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.