(Belated) Selamat Hari Raya!

I just came back from an open house at my aunty’s place today, so I want to argue that it’s not too late to write a nice short post about hari raya. To my non-Malaysian friends, hari raya—or raya for short—is what we call Eid here (though, directly translated, hari just means day and raya kinda means general celebration).

I am thankful for getting to spend raya back home in Malaysia. Raya fell on a Sunday and I was in Philly until Friday morning (and didn’t even buy my tickets until the Monday before that), which meant I arrived literally the night before raya. Though, I guess you could say I arrived just as hari raya started, since the month of Syawal actually starts at sundown but we’re getting a bit too technical here. I stayed in the US solely because I was waiting for my work authorisation to be approved before I could leave and alhamdulillah, by the grace of God, it got approved just in time. I was told it would get approved at the latest by July 12th, and considering how late in the process I applied, it wouldn’t be unusual at all for it to have taken the full processing time so I was already prepared to have to spend raya in the states for the first time. But then I got it approved about 3 weeks early! I am very confident that this was only possible because of how hard everyone was praying for me to come home for raya and I am so overcome by God’s mercy.

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Me at KLIA just after I arrived with puffy eyes from passing out on my flight from Doha. I sometimes use Snapchat to chronicle my 25-hour journey back home and this year, it was with an abnormal amount of newfound Penn pride, apparently.

So yeah, I arrived on Saturday night (and, if you follow me on Instagram, know that I did my usual stop-by-at-McDonalds-on-the-way-home thing!!). On Sunday, we spent the first raya morning in Klang with my dad’s family, as usual, because they’re nearest to where we live. We also had a small 1st birthday celebration for my “niece” (inverted commas because she’s actually my cousin’s baby so not really my niece I guess?), Amelia. Food was good, family time was good, and it was just an all round really good day.

Oh, and I should mention that no one outside of my immediate family knew I was coming home for raya! That made it extra exciting for me, although no one was particularly amused when they saw me that day because I already surprised everyone by coming home early for summer last year so they kinda expected it, lol. Still, I enjoy the look of happy surprise on everyone’s faces, and it was totally worth blocking all my cousins and other family members on Snapchat/Instagram for a couple of days, haha. One of my aunties was a little annoyed because I think she wished I would’ve spared her all the times she spent feeling down about the fact that I wasn’t going to taste her prawn briyani (which she knows I love). Hehe, oops. In my defense, it was totally my dad’s idea.

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My family

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My sisters and me, wearing my baju kurung from 4 years ago because I didn’t even have a new one for this year!

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Me with some of my cousins

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Almost the whole family on my dad’s side

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My friends Ken and May May, and Ken’s parents came to my aunty’s house for raya as well, which was so much fun!

In the evening on the first day, we usually fly off to Kuching (which is on East Malaysia, unreachable via land from the Peninsula, where I live (lol it’s funny explaining all of these things I take for granted, but you know, I never know who’s reading)) where my mum’s side of the family lives. My grandparents were especially happy to see me, which of course made me happy. The only thing was, I was kinda jet lagged. I thankfully slept through the previous night, but it was only because I was tired from travelling. I fell asleep at about 9-ish that night? I could still hear the sound of guests chatting and I hadn’t even changed out of my baju kurung, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. That happened again the next night, though a little bit later in the night… and honestly, that was kind of the extent of my jet lag, which is kind of impressive!

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Some of the parents and my grandparents on my mum’s side

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Almost all my cousins and my grandparents on my mum’s side

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My family waving us goodbye as we head out to the airport on the third day of raya

I usually go to Kuching once a year, so when we’re there we do some visiting, though significantly less so these days. We also try to squeeze in some time to buy kek lapis (layered cakes!) and mi kolok, which are the local goodies, since we’re not there very often. But this year, I’m not interning or anything in the summer so my sisters and I are making another visit in August, which should be fun! I haven’t made a trip to Kuching during non-raya season in a while and I’m excited to go to all the (food) places that are closed during raya.

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Other than that, this year’s raya has been relatively quiet, I think. I haven’t really gone to any open houses other than my family’s. If you’re not Malaysian, open houses are… I don’t know how to explain… these things where people just cook a lot of food and invite a lot of people over for the occasion and people do it throughout the entire month of Syawal—the month in the Islamic calendar when Eid takes place—so that they get to celebrate raya with as many people as possible I guess? We did dress up until day 4 though, which is pretty standard for us but some people really go all out with it.

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I got inventive and re-wore the top I wore to commencement with my sister’s baju kurung skirt

And that’s about it! To all my Muslim friends, belated-ish Eid Mubarak, I hope you all had a lovely one. I genuinely love seeing pictures of all my friends’ raya celebrations—the food, the dresses, the family pictures—it’s literally my favourite time of year to be on Instagram and Snapchat, haha. Also, in Malaysia, we ask for forgiveness during hari raya, so maaf zahir dan batin! Until next time ❤

Week 15: Up at 4.23 a.m. for Clarinase

Once again, I find myself writing on here in the dead of the night/in the earliest of mornings. I was sleeping in a rather uncomfortable position–head propped up to help with the whole blocked nose situation, and the sound of my own cough happens to be more effective at waking me up than my alarm sometimes is. I had a pretty bad dream; I dreamt I was at some international negotiation on behalf of Malaysia and had no idea what I was doing. My neighbours haven’t gone to sleep yet as usual, and their laughing makes me summon bucketloads of patience and wish I had earplugs.

But, whatever. I want to back track about 24 hours.

I woke up with this cold (is that what you call it? I’m not really sure what Americans refer to as “cold” or “flu” to be honest… I used to just say I’m sakit and if I had a runny nose, I would call it a flu and if I had a cough, I would call it a cough) that came without warning yesterday morning.

I planned to get some work done but I felt really weak, so I had breakfast on the couch and the next thing I knew, I was asleep again. I woke up right before my class started, but I wasn’t ready for class and I didn’t feel like bolting to get ready for it so I missed it (side note – don’t worry parents, the class is recorded and I will responsibly watch it this weekend and I wasn’t that sick).

As was the tradition this semester, I had lunch with Cristina because it was Thursday. ……… Then I went back to a nap before my next class, heh.

Slightly later in the afternoon, I felt much better and proceeded with the rest of my day normally. I went to my last Cognitive Neuroscience class yesterday evening. I always get really anxious about the last class of every course because the professors always try to impart some wisdom on us and it always makes me really emotional and I always feeling like tearing up in the classroom, haha. Professor Epstein has been really great and I think he’s one of my favourite Psychology professors. To think that I started out really apprehensive about this class because of the biology-related content, only to find myself enjoying it immensely because of how interesting and well-structured he made the class makes me a little less scared of taking on new and challenging things.

He ended the class by reminding us all the things we learned about the brain; from the fact that there are billions of neurons in there undergoing complex processes to how studying the brain leads to understanding the way each of us perceives the world and ourselves. This was what he said:

“From the Homeric Greeks who didn’t even have a word for the mind, we now have a glimpse of how the mind comes into being… how the movement of ions across the membrane can eventually lead to a thought, and a self. We are far from understanding how the link between the ions and the self work, but what I like about this field is that it at least provides a start. And if I can leave you with one thought, just one thought, it’s this: the fact that our minds work, the fact that you can understand what I’m saying, the fact that you can perceive this room and the people in it, the fact that you can remember things that happened to you 10 years ago [is] really kind of.. remarkable.”

This made me really happy, so I thought I’d put it on here in case it makes you happy too. It’s true, we take for granted the fact that we are “walking around with one of the most complex objects in the universe sitting on top of our shoulders” and sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of that, don’t you think? When I heard this, I thought, “wow do I just have really low self-esteem that just reminding myself that I have a brain can already entice my tears to come out?” But then I realised, no, it’s not really that. It really is a remarkable God-given gift.

So then, I went home, feeling pretty content. Plus, what’s more, Thursdays are also gym days! I love Barre Fit classes. I mean, I think I’ve said this before, but I’m always checking the time during class because it feels like it will never end (it helps that the clock in that studio has been broken for months!) and it feels painful and I want to give up every 5 minutes. But I only feel accomplished if I push through, and I always do and always feel better for it.

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We got to take a picture with our instructor Evangelyn! She’s really great; Hui Jie (on her left) and I love this class so much.

We came home after the gym and quickly got ready because–oh, did I mention? It was my birthday yesterday! So I went out for dinner at Audrey Claire with May May, Shahirah and Hui Jie.

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I don’t really have good pictures of our food but this is us huddled together in a grocery store, haha.

On our way back from dinner though, we were in a Lyft car when we stopped at a traffic light in the city nearing campus. Shahirah, riding shotgun, sees someone she knows at the sidewalk next to her. Our driver rolls the windows down and Shahirah starts talking to him, like “hey how are you” etc etc and she even takes a Snapchat video of him saying she saw Ryan on the sidewalk while in a Lyft. We get home and she gets a text from our friend Abdala. He saw her Snapchat and he says no, that is not Ryan. So we all burst out laughing in just utter agony because we were already so full from dinner and so tired. But it was so funny! She stopped to talk to someone while she was in the car, like celebrities do, only to realize it wasn’t him!!! It turns out it was some other person she knew but she had not known his name… I can’t tell you the story really well because I left out some details but if you know Shahirah, you should definitely ask her about it, haha.

So really, despite the irritating “cold” I have (again, assuming I’m using this term correctly…) I had a pretty good day. I really want to go back to sleep now because I have such a long weekend ahead of me. Board turnovers for clubs are happening soon, which means reviewing applications, interviews, elections etc. Plus, just 2 more days of class–a last for all my other classes this semester, and then it’s finals!

Just a little bit longer, now 🙂