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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hundddddreds of pages of readings…

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

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Ingredients for my smoothie.

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

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Spicy tuna. Emphasis on spicy.

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My tuna salad and raspberry/blueberry smoothie.

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Cucur udang/ikan bilis 😀

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Cod marinated with lime and coriander overnight.

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Pan-frying them with onions and tomatoes.

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

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Buttered rice with lime and coriander.

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

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All together!

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

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Finally made a trip to Bluestone Lane.

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The interior is super homey.

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Flat whites >>

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Because the coffee cup fit my colour scheme.

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

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

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

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

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Warmer weather necessitates popsicles, and popsicles necessitate selfies.

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

Until then. ❤

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Week 9: I Said I Would

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

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

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

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


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


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

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




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

Week 8: Making It Out On The Other Side

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

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

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.

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.

 

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..