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

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

Qamarina

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

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QM & my unintentionally patriotic selfie.

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(My parking was a lot better that day!)

Corporate open house!

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

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

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Making dodol, haha

WISDOM TOOTH EXTRACTION

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

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My xray from 2015!! lol

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

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

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

Baby sitting Amelia

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

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

Chik’s open house

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

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

Banana leaf rice

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

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SOTONG GORENG, MY LOVE.

Seeing Shahirah at work!

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

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

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Kickboxing

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

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

Chair.

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

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Making my parents try quinoa

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

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HomePro (haha)

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

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llao llao

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

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

Shahirah’s surprise party

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

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

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

Dunkirk

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

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

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

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

What I’ve Been Up To, In List Form

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

Aisha and Fahmida ❤

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

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Majid and Mansoor

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

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Iftar at Aunty Lina’s

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

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

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

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Baknafeh

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

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

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Hanna’s mum’s knafeh

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

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

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Seeing Adam

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

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

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Last goodbyes

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

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NEW MUSIC (!)

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

GRE

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

Netflix’s The Standups

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

Seeing my high school friends

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

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Driving after ~11 months!

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

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

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

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Clearly, I need a bit more practice.

Not being in one place for very long

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

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

A list of things.

One.
I don’t know when or why this happened and I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but these days I’ve had to work so hard on harnessing my skill of swatting fruit flies. Why, are there, so many, fruit flies, in my kitchen. Where are they coming from?!!!

Two.
It’s a Saturday night and I’m making a study guide for my communications exam. It’s like 10 pages long, and I take many breaks in between. Most of them were spent googling McDonalds menus around the world. Some McDonalds have salmon burgers. Some McDonalds have rice! Singapore’s McDonalds seems 10/10—they had a rendang burger once

Three.
I took sporadic 10-minute breaks from studying to watch Hamilton’s America bit by bit. It’s such a good documentary and really makes me want to watch the play… though I’m not entirely sure if that’s possible given that even the cheapest tickets for possible dates are like ~$150. It makes me wish I got to see Lin-Manuel Miranda at commencement last May.

Four.
It has been a few years since I stopped watching Parks and Rec. I used to watch it back before I came to Penn, but when I started college and school picked up, I dropped pretty much all my TV shows. I have watched some episodes here and there on flights but I properly hopped back on that bandwagon these past few weeks and a few days ago, I watched the episode where Ann and Chris leave Pawnee for good and just flat out bawled. I wonder what it’ll be like to leave all my friends here at Penn in May.

Five.
One of the most annoying things about my readings is that a lot of them are scanned books in the form of PDFs, which means I can’t really highlight them on Preview and it looks bad, and sometimes it’s crooked and just, ahhhh. It’s 2016!!!! Let’s please all digitalise these articles already.

Six.
I learned that Conde Nast owns/owned Reddit. What?!

Seven.
Sometimes when I don’t eat on time, I get so queasy later in the day that by evening, I have to leave a cup by my bedside table to spit in. (Also, why do we get a lot of saliva when we feel queasy?) This was probably too much information for you but now you know.

Eight.
Some of the fiercest internal battles that go on in my head happen when I’m in bed doing work and a strong craving subtly emerges from the depths of my mind and taunts me. This weekend, it was popcorn. God, I really wanted popcorn. It was such a battle not to just throw on some clothes and run to the Rave to get a huge bucket of popcorn. I wish I lived further from the cinema sometimes.

Nine.
You can’t celebrate everything. Every so often (and trust me, it happens quite often), I’m like, ooooh, I should get myself some bubble tea today to celebrate being done with this exam! Or, maybe I’ll get myself some ice cream because it’s the end of the week. Like, no. No, dude. No. That’s kinda disgusting. It’s like, that is business as usual. You have an exam/assignment due every week. You have an end of the week every week. That’s just your life. Rewarding doing things you have to do makes it seem like an extraordinarily big deal. It’s not. It’s a baseline expectation. Carry on.

Ten.
Sometimes I think people at Penn are too… nice? I don’t know if that’s the word. Like in some classes, people will say stuff and it will make no sense and it has one point but it goes on for two minutes, and the teacher will say, “Okay! Yeah, that’s valid!” I get that we should encourage people to think and participate but not everything makes sense. Sometimes this whole “everyone gets a gold star” culture is just straight up annoying. Tell it like it is.

Eleven.
This past week I learned that sea salt is so good in lattes. Changed my life.

Twelve.
I googled Soylent the other day out of curiosity and since then, I’ve been seeing Soylent ads on a lot of sites I’ve been on. I get that digital marketing is supposed to more efficiently target people and stuff, but like, I really don’t want it. Imagine if you walk into a store just to browse for fun and then the salesperson followed you around the mall for the rest of the day. It’s a bit… much.

Thirteen.
I really don’t wanna do my laundry right now but I’m out of gym clothes to wear.

Figuring It Out, Kinda (?) | Fall 2016

So, if you’re unfamiliar with how I do things on my blog: I generally write once a week, any point between Monday morning and Sunday night. This week, I’m here on Sunday evening, writing (or rather, typing) over my fried egg tofu dinner… feeling somewhat disappointed that something I enjoy doing has almost been turned into another thing to make a deadline for.

But I’m just so taken with how busy this semester has been—and one of my classes hasn’t even started yet.

I may have mentioned this previously, but I am effectively taking 6 classes this semester. Taking five plus TA-ing for one. I really like all my classes this semester and I enjoy being a TA so I really don’t want to sacrifice anything I have on my plate. I’m taking Critical Approaches to Pop Culture in the Communications department with an amazing professor, a Developmental Psychology seminar called Modern Young Adulthood about the process of transition to adulthood, The Rise and Fall of the Spanish Empire which is my very first history class since SPM (lol) and an intro creative writing class called Memoir and Literary Journalism. That makes four. My fifth credit is my independent research project in psycholinguistics which I can’t say much about yet because I haven’t gotten a full grip of what I’ll be studying yet.

A lot of my classes are reading-heavy which just means I have to read a lot for class every week. I don’t know, actually. Is 200-300 pages a week a lot? For me it is, because a lot of econ and intermediate-level psychology classes so far have not required much reading, if at all.

But like Hui Jie always tells me, it’s all about discipline! It has taken me like 3 years, but I think I’m finally getting a handle of it, you know? Ok I wanna apologise ahead of time because things are gonna sound a little preachy for a bit but bear with me as I tell you the most precious lessons I’ve learned:

Write it down. Whatever it is you have to do. A question that suddenly popped up about class material. A list of things you need to do. Some vague idea you have for your term paper. Write it down. It’s short and you think you’ll remember it? Write it down. You think about it all the time? Write it down. I’ve learned this the hard way many times and whenever I think back to it, I’m always like, wow how hard would it have been to write it down?! So yeah. My notes app is my best friend.

Get some sort of a calendar system if you haven’t already. This is a natural extension of my previous point, I guess. But a sophisticated to-do list eventually evolves into a planner, right? It’s really great to see all the things I have due in a very visual manner because it helps me prioritise and whatever.

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This is a screenshot of part of my Fall 2015 planner. I honestly have no idea if this is the best way to do things, but it works for me and it gives me everything I feel like I need. I list down all my due dates and exams and readings the first week of classes and make this super simple table. It was based on Weingarten’s (Penn’s Office of Learning Resources) calendar, just expanded to fit everything, beyond just exams. Using iCal is good because you see the week ahead of you, but I felt planning only a week in advance was a bit too, um, what’s the word, narrow-sighted, near-sighted? I use both. So on my desktop I always have my planner, iCal and a to-do list because I really hate missing anything or rushing work.

Look at what you need to do. This is something I didn’t learn until recently and here’s what I mean. Basically, I try to loosely designate my assignments etc to specific days to plan my week, right? But I kept running into this problem where like, I’d take longer than I thought I would on something because it was longer, more complex or more difficult than I thought it would be. And it just messes everything up. And I’d get upset. Then I fall behind. Cue the downward spiral. But at some point last semester, I realised I should invest like an extra 5-10 minutes when I’m planning to go through the things I need to do. If I’m going to put something off, I have to look at it first so I know what I’m dealing with. It’s super simple and you’re probably already doing it but to me it was like such a eureka moment and I felt so amazed when I made this improvement.

10 minutes counts. I used to always shrug off my free time whenever I had like 10, 15 minutes to spare because it’s like, oh what can I even get done in such a short span of time? It turns out, a lot. Especially if you’re super focused. Even if it’s just reading 1-2 pages, that’s like 10 minutes less of work I’ll have to do later, you know. It’s all just a matter of being able to get into that focused mindset very quickly—I feel like that’s such a precious skill I’m always trying to nurture.

Exercising matters. I read this book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg last month and he explains this great concept called developing keystone habits. The whole idea is that you focus on a habit you want to work on and because everything we do in our daily lives affect each other in some way or another, improving one aspect of your life will have spillover effects onto everything else. For me, exercise is my keystone habit. I always find that when I cement certain blocks of time in my calendar to exercise and commit to it uncompromisingly, I just make it work. I’ll get up earlier, I’ll cook faster, I have to wash my hair more often and even do laundry more regularly because if I don’t I’ll run out of gym clothes. Plus I also feel better and then I do better, etc, etc. Trust me on this one!!

~Reflection~ I know this sounds fluffy, hahaha. I cringed while I typed that! But constantly thinking back about what works and what doesn’t is very useful. Personally that’s not always easy because I magnify all the things I do wrong or don’t do well enough, and that just opens up the door to a slippery slope eventually leading me to wallow in my negativity. Clearly I need to balance. For me, part of that is writing about my week here. Feeling like there’s a public audience not only keeps me accountable but pushes me to see things (and then write things) from a more balanced perspective because no one likes reading about someone who does everything perfectly or someone who just talks about how much they suck at life. The truth is I do some things well and am straight up awful at other things and thinking about things like that regularly really helps.

Ok I’m done with that list, you have every right to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said, but those are things I recently realised were essential to me ploughing through my semesters. I know it makes it sound like in order to get through school you need to be super meticulous and boring haha but I promise that planning allows me to have more fun because I have more time. I think the amount of stress doesn’t really decrease (I think I’ve constantly been at least a little bit stressed for the last 10 years!) but the first thing to go when I decide to be more disciplined is time dedicated to stress. That is, I feel stressed but it’s very like, at the back of my mind most of the time. I have less time to be sitting by myself pulling my hair out because that’s just not on my list, hahaha.

To prove my point, I did manage to do some fun things this week! May May and I rented bicycles and cycled down the Schuylkill River Trail. I don’t have any pictures of my own of the view but it was lovely. It was sunny and there was a light breeze and people were all out being healthy and I loved it. I do have to say though, that it had been over a year since I was last on a bike so I was very shaky at times and very concerned about hurting someone.

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May May and me after cycling featuring my typically red post-exercise face.

The whole Philadelphia trail is (according to the website) about 10.5 miles long but I am still a weakling so we only went 3ish miles one way.

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The earlier part of the trail goes past the art museum but it goes into a less busy area as you continue on.

That evening, as if I hadn’t already had enough physical activity, Cristina and I walked all the way to 50th St for fruits and pizza. She made me try a pluot (which apparently is a plum crossed with an apricot!) and we got the best pear and brie pizza at Dock Street. We also got fries and leeks which I’m so glad she agreed to share with me because I know she doesn’t like fries haha.

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There was also a guy walking around selling carrot cake for $1 and everyone around us was raving about how good the cake is. He’s known in the neighbourhood as being the Carrot Cake Man. A local ice cream shop even has a carrot cake ice cream flavour named after him. The cake was so good, you guys. It’s funny because the day before that, I was thinking about how difficult it is to find a place in Philly I can go to if I just want a slice of cake, you know, like how all the cafes in KL do. I was just obsessing over getting a small serving of cake. And the next day the Carrot Cake Man and his tray of carrot cakes literally just comes to me. God bless.

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I asked if I could take a picture of him and he said “sure” and Cristina was like “SHE’S A BLOGGER” hahahahaha.

Anyway. I’m knee deep in readings and severely need to start practicing for case interviews so thanks for reading see you next week!!!

My Reading List | Summer 2016

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Okay, with a leap of faith, I will risk turning into a listicle blogger with this post… but here goes nothing. I really made it a point to read this holiday because I used to be such an avid reader as a child all the way through sekolah menengah but then college and iPhones happened, and before long I realised I just wasn’t reading anymore. I always had a to-read list, and I even read a book or two throughout college (apart from assigned texts!) but I felt like I had lost that mojo, so to speak and I really wanted it back. And if you know me, you’d know that if I really want something I will go get it. So this summer, I did. All in all, I’ve read 9 books so far which isn’t amazing but I’m happy with it (in comparison, I only read 4 last summer*).

Anyway, here are my 9 books in the order I read them:

Originals, by Adam Grant

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Adam Grant is one of the highest rated professors at Penn. I’ve had the privilege of attending his talks before and it’s not hard to see why—he’s very engaging. That trait of his also comes through in his writing, I think, because I found the book quite hard to put down. Much like Malcolm Gladwell, he writes for the lay man so the book was really easy to read through. That’s saying a lot because reading non-fiction can be quite boring for me.

Originals is about creativity and non-conformity. He talks about how being atypical can be an advantage and also how anyone has what it takes to be creative. I really recommend it because it’s a great book which employs psychological findings to make up well-written essays. Plus, I personally felt quite inspired by it because Originals convinced me that creativity is accessible and not exclusive to inherently talented individuals.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This is probably one of my favourite books of all time. Americanah is written so beautifully. Maybe I just don’t read enough, but I’ve never read a story that sounds so much like it’s an elaborate poem until I read this one. I wrote about Americanah just after I read it a couple of months ago, and this was the author’s description of the book which I included in that post:

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.” (Source: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

If you’ve ever lived away from home or felt like a foreigner, I think there’s so much of this book you can relate to!

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely

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Ok, I’m gonna be totally honest and say this one was a bit of a pain to go through. It was an insightful book, no doubt, but at that point in time, I had just recently read Originals and… well, Dan Ariely’s writing kind of pales in comparison to Adam Grant’s. It took me quite a while to get through this book, but I did it eventually so it wasn’t that bad. And to be even more honest, part of the reason I found it difficult to read could have even been the fact that the font was so small! So I’m just saying, if you want to read a popular psychology book, this might not be where you want to start.

Anyway, Predictably Irrational is interesting because it challenges a lot of the assumptions of rationality commonly hold. For example, I learned that we tend to overreact to things that are free, that sometimes being paid to do something takes the joy out of it and that we arbitrarily overvalue the things we own just because we own them. Ariely uses psychological experiments and findings to demonstrate these propositions and as a psychology major, it was both cool and boring to read about just because they were really interesting findings but I had already been reading a lot about these kinds of things in class. So make of my review what you will.

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#Girlboss, by Sophia Amoruso

This is another book I also have written about a while ago. Sophia Amoruso is a classic rags to riches kind of story and while that’s certainly not representative of everyone’s journey, her can-do spirit is very contagious and I loved that. She espouses the relatively-cliché mantra, which is: experiment, find something you love to do and work very very very hard at it. I’ve heard it so many times before, but I loved it anyway because she talks a lot about how she was a misfit, how she was under-qualified, how she felt like a fraud, but also how she worked her way through that. And she became successful because of the internet and eBay, things we all have access to. It just really made me feel like the digital age has opened up so much more space for people to be successful with so much less.

Some takeaways I remember are: the ability to persist through something you hate at least for a while and to learn something from that is a skill; your possessions are just “emblems” of hard work which transcends the objects themselves; you need both an idea and the ability/willingness to execute it; take care of the littlest things you do and treat them as “promises to your own future” and have unshakeable confidence. K now go get the book.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

I’m not really a huge fan of Tina Fey (I’ve never watched 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live), but I do love women who have successful creative careers and can write about it well. I’ve read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Mindy Kaling’s two books and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and loved them all, so I thought, why not try this one as well. It’s safe to say that I think Bossypants is the funniest one of all the books in this category, by far. Tina Fey had me laughing alone in restaurants and trains and kept me company many mornings on the commutes to work. It’s not as beautifully written as Lena Dunham’s book and it’s not as inspiring as Sophia Amoruso’s, but it is hilarious.

Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

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About 3 years ago, I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and I’ve been meaning to read another ever since. I finally did this summer when I bought Norwegian Wood. Obviously, I don’t remember much of Kafka on the Shore at this point, but I remember liking that one more. I think Murakami is probably better at the fantastical and mystical. Norwegian Wood was, in contrast to a lot of his other work, more true to real life. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, I just wasn’t in love with it. If anything, I liked how the tone of the book was true to the main character, Toru Watanabe’s, loneliness; it seemed like everything around him was moving so quickly and he wasn’t… he wasn’t really doing anything, and it was like the supporting characters had a lot more agency over him and he was just going through the motions. Or at least that’s how I felt (what do I know?).

Lullabies, by Lang Leav

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In an Instagram post recently, I wrote about how I really wanted to love Lang Leav’s poems. I have seen some of her stuff here and there on Tumblr and etc. so I was really curious, but I was ultimately let down when I realised that her poetry was adorned by this romanticisation of heartbreak and loss. I think that’s a totally valid thing to feel, and I can understand where that comes from but it was hard to read through all of that and feel what she felt. Which could be a good thing for her, because it’s, at least, impressive that how she feels is made so clear through her words.

Yasmin How You Know?, compiled by friends and family of Yasmin Ahmad

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I loved this book. I really did. I’ve been meaning to read it for years now, since my friend Jian Wei recommended it over social media. The book is a compilation of “Yasminisms” as recollected by her friends, family and coworkers. It is made of stories, speeches, quotes, pictures, poems and lots of insight and laughter. She was clearly unique, and yet I related to her quirkiness—like her, with my close friends and family, I also speak in tongues and say weird things. The book reveals how she truly believed her work was just a medium and that all her inspiration came from God. She was humble, giving, bold and just really funny. The book is printed in a “yet to be finished” form. The grey thingy is just a sleeve that encapsulated a very bare book, and I loved that the publishers did it as an homage to her life which ended too soon.

If you’re Malaysian, I strongly recommend this book because it has such a Malaysian spirit and tone to it which I find difficult to put my finger on, but it’s what will keep me returning to this book for a piece of home when I’m away.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

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After seeing this book everywhere in shops and online, I decided to get it last week. Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the famous Eat, Pray, Love but this time, she’s written more of a “self-help” book.

Big Magic is all about overcoming the fear to work with your inspiration and to live creatively. I think a lot of times people get inspired to do things or create things, but we’re paralysed by worries that it won’t work out as well as we want to or we won’t get recognised/paid for it, etc. Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing in Big Magic is like the friend who sits you down and dismantles each and every one of those fears, one at a time, steadily and gently.

In it, Gilbert talks about how she kept her day job because she never expected her creative work to support her financially because it might “burden” her. She also talked about how creative work is as much about discipline as it is about inspiration because inspiration (which she in this book refers to as a magical entity—hence, the title) favours people who are committed to it. As a person who is considering dabbling into the ~creative life~ so to speak, I found this very encouraging and assuring. The things you want to make don’t have to be earth-shaking and groundbreaking, they don’t need to change people’s lives and they don’t even need to be perfect; you just have to keep doing your best at the things you enjoy making.

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And that marks the end of my list!!! Gosh, that was long, it took me 1.5 hours to write this haha. I hope I did at least a decent job at describing the books. I definitely do them no justice at all. I’m like sat here on my bedroom floor flipping through these books trying to remember what they’re all about because some of these I read almost 3 months ago, lol.

My reading list is still pretty long though! In the next few months (hopefully by the end of the semester, if that’s possible) I want to read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. All three of these books were recommended to me over and over again so I can’t wait to read them and I’m hoping the semester (which, as of now, is already looking hectic) permits me to.


*Last summer, I read Give and Take by Adam Grant, David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, Quiet by Susan Cain and 1984 by George Orwell. I wanted to blog about it but I was like “I’m not gonna create a blog just to write about these 4 books” haha.