Two weeks ago, I went to New York

I put fun in inverted commas because work is actually pretty fun and I want to be very careful about defining my life as only what happens outside of work, which is where I spend most of my time (and vice versa).

Anyway, my recent New York trip was two weeks ago now but I still want to immortalize it on here. It was the ever-so-controversial Columbus Day weekend, and we had Monday the 9th off of work so I decided to take the Megabus up to the city since tickets were also pretty cheap. I basically spent the whole time just meeting my friends and catching up with people. First, I met my friend Eliza who was one of my hallmates in the Quad during my freshman year. Then, I had dinner with Ken near Columbia, where he’s a first year PhD candidate!!!! (Sorry, I just get really excited about that still) He had two friends visiting him that week, so we all had dinner together at this pizza place and I absolutely loved the food and how quiet it was around the Columbia area. It was really nice to see Ken and I got to see his apartment as well, which was cool. It felt a little strange to be in a dorm with my college friend—just in a different city. Made me miss all my friends a bit more.

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Eliza!

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Ken

That weekend, I was staying with my friend Sarah, who I met earlier this year in January. You might recall (if you’re a loyal reader, I guess? I think I have like what, 7 of those?haha hello!) that she took me to see WNYC, where they produce some of my favourite podcasts like Radiolab, More Perfect and Freakonomics. I absolutely enjoyed staying with her because, like I said the last time, I feel like I’ve been friends with her for ages even though I’ve only kind of hung out with her 2-3 times. That first night I was there, I met her at the 42nd St subway stop and we were supposed to go to Brooklyn together but there was a power outage on Canal St that night so we ended up stopping at the next station for like 20-30 mins!! At the next station after that, we got stuck for a bit longer so Sarah and I were just like… ok, no way, we have to change trains. Everyone was just like running around trying to find an alternate route home. And it was so humid, we were all just like, totally drenched down there. It sounds awful, and it most definitely was, but it was also a hilarious bonding experience. Sarah kept apologizing to me on behalf of the city of New York and I was just like “meh, I’m young” LOL.

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Me (in my PJs) and Sarah before she headed out for work

The next day, I had brunch with Iman, Keyan and Zohair. Keyan was visiting from Harvard, Zohair works in New York and Iman is at NYU Law. I felt so unbelievably happy to see my MSA friends again because they were really like an extended extended family for me at Penn. Really, I’d say it just felt super cosy to get together with them again. A few years ago, I thought I wouldn’t be able to see all my friends again after graduation so it really just feels so good to hang out with them post-school.

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Keyan, me, Iman and Zo

After that, I went to the Glossier showroom!! I’ve been curious about Glossier for over a year now, ever since I heard Emily Weiss, Glossier founder, on a podcast. I’m a no-make-up kind of ~gal~ but lately, I’ve been a bit braver and rajin-er so I’ve really been trying out a no-make-up make-up look haha and Glossier is totally perfect for that but I was too scared to make the investment without trying stuff out first. I absolutely loved the Invisible Shield and Generation G lip stick/balm things buuuuut I guess they’re just going to have to wait for my birthday hehe.

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Stumbled upon this sign in Chinatown!!!! Made me miss home a lil bit more

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I was walking around after going to Glossier and stumbled upon an Outdoor Voices store and they were giving away free Stumptown cold brews!!

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I also stumbled upon Canal St Market near Glossier and it was full of all these cute little bits and bobs—this is literally the best thing about New York, there are gems at every corner.

That evening, I went to Gong Cha and got my utmost fav winter melon bubble tea and caught up with my friend Andrew, who I worked with on a club called Sangam back at Penn. I really looked up to him in college and it was nice to see him again after over a year. We talked about growing up and stuff and it was just really nice to catch up. Sarah and I had dinner after that at this Malaysian restaurant and it was so absurdly mediocre but I still enjoyed it. Part of it, I think, was getting to speak Malay with the waitress haha. Since I don’t live with Shahirah anymore, I never speak Malay anymore and I had no idea that I kinda missed it. (Btw pa, if you decide to FaceTime me speaking bahasa baku, my reaction is going to be -_- because that’s such a lame dad jokey thing to do lol)

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The best mediocrity I’ve ever experienced

Thankfully, the second night, Sarah and I had no problems on the MTA. We got back to Brooklyn in the perfectly decent amount of time. I hung out with her and her roommate/cousin and it was just a nice chilled night. I was honestly glad to stay in because the weather was so crap that whole time. It was most certainly crap the next morning as well. I got breakfast with fellow NPR intern, Alice that Monday morning in Brooklyn because she lived not far away from Sarah’s place. I weathered an awfully windy gloomy humid morning to meet her at this cute breakfast place (probably the most reasonably priced sit-down meal I’ve ever had in New York). I met Alice at the internship orientation thing last month and she’s working on probably the most successful NPR podcast, Planet Money so I was really interested to hear how she’s doing and what she’s learning and all of that.

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Me and Alice in crappy weather

After breakfast, I just cleaned up at Sarah’s and made my way to Penn Station to head back to DC. I managed to snag one last New York goodie there—a slice of cake at Magnolia! Then I had to suffer through the 5-hour bus ride back. Let me just tell you, that I sometimes get car sick on a half an hour car ride so me being on long bus rides is always a….. story. I’m always equipped with Panadol, some vapour rub, some mints and snacks, a drink. It didn’t help that I sat close-ish to the bathroom, where the smell was… well, you know. Ugh. Could not sleep the entire time, either. And let me just add that I was already damp because I was stuck in a drizzle while waiting 45 minutes to board the bus. It is a TRUE WONDER how I did not get sick that week. But I made it back to my apartment and right after a good scrub, I made myself a good bowl of maggi kari and went to bed.

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This is what the weather looked like the whole time I was in New York

I honestly don’t think I wanna do many more weekend trips haha, wow, I guess I’m getting old. It’s just that, when you’re working, a weekend trip feels like you actually lose the weekend. You always feel like you need a holiday to recover from your holiday, you know? And I was just so tired that whole week! It wasn’t like in school where like if I arrived Sunday night, I could go to class on Monday from let’s say 10-3 and then just curl up in bed. I was actually debating going back to Philly for Homecoming in November but a) I don’t want to spend that money and b) I like spending the weekends resting these days because I’m officially old and boring. Just at this very moment, I got struck by a strong craving for a Hokkaido cheese tart. Sigh.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like spending weekends resting. This weekend was perfect. I slept in on Saturday, spent the afternoon doing my groceries and then had Jamie come visit me that evening for a night. I initially was going to write a short thing about New York and continue to write about Jamie’s visit but we’re at 1300+ words right now so I guess that’ll just have to wait! Haha. Be back soon! 🙂

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27 Hours in New York

I think I’ve just had the best weekend I can remember. And it’s only Friday night.

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Every time I tried to take a picture of the NYC skyline. This happens.

Okay, to be fair, this “weekend” of mine started on Thursday evening when I got on a Megabus to New York. I made the trip to the city because one of my favourite podcast companies, Gimlet, had an event/mixer thing for their listeners who’ve made donations (I fully believe in supporting the products etc you love, btw, which is why, when I can, I make contributions to independent content production I believe in). I had no idea who was going to be at the event, how big it was going to be or how to prepare myself but when I got the email invite, I just knew I had to go.

I coaxed my friends to come with me, of course. If you know me, you know I hate going to these “networking” type events at all, much less attending them alone. Anyway, everyone said no for various reasons but I still really wanted to go no matter what. When I got to the event space in Brooklyn, I walked in all confident as if I knew what I was doing and as soon as I put my coat away, I realised I had just put myself in a room full of chic-and-adult-looking New Yorkers, who are all talking to each other….. so I did what any normal borderline-panicked person would do: go to the bathroom to text like 3 of my friends LOL. I couldn’t stay in there for too long because I didn’t want people to think I was pooping, so eventually one social anxiety overpowered the other and I just pushed myself out that bathroom door. I made awkward eye contact with someone in a circle that didn’t seem too “tight” and just worked my way from there. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

It ended up being really great; I was still a little nervous throughout (which is why I took only one picture at the entire event), but I met some cool people. Data analyst at Spotify, web developer for advertisers, freelance graphic designer, costume-makers, and of course, lots of podcast producers/Gimlet staff. I think it was a really interesting experience because, being in college in a foreign country, I don’t meet people outside of college ever. Even though I’ve “lived” here for 3+ years, it has never really felt like I really lived here, or could live here in the future. But I realise now that it’s just because I’ve been so disconnected thanks to the “Penn bubble” or whatever, and it forced me to consider the possibility that I actually do have what it takes to create friends and networks of acquaintances wherever I go, even if that might take some time and create some anxiety.

The event was also really fun because I got to meet a lot of other podcast listeners. People were recommending their favourite shows and we were all freaking out over our favourite episodes which I appreciated so much because none of my friends really listen to any of these things so whenever I listen to something that blows my mind I just kind of keep it to myself (?) Other people there shared that sentiment too—it was pretty clear that we were all glad to finally be able to be collectively enthusiastic about something. It felt so nerdy but so good.

Oh!!!! And I won’t forget to mention that I met ALEX BLUMBERG!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s the Co-Founder of Gimlet and if you remember, I’ve mentioned that I’ve been following his story of how he built Gimlet since the summer  (listen to it on the show StartUp here). I. Cannot. Belieeeeeeve it. I only got to speak to him a few minutes before he left but I spoke to his wife Nazanin (who also works at Gimlet) for quite a while and they’re just overwhelmingly nice people and because I’ve followed the development of their company through StartUp, I just felt so proud to see what they’ve built and I am so genuinely honoured to have met them. Ahhh.

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Alex, Nazanin and lil’ ol’ me!!!

Let me also just toss in the fact that at some point throughout this event, Hari Kondabolu, host of the podcast Politically Reactive and extraordinary stand-up comedian (watch one of my favs of his skits here!!!) just walks in to the room. My jaw dropped. I legitimately stuttered for a bit but ultimately managed to snag a selfie (I won’t post the selfie because I look goofy as hell but you’ll just have to take my word for it). I told him I was a big fan of his Waiting for 2042 set, that I respect how he has consistently used comedy as a means to advocate for equality for Asians, Muslims, Blacks, Natives etc. He was so nice about it even though I was tripping over myself. So trust me when I say it was an amazing night.

Anyway, so the event gave me a reason to go to New York for a night. I could have just gone back to Philly after the event but I didn’t really want to be making my way from Brooklyn all the way to the Megabus place near 12th Ave so late at night… and well, I can’t say no to a good day in New York City alone.

Ok, well, I wasn’t alone the whole time. I stayed with my friend Hannah who’s a junior at Columbia so I got to hang out with her that night. I got brunch with Angela the next morning, who is a sophomore at Columbia (I know both of these super smart people from USAPPS!). Then, I did a little bit of wandering. I did some of the touristy things I’ve only done on the surface. Like, I’ve been to The Met but only the gift store really so today I went for reals. I’ve seen Columbia from a distance but had never explored the area. I’ve passed the UN before but today I actually did the whole tour thing (which was so cool by the way, I could not contain my excitement the whole time—the tour guide appreciated me, I swear). Oh and yeah, I never go to New York without a stop at Milk Bar.

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How GRAND is this?!

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I saw this on my way to The UN headquarters and well, I had to. Heh.

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The flags, arranged from Afghanistan-Zimbabwe

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oh hi :’)

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General Assembly Hall!!!!!

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I’ll never get tired of this ice cream, I think.

Then, later in the evening, I took the Subway to Soho to visit WNYC. My friend Sarah works there on On the Media and she is beyond kind for offering to show me around the studio. I even got to bump into the CEO of WNYC and Brian Lehrer of The Brian Lehrer Show (I tried very hard to keep my cool so as to not embarrass Sarah). She basically gave me a rundown of how things work and showed me where they record, etc. It was really cool because I actually listen to WNYC shows and to see where they’re produced was amazing. It felt like visiting a movie set, but for radio.

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Sarah and me, clearly looking at our own reflections in my phone and not the camera. LOL.

After showing me around, Sarah and I got dinner together in West Village. I love that area so much and I’ve been there quite a few times now so when I’m there, I have this sense of familiarity with it that I really like having (if that makes sense? I feel like that was a poorly-worded sentence). We got food at this amazing vegan place called by CHLOE. Aida and I went when she visited me last March and it was so good, I’m glad I went back. I was pretty amazed by their chipotle aioli and beet ketchup sauce. Absolutely delicious. I’m eating some of their salad as we speak (yes, I brought it back with me on the bus).

It was so nice to meet Sarah! We’ve spoken on the phone and texted here and there so I’m familiar with her but not too much. Yet, it totally didn’t feel awkward at all when we hung out. I almost forgot we’d never met before that. Or at least, that’s how I felt. Who knows, Sarah might read this and just be like “speak for yourself” lol. She was introduced to me by my friend Hanna. Sarah goes to Princeton, she and Hanna know each other because of MSA stuff. But yeah, it also was cool to know I now have friends outside of Penn who I didn’t get to know because of a Malaysian connection, you know what I mean? It feels like I’ve grown roots! And I’m super proud of that.

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I am so thankful for such an eventful couple of days, even if it was slightly beyond my comfort zone. Even if it meant that I had super crappy sleep because I had to use my jacket as both my pillow and blanket last night (because Hannah told me she didn’t have spares and yet I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag with me around the whole day). From my picture with Alex and Nazanin, visiting WNYC/meeting Sarah to just reading my book on the Subway… I know it wouldn’t have been possible as a freshman (even though when I was a freshman, I expected my life to be like this immediately). It wouldn’t have been possible if I had never come to Penn, etc etc. There is a string of infinite things to be grateful for.

Week 12: New York City

Several years ago, when my family along with my Mak Long’s family went to London together, they came back to KL with us and stayed at our house for a few days before going back to Kuching. There were probably like 12 of us staying together under one roof and my house isn’t like, huge. So people were kind of sprawled over the living room upstairs, and there were pillows and blankets all over. There was always someone at the dining table, in the kitchen, in the living room. It was always noisy and the house felt so full. I think we hosted the whole bunch of them several times and I remember that every time they leave, I feel like the house kind of expands and falls into a silence. Everything becomes bigger and quieter than I remember.

My sister left for London last night and suddenly the apartment feels so empty and quiet. It felt odd not to see a suitcase burst open in the middle of my living room, a bunch of her coats on my couch and another toothbrush in the bathroom. It’s weird, it’s almost like she was never here, but I know she was because I have all this trash to take out and leftover of food I bought for her and whatever. It’s just funny how that is, considering I’ve lived like this for the past year or so. It’s funny how people come and leave and alter how our everyday lives feel to us.

But it’s all good 🙂 we had so much fun this week and we’ll all be back home for summer soon! We went to NYC over the weekend and I think for me, every trip to New York just gets better.

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We stayed in the East Village, so we started the morning with a quick walk to Washington Square Park. This is one of my favourite places.

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Breakfast at Chalait—best green tea drinks and 5/5 sandwiches.

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West Village is full of pretty houses.

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The Whitney Museum (we didn’t go in… tbh, I was just looking for a restroom)

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The High Line

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Because it was such a nice day.

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With my sister!

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Isn’t this really cool? It’s a model of the city we saw on the High Line.

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We used the High Line to get to Chelsea Market for lunch.

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We also found Taylor Swift’s apartment building… hehe.

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In Williamsburg, we had the hugest serving of cereal milk soft serve I’ve ever seen.

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We went to Devoción in Williamsburg for coffee in the evening. Look at the interior!

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And there it is, the single best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. Their OJ also seemed really popular and I really want to go back there to try it.

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We spent most of the evening in Brooklyn, and we took lots of pictures of this iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo.

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On the Brooklyn Bridge because it was my first time in Brooklyn and I don’t know why I had never gone before.

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At the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

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At Main Street Park, under the Manhattan Bridge, waiting for the sunset.

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Oh hi, Manhattan.

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We couldn’t get over this beautiful view.

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We went back to Manhattan to by CHLOE., a vegan restaurant in the West Village for dinner. It was so good. Seriously never knew vegan food could be this amazing. 5/5.

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The restaurant was crazy packed, so we went back to Washington Square Park to eat.

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The next morning we went to Tompkins Square Park, which was near where we stayed. One of my favourite movies (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) has a scene that was filmed here. It was such a cold and sunny morning!

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Met Amanda for brunch at Mud, and they have this really cute seating space at the back of the restaurant.

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The East Village is amazing and I’m definitely hoping to come back here.

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Subway scenes.

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Times Square.

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Aida really wanted to see the Bethesda Terrace because she’s a Gossip Girl fan, haha.

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Halal Guys at Central Park (!!!)

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My first time at The Met. We didn’t go in because we didn’t have much time and we were carrying food hehe.

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And that’s pretty much everything we did in New York! Yesterday, I spent the entire day at home, barely even leaving my room because we walked 24,000 steps on average each day in the city. Plus, I also had to catch up on some work.

As you can imagine, I’m now suffering from insane Monday blues. Thankfully I’m not really behind on work despite taking like, 3 whole days off from doing anything. Good thing I spent my entire spring break slaving away haha. But super grateful for the opportunity to travel and see all these amazing things with my sister. Now, with just 4 weeks left of the semester (!!!!!!!) I have to refocus myself and get back into my rhythm.

Until next week, then! 🙂

Week 7: I Get A Break!

It was a long week, you guys. It feels like a month crammed into one week, and I think that’s partly because I don’t know how to tell you the story of my past week in a coherent post.. many things which are pretty different and somewhat unrelated happened this week.

Dropping a class
This is my 5th semester at Penn. Every semester apart from my very first one, I’ve taken 5 classes/credit units. The typical semester is about 3-5.5 credits, although a few of my friends take 6. This semester, I was enrolled in a class I absolutely wasn’t enjoying. I felt the class lacked a good sense of structure/direction, and that the professor was not very organised. It didn’t fulfil any requirements for me–it was something I’d registered in just for fun. Except, it wasn’t fun at all. But because I had waited so long to realise how much I couldn’t stand the class, it was too late to add another class to replace it if I dropped this one. So I hung on because the idea of taking only 4 classes made me feel like I would be slacking, like I would’ve wasted the opportunity to be in another class. I felt so ashamed because it made me feel like I would be such an underachiever. Luckily, I accepted the fact that those were awful reasons to be doing something I don’t even like, and so I let it go; what felt like a shameful idea now feels like a triumph against my ego or whatever.

The safety threat
Last Sunday, the entire Penn community (and the communities of many other colleges around Philadelphia) was notified of a vague “safety threat” made on social media. Colleges were alerted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI about a threat of violence against a university which mentioned the time and date of 2 p.m. on October 5th (you can read about it here). The university ensured us that they were taking this seriously–and they did. On Monday, there was a noticeably heavy presence of police and other security officers on campus. People cut class to stay home, and everyone was in some kind of subtle panic. It was a weird feeling. Everyone walked quickly. It seemed quiet and tense. Classes were cancelled. I was scared, too. Shahirah, Hui Jie and I stayed home studying and eating takeout, trying not to check the time. Nothing happened that day, alhamdulillah, I am so thankful. Everyone was relieved, but I think we all were also perplexed? intrigued? at how such a vague threat had such a huge effect. We all learned how little control of our lives we have.

My exam
On Wednesday, campus was back to normal, and I had my political science exam. I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the first PSCI class I’ve taken and so I was a little stressed out because (a) I didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare for it and (b) I love this class (like LOVE IT so much that I question if I am in the right major) and so I really wanted to do well. I prepared for it sufficiently, and so I am not too worried about how it turns out, nor do I care as much because at least I know I did what I could. It was 50 minutes of frantically writing a 4-5 page essay? I can hardly remember, but it caused my arm much pain. By the time the proctors called for pens down, the way my arm felt tired gave me a flash of what it was like to be in school in Malaysia, sitting at our tiny wooden desks spaced out evenly for exams in our tiny cement-floored classrooms, writing on our kertas kajang (foolscap paper), tying them together with strings when we were done. I thought it was cool how the way my muscles felt could bring back memories of things I haven’t thought of in years. But the end of that exam also marked the start of Fall Break 🙂 (!!!!!!!)

Studying for my poli sci exam.

Studying for my poli sci exam.

Half of my poli sci cheat sheet!

Half of my poli sci cheat sheet.

Awful out-of-focus picture of my friends having coffee on the rooftop after dinner and dessert to celebrate fall break!

Awful out-of-focus picture of my friends having coffee on the rooftop after dinner and dessert to celebrate fall break!

Fall break
I don’t know how many of you follow me on Instagram, but I have been documenting (overdocumenting, possibly) my four day weekend on it. On Thursday, I went to King of Prussia to go hunting for a new pair of boots and it was really fun.

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My new babies hehe.

My new babies hehe.

I spent Friday in New York City. Honestly, New York is electric. I think this was my 5th or 6th trip up there and every time, I appreciate it a little bit more. People talk about the energy, but honestly, I don’t care much for that. What I like about New York is looking at the diversity–there are all sorts of people there, all sorts of stores, cuisines. Everything is cutting edge. There is always more to discover and so much inspiration to get from that city. I know this is what everyone says.. and I’m annoying myself for saying it because I know I’m blurting a bunch of clichés and am not really giving you a great description of what NYC is like.. but I hope someday you get to experience it for yourself!

First stop in NYC: coffee.

First stop in NYC: coffee.

Flat whites make my morning.

Flat whites make my morning.

My first time seeing Central Park in non-jacket-wearing weather, and what a difference it makes.

My first time seeing Central Park in non-jacket-wearing weather, and what a difference it makes.

The Mall.

The Mall.

Awkward unintentional handbag-modelling (?)

Awkward unintentional handbag-modelling (?)

Shahirah trusted me with rowing, and I trusted her to take pictures of me. Talk about trust exercises..

Shahirah trusted me with rowing, and I trusted her to take pictures of me. Talk about trust exercises..

Just one of the many boats I almost hit. And oh yeah, the view.

Just one of the many boats I almost hit. And oh yeah, a great view.

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The picture I always take when I get this ice cream.. because I'm original and creative.

The picture I always take when I get this ice cream.. because I’m original and creative.

Subway stations.

Subway stations.

Cute decorations in cute Japanese stores.

Cute decorations in cute Japanese stores.

A crappy attempt at a panorama at Times Square.

A crappy attempt at a panorama at Times Square.

We walked so much yesterday and it was a little tiring, so today I took it easy and just did groceries, watched TV, read and stayed home.

Me, pushing my basket through Trader Joes' check out line because it was too heavy to carry.

Me, pushing my basket through Trader Joes’ check out line because it was too heavy to carry.

It’s back to the grind on Monday (boo) so I’m really going to enjoy my last day off tomorrow. For now, I’m gonna end with this picture of my cousin’s adorable baby when he was at my house in Malaysia last week because he is the cutest and I miss him. Bye!

MISS YOU, AYDEN!!

MISS YOU, AYDEN!!