“Americanah” | Summer 2016

Hi, friends!

I went to Melaka last weekend with my parents and it was pretty fun! We were there for such a short amount of time, just over 24 hours, I think. But visiting Jonker Street is always fun, there’s just so much to see at once. Getting my Pak Putra fix is also always worth the 1.5-hour drive. I literally forgot to take any pictures because I was so preoccupied with taking videos the whole time. But! If you are interested in some ~visuals~ here you go:

I’ve been playing with iMovie a lot, because I just realised how much fun it is. I’ll be going on quite a few more trips before the end of summer actually, so I’m hoping to do one for every trip and see how much better I get 😀

I also did something (trivial) this past week which I felt I absolutely had to write about because it was so quintessentially me; so comical and nostalgic all at once.

So, I was at Petronas to withdraw money, because for some reason the petrol station is the only place I can withdraw money in my neighbourhood. The line was super long, and as I was queueing up, my eyes started lingering around the shop and I saw so many things I wanted. Surely enough, I came out with a bag of butterscotch Gardenia bread, a Crunchie bar, Twisties, Chipster, Honey Stars and SUPER RING!! I was SO happy, you guys. You have no idea. I had not intended to spend >RM20 at the Petronas shop but now you know why the Maybank ATM is there and why there’s only one of them. So that you have you wait in a long line and then come out with 6 things when you intended to buy none. Obviously I’m not very proud of that but like, you should consider that I restrained myself from: a bilis bun, a jagung bun, F&N grape, Crunch ice cream, and a Gardenia breakfast waffle so I THINK I DID JUST FINE.

Nevertheless, my parents and sister saw me walking out of the shop, all mouths agape, half shocked and half amused.

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Nostalgia has this warm fuzzy feeling to it but when seeing food makes you feel nostalgic? It’s so much better. You can literally taste it. Anyway. I told you it was trivial. That was it, that was the story.

Speaking of nostalgia though, this past few days, I finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It really is a wonderful book. It is long, and I’ve managed to get to the 100-page mark several times before, but always ended up having to put readings for classes first. According to Adichie (from this interview), “Americanah is about a young woman, Ifemelu, who leaves Nigeria when she’s a teenager, comes to the U.S., spends 13 years and then goes back to Nigeria. And in those 13 years, many things happen. And it’s also about Obinze, who’s her childhood love, who leaves Nigeria to go to the U.K. and who then returns to Nigeria. So for me, it’s a novel about leaving home as much as it is about going back home, and really about what “home” means, and if you can go back home.”

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I think if you’ve spent a substantial amount of time living abroad, adjusting, especially as a minority, this book will really clutch onto you. Adichie says it’s not totally based on her life because her life was “not as interesting” but the general feeling of it however, is:

“I was in the U.S. for 4 years before I could afford to go back home and even then, just four years later, I had this feeling that Nigeria had left me behind. […] You leave home and then you create home in your mind, and then you go back and it’s not what you built up in your mind and then there’s a sense of loss. Because things happened and you weren’t there.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

And the writing, oh my god. Poetic. The words flow so smoothly and describe emotions with so much precision. Also noteworthy is that I found it refreshing to read a novel not centered around… white people. Adichie sporadically throws in Nigerian words/phrases with no translation or glossary and she talks about Lagos and Abuja which would never get airtime on mainstream TV/film, and so you just kind of dive in and learn about it in all its normalcy.. and I feel comforted to know the world is so much more than America and Europe, more than what pop culture sometimes makes out the world to be. So yes, I 10/10 would recommend.

I’ve just moved on to the next book yesterday, which is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and it’s one of those “pop psychology” books. My reading speed has taken a hit because that’s usually what happens when you start a new book and you haven’t gotten into the meaty parts, especially if I’m moving from a fiction to a non-fiction book. My reading list for these few months is pretty long! I am hoping to at least finish 5, and I’m already done with 2 (the other book I read was Originals by Adam Grant, really good as well!) but I start my internship next month so we’ll see how that goes.

EEP. That means the next time I write I’d have already started my first day at work. I can’t wait to know what that’ll be like.  😮

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I’m home | Summer 2016

I think most people know by now, but in any case, I’m home! I’ve been back for about 2 weeks now actually, and I’ve just been spending time at home and chilling with my family because I start my internship the week after next.

It was so much fun, surprising my family by coming home earlier. I was only supposed to be back last Wednesday and stay in Philly a little longer to relax and attend the commencement ceremony, but because my summer job was going to start on the 30th, I thought I’d like some extra time back at home. So, I skipped some meals and forked out a couple hundred dollars to change my flight details. And it was so worth it!

At first, I was really worried it wouldn’t work out because the flight was going to be so longggg and I knew for sure that my parents would be really curious if I wasn’t replying their texts for hours. I mean, so much planning went into this. I even called Qatar Airways to ask if the specific flight I was going to be on would have wifi even though I knew it would cost like $30 (the answer was no). I told my sister Aida about it when she visited me earlier this semester because she’d be in London and wouldn’t really be surprised by my coming home early, and we talked about how she’s going to help cover for me.

My parents did eventually pick up on the fact that I wasn’t replying texts of course, and they even texted my friend Shahirah about it. Sha naturally freaked out, but luckily she kept her cool and didn’t blow my cover. My friend Abrar kindly agreed to pick me up from the airport and I feel so grateful because he had to drive all the way to Sepang from work but it was so nice to see a familiar face and not have to get a taxi when I’m back in my own country. So thankful for the help of these two, really!!

Then, when I was close to my house, I called my sister Julia to get her to open the door for me—she was really confused and shocked. I wish I could’ve properly surprised her too but I didn’t have a house key and I had the idea of surprising my parents in their room for months, and I wasn’t ready to let it go. Also, it was a pretty good idea because she got to film their reaction.

Seriously, when my parents were pissed at me for being AWOL on whatsapp, I was so nearly ready to give up and go like “lol i’m in Doha see u later” but I really really didn’t want to let go of that vision I had. And people ask me, “what if they weren’t home?” or “what if they weren’t in their room?” and to that I say, I don’t know, I just knew they would be. Haha. They were so surprised, it took them at least a good 2 seconds to process it. It was AMAZING. I’m so proud of it. I want to put it on my resume.

But yeah, we just spent the rest of that night chilling. And oh my god, I actually did not experience any jet lag this time around which was great! I was so tired and slept so little throughout the journey that I guess when I got back, I just slept through the night normally because I was so tired. I had to stay in my sister’s room for the whole of last week though because I wasn’t supposed to be home and the plumbers were fixing my room and it was really dirty. I’ve just only moved back into my room and fully unpacked yesterday. I actually haven’t done much or gone out a lot, just mostly goyang kaki as they say, at home.

As I’m writing this, I am really supposed to be asleep because we’re going to Melaka bright and early tomorrow. In fact, I think, so early that it won’t even be bright yet. But I took a precariously long nap this afternoon for some reason and so obviously I’m wide awake. I’m hoping to make a Melaka video tomorrow like the Philadelphia one I made a few weeks back (link here if you wanna see it!) and I’m really excited because I feel like it’s my new hobby… or it could be, I guess, because I’m not quite good at it yet. But that’s all for now! Until next week maybe???? (I don’t know. Not being on a school schedule makes me so unaware of the time.)

Week 17: DONE AND DUSTED.

Hi everyone!!!! I’m SO glad to say that I am done with junior year. I had finals throughout this week… On Monday, I took my last Econ exam ever. Then on Tuesday, I sent in my 7-page paper for Cultural Psychology. I spent Wednesday and Thursday preparing for my last two exams which were International Political Economy as well as Language and Thought on Friday.

My psychology and political science exams went well, I think! Or at least, as good as I could imagine them being, given the amount of preparation I put in. Econ was a brutal mess, though I can’t say I was surprised. I spent a good amount of time sitting there waiting for someone to leave first so that I could get out of there. Hahaha. I’ve never really been too good at Economics, especially since at Penn it’s basically 90% math. But it’s over!! My grades should come out within the next week, so whatever happens, happens—I’m just so ready to move on. Seriously. Very ready. Could not be more ready.

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Me studying with my usual Econ study buds the night before the exam. At this point we were all so exasperated and just started playing with our phones and stalking people on Facebook and Instagram.

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I brought food to eat during the exam, haha. I was so scared I would get nauseous again.

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Working on my paper.

It was a pleasant semester, I have to say. Usually, I come out of finals on my hands and knees, teeth gritted, exhausted from head to toe and just relieved to get out of it all. But this time, I was super relaxed. It took me a while, but I think part of the reason is I’ve finally started to get the hang of consistent effort. Another part of the reason is maybe I’ve stopped caring so much hehe. But also, maybe it’s because I really enjoyed my classes this year. I’ve learned to listen to myself and not force myself to take classes just because I think it’s important or it’ll help me at work or whatever, but I’m taking classes on things I want to learn about and really care about (on the most part anyway).

Also, not to mention, the professors I had this semester were AMAZING. I wrote them thank you notes because I couldn’t emphasise enough how happy I felt all semester to be in their classes. Especially Professor Pollack!!! If you’ve been following closely you know he is my absolute favourite at Penn everrrrr.

NOW HERE IS ME BEING SUPER AWKWARD AFTER ASKING A PROFESSOR FOR A PICTURE:

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Me, unshowered and awkward as hellllllll, with Vivienne, my lovely TA, and Professor Pollack, all-star professor.

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Just before our exam! One minute before, to be precise. This is captioned separation anxiety because even though I was happy to be done with finals, I could feel it in my body that I was going to miss this class so much.

I’m just chilling in my apartment now, grateful to be officially on summer break. I spent the afternoon just watching videos and clearing up my school stuff for recycling. Thinking about packing is making me really nervous though, because this summer will be the last time I go home before I graduate next year so I want to send clothes and books I’m not using back to Malaysia so that things will be easier next year.

My friend Hui Jie left this morning to go on a road trip with Selina! She’s going to the south, to New Orleans and some cities in Texas. It should be awesome. She’s not coming back next semester though, because she will be taking a semester to study in COPENHAGEN which is super cool for her but I’m going to miss my cafe/gym/study/pizza/maggi buddy. Seriously, that little girl is tiny but mighty. I respect her and look up to her so much.

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The last time we’ll hang out at my place until next January!!!!! 😦

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She left me with her prized possession, her lap desk for me to use my laptop on my bed more comfortably!! Ok fine, I may have put in a little plug for this earlier this semester, but she still gave it to me even though I later forgot about it.

She’s also such a great friend! I kinda mentioned this on Instagram, but I was insanely sick last weekend. I threw up everything from Friday night to Saturday night. Literally, as soon as I swallowed something I would have to run to the toilet—my stomach was absolutely NOT having it at all. So on Saturday night, we went to the Emergency Room at the Penn hospital. Our friend Shaun drove us over, and I’m so thankful to him for that. Hui Jie stayed with me the whole night. We played two truths and a lie while we waited for the doctor and watched Saturday Night Live together while I was getting the IV treatment thing. It was my first time doing that and I was a little scared. I felt so much better after that and thankfully we didn’t have to stay the night.

The one thing I will say though is that I really appreciate how in Malaysia, we can just go to a clinic when we’re sick. Student Health Services closes on weekends and at night, so we couldn’t go there and had to go straight to the ER. And even though I felt really week, I still had to do some paperwork and look up my insurance details and whatnot. I just want to be babied, to be honest.

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The last meal I had (with Jamie!) before I got sick.

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…and then later that weekend.

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We were both so sleepy 😦

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By the time we left to go home it was like 2.30 a.m.

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My friends are absolutely wonderful: my roommate Shahirah picked up my prescriptions for me from CVS and bought me bread + gatorade :’) Hui Jie cooked me alphabet soup with all my halal ingredients and pot and stuff, and the tea is from Christina from last year!

If you are wondering, I am feeling much much much better now. As good as ever, alhamdulillah 🙂 I’m looking forward to a relaxing week ahead with my friends and to being home soon!

As for this blog, THANK YOU so much for following it, whether you’ve only read one or if you’ve read them all, it has been one of my favourite things about junior year. And honest to god, I am typing this with a huge smile on my face 🙂 I highly recommend other people to do it too because writing helps put things into perspective and it helps with building my sense of discipline. Plus, it’s fun to look back and remember what happened when. I think I am probably going to take at least a week off from this to think about whether or not I want to continue blogging or if I do, what “direction” I’m going to take with this. But I just really want to say this has been so much fun!!!! And I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me to say they enjoyed it and what not, it really means so much to me.

Take care!