FLING WEEKEND

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

It has been fling weekend!

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2476.JPG

FullSizeRender.jpg

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

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

IMG_2495.JPG

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

IMG_2503.JPG
Drinking chai from my Radiolab mug which I got this week!!

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

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

immortal-life-henrietta-lacks-2.jpg

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

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

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

I want to remember this.

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

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

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

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

Us, after the movie!

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

She insisted on being in the picture, LOL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-11 at 19.30.29.png

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.

img_7480
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.

schuylkill-river-trail-philadelphia1-900vp.jpg
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.

img_7486

img_7488

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.

img_7484
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!!!

Week 5: Chinese New Year!

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

Me and Ken, serving food at the event.

 

Han Yang and Marcus, the Malaysian seniors 🙂
Cooking at Ken’s house with the other Malaysians!

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

My family on Chinese New Year!

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

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

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

The United Minorities Council discussing efforts to fight Islamophobic rhetoric.

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

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

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