Fun weekend!

Hello!

I’m writing to you as I wrap up a really good weekend, and the first cold-ish weekend too. I just finished watching Season 1 of Broadchurch and I just can’t get over how good it was. A while ago, I went on this whole thing about how much I loved “The Missing” and this is so, so similar to that: a small British town mystery and a lot of drama. Every time I watch a new British mystery drama I’m like… ok… I know how this is gonna go… but I never ever do, so it’s always a pleasant surprise.

Anyway! The highlight of my weekend was, without a doubt, getting to see Ken. He was in DC for a conference event type thing and we got some decently yummy but very spicy thai food last night. I absolutely loved catching up and cracking up over the silly things that tend to happen when we’re together.

For example, when I arrived at the restaurant, he told me that he initially walked into the wrong restaurant!! So, let’s back up a little: I had never been to this place before—my roommate has like newspaper/magazine clippings of restaurant recs on the fridge and this was one of them so I was told to pick a place so I was like ok sure! I told him we were going to Baan Thai but forgot to tell him that it was on the second floor. I swear there aren’t that many thai restaurants in D.C. but it just so happened, there was another completely different thai restaurant right below the restaurant I picked and he walked into that one by mistake. He had apparently already been seated when he saw that the menu said Thaitanic, hahahaha. When he asked the waitress if this was Baan Thai, he said she rolled her eyes and took the menu away from him, LOL. It didn’t help that Thaitanic was pretty much completely empty and Baan Thai had a line!

Dinner was good! We both got papaya curry, I learned about his life at Columbia (have I mentioned that he’s at Columbia getting his PhD??? I’m SO proud of him!) and told him about work. Mandy joined us for dinner because she was also in town, so that was nice. She’s still a junior at Penn, so it was kinda nice to be regaled with tales of awful management classes and all of that again for a bit.

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After dinner, we went to Momofuku Milk Bar, which was so awesome because their cereal milk soft serve is one of my favourite things ever and I didn’t even know they had a store in DC until I was browsing Google Maps for places to eat. I feel like I should probably be bored of this ice cream by now but… I’m really not. It was still so good. Ken had some and he was like “hmm it tastes like something I used to eat in the morning” HAHA. We ended up standing around in the small, crowded store for an hour before I went home. (I’m so happy I get to write about hanging out with my school friends again!! when we were walking around, it really felt like we were in Center City like the old days lol)

 

 

Also noteworthy, today I decided to venture into Georgetown. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to but I didn’t have anything else planned for the day and it was too beautiful a day to waste indoors. I’ve been to Georgetown before, once, with Shahirah. We visited DC for fall break our sophomore year. I completely forgot how beautiful it is. The flowers, the buildings… the variety of shops! It’s like better than any British high street could ever be, to tell you the truth. I really just liked walking around and taking in the sights of the pink flowers on the lamp post against the blue sky.

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So yeah, it’s been a great weekend, alhamdulillah. I’m just about to prepare myself for the work week ahead. Work’s been picking up! I’ve been getting to do some more new things and I know I haven’t hit like a… “responsibility plateau” yet so things will still be picking up for a bit more which will be interesting. I haven’t felt totally overwhelmed yet, but that’s not to say that I’m underwhelmed either, because I’m definitely not. I’m just very perfectly whelmed (this is a Clueless reference). I feel like I’m learning a lot because I’m constantly being pushed to try new things and take on more tasks, but I also feel like it’s not totally clear to me what I’m learning or how I’ll use these lessons in the future (what I mean is sometimes you don’t know what you’re learning until you get to apply that knowledge).

I mostly love that I don’t yearn for the weekend, I don’t count the hours until I get to leave the office and I don’t dread Mondays. I’m not particularly excited about commuting back and forth every day either but I definitely don’t mind it because spending so much time helping to make podcasts mean that my commutes are when I get to actually listen to them.

That’ll be all from me this week, I think. Until next week!

P.S. My name was featured in the credits of the show for the first time last week! Go give it a listen here!

I finally ran out of ideas for titles.

Good morning! I’ve just done something really silly. I was making a cheese quiche for lunch later while I was drinking some tea. I grabbed some pepper to put in the quiche batter and I think you know where this is going… I put it in my tea instead, haha. It’s actually not bad. I ended up drinking it in the end. I’m now coughing a little but it’s okay!

Haha, anyway… I had such a good week. The first few days of it were rough. Two words: astronomy midterm. Let me put this into perspective for you. The first astronomy midterm (which I tanked) covered only chapters 1-5. This exam covered up to chapter 14 so there was a lot more material and it was less calculation and more facts/memorisation which is good because I’m better at memorizing than calculation, honestly, but it was also not good because it just takes so much more time to study for. So yeah, I spent a huge majority of my waking hours studying for this exam. It went ok I think! And that was my last midterm ever—I have no exams left until my final finals!

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Studying for astronomy with my bowl of quinoa goreng (i.e. nasi goreng but with quinoa because I had no beras lol)

(By the way, last week I got a comment about how I only ever talk about Astronomy with regards to my classes and I laughed so hard at that because I realised that too and didn’t think anyone would pick up on it. It’s true though! I do talk about Astronomy more than anything else because I’m only taking 3 classes this semester and the other two are so so so chill that Astronomy is just proportionally huge lol.)

I also got to go to some cool events!! I love that I’ve been having more time to go to events this semester because I’m not taking so many classes. I think at Penn, everyone is so busy organising their own events that they don’t really get to attend any other events which is such a shame; it’s like everyone’s talking and no one’s listening.

There was an event last Thursday, it was “an engaging conversation” between our university president, Amy Gutmann and former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is spending his post-political career at Penn at the brand new Penn Biden Center of Diplomacy and Global Engagement. He talked about reaching across the aisle, his faith in the American people, etc. It was kinda cool to see him live in person! Tickets were free but you had to register really quickly in order to get one and I was the only person I knew who had tickets so I went alone. The funny thing is (!) I ended up sitting next to someone else who also went alone and was also about to take the same Astronomy midterm later that day! Haha. While we waited for Biden, we were both talking about Mercury’s lack of atmosphere. Very nerdy, I know.

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He couldn’t talk for long while sitting down haha

On Friday, Hui Jie and I went to the Fels Institute of Government’s event, a conversation on media and politics with NPR reporters, Scott Detrow and Sam Sanders. They were so cool, I loved the stories they told. Scott talked about how one of his favourite stories he did was about these Northern Pennsylvanian rattlesnake wranglers. Sam talked about how he got pretty close to Bernie Sanders after covering him through the campaign trail and how he learned that Bernie really loves crowds. They were at one point both hosts of the NPR Politics podcast (Sam has now left), so they also talked about how people tend to expect them to always talk about politics and to have an opinion about everything in politics. They said that they always get flak on Twitter if they tweet about something non-political. Sam said “people want us to be more than we can be for them because they like us and they feel like they know us.” It was really interesting. I mostly love how clear it was that they loved their jobs. Ahhh. It was so, so, so cool.

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The mic stand kinda ruins the picture but whatever.

I also went out for brunch with my friend Cristina in the city Friday morning. It has been a while I think since I last went out for a good sweet brunch. We went to Green Eggs, which is this really popular spot in the city. It was raining and a weekday morning so we thought it would’ve been fine but I still had to wait in line outside in the rain for over 20 minutes before getting a table! But wow, was it worth it. I hadn’t been there since early on in junior year and I forgot how good the food is there. I had pecan french toast and Cristi got raspberry french toast. I could hardly eat for the rest of the day because I was so full but so satisfied.

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Later that night, my friend May May and I went to see the Onda Latina show. It’s a salsa fusion dance group and Cristina is in it!! I also know a couple of other people in it and it’s always just so much fun to see how talented my fellow Penn students are. I’ve said this before I think, but I just love putting aside all feelings of competitiveness and just supporting and admiring how amazing everyone here is.

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ok I know it’s crappy quality but there’s my friend!

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With Cristina after the show!

So yeah, it was a great week! It ended with me spending a nice long day in my apartment. I binge-watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix which just came out this week and for the first time ever, I felt really old watching a high school movie haha. The premise of the show is this girl kills herself (uh, yeah, it’s a little dark…) and she leaves this elaborate “list” of 13 reasons why and each one is a person, detailing how someone at school abused, took advantage of or just hurt her. It has a very very strong “moral of the story” vibe which at times seems a bit overdone. I’m not saying I don’t think the message should be weaker because I love, love, love the way this movie sheds light on the ways in which bullying is not so much a matter of direct action, and more a product of culture (guys not wanting to seem “weak” in front of other guys, people being worried about what other people might think etc) but at times it seemed too forced. With that said though, it was still a good show. I loved the subtle ways in which it highlighted how as a culture, we idolise people for their athletic/academic achievements even though they may be… mean, narcissistic, manipulative people. I also loved the diversity of the cast. For most actors, this was their first “real” job. The popular girl was black. There was a queer Asian girl. There were multi-racial couples and friend groups. The show passed the Bechdel test (do two women talk to each other about something other than a boy?—very few films pass this test). Characters were multi-dimensional. Dialogue sounded true to life. I was very happy with all of that and I’m so glad platforms like Netflix are creating opportunities for shows like these which have been ignored and written off by media conglomerates for so long.

So yeah, I guess that’s all for this week. I hope you’ve had a really good week as well. My quiche is done and I’m going to go dig in now 🙂 until next week, thanks for reading!

Week 12: Time Passes, Tables Turn

I have 2 full weeks and 2 half weeks of classes left, you guys. Can you believe it? BECAUSE I CAN. I AM EXCITED.

It’s been a great semester, though. I was so weary of everything, I was trying to make sure I don’t “slip” and mess up, lose control of my workload… but I’m grateful that so far, it has not happened and I think it’s safe to say I don’t foresee it happening soon. Granted, I have the easiest workload I’ve had in like 2 years, and that’s probably 90% of the reason why. I’m enjoying it either way. College has never been more fun.

Last weekend, for example, was excellent. I got to watch a play in Philadelphia for the first time on Friday night. I watched Disgraced, written by Ayad Akhtar who won a Pulitzer Prize for it. It’s about a Pakistani American lawyer navigating his Muslim heritage in the post 9/11 world. I don’t know much about theatre, but I really enjoyed it and I’m glad my friend Adriel invited me to watch it.

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PAACH, the Pan Asian American Community House, celebrated its 15th year anniversary on Saturday. It was a really great celebration and I’m glad I was invited to attend! I got to hear Amy Gutmann (the Penn president) speak, meet some alums who came back from homecoming weekend and listen to a great keynote speech by Vijal Patel. Vijal is a Penn alum, class of ’98. He studied finance and engineering but then went into a career in comedy writing. His speech was so funny. If (or when) I get my hands on a recording, I will be sure to send it to everyone I know. He talked about how important it is to have safe spaces on campus so that students have the freedom and confidence to explore their abilities in new and interesting ways. He also talked about how he took a huge risk, declining a huge Wall Street job offer to drive across the country and move to L.A. to pursue a career in entertainment. Sigh, I wish I could tell you more but my memory of it is super spotty so just trust me, it was hilarrrrious and inspiring. I got to meet him after, and he was really nice! (You can read a little about him here!)

The PAACH anniversary celebration in Huntsman Hall.

The PAACH anniversary celebration in Huntsman Hall.

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He took this with his phone and texted it to me. WHAT.

Homecoming weekend was also really great because I got to see Amanda again. She was a senior last year, and one of the first few Malaysians I met from Penn. It’s always really nice to talk to people who’ve been through the whole Penn journey and know what it’s like to make it out on the other side, but it’s a bonus to talk to someone who understands the path I’m on and part of where I come from. It really means so much to me to have such supportive and understanding people in my life.

Early Sunday morning with Amanda <3

Sunday morning with Amanda ❤

This past week, I’ve also started watching The Office and, well, I don’t know why I put off watching it for so many years because it’s an amazing show and I kinda squeezed in time to watch it whenever I could. For example:

Watching it while having breakfast in bed.

Watching it while having breakfast in bed (and yeah, that’s Nestum).

Watching it while doing laundry.

Watching it while doing laundry (I am also watching it while I type this).

It has also been a great week even though it’s only Wednesday so far. There is a farmer’s market every Wednesday in front of the bookstore on campus and today I bought some good fresh bread there. Conveniently, the farmer’s market is also next to Cosi which gives free coffee on Wednesdays! So I got fresh bread and free coffee, which is, *deep breaths* wonderful.

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What I did with my bread for lunch!

What I did with my bread for lunch!

Then, today after class, I went to see Rachel who is a freshman in Write On, one of the volunteer programs I’m in at Penn. We talked about the many difficulties of freshman year and reliving them sent chills down my spine. The overwhelming feeling of lostness–physically around campus, navigating new friendships, finding an area of interest and just generally finding a enclave on campus makes you feel like you belong. It takes time, I guess, but I genuinely believe it gets better. That’s what I told Rachel.

Gratefully and certainly, it has gotten better for me. Today, for the first time, I felt the tables turning a little. I’ve had the chance to meet with 3 freshmen girls so far this semester to talk about adjusting at Penn but it just occurred to me right now that I’ve kind of transitioned into a different, um, how do I say this, position(?) here. I remember talking to my freshman hall Resident Advisor, Cat, and other upperclassmen like Petra and Hanna because they reached out to me wanting to talk to me about how I’m doing in my transition into Penn. It’s hard to believe I’m now on the other side of that conversation. It’s really weird, because 2.5 years in, I still feel like I’m transitioning into life at Penn every day so I don’t know how it’s possible that I’m giving advice or whatever. I feel that this transition is never complete and so is always ongoing but I suppose, in some sense, I can’t really say that I’m adjusting anymore because I’ve been here for a while, and no matter how much more experience I have to gain, the fact is that I have gained some experience.

A few hours ago, I was at an Asian Pacific American Heritage Week event. We invited Vidya, a YouTube star to perform at Penn. She does mashups between Hindi and American songs and she performed a bunch of them earlier. I also got to meet her earlier and speak to her a little, it was really fun.

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Vidya’s performance.

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At the meet and greet with the planning boards after the performance.

It was great to be a part of an organising group that helped make this happen. That would not have happened 2 years ago. Also, as I was at this event, I was introduced to a freshman who asked to know more about what the club I am part of does. When she left, I again found myself thinking that 2 years ago, I would’ve probably been on the other side of that conversation as well.

In fact, when I left the venue, I walked on the steps between College and Cohen halls onto Locust and recalled the time in freshman year Saffa (who was a senior at the time) walked with me there. We were walking back to our rooms after the first MSA meeting that year. She was giving me a little tour of the campus. It felt like quite a long time ago.

For the first time, it feels like I’ve actually made progress. That’s a pretty difficult thing to feel here sometimes, you know. Everyone just seems to be doing amazing things that it’s hard to see my own progress at times. But today, as I walked home, I felt proud of myself because I know I’ve progressed here as a result of my baby steps–slowly, putting myself out there and steadily putting one foot in front of the other.

I know it’s not a lot, but if I don’t start feeling a little proud of me for something, then, well I don’t know. I gotta start somewhere and this seems like a good place to start.