and go to bed. Byeee!