WHOLESOME

I think if I had to set up an ideal week at home for myself, it would probably look a lot like last week.

After a nice trip to Ipoh last Sunday, Monday was mostly spent hanging out with family. I went to Pavillion with my mum, sisters, aunty and my cousin Alesya. To be honest, we made the trip because my family isn’t impervious to the whole Duck Scarves hype. Their only store is all the way there, so I just wanted to go check it out since I had never been. I didn’t buy anything (I think my mum and I were the only ones who didn’t) but it was fine because the highlight of the trip was really getting my Milk Cow honey soft serve and having lunch at Ben’s.

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My mum, Alesya, my aunty (who I call Chik), me, Aida and Julia

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I should also mention that I’m really enjoying the fact that public transport (or at least, the trains) are half off until the end of the month! I really like taking the LRT around so I was really glad we all took it to KL, though it might not be a good idea for next time because of my aunty’s knee. I just love the views and people-watching! Plus, I like how it makes me feel independent… and you know, I hate navigating roads and parking haha. I’m glad connectivity is getting better in KL. It’s still not great, I usually need someone to send me to the closest station. But it’s a lot better now and I’m grateful for progress!

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We also made a few more food excursions last week (honestly… what’s new?). We went to one of my favourite places for breakfast, Azira in Seksyen 10. They serve everything and everything they serve is just so good. My favs are mi kari, lontong, roti jala and soto in that order. It’s one of those restaurants where you can take as much as you want, which I love, which means I can have just a bit of everything. Their kari especially is just so good, and I think I really like it because it’s just so berlemak haha.

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Post-breakfast mess!

Later that evening, we went on yet another food hunt. I had recently heard of the kuey teow place near FAM in Kelana Jaya and when I asked my dad about it, he said we actually used to go there a long time ago so we decided to give it a visit. The one at Subang Ria was unfortunately closed that day so we went to Restoran Jamal which also has a really famous char kuey teow place. Normally, I’d be bummed if I went to KJ for a certain thing and couldn’t get it but the kuey teow we got instead absolutely did not disappoint and just reaffirmed my putting kuey teow in the upper echelon of Malaysian food.

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The next day, we had a cute little family photoshoot in Bangsar. We’ve been doing these once every 3 years or so and it’s always a little awkward having to do all the poses haha but they always turn out great so I’m excited to see these pictures, especially because we took some graduation pics as well and Aida got to be in them this time.

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Got to wear this robe one more time and really make the most out of the absurd amount of money I had to spend on it, haha (my robe isn’t dirty btw, it was the mirror)

After the photoshoot thing, my dad had a meeting but the rest of us went to KGNS for lunch. I love KGNS and it’s probably really bougie of me to say that I love being part of a ~golf and country club~ lol but honestly we just go there for the food. Aida and I were particularly craving yong tau foo so we got that, some pau ayam and good old teh tarik. SO SATISFYING.

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That night, I went to KL Sentral to have dinner because the Malaysians at Penn club thing was having a welcome dinner for the incoming freshmen. We squeezed into a small corner at Manhattan Fish Market because despite making a reservation, we were told we’d have to wait 30 minutes for a table otherwise. A little annoyed at first, we ended up making it work. I feel a little bad that I didn’t get to speak to the newbies much but it was the first time in ages that I got to see Peter, Han Yang and quite a few others who had graduated in previous years so I was just so excited to see them again.

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Excuse the extra large font, it was Peter’s doing, not mine.

Ken offered to drive me, Sha and Peter home after dinner and I gladly accepted, forgetting for a minute that I actually drove to the Glenmarie LRT station, haha. I had a hell of a laugh for a second, thinking about what my parents would say in the morning if they saw that the car wasn’t there. In the end, he drove me to the train station near Sha’s house which is a lot closer to Glenmarie than KL Sentral is. We had so much fun in the car, laughing, talking about everything from work to the healthcare bill to figuring out how to use Boomerang. It was so blissful—more so than usual now that I more fully understand how precious and rare times like those are and will continue to be now that we’re all going to be in different cities. It reminded me of lazy hangs at Ludlow and it made me miss May May and Hui Jie a bit more.

On Friday night, my family and I went to KLPAC which is the KL Performing Arts Centre to watch Family, a production put on by the participants/students of their Theatre for Young People program as their final showcase. My dad knew someone who was in it, so we all decided to go support him since we thought it would also be really fun. The show was well written and as far as I could tell, it was a very good performance. It ran for about 80 minutes and consisted of short sketches that really attempted to blow out into the open all the things we Malaysians tend to sweep under the rug when it comes to family: secrets, broken homes, mental illnesses, multiracial families, domestic violence and etc. I definitely was glad I went.

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Awfully dark and blurry picture of me and my sisters waiting for the show

I was also very happy to bump into Nadia that night at KLPAC!!! It was both of our first times there and we both adored the interiors together for a second, haha. I hadn’t seen her in ages and now that I’m thinking about it, this was probably the first time I’ve met her in Malaysia since we had only ever met up in London, where neither of us have lived, lol.

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We got back from the play and I had to try to fall asleep as soon as possible because the next morning, I had to wake up at like 5.30 because I was going hiking! Ken invited me and Peter only like a couple of days before but I’ve been wanting to go hiking for ages so I wasn’t going to turn it down. There was a hiking event at Bukit Wawasan and we kind of just randomly joined. My dad had to drive me out all the way to Puchong at like 6-ish a.m. (shoutout to my dad) and we started hiking just after 7. Literally 15 minutes after climbing uphill, I was panting and started to think, “hmm boleh ke ni?” (Can I actually do this?) LOL. Peter and Ken are so fit! Peter was literally just like prancing around while singing! But I’m not a giver-upper so I persisted through the 2-hour trail and I’m really glad I did because it was so satisfying. I have always said that the best part of physically exercising is the part where you train yourself to get better at negotiating with the nagging voice in your head and that was definitely true last Saturday as well.

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After the hike, we were dead set on replacing all our calories with some good nasi lemak. We even drove out to Uptown to get Village Park nasi lemak (since Ken has never been!) but honestly… Village Park? At 9.30 am on a Saturday? Forget it. So we just drove to Bukit Jelutong since they were going to send me home anyway and the best nasi lemak is actually a 5-minute walk from my house. We ended up sitting there for a couple of hours and I joked that it was probably my most wholesome hangout with those two, haha.

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On Sunday, even though I was a little sore and my toe really hurt from slipping during the hike, I went to Puchong in the afternoon to see my friend Lisa who is spending a year in Malaysia teaching English in Sarawak as a Fulbright scholar. She was in KL for the weekend as part of a Dance Camp some of the Fulbright scholars organised and I went to watch their closing show. It was so nice to catch up with Lisa and see firsthand how she’s like with her students. We didn’t get to speak a whole lot because obviously we didn’t want to be disruptive or disrespectful or whatever during the show but we did get to talk about the camp, a few of her struggles as a Fulbright ETA and what she’s thinking of doing next. I’m honestly so amazed by her enthusiasm and dedication to those kids. Her team ended up winning Audience Favourite and even was about to just full on break into tears, not gonna lie.

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(An awful shot of) the winning group’s performance. These kids teared up when they found out they won!!

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ME WITH LISA!!!

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Lisa hyping up her group before they went on stage

I got home that evening, baked some pecan cupcakes and helped prepare for a little dinner thing we were having that night. We invited one of our neighbours to come to dinner at our place as a family. We all just love spending time with Aunty A and her family; they’re always so warm and hospitable and funny. It’s just always a good time. My mum made laksa sarawak (insanely good, btw) and aunty brought some bread butter pudding, which was delicious. I actually used to follow Aunty A and her husband to work every morning when I was interning in KL a couple of summers ago and I honestly enjoyed chatting with them in the mornings and sometimes getting breakfast with them so having them over for dinner really reminded me of that, except more meriah because the rest of our families were there as well.

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My mum’s laksa

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So yeah, that was my week! It was so lovely… Hiking and dinner with friends! Food excursions, shopping and theatre with family! Catching up with people! How cute and wholesome, am I right? I did leave a few things out, like following my dad to a work event, quick detours to get cronuts at Dotty’s, eating McD breakfast in traffic and going out for chinese food dinner with my cousins but… I don’t know, I guess I just missed it and now I’m too lazy to go back and fit it in lol. Anyway, rest assured, I also spent a lot of time at home doing boring things like napping, staring at the ceiling in my room and flipping through channels aimlessly hehe.

Until next time!

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Stopping To Exchange Notes

I think so few days are as special as yesterday was. I took a train out to Ipoh on such a nice Sunday morning to visit my friend Nate, who’s spending the year in Kampung Gajah, Perak as a Fulbright ETA.

It’s so rare to have someone understand the particularities of having a foot in both Penn culture and Malaysian culture. No doubt, it’s easy to find people who personally understand the experience in broad strokes. So many of my Malaysian friends have studied abroad, even in America. But I think it’s different when you explain something subtle and specific and then get a “YES” or an “oh my god, me too!” in return because you both know both of those places to some extent and I feel like in terms of personality or like the way we think and some of the things we went through, there were a lot of similarities as well (to name a few: we both didn’t love Penn for most of our time there, we both felt very meh about majoring in Psychology, we both did Penn Monologues and we both mix sambal into the rice before eating nasi lemak).

Plus, I think what makes this whole thing even more amazing for me is that I don’t know anyone else from America who knows what it’s like to live here. All my other Penn friends who negotiate the same physical and cultural distance as me do that coming from the same side of the world as I do, so I was beyond curious to know and to hear firsthand what it’s like to be on the opposite side of that (if that makes sense?).  I’ve been a huge fan of his blog about his experience in Malaysia from day one for this very reason. On my train ride home yesterday, I was thinking about how it’s kind of like two people on different journeys crossing the same path at the same time but going in different directions, looking at the same things but from different perspectives, stopping to exchange notes… which is kind of cool.

We spent almost the whole day together effortfully navigating our way around Ipoh by foot and car. And because this is Malaysia and I haven’t been to Ipoh in at least 5 years, we. ate. so. much. That’s kind of my fault because that’s kind of all I wanted to do, but the truth is, the food took a backseat on this trip because I really came to just catch up with Nate.

I think I might’ve mentioned in earlier posts that we both met in a small Cultural Psychology class in the spring of my junior year, though Nate was a senior then. It was during that semester that he found out he was going to spend a year in Malaysia and I think on some level, I’ve been waiting to have this conversation with him since I found out he got into the program. That might partly be because of selfish reasons, like a sense of pride for a culture that I’ve never really gotten to share with my friends abroad even though I’ve always wanted to or tried to in small ways. But I think my excitement also stems from this profound curiosity.

There were so many things I wanted to ask him and talk about and I feel like we covered so much ground. We talked about difficulties trying to adjust moving to and from Malaysia, the different ways in which we stick out, learning and participating in a new culture and where we think we’re headed in the next few years, etc. (At this point I feel like I should also say that my American accent immediately resurfaced and I’m sure everyone around me was probably glancing at me like… “that girl is Malay, why is she talking like that?” but I was too preoccupied to think about it really, lol.)

I honestly felt like I learned so much which isn’t at all surprising with someone as curious and introspective as Nate is. I left feeling somewhat… rejuvenated (?) but also felt like there were so many more things I wanted to talk about but didn’t get the chance to and obviously I can’t speak for him, but I imagine he might’ve felt the same.

I know I’ve only just written about how much I looked forward to asking Nate all my questions and how I feel now that I have gotten to catch up with him and nothing really about what we talked about but that’s in part because of our privacy and because I could never fully get everything right and I don’t want to risk getting anything wrong. And since there’s no way I could write about everything, I’ll just say that spending time with Nate really reminded me of how small we are and how much of the world we have to learn from. This is so cheesy but I am so inspired by his bravery and sensitivity—the fact that he literally moved to a kampung in Malaysia where he stands out like a coconut tree in a paddy field and does not speak the language, I mean, I don’t think that’s something I could do, and he does it with so much genuine care and respect for the people around him and that’s just something I really look up to him for.

I think it was special because there’s this huge part of my life that I know most of my American friends know about on the surface level. But to have someone from that… other world of mine come see for themselves what it’s like makes me feel understood in a way that I haven’t before. Maybe I feel seen and heard better. Maybe it’s like… having one foot on both sides of the world is difficult because it attempts to rip you down the middle, and this closes that gap just a little bit more than I ever could on my own and I’m really thankful for that.

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

I’ve been saying lately that all I’ve been doing is eating because it’s kind of true. A lot of life in Malaysia is centered on food. It’s not really a thing to say let’s go for a walk or whatever to catch up. So, just as a short foreword: there’s a lot of food on this list! Haha.

Qamarina

I got dinner with my friend Qamarina, who goes by QM for short (I actually have never asked her why…) last week. She’s working in London and was back for Raya for 2 weeks-ish. I don’t see her often at all so it was so nice to just catch up and talk about everything since I saw her last in December. It’s so crazy to think I have no idea when I’ll see her next but hopefully it won’t be 3 years again, which was the longest we went without catching up.

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QM & my unintentionally patriotic selfie.

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(My parking was a lot better that day!)

Corporate open house!

My sisters and I followed our dad to a corporate open house and the food was so good. We had durian, otak otak (my favourite, and this was such a wonderful surprise because they’re quite hard to find!) and laksa. My dad even “made” dodol—ok not really make, just stirred for a bit. This was pretty much my only real open house this year, and I didn’t even wear baju kurung for it! Like I said, it was such a quiet raya.

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Otak otak and a good ol’ bowl of laksa Johor!!

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Making dodol, haha

WISDOM TOOTH EXTRACTION

This was a big one last week. I removed my wisdom tooth from the top left side!!!! I did it, guys!! So here’s the thing, my bottom left wisdom tooth was giving me a hard time a couple of years ago because it was a little impacted. I had it removed at Penn in 2015, just a week or so before finals! I couldn’t eat solids for 6 days and was sore for such a long time… I remember having such a bad experience last time so I just totally dreaded going through it again.

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My xray from 2015!! lol

In hindsight, I probably should’ve had both removed at the same time so that I wouldn’t have to recover twice. I definitely had the option to, but I knew it would be cheaper to wait and get it done in Malaysia so I just did what I absolutely had to do while I was in the US. Summer after summer passed and I kept putting it off… but my dad put his foot down and was like yeah, you definitely need to do it now. I even made him call the dentist to make the appointment because I refused haha.

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This extraction went a lot better than the last I think. And this time I got to keep the tooth! The first day, I could at least eat KFC’s mashed potatoes (which is pretty much liquid, let’s be honest) while binge-watching Stranger Things with my sisters. The toughest parts were when I had to go out in the rain to buy more gauze from the pharmacy and when I had to swallow painkillers with that whole gauze situation in my mouth.

Thankfully, I was able eat solid-ish foods within 1.5 days and in 3 days, I was back to normal although was still avoiding chewing hard things on the left side. I am so scared of the dentist, my heart starts pounding just at the thought of going for a regular scaling appointment. So yeah, very glad this is done with!

Baby sitting Amelia

Last week, my sisters and I got to babysit our cousin’s baby, Amelia. She’s a year old now, which means she’s just so full of energy. Even when she’s yawning and sleepy, she just runs around and giggles non stop. It’s kind of cute, but definitely tiring for us. The fun parts were playing with bouncy balls and carrying her around in a slow run while my mum pretended to chase us and “scare” her; she really enjoyed this. The not-so-fun part was watching her take apart and put together the same toys again, and again, and again. Children are cute, tiring, sometimes even boring but always fascinating.

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It was so hard to even take a picture of her because she kept moving around!!

Chik’s open house

My aunty had an open house for her group of police wives last weekend but invited the whole family over as well. The funny part was that we were supposed to arrive after her guests had eaten. We even came a little later just to be super sure we wouldn’t be caught in the middle of her entertaining the whole lot of them and whatnot but when we arrived, they arrived at the same time right behind us! It turns out they were all late, hahaha. So we did end up getting caught right in the middle of it all.

I missed out on the roti jala (!!!) but I had lemang with kuah kacang and laksa. It was in the evening, too. Like, 4-ish p.m. and we had already eaten lunch at 1, had dessert after, and also had a cheese tart around 2.30… I really just… couldn’t believe how much I ate that day.

Banana leaf rice

We had banana leaf rice on Monday! We took Faizol there because he had never been before. I had some sotong goreng and tosai, which is always good. I wish Kanna Curry House still used actual banana leaves but their food would taste amazing on cardboard so I won’t really complain. And that’s all I have to say about that—I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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SOTONG GORENG, MY LOVE.

Seeing Shahirah at work!

I just cannot stress how proud I was to see Sha all legit with her work lanyard and access card and all of that when I visited her at work to have lunch a few days ago. I’ve heard her talk about working there for 4 years, dreading it and preparing for it. And now it’s finally there!!!!! Her work sounds really interesting and I’m beyond excited to see how she grows there.

We got dim sum for lunch and I gave her a birthday present, Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. Charawi and I have been asking her to read that book for like, a year now. Every time I see it, I snap it and send it to her and she keeps saying it “haunts” her and it became a funny thing between us so as soon as she could tell that my present was a book, she was like “OH MY GODDDDD, I KNOW WHAT IT IS” hahaha. It was priceless.

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Kickboxing

My sisters, my mum and I had a personal trainer come over last week for a private kickboxing class. Ugh. It was insane. I am still sore from it. My mom has been doing this for a while, and honestly I don’t know how she does it because it’s just not fun??? Yesterday though, we had the same trainers come over and we did more of a strength training thing with mats and I enjoyed that so much more. I am going out of town tomorrow though, so I’m a little worried that I’m going to be so sore the whole time but I’ll let you know how that goes! Anyway, with all the eating I’ve been doing here… I shouldn’t be complaining about the pain. I kinda don’t have a choice. I have to be doing some exercise to make up for all the calories.

[31 hours passed since I wrote that last sentence, just so you know lol]

Chair.

I was on the train back from KL on Tuesday, and as I was approaching the Asia Jaya station, I suddenly remembered that on my commutes back from KLCC in early 2013, I would always look at this office chair on a balcony of this random building between Taman Jaya and Asia Jaya. I would always wonder why it was there. And as I passed that same spot last Tuesday, my heart had this small leap of joy when I saw that two chairs were there. I know it might not have been the same chair but there was just something about it that made me feel really happy.

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Making my parents try quinoa

I kinda already wrote about this on Instagram so apologies for the repetition, but here it goes again. My parents used to always perli me when I ate quinoa because it’s “hipster food” or whatever but I brought some back from Trader Joe’s and cooked it at home. I just mixed some cooked quinoa with pesto, baked carrots + broccolis and lots of chopped red onions. I would’ve liked some dried cherry tomatoes and/or mushrooms in it but I was on a bit of a time crunch and had to just work with what was in the fridge. I think it turned out really well and my parents seemed to like it so it was a win for both me and quinoa that day.

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HomePro (haha)

I went to HomePro for the first time this past week because my dad wanted my sisters, my mum and me to go check out some wallpapers for our living room. We probably did that for like 10 minutes and then spent the rest of the time wandering around that huge shop… and we got the most stuck at the baking section. I ended up buying this really cute apron and a small muffin pan for our oven (which is relatively small) and I just really enjoyed looking at all the cute and different types of spatulas and whisks and pans!!!!!! AHHHH. Ok that’s all about HomePro. It’s not that interesting… I just felt like I had to include it because I was so excited there.

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llao llao

One of the things I was sad about when I left Philly was leaving Yogorino. It’s this frozen yogurt place that serves one of my all-time favourite desserts and I actually dare say that llao llao is better than that!! It has the same tart taste but is milkier and like… fattier than Yogorino’s “thinner” frozen yogurt and I love it. I literally kept thinking about it during my last personal training session in order to help get me through. Right after the workout, my sisters and I took a shower, had quick dinner and headed to Aeon to get some llao llao. I wanted it so much I even volunteered to drive, which says a lot!

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I like my frozen yogurt with as little toppings as possible and I think the Lotus biscuit crumbs might be the best one.

Shahirah’s surprise party

Shahirah’s mum organised a surprise party for her on Saturday and it was so nice! Sha was told that her mum was organising a makan makan thing for her friends (her mum’s friends, not Shahirah’s friends… I realize this is all a bit confusing…) and Sha had to help clean the house and prepare the table and all of that for supposedly 20 of her mum’s friends. She was so shocked when she saw her own friends turn up at the gate haha. Apparently she said that at first, she thought “what are they doing here?? My mum’s friends are coming soon!” or something like that lol. But the food was so good and I got to hang out with Aish and Kai Syuen as well so it was just a really, really pleasant Saturday evening.

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A very poor picture of Sha cutting the cake because I didn’t want to leave my seat to get a better shot.

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In case you haven’t heard, Shahirah’s mum is a home chef extraordinaire. 

Dunkirk

I watched Dunkirk last night and it was really interesting. I think I enjoyed it, if “enjoyed” is the right word for it. That is, I deeply appreciated it as a film. The sound effects and cinematography were amazing and I was just revelling in that the whole time. I loved how, conceptually, it felt more like an immersive experience than a typical movie. The plot doesn’t play a huge role in the film and I read this Slate review that described it as being a movie without “military higher-ups debating strategy over maps”, which I thought was really cool. But other than that, the movie leaves you with quite a bit of heartbreak, which means it’s effective as a film but not necessarily “enjoyable”. Plus, there were literally 2 women in the whole film and only 1 person of colour in a non-speaking role, so like, meh. I get that it is a historical thing so they were just portraying what was going on but looking at 400,000 white men can only be so interesting.

We also snuck in so much food from Carls Jr which was hilarious! I felt really bad when we opened the box of chili cheese fries in the cinema but we were pretty hungry so it finished really quickly and I hope no one was too bothered by it! It was so good though, heh.

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Blurry picture of my dad holding the cheese fries, popcorn and on the right, those are 2 more bags with jalapeño poppers and chicken tenders in them! Haha

So that’s all for this week! I’ve got a really nice week lined up ahead of me and I’m so excited to be able to write about that next. Until then, as always always always, thanks for reading!

What I’ve Been Up To, In List Form

Usually when I’m going about my week, I take little notes of things I might want to write about in my blog later. But I’ve been doing a lot of these super sentimental, nostalgic posts lately that I haven’t written much about my day-to-day so here’s my attempt to clear my backlog with a non-chronological list.

Aisha and Fahmida ❤

Spending summer in Philly was so much fun only because of my friends, especially (but not exclusively) Aisha and Fahmida. I was never really close to either of them. In fact, Aisha goes to Harvard and I only met her at a Thanksgiving thing a couple of years ago because she’s my friend Habeeb’s sister and she spent the holidays in Philly that year. She’s spending the summer in Philly working and Fahmida lives in West Philly so I got to hang out with the both of them. The night before I left for KL, we went out to get cheesecake to celebrate me getting my work authorisation approved! I’m always very happy to share my love for cheesecake with other fellow cheese enthusiasts, especially these ones.

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Majid and Mansoor

The night before I left, I also got to spend time with my friend Majid and his brother Mansoor (who I guess is my friend as well now). They came by to help me weigh my bags and say goodbye and we had a nice long chat about Ramadan and books and reflection and India and Michigan. They also helped me do some Ramadan math, that is, figuring out when I would break my fast/start fasting if I decided to fast on the flight back, which proved to be really difficult. Anyway, I just love their sense of humour; those two are absolutely hilarious together. They have that classic sibling telepathic communication thing going on which means their jokes often come across as being heavily coordinated, and it kinda reminds me of me and my sisters, which I obviously love. I would never have thought they would be the last visitors I had in my Philly apartment but I couldn’t have picked anyone better. I hope I get to see them both, together or separately, again soon.

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Iftar at Aunty Lina’s

My mom’s friend’s sister, Aunty Lina, lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia so I’d see her every now and then. She used to bring me food or take me out sometimes and it’s always nice to see her because she’s the nicest person. If you read my last post, you might remember that she was the one who took Shahirah and me furniture shopping when we first moved in.

A few days before I left for KL, she invited me to her house for buka puasa. She made ayam percik and the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had!! It was nice to have iftar with a family. We talked about food, Philly things and bugs (her son is a biology major and biodiversity enthusiast!). Adam goes to Temple, another university in Philly and he told me that Temple kids go dumpster diving around Penn’s campus around the time people are moving out to see what Penn kids throw out because apparently one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. He also said that they refer to it as “Penn Christmas” which made me feel kinda disgusted, but, that’s Penn for you I guess.

My only low point of the night happened when Aunty Lina’s husband David opened the door of the basement and one of their cats came bolting out towards me and I screamed and almost tripped. It was quite embarrassing and gave everyone a bit of a laugh, hahaha. Otherwise, it was such a pleasant night.

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Baknafeh

A bunch of MSAs in Philadelphia came together during Ramadan to organise iftars for the students on campus. My friends and I went a few times for the free food and on one of the nights, they had the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had in my life. At first glance, I was already very excited because I thought it was baklava but after biting into it, I learned that it was stuffed with none other than the sweet nectar of cows: cheese. CHEESE!! That’s pretty much like biting into a kinder surprise expecting a plastic toy and finding a cheque to pay off your student loans instead. I was truly transported by this dessert, so much so that I took 2 home with me.

Fahmida dubbed it a “baknafeh” because it’s like a cross between baklava and knafeh, hahaha. Hanna said it’s a Syrian dessert and my googling skills suggest it’s called a warbat/kullaj (?) but I don’t know if that’s right. Regardless, I will spend the rest of my life dreaming about it.

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Hanna’s mum’s knafeh

And since we’re on the note of middle eastern desserts, I just want to give a quick but important shoutout to Hanna and her mum for the amazing knafeh with bananas which I will never forget. If I remember correctly, Hanna had her mum make it for an iftar she planned with her med school friends. Then she texted me to tell me she put some aside for me. I met her outside Houston Hall at this small walkway on the hottest day I’ve ever experienced in Philadelphia. We sat on the sidewalk for a bit to take a break from the scorching sun, which was kind of funny.

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The picture I have of the knafeh does not do it any justice because its appearance was less than ideal after I kept it for so many days and reheated it, but it was certainly a wonderful treat that helped me get extra excited for sahur and buka puasa every day so thank you Hanna and Mrs. Elmongy!!!

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Seeing Adam

One of the few friends I didn’t get to see during commencement was Adam. He didn’t get to make it to our MSA seniors picture and I never got a picture with him but luckily he was staying to do summer classes as part of his Masters in Public Health so I got to catch him the day before I left.

You know how sometimes the absolute best times with your friends are just the ones you spend sitting on a random bench on a nice evening? Spending time with Adam that day was totally one of those times. We talked about everything… fasting in summer, Algeria as a “hometown”, the craze of commencement and the echo it leaves behind, the pain of sacrificing precious time with friends to focus on grades, his amazing MCAT score (for which I’m so proud of him!) and my year-long quest to bring my GPA up so that I get to minimise my student loan debt. I’m really going to miss this guy.

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Last goodbyes

My very last day at Penn was spent running around campus dropping off cards for professors (which I had kind of put off because I knew I was going to be around for a while, heh). Most people were not around, which I anticipated. However, I did make sure I got to say goodbye to Angela and Dale. Angela was one of my gym instructors for the past 3 years. She works at college admissions but also teaches PiYo, which was probably my favourite group class at Pottruck. We both got a little teary-eyed saying goodbye to each other while everyone at the office just watched on, haha. I also made sure I got to say goodbye to Dale, our building’s trusty maintenance guy. He was always super nice to us and always went above and beyond to make sure everything was working for us in the apartment. He even let me text him (in panic mode) whenever I saw a mouse around and came quickly to find it and set traps. I’m so, so grateful to the both of them.

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NEW MUSIC (!)

One of the things that tends to make summer good, perhaps coincidentally, has always been good music. This summer, both HAIM and Lorde, some of my absolute favourite artists released new highly-anticipated sophomore albums. “Something To Tell You” and “Melodrama” are both just… impeccable. This summer is already turning out to be a brilliant one with an equally brilliant soundtrack.

GRE

I’ve kinda decided to take the GRE and apply to grad school which is actually huge news because for years, I was very “I’m never ever going back to school!” and “I don’t want to stay in America!” ….. well, oops? To those unfamiliar with the American system, the GRE is a standardised test required for a lot of applications. I haven’t even started studying for it yet or even bought a book for it but I’ve already looked at some programs and universities I’m interested in applying to and this is just where I’m at right now.

Netflix’s The Standups

I really love watching comedy shows. I mean, I’m not one of those ardent followers of comedy but I did enjoy the Second City show in Chicago, the 2 Dope Queens podcast and I’m a fan of Hasan Minhaj, Trevor Noah and Aziz Ansari. Naturally, when Netflix put out their latest comedy special, I got really excited to watch it and I’m so glad I did because it was absolutely hilarious. I love listening to relatively new comics and I especially love it when it’s a diverse mix of people on stage. So yeah, if that’s your kind of thing, definitely check it out. It gave me many good laughs last Friday night while home alone eating kuey teow kari on my living room couch. Goooood times.

Seeing my high school friends

Last night, I got to hang out with some of my friends from high school which was really nice. I definitely had a lot of good laughs with Ili, Syaza and Amalina, talking about the things we used to do when we were like 10. It’s hard to keep track of who’s doing what while I’m away so it was very interesting to learn what people are up to after not seeing them for a year: new jobs, going back to school and engagements (!)

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Driving after ~11 months!

I drove a car for the first time in almost a year and it was quite a trip, let me tell you. I can’t believe how easy it is to forget how to drive! I don’t mean the actual driving—that, I don’t believe you really can forget. But it’s the little things like which side the signal thingy is on, how to turn the lights on, how softly to press on the brakes, where everything is on the dashboard, how to park…

On Friday night, I found myself alone and foodless at home so in order to get dinner I needed to go get some takeout. First of all, it took me ages to identify the car key in the key box… so that wasn’t a very good start. Then I had to very consciously look for the unlock button on the key, figure out how to adjust my seat etc. I also realised I didn’t have a system when it came to whether or not to open the automatic gate before or after I got into the car. And then when I wanted to reverse, I took some time to double check on the dashboard whether my car was really on R not D, and I couldn’t find where those letters were on the dashboard. It was all so awkward because I was just not used to everything because it had been so long!!!

The funniest part was when I tried to park my car the next day. I got into the parking spot, turned to my sister and said with a smile “oh my god, was it perfect?” because it looked so good but this is what I found:

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Clearly, I need a bit more practice.

Not being in one place for very long

I just got back from Phuket, Thailand a couple of days ago and I’m excited about staying put for a while. Ever since I got back from Philly, I’ve been moving around quite a bit. Arrived in KL on the 24th, left for Kuching on the 25th, got back on the 27th, left again on the 1st and then back again on the 7th. That meant I had 6 flights in 2 weeks. The week I spent in Phuket was actually the longest stretch I spent in one place since I left Philly, which is nuts. This means I still have laundry and unpacking to attend to even though I first came back to KL over two weeks ago now.

I’ll write about Phuket and raya/Kuching soon but for now, I’m going to follow my mum to Jaya Grocer so that I can buy some snacks for myself hehe and then we’re all going to watch Spiderman tonight. Until next time, thanks for reading!!

Freshman + Sophomore year highlights

I was thinking recently about what a shame it is that I only started this blog in my junior year because I genuinely do like scrolling through my own posts and looking back on all the things I know I would’ve otherwise forgotten. I think it’s also such a shame because I feel like I had so much more fun those first two years even though I would probably tell you I enjoyed it less. Like, yeah, I was a lot more homesick and a lot less adept at coping with Penn but I also had more time and less responsibility. I also did very poorly in school Sophomore year, so I mean… maybe that’s why it was memorable.

Then last week while I was procrastinating doing my laundry, I went through my external hard disk (or is it a hard drive?! ugh I never remember this) and compiled some of my favourite old pictures. I know a lot of these pictures are so overdue and probably won’t matter to you but these are insanely precious to me and I don’t have much else to do right now so I’m going to tell you about them!

Freshman Year

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A PICTURE OF ME AT KLIA LEAVING FOR PHILADELPHIA FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! That suitcase on the right was bought just for me to go to the US with and I loved it so much, but unfortunately on my way to Philly last August one of the corners broke and when my sister took this bag back last week, another corner broke as well, which is sad.

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During orientation, one of the best events was honestly Comedy Night. We had Hasan Minaj right before he became really huge. It was the first time I saw a comedy show and I had so, so, so much fun. I can’t remember what this particularly bit was about but he called up Anshu who was my next door neighbour in the dorms freshman year! How insanely lucky is that?!

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I had an app that lets me look at realtime CCTV footage from our house and occasionally I would catch my family doing day to day things. Here’s my dad coming home from the mosque, lol!

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Strictly speaking, not a picture from my camera roll but I must’ve saved it from Facebook—it’s a picture from my very first MSA GBM. I remember we played Taboo and got Kiwi after. Hanna was the first person I met here! One funny thing I remember about this event was I remember meeting Dahlia (who is in the front row with short curly hair) and the first thing I said to her was “wow you’re really pretty” LOL.

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I can’t believe this dorm pizza parties used to be a thing in my life. Every week or so we’d get an email from one of the faculty members who live in the house saying they’re hosting a pizza thing and we’d all go down and get some food. It looks fun, but trust me, these things were always awkward—very many painful small talks were had here.

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My Freshman year room!! I absolutely loved this room and I loved being in a single. That blanket on my bed has been sent home to Malaysia, that microwave is in my kitchen right now, that coat hanger is literally next to me as I type this and that black mug by the sink is what I used to drink coffee yesterday at iftar!

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I learned to crochet for like 2 mins once. I soaked up the sense of accomplishment and never went back.

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I feel like this is the first time May May, Sha and I got brunch together. It was the first time I went to Green Line and it was the morning before we went to King of Prussia for the first time to get all our fall clothes after an impromptu sleepover which we spent mostly talking about admissions essays, haha.

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These were my freshman year hallmates! I almost forgot that our RA, Cat, actually put these pictures up on the walls. We weren’t really that close but I am still friends with Clare and I do see some of the others from time to time.

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This was from Raya Haji / Eid al Adha 2013 and the boys (or should I say, the Halalapella) performed a song. BUT can we just talk about how the Syrian flag is literally taped upside down here for a second?!?!

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There was this one night May May texted me to tell me she was coming by and she was in a rush but wanted to drop something off and she gave me this!!! She just came back from Chinatown and bought me a small bottle of my favourite chili sauce from back home and I was so touched.

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I used to spend Friday afternoons volunteering with Write On!, a group based at the Kelly Writers’ House which teaches creative writing to kids from Lea Elementary. We had this activity once where we had to make poems out of a word bank and this was mine.

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I can already feel the joy I used to get when Sha and I would have this for lunch once a week! There used to be this Indonesian lady on Spruce Street who would sell halal satay on… I forget, it was either Tuesday or Thursday. Shahirah and I would get it for lunch together after Arabic class and it’s not even that good but it meant the world to us at the time.

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OMG look at how young we look! This is me, Clare and Charlotte at the only football game I ever, ever, ever went to. We didn’t even stay the whole time. I didn’t even understand a single thing.

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These flowers were from my family for my birthday in freshman year!! I’m having such a good laugh right now because I’m remembering what a fail the surprise was. Shahirah was supposed to order them and give them to me. We were at a dining hall one day and she was scrolling through her phone and she randomly asked me something about colours like “pink or orange?” (I hate orange, btw) and I was like “what???” but she didn’t tell me why. Then one day, not long after, we were doing homework or maybe just lazing around in her room when she gets a call and leaves me there and she comes back with the most NONCHALANT expression, with flowers and again, I was so confused because she said they were for me but her face was so expressionless it was like I was supposed to already know what they were for or who they were from. HAHAHA. I think she didn’t expect that I was going to be with her when she got them delivered but, oh well. Makes for such a good story.

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Another birthday surprise!!! This was at a Malaysians@Penn event and I’m pretty sure Marcus baked this cake! I remember that I took my birthday off Facebook but somehow a bunch of the Malaysians knew to wish me anyway and now I wonder if that had anything to do with this surprise.

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MY FIRST EVER SNOW! My family and I went to PPO to shop that day and when we came out, the parking lot was all covered in snow!!!

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Me and Sha at either London Heathrow or JFK, sad about going back to Penn after our first ever break. Aww, such kiddies.

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She actually asked me to take this picture of her to send to her friend Farah. I don’t know why.

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Quite possibly the best picture of Sha I’ve taken.

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Throwback to when I was still amazed by snow.

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People in the UK would sometimes say “oh you’re so lucky you get snow!” and I’d always have the mental image of this gunk in my head and think…. “no.”

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I used to pilfer eggs from the dining halls for snacks. Are you even surprised? You shouldn’t be. I LOVE EGGS.

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Chinese New Year packets from my RA, Cat!! Any holiday was bound to make me feel homesick and I remember feeling so happy to see this.

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I was in an intercultural fellowship program called FBIC in the spring of my Freshman year and it was so much fun, I learned so much about being a good ally to other communities. This was from our retreat where we all camped out in this house and played mafia.

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This was from an MSA treasure hunt of some sort where one of the tasks we had to do was take a picture of our group members making the letters MSA lol. I love how Irtiqa is basically just making a heart shape.

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When you’re so sleepy you could just take a nap on your friend’s backpack and your friend is clearly not pleased…..

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Hahahaha I was studying for finals and felt cold but I was only wearing slippers because I was in this study lounge in the dorms so I stuck my feet into…. my backpack.

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703 Harnwell was home to so many of us in the MSA. I think it was Ahmed, Arman, Majid and Habeeb who lived there. The door was always unlocked and people always came in and out. This particular night I was hanging out with just Fayaaz and Doc here—neither of whom actually lived in that room! This room was so useful to so many people that at the end of that year, there was actually an event for everyone to come and help clean 703. It will always be an iconic part of my freshman year for sure.

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Going out to dinner during reading days. Definitely our most iconic match. Always unintentional. This was after we had already spent the entire day guiltily watching a K Drama, mere days before finals.

Sophomore Year

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The first few days after we came back to Philly, Sha and I went to the city and got frozen yogurt. And right off the bat that August I knew I already felt better to be here than I did the year before. We sat at Rittenhouse Square just chilling and talking and it was such a nice evening. For the record, I was not grumpy. That’s just my face.

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Ken and I took ECON 101 together Sophomore fall! I always did homework with him. Honestly, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through any of my economics classes without his help.

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Petra, Shahirah and I walked to South Street together once and had brunch during Fall Break. Fun fact: we were taking pictures at this really pretty row of houses when I bump into Professor Block who taught me Math the year before. Guess what I said to him? I was like, “oh what are you doing here?” and he just said… “I live here.” LOL.

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Aww, throwback to when Sha and I shared a room (ok, not so aww, because sharing a room is tough) and we had our desks outside in the living room which is what later became my bedroom. My bed is now where the table on the left is—and it’s also where I’m sitting at the exact moment I’m typing this. Most of this furniture has now been sold and you just know there is going to be a post about my apartment once I fully move out of here.

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We threw a housewarming party and to this day, I cannot believe what a successful party that turned out to be. Like, really. Farah brought Trader Joes pumpkin tarts. We ran out of pizza. People just kept coming. We successfully played some sort of game that involved everyone‘s full cooperation (it might have been that whispering chain thing). A bunch of people stayed late and played Cards Against Humanity. It was so, so, so much fun. I would definitely say this is one of my absolute favourite nights in all my time in college.

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Another one, just because Busra and Shahirah are so cute here.

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I’m posting this because I remember that what song we were listening to while I took this picture! It was MisterWives’ cover of Vance Joy’s Riptide.

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I think we were playing games in our apartment and…. that’s Habeeb’s feet. We got several texts from our old neighbour Shirley that night to tell us to keep it down, oops lol.

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To commemorate the time my laptop broke down and I lived on May May’s iPad for like a week.

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The best way to describe my ECON 101 experience is to tell you that this picture was taken at 3:58am at Van Pelt library. We did this pretty much every week that semester. Homework was due at the start of class at 9 am and sometimes we’d go, turn it in and leave to go home and sleep.

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I’m posting this because I have no recollection whatsoever about this night. Why was Ahsen on our apartment floor sewing?????? Ok wait, come to think of it, I think I remember Ahsen and Sha getting into some argument about feminism but I do not remember sewing being part of that night at all.

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One of the most memorable moments in all of my college career. I was so severely underprepared for my MATH114 exam. Like I would do question after question after question and just not be getting the crux of the concept down. I think I came to SPARC to get help from Fayaaz. I bumped into Doc there and I cried so much and he told me he was also struggling with a class and was thinking about withdrawing from it. Then Fayaaz and Ali helped me with some of these while I sobbed and someone made me tea. And I say this was one of the most memorable moments only because this was the first of many, many more times where my friends really got me through.

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There isn’t a lot of story behind this other than the Write On! kids writing about fantastical creatures and drawing them on the blackboard. It was a really fun day.

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I don’t remember what I was upset about but Shahirah bought me flowers!!!

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Peter and Ken at my “surprise birthday party” in 2014!! This was a hilarious surprise because I was doing Econ homework and I texted Ken wanting to get his help and I was like ok I’ll meet you wherever you are. He said he had to go to Chestnut Hall (which is where May May, Sha and I all lived at the time, though May May was in a different room down the hall) to get a package from May May. So I followed him there, not knowing of course, that it was his job to only bring me to my room at the right time. While he got the package from May May, I was like “ok since we’re here I’ll just go to my room for a bit” and I walk in….. and there are flowers and snacks and balloons and….. NO ONE WAS THERE. Then Cristina came out of the kitchen and was like “NOOOOO!!!!” Hahahaha.

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Birthday dinner that same year at Vientiane, my fav restaurant in West Philly. Hanna made me this card which somehow got passed around the table and was signed by everyone at the table without my knowledge. Very impressive. Though I do remember Zohair acting pretty sketchy at dinner. The drawing is of a Taylor Swift Hello Kitty, of course. She is holding a pen and my name is written on a line as an homage to “Blank Space”.

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This is what our cabinet looked like most of Sophomore year, lol.

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I think this was a Malaysians@Penn meeting where we ate wayyyy too much of Ken’s precious snacks and he didn’t stop us because he was too kind. Sorry, Ken.

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Restaurant Week dinner at Buddakan with Hanna and Shahirah (and a bunch of other people). We got sent a bunch of extra dessert that night for some reason which was really cool because the doughnuts were amazing.

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This was one of those nice cosy nights just chilling. I remember it snowed that night and it was one of those times where we wasted too much time not being able to decide what movie to watch that we ended up not watching anything.

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I think Keyan or Ahmed sent out a text in the GroupMe about how it was going to be the “last nice day” of the year before winter fully kicked in so we all went to Old City to get Franklin Fountain ice cream. This night was also so much fun. We took an insane amount of pictures, especially Ahsen and me, lol. On the train ride back, we had an empty cart and we did pull ups on the rails. When we were approaching like 15th St on the train, a bunch of us were like, let’s get down and go to Rittenhouse but most people were unsure and then we got to 15th St station and the doors open and everyone had to make a split decision to get out or not and in the end only me, Keyan and Uzair got off. It was such a funny night.

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I actually can’t remember whether I drew that smiley face because I’m usually against the long eyes, but I know for sure Sha took this picture.

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When May May lived down the hall from us, we would sometimes just hang out in our pyjamas and talk and I loved those nights. This is her in her favourite pusheen PJs.

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One of the most memorable things about Sophomore year was my anthropology class where we basically had to document all these like scraps of household things like ceramics and glass and rocks that have been dug up. The class was at the very edge of campus and it was a 3-hour block on Friday nights and we had to walk there in the bitter cold (actually, one time, Ahmed and I Uber-ed back lol) but I took it because it was one of those easy A things and it was pretty fun because I had Ahmed Yousaf and Doc with me. We had a  groupchat called “Professor Schuyler Rocks” and in class we would just chat with each other while drawing and weighing objects. The homeworks were also really interesting, he would show us these really obscure old objects and we would have to turn in write ups on basically as much information we could find on them as possible and we always found out the most random things about beer companies or glass companies established in the 1800s or whatever and just… it was the most random class I ever took.

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In my Sophomore year, I did APALI, which is the Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative and it was this really cool program where we got to learn about culture and diversity and we got to really bond with the other people in our APALI class. Here’s me with some of them at dinner! At the end of our program we all had to write letters to each other and initially I wanted to post a picture of those letters because I still keep them and revisit them from time to time but they’re too personal so here’s this instead to commemorate one of my favourite programs at Penn.

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THE YEAR I GOT MAY MAY’S BIRTHDAY WRONG. I thought it was the day after it actually was her birthday and it was so embarrassing…. Peter was like “her birthday was yesterday” and Peter is a joker you know? So I was like “hahahaha no it’s not” but then he started laughing and was like “uh… yeah it is” and I was like crap.

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When me and Julia ditched fling and stayed in and napped and read instead. Then later in the evening we decided to dress up and go out to….. Wawa and Trader Joe’s. LOL.

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At Spring Fling, there’s always this stall that sells deep fried oreos which are really as sinful as they sound. I never ever ever go to fling in the Quad even though I actually lived there freshman year (I camped out at Sha’s room that year). I hate the crowds of people. But sophomore year, I wanted to try these things so Ahsen literally accompanied me in and bought them for me. I tasted one and was like “ok you can have the rest” and left, hahaha.

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Clare and I also ditched fling to have dinner in the city at V Street that year!

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Marcus eating the beignets that Tim made for us and Ken. They were so so so good.

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The Malaysians in my year always have a picnic the Sunday after fling. Sophomore year, Peter decided to take my phone and take like 62 selfies with it haha. This was also the year he….. accidentally hit someone with a football.

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My wisdom tooth extraction!!!!!!!! This was such a headache, honestly. Getting an appointment at the Dental School was so unnecessarily complicated. I was so nervous about this that I decided to go alone (I don’t like being with people for big events like this which is why I checked my exam results and college acceptances alone lol) and I had to walk myself back after the surgery. I remember they told me not to spit or swallow all my saliva but rather to let it drool????? And I was like??? HOW DO I DO THAT??? WHILE WALKING HOME???

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Probably the first time Hanna and I ever hung out together just the two of us! We got Honest Tom’s, which is what I’m going to have tonight hehe.

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I submitted that picture I took in Thailand in 2013 of the Floating Market for a charity photo auction thing and I was very flattered when my friend Giovanni was arguing with someone over wanting to buy it, haha.

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The very very very first time Hui Jie and I hung out together! I remember thinking we were fine and I had a nice time but we didn’t get along spectacularly or anything like that and thinking that ok, maybe I wouldn’t try to become closer friends with her… but throughout junior year she kind of persisted her way into my life and I AM SO GLAD because if you follow my blog you probably know that she is a key pillar of my support system and I would have it no other way.

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This is Fayaaz! He was such a good friend to me. He was two years ahead of me so he graduated the year I was a sophomore. This was taken on his birthday I think, when Habeeb and I met him in front of his place and took him into the city to surprise him at Aki, which is this buffet sushi place. We ate so much that night. Everyone was just passed out at the table by the end of it. And for whatever reason, we decided to go to a classroom in DRL to hang out after that, haha. GOOD TIMEZ.

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Sha’s parents visited us at the tail end of Sophomore year and we all stayed up until Commencement and her mom cooked the most amazing feast at our apartment. It was intense. There was so much smoke from all the cooking that it was the only time our smoke detector ever went off. You would get off the lift at our floor and you’d be able to smell the food right away even though our room was all the way down the hall. And the food was probably the most delicious thing ever prepared in our kitchen.

OMG. Ok. That’s all the pictures! That ended up being more words than I thought there would be but I hope you found these mildly entertaining, haha. I just wanted to have a mark of my first 2 years of college on here somehow before I fully close the ~college~ chapter. Expect one more post about my apartment after I move out and then I promise I will stop writing about Penn and Philadelphia, haha.

Until then, thank you for reading! 🙂

Lack of Scarcity of Free Time

It’s my first summer without a real job and you know, for a while I kind of regretted taking on an internship the summer after my freshman year because honestly freshmen should just chill. But (!) it has been a month being done with classes now, and let me just say… this whole ~lounging around~ life doesn’t seem to be for me as much as I thought it would be. I did love those weekends I didn’t have homework to do and I loved sneaking in some free time to play Sporcle quizzes or watch Netflix. Strangely, free time isn’t as fun when you have so much of it. I literally haven’t felt like playing Sporcle since finals ended. ECON 001, everyone: scarcity!

Regardless, all this free time has meant I’ve gotten to do some of the Philly things I’ve always wanted to do. For example, I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the first time! Let me tell you why this is noteworthy for a second. First, the PMA is only about a 10-minute drive away; I have cycled and ran past it several times. Secondly, most Penn kids make it to this museum within the first few days of being here because during orientation, there’s this party Penn throws for the freshmen at the PMA—Shahirah and I just didn’t go! Third, even my family has been to the PMA almost 4 years ago now.

So yeah, I went to the museum! It was cool, but also somewhat… underwhelming, to be honest. To be fair, (and this is going to sound so very bougie) in the past six months, I’ve gotten to visit The Met, The British Museum, LACMA, The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, The Chicago Institute of Art and The Barnes Foundation… so the PMA kinda paled in comparison. Still, I really enjoyed going to museums. I don’t get to do these kinds of things when I’m back in Malaysia because there just aren’t good museums around (fun fact: I used to think I wanted to go into museum curation for a hot second) so I just appreciate being able to take a short ride to see such a legit collection.

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The view of City Hall and Ben Franklin parkway from the top of the steps

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The only downer was the fact that the Rocky statue was like closed off for construction! But oh well, I will live. And for those of you who may not know, the Philly Art Museum is home to the “Rocky Steps”. I haven’t even seen the Rocky films, so, whatever.

I also got to go to the Barnes last Sunday and I preferred that a lot more. I had been wanting to visit The Barnes Foundation for almost a year now. Last Fall, I took a Communications class called Critical Approach to Pop Culture and it was the first time I learned about The Barnes’ history. I mean, I don’t want to bore you too much but basically, Barnes was this rich guy who collected a lot of art and it used to all be held in this mansion in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It was a really unique place because while most museums organised artwork by period or style or both, Barnes didn’t. He was more interested in pushing visitors to seek more transcendent connections between the artworks. The paintings at The Barnes don’t have printed-out labels on the walls next to them, just the name of the painting’s artist on its frame. And the fact that it’s a foundation and not a museum was a testament to how Barnes thought art should be accessible and teachable to everyone. He intended for it to all be kept in the old mansion. Then he died, and there was this huge scandal about moving the foundation to the super touristy part of Philadelphia. The debate was complex: it was about honouring a person’s will, whether or not it would be better for public education, protests from the old location’s neighbours because there were so many tourists in their housing area and of course, political and financial interests.

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So that whole long rambly paragraph was just to say that I’ve been really curious about The Barnes because I knew what an interesting history it had. (I’ve said enough about it and I don’t know if anyone ever clicks on the links I include, but I highly recommend these two articles: The Barnes Foundations’ Disastrous New Home and Moving Pictures) The place itself was beautiful, although, as these articles note, it’s not what Barnes himself intended: it’s too “nice” to the visitor, when the intended experience was for you to be thrown into art “like diving into the deep end of the pool”.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but I was very amazed at how they attempted to recreate the interiors of the mansion, down to the wallpaper and lighting. I was also very curious and wish I could have learned more about why the artworks were arranged the way they were; there was definitely a lot of symmetry and intentional juxtaposition but honestly, apart from how much I liked the way they look, I couldn’t think too much about it. My recent visit to both The Barnes and PMA did, however, send me back to my notes and readings from my Modernist Literature class two years ago. I’m happy to say that I appreciated reading Gertrude Stein’s writings about Cézanne and Picasso so much more now that I’m not as much of the loser I was in Sophomore year.

Okay, I truly don’t know much about art so I’m going to stop talking about museums now. My highlight of the week has been getting to spend time with my friends (as always). It was my friend Hanna’s birthday last Friday but I only got to celebrate it with her on Monday. We went out for iftar together, with Fahmida, Menvekeh, my sister Julia and Hanna’s friend from med school, Omar. We ate at this really good Afghan restaurant I had never been to and I’m sad that I don’t know when I’ll ever get to go back there.

It was super nice to see a bunch of my friends and for some reason everything seemed so funny to me that night. I can’t remember too much about why I kept laughing, but this was definitely the most unforgettable moment from that dinner: I was telling Omar about how my sister is studying medicine in London, and how that means I have someone I can always send weird pictures of my throat or whatever to ask about whether I’m okay. The thing is, I had sent the same picture of my throat to Hanna the night before and unbeknownst to me, Hanna had also sent that picture to Omar to discuss it for whatever reason. So, when I told him that I sent those kinds of pictures to my sister, Omar said “oh, so you’re the throat picture!” I wanted to burst out laughing but I also kind of couldn’t believe that here was this guy I was meeting for the first time……. and he has literally already seen my uvula. I just turned to Hanna and said “we need to talk.” LOL.

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Apart from other hanging out with people who’re here for the summer, I also got to see my friend Hui Jie yesterday. She was coming back to Philly for a night after a cruise in the caribbean and she flew off to Singapore earlier this morning. We got our usual pizza for one last time except last night, we had to sit on the floor of my apartment since I had already, to her dismay, sold my couch (which she has a particularly good relationship with). I’m glad I got to see her and I’m hoping I’ll see her again in KL over the summer before she goes off to the Netherlands for grad school. I’m reallyyyyy going to miss hanging out with her all. the. damn. time. and getting to know the most granular details of her day to day life—the kind you only get to know about people when you see them almost everyday.

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Hui Jie & Yong Xin all tanned

So yeah, my days have been pretty chill. I’ve been doing a lot of reading (currently reading The Road to Character by David Brooks) and catching up on my favourite podcasts; it is truly a first world problem of mine that I am unable to read and listen to podcasts at the same time, sigh. I’ve been listening to a lot of Radiolab recently, and if you’re new to podcasts then take this as me firmly grabbing you by the shoulders, looking at you squarely in the eyes and telling you: listen to Radiolab. I think they’re formally a podcast about science but in reality, it’s really about curiosity and exploring interesting questions through the lens of a dynamic character. They’re so amazing at sound design and storytelling that you always feel gripped by each episode and if you don’t know where to start, here are some of my favs:

  • The Buried Bodies Case was about drawing the line between your duties as a good attorney and a good person
  • From Tree to Shining Tree taught me about the marvels of the networks of tree roots (yes, they can even make a good story out of tree roots, believe me)
  • 23 Weeks and 6 Days followed a couple through their pregnancy to get at the deeper question of pinpointing “vitality” in an unborn child
  • On the Edge is one of my all time favs (and one I wrote my Radiolab application about!) looking at the career of Surya Bonaly to question our understanding of what makes a good figure skater and whether/how racism/injustice comes into play in sports
  • Lose Lose covers a couple of Badminton matches in the Olympics where both teams were clearly trying to lose and it might also be one of my favs because it’s about a sport many Americans consider obscure but Malaysians love watching
  • Playing God was about doctors struggling with having to choose who to save during Hurricane Katrina

I tried to list like 2 of my favourite Radiolab episodes but I just couldn’t, haha. Apart from Radiolab, I started listening to Tape and Longform—both are shows that feature interviews with writers, journalists and editors I look up to like Ira Glass, Charles Duhigg, Alex Blumberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Anna Sale, Lulu Miller, Stephen Dubner and so many more. I can’t even tell you how happy and inspired I get whenever I hear people talk about a) whatever they love doing plus how they got there and b) the thinking and overall process behind producing their craft. Ugh. I also caught up on other favourites like Reply All and Planet Money, which really bring me so much joy. I just have such a deep love for podcasts because they use compelling storytelling to help you think and ask questions and they’re just so, so, so informative. I rarely ever finish listening to a podcast without feeling like I just became a teeny little bit more of an informed citizen of the world. Anyway, clearly, if you ever want to talk about your favourite podcasts or if you want recommendations, just don’t even think twice about reaching out to me. I can probably talk for hours about this stuff.

I know I started out saying I don’t know if this whole chill life is really for me, but I’m glad I’ve kind of found a way to keep it interesting for myself. Saffa (and honestly, so many other people) have reminded me to try to really rest and enjoy what I’ve got because the truth is, I don’t know if I’ll ever get the time to be this relaxed ever again. I’ve been thinking about that a lot: this stark transition from being really busy to having so much to rest and I might say more about that once I’ve more fully wrapped my head around how I’m taking it (or I might not, lol). But after probably failing to relish the joy of being in college as much as I should have, I think I’m going to try to take her advice on this one and savour all this free time.

Until next week, thank you for reading!

New Milestones

First of all, I want to say thank you so much for all the love I got after last week’s post. Thank you in particular for those of you who have encouraged me to keep writing, whether by explicitly telling me to, by reprimanding me when a post is late (hi Hui Jie) or by just letting me know that you never miss a post. I have been tempted to “give up” several times because quite often, it feels like my writing is so frivolous, but you’ve all reminded me how our writing has created a community I am really grateful for. When I told my friend Hui Jie that I might not write after graduation because I don’t think my life will be as interesting after Penn, she was quick to refute that claim; there will be your first job, moving cities, moving out, first house, settling down, and so many more, she reminded me. It’s good to remember that life is dynamic—there will always be new things to discover and always new things to write about. With that, I’m going to take this little opportunity to say that to all of you who’ve said to me “I wish I could write like you”: you absolutely can.

Anyway, like Hui Jie said, there will always be new things in my life to write about. So here’s a little bit about my first week as a ~college graduate~ (oh my god, it still has not sunk in).

1. Shahirah moved out of our apartment

My roommate of 3 years moved out of our apartment on Wednesday. Shahirah and I are opposites. She’s so phlegmatic and just so chill, which means she rarely ever wants to decide where we go to eat or what movie to watch or if there should be a system in the kitchen or bathroom whatever, you know? On the other hand, I… have a lot of opinions about these things. Toothpaste droppings shouldn’t be left in the sink, don’t boil more water than you need, the stove should be wiped down after cooking anything messy, blablabla. So really, although she is one of my absolute best friends, us living together was not always the easiest thing for the both of us.

Still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Of course, that’s easy for me to say now in hindsight, right? There definitely have been times over the 3 years where I was like… “ok, maybe this wasn’t the best idea” but I maintain that it was good for me because I learned what it was like to live with someone who grew up with a different lifestyle than I did. I think I have grown a lot from that experience. In fact, in some ways it reminds me of the ways my parents have learned to tolerate their differences. I never told her this (though she’ll probably read it now…) but even though some days we just kind of stay out of each other’s spaces and not talk, when she’s not here, I kind of miss her. It’s always weird when she goes out of town and I know I won’t hear the creak of the doors when she comes in late at night. Even though it wakes me up, I am always touched because I know she’s trying to be as quiet as possible for me, and looking back I think some small quiet part of me was comforted to know that she was home.

On Tuesday afternoon, Shahirah and I had lunch with my sister, Majid, and his brother Mansoor. After lunch, she had some errands to run and I just trailed along all day because I was very emotional and clingy. We went to SPARC and PWC and even took my very first picture at the Love Statue together. Later that evening, as Shahirah packed up the last things in her room, Hanna, Fahmida and I hung out on her bed just talking and that was really one of those moments I could feel my heart clinging on to. I’m always humbled by the idea of memory: we rarely ever decide which memories eventually fade into the distance and which ones get to be returned to for years and years on. But days like that, I hope I get to keep forever.

I know I won’t remember what we talked about and stuff but I want to remember how I felt. It reminds me of that oft-repeated Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Saying goodbye to Steve at SPARC.

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Chilling on Shahirah’s bed (excuse how sloppy I look, Sha just quickly told us to cover our heads and we grabbed whatever was nearest, lol)

The next morning, as she was preparing to roll her bags out of the door, I was impressed (but not surprised) by her nonchalance. On top of being more neurotic than she is, I am also a lot more emotional. So, I said something along the lines of: “wow I can’t believe you’ll never ever walk through these doors ever again” or something like that. And she said “wow great, thanks Dayana, for making me feel sad about leaving” (oops). So she went back in and took one last look. We took some selfies and I called her an Uber and off she was.

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Sha taking one last lap around the apartment as I documented everything. Classic.

She left me with a cute card, her umbrella for me to use and (unintentionally,) some leftover Chipotle. Always taking care of me, even after she’s left the country. I don’t know that I’ll ever have another experience living with someone like that again, but I’m glad we did it together because she’s honestly like a sister to me and I personally think my relationship with her—though not always the most outwardly peachy one—is so unique and special and I will always be thankful for it.

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Eating Sha’s last Chipotle. She hardly ate ANY of it!!!!!

 

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On my bus ride home the next day, I passed by Trader Joes on a rainy evening and I remembered the time Sha and I got trapped there in the rain and I had to download the Lyft app so that we could get a ride back.

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I pointed out to her that this picture has our door number inverted and she said she didn’t even realize!! How classic. And we’re matching in this like good old times. Also classic.

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Bye 😦 see you in Malaysia!!!!

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And guess what?! Now she’s home hanging out with MY PARENTS!!! ❤

Sha, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll miss hearing me laugh or belt out Disney tunes over the thin walls!!! Now when I sing I’m like “oh, phew, I’m not disturbing her” but then I’m also like “she left” 😦

2. Sleepover with Saffa

Saffa came over on Thursday for a couple of nights and stayed with me, which was so much fun. She was a senior when I was a freshman. I remember meeting her at the very first MSA GBM and after, she showed me and Shahirah the RAC (does that even stand for anything? I don’t even know anymore. Oh my god, it’s happening, I’m forgetting!!!) where we used to go to pray and we walked down Locust together. We probably only really bonded later over our similar tastes and the fact that we share the same birthday. And this past weekend, I learned she’s also a left hander like me.

Anyway, Saffa lives in Chicago but came down to DC to be with her sister who’s about to give birth. She took a couple of days to see me, Hanna and Fahmida in Philly since she’s on the east coast. On Thursday night, we stayed up and had strawberry tea and talked about college and work and moving on and it was probably the first time in a long time I felt like I had one of those high-school-ish sleepovers.

Friday was also so much fun. We were up pretty early and got breakfast with Hanna at Metropolitan (I had my fav pesto grilled cheese with portobello and an iced chai for last breakfast before Ramadhan) then we went to hang out at the med school, which is absolutely beautiful. In the afternoon, we took a walk to Penn Park, lounged in the sun for a bit and then went back to my apartment where Saffa and I watched The People vs. OJ Simpson (which is absolutely amazing!!!) and Hanna studied.

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I love these two so much.

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Then later, we went out to dinner with Fahmida. We ate at Sate Kampar, which serves the best Malaysian food I’ve ever had in the states. Fun-ish fact: we realised that all 4 of us represented a different graduating class (2014-2017) and ethnicity (Malaysian, Bengali, Egyptian, Pakistani because I know my dad will ask when he reads this). How cute is that?!

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When we went back, Saffa and I talked some more, baked some cookies while my sister and I cooked what we were going to have for sahur the next morning. It was a really nice and cosy night, and I’m really glad I got to spend so much time with her over those two days.

3. Does a Craigslist sale make me an adult?

Because it kinda feels like it. I’m moving out of this apartment next month (inshaAllah!!!) so that means I need to give myself time to get rid of all the furniture we’ve accumulated over the years. Realising this, I went on a Craigslist selling spree. It’s actually not as easy as I thought because people will say they want it and then take forever to reply and then back out. Luckily, after just attempting one sale, I got a lot better at it and I learned to be more firm. I knew to say things like I’ll hold it for you for x hours and then it goes to the next person without feeling bad because I feel like it’s only fair to everyone involved to know what to expect.

My favourite part of this whole process is probably feeling a little “busy”. In trying to keep up with all my sales, I found that I finally had a reason to make a spreadsheet again and to my own surprise, I was so happy about it. I think my mind just really likes being exercised and stretched more than I realised, haha.

I sold my Ikea KALLAX shelf this morning, and that was the first of my big items to go. I remember going to Ikea on my own that Spring day in 2015. I felt particularly accomplished (exhibit A) because getting there wasn’t so straightforward but I did it. I remember Keyan asking me if I needed him to pick me up but I was ok. I picked everything I needed by myself and I coordinated the delivery on my own and then I also assembled all of those things myself. I remember it being one of the first times I felt truly self-sufficient (save for the fact that the money I used to pay for my Ikea trip came from a certain Bank of Dad, heh). I just couldn’t help remembering that as I disassembled it today in preparation for it to be picked up by its new owners. Side note, I was happy to find out that the buyers were a couple who had just bought their first house in Philly. Here’s to growing up and new beginnings for all of us.

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4. First Ramadan away from home!

I’ve never spent bulan puasa (tr: fasting month) away from home! I never went to boarding school like my sister and I was lucky enough that puasa always coincided with summer breaks while I was at Penn so I could always spend it at home. But I guess sometimes things happen and even though you think you’ll never spend Ramadan abroad, on your last year of college, you end up doing just that.

I was quite nervous about the extra long hours (ok, it’s just like 2 extra hours but still) and the summer (turns out it’s still cooler than Malaysia) but alhamdulillah it’s really not bad at all. I usually have a terrible headache the first day but I’ve done two days now without any complaints. Sure, I feel a little lethargic but I was perfectly capable of working with all that furniture today and I actually think I’ll be able to go for a jog tomorrow if it doesn’t rain in the evening.

Yeah, I might be missing out on the family gatherings and buka puasa food, but I’m excited to be working on some service projects here and I’ve set certain goals for myself in terms of a reading list, lectures & etc. so I think it’ll still be a very good month for me and I’m so thankful that I seem to be handling it all really well.

It helps that my sister Julia is with me. She and I cooked sweet and sour fish yesterday and stir fried egg noodles today, both of which were actually delicious. We also had knafeh for dessert yesterday (in lieu of roti john and tepung pelita, my Malaysian favs) and if you know me, you’ll know how much I love knafeh. Now my sister Julia can’t stop talking about it too. I’m always glad to introduce people to cheese-related food.

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So I guess that’s about it for this week. I actually have so much more I want to write about. I want to tell you all about how I worked on that radio project, my most recent trip to New York, about commencement day itself (if it isn’t too late) but I think this will be all for now. To all my Muslim friends, I hope your Ramadan is off to a wonderful start and to everyone else I hope you’ve had a wonderful week, whatever you’re doing.

Until next time! ❤


P.S. for nothing more than your pure amusement, here are some of the times Sha and I have matched clothes. None of these were intentional, I promise.

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