Young, Growing, Glowing

I’m writing this at the tail end of what has been the. best. week. ever.

Like, how do I even tell you? Ok I guess I’ll start by saying that we had a 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving break. Work-wise, that meant the past couple of weeks were rough—we only worked 3 days this past week and I kinda only had 2 proper days of work the week prior because I did the bootcamp program thing. And that’s pretty much why I didn’t blog last week: I was just so groggy and tired. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but one night, I came home at about 11 pm. Meals were skipped. Sleep was sacrificed.

I think that’s something I didn’t expect from the job but makes total sense… that is, no matter what, an episode comes out on Monday and all the work that goes into putting out an episode has to be done by Monday, regardless of what’s going on. Obviously all this “cramming” can be avoided with planning ahead but you can only do so much planning when your work also relies on other people, etc.

So yeah, that meant this 4-day weekend came at a REALLY good time and it turned out amazingly well. I spent it in Philly, which was just such a good decision on my part. On Thursday morning, before I left for Union Station, I did kinda feel a little lazy to travel… I felt like maybe I should’ve just vegged out at home. But I am beyond glad I went. It was just like a “balik kampung” feeling.

First of all, it was just surreal to be back in Philadelphia. Honestly, part of me felt like I never left. To top it all off, I stayed at my friend Oliver’s place while he was out of town for the holiday and he lives literally across the hall from my old apartment. So walking into that building, pressing the elevator button and trekking down the hall just felt so natural and automated. It was a bizarre feeling, to say the least. And walking through campus was just overwhelming. As I walked up Walnut Street, it just sent flashes of memories through my mind like a bunch of scenes from a long film spliced together. I don’t know how else to explain this other than to say it was magical. It felt like home. Really, it felt the same way as when I go back to KL for summers. It was intoxicating and confusing. I especially appreciated this because the feelings weren’t purely saccharine; they were complex and tinged with the bitterness I felt every time I landed at the Philly airport. As I rode through campus, I couldn’t help remembering all the times I’ve gone down that same street at the beginning of the semester, feeling groggy and annoyed that I had to be back on campus and now those memories of resentment just make me chuckle a little. It’s funny.

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LOCUST WALK!!!!

And of course, it was amazing to see my friends again. Ken and Vera both came to Philly for the holiday, and our friend Selina is still at Penn so we all hung out together. It made me really miss Shahirah, May May and Hui Jie though. On Thursday night, we got dinner at Banana Leaf (and had kangkung belacan!!!!) in lieu of a “proper” Thanksgiving dinner (we all didn’t have kitchens so like, can you blame us). That night, we decided to go to the Philadelphia Premium Outlet mall thing for Black Friday shopping—something I’ve never done but have always wanted to try for the sake of it. PPO is only like ~30-40 minutes away from Penn but my goodness, the traffic!! We were stuck in the car for 2.5 hours! I have to say though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it because it felt like we were on a real road trip and I appreciated the length of the drive since it meant we almost went through Taylor Swift’s entire discography.

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MayMay wasn’t there but Ken and I got to talk to her for like 2 hours, which was nice ❤

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Shopping was kinda fun and I’d say it was worth it because I got some insane deals for things I actually needed, so I’m not complaining. It was pretty cold though and by the time we left PPO it was like… 5 am or something. We got back at 6 and by that point it had been like 24 hours since I woke up the morning before. I slept ASAP but if you’ve ever fallen asleep as the sun is rising (and if you’re a normal college student, I know you probably have…) you’d know that it’s not that easy. Like, your body is trained to get up with the sun… so by 8.30 I was having trouble staying asleep. I fought it for a bit but eventually I decided to go get Federal Donuts. Because here’s the other thing about my trip to Philly: I had a mission. And that was to cross off all the items on my craving list. I kid you not, last week, I even called all the restaurants I wanted to go to during my trip and checked what their holiday schedule was like. So yeah, I had fed nuts for breakfast, and then I had brunch at Beijing (where I was reunited with my all time fav, walnut shrimp) lol.

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And then soon after, I had to get ready to leave because we were heading out of town to Wissahickon Valley Park for some hiking. I gotta say, I was a teensy bit nervous about it because I am not athletic but it was like…….. not even a hike. It was just us walking for 2+ hours. The view. was. beautiful. It was nice to be in nature after spending 5 hours participating in senseless consumerism the night before, you know? Plus, I had been yapping to Ken about wanting to see golden trees, so I was super happy when I got what I wanted. The park had the lingering autumn leaves in all its glorious colours and we had so many laughs going through the trail, taking pictures, telling stories. It was serene, the weather was absolutely ideal for hiking and the company was perfect. It’s one of those things I know I’ll remember for a very, very long time.

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Then, for dinner, we had Korean food and I had some reeeeaaaal good dukbokki. We talked at dinner for hours and it felt just like college again. I loved that the conversations weren’t about like… “so where do you work? What do you do?” and it’s not because they already necessarily know what I do at work, but it’s because they know me, and they have more to talk about with me than jobs and what it’s like living in DC, etc. Over dinner, we talked about some of the things we were grateful for throughout our time at Penn and it made me realize again what I already knew: we had a good thing going. As much as I didn’t like school, I loved my friends and I loved that we had a community. I’ve said it a few times on here already, but that’s what I so sorely miss now that I’ve left school. It really is so easy when you have a group of people who feel like family and for that brief day, it felt like I had it again.

That night, I came back to Oliver’s place and I. just. crashed. I mean, at that point, I had gone shopping and hiking on very minimal sleep so really, it was inevitable that I fell asleep at 9 pm. I woke up almost 12 hours later and I just felt utterly renewed. It was beautiful.

On Saturday morning, our last day there, Selina hosted a cute little brunch thing at her lovely apartment. She had a cheese board and grapes, which I always appreciate, and she served us old town white coffee + kaya toast. It doesn’t really get any better than that. At brunch, I also got to see my dear Kimmy, who’s now a sophomore!! Recall that I met her in a creative writing seminar when she was a freshman and we became fast friends. I was so excited to see her again and I spent pretty much the rest of the day with her. We played air hockey and ping pong on Selina’s roof top for a while, which was insanely fun (Kim and I won air hockey!!) but I was still on my quest to cross things off my craving list, so after brunch, Kim and I went to Han Dynasty for some good ol’ veggie dan dan noodles. We caught up, talked about everything under sun… and then we went back to the Ludlow house to take a nap hahaha.

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I just want to take a moment to say that I love the Ludlow house. It started off a couple of years ago as Shaun, Lian Han and Ken’s scrappy lil home. Later, May May moved in when Shaun graduated and Hui Jie moved in when Lian Han graduated the semester after. So that house just became more and more so a home base for me and my friends. I love that the “legacy” of the house is kinda still being continued now that Kim and a few other Malaysian/Singaporeans are living there. It just makes me feel so happy. When Ken, Selina and I talked about the house with Vera the other day, Vera pointed out that if this was a novel, the house would really be like a character in and of itself… and she’s right. And that’s really cool.

But anyway, I loved that I got to hang out there again. The place looks and feels really different, but still the same in some ways. It’s cleaner and nicer and more packed but still really homey. I took a nap in Kim’s room which was nice because it’s the kind of hang out you’d have with someone if you had an abundance of time… even though we didn’t.

Then, for dinner, just before my bus, I saw Jamie at Zavino’s. At first I thought I wasn’t going to get to see her since she usually visits family for break but she got back in time for me to catch her and I loved that we got to split some ricotta + rosemary flatbread together because that meal and that restaurant is just super special to me and I have many fond memories of being there with Jamie. She’s a senior now and it’s such a strange feeling seeing her go through some of the things I went through just a year ago… it’s funny how much things can change in a year.

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But yeah, then I had to head out to catch my bus at 6.45 and head back to DC. It was a pleasant ride back and I’m thankful I didn’t get motion sickness either on my way to or from Philly—that’s usually a big problem for me.

Today was mostly just recuperating and relaxing, enjoying the last of the weekend before I head back to the grind tomorrow morning. I would’ve loved to spend a bit more time in Philly but a) Ken had left anyway and b) the last time I returned to DC on a Sunday evening, I felt like shit the rest of the week so I’m definitely glad I came back on Saturday night.

I had the loveliest day today, though. I got copious amounts of sleep. I did my laundry. I went to the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall, which was really nice because even though I’ve been in DC for a couple of months now, I haven’t been back there since I first visited DC with Shahirah over 3 years ago. I watched people ice skate at the sculpture garden, and it made me really excited for winter holidays with my family again. I saw the sunset as I walked back up town. I got groceries at Trader Joe’s. I came back and made the. most. delicious. loaf of banana and chocolate chip bread while watching X Factor UK with my roommate. And now I’m just winding down preparing to sleep and writing this.

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I really am so thankful for this weekend and for where I am in life right now. Weekend trips with 3-hour bus rides, karaoke drives with friends, shopping til 5 am, fitting 10 people in a tiny little living room, taking long walks alone in the city without having to answer to anyone… it’s the kinds of things you can only really do when you’re young. That confusing feeling of not having a “home” anymore? That’s what it’s like when you’re young and rootless and growing. And sometimes it’s scary or just flat out annoying but there are moments that just feel like pure gold—like your heart is glowing.

What I’m about to say is so cheesy, but a few weeks ago, I was on my commute home from work and I was changing lines on the Metro at Gallery Place when I thought about how insanely lucky I am that things worked out the way they did. A year ago I felt kinda lost. Graduating felt like jumping off a cliff and freefalling. But I realized that day that you only fear falling if you don’t know you can fly. (Told you it was cheesy.) But it’s true. I still am rootless and a little bit aimless but I’ve figured it out before and I can figure it out again, and again, and again. This weekend really felt like everything will always turn out ok and even if it doesn’t, there will be moments of pure gold in the midst of everything. That’s just what it feels like to be young and growing.

 

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

I’ve just gotten back from a quick… um, early dinner? late second lunch? I don’t know, I just got back from Kelana Jaya, where my family and I went out for some char kuey teow (no prizes for guessing whose idea that was). All of that “just had a scaling appointment at the dentist” sensation from my dentist appointment this afternoon has completely gone. Oops.

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My insanely indulgent summer holiday is coming to an all-too-rapid close but has shown no signs of slowing down in terms of how much fun I’ve been having. I think it’s been a while since I’ve done a recap and I don’t really feel like covering everything I’ve done so I’m just going to do another run down of some personal highlights.

Aboo Bakars Bowling Tournament

I mentioned a while ago that my family was going to have a bowling tournament and we did! It was so. much. fun.

First of all, let me just stress that I suck at bowling. If you set aside my 8-year-old cousin Natasha, I came last out of everyone that day. But it was just really fun to see how good some other people were and it was extra exciting when my ball didn’t end in the gutter! My dad even sorted people into teams such that each team would have players of equal capability and no team has an advantage over another and no one knew who was in which team to start with so we all just rooted for everyone. There were prizes and everything!

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My favourite part of the day though was probably when we all went out for lunch at Delicious after we all played two rounds. I love going out with my extended family. We always end up blocking out a whole section of the restaurant because there are like 20 of us.

Nasi kerabu

A while ago, my sister showed me this video on Instagram of this white guy speaking fluently in Malay about a restaurant called Kesom which serves really good nasi kerabu. We decided to go a couple of Sundays ago because nasi kerabu is one of my craving list items and it did not disappoint! The only thing was that my dad made me drive (!!!!) and the GPS took us on some small winding back roads so it was a little nerve wracking but it turned out ok.

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‘Bad Genius’

That same Sunday, my sisters and I went to Bukit Raja to watch a movie with two of our cousins, Alesya and Azlina. We watched Bad Genius, which was the talk of the town—everyone was absolutely raving about it! Basically, it’s about this really smart girl who starts a system to help rich kids get good grades by helping them cheat in exams in exchange for money (when I told my mom this, she was like “why are you watching a movie about cheating?” but like, obvs there was a lesson and all of that).

loved the cinematography of it all. Some parts were cringey and unrealistic but it was just all so beautifully shot and I really take my hat off to the Thai entertainment industry for a well thought out film. (*cough* now, if only Malaysia could stop making ridiculously stupid ghost movies…)

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Super awful Snapchat-quality picture of us at the cinema

HAIRCUT + FOOTBALL DEBACLE

Last week, my sister wanted to go get a haircut and for one reason or another, each salon she went to that day turned her away (too full, closed, etc) but after Maghrib, we decided to try another one near Aeon Seksyen 13. So we left after dinner, thinking it would just be a short drive, but a little apprehensive because Waze said it would take us like 30+ minutes. It was a little strange, but we thought it was just peak rush hour traffic jam, so like, whatevs.

After getting stuck in traffic for ages, we finally remembered that Malaysia was playing against Laos (I think it was Laos that night) at the Sect 13 stadium………. literally, there were cars parked on the road. We just couldn’t believe it. I think that was Aida’s like 4th or 5th attempt to get her haircut that day. So, we ended up going back to BJ, stopping at Mydin, getting a pair of scissors (and a good ol’ Ramli burger hehe) and getting my mum to cut her hair because she was desperate lol.

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

To be honest, it was such a fun(ny) night hahaha.

Seeing Amalina after 8 YEARS (!)

In 2009, I went to a couple of environmental camps: in Pahang in March and then in Sandakan in June. At both of those camps, I befriended Amalina. We didn’t become BFFs or anything during the camps but you know, we have followed each other on social media ever since. Trust me, I know there are a lot of downsides to social media sites like it amps up the temptation of comparison and urges you to waste your time etc etc but there are a lot of ups to it as well. Keeping in touch with your friends and having a sense of what everyone is up to is one of them—it helps give you like a jumping off point to talk to friends you rarely see. It also means that sometimes you get to really connect with people you otherwise might not get to and that was totally the case with me and Amalina.

We definitely didn’t talk all the time. Far from it. But there were multiple occasions where I felt like we were going through the same thing and sometimes we’d strike up a short conversation just lifting each other up and it was always so special to me. I still have screenshots of her messages to me just being really sweet and expressing how happy she was for me when things were going well. I had no idea that anything I said to her meant anything to her at all until she told me last week, so that was just really great. I’m so glad we got to catch up after 8 years.

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Screenshot from Amalina’s Instagram story ❤

Tasha’s 8th Birthday

It’s been so long since I’ve managed to catch my cousin Natasha’s birthday. It’s usually right around the time that I head back to Penn. But this year, I got to go! It was just nice because, well, it’s always fun when my whole extended family gets together to eat (lol I’m family + food 24/7) but also because it has been forever since I’ve been to one of these kid birthday parties! I used to enjoy them so much when I was in primary school and this really reminded me of those days, with all the wrapped up presents and cartoon themed birthday cake!

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Watching Tasha unwrap her presents

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

We got her some Shopkins toys for her birthday which is one of those new age kids things that I totally am out of touch with. They’re just like… objects? I don’t know. This is me, trying to explain what they are to Hanna:

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But yeah, it was so much fun and we stayed until like midnight talking and by the time we left, I was already hungry enough for a cheeky little McDonalds stop, heh.

DIPLOMA

My diploma arrived a week or so ago, while I was still in Kuching. It was rather underwhelming, I gotta tell you, to see that the whole thing is literally just a printed piece of paper and it’s all written up in Latin. Still, we decided to get it framed. I didn’t buy the frames that Penn sold at the bookstore ($200? no thanks) and this whole paragraph is really meant for me to express how happy I am that I got it framed beautifully for less than $30 and it feels way more legit now haha.

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Publika with Sha and Eli

It’s been a while since I saw Sha. And her friend Eli, who I met a few years ago, asked if I wanted to meet up, so we all went to Publika last Saturday for dinner because Eli said there was going to be a free jazz festival there (with emphasis on free”) and we should go catch it. We had dinner—Sha and I had a really good pizza with brie and beets—and after that we went to like that outdoor area to watch the show….. before we all kinda sat and looked at each other like “now what?” lol. Sha hardly complains but that day she was like “can we go somewhere else, I’m bored” hahaha so we went to Artisan (again). It’s so weird that I won’t be seeing her for months at a time now!!! I can’t believe she won’t be coming with me to the US anymore, I feel like that’s going to take time for me to get used to but I’m glad I got to hang out with her a few times this summer.

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First time on the MRT!

The new MRT line in KL opened up last month and I finally had a reason to try it out a few days ago. My mum and I took it to Bukit Bintang and it was quite fun! I loved the new stations; they’re really well done, clean and spacious. We hadn’t been to Bukit Bintang in ages (ok, we did go to Pavillion that one time but we didn’t go outside so I don’t think it counts) and I forgot how overwhelmingly touristy it is. I just forgot that there are parts of KL that are that touristy.

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Last full family dinner out (for now)

My sister heads back to London tomorrow for her third year in med school, so we went to Jibby & Co. for a nice family dinner yesterday. My family loves going out to eat, and Jibs has been on my list for dinner for a while now. It was a good night as always, especially because we ended up making a stop at what seems to now be our go-to dessert place: Family Mart, hahaha. If you’re in Malaysia, you would know that it’s a not-that-new-anymore Japanese convenience store, but I only got around to visiting it this summer and I. am. obsessed. with their cheesecake ice cream and their ebiko onigiri. Good luck staying in business, 7 Eleven!!!

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

Quizmas & London

SO ME RN.

I’m in London again, and it’s nice. 10-degree weather. Crossword puzzles. Harry Potter movies. Sporcle flags-of-the-world quiz. Watching The Chaser on TV. Cycling the relatively-empty streets at night. Doing the dishes while watching Narcos. Sleeping in until 10.30 am. Finishing book after book. Journaling before bed.

Between the World and Me ❤

Life feels slow. It feels easy. I had a nice day today. We went for a stroll along River Thames, came back to the apartment, watched some TV and then my sisters and I cooked dinner.

There were a bunch of things I had seen recipes of and have been wanting to try, so I decided we make stuffed mushrooms, mashed cauliflower and creamy tomato pasta. Cooking with my sisters is always so much fun because somehow or rather, we always end up laughing hysterically about something. You know the kind where you laugh so much you don’t make anymore sound? Yeah, like that. Today, for example, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the dishwasher—it started overflowing bubbles and for some reason that was just hilarious to us. Anyway! I think dinner turned out well, or at least, I was really happy with it and it actually wasn’t too difficult at all. I’m definitely going to try to make mashed cauliflower again when I go back to Penn.

The best part of being on holiday is probably family; playing Sporcle quizzes (which, if you know me, you know I just love) with other people is always 10x more fun. Julia and I played this Harry Potter logic quiz which is kind of like a Sudoku-style logic game and oh my god, we were hooked. We legit spent like 2 hours playing 3 of them (this one was our favourite!) and then we played the flags of the world quiz which for some reason is just always so satisfying. My sisters and I also have been toying around with this crossword puzzle book my mom bought recently but it’s so hard. I’ve only ever done one crossword puzzle in my life and that was Monday’s + with a help of a really smart friend (and, admittedly, a bit of googling). But yeah somehow we still really enjoyed playing them and as I described it yesterday, it “feels like I’m trying to save the universe by cracking some code” (except I was failing which was kinda stressful).

When you’re a visual thinker and you can’t write on your Sporcle screen…

I’m starting to see a puzzle/game-related trend with the stuff we’ve been doing on this holiday which is actually pretty funny although not entirely surprising because I do love a good puzzle game. We’ve also been watching The Chase which is a trivia-ish game show that’s been playing on TV a lot today (the TV says it’s for Quizmas, haha I love it). I don’t quite know how to describe the show but I think trivia is always fun to watch because it’s crazy the sorts of various little things people know!!!

But ok we haven’t just been doing puzzley things. My cousins and I also went cycling around London yesterday night which was a little scary but pretty nice because a lot of the roads were quite empty. We got to see little nooks and crannies of London I had never seen before because we took little back alleys and stuff (some creepy, some pretty). And of course, it’s always always always a good time with my cousins.

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You’re welcome Santander, for the advertising labour.

On the whole though, it doesn’t really feel like vacation. It feels like an alternate version of everyday life where everything is easy and good… or is that what vacations were meant to feel like? I like that for once, my to-do list consists of: read 2 chapters of book of choice, edit pictures on VSCO, wash hair, moisturise/lotion, buy presents. No meetings. No frantically getting from one place to another. No beating myself up for not getting something right. No waking up in the morning to 20 emails (in fact, I got NO emails today, it was beautiful).

I really like it.

Week 5: Chinese New Year!

Happy (belated?) chinese new year! This year, the Hong Kong Student Association, Chinese Student Association and Penn Taiwanese Society put together a Lunar New Year celebration at Penn. It was really fun. So many cultural groups participated, and some of them were Club Singapore, Penn Philippines Association, Vietnamese Student Association, Koreans at Penn and even Malaysians at Penn. There were performances like the lion dance and some songs by the Chinese a capella group. Each club served a type of kuih or offered a workshop/game. We served homemade prawn rolls and fried wantan (or I guess, wonton) skins with sugar powder—so good.

Me and Ken, serving food at the event.

 

Cooking at Ken’s house with the other Malaysians!

Festivities always give me major FOMO because I’m missing my family back home. They all went out to Jinjang to visit relatives last Monday. I haven’t gotten to go along in such a long time! But I’m glad I got to at least experience some festive spirit over here with my friends.  So that was one of the “highs” of my week.

My family on Chinese New Year!

My “low” was actually quite funny… I usually do laundry once every 2-3 weeks, but when I do laundry, there tends to be like a (small) pile of stuff I leave behind because it’s not important and I don’t need it haha. Last Monday night I decided to do ALL OF IT. It was like, 3+ loads. It was supposed to be done by like 12.30 am, but the dryer didn’t dry my clothes properly so I had to put it in for another round. I was so sleepy and could hardly believe that my first time staying up late this semester was for… laundry. It didn’t even fully dry after the second time around pulak tu! So I ended up having to hang my clothes all over my room and just slept without a bedsheet or duvet cover. Lesson? Um, make more money and hire someone to do it for me (hehe just kidding…).

I also went for the APSC Town Hall last weekend. APSC is the Asian Pacific Student Coalition—they are the “umbrella group” over all (or most?) Asian-interest groups on campus. They advocate for needs in the Asian community to administration and they facilitate the building of relationships within the community. My friend Majid who’s on the board of APSC said he’ll read my blog so Majid, if you’re reading this, I hope I explained that well enough. They explained some of the initiatives they’re working on. For example, trying to work with the University administration to promote faculty diversity, helping provide resources to minorities from low income families hoping to go to grad school and combatting Islamophobic rhetoric and sentiments on and beyond campus.

Since we’re on the topic, a lot of people ask me about my experience with Islamophobia at Penn and I just want to say I think it’s there and it’s implicit, which is to say that if it exists, it’s never really specifically and/or directly to me or others. And although I’m not optimistic enough to say it doesn’t exist here, I have received so much support from my Muslim and non-Muslim friends, advisors and professors. I also remain encouraged because there is a lot currently in the works on campus to further fight these sentiments and it’s great to be a part of that and to see my friends take active roles in this cause. I’m just super proud of my peers and the minority community at Penn for that. I mean, it could be so much worse and I think my experience is not representative of that of all Muslims in America so I actually am… lucky, in a sense.

The United Minorities Council discussing efforts to fight Islamophobic rhetoric.

On to a lighter note! Cooking! This week, I bought potatoes for the first time because I was craving clear vegetable soup to eat with rice and kicap so I bought potatoes to put in it. Well, actually, I bought one potato. After removing the potato skin and chopping it, I realised that even one potato was too many. So, I made (or should I say, attempted to make) breakfast potatoes. They tasted fine, but I wished they looked a little better haha.

I also tried Trader Joe’s creamy tomato and basil pasta sauce for the first time this past week. I added onions, garlic and more basil leaves and some cheese into it. I also put prawns in it to complete it. I made pretty much the whole jar at once, so I was eating it for meal after meal over the course of like, 3 days haha. It was decent, but adding real basil leaves made it a lot better. To be honest, I have to say I’d still prefer to make pasta sauce from scratch because the ones from jars just don’t taste real. Right?

Anyway, it’s Tuesday night as I’m writing this and I’m rather sore from my session at the gym this morning. God, this is going to hurt tomorrow. I have to get back to work now, lots to do. I have one exam each week for the next three weeks so… here goes nothing.