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.
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!
I’m writing to you as I wrap up a really good weekend, and the first cold-ish weekend too. I just finished watching Season 1 of Broadchurch and I just can’t get over how good it was. A while ago, I went on this whole thing about how much I loved “The Missing” and this is so, so similar to that: a small British town mystery and a lot of drama. Every time I watch a new British mystery drama I’m like… ok… I know how this is gonna go… but I never ever do, so it’s always a pleasant surprise.
Anyway! The highlight of my weekend was, without a doubt, getting to see Ken. He was in DC for a conference event type thing and we got some decently yummy but very spicy thai food last night. I absolutely loved catching up and cracking up over the silly things that tend to happen when we’re together.
For example, when I arrived at the restaurant, he told me that he initially walked into the wrong restaurant!! So, let’s back up a little: I had never been to this place before—my roommate has like newspaper/magazine clippings of restaurant recs on the fridge and this was one of them so I was told to pick a place so I was like ok sure! I told him we were going to Baan Thai but forgot to tell him that it was on the second floor. I swear there aren’t that many thai restaurants in D.C. but it just so happened, there was another completely different thai restaurant rightbelow the restaurant I picked and he walked into that one by mistake. He had apparently already been seated when he saw that the menu said Thaitanic, hahahaha. When he asked the waitress if this was Baan Thai, he said she rolled her eyes and took the menu away from him, LOL. It didn’t help that Thaitanic was pretty much completely empty and Baan Thai had a line!
Dinner was good! We both got papaya curry, I learned about his life at Columbia (have I mentioned that he’s at Columbia getting his PhD??? I’m SO proud of him!) and told him about work. Mandy joined us for dinner because she was also in town, so that was nice. She’s still a junior at Penn, so it was kinda nice to be regaled with tales of awful management classes and all of that again for a bit.
After dinner, we went to Momofuku Milk Bar, which was so awesome because their cereal milk soft serve is one of my favourite things ever and I didn’t even know they had a store in DC until I was browsing Google Maps for places to eat. I feel like I should probably be bored of this ice cream by now but… I’m really not. It was still so good. Ken had some and he was like “hmm it tastes like something I used to eat in the morning” HAHA. We ended up standing around in the small, crowded store for an hour before I went home. (I’m so happy I get to write about hanging out with my school friends again!! when we were walking around, it really felt like we were in Center City like the old days lol)
Also noteworthy, today I decided to venture into Georgetown. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to but I didn’t have anything else planned for the day and it was too beautiful a day to waste indoors. I’ve been to Georgetown before, once, with Shahirah. We visited DC for fall break our sophomore year. I completely forgot how beautiful it is. The flowers, the buildings… the variety of shops! It’s like better than any British high street could ever be, to tell you the truth. I really just liked walking around and taking in the sights of the pink flowers on the lamp post against the blue sky.
So yeah, it’s been a great weekend, alhamdulillah. I’m just about to prepare myself for the work week ahead. Work’s been picking up! I’ve been getting to do some more new things and I know I haven’t hit like a… “responsibility plateau” yet so things will still be picking up for a bit more which will be interesting. I haven’t felt totally overwhelmed yet, but that’s not to say that I’m underwhelmed either, because I’m definitely not. I’m just very perfectly whelmed (this is a Clueless reference). I feel like I’m learning a lot because I’m constantly being pushed to try new things and take on more tasks, but I also feel like it’s not totally clear to me what I’m learning or how I’ll use these lessons in the future (what I mean is sometimes you don’t know what you’re learning until you get to apply that knowledge).
I mostly love that I don’t yearn for the weekend, I don’t count the hours until I get to leave the office and I don’t dread Mondays. I’m not particularly excited about commuting back and forth every day either but I definitely don’t mind it because spending so much time helping to make podcasts mean that my commutes are when I get to actually listen to them.
That’ll be all from me this week, I think. Until next week!
P.S. My name was featured in the credits of the show for the first time last week! Go give it a listen here!
I joked to my friend May May recently that the learning curve has been so steep at this new place that it’s like mental leg day everyday…
…which is probably a good thing!
So, if you’re not familiar with the show I’m attached to, (why aren’t you though? Check it out here) it’s hosted by Guy Raz. I had lunch with him last Friday and during lunch, he talked about how we usually suck when we start something new (except he said it more eloquently than that). I think that should have comforted me, but like do you even know me? Of course it didn’t LOL. I hate sucking at things (!), especially the things I like doing and I really like this job.
At this point, my job has primarily consisted of writing promos for the show to go on the social media sites and preparing a write-up on the guests that Guy will interview… which means like a two-page thing about their life story and as many questions as I can think of (these write-ups are called passoffs). I’ve written two passoffs so far. I prepare them and then the show’s editor looks over them and gives me feedback and from that, I can tell that my second one was better than my first but that they’re still not good. And here’s the frustrating thing: I knowit’s not good and my editor (bless her BRILLIANT soul) tries her very best to give me constructive feedback but she and I both know that it’s the kind of thing you just get better at with experience. So as eager and impatient as I am, I just have to keep doing more of them until I get better.
Everyone on the team has been asking me how everything is going and whether or not I feel like I’m “sipping from a firehose” and on the first week, not so much. In retrospect, that was probably because half the team was away doing a live show in Seattle. But now that everyone’s back, I’m starting to get a feel for the regular swing of things and I’m feeling the uphill climb on the learning curve as they give me more and more responsibility. In some ways, it’s about learning to do the tasks correctly but the other, equally challenging thing is learning to juggle different tasks that belong to different projects and have different timelines.
I came home from work the other day and was like… ok this is the homework I’m going to give to myself in order to try to get better quickly and I kinda laughed about it a little because I was weirdly glad that my anxiety-powered intensity is back in action. It’s been what, 5 months since my last exam? So yeah, I haven’t felt this anxious drive in so long and it was just like “lol ok hi, intense Dayana is back (after the chillest summer of her life)”.
Speaking of intensity, I was reminded today of all my bad habits from college. For example, eating while doing work is like the #1 thing that comes to mind. If it wasn’t for my team asking me out to eat, I realised that my basic urge is to just microwave my packed lunch and eat it at my desk because that’s kinda how I’ve been doing it most of the time for the past few years… which is bad, right? I remember sitting down to eat and being like “oh, my eyes aren’t really needed for eating so I could probably do my readings now” (admittedly, sometimes it was Netflix instead of readings, but you know…) and I think that “I should always be working” thing is actually pretty hard to shake off. Like, I’d come home at night and the other day I caught myself looking for my usual to-do list. It’s so weird. But anyway! New life stages come with adjustments lah kan.
In other, funner news:
Us interns still have training going on. It’s a bit more sporadic now but we still have a few here and there. Last week, my favourite training session was one on the Marantz. It’s a mobile audio recorder and we basically had like 1.5 hours on how to use it, which I thought was pretty comprehensive. It isn’t directly related to what I do on the job, but I absolutely loved it because remember earlier this year when I was working on that piece about graduation? I was using a Zoom H4N which is similar to the Marantz but less sophisticated. And I had all these questions, which I’d just look for answers to on Google and whatnot but this training was great because it let me know what I was doing right and wrong and gave me answers to all my unresolved issues. So yeah, that was really cool!
Unrelated to work: I went to see Ed Sheeran in concert last Wednesday! I went alone and it. was. so. much. fun. I bought the tickets ages ago that I had kinda forgotten all about it. And I got like the cheapest possible ones so I was on the highest possible tier but still, even though the show is basically just Ed and his loop pedal + a guitar, his voice/energy really filled the room and I just had the time of my life because I knew all the words to all the songs. Plus, I’ve heard all of his records over the years and I can remember like listening to Multiply on repeat while I was on a 7-hour layover at Heathrow and listening to Divide while I was in LA last March. So hearing everything live was definitely an experience.
I wore an Ed Sheeran tshirt to work the next day and my editor asked me about it and asked me about the concert and she asked me whether there were a lot of screaming girls and bored parents and I said yeah but conveniently left out that I was, 100%, one of the screaming girls. It was a miracle that I still had my voice the next morning lol.
That’s all from me this week 🙂 I’m off to try to finish watching 30 Rock before it goes off of Netflix next weekend, haha. Bye!
Ok, I’m sorry this is late. I can feel the watchful eyes of Hui Jie and my dad, wondering why I flaked last week.
The truth is, I’ve just been at a loss for words, and I mean that in the best way possible. I honestly am so grateful for this past week that I don’t even know how to write about it in a balanced way. I feel like I usually write about being at least a bit busy and tired even on my best weeks, so I just wasn’t sure how to open up a blank page and be like “everything is great!!!”
But everything has been… pretty damn great.
I had quite a bit of trouble falling asleep the night before last Monday. I guess I was a bit more nervous that I realised? But the morning finally came and I wore the clothes I laid out for myself the night before, just like I used to do when I was like, seven or something.
My first week at NPR started off with a day of orientation. I walked in for the first time grinning so hard like someone had stuffed a hanger in my mouth. Coincidentally, the very first person I met was another Penn grad in my year. I recognised her because I saw her perform at a stand-up comedy show last spring. There are about 50+ interns this semester and that meant a lot of introductions and so very much small talk. Pros: meeting so many new people from all over the country. Cons: I never know if I’m being weird or awkward or saying something that doesn’t make sense.
We went on a tour around the building and I was like, awestruck the whole time. During our tour, we passed by NPR Politics host Scott Detrow in the hallway, I saw Code Switch co-host Gene Demby’s desk and got to see all the studios they record in. Needless to say, it felt like one of the best days of my life. Also, we had free pizza for lunch that first day. Having just graduated from college, I expected that basic boxed pizza we used to get from Allegro’s or Axis but wow did they exceed my expectations (note to self: ask HR about where that pizza came from).
The rest of the day was mostly boring first-day stuff like handling paperwork, hearing from a senior exec, learning about workplace conduct and all of that good stuff. Not gonna lie, I zoned out a few times that day, but always because I just couldn’t believe where I was.
On Tuesday, I finally got to meet my team!! I don’t think I’ve ever actually said on here what I’m doing at NPR, but I’m the intern for NPR’s How I Built This, which is a podcast about entrepreneurs, and I’ve been listening to it since it’s early days… and by early days I mean last September. Which brings me to the highlight of my first “real” day on the job: ice cream! The first day I met my team was coincidentally also the one year anniversary of the show and we had some really good ice cream to celebrate.
I remember the first time I listened to HIBT. I was on a flight back from Boston after a crappy job interview, fighting the temptation to feel like the biggest failure ever. I remember listening to their episodes on Vice and Spanx, and feeling instantly inspired… like I will be okay, and that I can still make something out of myself. I came back to Philly and I wrote a blog post titled Five, in which I write that “I am not meant for more, not meant for less, just meant for different” and that “perspective is powerful”. I got that by listening to this show. So HIBT is really, really special to me and I am so honoured to be a part of it.
Everyone on the team has been so kind and welcoming, which has just made this whole new beginning so much more (forgive me for being this cheesy!) magical. It was kinda wild to hear Guy Raz speaking directly to me, because I have been listening to his voice on podcasts for so long. It was also a little bizarre to be introduced to people when you’ve actually already memorised their full names from listening to them being said on the credits of the show so many times, haha.
They’ve all been so helpful to me as I learn the ropes. I’m helping run the show’s social media accounts and prep the show’s host for interviews and stuff. Soon, I’ll also be getting more hands-on production experience by helping to produce a 3-5 minute featurette at the end of every episode but we haven’t gotten to that point yet. Still, I constantly find myself needing to run over to people for small questions and they’ve all just been so patient, which I obviously really appreciate.
Apart from my duties with the team, all the interns have been having a series of seminar-style training sessions from all over the company. We got to hear from Nell Greenfieldboyce about journalism fundamentals, from Lori Todd about social media management, from Mark Memmott about ethics, from so many others about how to find our way around the building, book the studios, borrow equipment and use the internal software. I really like that there’s this sense of structure to the program, plus it gives all the interns a chance to get together a few times a week and get to know each other.
The highlight of last week for me however, was, not gonna lie, meeting Paramore. They were such an integral part of my music interests back in secondary school… I remember listening to “brand new eyes” during form 5 while studying for SPM and like wow, 16-17 year old me would NOT believe this could’ve been possible. They were there to perform a Tiny Desk concert, which is a signature series that comes out of NPR Music. Artists usually play acoustic versions of 3 of their songs. John Legend, Adele, Yusuf Islam, Chvrches, Hozier and SO many more have performed there. The set is decorated by all sorts of relics left behind by some of these artists. Anyway. Paramore played Hard Times, 26 and Fake Happy. Hayley Williams was so sweet and so good live and I still can’t believe any of that happened.
Outside of work, I’ve been meeting a lot of friends. I’m quite glad there are a good number of people I kinda-sorta-know here because it’s like making new friends but not entirely. There are some people I know because of Penn, some people I know from home and some people I made friends with almost purely by virtue of also being Malaysian. So that’s nice. It gives me a chance to have some form of social life without being overwhelmed at all. My new roommate is also amazing, and so is the apartment I’m staying in. So yeah, things are on the up.
Again, like I said, I’m just so thankful for the chance to be here. 🙂 I’ll write more soon when I fully settle into this new life. For now, the dryer is done and I have (sigh) a lot of laundry to fold.
P.S. I just want to leave this here, from 11 months ago:
As I write this, I’m in bed in a new apartment in a new city for a new job. I remember from four years ago, feeling like I had to blink twice or thrice every time I looked out of a window to check that I was really in Philadelphia at an Ivy League school. It has been so long, and now I get to feel like that again.
Even in today’s gloom, Washington DC looked so beautiful. This move has been such a long time coming. From labouring over my NPR internship applications back in March, interviews in April, struggles of obtaining work authorisation through June, to apartment searches in July… I’ve finally settled in a lovely Columbia Heights apartment and am excited to start work next week.
I got to the US on Sunday and had a short but very blissful 24 hours in Philly. I made the most out of my brief time there and got to see Cristina, so many of my MSA friends who were still at Penn (because Zuhaib & Armi had great timing and hosted a potluck that exact night!) and had a sleepover with Jamie.
The next morning, Hanna and I made a road trip down to DC. I will forever be deeply grateful to her for driving 5 hours and helping me move. That was just such a nice thing for her to do. We had a great half day together—car chats and an IKEA stop in the morning, moving bags and boxes into my room and a good lunch in my new neighbourhood.
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Everything feels different. Like, even though I had an amazing summer and felt sad to leave, I also felt noticeably less dread about leaving home this time just because for once, I was actually excited about going back to the States. I arrived in Philadelphia (just because it was easier to get a round trip ticket) and though it felt weird to be back on campus, it felt good weird. Although there was still a sad echo of all the graduation madness, without the stress of school and a new semester, it was easy to enjoy the campus for the beautiful place it is. Also, the apartment I’m staying in feels nothing like a college apartment. And honestly, DC has me awestruck a little more than Philly ever has, and certainly more quickly. So alhamdulillah, I’m really thankful.
On that note, I just want to acknowledge that literally none of this would be possible if I didn’t already have all the privileges that I do. Getting work authorisation was not cheap. Plus, because I didn’t apply early enough, I had to stay in the US for a bit longer than I had planned back in May, which meant more living expenses. All of that was paid for by my parents, who literally just asked me if this is really what I want, and all I said was yes. It also helped that I was at a school where the resources were abundant and alumni network was so extensive that I had multiple people to talk to about applying to jobs in radio and working in the industry in general. I think a lot about how this same opportunity is apparently present to a lot more people than the ones who can actually take it and I’m doing my best to not take this chance for granted.
In other news, I’ve lost my phone. I don’t really want to talk about what happened anymore but I’m 99.9% confident it’s gone. To tell you the truth, it was really upsetting, especially because it happened on my first morning here. Just as I was about to feel all adult and independent about going to Target by my own volition, this happens and I had to rush back to my apartment to text my mum with my laptop to ask about what to do lol (reality check: I’m still a baby).
I managed to hold it together by reminding myself that phones are replaceable (even though some unbacked-up data in there might not be…) and better my phone than my travel documents or me getting hurt. But yeah, that’s also why I can’t really put up pictures of my apartment. I really appreciate having a phone so much more now. I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and had to write down a list of groceries and draw a skeleton of the directions to the store. There was nothing I could do to keep myself distracted while waiting in the long line and I couldn’t even tell the time! Haha. Well, at least I’ve found some humour in this otherwise unfortunate situation.
Anyway, all of that is just to say that I’ve had an eventful first few days here. I’ll write more to let you know how my first week of work goes but for now, I’m suffering from a strong combination of jet lag + post workout sleepiness so, until next time, thanks for reading. 🙂
I’ve just gotten back from a quick… um, early dinner? late second lunch? I don’t know, I just got back from Kelana Jaya, where my family and I went out for some char kuey teow (no prizes for guessing whose idea that was). All of that “just had a scaling appointment at the dentist” sensation from my dentist appointment this afternoon has completely gone. Oops.
My insanely indulgent summer holiday is coming to an all-too-rapid close but has shown no signs of slowing down in terms of how much fun I’ve been having. I think it’s been a while since I’ve done a recap and I don’t really feel like covering everything I’ve done so I’m just going to do another run down of some personal highlights.
Aboo Bakars Bowling Tournament
I mentioned a while ago that my family was going to have a bowling tournament and we did! It was so. much. fun.
First of all, let me just stress that I suck at bowling. If you set aside my 8-year-old cousin Natasha, I came last out of everyone that day. But it was just really fun to see how good some other people were and it was extra exciting when my ball didn’t end in the gutter! My dad even sorted people into teams such that each team would have players of equal capability and no team has an advantage over another and no one knew who was in which team to start with so we all just rooted for everyone. There were prizes and everything!
My favourite part of the day though was probably when we all went out for lunch at Delicious after we all played two rounds. I love going out with my extended family. We always end up blocking out a whole section of the restaurant because there are like 20 of us.
A while ago, my sister showed me this video on Instagram of this white guy speaking fluently in Malay about a restaurant called Kesom which serves really good nasi kerabu. We decided to go a couple of Sundays ago because nasi kerabu is one of my craving list items and it did not disappoint! The only thing was that my dad made me drive (!!!!) and the GPS took us on some small winding back roads so it was a little nerve wracking but it turned out ok.
That same Sunday, my sisters and I went to Bukit Raja to watch a movie with two of our cousins, Alesya and Azlina. We watched Bad Genius, which was the talk of the town—everyone was absolutely raving about it! Basically, it’s about this really smart girl who starts a system to help rich kids get good grades by helping them cheat in exams in exchange for money (when I told my mom this, she was like “why are you watching a movie about cheating?” but like, obvs there was a lesson and all of that).
I loved the cinematography of it all. Some parts were cringey and unrealistic but it was just all so beautifully shot and I really take my hat off to the Thai entertainment industry for a well thought out film. (*cough* now, if only Malaysia could stop making ridiculously stupid ghost movies…)
HAIRCUT + FOOTBALL DEBACLE
Last week, my sister wanted to go get a haircut and for one reason or another, each salon she went to that day turned her away (too full, closed, etc) but after Maghrib, we decided to try another one near Aeon Seksyen 13. So we left after dinner, thinking it would just be a short drive, but a little apprehensive because Waze said it would take us like 30+ minutes. It was a little strange, but we thought it was just peak rush hour traffic jam, so like, whatevs.
After getting stuck in traffic for ages, we finally remembered that Malaysia was playing against Laos (I think it was Laos that night) at the Sect 13 stadium………. literally, there were cars parked on the road. We just couldn’t believe it. I think that was Aida’s like 4th or 5th attempt to get her haircut that day. So, we ended up going back to BJ, stopping at Mydin, getting a pair of scissors (and a good ol’ Ramli burger hehe) and getting my mum to cut her hair because she was desperate lol.
To be honest, it was such a fun(ny) night hahaha.
Seeing Amalina after 8 YEARS (!)
In 2009, I went to a couple of environmental camps: in Pahang in March and then in Sandakan in June. At both of those camps, I befriended Amalina. We didn’t become BFFs or anything during the camps but you know, we have followed each other on social media ever since. Trust me, I know there are a lot of downsides to social media sites like it amps up the temptation of comparison and urges you to waste your time etc etc but there are a lot of ups to it as well. Keeping in touch with your friends and having a sense of what everyone is up to is one of them—it helps give you like a jumping off point to talk to friends you rarely see. It also means that sometimes you get to really connect with people you otherwise might not get to and that was totally the case with me and Amalina.
We definitely didn’t talk all the time. Far from it. But there were multiple occasions where I felt like we were going through the same thing and sometimes we’d strike up a short conversation just lifting each other up and it was always so special to me. I still have screenshots of her messages to me just being really sweet and expressing how happy she was for me when things were going well. I had no idea that anything I said to her meant anything to her at all until she told me last week, so that was just really great. I’m so glad we got to catch up after 8 years.
Tasha’s 8th Birthday
It’s been so long since I’ve managed to catch my cousin Natasha’s birthday. It’s usually right around the time that I head back to Penn. But this year, I got to go! It was just nice because, well, it’s always fun when my whole extended family gets together to eat (lol I’m family + food 24/7) but also because it has been forever since I’ve been to one of these kid birthday parties! I used to enjoy them so much when I was in primary school and this really reminded me of those days, with all the wrapped up presents and cartoon themed birthday cake!
We got her some Shopkins toys for her birthday which is one of those new age kids things that I totally am out of touch with. They’re just like… objects? I don’t know. This is me, trying to explain what they are to Hanna:
But yeah, it was so much fun and we stayed until like midnight talking and by the time we left, I was already hungry enough for a cheeky little McDonalds stop, heh.
My diploma arrived a week or so ago, while I was still in Kuching. It was rather underwhelming, I gotta tell you, to see that the whole thing is literally just a printed piece of paper and it’s all written up in Latin. Still, we decided to get it framed. I didn’t buy the frames that Penn sold at the bookstore ($200? no thanks) and this whole paragraph is really meant for me to express how happy I am that I got it framed beautifully for less than $30 and it feels way more legit now haha.
Publika with Sha and Eli
It’s been a while since I saw Sha. And her friend Eli, who I met a few years ago, asked if I wanted to meet up, so we all went to Publika last Saturday for dinner because Eli said there was going to be a free jazz festival there (with emphasis on “free”) and we should go catch it. We had dinner—Sha and I had a really good pizza with brie and beets—and after that we went to like that outdoor area to watch the show….. before we all kinda sat and looked at each other like “now what?” lol. Sha hardly complains but that day she was like “can we go somewhere else, I’m bored” hahaha so we went to Artisan (again). It’s so weird that I won’t be seeing her for months at a time now!!! I can’t believe she won’t be coming with me to the US anymore, I feel like that’s going to take time for me to get used to but I’m glad I got to hang out with her a few times this summer.
First time on the MRT!
The new MRT line in KL opened up last month and I finally had a reason to try it out a few days ago. My mum and I took it to Bukit Bintang and it was quite fun! I loved the new stations; they’re really well done, clean and spacious. We hadn’t been to Bukit Bintang in ages (ok, we did go to Pavillion that one time but we didn’t go outside so I don’t think it counts) and I forgot how overwhelmingly touristy it is. I just forgot that there are parts of KL that are that touristy.
Last full family dinner out (for now)
My sister heads back to London tomorrow for her third year in med school, so we went to Jibby & Co. for a nice family dinner yesterday. My family loves going out to eat, and Jibs has been on my list for dinner for a while now. It was a good night as always, especially because we ended up making a stop at what seems to now be our go-to dessert place: Family Mart, hahaha. If you’re in Malaysia, you would know that it’s a not-that-new-anymore Japanese convenience store, but I only got around to visiting it this summer and I. am. obsessed. with their cheesecake ice cream and their ebiko onigiri. Good luck staying in business, 7 Eleven!!!
So yeah, that’ll be all from me now 🙂 I hope everyone else has had a nice week as well. Thanks for reading!
I don’t know if anyone else gets this thing where they’ll get a line stuck in their head, almost like it belongs to a poem or a song and you just have to finish it. I get that a lot. Lately, I’ve been thinking that nostalgia lives in our bodies.
I took a walk around my neighbourhood a few weeks ago and as I passed my secondary school, I could almost hear the school bell and I could almost feel the heat from the brick pavement through my chalk-white school shoes. I don’t miss school much if at all, but in that moment I felt like I could go back, like I was back.
I still open doors in my house slowly and only a little bit at first before opening them all the way because I used to be scared that our cat was waiting outside for his time to bolt in. Katy has been gone for almost a year now.
My mum and I walked around Sunway Pyramid—a mall I used to know so well because I went there all the time—and was surprised by how disoriented I was. We played the guessing game of What Shop Used To Be Here Before This One as we walked through.
I smelled mosquito repellent being sprayed in my kitchen yesterday and instantly, images of Winnie the Pooh vocabulary books and the sounds chants my cousins and I used to sing before bed to stop us from wetting the bed (don’t kencing, don’t kencing, don’t kencing, while being held upside down) all came to my mind.
Nostalgia is shops and basketball courts and Ridsect and bedtime rituals. Nostalgia lives in our bodies, in our muscles and eyes and ears.
The greatest irony about hari raya/eid is that we go back to Kuching and we visit a lot of people to try to spend time with as many people as possible but I always leave feeling like I’ve spent time with absolutely no one and yet I’m so tired. Plus, this year, because I was fresh off the plane from the US and super-jet lagged, I reallydidn’t spend much time with anyone, so it’s nice that I got to be back in Kuching for another few days last week. Most of it was spent at my grandparents’ house—the house my mum grew up in!—eating, hanging out with my cousins and playing Bananagrams and other word games (by now you should know that this constitutes 90% of what I do when I’m back/on holiday).
I have so many memories in that house, which, according to my nenek, is now like ~45 years old. That’s like twice my age. I remember when I was like 9 or 10, I spent quite a bit of my school holidays there. I even went on my first flight alone to Kuching! I remember playing with my cousins in the garden, running around pretending to be teachers or mothers or witches. I remember the house before it was renovated about 15 years ago, and everything was still wooden and the toilet bowl was, what one of my aunties described as a “throne” because once you entered the bathroom, you had to walk up a few steps to get to the toilet bowl haha. The shower was basically a tap that was above your head! The house is so different now but still sometimes as I walk through it, I almost expect to see all of those old things. So yeah, it’s always good to be back, despite the lack of wifi and airconditioning.
Ok, anyway, first thing’s first, let’s do a cheeky little run down of all the places I went to eat in Kuching. See, the other thing about only going to Kuching during raya is that everything is closed the whole time I’m there. Like, all the shops I want to go to are closed for the whole week or something so I only get to eat it when someone brings some back to KL. But not this time!
We first went to Swee Kang for jagung susu, which is exactly what the name implies. Milk and corn with shaved ice. I have only ever eaten it with the ice all melted because once it reaches me in KL, it’s typically many hours after it was prepared. We also had some rojak buah and cha kueh there, which were so good.
Then we went to Mita, which is the go-to bakery in Kuching. I literally remember going there when I was little and getting the same loaf of… I don’t know what it’s called… butter cake, I guess? It just smells amazing. I got some egg tarts and buttermilk buns and they were perfect for snacking.
We also made a quick pit stop at Black Bean Coffee near the riverfront which is actually a super touristy place but I had heard from my mum that the coffee’s good there and I just really wanted to try it. I got some iced coffee and it was so satisfying, though I think it’s partly because I just haven’t had good strong coffee in ages, since school ended.
The next day, we went to Rumah Hijau, which is another thing that is almost exactly as the name implies. It really is a house that’s green which was made into a restaurant. My sisters and I wanted to go there to have nasi goreng bunga kantan, which is something I had never ever had and it was amazing!! I loved how aromatic the fried rice was. It was nothing like I had ever tasted before. The next time I visit though, I think I’m going to try their nasi kukus. My Mak Long had it and it tasted pretty good.
We got some ice cream at Sunny Hill, which is just this small ice cream stall next to a school on Jalan Cahaya (hence, the name). I have to say the ice cream itself is nothing extraordinary; it’s the really soft and melty kind which isn’t my favourite, but even if it was, I’ve definitely had better ones. But (!) the ice cream is topped with these crushed salted peanuts which makes for this perfect balance of tastes and adds some texture to the otherwise overly liquidy ice cream. 10/10 would go again.
I think our last food stop was Mom’s Laksa for a good ol’ bowl of laksa sarawak, probably my favourite variety of all the laksas in Malaysia (if you’re wondering, though they’ll all really good, I’d easily rank it Sarawak, Johor, Penang/Kedah). Laksa was amazing for breakfast, though it’s really not that much better than what my mum makes at home. It’s just less effort, I guess haha.
So yeah, other than that, we mostly just stayed and ate at home. My grandma made some amazing dhal which we ate with rice or roti bom. On the last day, she made nasi daging with air asam which was amazing. In true grandma fashion, she even made some extra for us to bring home to eat the next day.
The first morning we were there, my friend Lisa came over to visit! It was really funny. She came at like 9 AM, when we were all still kinda groggy. In fact, my sisters were still sprawled out on their mats on the living room floor where they’d slept the night before. So Lisa came and saw us all in our pyjamas, hahaha, it was quite a sight. Lisa is currently a Fulbright ETA in Serian, a couple of hours outside of Kuching, where she’s teaching English at a secondary school. We had some paratha and kari for breakfast together as we caught up and listened to my grandparents’ stories. I think she really enjoyed listening to my grandparents’ stories, seeing as they were both teachers/worked in education for a very long time.
This was actually the first time I ever heard that my atuk actually spent 4 months in Hawaii training some people in the American Peace Corps. He was in the US when JFK was shot, apparently. I literally never knew this. We also heard stories about his experience in Birmingham where he spent 2 academic years studying. He was telling us about how difficult it was to call home back then. I kinda can’t imagine just going abroad for so long when you already have a family and all of that, in a time when travel and communication wasn’t as easy or cheap.
Anyway, so yeah, we had a really nice morning at the dining table. I never would’ve thought that someone I met randomly at PAACH one day would someday be having breakfast with me at my grandparents’ house!! I’m so proud of Lisa and I’ve mentioned it before but I’m so amazed by her dedication to her students and her persistence in trying to keep students engaged despite language and cultural barriers. I honestly don’t think I would fare as well as her if I were to live in Serian but she seems to be enjoying it and has expanded her food palate way beyond mine (no tempoyak for me, thanks). I’m so glad we got to meet again and I honestly can’t wait to see what she goes on to do next.
I also really enjoyed spending time with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents because I don’t get to see them a lot, since they’re a whole flight away. As we stood outside in my atuk’s garden, looking at all his plants (mangoes, grapes, pineapples, chilis…) I thought about how I have a lot of hopes and dreams and things I want to achieve and places I want to see. But what do grandparents want? They just want to tell stories to make us laugh and feed us so we’re healthy and happy and just be able to spend time with us as much as possible. I hope we got to make them a bit happier with our visit.
Hello from my bedroom where I am feeling super sore from today’s cardio-intense workout and (guiltily) sipping some Fanta grape which I bought on a whim earlier this afternoon. I’ve just gotten back from dinner with my family and we’re all currently really excited about our family bowling tournament tomorrow morning!
But first, let’s do a bit of catching up.
One of my favourite things I did last week was have dinner with my friend Nadia. She’s one of the handful of people I’ve become friends with pretty much purely out of randomly following each other on social media for years. I mean, we have a few mutual friends but I don’t think that counts because that’s not how we started becoming friends? Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her better these past couple of years since we both blog, we found out our dads used to play football (or was it futsal?) together and since we learned that we both have similar ambitions.
I think that last part was totally why it was so much fun chatting with her last Wednesday. It had been over a year since we last hung out so I loved catching up, hearing about what she was learning at work and what her future plans are. There is absolutely nothing I love more in a person—especially a female—than ambition combined with a vision and a sense of self and Nadia totally has that. I was so into the conversation that I didn’t even check my phone the whole time. Nadia even pointed out later than night after we got home that she loved how the subject of ~boys~ didn’t even come up until right at the end of the conversation for a short while, haha. Anyway, I’m very excited to see what she’s going to get up to next and Nadia, I know you’ll read this so I’m gonna say again that you have my faith & support!
The next morning, my family and I went to KLCC to see my parents’ friends from university, a couple from London who were in KL to visit family. We went to Chinoz on the Park which reminded me of when I was like 9 and we went to KLCC relatively frequently because that seemed to be one of the only malls around at the time… but I digress. Breakfast was good and it was really nice to hear stories from my parents’ friends. I realised (not for the first time) that morning that when I was a child I used to just assume that everyone marries someone from their university because I know my parents and these particular friends of theirs met while they were all at Kent. How silly is that? Haha. I also thought about how I can’t wait to have catch-ups like those with some of my Penn friends and their kids someday.
I’m starting to realise as I’m thinking through this post right now that most of my last week was spent catching up with people. I had brunch with my friend Sabrena, who was my classmate when we both were doing our A-Levels. We had both recently graduated and it was nice seeing how far we’ve come from our days at Sunway. She’s almost a fully certified dentist now!
My sisters, mum and I also went to visit my mum’s friend/roommate when she went for hajj ~7 years ago. We had such a good time listening to her stories about hajj and her travels, etc. I feel like my mum has a few friends who’re just really good at storytelling… I’m always amazed at how they can make a relatively normal story become really funny and entertaining. Plus, she surprised us with a spread of some insanely good food!! We had roti puri, kuey teow and some carrot cake—basically, a bunch of my favs. The kari she served with the puri was just so good. I ate so much that I left wishing I wore pants that were more stretchable, haha.
Over the weekend, my family and I went out for chinese food at Mohd Chan with the extended family on my mum’s side before my cousin Amirah headed back to Ohio State for her junior year. It was the first time I had crab in at least a year, and it was so good. I also didn’t realise that Mohd Chan would have an Inside Scoop next to it so when I saw my favourite ice cream shop there, it was a huge plus. I got the earl grey flavour, which was amazing. We saw Amirah off at the airport the next day and I know she was really sad but unlike me, she didn’t bawl at the departure gates. I, however, was already feeling like I was on the brink of tears because I knew the feeling of leaving-home-to-go-halfway-around-the-world-for-9-months too well.
On Sunday night, my family and I went to A&W for the first time in ages. When we were younger, A&W trips were like the most exciting thing ever. Root beer floats and waffles with ice cream just seemed like the best treat there ever was. We used to do it a lot more frequently but now that our tastes have diversified a bit more, we go a lot less. But some of that childhood excitement lingers so I still get really excited every time we go. The best part of that trip was my dad re-discovering Siri. He had written it off because Siri was bad at recognising his speech but I told him that Siri is really good now and gave it another try. He literally said “Siri, I’m having some waffles now!” HAHA. Earlier this morning when I came down for breakfast, he said “Siri, Dayana is finally up” and this evening on the way to dinner, when I wanted to ask Siri a question, he told me to make sure I say hello to Siri first, lol.
Then, on Monday morning, my dad, my sisters and I went to Batu Caves. It’s probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in KL, I would say. I know quite a few celebrities and American friends who have made it there before me. I think most recently, Ansel Elgort, that guy from The Fault in Our Stars was there and took a typical tourist picture with a monkey. Anyway, the thing about Batu Caves is that there are like 272 steps on the staircase up into the cave, which houses some hindu shrines. It was a good workout, to say the least. And I’m glad I now know what’s inside! It was a pretty fun visit. And of course, what is a morning activity in KL if it’s not followed up by a hearty breakfast? We went to Sri Paandi, one of my dad’s favourite restaurants, after going to Batu Caves for some good ol’ thosai and mango lassi.
Lastly, some time last week I also listened to this 3-part podcast series called “36 Questions” by Two Up (you can read about it here). It’s a MUSICAL in podcast form starring Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton. It’s about this couple on the brink of divorce reconnecting using the 36 questions thing that was featured on The New York Times a couple of years ago. At first, it seemed a little contrived because the premise is that the girl in the relationship, Judith, faked her identity for 2 years and that’s why she and her husband Jase are splitting and Judith is desperately trying to save it, which sounds totally insane doesn’t it? It doesn’t help that she’s a little annoying.
But I found that there were a lot of avenues for me to relate to it anyway because there is so much humanity in the story: we all learn things about people in our lives that make us think the oft-repeated phrase, “you’re not who I thought you were” (obviously, usually it’s not to the extent of a faked identity, but still), we all struggle with figuring out how to or whether to forgive people and we all struggle to move on sometimes. I also loved that the writers of this series used audio as a medium to make it accessible. Theatre tickets are expensive and hard to come by most times, but this is free and anyone anywhere can enjoy it the way it was intended to be. Plus, it helps that I’m a sucker for a good musical theatre soundtrack, which “36 Questions” does not disappoint on! (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve seen Hairspray or listened to the All Shook Up soundtrack) So if you’re into musicals and/or podcasts, definitely definitely definitely check this out!
So yeah, it was another great week. I spent most of this week in Kuching, where my mum is from. My sisters and I ticked a lot of items off our craving list there and spent time with our cousins and grandparents. I’ll probably write about that sometime this weekend. Until then, thanks for reading!
So, I know I was just in Ipoh like a couple of weeks ago but on that trip, I was mostly just catching up with a friend–so much so that it didn’t really matter where we were. I even told Shahirah on my way home that day that “I spent a whole day in Ipoh and literally only have one picture and it’s a selfie in a carpark” HAHA.
Still, I had such a good time that day that I kinda convinced my family that we should all go. After some difficulty scheduling a 2-day block for a little getaway, we managed it last weekend! We left town right after my cousin’s doa selamat for her new house which was quite nice because it was the first time I saw her new place.
The ride to Ipoh was quite fun because it wasn’t too long like driving to Singapore in the south or Langkawi in the north, just about 2+ hours. We had apple strudels in the car on the way as an unlikely road trip snack, thanks to our cousin-in-law (is that a thing?) who bought a whole box for us. I did get a little tired of having my knees bent in the car along the way so as we exited the highway, I just couldn’t help but put my feet up. Yeah, very unbecoming of me, I know, but I just had to. It made me so grateful to be so short for once.
We stayed at this really lovely place called Sarang Paloh right smack in Ipoh town (which, itself is very small) and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere to spend the night. Not only was it really pretty, it’s just a walking distance away from Kong Heng Square and the hotel staff were very friendly. We totally couldn’t resist having lots of mini amateur photo shoots around the place, haha.
If you know Malaysia, you know that most getaways are centered around food. I had a good ol’ list of things to eat on our trip. The first thing we got was cendol! I love a nice cold bowl of cendol (note to American friends: it’s pronounced chain-dole or chen-dole LOL). There is nothing like a chilled spoon of santan and gula melaka on a hot day. Absolutely nothing else like it.
Later on in the evening, we took a stroll down to Kong Heng Square and Concubine Lane (don’t ask me why that’s what it’s called because I have no idea even though I’m probably just a Google search away from finding out). That area is small but really cute and well maintained. I was very pleased to see how clean it was, too!
We had early dinner at this place 20 minutes outside of the town center and had laksa telur goreng bersarang. It’s basically laksa utara but topped with an egg fried into a perfectly crisped mesh and it was probably the single best meal we had on the trip. We were a little weary on the drive there because we weren’t sure where Waze was taking us… it looked for a second like we were going to get lost in a housing area but the restaurant was tucked in this small neighbourhood like a real hidden gem. If you’re in Ipoh with a car, definitely go visit! Worth the drive and the wait in line.
My parents stayed in the hotel after dinner because my mum wasn’t feeling too well but my sisters and I went to… Milk Cow and Plan B, lol. It’s funny because we find both of those places in KL all the time. We got honey milk ice cream, salted egg fries and a teh tarik cake for supper, since dinner was at like, 6-ish.
Although the laksa takes the cake for best single meal, my favourite place on the trip was New Hollywood Cafe (again, don’t ask me why it’s called that because I truly have no idea) for breakfast on Sunday morning. We went at like 7.20am to avoid the crowd, which was a really good idea because by the time we were about to leave, people were struggling to get seats. I liked this place because it was a food-court type situation which is always a good thing when everyone has a different idea about what to have for breakfast.
I went with chee cheong fan and char kuey teow, two of my favourites (please don’t tell my trainer that I had two carb-loaded meals in one sitting). We also had mi rebus, roti canai, yong tau foo and roti goyang on our table. It was more than satisfying and I totally understand why it’s the go-to place for everyone from KL who makes a road trip to Ipoh. Seriously, I see this place on Instagram almost every other weekend (slight exaggeration).
Sunday was a really nice day, not as hot as the day before. We walked to Kong Heng Square again, but this time to see the Yasmin Ahmad exhibit. It’s a small two-room exhibit run by Leo Burnett, where the late filmmaker used to work, and it’s really quite lovely. I absolutely loved it. The exhibit has some of her best work playing on loop, along with some of her poems and quotes hung around the room. I don’t need to say it because most of us already know… but Malaysia is destitute of good museums and accessible cultural centers so it’s always nice to see places like this. I think it’s better to have a small and simple exhibit and have it done well than to have large buildings with a big marketing budget and pathetic maintenance. So please, if you’re in Ipoh, go visit Yasmin at Kong Heng; we won’t get more places like this unless we prove that we’re here to support local arts and culture.
When I was in Ipoh last month, I went to Funny Mountain Soya a bit too late and they had already run out of everything for the day, so I knew they were probably reallygood. Last weekend, I made sure we went a lot earlier in the day. We got 5 bowls of tau fu fah (which, like cendol, is also really good on a hot day) and some bottles of soya bean, cincau and soya cincau. It wasn’t anything we couldn’t have gotten in KL but delightful nonetheless.
For lunch, we were thinking of getting mi rebus in this place just outside of the town center before we made our way back to KL but when we got there, we saw that it was unfortunately closed for some reason. Luckily we weren’t really hungry since we had been kinda eating non-stop haha. So we stopped by the side of the road to just get some cucur udang and rojak for a relatively light lunch before driving back. It was the first time I had had rojak in ages, so I was actually really pleased.
We got back to KL by about 3-ish that evening and I made it all the way without putting my feet up this time! I really enjoyed Ipoh and I’m definitely looking forward to returning again since there are still a few places on my list I want to visit. We used to go to Melaka quite frequently when one of my uncles lived there and once every few years we’d go to Penang or Port Dickson but we literally never go to Ipoh so I’m glad that we’ve added another city to our list of food-getaway places. Maybe our next addition will be my first ever trip to Kelantan (the only Malaysian state I’ve never been to!) for Kota Bharu.