Last First Day | Fall 2016

Preface: this is very emotionally graphic for me, and although it’s a relatively innocuous topic, makes me very vulnerable so 1) if you generally think people (or, God forbid, specifically girls) just like to be overdramatic, I suggest you stop reading and 2) I’d strongly prefer no one discuss this post with me in person because even though I’m okay, I don’t really want to talk about it- I feel like I’ve gone over it in my head too many times already and just want to move on. Thank you for respecting my space and I hope you appreciate this one in particular.



The day before I left for Penn, I drove myself to the dentist (cue shiver) and on the way there, “Save Tonight” by Eagle-Eye Cherry came on. I remember singing along, save tonight / fight the break of dawn / come tomorrow, / tomorrow I’ll be gone, thinking about how apt the song was because have I ever wanted to leave? No. The answer is no.

That night, like all pre-flight nights, consisted of me lying down in my bed looking around my room considering how bizarre it is that I have to leave this place again. I am almost confused by it. “I am here now, but tomorrow I won’t be.” Huh. OK.

Needless to say, I always leave with a heavy heart. I suppose I am lucky, right? Not everyone has something difficult to say goodbye to, and although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think it’s great that I do. Except then I actually have to do it. Say goodbye, I mean. Some people say it gets easier every year but I absolutely must disagree. I was telling Shahirah a few weeks ago (when the crying-about-going-back-to-school began again) that it feels like when you ride a rollercoaster and after you get off you know how scary and heart-wrenching it was, so the next time you queue up to ride one, the dread and fear becomes even more real because you remember so clearly the feeling.

But beyond that, this year was just a tad different because I can’t help feeling like it’s the last time it’ll be like this at home. Aida will be in London and her summer breaks will get shorter every year… she’ll be straddling two homes for the next 6-or-so years. That’s a long time. Julia will leave for college the fall after I graduate. That’s quite soon. I’ll (hopefully??!?!?!) have a job and it’ll never really just be us, just kids, just laughing about Princess Diaries in the living room anymore. Here, I would like to re-emphasise how apt “save tonight” really feels.

Then as time somehow always does, it just goes on, regardless of how fiercely you dig your heels in the ground. My lungs feel like they are about to burst and the pain makes me grit my teeth but moments later I still find myself on the aeroplane. I stare out at the window, waiting for the exact moment we take off… and I am off home soil. There is one clear line that separates me being home and not home and I take it all in as we make our way to Doha.

Some thoughts I jotted down on the plane ride there: The word “ache” is very appropriate because as this journey drags on, it starts feeling less like acute pain, and more like someone is kneading on my insides like play-doh. My back against this chair (though I think calling this seat a chair is a bit of a reach) is so warm but my front is freezing and it is disrupting my sleep to keep having to put this blanket on and off. People always say “it’s a small world” but how is that true if I have to fly over 20 freakin’ hours to get from one place to another??!!!??! I can feel my legs swelling like Aunt Marge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I miss bidets already. Our XC60 will not shut up until both people in the front seats have strapped their seat belts on so why the hell do stewardesses have to manually check if every passenger on a plane is wearing their seatbelt? Is it 1990? Clearly I become very sassy when I am stuck in a coach seat. The PA just mentioned “Malaysia” and immediately I realise it will be a long time before I will hear that outside of a private conversation again. I almost don’t want to leave this aircraft because once I step into Hamad International, I could be from anywhere going anywhere, and there will be little left to suggest I was just in Kuala Lumpur, that I was just home.

I make my way to the gate for our connecting flight to Philadelphia and I start to spot people who I know are fellow Penn students. I cannot help but stare because I am partly shocked. Clearly, it has not fully registered in my mind where I am going. But I have to deal with it, don’t I? I am going back to Penn.

Every year, I wrestle with feeling like I am being severely ungrateful for this experience because I don’t love it. What can I say? I wanted to love it, but I just don’t. I sit and think about how to be grateful about things you don’t love… what that feels like… whether I am actually doing that. I will concede, there are days I love, and I love what I’ve gotten out of Penn but I like to think a cake enjoys being a cake without enjoying being baked in an oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. The process is excruciating. But it’s okay. I remind myself that one of the things I place a high value on in people is the ability to do things they don’t love to do because it’s what they need to do, because it’s the right thing to do.

If there’s any time to think about the stark contra between being at Penn and being home, it’s here, in transit. Sometimes it feels like the only place I can properly juxtapose pictures of both ends of my world is here, in an airport somewhere in The Gulf. My lives seem so parallel that it can be difficult to imagine the other when I’m in one. I remember, about a week-or-so ago, after my family and I had just gotten back from Hong Kong (amazing holiday, by the way, I loved it there) I was washing the dishes after lunch or something and it was a very chill day. We were all tired. I didn’t leave the house. So there I was at the kitchen sink, just calmly scrubbing my plate when my mind started to wander and picture my many hurried walks past Huntsman on 38th street under the Locust bridge… and I realise how easy it always is to forget and to shed off the Penn pace. And that’s a huge contrast. These two worlds seem to run on their own separate clocks. When I’m at Penn, I’m always reciting my daily schedule in my head because I can never afford to mess up the order of everything I planned—there’s just always so much to do—and it’s never like that at home. At home, at least so far in my life, it would be weird to be sitting in bed staring at a Google Sheet of club expenses, weird to be up at 12 a.m. talking about MATLAB codes, weird to be rushing back from the gym to cook lunch. I just don’t do stuff like that at home. I don’t even walk so much at home (god, I miss being driven around).

This year at Penn is also different. It’s senior year, and for most of us, that means relentlessly reaching for opportunities to get a job. I mean, that in itself is a whole ordeal. I am not one for networking so putting on a blazer and heels to compete with intense Penn kids for a chance to speak to recruiters is just so not my thing. But it’s also just crazy to think that what I will be doing a year from now is a complete mystery. Next September, there will likely be a physical space I will be commuting to and spending lots of time in every day. It will be the income I live off of. It will be what I put on Facebook and LinkedIn, presumably. It will be what I tell everyone over and over again at raya. And yet, for the next I-don’t-know-how-many but-hopefully-not-too-many months, I won’t know what that is! Think about it! It’s normal, but it’s crazy! It’s difficult to face because I have loved having a structure, a plan, a procedure to follow. It makes me retreat into and cling onto my youth more and more because the road ahead is so uncertain and so vast, but the past is so tangible and safe.

One of the few certainties is the fact that a lot can happen in a school year. On a big-picture level, I have no idea what will happen, but on a micro scale, I am very aware that I am walking into a school year facing a calendar with overlapping entries and sparse empty spaces. It’s like walking into an abyss by first passing through a very real storm. (Does that even make sense? I don’t know)

I know I’m making college sound like utter crap but there are parts of this experience I will be savouring for the next 9 months. Of course, being with my friends is one of them, but just as notably is the fact that for the past 3 years, I lived with a mandatory irresponsibility that I know I enjoy more than I can currently fathom. Sure, I’ve had to be very adult about being my own discipliner and taking care of myself, but it was my job, I would say, to be prancing off halfway around the world every few months, usually (and coincidentally) whenever one place became too much. Tired of hearing about Trump? I’m off to Malaysia! The haze is back in KL? Hello again, Philadelphia!

In due time, this will no longer be my reality. I will no longer be living a life benchmarked by trips to airports and I will gradually be able to afford recklessness less and less. I do not enjoy this idea. Let me be clear here, I respect responsibility and I despise thoughtlessness. I came back to my apartment to find that someone stacked a baking tray on top of a wok and I cannot even accept the lack of thought that went into that arrangement. However, there is a degree of carefreeness that is still dismissible with my age and stage of life and this privilege is surely dwindling. To be blunt, that’s just like, really annoying.

Over the summer, I saw my cousin firmly embrace one of the traditional landmarks of adulthood—parenthood—and I, in my denial, retracted so steadily. Several times I stared at her baby (and I feel really bad for saying this) feeling perplexed at what is happening in front of me: why is everyone coddling her? Why are they all so happy? Because to me, this was a jarring sign that everything was changing. It was like everyone was throwing a party while taking down our childhood wallpapers and removing our toys while I just sat and watched as the only person retaining objectivity, the only one seeing what was truly happening here. I did not realise when we all left childhood and crossed into adolescence, and was later rudely awoken by all the change. This time, I had my eyes wide open as we were transitioning life stages again, determined not to make the same unconscious mistake. I just don’t want to grow up. I know that sounds immature, but I have never been one to lie to myself about how I feel. I know there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’d just like it to be plainly said. Maybe then I will stop resisting it so much.

I know I will focus on the more concrete things directly ahead of me and ease into it… basically, take things in one baby step at a time. And despite all my resistance and confusion, I will become an adult as seamlessly as I became a senior in college—not having a clue what changed when. I look at freshmen now and I am, at once, surprised and assured, when I realise I cannot presently relate to their concerns anymore. We are often blind to our own progress and, you know what, I’m thinking that can be a good thing because I can be so resistant to change sometimes that maybe I am better off not knowing when I am improving and growing.

As I list down my commitments this year though, I cannot help but again, realise that I’ve grown. This year, I’m a TA for Intro Psych. I am beginning my independent research project in psycholinguistics with Professor Dahan, who taught me Language and Thought last semester. I am attending info sessions and coffee chats and career services appointments. My friend Miru and I are taking on podcasting as a passion project. I am taking a creative writing class for the first time. I am practicing for a (theoretical, someday) 5K (haha). As always, I don’t know how I will manage all of these things but I’ll just have to see how that works out and hopefully be pleasantly surprised.

And so senior year started on Tuesday. Shahirah and I touched down in Philly a few minutes shy of 8 AM that morning and by 9.30 AM we were in our off-campus apartment. I changed clothes and instantly darted off to the chemistry lab building, dodging looks along the way because I didn’t want to meet anyone when I knew I hadn’t showered since Malaysia. I made it to Rise and Fall of the Spanish Empire with 2 minutes to spare: my laptop clock told me it was 10.28 PM. I change my timezone settings to Eastern Standard Time, and now I’m really back for the first day, for the last time.

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Shopping, Ice Cream & A Trip to the Museum | Summer 2016

Hello! I hope you’re well as you’re reading this. I’m quite sore from a recent run and I’m falling asleep in bed as I type this (even though it’s only 10.09 pm over here) but I really just wanna talk about what a fun day I had on Sunday. 🙂 Honestly, if you knew me and you saw the way Sunday panned out, you’d know quite instantly that I was the one who planned it all.

My day started out with a good lie-in, much to my mum’s annoyance, of course hehe. But by about brunch time, we were in Bangsar because my sister Aida wanted to check out dUCk scarves at Fashion Valet and I wanted to get a pair of shoes. I got a cute pair of Nelissa Hilman sandals and I love em! They are pretty comfortable. I only wish they had half sizes because I couldn’t quite fit either a 36 or a 37 for the pair with the crossover straps but I mean, I’m not complaining, the one I got still looks and feels really good!

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My new sandals.

Since we were in the area, I just had to lure my mum and sister to Inside Scoop. Aida had never even been before so we just had to go. I was hoping to get their salted caramel or teh tarik but they had neither. I got mango lassi instead, and I think I like that one most! Ada jugak hikmah kan bila the flavours I wanted takde haha. Aida got Horlicks though, and I’m definitely getting that one next time.

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It was pretty amusing to be walking around Bangsar that day because it was the first weekend Pokemon Go was released in Malaysia, so everyone was like, walking around cautiously with power banks in tow. My mum wasn’t amused at all, though! She’s a pokehater, hahaha. I’m somewhere in between. I’m definitely not going out of my way to do anything pokemon related, but I’d open it every now and then. Currently, I’m on level 5 lol. I think I have like 15 pokemons? I don’t know, I was never really a fan of the show… but I do think the game is really cool.

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After Bangsar, we went to KL to go to BNM’s Muzium dan Galeri Seni at Sasana Kijang. I love driving through KL… I can’t explain it. I just feel so at home, so amazed. I feel like the city is mine.

I’ve been meaning to visit this gallery since last year. I passed by it all the time when I interned there last year and had heard a lot about it. My sister and dad even went there and they said it was good so I was curious. And it was good! I mean, sure, it wasn’t overwhelmingly spectacular but I had just been to Singapore the weekend before and so I was particularly itching to look for local artwork and galleries in KL. I knew there isn’t much so I wasn’t expecting MoMA level exhibitions, but given that, I was impressed. It’s such a step up compared to the museums right smack in the middle of Melaka—our much-boasted-about historical city—which are like, pathetic at best.

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I love the design and feel of the building itself!

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The museum had a few different sections. There was the collection of 59 selected paintings on the top floor in conjunction with the upcoming celebration of 59 years of Malaysian independence. There was a section dedicated to banknotes; from the history of paper money to the intricate designs on a single ringgit note. I loved the exhibition about older forms of currency, like money in the shape of ayam and buaya, money in the time of the British rule, and all of that stuff that we learned in sejarah. It was pretty cool and very well presented too. There was also an economics exhibit, which taught me that in Malay, GDP is translated into Keluaran Dalam Negara Kasar!

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The gallery with all the old forms of money in the different states in Malaysia.


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Imagine stuffing that into your pocket.

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This is where I learned that GDP is KDNK.


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It was really cool to see this, because I learned quite a bit about Import-Substitution in Poli Sci throughout junior year and obviously I was not born yet when it happened so I thought it was cool to see these headlines.


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Queen Elizabeth’s many faces on banknotes.

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I must end by saying I strongly encourage a visit to this museum. I think museum-going culture is really lacking in Malaysia and that all starts with us, right? I personally have always loved going to museums from when I was a child but all that enthusiasm died down as I realised there wasn’t really much of that to do here in KL. My family and I, we have so much fun going to museums when we’re in DC or London and I wish people could have as much fun doing that here too. I want to demand better museums in Malaysia, but I think that requires that I support the ones that are here and are good.

Anyway, that was probably one of my most favourite days all summer so far. I hope you enjoyed reading about it I guess?!

Raya continued | Summer 2016

Believe it or not, I am writing right now on a train. I’m quite impressed that the ERL to KLIA has decent wifi! I have taken half a day off from work because this evening, I will be on a flight to Penang 🙂 I’m quite excited because I think I haven’t been there since late 2012. Gurney Drive awaits me eagerly, I know.

The rest of raya week was fine. We had dinner at Pak Ngah’s house on Friday night and took so many pictures. Mak Ngah made mi goreng which made me very happy because it’s not the typical raya food. The next morning, we went to town to buy kek lapis Sarawak. Then, we left Kuching that Saturday evening.

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Almost the whole family on my mom’s side.

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Aren’t “freestyle” pictures the most awkward things sometimes?!

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The one most decent picture of all the cousins I could find.

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All the girls!

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Julia, Aida, me, Amanina, Amirah, Afifah and Aina

You know, it’s nice to go back to Kuching every now and then. I mentioned this in one of my previous (shorter) posts, but I’m not 100% comfortable there, if I may be so honest. I also don’t speak the language. The other day, my aunty said her house “kenak serbu 5 igik motor” and I felt very alarmed because I directly translated it to “my house got attacked by 5 motorbikes” but what she really meant was that people came to visit her house in 5 cars all at once. We don’t have our own house, and you know what it’s like when you try to use the shower at someone else’s house—you just don’t get it. I don’t know anyone there that well… I’m always whispering to my cousins or my mom asking them whose house we are at. But they are family and as, um, disconnected as I may be, half of my ancestry has many roots there. There’s this house we refer to as Rumah Kampung…. It’s not a general term for any house in any kampung. It’s a specific house which has been in my family for like over a hundred years. My parents even got married there.

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Well, in that house, there’s a picture of lots of people standing in front of the house at what seems to be a wedding. It looks ripped out of a history text book. But those people are my family. It’s so strange to think about. Apparently it was the wedding of my great grandmother’s uncle? Or so I was told. I think it’s really cool that a picture of that moment in time exists for me see.

Anyway, when we got back that Saturday, we freshened up and went right back out to Setia City to get SUSHI (!!!!) and watch Finding Dory with my cousins. I know most people have probably seen it and we’re quite late to the party, but we were waiting until raya to watch it. It was such a cute movie! I had so much fun watching it with my sisters and cousins 😀

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May God protect me from evil and also people who dislike sushi and/or salmon

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God, trust me, it was so difficult going back to work on Monday! I completely forgot I had a job somewhere for that entire week. But I’ve finished a whole week at work since then and now I’m off again! I actually only have so few weeks before I fly back to the states and as always, it’s a scramble to make sure I meet everyone I want to. It’s kinda annoying too because sometimes it can feel more like ticking off boxes on a list of obligations than it does a real friendship and I don’t really know how to deal with that. When I was at Penn, I bemoaned this happening and now I’m surprised it’s happening at home too. And if I should be so honest, it’s also a little tiring like physically and emotionally… because I don’t drive and I usually have to depend on people to get me home or to go out so I’m always troubling someone. And because there are so many people I want to see, so many weeks of work, I feel like I’m not giving everyone the attention I should. I’m doing my best, I guess.


(Uh, disclaimer: this post was published 4 days after I wrote it because I didn’t have access to the pictures I wanted until today)

Writing on a balcony | Summer 2016

You should see this view.

I’m sitting on the balcony at work while I write this because the office is freezing and I have a bit of a cold. Ok, a lot of a cold. But it’s so nice and warm out here. There’s natural light and I can play music out loud on my laptop.

It’s Friday and I’m done with my third week of this year’s internship! Although, honestly, because they were a little… disorganised, this felt more like my first week. I haven’t been doing that much but at least I finally feel like I’m learning. Most importantly, I’m learning about being more assertive. If I don’t know how to do something, I know I can approach someone and ask them. If I disagree with something, I’m practicing raising my hand and kindly pushing back. I like feeling like I’m growing a backbone.

I haven’t done too much other than go to work and come back, but as you might have seen from my 100 Happy Days post, yesterday was Ayden’s birthday! Ayden is my cousin’s son, and currently the only member of the next generation in our family so he gets a lot of attention. We were all at my cousin’s house yesterday to celebrate his turning 2 🙂 he’s obsessed with Toy Story right now I think, so there were Toy Story-themed decorations. And he got his own little car as a surprise present! I wish you would have seen his reaction when his parents revealed the present. He was so clearly moved. I would’ve thought most children would just run towards the car screaming, but Ayden had to kinda like take a moment to process it and he walked towards the toy car slowly, but beaming, with his hands on his mouth. It was the cutest thing!

There are so many people I want to meet now that I’m home but since I’m working for the bulk of the time I’m back, it’s actually quite difficult because I find myself just wanting to spend time with my parents and sisters at night. Going out for buka puasa is kinda leceh (troublesome) and to be honest, I’m quite malas (lazy) to do that. And I always like to sleep early on week nights so going out after Isya’ is also a meh for me. So I’m a little overwhelmed because I do want to see my friends but plans to meet up tend to come all at once and I don’t know how to spread them out. I feel bad but obvs my family is priority plus I also want to maintain a certain rhythm and normalcy to being home. That is, feeling like I’m just home as opposed to home for a while. I don’t know if that makes sense.

This past week has been turbulent, hasn’t it? I don’t want to talk about it too much because I know we’re all saturated with bad news, but I just want to remind people to have faith in each other. Reach out to people you think may be affected by the news. This means muslims, people of colour, the LGBTQ community. Someone recently said to me that it’s scary to be a muslim in America, but the truth is it’s scary to be a lot of things in America and all over the world. Even here in Malaysia, it can be scary to be so many things. So if you see something, say something. If you see someone speaking with hatred against someone else because of their identity, you could say something. And it’s not just speech. Sometimes people don’t realise they discriminate against others. We can all find ways to be gentle and informed while pushing back against things like that because it really is a form of oppression.

Anyway… thanks for reading, as usual! If there are other blogs you read and really like OR if you write a blog yourself, please send me links to them! I’m really enjoying reading other people’s stuff because it inspires me to keep on writing so I’d love it if you shared some of your favourites with me 🙂  see you next week!

(By the way, since I started writing, it has gotten gloomy, started raining and I’ve had to move inside. Typical Malaysian weather.)

“Americanah” | Summer 2016

Hi, friends!

I went to Melaka last weekend with my parents and it was pretty fun! We were there for such a short amount of time, just over 24 hours, I think. But visiting Jonker Street is always fun, there’s just so much to see at once. Getting my Pak Putra fix is also always worth the 1.5-hour drive. I literally forgot to take any pictures because I was so preoccupied with taking videos the whole time. But! If you are interested in some ~visuals~ here you go:

I’ve been playing with iMovie a lot, because I just realised how much fun it is. I’ll be going on quite a few more trips before the end of summer actually, so I’m hoping to do one for every trip and see how much better I get 😀

I also did something (trivial) this past week which I felt I absolutely had to write about because it was so quintessentially me; so comical and nostalgic all at once.

So, I was at Petronas to withdraw money, because for some reason the petrol station is the only place I can withdraw money in my neighbourhood. The line was super long, and as I was queueing up, my eyes started lingering around the shop and I saw so many things I wanted. Surely enough, I came out with a bag of butterscotch Gardenia bread, a Crunchie bar, Twisties, Chipster, Honey Stars and SUPER RING!! I was SO happy, you guys. You have no idea. I had not intended to spend >RM20 at the Petronas shop but now you know why the Maybank ATM is there and why there’s only one of them. So that you have you wait in a long line and then come out with 6 things when you intended to buy none. Obviously I’m not very proud of that but like, you should consider that I restrained myself from: a bilis bun, a jagung bun, F&N grape, Crunch ice cream, and a Gardenia breakfast waffle so I THINK I DID JUST FINE.

Nevertheless, my parents and sister saw me walking out of the shop, all mouths agape, half shocked and half amused.

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Nostalgia has this warm fuzzy feeling to it but when seeing food makes you feel nostalgic? It’s so much better. You can literally taste it. Anyway. I told you it was trivial. That was it, that was the story.

Speaking of nostalgia though, this past few days, I finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It really is a wonderful book. It is long, and I’ve managed to get to the 100-page mark several times before, but always ended up having to put readings for classes first. According to Adichie (from this interview), “Americanah is about a young woman, Ifemelu, who leaves Nigeria when she’s a teenager, comes to the U.S., spends 13 years and then goes back to Nigeria. And in those 13 years, many things happen. And it’s also about Obinze, who’s her childhood love, who leaves Nigeria to go to the U.K. and who then returns to Nigeria. So for me, it’s a novel about leaving home as much as it is about going back home, and really about what “home” means, and if you can go back home.”

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I think if you’ve spent a substantial amount of time living abroad, adjusting, especially as a minority, this book will really clutch onto you. Adichie says it’s not totally based on her life because her life was “not as interesting” but the general feeling of it however, is:

“I was in the U.S. for 4 years before I could afford to go back home and even then, just four years later, I had this feeling that Nigeria had left me behind. […] You leave home and then you create home in your mind, and then you go back and it’s not what you built up in your mind and then there’s a sense of loss. Because things happened and you weren’t there.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

And the writing, oh my god. Poetic. The words flow so smoothly and describe emotions with so much precision. Also noteworthy is that I found it refreshing to read a novel not centered around… white people. Adichie sporadically throws in Nigerian words/phrases with no translation or glossary and she talks about Lagos and Abuja which would never get airtime on mainstream TV/film, and so you just kind of dive in and learn about it in all its normalcy.. and I feel comforted to know the world is so much more than America and Europe, more than what pop culture sometimes makes out the world to be. So yes, I 10/10 would recommend.

I’ve just moved on to the next book yesterday, which is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, and it’s one of those “pop psychology” books. My reading speed has taken a hit because that’s usually what happens when you start a new book and you haven’t gotten into the meaty parts, especially if I’m moving from a fiction to a non-fiction book. My reading list for these few months is pretty long! I am hoping to at least finish 5, and I’m already done with 2 (the other book I read was Originals by Adam Grant, really good as well!) but I start my internship next month so we’ll see how that goes.

EEP. That means the next time I write I’d have already started my first day at work. I can’t wait to know what that’ll be like.  😮

I’m home | Summer 2016

I think most people know by now, but in any case, I’m home! I’ve been back for about 2 weeks now actually, and I’ve just been spending time at home and chilling with my family because I start my internship the week after next.

It was so much fun, surprising my family by coming home earlier. I was only supposed to be back last Wednesday and stay in Philly a little longer to relax and attend the commencement ceremony, but because my summer job was going to start on the 30th, I thought I’d like some extra time back at home. So, I skipped some meals and forked out a couple hundred dollars to change my flight details. And it was so worth it!

At first, I was really worried it wouldn’t work out because the flight was going to be so longggg and I knew for sure that my parents would be really curious if I wasn’t replying their texts for hours. I mean, so much planning went into this. I even called Qatar Airways to ask if the specific flight I was going to be on would have wifi even though I knew it would cost like $30 (the answer was no). I told my sister Aida about it when she visited me earlier this semester because she’d be in London and wouldn’t really be surprised by my coming home early, and we talked about how she’s going to help cover for me.

My parents did eventually pick up on the fact that I wasn’t replying texts of course, and they even texted my friend Shahirah about it. Sha naturally freaked out, but luckily she kept her cool and didn’t blow my cover. My friend Abrar kindly agreed to pick me up from the airport and I feel so grateful because he had to drive all the way to Sepang from work but it was so nice to see a familiar face and not have to get a taxi when I’m back in my own country. So thankful for the help of these two, really!!

Then, when I was close to my house, I called my sister Julia to get her to open the door for me—she was really confused and shocked. I wish I could’ve properly surprised her too but I didn’t have a house key and I had the idea of surprising my parents in their room for months, and I wasn’t ready to let it go. Also, it was a pretty good idea because she got to film their reaction.

Seriously, when my parents were pissed at me for being AWOL on whatsapp, I was so nearly ready to give up and go like “lol i’m in Doha see u later” but I really really didn’t want to let go of that vision I had. And people ask me, “what if they weren’t home?” or “what if they weren’t in their room?” and to that I say, I don’t know, I just knew they would be. Haha. They were so surprised, it took them at least a good 2 seconds to process it. It was AMAZING. I’m so proud of it. I want to put it on my resume.

But yeah, we just spent the rest of that night chilling. And oh my god, I actually did not experience any jet lag this time around which was great! I was so tired and slept so little throughout the journey that I guess when I got back, I just slept through the night normally because I was so tired. I had to stay in my sister’s room for the whole of last week though because I wasn’t supposed to be home and the plumbers were fixing my room and it was really dirty. I’ve just only moved back into my room and fully unpacked yesterday. I actually haven’t done much or gone out a lot, just mostly goyang kaki as they say, at home.

As I’m writing this, I am really supposed to be asleep because we’re going to Melaka bright and early tomorrow. In fact, I think, so early that it won’t even be bright yet. But I took a precariously long nap this afternoon for some reason and so obviously I’m wide awake. I’m hoping to make a Melaka video tomorrow like the Philadelphia one I made a few weeks back (link here if you wanna see it!) and I’m really excited because I feel like it’s my new hobby… or it could be, I guess, because I’m not quite good at it yet. But that’s all for now! Until next week maybe???? (I don’t know. Not being on a school schedule makes me so unaware of the time.)

Week 1: 3 Airports and 34 Hours

The sight I love in May and hate in August.

In 2009, my family went on a vacation to London. It was the first time we were going to make that trip since I could remember. My sisters and I were so excited that we started packing weeks and weeks before we left. We were counting down to it like crazy: “next month we can say we’re going next month!”

I was laughing about that on the way here because somehow at some point between then and now, suitcases and airports have since become a sight for sore eyes. I pack mere hours before my flights these days and I am always walking through airports with a characteristic muka monyok. I’m waiting for my flight from London to Philadelphia as I type this. I saw a red double decker bus earlier and I can imagine being on it with my cousins, giggling about god knows what we always find so funny. It still feels a little weird being here without my family. Even weirder to think that I have been in the same city as my sister for the past 10 hours and have not gotten to see her. Weirder still to realize that I’ve now been here alone more than I have with my parents. The airports that used to remind me of my family vacation group of 10 lugging many large suitcases  now reminds me of just… me and what song I was listening to on Spotify the last time I was here.

Leaving home hasn’t gotten much easier. Although, to be honest, I don’t think I can say I wish it would. I think I might find it sadder if I was leaving behind the country I grew up in and feel like I was leaving nothing behind.

But it’s painful. Every subsequent kilometre travelled is like letting someone have another tug on a loose thread on my favourite sweater, and me just sitting there watching it unravel. I am literally rolling my eyes at anyone who thinks I’m being dramatic. Stop reading. You don’t understand and you’re clearly not trying. Because think this imagery is absolutely fitting; I always feel like I arrive in Philadelphia in rags–battered and beaten. Yeah, I guess that’s a little intense but that’s just how I feel.

I think this will all seem different to me when I look back on it though. In fact, I’m sure it will. I can already feel it change a little. As I entered this terminal, I felt nostalgic about how Uncle Asaraf sent me here the first time I left for Penn. I remembered the couple other times I’ve travelled through here alone and I know I’ll miss this when it’s over.

I mean, I already don’t want to leave Heathrow. Or maybe that’s just because I don’t want to sit on another plane for 8 more hours… but I have to go to my gate now and I’ll finish this later!


Update: I arrived in Philadelphia last night and as I made my way out of the plane, towards immigration, I saw the gates A15 and A17. Those are the gates Shahirah and I usually go to when we fly out of Philly. Looking at those gates made me so excited to go home again… I’m already missing the warmth, the constant fine layer of sweat we wear everyday, the stillness of my house’s living room in the afternoons–feet cold against the marble floor, the sound of cars passing by.

But as I shuffled my way with the crowd, I also felt nostalgic for all the times I’ve waited there to board my flight back. It’s always weird to realise I have so many memories away from home now.

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Throwback: going home the summer after freshman year.

I’m now writing after my first day of class. My PSCI 152 (International Political Economy) class this morning was great and I’m very excited to stick with Professor Pollack for the rest of the semester–hopefully I stay motivated enough to roll out of bed for my 9 a.m. class in the cold. Then I had ECON 243 (Monetary and Fiscal Policy) which, quite frankly, was scary. We jumped straight into some of the math that’ll be required for the course and I know I’m super rusty with those right now. I’ll also need to learn MATLAB and stuff for it. It’s overwhelming, but I think it’ll be good to learn.

I think I am still a little lightheaded from all the travelling. I don’t feel too great right now… a little nauseous, a little sleepy but I can’t vomit and I can’t sleep. Since I can’t rest, I’m going to start crafting my plans for the semester. Talk to you soon. ❤