Week 1: I Travelled 9460 Miles with a Bunch of Daun Pandan in My Backpack

Once a year, I count my last this and thats, pack 100 lbs of my things into two sturdy suitcases, force myself out of my bedroom fighting the temptation of a long lingering glance backwards and head to KLIA. Once a year, I cry until I feel like my lungs are about to collapse, stain my family’s shirts with my tears and take the Elevator Of Sorrow down to the departure gates.

As I walk towards the passport scanning thing, at the back of my mind I know my heart is heavy because I have so much I am (temporarily!) leaving behind. What an amazing problem to have. Because it means I have so much. I have so much love and support back home, from family and friends I admire and respect. I have so much fun, so much security and so much comfort back home. I guess I just really want to thank you all for that.

Thank you to my parents, for parenting me the way you have, such that I always have a wonderful home and family I love coming back to. My sisters, for being the cause of most of the times I laugh. Chik, for being like a second mother to me. All my other uncles and aunties for always bringing everyone together. My cousins, for being my best friends throughout my life. In my life right now, the best thing I have is a family that looks for multiple excuses to spend time with each other and request tables for 16-20 at restaurants.

Thank you to my friends who have set aside time to spend with me and helped make my holiday a really well-spent one. Special thank yous to everyone who helped me cross off everything on my craving list and to everyone who cooks amazing food. Thank you to everyone I had the pleasure of seeing over these past few months, you’ve all helped make my break everything I needed it to be. I’m sincerely sorry for missing those I did, and if I have hurt anyone over the past few months.

I know I’m no celebrity and I am cringing at the thought of sounding like I’m receiving some award at the Grammy’s or whatever but I just really wanted to start by saying I am so grateful to God for all of you. Home will always be where my heart is but it’s time to focus my energy on learning and growing at Penn.

As I write this, I am in the process of getting settled into my apartment at Penn. Shahirah and I arrived safely on Sunday morning (Sunday night Malaysian time). Classes start on Wednesday morning, and as per usual, I have that fresh new-semester excitement and a full bar of stamina. Right now, I have to redecorate my room, stock up my fridge and catch up with the friends I haven’t seen in 3 months. 

Landing safely in Philadelphia.

Landing safely in Philadelphia.

I have to say though, it feels really weird to be back. As the taxi from the airport drove across campus, I realised how distant my last year here feels to me. It felt like ages ago, like it happened in a parallel universe. I guess I was so shocked at how unprepared I felt to come back. I’m lying down on my bed as I type this, and at the back of my mind I’m thinking about the feeling of walking barefoot on a staircase, the touch of sunshine on my skin, marble floors, the slight hint of the smell of haze in the air, the sound of a ceiling fan turning. Little things that take my mind back 9460 miles.

Going home to Malaysia felt like resting my tired head on a pillow, like taking off my high heels after a long day, like eating an old favourite childhood snack. Coming back to Penn feels like crawling into a cold hotel bed, like eating solids after a week on liquids only, like eyes squinting when suddenly exposed to sunlight.

But the bed warms up, teeth strengthen and pupils contract. I will get better. I will be just fine.

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