Week 7: No-Milk Pancakes

There’s a very hectic two weeks ahead of me. Once again, I find myself baffled and amused because I don’t know how I will come out on the other side of all of this. Objectively, I know it means I have a lot going on for me, which is exciting! The summer job search is picking up again and since we’re just over a third of the way through the semester, classes are gearing up for the midterms, papers deadlines, etc.

So really, I’ve done nothing much but eat, sleep, study and lie on my couch thinking about possible future careers. Plus, I also don’t want to spend too much time writing this week since my to-do list is bursting at the seams. Given that, I just want to leave you with the best thing that happened to me last weekend.

I went to bed on Friday night thinking about how great it would be if I could have pancakes with chocolate and a side of fruit for breakfast. However! I did not have fruit nor did I have chocolate or even milk for the pancake batter. I rarely leave the house on Saturdays because I like not having to get dressed so going out just for groceries was not going to happen. In times like these, you go to our good friend, Google! (Or, as my mom calls it, Mr. G)

I found this great recipe for milkless pancakes and it was the BEST THING.

1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 TBSP. sugar

1 TBSP. oil or butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup water

You basically mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients in the other bowl and then combine them. Then, beat it until there are no lumps and get started making your pancakes!

When I made my first pancake, I didn’t realize I had only just put in 2/3 cups of water so the batter kinda didn’t flow well on the pan and didn’t look great. So I was like “ok fine, I’ll sacrifice this first one” and quickly added the remaining 1/3 cup of water and beat it while the first one was still on the pan. But after I finished cooking the first one, I tasted it and oh my god it was the fluffiest and softest thing ever. The remaining pancakes were easier to make and were still fluffy but not gonna lie, the first one topped the rest. I also think I accidentally added a little too much baking powder so that could’ve been part of the reason it was so fluffy? I don’t know. Clearly, I’m no chef. But I loved this recipe more than any other one I’ve tried and I’m never making pancakes with milk ever again.

As for the chocolate, I didn’t have nutella or anything like that so I just used milo powder + just a little bit of hot water to dissolve it and spread it on my pancake. Best home breakfast ever.

Yeah, it looks a little messy but it was glorious, I tell you. Look at that beautiful stack at the back. *heart-eyed emoji*

And no, I didn’t do anything to compensate for the fruit. Oops.

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Week 6: TREATS

I feel like I’ve had a lot of treats lately. Last week, Wendy and I made chocolate covered strawberries for an event we were hosting together. It was so much fun! I never knew how easy they were to make. Plus, whenever you mess up, you just eat it! And let me say that cold strawberries + hot freshly melted chocolate are tough to beat—just so, so good.

Last weekend, I also hung out with some of my friends from the APALI program I did last spring. (APALI is the Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative!) Cathy, Ashna and I, with the help of Cathy’s housemate, made egg tarts. They were surprisingly pretty good!! We just followed the recipe from Buzzfeed Tasty and it worked out amazingly.

Hi, Cathy!

It was nice to see everyone because it had been so long since we got together. Everyone’s just so busy though so I can’t blame them. It was a really cold evening so we stayed in and just played games 🙂

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I saw Busra again for the first time since the fall semester! It’s crazy how fast the semester builds up that I’m only seeing her for the first time a month into the Spring semester. But yeah, I went to Han Dynasty again to have dinner with B and it was a lot of fun. She’s really the sweetest thing.

ISN’T SHE THE CUTEST.

After dinner, I hung out with some of my friends who are seniors, Osama and Habeeb. I know them through the Muslim Students Association. Osama is graduating in May and he just wants to have conversations with people and learn more about his friends I guess before college comes to an end for him. He made coffee for us which is great because how do I turn down free coffee?


Yesterday, my friend Maanoj visited me! He’s studying in Canada and made a trip down to NY because he needed to renew his passport. He decided to make a day trip to Philly, which I really appreciated. It’s always so nice to catch up with friends who knew me way back then, and it’s great to see how far my friends have come. I absolutely love having such smart, ambitious and kind people in my life.

“Take a picture with the thing so people know you’ve been to Philly!” “Seriously?!” LOL.

As I write, I’ve just finished dinner and have to start doing my homework.

My dinner today smells a little like raya ❤

 I have a midterm each week for the next 3 weeks, but I just realized that by the end of it, I will have passed the halfway mark of the semester which is exciting!

Slowly, but surely, right? 🙂

Week 5: Chinese New Year!

Happy (belated?) chinese new year! This year, the Hong Kong Student Association, Chinese Student Association and Penn Taiwanese Society put together a Lunar New Year celebration at Penn. It was really fun. So many cultural groups participated, and some of them were Club Singapore, Penn Philippines Association, Vietnamese Student Association, Koreans at Penn and even Malaysians at Penn. There were performances like the lion dance and some songs by the Chinese a capella group. Each club served a type of kuih or offered a workshop/game. We served homemade prawn rolls and fried wantan (or I guess, wonton) skins with sugar powder—so good.

Me and Ken, serving food at the event.

 

Han Yang and Marcus, the Malaysian seniors 🙂
Cooking at Ken’s house with the other Malaysians!

Festivities always give me major FOMO because I’m missing my family back home. They all went out to Jinjang to visit relatives last Monday. I haven’t gotten to go along in such a long time! But I’m glad I got to at least experience some festive spirit over here with my friends.  So that was one of the “highs” of my week.

My family on Chinese New Year!

My “low” was actually quite funny… I usually do laundry once every 2-3 weeks, but when I do laundry, there tends to be like a (small) pile of stuff I leave behind because it’s not important and I don’t need it haha. Last Monday night I decided to do ALL OF IT. It was like, 3+ loads. It was supposed to be done by like 12.30 am, but the dryer didn’t dry my clothes properly so I had to put it in for another round. I was so sleepy and could hardly believe that my first time staying up late this semester was for… laundry. It didn’t even fully dry after the second time around pulak tu! So I ended up having to hang my clothes all over my room and just slept without a bedsheet or duvet cover. Lesson? Um, make more money and hire someone to do it for me (hehe just kidding…).

I also went for the APSC Town Hall last weekend. APSC is the Asian Pacific Student Coalition—they are the “umbrella group” over all (or most?) Asian-interest groups on campus. They advocate for needs in the Asian community to administration and they facilitate the building of relationships within the community. My friend Majid who’s on the board of APSC said he’ll read my blog so Majid, if you’re reading this, I hope I explained that well enough. They explained some of the initiatives they’re working on. For example, trying to work with the University administration to promote faculty diversity, helping provide resources to minorities from low income families hoping to go to grad school and combatting Islamophobic rhetoric and sentiments on and beyond campus.

Since we’re on the topic, a lot of people ask me about my experience with Islamophobia at Penn and I just want to say I think it’s there and it’s implicit, which is to say that if it exists, it’s never really specifically and/or directly to me or others. And although I’m not optimistic enough to say it doesn’t exist here, I have received so much support from my Muslim and non-Muslim friends, advisors and professors. I also remain encouraged because there is a lot currently in the works on campus to further fight these sentiments and it’s great to be a part of that and to see my friends take active roles in this cause. I’m just super proud of my peers and the minority community at Penn for that. I mean, it could be so much worse and I think my experience is not representative of that of all Muslims in America so I actually am… lucky, in a sense.

The United Minorities Council discussing efforts to fight Islamophobic rhetoric.

On to a lighter note! Cooking! This week, I bought potatoes for the first time because I was craving clear vegetable soup to eat with rice and kicap so I bought potatoes to put in it. Well, actually, I bought one potato. After removing the potato skin and chopping it, I realised that even one potato was too many. So, I made (or should I say, attempted to make) breakfast potatoes. They tasted fine, but I wished they looked a little better haha.

I also tried Trader Joe’s creamy tomato and basil pasta sauce for the first time this past week. I added onions, garlic and more basil leaves and some cheese into it. I also put prawns in it to complete it. I made pretty much the whole jar at once, so I was eating it for meal after meal over the course of like, 3 days haha. It was decent, but adding real basil leaves made it a lot better. To be honest, I have to say I’d still prefer to make pasta sauce from scratch because the ones from jars just don’t taste real. Right?

Anyway, it’s Tuesday night as I’m writing this and I’m rather sore from my session at the gym this morning. God, this is going to hurt tomorrow. I have to get back to work now, lots to do. I have one exam each week for the next three weeks so… here goes nothing.

Week 4: GOODBYE, RAT.

I thought this week would be more eventful but that’s because I was excited to go see Adam Grant talk about his new book Originals, on Monday. Then I realised I have too much work to go! I love his first book Give and Take and his talks are always good so yeah it was quite a bummer. If you come across the book/one of his talks, go check it out 🙂

My friend Peter went to the talk though and he said it was good, except there was a longgg line and it was raining so I’m glad I dodged that because I really don’t want to get sick. We had dinner together after the talk at the halal dining hall! It’s always a nice time catching up with this busy guy 🙂

I’m typing this as I’m walking to a meeting because I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write these past few days. Clearly, school work has really hit me. I have a problem set (a phrase I had to learn when I came to Penn which I guess just means homework… which consist of problems…) due tomorrow and I’m meeting two people from my class tonight to “go over answers” and I’m using inverted commas because I don’t actually have any answers at the moment. So, this will be interesting.

I JUST HAVE SO MUCH READING TO DO THESE DAYS, YOU GUYS. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but 3 of my 4 classes require regular response papers on the readings so I have to like really do them.

I started going to the Fisher Fine Arts library to study because it’s really pretty and I just wanted to work in a super quiet place (this library is really quiet). Julia was there too last week, and we had to sit on opposite sides of the table to prevent ourselves from talking, haha.

Also, last week I went to the Asian American Studies program’s discussion on the perception of Asian Americans towards the Vietnam War. A grad student in the English department lead the discussion because that’s what his research is about. It was pretty cool because going to Ho Chi Minh last December made me a little curious about it.

That same night, I managed to have dinner with Clare! I saw her in London over winter break, but it was the first time I saw her since the semester started. We went to my favourite chinese restaurant on campus and got dan dan noodles. We drank tea, talked and laughed for 3 hours until I felt like I was going to lose my voice and/or pee in my pants and it was great ❤

I literally didn’t leave the building the entire weekend, but Hui Jie and I did have our routine junk weekend! We ate pizza and had coke on her bed hehe.

Our favourite ricotta + spinach + mushroom combination!

I also ended up sleeping in her bed last weekend because the rat noises I was hearing last week persisted and drove me nuts!! If you know me, you know I strongly prefer not to share beds… but I was just that stressed out. Thankfully, the exterminator came by today and FOUND THE RAT. Hopefully, I’ll be getting better sleep from now on..

Week 3: I Think I Did Absolutely Nothing

Hi, friends. How was your week? 🙂

I’m not really sure what to talk about this week because I didn’t really… do anything… The Northeast had a pretty big winter storm last weekend so I kinda just stayed home watching movies (I saw Sisters and Miss Congeniality hehe) and doing my readings throughout.

Last week after Friday prayers, there was a reception at one of the college dorms to officiate the English House Dining Hall serving halal food starting the 25th of January. That was really exciting! I’m so grateful that we have this option now, it really makes the dining hall experience so much better for us Muslims. I just found out that Penn was, until last week, the only Ivy League that did not offer halal options. I hope now more people will know what halal means and stop saying they want to “get halal” when they mean they want to eat chicken over rice from the halal food trucks because it just doesn’t make sense grammatically, haha.

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From the Penn MSA Facebook page because I took no photos and just ate.

Last Saturday night as the storm had its fun, Hui Jie and I had popcorn and maggi and stayed up talking, that was nice. A lot of people went out to play but I just… dislike snow. After the storm passed, Shahirah, Hui Jie and I went to Trader Joes (best place ever next to Disneyland) to do groceries.

My classes have been okay. I’m starting to love this Psychology class I’m taking called Language and Thought—we’re learning about the pathway between thinking and speaking. Being bilingual helps to understand some of the concepts in this class and in fact, makes the content a lot more interesting and engaging for me and I like that.

I also love my International Political Economy class! Professor Pollack is so energetic that he makes 9 a.m. classes very exciting and it’s always a great start to the day and week. For now, we’ve gone over some brief economic history and we were assigned to watch this documentary called The Commanding Heights. It gave me the basics to start learning about many things I’ve heard about but never really understood like Keynesian economics and the Raegan-Thatcher years. The readings were kind of difficult though. I don’t have a strong background in economic history or history at all for that matter, so I took a very long time to go through them.

I’m also taking 4 classes again this semester instead of my usual 5 because the work load for these 4 classes seems pretty heavy–I think I’m going to be writing 1-2 papers every week this semester. Plus I want to do less but do better, so I feel good about that decision.

In other news, I was awoken this morning at about 4-ish a.m. because I thought I heard the sounds of a rat or something under my bed, but was too scared to check so I went to sleep on the couch (which, if you know my room layout, doesn’t make much sense because it’s like two steps away from my bed).

But yeah, that’s all for this week. Next week is looking more exciting so I’ll tell you about it soon 🙂

P.S. Last weekend, I also discovered Noah Ritter’s videos on Ellen. If you have never seen it, let this be my gift to you: go look it up!!

Week 2: I TRIED

I had no idea when I was writing my post in Heathrow last week that I would be writing next in another airport. Yet, here I am, typing a blog post with one hand and eating a sandwich with another at Boston Logan (about to board my 8th flight in just over a month!). I’m hoping for a smooth flight back to Philadelphia—my outbound flight yesterday made me throw up twice. Thankfully, I was sitting only two rows away from the restroom. If anyone wants to know what Chipotle and all its guacamole glory looks like two hours after you’ve eaten it… let me know (too much information? hehe you’re welcome). 

Boston Logan Airport
View from my taxi: This is Back Bay! Reminds me of my trip here in March.
All I saw of Boston was what I saw through taxi windows.

Anyway, you might be wondering what I’m here for. I was lucky enough to be flown out here to interview for a job. Remember towards the end of last semester I told you I was sitting at a coffee shop agonising over a cover letter? Well, to my continuous surprise, that cover letter was only the beginning of what has been an interesting, stressful and somehow fun recruiting process. After I submitted my resume and cover letter, I was already telling myself “ok, you tried, good job” and was ready to kind of move on, fully expecting not to hear back. But I was then invited to interview with them while I was home in KL a few weeks ago. After those interviews, I again told myself, “ok maybe that didn’t go so well but I’m proud of you for trying!” (yeah, I refer to myself as “you” or “we” when I talk to myself, it’s weird I guess but whatever) and I was now doubly ready to let it go. To my surprise, I was invited to interview in Boston. I’m honestly so happy to have made it to the last leg and I will be fine with whatever happens because it means the world to me that I got over my fear of case interviews and that I approached this arduous process one step at a time. I think I’m super lucky to have gone through this process and I’m just reeling over getting through it.

No matter how it turns out though, I still have the rest of the semester to go through! Because I was prepping for this interview, I kinda haven’t really done my readings properly. I’m kind of nervous because I don’t like feeling as if I’m off to a bad start. But this just means that when I go home, I have to really burn through a week’s worth of material and try to get ahead. Did I tell you I have to learn MATLAB for one of my classes? I think I should really start wrapping my head around what that is and how it works so I’m going to do that this weekend.

Apart from that, the new term for Sangam has started and I’m so excited to be working with Wendy, Luke, Sydney, Jamie, Helena and Jing Jing. I feel really good about the new group and I am so inspired by their energy and ideas. I’m going to start reading my Psycholinguistics book now. I was reading about the human predisposition to learn languages before I threw up yesterday haha so hopefully this goes a little better. Talk to you next week!

I can spot stuff when I fly over Philadelphia now. That’s exciting!

  

Week 1: 3 Airports and 34 Hours

The sight I love in May and hate in August.

In 2009, my family went on a vacation to London. It was the first time we were going to make that trip since I could remember. My sisters and I were so excited that we started packing weeks and weeks before we left. We were counting down to it like crazy: “next month we can say we’re going next month!”

I was laughing about that on the way here because somehow at some point between then and now, suitcases and airports have since become a sight for sore eyes. I pack mere hours before my flights these days and I am always walking through airports with a characteristic muka monyok. I’m waiting for my flight from London to Philadelphia as I type this. I saw a red double decker bus earlier and I can imagine being on it with my cousins, giggling about god knows what we always find so funny. It still feels a little weird being here without my family. Even weirder to think that I have been in the same city as my sister for the past 10 hours and have not gotten to see her. Weirder still to realize that I’ve now been here alone more than I have with my parents. The airports that used to remind me of my family vacation group of 10 lugging many large suitcases  now reminds me of just… me and what song I was listening to on Spotify the last time I was here.

Leaving home hasn’t gotten much easier. Although, to be honest, I don’t think I can say I wish it would. I think I might find it sadder if I was leaving behind the country I grew up in and feel like I was leaving nothing behind.

But it’s painful. Every subsequent kilometre travelled is like letting someone have another tug on a loose thread on my favourite sweater, and me just sitting there watching it unravel. I am literally rolling my eyes at anyone who thinks I’m being dramatic. Stop reading. You don’t understand and you’re clearly not trying. Because think this imagery is absolutely fitting; I always feel like I arrive in Philadelphia in rags–battered and beaten. Yeah, I guess that’s a little intense but that’s just how I feel.

I think this will all seem different to me when I look back on it though. In fact, I’m sure it will. I can already feel it change a little. As I entered this terminal, I felt nostalgic about how Uncle Asaraf sent me here the first time I left for Penn. I remembered the couple other times I’ve travelled through here alone and I know I’ll miss this when it’s over.

I mean, I already don’t want to leave Heathrow. Or maybe that’s just because I don’t want to sit on another plane for 8 more hours… but I have to go to my gate now and I’ll finish this later!


Update: I arrived in Philadelphia last night and as I made my way out of the plane, towards immigration, I saw the gates A15 and A17. Those are the gates Shahirah and I usually go to when we fly out of Philly. Looking at those gates made me so excited to go home again… I’m already missing the warmth, the constant fine layer of sweat we wear everyday, the stillness of my house’s living room in the afternoons–feet cold against the marble floor, the sound of cars passing by.

But as I shuffled my way with the crowd, I also felt nostalgic for all the times I’ve waited there to board my flight back. It’s always weird to realise I have so many memories away from home now.

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Throwback: going home the summer after freshman year.

I’m now writing after my first day of class. My PSCI 152 (International Political Economy) class this morning was great and I’m very excited to stick with Professor Pollack for the rest of the semester–hopefully I stay motivated enough to roll out of bed for my 9 a.m. class in the cold. Then I had ECON 243 (Monetary and Fiscal Policy) which, quite frankly, was scary. We jumped straight into some of the math that’ll be required for the course and I know I’m super rusty with those right now. I’ll also need to learn MATLAB and stuff for it. It’s overwhelming, but I think it’ll be good to learn.

I think I am still a little lightheaded from all the travelling. I don’t feel too great right now… a little nauseous, a little sleepy but I can’t vomit and I can’t sleep. Since I can’t rest, I’m going to start crafting my plans for the semester. Talk to you soon. ❤