Week 12: New York City

Several years ago, when my family along with my Mak Long’s family went to London together, they came back to KL with us and stayed at our house for a few days before going back to Kuching. There were probably like 12 of us staying together under one roof and my house isn’t like, huge. So people were kind of sprawled over the living room upstairs, and there were pillows and blankets all over. There was always someone at the dining table, in the kitchen, in the living room. It was always noisy and the house felt so full. I think we hosted the whole bunch of them several times and I remember that every time they leave, I feel like the house kind of expands and falls into a silence. Everything becomes bigger and quieter than I remember.

My sister left for London last night and suddenly the apartment feels so empty and quiet. It felt odd not to see a suitcase burst open in the middle of my living room, a bunch of her coats on my couch and another toothbrush in the bathroom. It’s weird, it’s almost like she was never here, but I know she was because I have all this trash to take out and leftover of food I bought for her and whatever. It’s just funny how that is, considering I’ve lived like this for the past year or so. It’s funny how people come and leave and alter how our everyday lives feel to us.

But it’s all good ūüôā we had so much fun this week and we’ll all be back home for summer soon! We went to NYC over the weekend and I think for me, every trip to New York just gets better.

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We stayed in the East Village, so we started the morning with a quick walk to Washington Square Park. This is one of my favourite places.

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Breakfast at Chalait‚ÄĒbest green tea drinks and 5/5 sandwiches.

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West Village is full of pretty houses.

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The Whitney Museum (we didn’t go in… tbh, I was just looking for a restroom)

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The High Line

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Because it was such a nice day.

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With my sister!

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Isn’t this really cool? It’s a model of the city we saw on the High Line.

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We used the High Line to get to Chelsea Market for lunch.

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We also found Taylor Swift’s apartment building… hehe.

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In Williamsburg, we had the hugest serving of cereal milk soft serve I’ve ever seen.

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We went to Devoción in Williamsburg for coffee in the evening. Look at the interior!

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And there it is, the single best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Their OJ also seemed really popular and I really want to go back there to try it.

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We spent most of the evening in Brooklyn, and we took lots of pictures of this iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo.

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On the Brooklyn Bridge because it was my first time in Brooklyn and I don’t know why I had never gone before.

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At the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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At Main Street Park, under the Manhattan Bridge, waiting for the sunset.

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Oh hi, Manhattan.

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We couldn’t get over this beautiful view.

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We went back to Manhattan to by CHLOE., a vegan restaurant in the West Village for dinner. It was so good. Seriously never knew vegan food could be this amazing. 5/5.

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The restaurant was crazy packed, so we went back to Washington Square Park to eat.

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The next morning we went to Tompkins Square Park, which was near where we stayed. One of my favourite movies (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) has a scene that was filmed here. It was such a cold and sunny morning!

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Met Amanda for brunch at Mud, and they have this really cute seating space at the back of the restaurant.

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The East Village is amazing and I’m definitely hoping to come back here.

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Subway scenes.

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Times Square.

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Aida really wanted to see the Bethesda Terrace because she’s a Gossip Girl fan, haha.

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Halal Guys at Central Park (!!!)

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My first time at The Met. We didn’t go in because we didn’t have much time and we were carrying food hehe.

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And that’s pretty much everything we did in New York! Yesterday, I spent the entire day at home, barely even leaving my room because we walked 24,000 steps on average each day in the city. Plus, I also had to catch up on some work.

As you can imagine, I’m now suffering from¬†insane¬†Monday blues. Thankfully I’m not really behind on work despite taking like, 3 whole days off from doing anything. Good thing I spent my entire spring break slaving away haha. But super grateful for the opportunity to travel and see all these amazing things with my sister.¬†Now, with just 4 weeks left of the semester (!!!!!!!) I have to refocus myself and get back into my rhythm.

Until next week, then! ūüôā

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Week 11: Rejuvenation

If you’re reading this, I hope you’ve had a good week. ūüôā

I had a great time last week. I was invited to attend Penn’s Women of Colour luncheon last Friday. It was really encouraging to see that Penn had an event like this, celebrating accomplishments of coloured women and acknowledging the efforts being made in bettering the lives of our communities.

There were speeches by Hispanic, Asian, African American and Native students. They were pretty good but I didn’t have my pen and journal with me, so I could only sneakily type brief snippets of notes on my phone. This is a tidied-up version, if you care for it:

  • There’s a Mayan saying that goes, “I am the other you” which speaks to how when you respect/love/care for me, you’re also caring about yourself and vice versa
  • It doesn’t matter where you are, there is something you can do for your community
  • Many people have created legacies of creating something from nothing
  • You can affect change in the hearts and minds of others¬†when you feel empowered
  • Be the voice for people with a silenced history

It’s kind of cheesy I guess, and if you’re not “into” this sort of things, I can see how you think it is. But as I firmly believe, there is nothing bad about being able to see beauty in and draw inspiration from the¬†cheesy¬†things.

I also am part of a team that organised a dialogue event last week. We talked about the experience of minorities in college and the conversation touched on quite a number of things: the process of getting into college and what factors play a part in that, opinions on affirmative action, how easy/difficult the college experience can be depending on the background¬†you come from, etc. How it works is that usually, 2-3 people would moderate the¬†discussion by asking open-ended questions and people chime in with their experiences and opinions. I can’t and won’t say much because I respect that space so much and would not talk so openly about what people shared with everyone in the room that day. But what I appreciate about these events is when people warmly open up to share¬†their stories, I think they provide empathy and strength to people listening without even realising it and to me,¬†that’s such a generous act. On the other end, when people thoughtfully listen to others, it’s a sign of respect/solidarity somewhat (?) and I think that’s just really cool.

There were over 50 people at the Pan Asian American Community House ūüôā

It really warmed my heart to see the room fill up with people ready to engage by sharing their stories and listen to other people talk about their experiences. Despite being on the team that does research on the topic, comes up with the questions and has a run through of the discussion before the event, I always learn so much from everyone and I always find it a, for lack of a better word at the moment, rejuvenating experience and I am so glad to be a part of this.

Another cool thing that happened this week was I got to meet Omi Vaidya! If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he played Chatur Ramalingam “The Silencer” in Aamir Khan’s Bollywood film, 3 Idiots. He was speaking at Penn as part of the South Asian Society’s Symposium for the Awareness of South Asian Issues. He mentioned how great it was to work on 3 Idiots. He also talked about his experience being on The Office.¬†But mostly he spoke about being South Asian in America; about coping with¬†discrimination/bullying in¬†a constructive way, how being Indian American meant that he felt he belonged in neither India nor America and how he navigated a discovery of his identity. He also spoke¬†briefly about how he plans to use his craft to tell important stories about people in his community. Currently, he¬†wants to produce¬†a movie about Dalip Singh Saund to tell the story of the first Asian American member of the U.S. Congress. I am so grateful to have been able to meet him. He was warm and funny in person, and I just had a great time.

So yeah, this week has been pretty¬†good for me. My sister has been in town since the weekend! We’ve just been going around campus, watching TV, baking, cooking, shopping and making short excursions in the nearby area because I have classes this week. This is the reason I had to do so much work during spring break! Because I just have done¬†so little work this week, since I just wanna go out and enjoy myself now that my sister is here.¬†We are heading up to New York City tomorrow and I’m really excited about that, so I’ll write all about it next week ūüôā until then!

Week 10: “Birds Don’t Just Fly, They Fall Down and Get Up”

The title quote is from a line in Shakira’s song¬†Try Everything, which is¬†on the soundtrack of Zootopia. This line made it into my journal because I love finding inspiration from pop songs which are usually thought of as being vapid and built on trite lyrics. I think it’s cool to find awe in little things.

It got me thinking about how we always say things and underestimate the effect it has on people. Like for example, while I was cooking lunch earlier, I found myself laughing because I suddenly remembered an old funny story told by one of my parents’ friends. Yesterday, I saw a quote in a dorm hallway that literally just said “enjoy every sunset, look forward to every sunrise” and I thought oh my god that’s beautiful because really every dark night is just an intermission between beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

I don’t think the RA who put the quote up meant for it to be so deep or to be interpreted too much, it was just a beach-themed dorm floor but he/she gave me a nice thought. I don’t think my parents’ friend (whose name I can’t even remember) thought his story would continue to occasionally make me laugh for the next 10+ years, but it really does. I don’t know what my point is here exactly… I guess, they don’t see¬†how the little things they did would have an effect (and in this case, a good one) on someone like me, and it’s just a little reminder for me to always put good things out there in the world because you don’t know who it’ll reach and in what ways. ūüôā

Anyway, moving on from my¬†sappy life-lessony musings, today has been the first day back to classes after nine beautiful,¬†blissful and restful days. I’ll admit my limbs felt a little heavier today getting out of bed. It didn’t help that we just started daylight savings and it was raining outside. As Professor Cole said this morning,¬†“it’s quite a cruel combination.” Nevertheless, everything will¬†be okay. I’ve hit the halfway mark of what seems to be a marathon of a semester, I finally secured a summer job (!!!!!) and I’m well ahead in terms of my workload.

Ahhh, but break was so¬†good, you guys. I didn’t even leave Philadelphia for any part of it. My break was mostly spent working out daily, cleaning the apartment and doing 1.5-weeks worth of work.

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Thanks to May May for lending me her home workout equipment so I could do Barre at home!

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Hundddddreds of pages of readings…

But, of course, the funnest part for me was experimenting in the kitchen!!!

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Ingredients for my smoothie.

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This is what you get when you save pictures from Snapchat: blurry pictures.

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Spicy tuna. Emphasis on spicy.

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My tuna salad and raspberry/blueberry smoothie.

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Cucur udang/ikan bilis ūüėÄ

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Cod marinated with lime and coriander overnight.

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Pan-frying them with onions and tomatoes.

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It doesn’t look great but it tasted pretty good!

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Buttered rice with lime and coriander.

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Coriander with tomatoes and onions. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I was trying to use up a huge bunch of coriander because I didn’t want to waste them!)

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All together!

I also managed to spend time with some friends and walk into the city when I got restless ūüôā

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Finally made a trip to Bluestone Lane.

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The interior is super homey.

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Flat whites >>

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Because the coffee cup fit my colour scheme.

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Stumbling across a playground on the walk home from the city.

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Joanna and I watched Zootopia together – it was a great movie and so much fun, go watch it!!

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Found a balcony to look over the city (outside the trash room LOL).

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Brunched with Claire. The fruit with honey and granola was so good.

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Warmer weather necessitates popsicles, and popsicles necessitate selfies.

Okay, I think that was probably the most number of pictures I’ve included in one post so far. But yeah, I’m actually quite pleased with how I spent my break. It was productive and healthy and I had fun. It makes me feel more like I am¬†the person I want to be. But really the reason I stayed in is my sister is visiting me next week!!! That’s mostly why I needed to get work out of the way. I’m really excited to have family around and for the¬†trip we’re going to take ūüôā 5 and a half days to go!

Until then. ‚̧

Week 9: I Said I Would

Since I have the week off from school, I have more time to do things I usually want to do but don’t have time for. That is primarily cooking, but it also includes hanging out with some of my friends who are also on campus over break and exercising more frequently.

I made some¬†amazing¬†pancakes last weekend as my search for the fluffiest pancakes continued. I used¬†this recipe¬†and tweaked it a little (slightly less milk, more baking powder) and here’s what I ¬†got! It was 8/10, I have to say.

   
I also made pasta with salmon, lemon, butter and herbs with a side of broccoli. This was like, only 5/10 though to be honest. But I’m all about trial and error when it comes to cooking and it was still worth it ūüôā

I also made ginger-soy marinated cod (thanks, Trader Joes) to be eaten with rice with ghee and curry leaves as well as some steamed broccoli. It was the first time I used the steamer over the rice cooker and I was very excited about that! This is probably one of my favourite home-cooked meals because it tastes incredible and takes only 15 minutes to make. 9.5/10.


I don’t usually get cereal because I don’t love milk and I don’t usually buy it, but the other day I got milk because I wanted quick breakfasts. It was a busy week and I didn’t have time to be frying eggs and washing the pan etc. in the morning. I got this vanilla and almond clusters cereal (also thanks to Trader Joes!) and ate it with some fruit.¬†Yum. 7/10.


My favourite breakfast though, incorporates 2 of my favourite things: salmon and eggs. I don’t really know how to keep my omelettes intact despite watching the Jamie Oliver video on omelettes like 20 times, but the taste is there for me and that’s good enough.

Apart from the food, I finally managed to jog my way down to the Schuylkill! I hate running outside because I feel super self-conscious about the way I look when I run, haha. But since it’s break, campus is relatively quiet. So, I thought there would be no better time to take the first step in getting over one of my¬†irrational fears. It ended up being so rewarding because it was a gorgeous day, plus getting over a hurdle always makes me feel good.




Besides all of that, I also have been catching up on my backlogged work and trying to get ahead. I broke down everything I need to do in the next few weeks into little chunks, sprinkled across the 9 days of break and so far it’s going well. Something¬†very exciting is happening in the next 2 weeks which is what¬†I’m trying to clear my schedule for. I’m having such a good time with the quiet on campus and not having to be among so many people so often these past few days. Also, I’m really happy to be doing things I said I’d do if I had more time because I didn’t want “not having time” to be just an excuse; the only way for that was to make sure that when I¬†
do have time, I get things done.

Week 8: Making It Out On The Other Side

I love how much difference the sun makes. It is unintrusive and intangible, but warm and gentle. As we inch towards the end of winter, spring starts teasing us with sporadic days of 15¬įC weather and sun, sun, sun. Yesterday afternoon, I saw some boys playing frisbee and some other people laying on the grass on high rise field. It made me realise that the start of autumn seems so long ago and by now I’ve forgotten the merriment I take for granted during the warmer days of the year. I forgot that we’re not always bitterly cold, hiding indoors and rushing from point to point whenever we do need to go outside. I always know spring is coming but just like the way¬†I don’t realize us creeping¬†into winter, spring also always finds a way to surprise me.

I’ve just made it out on the other side of a heinous two weeks of midterm exams, essays, problem sets and interviews. I knew I was going to make it out but I didn’t know how and suddenly I now I have… and it feels like spring. I know it will¬†happen but at the same time I don’t see it coming. And that just makes it all the more wonderful. So excuse me while I revel in this.