Anthony Bourdain in Sarawak, and then some thoughts on work

It’s Friday night and my roommate is out of town so I have the TV to myself. I was scrolling through Netflix for something to watch and after giving up on a crappy Jennifer Aniston, I found Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series. I initially was looking for the episode on Tehran because I was told by people at work that it’s really good. Then, I saw there was an episode about Borneo… so like, there was no competition. I had to watch that one. I thought it was going to be something about the Indonesia part of it but was so pleasantly surprised that it was actually about the Malaysian side of Borneo. Sarawak in particular. He even started out the episode in KL… with a plate of char kuey teow! And then he went off to Kuching, for some Laksa Sarawak, which just left me in fetal position on the couch.

IT WAS TORTUROUS. I did not expect that at all, but man, I was writhing in pain. I don’t think about home that much anymore… I don’t spend a lot of time fantasizing about the food or places as much. I wasn’t sure if I just loved it less or if I just got better at being present wherever I was. I guess it’s really hard to tease those two apart. But I really felt it in my gut when I saw vignettes of home: everything from the penambangs to the twin towers. It’s like the US is on my skin, but home is deep in my bones.

But umm, since I’ve started writing this… Bourdain has gone to visit his orang asli friends deep in the Sarawak forests and they’re now celebrating Gawai with pork and tattoos and alcohol and I can’t relate to it anymore HAHA so let’s change the subject!

Work was good this week. Another featurette squared away in 4 days! Monday was off and honestly, I’m not such a fan of public holidays anymore just ’cause no matter how many days we work, an episode comes out every Monday morning so a day off doesn’t mean less work, it just means less time.

Ok now here’s the thing about me and working on these featurettes. I thought I’d feel a bit better at it because it’s my second time helping to produce a segment of the show but the story was a little different this week and I quickly realized that even though to a listener, most of the How I Built This stories sound the same… to a producer, especially a severely inexperienced one, it’s a slightly different challenge everytime. So it wasn’t a lot easier. It actually wasn’t any easier at all. And I think that’s annoying just because I desperately want to get better… of course, part of it was wanting to get better for myself, but a huge part of it, I’m not gonna lie, was just about wanting to get better so that I can stop taking so much of other people’s time!

I know everyone says it’s not a burden when I ask for help… and I believe them. Truly, I do. But the objective fact is also that I’m doing something they could do in half the time—maybe even less than that. And I just, ugh, that just annoys me y’know? Working with my editor is getting a bit more painful not because she’s gotten more strict or garang or whatever… she’s as nice as ever but I think in my head it’s like “ok, it’s been a month and I still haven’t totally got this.” So, every criticism is a bit more annoying not because it’s harsher, but rather, because I have quickly-rising expectations for myself.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that my high expectations for myself have always both been a hindrance and a propeller. I don’t like doing things I don’t do well. That sometimes means I go all out with the things I do. But that also sometimes means I don’t try. My editor told me to take a stab at the first draft of our featurette this past week and my first impulse was to shy away from the chance. I agreed to do it of course, because I hate being a coward and because I knew it was good for me… but I have to acknowledge that I felt a strong urge to decline responsibility. I think she noticed my reluctance and she was very understanding. She gave a nod to how intimidating the task seems but encouraged me to try. At that very moment, I almost laughed out loud, because I remembered the time I got into the car for a driving lesson and the instructor told me to switch seats with him and drive the car and I was like “no, thanks”—because everyone knows the best way to learn to drive is by watching from a passenger seat, right? LOL.

This week, only 1 or 2 lines of the draft I wrote actually made it into the final edit. Only a few of the clips I chose survived my editor’s scrutiny. I don’t take it personally and I respect her every decision and I see her reasoning. But when I continue to miss the mark, it can feel like I’m not learning. I know the truth is that I’m probably just not learning as fast as I want to, but that I am still learning. I guess sometimes it doesn’t feel like that.

I want to be good, you know? I want to be really good. I know these things don’t come quickly. I know I should be patient but the fast pace at which things move at makes it difficult to tolerate inefficiency. I find myself wishing I could learn new things now the way I learned new things back in school. And I don’t mean Penn school. I mean like… Form 1 school. You learned everything part by part. I remember being asked to do countless fraction problems, and on a separate part of the exercise book, there were just factorisation problems or whatever. And then on yet another part of the exercise book, they’d give me a word problem and in trying to solve it I’d realise, OH, the solution involves both factorisation and fractions, that’s why they drilled us on the basics first. It’s kind of like how in Karate Kid, Jackie Chan made Jaden Smith take his jacket off and on constantly. It felt so pointless, and then when he got into a fight, he realised he had really gotten down all the tools he needed.

I guess in an exercise-book version of learning to do my job, I’d be asked to first do nothing but practice cutting tape in a way that “preserves natural breaths” for a whole day. Then the next day, I’d spend the whole day learning how to balance sound levels. Then the next day, aligning music. The next day, adjusting the gaps between sound bites/making sure the pace sounds right. And the next day another thing, and so on. I think I grew up learning by drilling in the basics until it became so painfully tedious, and now part of me still clings on to that system. Maybe because when I was a kid, I tended to be a bit “ahead” in my classes; I got so used to not moving on from one concept until I got totally bored of it. So in college, and now at work, being thrown into new things at such a rapid pace and expecting to learn and improvise on the go kinda puts me out of my comfort zone. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve been out of school—high school—for years now and I still get so insecure about trying new things and not being perfect… but there’s no point denying it.

But here’s what I know I have picked up from my schooling years (all my life, basically). I know I have a feel for how to work with people: update the people I’m accountable to on where I am with my work, give them a sense of what to expect from me in the coming days or weeks or whatever so we’re on the same page, make sure I’m clear about what I can and can’t do. I also know I’m able to plan ahead and manage my timelines. I always ask myself “have I taken the fish out of the freezer?” and I don’t mean it literally. When I first started learning how to cook, I kept making the mistake of forgetting to defrost my fish and come home excited to cook/eat dinner… only to remember my salmon is still frozen. It’s such a good metaphor I think, for how sometimes you have to do something now so that you can do the thing you have to do next week. And I’m definitely not great at that, but at least it’s something I’m quite aware of. So far, at work, there have been a couple of times at least where I’ve been glad I was looking ahead and avoided getting stuck.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense, honestly haha. It makes sense in my head, I swear. So yeah. That’s my thoughts on the week. I don’t know how long I can keep this up honestly, because the things I’m doing are quite repetitive and this first month, I’ve always had new things to say about the job because of this steep learning curve but as things progress, I’m curious to see what I’ll have to say (or if I’ll still have things to say).

Ok, I was planning to write more about some stuff I did outside of work this past week but this is getting a bit lengthy as it is so I’ll get to that next time. Until then, thanks for reading!

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My First Featurette!

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.

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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!

Fun weekend!

Hello!

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 right below 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.

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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.

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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!

Mental Leg Days

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 know it’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!

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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.

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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!

FIRST WEEK AT NPR!

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.

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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.

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Hastily-taken picture, meant to just be Whatsapp-ed to my family groupchat. Ice cream served by Guy and tastes way better than it looks. Also, I love me some caramel and whipped cream.

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.

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My desk, decorated with some Malaysia postcards.

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 Times26 and Fake Happy. Hayley Williams was so sweet and so good live and I still can’t believe any of that happened.

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The Tiny Desk

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Paramore performing

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Me with the band!!

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.

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I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures with people because they’re “new” friends, but this is me with Taylor and Angie who also graduated from Penn this past May 🙂

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My fav corner of the apartment

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:

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Exciting New(s)

Hello, it’s time for a quick little life update!

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.

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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.

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Hanna took this. I joked that it felt like she was sending me off to sleepaway camp.

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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IKEA is so cheap????

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.

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One of the few pictures of my room I took with my now-lost phone.

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. 🙂

What I’ve Been Up To, In List Form (iii)

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.

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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!

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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.

Nasi kerabu

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.

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‘Bad Genius’

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).

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…)

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Super awful Snapchat-quality picture of us at the cinema

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.

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A VERY RIDICULOUS picture of me with some other stuff we bought at Mydin while waiting for our burger

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.

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Screenshot from Amalina’s Instagram story ❤

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!

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Watching Tasha unwrap her presents

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I thought this was really funny because it looks like everyone’s gathering trying to arrange themselves for a photo but they’re all just watching Amelia and watching Tasha unwrap presents haha

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:

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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.

DIPLOMA

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

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So yeah, that’ll be all from me now 🙂 I hope everyone else has had a nice week as well. Thanks for reading!