Friday, 31 December 2010

Pre-2011 Monologue

This is what I wrote exactly one year ago.

"...Four hours to midnight. Everyone's wishing each other on Facebook with such a thrill that I swear I could imagine them jumping up and down screaming their lungs out "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!". There's going to be an awesome display of fireworks at the harbour here and the whole population of Nice is going to be there. Except for me and hubby. With the much glorified idea of a new year plus the joy of being in an intoxicated crowd, they're not really for me. It's just another year and I think people are just trying to find an excuse to go out and celebrate big. Which is not wrong, of course. It's just not for me. I'd rather stay home, cuddle up to hubby and watch some films while enjoying homemade Nutella crepes...and cookies & milk!..."

The only difference this year is we're in Budapest and instead of Nutella crepes and cookies, I'm having a half homemade cream cheese cake.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tempting Thursday

My last day of happy list! It has been a healthy routine so I'm going to keep doing it but mentally. I doubt anyone in the world wants to know what makes me happy

1) Waking up hazy in the morning with only four hours of sleep and remembering that there wasn't anywhere else I had to be.

2) Grocery shopping in a huge place with lots of selections.

3) Cheap seasonal fruits and vegetables.

4) Happy crowds both on Facebook (Malaysia winning the Suzuki Cup) and in Budapest city centre (New Year shopping frenzy).

5) Seeing two beautiful cats in the bus.

6) Mixed nuts, dates, crisps, moooovies.

This photo was captured in February this year, shortly after arriving in Newcastle. These are my coursemates with only two, three people missing. We were having an international pot luck dinner where we got to know everyone coming from (brace yourself for the long list) Brazil, Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Catalonia (which I learned is different from the rest of Spain), Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, China, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, Slovenia, United States, England and Germany. Okay, I think I've mentioned everyone. The psychopath is in the photo as well but I won’t point her out as much as I want to put up posters warning the humanity about her. We had a number of sub-groups but throughout the semester, different cultures and even sexual orientation were never used against each other. If anything else, we enjoyed the differences. By June, everyone knew where they were headed for the following semester. It was then time to move on. Again. The only downside of the program is having to say goodbye every five months. But we'll be seeing everyone again in Nice soon. Can't wait!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Wonderful Wednesday

1) Winning the best beef briyani againts hubs, though his chicken briyani was pretty impressive.

2) Getting a quick and helpful reply from the professor.

3) Having a lot of materials to read.

4) Wishing Happy New Year back to the pizzeria guy.

5) Chatting over pizza and my favourite Egyptian homemade rice dessert at a friend's house.

6) Blushing (which now I believe everyone is capable of after standing in the -15 Celsius for half an hour).

7) Getting dozens of free movies.

8) Opening the mailbox to find a letter from a good friend in Nancy, France with a lovely photo of her young family. Handwritten!

This photo was taken in January this year (wow, next year is only days away!). From left is Vesna who just had a gorgeous baby girl a few months ago so she's deferring her Master degree and currently staying in France with her scientist husband. She used to study and work as a journalist in the Big Apple, something that I used to wish upon a shooting star until one editor crushed my dream (story for another day). She took a few gap years to travel around the globe which not all of us dare to do.  Oh, she was the one who sent me that mail today. Anyway, I was sitting on Gabrielle's lap as seen in the photo. She's from Canada and Trinidad & Tobago, what a nice combination. We've grown quite close over the years and she even knitted a scarf for me recently. I have a feeling that we will remain friends for a loooong time even after this program that brought us together. The Asian-looking people are from China and mostly South Korea. The Chinese girl Mina (fourth from right) is practically French now. She currently resides and works in Paris. I haven't heard from Yaping - the Chinese guy on the far right - since he last did his professional practice in Macau. He probably went back to China. The South Koreans were on an exchange program so they were only in Europe for six months. With the raging crisis between North Korea, I genuinely hope somehow they're still living their dreams. One of them told me that he was very grateful to get into the program in time as he was about to be drafted into the army. Count our blessings, sometimes we forget how good we have it.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Terrific Tuesday

1) Finding an animated image with a pop-up panda.

2) Responding to a Facebook friend who's complaining that his friends are being sarcastic with him that it's probably because he always shows off (someone had to tell him, I just got sick with his pompous posts).

3) Having all the ingredients to make a finger licking chocolate cake.

4) Eating a sinful chocolate cake.

5) Watching a football match in the comfort of own home.

6) Having a long random conversation with hubs with lots of laughter.

7) Monster Inc.!

This picture was taken on my last day at work. The guy was in the same 4-year course with me and the girl was our 2-year senior of the same program. Somehow we ended up working in the same place, the university where it all started. They are now happily married. Well I know there's not much of a story here but I told you the photos are random and I'm just focusing on the things that have been happening afterwards.  I've missed a lot of weddings, I know.

Alright, back to 'The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest'. Seriously, Stieg Larsson's books are impossible to put down! If only he's still alive, I can look forward to the fourth book. Now I'm just reading the last one veeeery slowly.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Merry Monday

1) Warm green tea with fruit infusion.

2) Morning walk with everything covered in snow.

3) Grocery shopping with hubs.

4) Dried banana crisps like what we have in Malaysia.

5) People watching.

6) Discovering free movies of the Millennium Trilogy (the ones that I'm currently reading).

This photo was taken a few days before I left for France. These are my high school friends so we've known each other for 13 years now. From left is Ayu who gave me her one time used shawl (the same purple and grey shawl that kept me warm in Paris and had me looking decent in Egypt). She is getting engaged in four months. Next is Mus who gave me a massive farewell card signed by all of them (I should've brought it with me here...I found a hidden card by Mama when I unpacked in France, such a sweet reminder!). Mus got married early this year and she's trying for a baby. The one in the middle is Mami who has been missing since Mus's wedding. Her family told us some disturbing news about her voluntary disappearance and none of us, friends nor family, knows her whereabouts. She sent me off at the airport and now she's not even returning any calls / texts. We're still looking for her and I just hope that she's safe. Happy is probably too much to ask for considering the circumstances. Last but not least is Amal who's teaching in Johor with a green-eyed teacher who's making her life miserable. 

Don't we all wish that we could turn back time when the only thing to worry about was pimples on our face?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Sleepy Sunday

1) Waking up without caring about time (after prayer yea!).

2) Clean, sparkling bathroom.

3) Hubs Skype-ing with Mama and me with Ayah at the same time, side by side.

4) Clean, newly washed bed sheets.

5) The sound of neighbours.

6) Hubs leaving some chocolates for me as I was fasting even though I didn't ask and he loved them so much that he could finish in no time.

7) Remembering the time when I got a role in a local TV show - Sadiq & Co - but said no because the scene was in a pub and thinking that I should give another try for something similar when I'm back next year. Just one time for fun.

Came up with another out-of-the-blue thought of picking a random recent photo that I was tagged in and thinking of how things have changed since it was taken. I think I'm going to do that until the seventh day of my happy list. Well, I guess having a lot of free time on my hands invokes creativity, ha-hah!

This is me with my two partners-in-crime, Tisya and Aida. Well, ex-partners. This picture was captured in Aida's room on her engagement day in August 2009. Now Aida is happily married to a good friend from our college crime days while Tisya is getting married in a week to her university sweetheart and moving to Japan with her husband-to-be who's doing PhD there. We go waaaay back but instead of talking about the next mischievous game plan, we talk about work and being a housewife. I suppose that's inevitable when you're all grown up but sometimes I just miss the naughty and bold streak in them which they seem to have outgrown.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Soaring Saturday

1) Crispy toast with a thick layer of yoghurt butter AND Camembert.

2) Chocolate. Turned out a small store nearby was open and hubby came back from his little outing with the surprise.

3) Getting photos of the family having a beach picnic. Thanks Mama! And Skype-ing with them for almost an hour.

4) Malay lunch.

5) Afternoon nap in a warm bed while it was raining and windy outside with a freezing temperature of -1 Celsius.

6) Being able to still understand some Danish words.

7) Watching the cartoon Garfield in English!

8) Reading 'The Girl who Played with Fire' with a tall glass of chocolate milk.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Fresh Friday

Out of the blue, I just thought of making a list of simple things that make me happy each day for one whole week. I can't wait so I'm starting today with Fresh Friday.

1) Instead of being sluggish and using my laptop in bed all day now that I have no more work, I moved to the desk and immediately I felt positive energy coming in.

2) Just by spending a few extra seconds now and then to adjust the washed laundry, they dried faster and I could already fold them at the end of the day.

3) Tried to make a simple chocolate cake with limited ingredients since all stores were already closed for Christmas. It was horrendous but apparently you can't go wrong with chocolate.

4) Crispy toast with a generous layer of yogurt butter.

5) Instead of being sluggish, I realised that I should use all this free time to relearn Danish since I'm going to live in Denmark for six months. I'm glad I realised it today and not a week before going.

6) Skype wasn't working for the past couple of days. I finally got to Skype with my family this afternoon.

7) Saw the movie Polar Express about Christmas Eve with dear hubby on Christmas Eve.

8) Temperature 8 Celsius. Well, anything above 0 is great these days.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Our Neighbour is Happy

Our right neighbour is a single woman in her late 30s (I'll dedicate a post for our left neighbour one day...and also for our neighbours in Nice, Newcastle and Fredensborg). We know this because she came over twice about some plumbing problem. She also told us to install a filter to avoid clogging pipes.

A few days ago I started to hear a man's deep voice coming from her apartment. I thought it was her new boyfriend. She started to sing along to the radio too. "Must be one hell of a guy to make a girl sing like that", I thought to myself. But later there were more voices, another man's and woman's. Now I honestly think they're all her family members and they're visiting for Christmas. She had her plumbing problem sorted out the day before they got here. She was definitely excited to have them and the funny thing is, I am too.

So these few days I've been waking up to people chatting and laughing as early as six in the morning. The wall is thin, noted. The happy sound reminds me of home. You know how during Eid you have to stay in a kampung house with your smoking uncles, gossipy aunties and snoring cousins. I would get grumpy and irritated for not getting proper sleep, but now that exact resonance comforts me. For a few moments there I imagine I'm home.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Citizen of the World

I used to be naive when it comes to making contributions to my beloved country. I thought the only way of doing that was by working for the government and trying to change the system. Right, as if I was some Mahatma Gandhi. But I have hopes.

My mama who's in the government told me to stop thinking at the micro level. People can actually contribute and sometimes even more significantly when they're abroad. Don't tell me that correcting outsiders' negative perceptions on the country or gaining expertise and contacts that the country needs is not 'berbakti'. I know a lot of people who think that you have to return to the country and stay put as a responsibility to give back and I agree if they're talking about some selfish money / status driven or ignorant compatriots who don't want to have anything to do with the country (who you can easily find in our local offices anyway). But we're all citizens of the world. Without border. It's a cycle with domino effect. People who think otherwise can just stay inside their own world in silence and denial.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Post-Semester Brain Cleaning

And so today marks the end of my third semester. I've submitted all six coursework as follows:

1) Advanced ADCP Data Analysis
Well, this was given out in September but it was tricky so it took me months to finish. Boo!

2) Analysis of Groins in a River Reach
Groins, heeeee. Okay, so this one was straightforward so I had fun.

3) Estimation of Sediment Discharge
Missed the lecture the week when my mama and sis came to Budapest so I was really lost. Oh well, it was worth it. Spending time with family or working? No rocket science there.

4) Wind-Induced Flow in a Shallow Lake
My assigned coursework for the final presentation. I did more than needed so more thought provoking questions during the presentation. But like I always said, if you have it easy, then you're not pushing the envelope.

5) Flooding of a Floodplain
The easiest one. Guess who picked the subject? That psychopath. It was obvious that she didn't know what she was talking about. What can you do eh, it's not really my place to say anything.

6) Wave Measurement Analysis and Prediction
Tough one. The last coursework that I put together which was this morning.

I'm feeling many things right now.

I feel relieved that I've completed my work and I have a place for my professional practice this March while most of my coursemates are still struggling. Alhamdulillah.

I feel bad because I've just realised that Rafiee could've joined me in this program with a reduced fee. Stupid stupid stupid Izni for not realising the loophole sooner! But there's always a reason for everything and maybe we can't see it now, but God knows better.

I feel confused because we have a number of plans after this program and a lot of work for each of them but I don't want to be inclined towards a particular direction because if that doesn't work out then I may get disappointed. But actually, isn't that what life is about? Learning and growing? I should worry less.

I feel bitter about the psychopath. I don't know where to begin but perhaps I should let it go because I won't be seeing her again for a while. Besides, I learned that there are always people like this. It's just whether you can see them and what you're going to do about it. It's not like me to ignore such thing but if my humble experience is anything to go by, losing a battle doesn't mean losing the war.

Alright, I have to go for my online group meeting now. We have to be in Nice for two weeks in February and get together to finalise the whole project. 10 teams, 105 participants coming from different corners of the world, one project.

Let's hope no more evil force, please please pleaseeee.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around

There's a sick girl in my class. This article here describes her better than my own words.

The psychopath is one of the most fascinating and distressing problems of human experience. For the most part, a psychopath never remains attached to anyone or anything. They live a "predatory" lifestyle. They feel little or no regret, and little or no remorse - except when they are caught. They need relationships, but see people as obstacles to overcome and be eliminated. If not, they see people in terms of how they can be used. They use people for stimulation, to build their self-esteem and they invariably value people in terms of their material value (money, property, etc..).

A psychopath can have high verbal intelligence, but they typically lack "emotional intelligence". They can be expert in manipulating others by playing to their emotions. There is a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories (i.e., how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may have felt and why). The lack of emotional intelligence is the first good sign you may be dealing with a psychopath. A history of criminal behavior in which they do not seem to learn from their experience, but merely think about ways to not get caught is the second best sign.

The following is a list of items based on the research of Robert Hare, Ph.D. which is derived from the "The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, .1991, Toronto: Multi-Health Systems." These are the most highly researched and recognized characteristics of psychopathic personality and behavior.

* glibness/superficial charm
* grandiose sense of self worth
* need for stimulation/prone to boredom
* pathological lying
* conning/manipulative
* lack of remorse or guilt
* shallow emotional response
* callous/lack of empathy
* parasitic lifestyle
* poor behavioral controls
* promiscuous sexual behavior
* early behavioral problems
* lack of realistic long term goals
* impulsivity
* irresponsibility
* failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
* many short term relationships
* juvenile delinquency
* revocation of conditional release
* criminal versatility


She reminds me of the children in the movies like Orphan, Case 39 and Omen. People usually see them as normal kids but only a very lucky few (or unlucky, depends on how you see it) get to see the real devil nestled behind that calm pair of eyes.

In my case, the girl also uses other people's work and claim it to be hers. If anything happens to me, this blog entry is a testament that I (and a few others) know the truth about her. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Every Ending is a New Beginning

Walking down the mall, a place so comfortable but with different faces, I can't help but feel...urm, foreign. Sometimes I long to feel the familiarity of The Curve or One Utama where people never really study me. I now know how it feels to be those white expats in Malaysia, being stared at constantly. I remember having a French teacher and I was so star-struck that I wanted to know everything about her as if she was the last French in the world.

Months later, I moved to the South of France and stayed for six months where I even argued with the locals. That place will always remains special to me as it was my first home abroad. France...simply romantic. And Paris is indeed la ville de l'amour. It's like Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose keeps playing in the background there. 

Next was the North of England. People think highly of the kingdom and some of my friends who studied in the UK act like they're up in the hierarchy just because they used to live there (even though the truth is they only hung out with fellow Malaysians). On the first day, I excitedly greeted a couple of Malaysians but they didn't even ask my name. On the second  day, I knew why. There are so many Malaysians in the UK that if you were to have a meaningful conversation with every Malaysian you meet on the way to school, you may not get to school at all.

Everywhere I go, I get more smiles from the Chinese for obvious reasons. One time there was a huge Chinese tour group and one of them was calling me as if to say "Come back inside the group you lost girl, you're going to miss the flight back to Beijing!". But yeah, I personally want to see Yunan one day where a part of my family started.

And when most of my classmates were thrilled to go home for the summer, I was packing to Denmark for an internship. We were living in an old town in Nice, a dodgy students' neighbourhood in Newcastle and a lovely village with mostly old people who said hi to us all the time in Fredensborg. While I'm definitely grateful for the opportunities given, I can do without the yearning for home.

Now we're in Budapest in Central Europe where prostitution is legal. I think there's less than 10 Malaysians in Hungary so when the Malaysian Embassy people found us, it was like dicovering unexpected survivors in a midst of zombie infection. The downside is, the homesickness easily creeps in.

Perhaps this is due to our nomadic lifestyle. We have never stayed in one place for more than six months. Even after we got married, we lived together in a lovely apartment close to my parents only for five months before we had to leave for France. In a lot of ways, we're still newlyweds. We haven't actually settled down and developed a routine.

In eight months, we'll be back in Malaysia which is both delightful and confusing. We could be staying in Kuala Lumpur for a couple of years before embarking on another adventure abroad, or we could be moving immediately to another country for a few years. People will ask how have the years been and we will be speechless because there's nothing we can say that could capture exactly what we've been through.

In eight months, Rafiee and I could be at a mamak stall having fried char kuew teow talking about the many places we've been together, the interesting people we've encountered and how we have changed in ways people may not notice. We'll probably talk about chillblains once in a while.

But that's life. I couldn't have picked a better motto for my blog to remind me over the years that every ending is yet another beginning.

Monday, 6 December 2010

What Happened on a Winter's Night

I have another presentation tomorrow and thought that I would take another look at the related journal paper in front of the idiot box. The Travel Channel was on which is my favourite and it was a 3-part of culinary travel in Malaysia! It reminded me of how proud I am to be a Malaysian. We have so many colours and cultures, beautiful exotic destinations and our food is simply the greatest. Well, I may be biased but even the English host agreed. I wish I could be a travel host, being paid to travel and eat. Now I can't focus on my paper anymore because I'm missing home. Thanks a lot Travel Channel.

Skip the rest of this entry if you get disgusted easily.

I got chilblains. Don't worry, I didn't know that word either until recently. According to my favourite source (read: Wikipedia), Chilblains (also known as pernio and perniosis) is a medical condition that is often confused with frostbite and trench foot. Chilblains are acral ulcers (that is, ulcers affecting the extremities) that occur when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity. The cold exposure damages capillary beds in the skin, which in turn can cause redness, itching, blisters, and inflammation.

Still confused? Well, it looks like this.

Gross, isn't it? I did warn you. Well, you probably saw that photo even before you started reading anyway.

All my ten toes are swollen and so itchy it makes me feel like biting them off. I found a few home remedies but they all seemed so messy except for one; onion. To my hubby's horror, I cut a raw onion and started to rub it all over my toes. It felt so gooooood. Then I soaked my onion-smelling feet in hot water with salt and after 20 minutes, they still look red but less swollen and no itching at all! Amazing what you can do with onion, water and salt.

I'm off to bed now. Love knows no boundaries and Rafiee is cool with it provided I wash my feet after my little home remedy and wear really, really thick socks. Yeah, I love you too hubs.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Ting! A Reminder

"People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." - Dalai Lama

A friend who goes by the name of Zue posted this on Facebook a few days ago and it was so timely. I was feeling selfishly frustrated over some of my friends' fascination in travelling just so they could go shopping! I was like, "You've saved that much to go to a really interesting country just to spend that money in buying shoes because they're cheaper there?! And your only regret is that you didn't buy a year's worth of clothes?!". I felt like banging my head to the wall because it seemed to me the dumbest thing ever. Well, after war. Hubs, my better half, asked me one question that immediately snapped me back to reality; "Well don't you think they might think the same about your fascination with history and nature?". And I realised how ignorant I was for thinking that way. People find bliss in different things and just because they don't share the same sentiment as another does, that doesn't mean one is better than the other. Of course, it doesn't work that way in politics. But in real life, it wouldn't be as fun if everyone was alike. So this is not preaching, it's simply a note to self.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Be Yourself

The title sounds like a Nike advertisement or something, but anyway.

It started to snow two nights ago and alas, the cold days are here. It's wonderfully amazing how you can stand outside with everything white on the ground beneath your feet and you look up to a dark sky. Scary even. It feels like doomsday is near. I wonder if everyone else thinks the same. Hubs often looks at me and asks, "What's in that big head of yours now?" because I think too much (and also because I have a big head) and it's entertaining to him because he gets his kicks by guessing what I'm thinking of. He's wrong 90% of the time but he perseveres.

Right now I'm thinking about the sexual harassment that happened a couple of days ago. I was alone, getting something from the market. A teenage girl came to me, offering me her cigarette. I said no twice and then she smiled and planted a wet kiss on my cheek. I said thank you because I'm Malaysian and we're naturally polite. The tram arrived and I hopped on a different compartment once she got in because there was no way I would be stuck with a stranger who enjoyed touching and kissing me, no matter how cute. Just when I thought I was safe, she came looking for me in the crowded tram and said something in Hungarian and kissed me again! She even got off at the same station as I did and tried to follow me but it's a good thing I was wearing black (everyone here seems to wear black) so I lost her in the crowd. When I stopped to think about it, it sort of gave me a weird aftertaste. I was quite not sure whether to laugh or cry but I decided to laugh. It was a pretty interesting experience. I suppose that's another day in Europe.

So okay, you know how books you read can tell what kind of person you are? I used to think that this 2-year opportunity has broadened my horizon like never before and that I've changed. But the truth is, it has always been me. I picked up books by Indian and Chinese authors revealing the small details of reality in their countries and their hardships, I read travel books with a sense of humour injected to them, I found world news exciting, I didn't find typical chick flicks appealing and all this happened even before I had the chance to live abroad.  I know it's a long road ahead and anything can happen, but this is a damn good start.

I remember back when I was younger, most of my peers looked at me differently. It was almost as if I was an alien and I felt like one of those green creatures (assuming aliens are green). I knew I was different in so many ways but they all made me feel like it was a disease. I just couldn't see things the way they did, hence I did things my own way. I refused to conform and it disgusted me how those people just followed the crowd even when they believed something else. I had rough years and at one point, I thought everyone was right and that I was the one who needed to be fixed. But there was one eccentric lecturer in our department who pointed to me that I was indeed different but in a really, really good way. Coming from a jaded man who thought that people in the country were all typical and identical, he showed me how ridiculous it was to be afraid of being myself. I was 21 and yes, it took so many years to be proud to be myself. Such is life.

No man is an island but the location makes a difference so choose the people you surround with carefully. Negative people will only obstruct you. Don't give them the satisfaction!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Magical Egypt

Days are getting shorter and according to the weather forecast, some flurries are on their way so snow is expected by the end of this week. Depressing.

Egypt was an amazing spiritual journey. We encountered many surprises along the way so it wasn't all about the architecture and landscape. The cultural and political aspects were equally an enriching experience. We will definitely come back and next time, it will be the Niles River cruise to Aswan. Yup, so specific because we only found out about that magical place when we got there but we didn't have enough time.

...and more photos on Facebook of course.

Oh, I love this new song by Katy Perry aaaand the video was filmed in Budapest!

Monday, 8 November 2010

I Wish

Alright, I'm officially done with GRE after months of revision here and there. It was tough and my score is good enough but I wish I did better. Never mind, let's move on.

So last week the whole class went on a field trip to a place called Baja, situated in the south of Hungary. We were there to experiment some river measurements. I won't bore you with details but this is why I study water engineering. I love working with nature (and sometimes people) and I want to be able to show a photo like this...

...and say "This is my office". The best part was to ride a speedboat into a forest where we were introduced to a very unique forestman and his family.

We had some local cuisine which was extremely good and interesting (he can catch fish by using his bare hands!). I especially loved the homemade cherry & cranberry syrup. Later in the pitch black, we were driven back on the same speedboat to the mainland by one of the forestman's children who didn't look a day over five years old! Of course, not before I had to pee outside the house in the dark at the risk of encountering some nasty forest animals. The fact that we saw two snakes by a river a few hours before did not help me at all. It was the longest 30 seconds and I even had to wear a head torch light with a friend waiting for me nearby. At any rate, it was a really good day and I don't mind repeating it again.

It's Monday today. We're leaving for Egypt this Thursday. I can't wait to see the pyramids and sphinxes! So far I've only read about them and a few months ago I saw a very amazing documentary on an architect's obsession with the pyramids' design. He discovered a theory on how they were built without even going to Egypt and when he finally did visit Egypt, he tested his theory with the help of some other people and they found a secret tunnel! I don't plan to excavate any tunnel in Egypt but I'm so excited that I get to see the majestic structures standing right in front of me and that I can actually touch them.

I wish someday soon I'll get the perfect job that enables me to travel around the world and in that way, I'll never actually work a day in my life.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Up and Around

Well here I am, fully recovered from a major homesickness. Time does heal. When my baby sister got home, she cried in the middle of the night for two days and only able to sleep after talking to me. She's alright now and so I'm alright too.

Apart from a school boy who showed me the finger because I refused to give my packet of Lays in a small artist village (what do they teach these children in school these days???), the one-week vacation was impeccable. The night view of both Prague and Budapest was breathtaking. We discovered that there were a lot of Malaysians in Czech Republic and apparently one Malaysian student even provided a silat course. Interesting. Mama prepared a delicious selection of Malaysian cuisine day and night so both Rafiee and I were spoilt. No wonder many are obese in our home country.

And so Rafiee and I decided to start eating healthier by substituting unhealthy ingredients (low-fat milk or yogurt to replace coconut milk, etc.), less carbs (salads for dinner, etc.) and basically more veggies and fruits. So far so good but it has only been a week so let's not get excited yet!

It has been hectic since last week. We're going off on an extravagant trip outside the continent very soon so I have to get a lot of things done before that. I'm still not sure if it's wise...the amount of money we're spending on this trip is equivalent to going to three non-neighbouring European cities.

Fact of the week:
Keep your fingers crossed- To cross one's fingers is a hand gesture used to superstitiously wish for good luck or to nullify a promise. Some believe that the gesture originates from pre-Christian times, due to the fact that in early European cultures, two people were required to use their index fingers to form the sign, one to make a wish and the other to support it.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Be Strong, Heart

I dread this leaving part. One week with my mama and baby sister feels like a distant dream. They've been asleep for hours but I just don't want to go to bed for I fear the morning will come too soon.

My heart can withstand a lot of things but not goodbye. Never goodbye. I miss home...

Monday, 11 October 2010

Four Days of Weekend

I have long weekends but they never seem enough! Let's see...on Friday, I studied GRE in the vintage library and next thing I knew, it was already late. Simply put, you don't know GRE until you actually have to take it. Saturday was the homework day but I had to go to bed early because I was leaving for Vienna at 7am with hubby and two good friends.

The thing is, Rafiee and I have developed an obsession for Sudoku. That's how we decide who's making dinner or who's doing dishes, etc. I know it's not exactly the most matured thing married couples do but we have fun and that's what really counts, isn't it? Some couples love shopping or partying, we love playing Sudoku and making silly bets. And outdoorsy types! I can't really put into words how good it feels to go hiking with your best friend and comparing scratches and bruises, or go backpacking and discussing about all the weirdos we meet along the way! It's just the best feeling in the world.

Photo by Gabrielle

Anyway, back to Sunday. We got up late because of the Sudoku game (we both think we're unbeatable) so when the Metro stopped at the station five minutes before the bus departure, we started running like in The Amazing Race and guess what we saw? Four other people were running too including one of our friends! So all of us were all laughing and sprinting and saying hi without stopping for a breath and we made it! What a way to start the day. Vienna was beautiful with a lot of white, grandiose structures. There were many horse carriages and Mozart wannabes so it was really romantic. All four of us had an early dinner at an Italian restaurant just because the Austrian cuisine that we found was a bit too bizarre.

Photo by Gabrielle

Monday wasn't a relaxed day for us as well. We were out and about the whole day after only five hours of sleep, running errands at the bank, Immigration, Malaysian Embassy, university, etc. That happens every time we move to a new place so it's kind of fun especially when you get to see immigrants of different sorts. 

Ooooh, I can't wait for my mama and sister to get here this Friday. I miss them! We'll be exploring Budapest including the countryside and Prague of Czech Republic and I particularly would love to get photos of both cities at night. They're simply breathtaking.

So honestly, I need longer weekends.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Patience is My New Best Friend

I've been really busy lately, both mentally and physically. There are a thousand more things on my mind that I sometimes have to jot down all the thoughts on paper just so I can stay focused during class and come back to whatever I need to think about later. One glaring emotional thought that I can't seem to shake off is my growing hatred (and hubby's too) for this couple back home who seem to be sooooo urgh....resentful? Envious? Selfish? Grossly obese by choice? I'm so close to saying this and more to their face but out of diplomacy, I can only hope they read this but they are probably too absorbed with their I'm-the-best crap. I'll be a good girl and patient but I'm going to draw a new line and if they cross it, I hope I'm still sane enough to deal with it as an intelligent adult instead of what I actually have in mind.

On a lighter note, I've just got my membership card from the fourth library in 12 months. Though the English collections are not as updated as I had hoped, they will be enough for my five-month stay here in Hungary. Oh but how I love the library, it's massive! The library is 106 years old in a majestic building with an elegant decor. There are eight floors (I haven't explored all, the ground floor already took me two hours) with museums, a cosy cafe and they even have an usher in a complete suit! 

Saturday, 25 September 2010


For the first time, I made my own healthy vegetable soup with a lot of mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage. I felt really good about myself but half an hour later, I succumbed to the chocolate cake I bought yesterday. Oh well, I tried.

I love this semester. I only have 15 hours of class every week with Monday and Friday off. And they all end by Christmas and I will only begin my professional practice in March so you know what that means - more travelling! I just love every little thing I learn from each new place and to be paid to do it in the world's most expensive continent, I can't complain.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

One Year

Friday, 1 am.

The courtyard looks painfully romantic if that's even possible. I wonder where everyone is. We've been living in the apartment for over two weeks and we've seen only five people. Our damp hiking boots are still by the window, which reminds me what a great time we had last Sunday. Who would've thought we would go on a road trip with a group of Hungarian somewhere in Budapest, hiked for one whole day (and a bit part of night), ate wild blackberries and learned which mushrooms were safe for dinner. It's funny how much I plan and only half materialise while the rest just happen naturally and most of the time, is the better portion.

I didn't plan to have a candle light dinner with my newlywed hubby in Sri Lanka. When I teased my dad for watching too much Monaco F1 Grand Prix, I didn't plan to see the circuit myself in Monaco. I didn't plan to write my blog from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I didn't plan to meet anyone nice while backpacking all over Italy, definitely not when I was trying to get some sleep in a deserted train station at 3 in the morning. I didn't plan to have a cup of coffee in a beautiful cottage of a Mont Blanc mountaineer. And those are only a few of so many amazing impromptu moments I've had. One more year before another beginning. I still have yet to see the ruins in Greece, the passionate Spain, the wonderful Netherlands and the icebergs in Greenland. So even when life is hectic with decisions to make, just taking a moment to reflect really makes me realise how lucky I am to have variety of options. There is no wrong way, they all lead to the same thing eventually; to grow and become the best as I can possibly be.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Another Crossroads, Again...

Is there such a thing as the right decision? Surely the proverb of one man's meat is another man's poison stands true to a certain extent? Is it silly to leave a comfortable corporate job in a European city and do research somewhere in Vietnam just because you love doing it? Or will there be a day when you look at a friend's photo wearing a suit in Brussels and realise that the desk you're sitting at is actually too small? Does the grass always look greener on the other side or sometimes it is greener? How do you know which to choose?

Did you know that a man was fired in 2007 for posting it on the office bulletin board because his boss found it offensive? Making decisions, my friend, is a serious business.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Presenting (drumroll please)... new blog design!

I absolutely love it, I think it reflects me more (alright, I know the last design was a bit childish but the flowers were too cute for a girl to resist!). Class starts tomorrow. The professors haven't informed us the schedule for the engineering subjects yet but I know the Hungarian language course is 10am tomorrow and I'm going to take the Economic Policy course as well because of the singing professor.

Let's get started with the third semester, the final one before the professional practice!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Welcome to Hungary

Here we are in Budapest, the wise and silent grandfather which happens to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It was a long day with breakfast in the sunny Copenhagen, followed by lunch in the rainy Berlin and dinner in the cloudy Budapest to wrap up the day. Our new old apartment is so charming and it's a great location. It's a quiet neighbourhood but 5 minutes down the road, the city bursts into colours and people.

Eid is in a week and we're still looking for any celebration to gatecrash. Unlike Nice last year where we got to know a lot of fellow Malaysian students, there's absolutely no sign of them here. But you know what, I think it would be interesting to celebrate with other Muslim communities, if we can find one that is!

Hubby got a job as design engineer in a really good company in Nuremberg, Germany. I'm glowing with pride! When he decided to join me in Europe last year, he planned to have two gap years but when he saw that job opening, he couldn't resist trying his luck. So now when he actually got it, he's having second thoughts because taking the job means leaving me alone in Hungary and wherever I end up this January and the reason why he put his career on hold in the first place was to support me and enjoy the same path. Honestly, I just want him to be happy. People (especially Asian) tend to think that it's all about work, work and more work and get more money that never seems to be enough. We're more about experiencing the present (with calculated risks of course). Whatever he decides, I remain his greatest cheerleader.

As for now, he'll be joining me with my optional Hungarian language course in the university. We literally spent about 45 minutes sketching on papers and demonstrating sign language to get a mobile broadband which was exhausting but a fun experience nevertheless. It's silly to blame the people for not learning English when we are just visitors in their land so the least we can do is to learn their language and culture. I love languages, I can speak decent French but it was a bit hard to pick up Danish when everyone can speak fluent English there. I have at least four months here and the locals don't speak much English so hopefully I'll be able to speak some Hungarian by end of our stay. And oh, I must admit I had predefined notions of the Romanian because of the gypsies (one even stuck out her tongue when Rafiee refused to give her money) but we have a Romanian repairman here and he's such a nice lad that I feel ashamed of myself. C'est la vie eh.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons.... don't have to make lemonade like others do. You can get some flour and eggs and bake a lemon cake!

One year, three houses and nine countries later, it is time to pack the bag and move again. This time, I'm not going to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling like I used to on the night before leaving anywhere, feeling gloomy for having to leave my comfort zone behind and nervous about the unknown road ahead. In fact, I'm actually very excited and it has nothing to do with either Denmark or Hungary. Denmark has been wonderful and no wonder it is the world's happiest country. The people are so warm and welcoming, and their culture is something I would bring home. Hungary is a hidden gem, a beautiful, old country. I imagine the feeling is like meeting the wise, silent grandfather after being acquainted with the vibrant, popular grandchildren; France and England (Denmark would be the father in this metaphor). The thing is, I'm getting weary of having to make and lose new friends and pack and unpack the faded suitcase. I appreciate the journey and understand routines are not that fun anyway but right now I feel like I want to stay and work on something for a little more than six months and next semester which happens to be my final semester of lectures, shall bring me closer to that.

We've been having so much fun and freedom as a couple that it almost feels like we're both still bachelor and bachelorette dating and goofing around. I will definitely miss that when we have to finally settle down somewhere (yes, we still don't know where we're going to be not only after the program but even this January!) and perhaps with our bundle of joy (we won't name him / her any of those modern, long / meaningless names). And then it will be the perfect time for us. We would've had our own time together (you know that travelling together is the best way to know one's true colours and I love his!) before taking the plunge to be adults and responsible for another human being for the rest of our lives.

It is a blessing in disguise, going abroad independently. One of the main purposes of pursuing your study overseas is to experience a new way of life and learn things that you couldn't in your hometown, basically to broaden your horizon. And how can you embrace those elements if you keep hanging out with the same group of people, eat the same food, read the same materials and do everything else just the same as you would back home? I'd say we have been making a lot of exploration on our own and I'm so proud of us.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is, I am thankful for this atypical path God gives us. Having a great husband helps too!

Sunday, 22 August 2010


I played boule (or also known as petanque) for the first time in my life last Friday and I had to play against two teams from other companies. It was the annual Sportsfest where a group of companies participate in various games and sports. Too bad I didn't have a camera with me because I didn't know I was going to play until just right before lunch. Thank goodness a friend had a boule set ready in his car so we practised over lunch with another guy who later formed a complete group of three; a gleeful Malaysian (that's me), a sportive Danish and a soft-spoken Canadian. It was fun and I honestly loved the game. There were free drinks and fruits and a lot of muscles, ha-hah! We lost the first game to a really skilled one but I got us 1 point! The second game was in our favour but sadly we didn't get enough points to get to the next round. It was the World Cup system so if you happened to go against two weak teams then good for you. Otherwise, there were free drinks and fruits! The day ended with a nice dinner for all participants. I hurt myself in the first game which was quite silly because boule is generally a game for the posh or the retired and somehow I cut my middle finger really bad. Yikes!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Best Way to My Heart

I'm in no mood for writing. The holy month of Ramadan is making me miss home even more. Friends posting happy photos of them breaking fast with a colourful variety of food day-to-day, urgh! Hands down, Malaysian dishes are simply the best in the world.


Sunday, 8 August 2010


After four years, I still find myself crying buckets over the late Smigel. She felt and understood me, like how she would start jumping all around me when I was feeling joyous or how she would come and lie down next to me when I was sick. She would keep me company when I got scared watching a horror movie in the middle of the night.

But I failed her.

She tried to communicate her pain but I took it for granted, thinking that she would be fine the next day. That night still haunts me. I opened the door to check on her before going to bed and there she was, lying breathless exactly right at that door as if she had struggled through her last breath to call me, to tell me that she was leaving forever. I still can't forgive myself. If I had been more attentive, she would probably still be alive and kicking. After that night, I've taken a number of wounded stray cats to the vet and sometimes into my home to be taken care of. It's my way of saying sorry to her. There's no price I wouldn't pay to have her back. I miss her so much. And no matter what I do, I can't shake the feeling that I let her down. I might as well have jabbed a knife into her beating heart.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Wait, I'm Coming!

Not many people love their job, do they? Or like it in the slightest. I think it’s sad, because you’ll be working for at least 30 years (God willing). I’d hate it too if I was still doing the same exact thing as I did five years ago. Say if I were a lawyer. Surely I’d always work on legal cases, that’s a given. But I’d want to tackle bigger cases like corrupted politicians…no wait, that’s a norm…alright, a murderous politician! Though I think it’s getting common too but at least it’s more significant than trying to sue a neighbour whose dog keeps barking at night under some act that I’m apparently not aware of. It’s obvious I know little about law but you get my drift.

I’ve been so lucky, I’ve always liked my work. Most of my colleagues were (and are) nice people whom I don’t mind working with again and again. I'm in a stimulating line of work that excites me on most days (come on, nothing’s perfect!). Still, there’s this nagging voice inside my head screaming “I want to taste the world!”. There are so many things I want to experience. In my previous post, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to sense my jealousy towards those who go on expeditions and worse, actually doing it for a living. *pulling my hair out*

Among others, I want to sail across the Arctic ocean and study the polar ecosystem.

I want to camp in the African outback and do research on the wild habitat.

I want to trek the Amazon and gather significant data or discover new species.

I want to climb the Alps and scream my lungs out from Mont Blanc just for fun.

And lots more!

That’s the kind of guts I want my kids to have. Explore their potential outside the box in this tiny but magnificent God’s creation. I realize there’s a paradox there but that’s how I see the world. I see it as a small globe in my two hands, I can just pinpoint anywhere I want to go and do whatever I want to (well, provided I have the money of course) but the abundance of knowledge is overwhelming. The whole week I was seriously considering the National Geographic's Young Explorers grant but I still couldn’t work out the right proposal. Most, if not all expeditions are bloody expensive which is understandable but it still frustrates me. I wonder why those millionaires spend their money partying. What a stupid waste. To each his own eh?

Maybe my time is yet to come. Maybe I still have more things to learn before embarking upon such huge feats. Maybe if I took my chance so early in my life, I would be killed in a freak encounter with some rhinos or frozen to death underneath a giant iceberg trying to chase a bearded seal. God has a reason for everything.

But I know one thing for sure.

All the little steps I’m taking lead me towards it and I will never lose sight of that big picture.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Expedition please!

A Swiss research institute, Eawag, which happens to be one of the world's leading aquatic research institutes, is having a few positions for PhD students this year and they're most likely to go on expeditions for their research. *grumble*

Saturday, 17 July 2010


You know how our neighbourhood is relatively safe so there's no lock and we always let the window open because it's summer? Last night around 1am I heard something like someone walking in the garden so naturally I couldn't sleep until the crack of dawn. I was half expecting a pair of red eyes lurking behind the window blind. Being a good wifey, I didn't wake hubby up (thought I held his hand all night) just in case I was imagining things because well, sometimes I'm weird that way. Turned out there was a plastic bag in the garden. Yup, the joke was on me. I got spooked by a mere plastic bag.

Anyway, I have some confessions to make just for fun.

  • I don’t like pink, shopping, make-up, jewellery, handbag and all that jazz. I don’t mind people who like them though, I’m just not interested. So whenever some girls excitedly tell me there are sales somewhere or ask me out to a warehouse sale, I always ask where and then forget it immediately because well, I don’t care.
  • I think high-heel is another means of torture, a long-term one. I don’t like buying shoes, it takes too much time. I have a really nice pair of leather boots and that was a birthday gift from the husband. Then we have the rugged hiking boots which hubby had to talk me into getting them for weeks. I did buy a cute pair of Crocs sandals on my own initiative but that was really because of the massive buildup. I honestly don’t get why something looks like rubber can be so expensive.
  • I don’t really fancy coffee but it sounds so grown-up so I always have only a quarter of coffee with a lot of milk but now that I'm basically allergic to coffee, I'm starting to drink only milk with my coffee cup at work. 

There, it feels good!

Oh, my elderflower juice was a success and it tasted like summer. No other way to describe it, will post photos on my Facebook soon...after some canoeing and eagle-hunting tomorrow. *wink*