Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Now and Then

5 days ago...

What I would miss about France (or Nice specifically):
1) The language...all the polite phrases of "Bonjour", "Merci, au revoir" and "S'il vous plait" even after a heated argument.
2) The warmth both of the weather and the people.
3) The mountains which never fail to take my breath away.
4) The bakery...the traditional frangipane and the melt-in-your-mouth pastry.

What I would expect from England (Newcastle specifically):
1) Cute accent...imagine Hugh Grant, yummy!
2) The warmth of the people.
3) A good structure of organization in all aspects.
4) Immigrants.

4th day in the North-East England...

What I actually miss about France (or Nice specifically):
1) The language...I actually struggled not to say "Bonjour", "Merci, au revoir" and "S'il vous plait" when I first got here.
2) The sun! Sometimes I wonder if the morning I left Nice was the last time I saw a ray of sunshine for a very loooong time.
3) The mountains.
4) The F1 speed of wireless home broadband. I can't even upload photos on my Blogspot now! And by that, I also mean to download study materials and other professional matters. Okay the point is, super-fast Internet connection is essential.
5) The inexpensive public transports. So it's just a matter of time before my lower body looks like Jennifer Garner's out of walking here a lot.

What I actually get from England (Newcastle specifically):
1) Hugh Grant accent, only thicker, faster and needs 110% of focus to pick up the keywords.
2) Freezing cold in every step you take except within a 1-meter radius of the heater but it's compensated by the warmth of the people. They actually would leave whatever they're doing to walk you to the place you're looking for just in case you've got their in-depth instructions lost in translation. I honestly find that very refreshing.
3) A good structure of organization in all aspects. Now I get stressed out months in advance since we're well-informed about the assignments, the evaluation system, the grading mark and the dates where I could re-sit for a paper should I fail any. Good to know.
4) Immigrants and lots of them including those from my home country. I don't feel special nor privileged anymore. *ungrateful Homo sapiens mode*
5) The public transports are surprisingly pricey! Otherwise, the washrooms are free (haven't found one of those in France except in McDonald's), there are dirt-cheap halal stores every kilometre and sales are abundant. I could actually get four cans of Pepsi for 1 quid!

So each country has its own charm. Even the housing here is comparatively like chalk and cheese from that in France but they're both authentic. I love how they have a small glass room having a view over their groomed backyard. I can imagine myself in one having a cup of Earl Grey and reading a Charles Dickens book.

The thing about being in this program is that you sort of inevitably embrace a different culture every six months and just when you start to blend in, it's time to say goodbye. But with the itch to see more, comes the realization of how lucky I am to have grown up in Malaysia. Nothing like home eh.

Just an add-on, I really enjoy walking to the university with these guys. We would stop by and knock on a friends' house and continue walking to another friend's and end up walking in a quite interesting group of mixed nationalities across the huge Leazes Park. This is going to be a great semester! Of course, this is simply an expectation. We'll see how this one goes.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A Staccato Entry

Saying goodbye is never easy. Should've written this entry sooner. So many things I want to record. Things I would miss most about France. Things I'm expecting from the Great Britain. Alas, really need to get some sleep now. Have to get up very early tomorrow. Hope everything goes well. Until next time (very soon I hope!), here are some photos (courtesy of Gaby & her DSLR) from today and last night.

Slovenia / America, Trinidad & Tobago / Canada, Korea, China

Germany, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Mongolia

With our wicked French teacher

And Peru!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

A Slightly Embarrassing Truth

Look what I've discovered in the stack of my unpublished blog drafts! Well okay, it was never a draft. I actually published it for a few minutes back in 2006 and told these people to read it because I'm not really good with words in real life. They never seem to come out right. Hmm... Anyway, I got self-conscious 30 seconds after texting them and thought "Dang, what have I just done?!" and took it off before they even got a glimpse. But now I think it's worth the blushing and whatever is left of my ego. Ha-hah! So here you go but don't mention it to my face or I would try to to bury my head in the ground like the ostrich (just watched the documentary so a little inspired there).

Note that this was written in 2006 (I was *finger counting* a naive 21-year-old) so it might sound a little corny or even peculiar but try to ignore it and read between the lines. I wasn't really close to my university mates at this time so I'll write about you guys later yea!

Amal: Your mother was my teacher, we were practically neighbours and we took the same bus to school so it was a perfect beginning of a genuine friendship. I remember how we used to talk like we were some sort of CEO in a giant company and Ayu, Mus and Mami were our janitors. You can make jokes with a straight face. Oh, the eighth wonder. Ad: She's now a teacher herself and her students absolutely adore her.

 Ayu: First time I knew you six years ago, I refused to call you 'Ayu' as that wasn't your real name. It wasn't until I found out it had been your nickname since you were small that we started to get along. We grew closer as years went by that there was a time both our fixed lines were cut off by our parents as we were on the phone every other night for hours. But staying true to the value of Romeo & Juliet, it didn't stop us and you're still a source of my laughter. Ad: Experimenting with life, she's still the same free-spirited girl I knew.

 Mus: A big sister who seems to put everyone else above her. You never really let people know how you feel and you always want to make others happy. I always wonder if you really are as happy as your smiles. I remember clearly the day we were involved in a nasty accident. I was riding pillion on your motorcycle and a car hit us from the side. We weren't even wearing helmets! You were injured worse than I was, but you still carried me and washed my bleeding first. You're so kind and at the same time, the epitome of enigma. Ad: An accountant and is soon to be engaged. And I never get on a bike ever since.

 Mami: Seven years ago, you called me 'Adik' and I called you 'Kakak'. A year later, you started calling me 'Beruk' and I called you 'Monyet'. I like to think it was at the very moment of this special gesture that we actually became best friends. You're always there for me... when I cry, when I scream, when I laugh, when I fall in love. I can just talk to you and everything will start falling into place. You've been there through all phases in my life and I hope you will always be. You're graduating next year and I'd lose a constant companion in UPM. You're like another big sister I never had. Ad: A businesswoman with her own tuition centre and branching out. Also one of my maids of honour.

 Michie: The best thing ever happened to me in SAMURA. You were like a mother to a misunderstood rebel (that would be yours truly, of course). I'd wake up very late for the Sunday inspection and you'd organize my locker, make my bed, pick up all the pillows and stuffed toys which had been kicked away when I was fighting monsters in my dreams and more. When I was in the sick bay with an awful illness, you'd come by during recess with a 50 cent Gardenia bread and my favourite chocolate milk without being asked and stay with me the whole period. It never cease to amaze me of how you'd believe me in a heartbeat even if the whole world didn't. Even now, you're still looking out for me. If there was a guardian angel in my life, that would be you. Ad: The funniest and kindest pharmacist you'll ever meet, period.

 Meg: My curly zany baby. You appear to be childish but you actually know more than what you let people think. You have a big mind and a bigger heart. You remind me of the sunshine- beautiful, uplifting and bright. You're more grown-up than I am, regardless the impromptu jokes which I must say my darling, beyond anyone's comprehension. We went through a lot in that particular semester but it's proven how solid our friendship has always been. A loyal friend like you is one in a million. Shuk and you make the funniest and cutest couple I've ever known, it's always entertaining to see you two together. Ad: They're getting married this March.

 Tsya: We didn't like each other at first but were forced to stick together since our remaining school friends left to further their studies overseas. Little did I know that you'd become my faithful partner-in-crime and I'm sorry I didn't support you more when you went for the interview to go abroad. I hated the thought of being without you. I liked pau-ing your Vochelle almond chocs and when you made peanut butter toasts for me, I miss that! Remember the bastard (pardon my French) who I chased all the way to the boys block when I discovered he broke your heart? I swear if I were Jean-Claude Van Damme, I'd have punched his lights out! I love you and Meg. It's good to see you with Matju, he makes you happy and I can totally see you two grow old together all sweet and nice. Ad: Finishing her master in electrical engineering and is likely to go to Japan with her future husband & PhD student, Matju.

Rafiee: Rafiee, Rafiee, Rafiee... You're unbelievable. My closest dear friend and big brother. I can't even begin how much you mean to me. I said hello for the first time by kicking your feet in Maulana because I was too nervous. I almost lost our Dick & Jane movie tickets 5 minutes before it started (I can understand why you still insist on holding the tickets yourself everytime we go to the movie) and I spilled Coke all over you 3 minutes later. So much for making an impression on the the first date eh. And you always gently wipe my face when it's smeared especially during mealtimes. By now, you know me so well that if there was anyone who I could share the ups and downs with, I'm glad it's you especially that you're one fun & honest lad. I'm so lucky that in spite of everything good and bad, you still think you're the luckiest guy for having me. Ad: A little wrinkly and 10kg heavier. Okay, kidding! A highway engineer who's taking a couple of gap years in Europe to be with his wife who's doing a Master degree in water engineering. A great friend and a wonderful husband. Obviously he still doesn't trust me with any tickets.
See, now you know why I didn't let you read it four years ago. *digging head in the ground*

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Washing Dirty Laundry in Public

Some amusing things people actually post on Facebook (on mine at least!):

(1) Aaaargh, I'm having period pain!!! - I mean really, is there anyone interested in your menstrual cycle?
(2) I got pregnant in the first month!!! Mom-in-law quotes: like father like son. - Ooookay, congratulations on having a fertile and active husband? Or father-in-law? Both?
(3) First hour: I'm going away from this pain...and it will be too late for you to have me again...
Second hour: Is it so difficult to understand how I feel? I've always been there for you, why can't you be here for me now?...
Third hour: Tears are all gone. I guess leaving you is my only option...
- Just leave already! Okay kidding...perhaps you may want to try telling that person directly for a change?
(4) I hate Mr. ABC, damn! Why is life like this, damn! Oh yeah, have I mentioned f**k? Okay, f**k the whole world!!! - Erk, last time I checked we were not 13 anymore...

I could go on but that would be too free of an entertainment. Alright, it's not that I don't care or I'm being mean but sometimes they're just too...mind-boggling? I'm sure they don't think it that way and merely just a way of expressing oneself. Do you have any favourite posts?

Back to my studies. Got a surprise e-mail this afternoon saying that we're having an exam on hydraulics next week. I need to put my chaotic sleeping habit back into working order. These days I would often fall asleep after dinner and wake up in the middle of the night to do some work until 3, 4 in the morning. Having a flexible routine is one of the perks of being a student but when you have a morning class, the boomerang just hits you right in the face. It's bloody difficult to stay awake after a hearty meal in the winter. *yawn*

Friday, 8 January 2010

Before Calling It a Night

I finished checking my to-do list earlier than usual tonight and with my half full (rhetorically speaking so not half empty!) cup of tea, I thought of writing a bit before going to bed. It's Friday night and though it's raining, I can clearly hear the pub-goers chatting and laughing the night away. It's probably one of the Irish bars in the corner, they're always loud. How they can enjoy drinking outside for hours in the freezing winter is beyond me, but I suppose it's the ice-cream theory; ice-creams taste better in the cold. Well, I like my ice-creams melted so that theory doesn't apply for me.

So it just hit my idle brain that Malaysia is a Commonwealth country so we don't need a visa to stay in UK for up to six months. One hindrance down, still a few more to deal with.

Had a chit chat with the neighbours who practically pleaded for us not to pick up the Newcastle accent aka Geordie. It's a dialect with a large amount of vocabularies and pronunciations that are not being used in other parts of UK. Apparently a lot of people, even the Brits themselves, find it very un-English. Heard the people can be really harsh too. Interesting. We are bound to have preconceptions before coming to a foreign land but over the past few months I've been proved wrong quite often so life is indeed full of surprises. Like it or not, change is the only constant in life eh.

Alright, it's bedtime. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Tangled Up in Red Tape

I have a flight ticket to England in less than three weeks and I still don't have a visa. Yesterday after 100 euro, one missed class and three hours of train ride later, I was told that I had a wrong photo (the size was too big), wrong envelopes (I bought the 10 euro envelopes instead of the required 50 euro ones) and the nastiest bomb was thaaaat (drum roll please) the duration of my Schengen visa needs to be extended before I can come to Marseille (again) to apply for the UK visa. God knows how to do that or even if it's possible and how long it takes. There was a sarcastic pair of Australian father and son looking worn-out whose visa had been rejected twice with no obvious reason so that definitely doesn't help.

There are ways. One of them is to go on a short-term stay with a flight ticket back to Malaysia in the summer. That's not a bad idea at all. Or I can just escape to non-Schengen countries like Morocco and move around until the third semester in September. Aah, we'll see.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Little Black Book

I woke up this morning with a vague nightmare that left me profoundly confused. Just when I think I remember a piece, it suddenly evaporates. But the feeling is so lucid. Gosh, I hate it when that happens. If you know the source of your anxiety, you can patch up the missing pieces. Now what can you do if you're clueless (ironically, you're likely to have MORE clues when you're so-called clueless) and you need a blank space to work on while your mind is trapping you with branches of concerns out of nowhere?

Well, my little black book does the trick.

It's not that kind of little black book. It's just a hardcover black notebook that's little with one of my favourite quotes on the front cover - never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do by H. Jackson Brown Jr. It was a gift from hubby as an encouragement for my French class and university applications more than a year ago. Alhamdulillah it went better than I hoped for. You see, I have a penchant for notebooks. Sometimes I buy them just because I love the sight of them and I'd leaf through the empty lined papers thinking what I would do with them. So as I browsed through the scrawled pages of my worn little black book, I found myself smiling alone looking at the random French notes, various tips on topics like publication, business, engineering and erm, British accent, basic friendly phrases in six languages (they come in handy, trust me!), list of subjects for this semester and my erm, thoughts on them, list of movies I'm dying to download - I mean, to see in theatre like other responsible citizens - and plenty other silly things I tend to scribble sometimes in the middle of the night or in the bus. Apparently thinking out loud has become a habit of yours truly and it never fails to put things back into perspective.

I remember a friend who would plunge himself into his iPod when he needed to think. It's like blocking the world outside and escaping to his own. And there was another friend who would simply sleep her worries away. One time, she consumed the whole bottle of Panadol pills and she fell into a very deep slumber with foams coming out of her mouth. She made it alive (after a painful stomach pumping of course and I hope for her own good, some counselling). Interesting in a scary way, that one.

I'm doing fine with my little black book though. I don't think I will have a nightmare again tonight (law of attraction) since I'm going back to my studies next week (has it really been 2 weeks of break???) so I have to trace back my notes & assignments (they're a little cloudy now but I hope I had finished them all before Italy!) and I have exams coming up (oh boy, where's my calendar???). My professors are such a fun lot that they love to have three hours of exam so gotta get ready for those creative hours!