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!!

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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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Just Like That

I always knew it would happen, but having it all actually happen felt both very emotional and anti-climactic at the same time. Two Mondays ago (because I owe you a blog post from that week) I went for my last Barre class at Pottruck (our gym) with the instructor, Diane. As we were about to leave, I said my goodbyes and almost teared up and lost my words but thankfully for the power of social norms/conventions, I didn’t. I did my usual thing where I asked for a picture and she obliged and just like that, I don’t know when I’ll ever see her again.

The entire week was full of lasts. I had my last class on Tuesday, it was Astronomy. Look, I know I’ve not had the best relationship with this class—in fact, when he posted a poll about how we felt about the class, this is how I answered.

I kinda wanted to answer the first option but the poll wasn’t anonymous, hahaha. So anyway, yeah, I didn’t love it but it was good for me. I learned so much. The seasons are not caused by varying distances from the sun. Spacetime was not a thing invented by Hollywood. We only ever see one side of the moon. I walked out of DRL that day and was like, wow I’m done. But at the same time… I didn’t quite have the time to feel that way because immediately, I was thrown into finals season. So honestly, it did not feel like anything major. It was more like… just another semester.

The thing that made me most feel sad was having my last post-Astronomy lunch with Ken and Hui Jie. I made us play some Sporcle geography quizzes at lunch just to make it extra special too, hehe. But the rest of the week was just back to work. I had a poster presentation thing with the Psychology department where you have to present what you’ve been doing research on, and all the faculty will come talk to you and ask you questions. I have to admit, my poster printing was a pretty last minute situation… so much so that I was kinda working on it at other events and stuff right up to the very minute I had to print it. But it all turned out okay. I stood in front of my poster for 2 hours. Ken and Hui Jie turned up to support me!

Thinking back now, that day was so annoyingly hectic. I had to meet my research advisor to just go over what to put on my poster again, but I could only stay 20 mins because I had to go to Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg’s Authors@Wharton event, which I ended up being a little late to and having to leave early because I wanted to attend the Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH) end of year celebration… which I also had to leave early because it would’ve ended at 8-ish and I had to book my poster printing appointment with the printer at 7. It really annoys me whenever I know I’m not really being present at any one place, and that’s one thing I’m glad to move on from right now.

Besides the rushing around though, it was a good day. Sheryl Sandberg’s talk thing was so good. Seriously. I cried almost throughout the entire thing. She was talking about her new book with Wharton professor Adam Grant, which is all about grief and how we deal with it. She lost her husband two years ago and this book was born out of that experience.

Sandberg talked about how we tend to not ask how people are doing anymore if it’s not the first time we’ve seen them since a traumatic/heartbreaking incident happened because we are afraid we will “remind them” of it. She made a very good point, which is that we can’t remind anyone they lost their husband. They already know that, and are probably thinking about it constantly. She also talked about how it’s more useful for us to say “there’s this thing I can do to help you” when we’re trying to support someone as opposed to “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” because the latter puts the onus on the person who is hurting to figure things out. I thought that was really powerful.

She also pointed out links between grief and confidence: when she got back to work after losing her husband, she felt like she was not at her best at all. And it made her feel like “great, I lost my husband now I’m going to lose my job too”. According to her, what helps during this time is pointing out little things that the person who’s hurting usually doesn’t need complimenting on in order to build back their confidence. I just really related to all of that so much and I think it was all such useful advice. I’m very excited to read Option B this summer.

Then, Thursday and Friday (and the rest of the weekend) were reading days, which are essentially days off for you to study before finals but people end up using them to have farewell events etc. I had two that weekend, one with Malaysians at Penn and the other with the Muslim Students Association.

The MAP senior sendoff was fun because it was really yummy Malaysian food at this place called Sate Kampar in South Philly. The MSA one was also really fun because we were such a huge group and it was nice to see all the MSA seniors together. They gave us superlatives (I got “most likely to go viral” LOL) and sweet little cards at the end of the night and I was so moved. Honestly, these two communities have been a huge part of making me feel at home at Penn and I’m sad to “leave” it but I know they were always part of the process of supporting us as we go on to bigger and better things.

Fun fact: MSA senior send off was initially supposed to be at this Indian restaurant called Sitar which made me so excited because at the time I found out, I had been craving it for ages. I think I was almost going to go to Sitar on the day they told me about the dinner but when they said it would be held there I decided to wait. PLOT TWIST. The afternoon before the event, they changed the location to Manakeesh. I went to Sitar for lunch immediately.

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to poring over the Astronomy textbook. I hadn’t been doing a good job of keeping up with the material so it really was like binge-watching a tv show except, it was binge-reading a textbook. I was actually quite nervous about how much I didn’t know so those few days were intense. I did little else other than eat sleep and read that textbook. The exam on Tuesday actually turned out pretty well considering how (not) prepared I was! I was very happy with how I did and was glad to be done with the class. So there. This blog can say goodbye to me complaining about that class now.

I spent the rest of the evening after the exam hardcore chilling. Professor Connolly took all her TAs out to thank us for the semester so that was fun—I have loved getting to know her over the past year more as a person, beyond the classroom. Then Cristina came over to my place and we made broccoli and cheddar soup for dinner. I have to say, it was pretty good. I spent the rest of the night catching up on the past season of The Big Bang Theory (oops, guess I wasn’t really done with Astronomy then).

The rest of my finals were relatively chill. I had to write a paper about my research (which I had already written half of) and take an exam for my Psychology class (which was based on only the last few weeks of material and was open book). I took my Psychology final on Thursday evening (though I ended up forgetting the book!) then came back to write the rest of that research paper thing.

The next morning—let me warn you, this story is about to take a turn but I promise I’ll bring it back—I woke up, watched a YouTube video about how to make the best grilled cheese sandwich and got out of bed to go make it. I switched the light on and I saw something spread out on the kitchen counter. I wondered, “huh, what did I spill?!” before I realised, to my utter heartbreak and terror, that my bread had been chewed through from the side, through the plastic by a RAT!!!!!!!!!!! I mean I didn’t actually see it but what else could it be?!

I was so scared I couldn’t go back in there. I told Shahirah about it then texted my family about the scene I had just witnessed. My sister laughed about the fact that I called it a “scene” so in order to justify my word choice, I marched back into the kitchen to take a picture. AND I SAW IT, GUYS!!! I SAW THE LITTLE CREATURE. I screamed sooooooo louddddd and just start shaking and burst into spontaenous tears.

Naturally, I just packed up my stuff and left to go to Starbucks. Hey, don’t judge. I had a paper to write still (told you I’d bring it back to the paper). So yeah, I spent the rest of my morning terrified but powering through, proof reading my paper and editing last bits. It was due at 5. By about 2, I was really done and was just staring at it. That was it. It was over. I still had to print it out and submit it to the department but… I was done. I’m now a “graduate”, even though I feel no different at all.

After putting it off enough, I went to print and submit it. Then I just sat in the lobby of the psychology building for a bit…. feeling… I really don’t know what I was feeling. It felt like I was suspended in air. Floating. Cut loose from gravity or whatever. It was just me in a chair, awkwardly looking around. No confetti, no smarter than I was the day before. It was strange.

Because I didn’t want to linger and that feeling of weirdness, I got bubble tea and went to Ken and Hui Jie’s to hang out. We spent hours…. I can’t even remember what we were doing but I know it ended with us playing Sporcle for a few hours. I love those two, and I love Sporcle. So. Much. In that moment, I really just wanted to pause time and soak up the feeling. It’ll never really be like that again, just spontaneously hanging out at someone’s place for 7 hours, ending up playing geography quizzes. I loved it. But then that ended too, because we were all heading out on little holidays in the morning but as of midnight that night, had not even started packing.

Hui Jie and I are in Chicago right now (she’s asleep next to me as I type this all out on my phone because I didn’t want to bring my laptop). Ken, May May, Peter and Selina are in Tennessee. Shahirah is with Fahmida in Seattle. We’ll all be back for commencement ceremonies and all of that soon but, just like that, ~college~ is over.

FLING WEEKEND

OH MY GOD. I am NOT at my best today. Let’s just say, in a fight between me and my laziness, today I was badly defeated and it’s a good thing that no one has seen my room. I’m sitting at my desk next to a dirty plate and a couple of used cups. There is a t-shirt and some pants on my unmade bed. My shoes are not arranged and my socks are not in the shoes. And I don’t know. It all just feels gross, but today was my rest-and-don’t-talk-to-anyone day because this past weekend has been a lot.

It has been fling weekend!

It started off on Friday, for me. I don’t usually do fling—but it’s my last year and Zedd was our performer this year (!) so I decided to go. I’m so glad I did because it was so much fun. I absolutely loved his set. Michael Jackson’s Thriller, MAGIC!’s Rude, Chainsmokers’ Closer, Queen’s We Will Rock You and of course, all of his own hits. Man, listening to StayBreak Free or Clarity will never be the same again.

Of course, part of the fun was also just having fun with my friends, Hui Jie, Ken and Selina (plus a couple of Selina’s roommates, Tanya and Mounika). I am probably such a dorky dancer but my friends were also dancing however they hell they wanted, so when we weren’t jumping with the crowd, I was so glad I could easily have fun dorky dancing without feeling alone. I think it’s fun to enjoy music at a concert the same way you enjoy the same songs when you’re alone in your room.

It rained on us that night and literally all my makeup was washed away in the rain. And I don’t mean it like drizzled on us. No. It poured. We were absolutely soaked. To the point where we could squeeze our clothes and like a tonne of water would drip from it. But it was one of those things where you just laugh about it and keep dancing, and I don’t think I’ve felt that way since I was 7? 8? playing in the rain with my sisters.

Saturday was much more chill, though I got up early because I wanted to bake a cake! Karlie Kloss posted a video of her baking St Louis Gooey Butter Cake and it looked so, so, so easy that I just had to try it. And it really was super easy! Probably one of the best recipes in terms of effort-to-payoff ratio. It was so delicious, especially when it had just come out of the oven and it made my room smell absolutely amazing for the whole day. Such a nice change from the typical stubborn smell of onion which is literally the bane of my existence. (My “room” is set up in a cordoned off space in the living room with just some screens and curtains so like, you can imagine.)

I brought that cake to our “picnic” later. My friends and I usually picnic on Sunday after fling, but Hui Jie had plans so we bumped it up to Saturday and as our luck would have it, it rained!!!! I was pretty miffed that we didn’t get a senior picnic picture because I’ve instagrammed one every year and was planning to compile them but oh well. We still had fun. We ordered take out and played card games and later all took a nap, haha.

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Here’s a story: we played “heart attack” which is this game where like, once one person in your group has collected all the cards of the same number, they put their hands down in the center of the table and everyone else has to pile all their hands on. Then, the person who “won” gets to try to “slap” everyone’s hands—so you have to try to pull your hands away before they do it. When Hui Jie won a round yesterday, she slapped my hand and for some reason, like a little 5 year-old kid who ruins the big kids’ games, I just started crying from the sting. Like really crying. But also while hysterically laughing at the same time. You could tell even I was very confused by what was happening, lol. But we’re all good and I think it’s something we’re going to laugh about for a long time.

Then, later that evening, May May and I went to watch a show by a student theatre group. They put on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which has won a Tony Award for Best Book. It was a fun show! As always, I was blown away by the talent in the cast. They were all such amazing actors and singers. I wish there were more ensemble pieces, songs where the whole cast is singing, because I love those. Last year, I saw the same… group? company? club? (what do you call them?) put on All Shook Up and I ended up listening to the original cast’s recording of the soundtrack for the rest of the semester. This one didn’t have quite as many catchy tunes but I still loved the charming storyline and the fact that the show involved audience participation.

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I was quite sad that that was probably the last Penn student performance I’ll get to watch! And I was fully aware that it was the last performance for some of the seniors in the show/board so watching them all sing The Last Goodbye as they exited the stage was so emotional because it was also a goodbye to their Penn acting careers, to Iron Gate Theatre and all of that. Ahhh. After that, May May and I stopped by Sitar on our way home to get a cup of chai and that was a sweet way to end the night, too. No pun intended because there was definitely no sugar in my drink.

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Drinking chai from my Radiolab mug which I got this week!!

So yeah, today was mostly me chilling in my room (with the exception of a quick trip to the library to return stuff and probably a short walk to get some food later). I also watched Netflix’s Girlboss today, which is based on Sophia Amoruso’s book of the same title and her building of Nasty Gal. You might know that I thoroughly enjoyed her book last summer so I was quite interested in the show—I found that it was somewhat annoying but enjoyable enough to watch in one sitting. I liked the book better but to be fair, I actually shouldn’t make this comparison. The Netflix version does come clean about the fact that it is only a very loose adaptation. However, there are also things in the Netflix version that I liked which weren’t in the book: visuals obviously, but I also appreciated the fact that the show more than passes the Bechdel test (do two women speak to each other about something other than a man?) and that the protagonist is flawed and multi-dimensional.

I also watched The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks!!! Please, please, please watch it when you get the chance! It’s based on a non-fiction book in the same name by Rebecca Skloot. Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, but her cancer cells were taken and ended up becoming the first cell to “stay alive” and be “grown” outside of a human body. But her identity was secret for a long time; her cells were called HeLa cells and had even been thought to come from a woman named Helen Lane (a white-sounding name, though Henrietta was black). HeLa cells ended up being crucial to the discovery of the Polio vaccine and the development of in vitro fertilisation. It was also important for cancer research. It was even sent to space to study what would happen to humans out there. Patient consent wasn’t required at the time so her family never even knew of Henrietta’s contribution to science, much less were compensated for it or even educated about any of it at all, although a lot of people obviously gained fame and recognition from it. Henrietta’s youngest daughter suffered from anxiety and schizophrenia and a stroke because of all of her worries and confusion and longing for/about her mother.

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Oh, but don’t worry—you learn all of that in like the first 2 minutes or so of the movie so I definitely didn’t give anything away. (Though, if you are interested in the science of this story, I strongly recommend this Radiolab episode about Henrietta Lacks; it’s amazing and includes real life audio from the family and the author, which you don’t get from the movie). The movie was less about the science of her cells, but was more about the humanity of the story. It was a moving story about this family and how they endured this legacy of suffering, and you learn it all along with Rebecca Skloot who’s trying to write a book about Henrietta Lacks. It’s a heartbreaking film about race, ethics in medicine/research and journalism. Plus, Oprah Winfrey’s performance of Deborah Lacks was just amazing. You forget that she’s, you know, Oprah. I really want to read the book now but yeah I’ve definitely said enough about it—just go watch it somehow. If you’re in the US, get a HBO Now free trial! Yes, I want you to watch it that badly! If you’re not convinced, watch Katie Couric interview Rebecca Skloot and Rose Byrne (who plays Skloot in the film). Don’t you just love how I went to an amazing concert this weekend but end up writing the most about a movie?! Haha. Well, I do.

Anyway. I’m gonna go figure out my dinner because I’m getting pretty hungry. I hope you had a wonderful weekend and thanks for reading!

P.S. Hui Jie wanted me to add to last week’s post: she chose the tudung/headscarf that I wore for Sunday’s reading on Penn Monologues. Or rather, more accurately, she (lovingly?) forced me to wear that one because she “missed” it.

My (very short) Penn bucket list

I’m finally drinking a latte again!

In an interview shortly after La La Land was released, Emma Stone said that she refrained from dairy while filming because it was bad for her voice/throat or something like that. So, as the Penn Monologues show weekend drew closer, I thought about that and decided I do the same, hahaha. As if I’m belting out some solos or something… Anyway, I love lattes and I missed it so much this past week. So, I had to get one on my way back from the last show, lol.

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Langston, Savannah, me, Frances, Emily, Dionysia, Jackie, Dalton, Claire and James

Penn Monologues is basically a show where about 10 students write a personal essay, submit it to the group and get chosen to perform it (or, in the case of 2 people this year, write an essay and have someone else perform it for them). I thought it was a cool idea because I love memoir, personal essays and stories… like I love going to open mic nights and speakeasies. At Penn specifically, it’s a cool way to learn a tiny little bit more about the experiences of people I probably bump into on Locust Walk on a regular basis.

I wrote about moving away from home and “growing up” kind of, other people wrote about being an immigrant, going to music festivals, their relationship with their grandparents, having a family member with autism, dealing with eating disorders and etc. I liked that the essays were diverse in subject matter and tone. Some were sad, some were happier, others were funny or a bit of both.

Honestly, I was so humbled to be among these people, and I know that sounds dramatic… it sounds like the kind of thing Oscar winners say about their fellow nominees, but honestly, I was in awe of everyone’s writing from the start. Emily’s essay was called The Space Between Us and there a couple of lines in her piece that I just absolutely loved. When describing her relationship with a friend she grew up with, she said “she invited me to her birthday party, even though I didn’t invite her to mine” and then at a later point in the piece, described how they had grown apart to the point where they walked past each other like strangers, she said “she was wearing a sweater that once sat in my closet”. OH MY GOD. SO GOOD. That’s the kind of writing I like. Simple, clever ways to aptly characterise feelings and dynamics. (And it wasn’t just Emily’s—everyone’s pieces had great lines like that, this was just one I can remember at the top of my head.)

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I literally just got this picture 2 minutes ago from my creative writing professor (in whose class I wrote the piece I performed) and she told me she was proud of me and I had all the ~feelz~

All the readings were recorded but I think it’ll take a while for it to come into my hands (or, I guess, more accurately—my inbox). So, in the meantime, if you want to see what some of the performances were like, watch some from last year’s show, like Langston’s Yogurt or Aubrey’s American Insulation.

My motivation to do this was to check off one of my very few Penn bucket list things (ok, to be honest, it might have been my one bucket list thing): to perform on a stage. I used to kind of like performing. I mean, I did very amateur cheer and some traditional dance/aerobics stuff (lol) in Form 1 & 2. I think in sekolah rendah I used to try out for storytelling and perform here and there for things like teachers’ day or whatever. But that was ages ago now. Whatever spark of inspiration I had ever gotten from all the people who have told me that I should dance or act has long since dissipated. But I knew I still had that impulse and I wanted to do just one because it seemed more daunting here at Penn than anywhere else I had ever been before. Penn Monologues seemed pretty low key (i.e. no long hours of rehearsals and no singing or choreography whatsoever) so I decided to submit a piece.

And I’m really glad I did. A few other people in that cast also had no real prior experience performing so I didn’t feel alone. Plus, I just genuinely liked everyone in the group. My favourite thing about it—and I totally didn’t expect to feel this way—was that it has been the experience most comparable to the feeling you get around hari sukan parades and stuff back in school… like, everyone working together to put on this thing and getting nervous about it right before going on. I’ve organised quite a few events at Penn, but I think none of those other events made me (and everyone else in the group) nervous enough, nor was the event fun and entertaining enough (that is, they were always more serious stuff) that it brought the whole group together quite rapidly. And it might just be me, but I appreciated the subtle moments of camaraderie I had with the other cast members backstage and how quickly we can form inside jokes when we’re putting on a show, etc. So yeah, I’m glad I did it.

Shoutouts also to my friends who came to the show: Hui Jie, Shahirah, Ken, Oliver, Kim, Eliza, Busra, Irtiqa, Iman, Dania. Two of my professors from last semester also came to see the show, which was so nice! Admittedly, they didn’t come for me specifically but I still loved seeing Dr. Paxton and Jamie-Lee in the crowd. Special shoutout to my friend Clare (!!!) who helped me edit this essay and practice performing it. I know paying money to give up a couple of hours on a weekend is not easy. I have declined many invites to shows over the last 4 years, so I know this to be a fact and I genuinely appreciate all of these people so very much.

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My friends being super supportive. Hui Jie is pointing to my name in the program! They screamed my name when I walked on stage and I was a little startled, haha.
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My friends who could relate most to my piece ❤
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Good friend + show director 🙂

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Iman, Busra & Irtiqa ❤

Okay, so moving on from the show…

This weekend was also just generally an insanely pleasant one. The weather has been wonderful and I’ve just been having such a good time. On Friday night, after my show, Irtiqa, Iman and I headed over to West Philly for our friends Sanaa and Zahraa’s birthday dinner at Aksum. Food was really good and I just had such a good time catching up with the MSA girls. It’s one of those nights you laugh a lot and don’t remember what was so funny 2 hours later.

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I made the birthday girls pause in that position so that I could take this picture lol
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Our waitress (Casey, I think) was THE BEST. She ran after us because someone left their takeaway box on the table and she took this for us.

I also hung out with some of the other cast members from Penn Monologues that same night. We went to Dalton’s place—and he has a cat by the way!!! Thank goodness it was the most well-behaved cat ever and stayed firmly on one side of the room. Needless to say, it was the side of the room I did not venture to. Anyway, we had pizza at his place and watched Parks and Rec. I got to know Dalton, Savannah, James, Claire and Frances a little bit. Clare was also there (yes, there are two “Claires” except it’s Clare with no i and Claire with an i) and I loved getting to hang out with her more. I realised I hadn’t hung out with her in a group since probably our freshman year when our RA would have office hours for our hall to come over and eat snacks, so yeah, that was nice.

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Spot Dalton’s siamese cat behind him.

On Saturday evening, I went to Simply Chaos’ show. They’re a stand-up comedy group and I literally just found out about them this semester which makes me so sad because I would’ve loved to see all of their other shows. In fact, I only found out about them at all because this one guy who’s in the Monologue show was also doing the Simply Chaos show on the same weekend so a bunch of people were talking about that. But yeah, the show was hilarious. I went alone, and usually, when I go anywhere alone, I laugh a little less because I’m a little more self-conscious but I just couldn’t even think about that at all during their show. It was just hilarious and I had such a good time.

I also got to hang out with Hui Jie this past weekend. She came over on Friday and was whining about how hungry she was so we decided to go get some egg tarts! That quite quickly turned into an afternoon tea session where she tried to teach me how to say “my name is Dayana”, “I am from Malaysia”, “I study in the USA” and “I am hungry” in Danish over egg tarts and custard buns, hahaha. And of course, we haven’t had enough time with each other this weekend so we’re going out for dinner tonight, too!

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Anyway, that’s all for this week, I think! I might come back and edit this when I have the video from the show but until then, have a good week!! 🙂

You Just Had To Be There

I usually write about my whole week but I’ve just ended it on a particularly high note so let me just tell you about today.

It was a Sunday like any other Sunday. I had proposed to Hui Jie, Ken, Shahirah and May May earlier in the week that we all get dinner at Vientiane this weekend and it just worked out that Sunday dinner fit best in everyone’s schedule. Thankfully, I happened to realize earlier today that Vientiane is closed on Sundays! It’s like on 47th and Baltimore which is quite a walk so I’m glad we didn’t go all the way only to find out it was closed the whole time.

Shahirah and Hui Jie then suggested we stick to somewhere on campus because they have meetings before dinner, but because May May wasn’t feeling well we all just got take out and ate at their house. We had a really nice time! I mean, I talk about these people so often—by now you should know I just love spending time with them so very much. Dinner ended with them fruitlessly trying to suggest boys for me to ~consider~ hahaha. That is, until we all decided we wanted bubble tea. And friends, here is where the night gets interesting.

First, Ken decided to go to Winterfell (which is like right next to their house) to get bubble tea/shaved ice but it was 10.15 and Winterfell had just closed. So he decided to join Hui Jie and me to go to Ochatto, several blocks down. It’s not that much of a walk but I usually have to be particularly motivated to go. As we turned out of their street, I asked Hui Jie, “Are you going to get hot or cold?” “Hot!” “Me too!” “Large?” “Of course!” and it was so funny, it was so quick/rhythmic, like we were so in sync. It was just very… cute.

Anyway, so we get to Ochatto and, you probably guessed it but… it was closed! I saw that the “Open” sign wasn’t lit and my heart just sank. We were so sad, we just stood in front of the store for a while laughing. Hui Jie was like “I can almost taste it!!!” and I understood. I could too. I was already imagining us sipping our identical orders of hot jasmine milk tea :/ we were so in denial.

Laughing in denial

We felt like we had to get something. We considered Kiwi, which is this froyo place next to Ochatto but honestly, it’s just not good and I have made a conscious decision to not go back there since the fall semester of my Sophomore year. We thought about Capogiro for gelato but we just weren’t feeling it (and in fact, I just googled their hours and it was closed by 10 anyway). Insistent that we get bubble tea, I half-jokingly suggested we go to Tea Do in Chinatown.

Tea Do is on 10th St. We were on 36th.

I think Ken didn’t realize how serious I was so he was like “yeah, sure!” even though he has a midterm tomorrow he isn’t totally ready for. Hui Jie, the most reasonable person I know (with the exception of the occasional wild online shopping spree), took the longest to be convinced but eventually she got on board too. It turns out that for some reason, Lyfts were really expensive? It would’ve cost us $15 to get to Chinatown! That would’ve been more expensive than the bubble tea! (I joked that the rational thing to do would be to get 2 bubble teas so it’s “worth it” lol) So yeah, we start rummaging our purses and wallets for cash to take the bus, half a block away from where we were.

I get out $6.75 for the three of us and I just walk over to the bus stop holding it in my hands. Oh (!!!) and at this point I should mention… I was holding this (opened) box of sesame biscuits lovingly the whole time. I bought them on the way to their house and because I thought I was just going to get bubble tea and go back, I was fine with carrying it. Little did I know, I was going to be clutching this yellow box of biscuits with me to Chinatown and back.

Me, clutching my biscuits and the change for the bus fare and Ken… closing his eyes.

So we wait a while for the bus, still laughing from the fact that we’ve just decided to go to Chinatown when we realize that it’s like 10.45 and the bus wouldn’t arrive until 11:06 and Tea Do closes at midnight! We laughed for a good minute about going all the way to Tea Do only to have it be closed, but then we hurriedly made our way to the 34th St train station because it’s always quicker.

This, I should say, also caused a lot of laughter to ensue because Ken and Hui Jie’s house is literally one very short block away from the 40th St station but here we were,  6 blocks away, taking the train from 34th St!!!

So anyway, we make our way to the train station and I was still clutching my biscuit box and (don’t forget!) my $6.75 innocently in hand. Basically, I just looked downright silly. We got to the station and wow, look at that, they now have ticket machines that take cards…… so I stuffed my cash back in, bought tickets and went to the platform.

We get to the platform and for whatever reason, there were just 3 boxes of cereal waiting on the bench at the bottom of the staircase??? I got a good laugh out of this thinking about how funny it’d be if Ken and Hui Jie took one box each in solidarity with me carrying my box of sesame biscuits (which, by the way, we were all sporadically laughing about the entire night—especially those two, and occasionally me, when I caught my own reflection).

Mysterious cereal boxes?!

While we were waiting for the train, Hui Jie thought for a second to check if we were waiting on the right platform. Ken just bursted into laughter at the thought of taking the train to the wrong direction because we’d end up at 40th St, which is where they live….. and we just couldn’t stop laughing at the thought of coming all the way to 34th St, paying $6.75, not getting bubble tea or any sort of dessert, and ending up back where we started!!!! Hahaha. Thank god we were on the right platform.

*crying*

I don’t really remember what happened next but for whatever reason we all just could not stop laughing about what we were doing. How were we at a train station on a Sunday night? Were we really going all the way to Chinatown just because we were 15 minutes late for bubble tea at Ochatto? It just all felt so crazy… we couldn’t believe what we were doing. But then we laughed about how funny it is that this feels crazy. Like, we’re just such boring people that going to Chinatown on an unplanned excursion for bubble tea feels “crazy”! I’m sure some people at Penn have taken unplanned trips to New York or even Paris but there we were laughing our heads off about an impromptu ride to Chinatown. It was just a little bit, just a very little bit crazy, that it was hilarious.

Me laughing at myself after catching my reflection in the train windows

On the ride there, I see that Ken has crumpled his ticket in his hand and my jaw drops and I look at him and I point to the ticket and I go, “Ken, oh my god… what are you—you’re gonna need that to get out!” Because I guess I thought it’s like Oyster cards in London or Metro cards in New York or Touch n Gos in KL, right. Hui Jie and Ken look at me with the straightest faces ever and they’re like “No…” and I just very quietly said “oh….” and they laughed about that so much. In fact, later, when we were waiting on the platform of the train to go home, Ken calls my name and as I turn around, he looks at me and slowly bends his ticket in front of my face and throws it in the trash. And as I’m laughing he’s like, “now I can’t go out!” HAHA.

So anyway… we get to the 11th St station and as we walk the one block over to Chinatown, there’s a banana on the ground and for what. ever. reason. I say “hey guys! It’s a banana! You can eat it! It’s still intact!” ……. until I realize it’s a just a banana peel that happened to look like it was still whole. Again, we laugh.

We’re almost there. It’s dark and almost everything is closed and the streets smell like fish. But we are so, so, very close to Tea Do.

Then, we pass by Penang, the Malaysian restaurant across the street on our right and Ken says “oh is it open? Oh yeah it is.” and as he turns around to look at me, I’m already crossing the road to go look at the menu because I think: Ochatto will open tomorrow, but we’re only here today and we can get cendol. Ken goes in to ask if they were still open and they were. Before we knew it, we were seated.

I promise you he only looks sad in this picture because we’re so tired from laughing

That’s right, everyone. I didn’t make it to Tea Do. I was so close and I just chose not to go. I was looking forward to getting a hot cup of bubble tea and I got what is essentially shaved ice. Hui Jie, again, the reasonable one, stays focused and she gets the large hot jasmine bubble tea as planned and comes to join us at Penang while we eat our ABC and cendol. We sit there and Ken talks about how easily distracted I am and how insane it is that we’re at Penang eating ABC and cendol when we initially wanted to go to Tea Do, which happened because we initially wanted bubble tea from Ochatto.

It’s true. I guess I can be pretty easily distracted. To be honest, the fact that I even had that box of biscuits today was because when we were buying food for dinner earlier, Ken and I were talking near the cashier and I caught a glimpse of the sesame biscuits at the corner of my eye, paused mid-sentence, gasped and said “oh my god! those biscuits!” and just proceeded to pay for them. But whatever.

The rest of the night was relatively uneventful. We all calmed down from our highs. We talked about Penn, whether we reflect a lot about our lives, whether we were boring people and whether we are relatable etc and as we were talking I couldn’t help saying, “oh my god, phew, thank god our conversation has resumed to normal again.” Hahaha.

So yeah, after we finished our cold desserts, we walked back to the station (I saw that the banana peel I saw earlier on the way to the restaurant had been squashed, RIP) and took the train back to 40th St… box of sesame biscuits still clutched in my arms, stomach and cheeks sore from all the laughing.

I will remember this day for years to come. I haven’t laughed like this—especially not with anyone other than my sisters—in ages. If it wasn’t funny to you, then, well, I guess you just had to be there.

I finally ran out of ideas for titles.

Good morning! I’ve just done something really silly. I was making a cheese quiche for lunch later while I was drinking some tea. I grabbed some pepper to put in the quiche batter and I think you know where this is going… I put it in my tea instead, haha. It’s actually not bad. I ended up drinking it in the end. I’m now coughing a little but it’s okay!

Haha, anyway… I had such a good week. The first few days of it were rough. Two words: astronomy midterm. Let me put this into perspective for you. The first astronomy midterm (which I tanked) covered only chapters 1-5. This exam covered up to chapter 14 so there was a lot more material and it was less calculation and more facts/memorisation which is good because I’m better at memorizing than calculation, honestly, but it was also not good because it just takes so much more time to study for. So yeah, I spent a huge majority of my waking hours studying for this exam. It went ok I think! And that was my last midterm ever—I have no exams left until my final finals!

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Studying for astronomy with my bowl of quinoa goreng (i.e. nasi goreng but with quinoa because I had no beras lol)

(By the way, last week I got a comment about how I only ever talk about Astronomy with regards to my classes and I laughed so hard at that because I realised that too and didn’t think anyone would pick up on it. It’s true though! I do talk about Astronomy more than anything else because I’m only taking 3 classes this semester and the other two are so so so chill that Astronomy is just proportionally huge lol.)

I also got to go to some cool events!! I love that I’ve been having more time to go to events this semester because I’m not taking so many classes. I think at Penn, everyone is so busy organising their own events that they don’t really get to attend any other events which is such a shame; it’s like everyone’s talking and no one’s listening.

There was an event last Thursday, it was “an engaging conversation” between our university president, Amy Gutmann and former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is spending his post-political career at Penn at the brand new Penn Biden Center of Diplomacy and Global Engagement. He talked about reaching across the aisle, his faith in the American people, etc. It was kinda cool to see him live in person! Tickets were free but you had to register really quickly in order to get one and I was the only person I knew who had tickets so I went alone. The funny thing is (!) I ended up sitting next to someone else who also went alone and was also about to take the same Astronomy midterm later that day! Haha. While we waited for Biden, we were both talking about Mercury’s lack of atmosphere. Very nerdy, I know.

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He couldn’t talk for long while sitting down haha

On Friday, Hui Jie and I went to the Fels Institute of Government’s event, a conversation on media and politics with NPR reporters, Scott Detrow and Sam Sanders. They were so cool, I loved the stories they told. Scott talked about how one of his favourite stories he did was about these Northern Pennsylvanian rattlesnake wranglers. Sam talked about how he got pretty close to Bernie Sanders after covering him through the campaign trail and how he learned that Bernie really loves crowds. They were at one point both hosts of the NPR Politics podcast (Sam has now left), so they also talked about how people tend to expect them to always talk about politics and to have an opinion about everything in politics. They said that they always get flak on Twitter if they tweet about something non-political. Sam said “people want us to be more than we can be for them because they like us and they feel like they know us.” It was really interesting. I mostly love how clear it was that they loved their jobs. Ahhh. It was so, so, so cool.

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The mic stand kinda ruins the picture but whatever.

I also went out for brunch with my friend Cristina in the city Friday morning. It has been a while I think since I last went out for a good sweet brunch. We went to Green Eggs, which is this really popular spot in the city. It was raining and a weekday morning so we thought it would’ve been fine but I still had to wait in line outside in the rain for over 20 minutes before getting a table! But wow, was it worth it. I hadn’t been there since early on in junior year and I forgot how good the food is there. I had pecan french toast and Cristi got raspberry french toast. I could hardly eat for the rest of the day because I was so full but so satisfied.

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Later that night, my friend May May and I went to see the Onda Latina show. It’s a salsa fusion dance group and Cristina is in it!! I also know a couple of other people in it and it’s always just so much fun to see how talented my fellow Penn students are. I’ve said this before I think, but I just love putting aside all feelings of competitiveness and just supporting and admiring how amazing everyone here is.

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ok I know it’s crappy quality but there’s my friend!
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With Cristina after the show!

So yeah, it was a great week! It ended with me spending a nice long day in my apartment. I binge-watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix which just came out this week and for the first time ever, I felt really old watching a high school movie haha. The premise of the show is this girl kills herself (uh, yeah, it’s a little dark…) and she leaves this elaborate “list” of 13 reasons why and each one is a person, detailing how someone at school abused, took advantage of or just hurt her. It has a very very strong “moral of the story” vibe which at times seems a bit overdone. I’m not saying I don’t think the message should be weaker because I love, love, love the way this movie sheds light on the ways in which bullying is not so much a matter of direct action, and more a product of culture (guys not wanting to seem “weak” in front of other guys, people being worried about what other people might think etc) but at times it seemed too forced. With that said though, it was still a good show. I loved the subtle ways in which it highlighted how as a culture, we idolise people for their athletic/academic achievements even though they may be… mean, narcissistic, manipulative people. I also loved the diversity of the cast. For most actors, this was their first “real” job. The popular girl was black. There was a queer Asian girl. There were multi-racial couples and friend groups. The show passed the Bechdel test (do two women talk to each other about something other than a boy?—very few films pass this test). Characters were multi-dimensional. Dialogue sounded true to life. I was very happy with all of that and I’m so glad platforms like Netflix are creating opportunities for shows like these which have been ignored and written off by media conglomerates for so long.

So yeah, I guess that’s all for this week. I hope you’ve had a really good week as well. My quiche is done and I’m going to go dig in now 🙂 until next week, thanks for reading!

I want to remember this.

It’s funny. I always think it’s quite difficult to write about my week when I’m having a bad week because I don’t want to seem mopey or whiney and I just, I mean, who likes showing the world (lol as if the world reads my blog) how they screw up? But I have found that it is as hard, if not harder, to write about my week when things are going particularly well. It’s the same reason why writing a cover letter can be so difficult—tooting your own horn isn’t comfortable at all. Or at least, for me it’s not.

All of which is to say, things have been going well as of late.

I had so much fun last Tuesday in particular. First, my Astronomy homework deadline got ~extended~ one week so that was grrrreat. Tuesdays are also when movies are half off at the local cinema so Hui Jie, Jamie and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. It was so… Disney. And I loved it. I mean, objectively speaking, it’s not a great movie in the sense that I probably wouldn’t rewatch it the way I do Princess Diaries or Pitch Perfect but it was like all the feelings you get when you go to Disneyland, put into a movie. I think Be Our Guest was my favourite scene and you’ll just have to see it to know why.

A few days before we watched the movie though, Jamie tagged the two of us in this old Facebook post of a video where someone dubbed a scene from Beauty and the Beast with Singaporean slang which was really popular at the time. Anyway, so when the equivalent of that scene came on when we watched it on Tuesday, I just could NOT help laughing because I was replaying the Singaporean version in my mind!!! It was really funny but then Hui Jie got annoyed with me because it disrupted her swooning LOL.

Us, after the movie!

Hui Jie and I also went to Zavino for early dinner before the movie. We got our fav: rosemary flatbread with ricotta. The dish, I think, is meant to be a small plate appetizer type thing but we get it as mains because it’s that good. The whole time we ate, we were just like “oh my god” “oh my god this is so good” “this is amazing”. It was also between 4.30-6.30pm so some small plates are half off! Basically, last Tuesday was like… discount day.

She insisted on being in the picture, LOL

This past week, I also had the chance to sit down with Professor Caroline Connolly. I took Introduction to Psychology with her in my very first semester at Penn, then I took a seminar (10-person, discussion-based class) on Young Adulthood in Developmental Psychology last semester and now I’m one of her TAs for her current Intro class. She had heard that I’m working on this audio piece about graduation (I don’t think I’ve mentioned that on here yet, but yeah, I am, and I promise I’ll say more about that later once I have a better idea of what it’s going to look like) and she just wanted to chat about it. It was really cool because we literally sat for two and a half hours talking about graduation, the period right after it which often makes us feel like we’re “flailing” around, about whether college is “worth it”, studying abroad (she studied in Ireland!) and about building character at this age/life stage.

I also liked getting to learn a lot more about her, her background and family etc and I really liked that because there are very few professors I know beyond classroom interactions. If you know me, you’ll know I hate having very surface-level relationships and interactions (I’m always secretly dying inside when people talk about the weather) so it’s nice to just have real relationships with professors, if that makes sense. It makes them seem so much more… human and approachable. Not that she wasn’t human before, but my writing professor Jamie-Lee once said that she thinks if students see professors around campus, walking their dog or going for a run or eating the same places they do, it helps to combat the idea that college is this high-pressure, mechanical place. I get what she means, but I don’t really know how to explain.

It was also a pretty productive week, I just felt like a got a lot of work done while also managing to binge the new-ish HBO miniseries, Big Little Lies and play a ton of Sporcle quizzes, hahaha. Plus, some of what made this week a good one was just little things like hearing from my friend Aish who messaged me and Shahirah last Wednesday, having a great time with Hui Jie and Ken on our every-Tuesday-and-Thursday-after-Astronomy lunches and just putting together good breakfasts for myself.

I also had a great end to the week. On Sunday afternoon, I had my first “practice” for a show I’m going to be in, called Penn Monologues! It’s a show where about 12 students read personal essays and I guess the whole point is about demonstrating how we’re all connected through storytelling and sharing experiences. The proceeds from the show are going to be donated to a local social justice organisation. I’ve never performed in this capacity before so it should be interesting. I’m excited to work with my amazing friend Clare who is the director for the show. Yesterday, we went through my essay, talked about some edits and ways to practice on my own so, yeah… a lot of work to do on that front.

Later that night night was “Sing, City! 6” which is Club Singapore’s once-in-every-two-years (is there a word for that?) musical production. I had so much fun hearing Singlish (Singaporean English), which is very very similar to Manglish (Malaysian English) on stage at Penn. There were a lot of times throughout the show where I was like, “are the Americans here going to understand that?” and then I realise that it doesn’t matter because this show wasn’t made for them, or for them to so easily understand everything. There were “subtitles” to translate certain terms like encik but they mention things and places like A-Levels and Tanjong Pagar without any context and I just liked how cultural shows signal who the show is “for” in that way and it’s an interesting learning experience for people who aren’t from that culture. Anyway, the directors , Oliver and Rebecca live across me and Shahirah and I was so proud of them for how hard they’ve worked despite having little to no experience putting on a show. My good friend Jamie was the logistics chair, and I know how hard she worked securing venue and getting food and helping out with odd ends and I was SO PROUD of her, I screamed so loud and was tearing up like the sappy person I am when she went up on stage at the end of the show. I genuinely respect and admire their spirit (as Hui Jie calls it, the Singaporean spirit) to go all out with anything they do and to work tirelessly to make up for lack of experience.

The opening of the show. Note the (blurry) girl in SIA uniform.
Oliver and Rebecca giving their thanks at the end of the show

Anyway, I’m sorry this was late. On one hand, I couldn’t bring myself to write such a happy post, and on the other hand I also wanted to include the show which ended late night on Sunday on here so here I am writing last week’s post on Monday. Looking ahead I have… an astronomy midterm *cowers down in agony* so I really need to get back to studying for that. Until next time, I hope you enjoyed reading. These are the kinds of weeks I just really want to remember when I look back on my time at Penn.