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 DevociĂłn 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! 🙂

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Week 2: I TRIED

I had no idea when I was writing my post in Heathrow last week that I would be writing next in another airport. Yet, here I am, typing a blog post with one hand and eating a sandwich with another at Boston Logan (about to board my 8th flight in just over a month!). I’m hoping for a smooth flight back to Philadelphia—my outbound flight yesterday made me throw up twice. Thankfully, I was sitting only two rows away from the restroom. If anyone wants to know what Chipotle and all its guacamole glory looks like two hours after you’ve eaten it… let me know (too much information? hehe you’re welcome). 

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View from my taxi: This is Back Bay! Reminds me of my trip here in March.
All I saw of Boston was what I saw through taxi windows.

Anyway, you might be wondering what I’m here for. I was lucky enough to be flown out here to interview for a job. Remember towards the end of last semester I told you I was sitting at a coffee shop agonising over a cover letter? Well, to my continuous surprise, that cover letter was only the beginning of what has been an interesting, stressful and somehow fun recruiting process. After I submitted my resume and cover letter, I was already telling myself “ok, you tried, good job” and was ready to kind of move on, fully expecting not to hear back. But I was then invited to interview with them while I was home in KL a few weeks ago. After those interviews, I again told myself, “ok maybe that didn’t go so well but I’m proud of you for trying!” (yeah, I refer to myself as “you” or “we” when I talk to myself, it’s weird I guess but whatever) and I was now doubly ready to let it go. To my surprise, I was invited to interview in Boston. I’m honestly so happy to have made it to the last leg and I will be fine with whatever happens because it means the world to me that I got over my fear of case interviews and that I approached this arduous process one step at a time. I think I’m super lucky to have gone through this process and I’m just reeling over getting through it.

No matter how it turns out though, I still have the rest of the semester to go through! Because I was prepping for this interview, I kinda haven’t really done my readings properly. I’m kind of nervous because I don’t like feeling as if I’m off to a bad start. But this just means that when I go home, I have to really burn through a week’s worth of material and try to get ahead. Did I tell you I have to learn MATLAB for one of my classes? I think I should really start wrapping my head around what that is and how it works so I’m going to do that this weekend.

Apart from that, the new term for Sangam has started and I’m so excited to be working with Wendy, Luke, Sydney, Jamie, Helena and Jing Jing. I feel really good about the new group and I am so inspired by their energy and ideas. I’m going to start reading my Psycholinguistics book now. I was reading about the human predisposition to learn languages before I threw up yesterday haha so hopefully this goes a little better. Talk to you next week!

I can spot stuff when I fly over Philadelphia now. That’s exciting!

  

Week 1: 3 Airports and 34 Hours

The sight I love in May and hate in August.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Throwback: going home the summer after freshman year.

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

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

Week 1: I Travelled 9460 Miles with a Bunch of Daun Pandan in My Backpack

Once a year, I count my last this and thats, pack 100 lbs of my things into two sturdy suitcases, force myself out of my bedroom fighting the temptation of a long lingering glance backwards and head to KLIA. Once a year, I cry until I feel like my lungs are about to collapse, stain my family’s shirts with my tears and take the Elevator Of Sorrow down to the departure gates.

As I walk towards the passport scanning thing, at the back of my mind I know my heart is heavy because I have so much I am (temporarily!) leaving behind. What an amazing problem to have. Because it means I have so much. I have so much love and support back home, from family and friends I admire and respect. I have so much fun, so much security and so much comfort back home. I guess I just really want to thank you all for that.

Thank you to my parents, for parenting me the way you have, such that I always have a wonderful home and family I love coming back to. My sisters, for being the cause of most of the times I laugh. Chik, for being like a second mother to me. All my other uncles and aunties for always bringing everyone together. My cousins, for being my best friends throughout my life. In my life right now, the best thing I have is a family that looks for multiple excuses to spend time with each other and request tables for 16-20 at restaurants.

Thank you to my friends who have set aside time to spend with me and helped make my holiday a really well-spent one. Special thank yous to everyone who helped me cross off everything on my craving list and to everyone who cooks amazing food. Thank you to everyone I had the pleasure of seeing over these past few months, you’ve all helped make my break everything I needed it to be. I’m sincerely sorry for missing those I did, and if I have hurt anyone over the past few months.

I know I’m no celebrity and I am cringing at the thought of sounding like I’m receiving some award at the Grammy’s or whatever but I just really wanted to start by saying I am so grateful to God for all of you. Home will always be where my heart is but it’s time to focus my energy on learning and growing at Penn.

As I write this, I am in the process of getting settled into my apartment at Penn. Shahirah and I arrived safely on Sunday morning (Sunday night Malaysian time). Classes start on Wednesday morning, and as per usual, I have that fresh new-semester excitement and a full bar of stamina. Right now, I have to redecorate my room, stock up my fridge and catch up with the friends I haven’t seen in 3 months. 

Landing safely in Philadelphia.
Landing safely in Philadelphia.

I have to say though, it feels really weird to be back. As the taxi from the airport drove across campus, I realised how distant my last year here feels to me. It felt like ages ago, like it happened in a parallel universe. I guess I was so shocked at how unprepared I felt to come back. I’m lying down on my bed as I type this, and at the back of my mind I’m thinking about the feeling of walking barefoot on a staircase, the touch of sunshine on my skin, marble floors, the slight hint of the smell of haze in the air, the sound of a ceiling fan turning. Little things that take my mind back 9460 miles.

Going home to Malaysia felt like resting my tired head on a pillow, like taking off my high heels after a long day, like eating an old favourite childhood snack. Coming back to Penn feels like crawling into a cold hotel bed, like eating solids after a week on liquids only, like eyes squinting when suddenly exposed to sunlight.

But the bed warms up, teeth strengthen and pupils contract. I will get better. I will be just fine.