Quizmas & London

SO ME RN.

I’m in London again, and it’s nice. 10-degree weather. Crossword puzzles. Harry Potter movies. Sporcle flags-of-the-world quiz. Watching The Chaser on TV. Cycling the relatively-empty streets at night. Doing the dishes while watching Narcos. Sleeping in until 10.30 am. Finishing book after book. Journaling before bed.

Between the World and Me ❤

Life feels slow. It feels easy. I had a nice day today. We went for a stroll along River Thames, came back to the apartment, watched some TV and then my sisters and I cooked dinner.

There were a bunch of things I had seen recipes of and have been wanting to try, so I decided we make stuffed mushrooms, mashed cauliflower and creamy tomato pasta. Cooking with my sisters is always so much fun because somehow or rather, we always end up laughing hysterically about something. You know the kind where you laugh so much you don’t make anymore sound? Yeah, like that. Today, for example, we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the dishwasher—it started overflowing bubbles and for some reason that was just hilarious to us. Anyway! I think dinner turned out well, or at least, I was really happy with it and it actually wasn’t too difficult at all. I’m definitely going to try to make mashed cauliflower again when I go back to Penn.

The best part of being on holiday is probably family; playing Sporcle quizzes (which, if you know me, you know I just love) with other people is always 10x more fun. Julia and I played this Harry Potter logic quiz which is kind of like a Sudoku-style logic game and oh my god, we were hooked. We legit spent like 2 hours playing 3 of them (this one was our favourite!) and then we played the flags of the world quiz which for some reason is just always so satisfying. My sisters and I also have been toying around with this crossword puzzle book my mom bought recently but it’s so hard. I’ve only ever done one crossword puzzle in my life and that was Monday’s + with a help of a really smart friend (and, admittedly, a bit of googling). But yeah somehow we still really enjoyed playing them and as I described it yesterday, it “feels like I’m trying to save the universe by cracking some code” (except I was failing which was kinda stressful).

When you’re a visual thinker and you can’t write on your Sporcle screen…

I’m starting to see a puzzle/game-related trend with the stuff we’ve been doing on this holiday which is actually pretty funny although not entirely surprising because I do love a good puzzle game. We’ve also been watching The Chase which is a trivia-ish game show that’s been playing on TV a lot today (the TV says it’s for Quizmas, haha I love it). I don’t quite know how to describe the show but I think trivia is always fun to watch because it’s crazy the sorts of various little things people know!!!

But ok we haven’t just been doing puzzley things. My cousins and I also went cycling around London yesterday night which was a little scary but pretty nice because a lot of the roads were quite empty. We got to see little nooks and crannies of London I had never seen before because we took little back alleys and stuff (some creepy, some pretty). And of course, it’s always always always a good time with my cousins.

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You’re welcome Santander, for the advertising labour.

On the whole though, it doesn’t really feel like vacation. It feels like an alternate version of everyday life where everything is easy and good… or is that what vacations were meant to feel like? I like that for once, my to-do list consists of: read 2 chapters of book of choice, edit pictures on VSCO, wash hair, moisturise/lotion, buy presents. No meetings. No frantically getting from one place to another. No beating myself up for not getting something right. No waking up in the morning to 20 emails (in fact, I got NO emails today, it was beautiful).

I really like it.

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A bird pooped on my head in Penang | Summer 2016

I spent all of last weekend in one of my favourite Malaysian states. I suppose that’s not saying much, since there are only 14 but it’s one of my favourites nevertheless. We only spent 2 nights there, but I had so much fun on that trip. Penang just has so much character, you know? And food. Of course.

I arrived in Penang in the evening. My parents and sisters had gone earlier because I had work that day, so they picked me up in our rented car. We straight headed to eat kuey teow, one of my favourite foods ever in the whole wide world. I mean, just see one of my Facebook cover photos. It was raining so we didn’t actually get to go to Gurney for kuey teow, muah chee and pai tee like we usually would. But this kuey teow place was pretty good! I don’t remember what it’s called but it’s supposedly famous. If you want to know, ask my mum haha.

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We didn’t do much else that night, I think we just went back to the hotel after dinner because it was raining. But the hotel we stayed at was beautiful. I mean, it wasn’t extravagant. And I don’t even know if you’d call it a hotel per se. It’s called Muntri Mews and there are only 9 rooms in the entire place. It’s made to look like a traditional house and it’s done up really well. I really loved it because it was small, intimate and has so much charm. Service was also really good and I just can’t like a place if it doesn’t have good customer service.

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On Saturday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel. I had scrambled salmon and eggs with toast and apart from kuey teow, those are also two of my great loves. Spoiler: I will have the exact same thing for breakfast the next day.

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After breakfast, we headed out on foot to trek around Georgetown. Armed with umbrellas, sunglasses and foldable fans, we did that typical touristy mural tour. We didn’t find that many, but it was nice to see the shops and different lanes, areas and buildings along the way.

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Saturday was also the day I got pooped on by a bird for the first time in my life. It REALLY HURT. We were walking around, and my dad was right behind me holding his umbrella. Suddenly I feel a hit on my head and I thought my dad had accidentally hit me with an umbrella but when I turn around with my “WHAT?!” face, he goes “oh no…..” and then my sisters gasp and say “oh no…” and then it hit me. I’ve just been shat on. My sister Aida quickly gets a bunch of wet wipes from my mum’s bag (good thing mothers always carry around such big bags full of random things, isn’t it?) and starts wiping. Everyone knows that if there is feces around, you better get rid of it before I see it or else I will start gagging and puking. Anyway, it is a good thing I pakai tudung because I just went into a shop to buy another one and then carried on as usual.

We had nasi padang for lunch at Transfer Road that day. Apparently my parents and sisters love it, and so do lots of other people because it was packed. I’m not the biggest fan, but it was good.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel to wipe some of that sweat off of our backs and chill for an hour or so before we drove out on those uphill winding roads to Batu Ferringhi. We used to stay at Ferringhi whenever we were in Penang so it was really nostalgic to drive past Parkroyal and Hard Rock Hotel. We saw the beach from the car as we were driving up and that’s the closest I got to a body of water the entire trip. Have I ever mentioned I’m kind of a city girl? Because I am.

Anyway, we visited this batik factory in the area. It wasn’t much, I guess. It could be a lot better, but it was still cool to see how people hand-made the batik designs. It reminds me of kelas seni in school. I think we did batik both in sekolah rendah and sekolah menengah.

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Then, we stopped by at the Teluk Bahang fishing village. It was really exciting to see this area, specifically the jetty and the pasar nelayan. Last year at my internship, I spent almost 2 months reading about the fishing industry in Malaysia, the types of fish, the supply chain, the nets, the boats, the fishing licenses… gosh, it sounds odd to recall the fact that I was so immersed in reading about all of it, but I was. I really wanted to visit one while I was working but I never got to, so seeing a fishing village and the infrastructures I read about last year in real life was really cool. It’s kinda like seeing the movie of a book you’ve read (???) but different. Almost.

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We had time to kill between visiting the fishing village and dinner. So what do we do while waiting to eat? We ate. We stopped by Hard Rock Cafe for some snacks and chilled there for a while before driving back down to Georgetown. Later that night, we had dinner at Woodlands, which is this vegetarian Indian restaurant. It was so good! I had paneer briyani and some palak paneer. If you don’t know, paneer is cheese and I love cheese. Yes, go ahead, add that to the already-long list of food I love. Indian food is just so good. We walked around Little India a bit but it rained again that night so we didn’t do or see much.

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The next morning, after breakfast, we left pretty early to go to Penang Hill, or Bukit Bendera. I have no idea why it’s called two different things in English and Malay?! But anyway, it was my first time there because the last time we tried to go, it was closed. I mean, there isn’t much to do there other than take the tram ride up the hill and then take pictures with the view, I guess. But I love going to lookout points! It was a little cloudy so I couldn’t really see much of the Penang bridges, but the view was still amazing and the weather up there was pretty chilly too. We walked around for a bit. There was like a garden kind of thing, and lots of people cycling and hiking. My dad said he wants to come back here to hike up. Everyone else just laughed. After about maybe half an hour or so, we took the tram ride back down and went back to the hotel to pack. 😦

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We didn’t really have a plan for lunch on Sunday, so we kinda drove around a little. So many shops were closed on Sunday, or at least opened only in the evening around 4. Where do people eat on Sundays?! We ended up eating at this roadside hawker place. I got another plate of kuey teow because, well, kuey teow. After lunch, we went to this Peranakan Mansion. I really love visiting heritage sites like these. The last time we came to Penang, we visited the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion and I actually have a picture I took there hanging above my desk in Philly.

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Anyway, the place was really cool! If I recall correctly, this traditional Baba Nyonya house was built in 1884 and later restored. Admission came with a complimentary tour. Our tour guide was actually a Thai guy, and he was really friendly and informative. We learned quite a bit about the house and Peranakan culture, like what clothes they would wear for what occasion and why certain furniture in the house were arranged in a particular way or designs in a specific way.

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The house also adjoins this chinese temple. There was a life-size bronze statue of the first owner of the house there! The first owner of the house was Chung Keng Kooi, who, according to the poster in the temple, was born in 1821 and came from the Zengcheng district in China. He reportedly had 4 wives and 16 children. They were a rich family; so rich that they were one of the first few families in Penang to own a car. Their Rolls Royce had a license plate number  P 4.

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We spent quite a bit of time looking at their clothing and jewellery gallery. It’s so interesting how much you can learn about culture through looking at clothing. We learned what kind of dresses girls would wear at home, what they would wear on Cap Goh Mei, what the families would wear for (the 3 years of) a mourning period.

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The house was really beautiful. I don’t know about my family, but I really enjoyed learning about local cultures and histories. I wish more museums in Malaysia were done up nicely like that, with good tour guides who can tell wonderfully informative stories.

After visiting the mansion, I pestered my family to go to Restoran Kapitan because I really wanted to try this thing called ayam milani. It sounds Italian, doesn’t it? I have no idea what it’s made of, honestly. Maybe some kari, some butter, some… cheese?! I don’t know and quite frankly, I don’t care!!! It was amazing. It was bahagian peha though, so I didn’t eat it. I eat chicken breast, strictly sebab tak reti makan benda lain. But I had the naan that came with the chicken and the sauce and it was the best thing I had on that trip. I still dream about it. If you’re in Penang, definitely go try it! Thanks to my friend Izura for recommending it to me. 🙂

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We still had some time to kill before going to the airport so I suggested we go on a drive to see the new Penang bridge. I… kinda regretted it. Because it was so long! We literally just crossed the bridge only to come right back, haha. One thing is for sure: I’m glad we flew instead of driving up to Penang. Because even that half an hour or so we spent on the bridge was boring. We didn’t even have any road trip snacks! Hehe.

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By about 6-ish (?) we were already at the airport. We had McDonalds for dinner that day. I had a McChicken because they didn’t have a Big ‘n Tasty. At first, we thought it was just a Penang thing. But little did we know, it was foreshadowing a grave discovery.

We got home at maybe 10.30pm and I was exhausted! I only had my (severely worn out) Cole Haan shoes with me, so my feet were not doing so great. But I had such a good night’s sleep on Sunday night because of how tired I was. I mentioned this the other day, but there are few things that feel as good as crawling into bed after a long day. Getting myself to work on Monday was a task alright. But I’m glad I got to go on a short holiday with my family and I’m really looking forward to my next 2 short trips. 😀


All high quality pictures were taken by my sister Julia. Check out her VSCO and follow her artsy fartsy Instagram. She’s the coolest among the anak-anak Mustak probs. (And if you’re wondering, Aida’s the smartest and I’m the princessiest)

“Americanah” | Summer 2016

Hi, friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 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.