Monday, 26 December 2011

In Too Deep

I have two new obsessions since a few weeks ago, both stemmed from my work.


Yes, the art of Iban tattoos and diving.

You don't have to remind me how weird I can be at times. Hubs and close friends are doing a great job at that. Nothing much I can do for my first fixation as it's self-mutilation (though if I could I would've started with a dolphin) but after reading up on the tradition and the culture, I grew more interested in the Iban people themselves. There were so many things I didn't know about them even though we're in the same country. Not only that specific ethnic group but also others like Bajau, Kadazan and the like. Going to the museums and doing more reading will help tremendously in understanding them but I'd also love to visit their homes. That calls for a trip to Borneo.

Which brings me ideally to the second fascination - getting PADI certified in Sipadan while I'm there. That also means I have to be a fairly good swimmer so I have about four months to make sure of it. I'm getting more comfortable in water (Rafiee's training me twice a week and one of his techniques is to let me drown or bump my head on the pool wall... lovely husband, isn't he?) and in fact I'm getting addicted to swimming so I predict this will be a long-term pursuit (unlike the tattoo art which will most likely fade after I've exhausted my reading material).

On another topic, hubs and I took a hop-on hop-off tour around Kuala Lumpur today and saw a number of incidents that made us recoil in shame and disgust as fellow Malaysians. Will write about it soon enough.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Love Never Really Dies

Rafiee and I somewhat adopted a little kitten last Sunday. He must be at most three months. He was found in a wet market, looking really frail and I was told that he had a sister / brother but was hit by a car, leaving him all alone. 

He was so clingy, I think he assumed we were his parents. He was always following us, half running and half jumping, biting and licking our feet. We noticed something was not right with his anus and it was really, really red. We started to look for a vet on the same day but they were closed. On the first night he had diarrhoea so I took him in the evening to see a vet but it was a public holiday in Selangor so mission failed again. That night, he had bloody diarrhoea. I knew from my past reading that it's never a good sign and for a motherless kitten, it's almost always fatal. I was worried sick and he was crying endlessly. I was planning of taking a half day off to take him to a vet the very next day.

He couldn't wait. He died in the morning and I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't even look at his lifeless body. I blamed all the vets, the public holiday and I blamed myself for taking him in. Then Ayah reminded me that we had given him probably the only love he ever knew in his short time on Earth. Like a child, I asked him if I will ever see him again. He said yes. Until then, I find comfort in knowing that he's in a better place and it's the same place that my late Smigel is now.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Malaysian Drivers

Some Malaysian drivers can be so mean. You know those people. They swerve with no signal, they tailgate you with such urgency that one usually gets when they need to pee, they refuse to give way when you're obviously stuck, they ignore you when you slow down to give way and don't get me started on those who casually toss their trash out of the car. 

Most of the time it's easy to follow suit. I mean, why should I let that snooty kiddo merge when he doesn't bother to give the signal? Well, it will make you feel wonderful about yourself when you do good deeds without expecting anything in return in spite of those oblivious people. Yesterday I gave way to two cars even though they should've waited and they didn't even have the courtesy to wave. I thought I would be pissed off, but I guess because I didn't hope anything in return, I felt great anyway.

The moral of the story that can be applied to other circumstances as well is that, there will always be that kind of people who have no common sense and sometimes simply unkind. Perhaps they've gone through so many terrible things, who knows? But we have enough of them so don't stoop to their level. Make others happy; you'll see it's contagious and it will only do you good.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Amber

It has been raining a lot these days and I'm going to blame it for my inability to write a long post this time. Also, I've been daydreaming more than I should. I guess I just miss the sea so this video and song right here will have to do until next time.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Beautiful Dreams

I am feeling exhilarating. I was in Port Dickson for another round of diving job expedition for two days and I'm falling more and more in love with ocean. It's such a peaceful feeling being on sea. I've been daydreaming about moving to the beach and dive for a living. Sigh. Don't we all have beautiful dreams that we can't imagine coming true because in reality we don't know if we can handle it if they do? That's one of mine and it makes me smile in my sleep.



Back to Earth, I finally had pumpkin pie after almost two years! An American lady was selling the homemade dessert at the Curve Flea Market while I was thinking of making one. Now that I've had a really good one, that can wait. I'm thinking of a healthy low-fat strawberry yogurt cake instead, hmm. Perhaps in two weeks time. Next week will be a busy weekend with two weddings to attend to and hubs still has his training course.

Last week I thought of a project that I'm passionate about - CNRM (Care-Neuter-Rehome/Return-Manage) stray cats. So what I had in mind was to set up a little cat boarding place in the apartment, catch a stray every two weeks, spay / neuter them, care for them until they're well enough to be released back to their territory. That would be my contribution to society because I adore cats but the emotional attachment that comes with having a pet is something that I don't want to put myself into again, at least for now. Losing a pet is like losing a family member and it's too painful for me. But suddenly mama suggested that I should wait until I have a child so that the act of making another creature barren doesn't put some sort of voodoo spell on my own ability to produce offspring. Now that may sound ridiculous to many people and even though that never crossed my mind until now, it's making me apprehensive. Aiyaya!

Perhaps that will have to be another beautiful dream? Bummer.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Sneak Preview

Alright, my time management went down the drain last week that I didn't get to update the blog but fret not, I've got my rythm this week and with the support of a new reader who's also a close friend (cough, Ayu, cough), I'm feeling optimistic.

Last weekend was spent in Nilai where Rafiee and I attended our first Chinese wedding. The groom was my coursemate in UPM so I got to meet lots of my friends again after three years.


Nothing seemed to change except that they've all been successful in their own way so we exchanged name cards and hoped that we'd see each other again. It's hard to make time due to various commitments but hey, let's try to.

As part of my personal projects, I made a spring onion & spinach quiche and though I certainly shouldn't have put too much milk, I was happy with the taste.



Notice I tried to do some artistic shape on the pie crust end but it wasn't perfect. Well I'll admit it, far from it. But it made me happy and the result looked a little bit like waves.

My book writing is progressing again (it's about time!). I just can't wait to send my draft to the reputable local publisher and see if it's worth showing in public. I'll let you read a snippet of one of my first chapters just because.

We took the plane on 1st September 2009 heading to Paris with a stopover in Sri Lanka for a night. I didn’t think much about it because, this will make me sound ignorant but at least I’m being honest (and honesty is always the best policy right?), I didn’t know much about the country. It was seldom, if ever, featured on local media and I naturally assumed it would be like a smaller version of India (not that I’ve been to India, but it was displayed more on Travel & Living channel so I knew how it was like as much as the next person).

The airport seemed like it had seen generations crying farewell and happy tears with its off-white wall and musty chairs so it came as no surprise to know that it has been standing loyally since 1944 during the Second World War. But that was nothing compared to when we stepped outside to look for our designated coach. It was like entering a portal of time travel, hundreds of steps backwards that landed us right into a war zone.

Soldiers equipped with heavy rifles were scattered and other normal-looking people looked on as if it was another ordinary day. There were two possibilities in my uninformed blank mind, 1) somebody was filming another Black Hawk Down or 2) we were on a wrong plane headed to Afghanistan. But there were no cameras and unless Colombo was also a place in Afghanistan, the likelihoods were odd. And they didn’t look like Afghans.

I was at the time, too oblivious to know that following the civil war between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil rebels known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the soldiers had been deployed to maintain the peace. However, a number of those that the civilians should be able to trust, sometimes were the worst enemy as reports revealed how the battlefront armies killed and raped, and even the children were not spared. The government, however, has denied any involvement with the war crimes.

“Mr. Razak and Ms. Zahidi?” a small dark man approached us while we were still in a daze.

This is really Sri Lanka, I gasped, still in denial that we were not surrounded by firearms. We got what we paid for - extra security.

“Yes?” the husband still had his senses.

“Welcome to Sri Lanka. Come with me.” It sounded so rehearsed and detached, like a deceiving invitation to be shot and buried in an unmarked hole.

There you go, the essence of the book is there - interesting anecdotes, enlightening but not too heavy that it becomes a guidebook or history book. I still can't think of a title so if you have any ideas, I'd love to know!

My reading is on schedule, thanks Better World Books for shipping the books in time for December. It's a different feeling getting a wrapped book in your mailbox than buying it off the rack. I should do this more often. I often frustrate hubs for spending too long in bookstores just like he does to me when he's in the clothing section.

Job wise, I absolutely love my new workplace! Since it's close enough to home, I usually leave at 8.15 am which gives me plenty of time to watch news, go for a run and even have my breakfast with my four kitties (which have gone missing yesterday - hopefully temporarily - after a new neighbour moved in, hmm...). Hubs leaves for work 1.5 hours earlier after preparing breakfast and a flying kiss to his smelly wife who's still in bed. Since he's in-charge of the breakfast, I make his lunch and mine the night before so at least we eat extra healthy for five days a week. I still can't help the food splurge on weekends, Malaysian food is as tempting as Angeline Jolie to Brad Pitt! Well at least we manage to squeeze in badminton almost every weekend with the family so some of the calories are sweat off; I prefer to think positive.

As of right now, our first holiday since Europe may be happening sooner than we thought - Singapore! Some may argue it's quite similar to Malaysia and it's only a short trip, but it's a start and I'm sure I can find something uniquely Singaporean. Next week will be my last full week of the first working month so I'll start sticking to my new financial plan, one more responsility on top of time management. Fuh, life as an adult is surely a serious ride.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Againts the Clock

I forgot how time-consuming things are when you have a full-time job, two families, friends and hobbies. I started my Friday with a to-do list for the weekend, feeling like I had a lot of time to get them done and more and suddenly it's already Monday evening! A small part of me misses the time Rafiee and I spent in Europe; our daily concern was which TV series / movies to watch that day. But a bigger part of me is loving this, it feels like I'm leading a fulfilling life. 

Everything is going well but my book editing is a little behind... alright, like four pages behind so I'll have to work harder. The weekends are full with wedding invitations and appointments that it's not that easy to keep up.

In addition, Rafiee and I have four instant new family members to care for.


They sort of adopted us. One morning I woke up to see the mother with her two-week-old kittens at the door as if she was asking our help so hubs and I found a big box to house the little family outside our door. Later that evening we came home and saw the uncle already moved in so there you go. We couldn't just throw them away so now we've become their providers. I will have to make an appointment with the vet to spay and neuter this family. I believe in this country at least, it's the best measure to tackle the overpopulation of strays.

I probably should've written about the birthday celebration of my baby sister, the first week at a new job, the first Eid al-Adha in Malaysia as husband & wife and the couple badminton match againts my parents, but alas, time is running short and I can't function with less than 7-8 hours of sleep. Perhaps this week my time management will get better and I'll have more time to put my pen to paper, or in this case, fingers on keyboard.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Mother

To be honest, I'm not rushing to become a mother especially when I see a tired new mom (and the fact that I don't really like children doesn't help either). Well, actually all new moms are tired and look like they can use a vacation. It's a huge responsibility and once you have the little bundle of joy, your priorities inevitably shift. Hubs feels the same way too so we're always on the same page. Although I still think it's best for a new couple to spend time together before having a baby, today my maternal instinct kicked in when I held my best friend's newborn. Perhaps it was because he was so small in my arms and when our eyes met, I just felt protective over the little guy. And so even though I'm still not in a rush and I still feel it's a massive and exhausting responsibility, I don't mind having a baby bump as soon as next year. At the end of the day, that baby is worth every sweat and tear. 

Well, at least until the angry teen phase.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Three Days Away...

...from a new job in a new place with new colleagues! I'm taking up Cantonese to fit in with the rest of my Chinese workmates and I've done enough ironing to last me a week. I'll have to buy some snacks for the office, I eat constantly when I'm working. Otherwise, I'll become one of those gory guys from Walking Dead! That's it, I'm ready to roll.

Last week I made two sets of apple crumble with custard for the first time. Not bad at all if I may say so myself.


Nevertheless, I don't mind having the Granny Smith more sour. I'm thinking of French spinach quiche for the next endeavour, hmm... 

My October book is almost finished, just in time for a new month. I bought three more books that should last until January, two from Better World Books because they're unavailable in our local bookstores and I absolutely love it! Free shipping worldwide and they donate one book for every purchase you make. I haven't received the books yet (it takes 7-21 days) but if all goes well I definitely will get more books from them.

Hubs and I are playing badminton tomorrow morning with the family. I really hope my legs feel better by then. They still haven't recovered from the hiking trip we joined last Wednesday on Diwali. It was a great hike and the company was wonderful. Meetup groups are really fun, if only I had a lot of free time. You can join the food lovers or the French speakers, the possibilities are endless!


But well, life should be balanced. No use of going out every day with strangers and new friends when you don't even know what's going on in your family.

Until next time, have a happy, healthy & productive weekend!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

To-Do List II

So every task on my previous to-do list has been checked off.

- Finalise the menu for the Sunday luncheon for 12 people.
- Clean the house before Sunday.
I made mashed potato with fresh chives, traditional sage chicken stuffing and mango sauce for the waffles while hubs took on the pesto appetiser, roast chickens (yes, all two of them!), mushroom gravy to go with my mashed potato, salad & dressing and shiitake fried rice. Together we made a great team and the luncheon went really well! I guess too well that Rafiee fell asleep by 8.30pm and I followed suit half an hour later. Cooking is one thing, cooking for a lot of people is another story. My only regret is that I didn't take a lot of photos. Ah well.



- Get new work shirts, six minimum so I can rotate them without having to wear the same one on the same day every. single. week.
So I bought six new work shirts, this time in vibrant colours and patterns compared to what I used to wear when I first started in the industry. I do feel more colourful and adventurous these days. Pat on the back!

- Study maritime design. No use of colourful professional outfits if I'm in the dark at work. 
I'm doing it! It's an on-going process so little by little I'm getting myself familiarised with the new scene.

- Sew the loose button on my grey pants. Or ask hubs nicely to do it for me.
I may be biased but really, hubs is the best. Enough said.

- Continue working on the freaking book!
I'm doing it! Again, this one is also an on-going process but I have set my target and it should be done by end of the year. I hope to submit my book proposal to potential publishers somewhere in January 2012.

I'm adding four new tasks:
- Start volunteering work again.
- Try to bake / cook a new dish every weekend.
- Read one book a month.
- Plan for future vacations.

It's a great feeling to lead a balanced, healthy and full life. My work is going to take about 40-45 hours weekly and that's only 40% a week, after calculating in my 8-hour of sleep. That leaves plenty more time for myself, family & friends so I want to make full use of it. If I have learned anything from the past is that time flies fast so on my birthday every year I want to look back and be glad that my year has been worthy. That's a gift only I can give to myself, insyaAllah.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

To-Do List

- Finalise the menu for the Sunday luncheon for 12 people. Whoa, I feel so grown up!
- Clean the house before Sunday.
- Get new work shirts, six minimum so I can rotate them without having to wear the same one on the same day every. single. week.
- Study maritime design. No use of colourful professional outfits if I'm in the dark at work.
- Sew the loose button on my grey pants. Or ask hubs nicely to do it for me.
- Continue working on the freaking book!

Ah that's not too bad. Thinking about what I should be doing drives me up the wall but now that I put it out there, it doesn't seem overwhelming anymore. I guess I can start anew tomorrow morning and enjoy the peaceful mind for now. Nighty night!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Settling In

My goodness, I've just realised I haven't updated my dear blog in two weeks! Life is still pretty hectic over here but I think I can safely say both hubs and I have finally settled in.

Rafiee has got a really good job offer as a highway & transportation engineer. It's exactly what he wants to do and he's not starting from the bottom as he originally thought, having been M.I.A. from the industry for two years, so things always happen for a reason and for the best. The only thing is the office is a bit far so he probably won't get home as early as we both like. He also got his new car yesterday, a total upgrade from his last ride so he's ecstatic. He deserves all good things coming his way for being a truly supportive and patient husband.

As for yours truly, I have recently accepted a new challenge. I'll be doing maritime design in a Dutch company which has little to do with what I studied the last couple of years. I'm also the only Malay, the only female engineer and the only one below 40. It's one of the reasons I took the offer. It's a huge responsibility and I have to be on my toes all the time. The location is way better, being only 15 mins from our apartment.

Speaking of which, we bought so many things to revamp the apartment and I have to admit it's looking pretty fancy. We're hosting a little luncheon for our families next weekend so that would be fun. I'll definitely take some photos but until then, here are some from my little pot-luck lunch with two of my childhood friends, sadly missing the other two but there will be a next time!





Thursday, 22 September 2011

First Post in Malaysia

So here I am at last, home sweet home. I've got a new, sleek laptop in red, now I just need to find the time to continue writing. Life has been pretty hectic with catching up; the family, the food, the apartment and the job(s). I'm not complaining, it has been wonderful having something else to take care of apart from the visa / residence permit registration or various maps of new places / public transports. It's also refreshing not having people stare at you all the time because you look different. The final night in Europe was spent in a rundown Turkish hotel (will write about it later because that deserves one whole entry on its own) so I was actually excited to leave. At the moment, a week after, I have started looking around me with a fresh set of eyes... like a tourist. The limestone hill of Batu Caves of which had no effect on me as I drove by to get to my in-law's is now an amazing sight; I mean seriously, lush green hills in the middle of a busy city??? Wow! 

I guess I've become more appreciative and I also have a higher tolerance for people's differences. It still feels weird. On the one hand, I feel like I haven't really left the country. On the other hand, I know I've changed. I'll just go with the flow because if I had to figure it out in one day, I would've gone out of my mind.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Final Post in Europe

I'm nervous. Definitely sad. A little scared. Of course excited too. After two amazing years, 20 beautiful countries, five lovely homes and countless new friends & acquaintances, it's time to go back to where it all started and begin a new and enhanced chapter. After all, the only constant in life is change.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Last Week


I know I should write about London, Dublin, Paris… well, Dublin especially. It is now in my top five favourite cities that include Paris, Istanbul, Cairo and Budapest. But with my worn out TravelMate, I don’t feel motivated at all. I haven’t even continued editing my book! I’m way behind schedule right now but I promise once I get a new laptop, I’ll get on top of things. Both the book and the blog. For now though, I’ll leave you with my favourite photos from the trips last week. We’re flying to Barcelona tomorrow for the graduation and I have a feeling next time you hear from me, I’ll be in my sweet home Malaysia. Oh boy I’ll have so many things to tell you by then!

Oh anyway, I did well in my Master’s thesis defence recently but the Q&A part was a little bit out of my depth. The committee gave me the highest mark but of course I couldn’t be happy since I personally think I flunked the Q&A. That’s me, I just have to dwell on the past and worry excessively about the future. Something I’m still working on.

Alright, the photos.

Stonehenge, one of the seven wonders.


The Wicklow mountains. The nearby surrounding is as magnificent, where they filmed the movies Braveheart, PS I Love You and Leap Year.



The Eiffel Tower & La Seine from a new angle (for me at least!).


Statue of Liberty as first seen on the movie National Treasure! Obviously I'm a self-proclaimed movie buff.


Saw Paris Hilton in Paris in her pink limo! I'm not a fan but any famous stars tend to have that effect on you.


We also saw a few local bands playing Irish folk music in Dublin and one of them played the famous Galway Girl, aaaaaa!!!

video

So many things to share it’s killing me here. I need a new laptop pronto!

Friday, 2 September 2011

My Mate's Got to Go

It has been too long and I miss writing. The thing is, my laptop is aging. She's making loud noises as if a critical football match is taking place inside the machine, she gets really cranky & heat stroke after ten minutes and I'm hurting my nails when I type because some of the keys refuse to work. 

I appreciate all the accomplishments that we've achieved together but it's time for her to go to a better place once I get a superior replacement in Malaysia. It sounds mean but I know she understands it's something I have to do. If she could talk, she would've let me know which model she thought would be good enough to take her place.

My darling Acer TravelMate 6291, you've been a wonderful companion.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Farvel Danmark!

And that means, Goodbye Denmark. I don't know when I'll be next time I talk to you blog but I suspect still a bit far from sweet home Malaysia. Not too long though this time, not too long...

Who would've thought the six months of joy amidst trouble have quickly metamorphosed into distant memories. Sure, sure... we always knew the day would come. The day when you have to bid farewell to all the things you're familiar with and start anew just to gradually move closer to another goodbye. As usual, you instinctively think that you're not prepared for this again and again. That's why it's nice to have someone by your side to go through the path. It can get a little scary and heart-breaking. I could've done it alone, brave and strong I make myself to believe. But having your best friend to hold your hand and walk with you definitely helps big time.

Our landlady's eyes keep watering every time we mention anything related to our departure, even as banal as "Thank you for the corns but we already have so much food in the fridge to clear this week." She gave me a tiger eye necklace that I thought I was choosing for her when she asked for my thoughts in the Mons Klint gift store three weeks ago. Why do people always have to make it harder to leave? When Bri left three months ago, I was devastated and thought that it would be a loooong road ahead before my turn. And now here I am, babbling about the sorrow. How long is long enough anyway? 

I hate, hate, hate goodbyes. But like death and tax, it's one of the things you can be certain of in life. I'm just glad at least I have my best friend to share this with.


Alrighty, have to start packing and cleaning the house. I know our landlady is definitely going to cry but no amount of preparation can actually prepare me for that. I just have to keep in mind that I'll be seeing my little sister in no time after two long years. Heh, long...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Alone in the Village of Sleeping Beauties

It's 1.30 in the morning and I'm still wide awake even though I only had four continuous hours of sleep the previous night. The days are long and so it means I'm fasting from about 3 am until 9 pm. Now I'm waiting for the morning prayer before going to bed like what I did last night. My intention was to sleep until noon but I could no longer sleep after 7.30. It's the sun. It doesn't matter that the curtains are double-layered and shut tight, I can still sense the sunlight. Hubs thinks I'm secretly a vampire. Maybe that's true. Maybe it's just a myth that vampires burn in the sun or according to Twilight, glow. Maybe we're simply a little allergic to the bright, warm light.

And it baffles me how I still don't get even a bit tired. I feel like I can stay awake for the whole week. Then again, it may be due to the really sweet muesli I just had. Sugar does make people go hyper, doesn't it? I worked really hard today since morning so I should be exhausted a few hours ago. The thesis submission is due on Monday (yes, this Monday) and my academic supervisor has just given me his feedback on my draft that I sent over a month ago last Friday! To top it off, he's a very detailed person so he had thorough comments on almost every single page of my thesis. I also lost the rock-paper-scissors game to Rafiee so I had to do the laundry, sigh. But I suppose I could've corrected the draft sooner nonetheless if I hadn't been so caught up with the Q Cious Spa website. I'm helping with the webpage and I'm quite proud of it if I may say so myself. Have a look here!

Also, I've just finished watching another brilliant movie called The Whistleblower based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac about her courage in trying to expose the involvement of some United Nations peacekeepers in human trafficking in Bosnia. She was threatened by the big guns in the organisation and was even fired, but that didn't stop her. The revelation is no doubt very appalling but like I said, ignoring the truth doesn't make it go away.

Alright, one hour to go. What else can I do, hmm... 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Alive & Kicking

There are good news, bad news and really bad news. I obviously survived my longest solo presentation that lasted for 35 minutes. 11 people came including the head department and a number of experts in my field. They all loved it so that's the good news.

Bad news is that the head department is one critical man and he asked me LOTS of questions and some were even embedded in other questions! They were like little gremlins rolling towards me. I shot one only to see it multiplied with more ferocious energy. Oh the horror! Mon dieu! I was literally sweating while the other 10 people looked on, silently thanked their lucky stars they weren't in my shoes. But alas, it was over within an hour and I have one less thing to worry about. Now on to the corrections and writing the paper to be submitted to a journal publication.

The worst news has nothing to do with my presentation but everything to do with my state of joy. My old blog has been deleted! Completely and utterly kaput! This is all Friendster wrongdoing. Here comes the nostalgia. My old brain can't store everything so in a way, parts of my memories are gone. My fault for not keeping a copy somewhere else so lesson learned, though in a hard way.

On a different matter, a family member has recently launched a new beauty & slimming spa called Qcious Spa in Kuala Lumpur. The lovely website is still under construction but until then, you can find all the details on this page. They're having some promotions right now so why don't you take a look and see if you can get something out of it.


The day is fading, which means there are only 12 more days left before I leave Denmark. Time sure flies when you stop counting.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Freaking Out!

Okay, I knew all along I had to present my findings to the company but the reality has only recently set in. And I'm FREAKING OUT!

Unlike most normal people, I enjoy making and doing presentation. So although I've been doing this for years without breaking a sweat, it started to dawn on me when one of my supervisors put out a public invitation for my thesis presentation this Monday, that this is my first industrial presentation! All those presentations have been in front of academicians, students, friends or strangers sometimes. Giving a presentation to a bunch of professional consultants, engineers and managers may be a different thing.... or perhaps not? Well even if they are poles apart, there's always a first time for everything right? 

Okay, I just need to calm down. If you don't hear from me by next week, I've probably fallen into a coma due to stage fright, nothing serious.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Drive to Remember

I dreamed of Nicolas Cage doing a new adventure movie (waiting for the third National Treasure over here!) and I woke up late with a pair of wobbly legs, feeling disoriented. That's what you usually get after a road trip and a hilly, bumpy hike.

I love road trips but only when the routes are new to me and somebody else is driving. The local food that you take your chances on, the antics you see on the road, the continuous slideshow on your window and the random stops for some fresh air. It has been a while since we were on the road in a car, last time was in Hungary where we drove in a sedan of strangers to hike a mountain near the border of Slovakia. So when our landlady offered us a drive to one of most beautiful places in Denmark, we said yes. Our destination was the limestone Cliffs of Møn in the island of Møn in the South-East of the country.

Travelling with a 65-year-old can actually be fun. We had a number of pit stops understandably, where we picked fresh peas and wheat and had bottles of homemade juices and warm herbal tea. We drove through a quaint town called Stege and into a forest where at one point in the rain with no other car in sight, I seriously thought we were lost until a glass building emerged out of nowhere which happened to be a museum. In the middle of a forest, go figure. 

Wheat fields, wind mills, rain, sun, white cliffs, forest, little towns, families in caravans, tattooed men driving big trucks, rich folks with yachts... it's a drive to remember.




Monday, 25 July 2011

One for the Books


Trying to finish writing a proper book that has a slight chance of being published demonstrated that proof-reading three times does not guarantee error / boredom-free. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. Alright, I naively thought it was like writing a blog but with more focus and length (also less whine). Not only you have to make sure each sentence is grammatically correct and complements the whole paragraph of which should complement the whole chapter, you have to confirm the facts and at the same time sound interesting. This is going to take longer than I anticipated, eight months may not be so realistic when I'm only doing it part-time. But well, if it's a process that I have to go through before that glimpse of light, then that's that.

Time for a break and eat some cookies. They have been serving pork as the main dish for many days now that I'm more starving after lunch than before. This growling tummy of mine with a mind of its own isn't helping with the writing.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Cooking Up a Storm

Being the eldest daughter and having a father who's picky about his food made me a mediocre cook. I had to help my Mama in the kitchen and sometimes stepped up to the plate whenever she went outstation. My Ayah is a really good cook but he's not fond of survival cooking. He's more of the AFC kind of fella, a gourmet. 

My husband, as lovable as he is now, was a terrible cook. He was raised in a house of testosterone with three other brothers and to top it off, my mother-in-law loves cooking more than I love cats. And that, is saying a lot. None of them had to cook at home.

We then got married and moved to the apartment to live on our own. His first attempt was surprisingly a success, if you could get past the raw bits of chicken. I cooked for fun once in a while but we mostly bought our meals because in Malaysia, it's cheaper to buy for two than to cook a proper meal.



Six months later, we moved to a foreign land where things are five times more expensive. We wanted to save for travel, so we both started to cook. At first it was more like cooking to survive, then gradually it progressed into cooking to enjoy and we try healthy cooking as much as possible such as using non-fat milk instead of coconut milk or stir-fry / grill / bake instead of deep-fry, etc.

With my classes and work, Rafiee has had a really good practice at culinary and this was especially proved during Eid last year. He made beef rendang, ayam masak merah (chicken in chilli sauce?) and sayur lodeh from scratch.


They were amazing, I didn't miss Malaysia at all in the presence of the cuisine. The funny part is we seldom cook together because we have our own system. Usually he waits for me to finish before he starts. The arrangement is vital in order to keep the peace in our household. Last weekend however, we collaborated on a stuffed roast chicken.

It's his favourite dish to make as it's so simple and yet tastes so good you want to lick all your fingers down to the plate. I'm not a big fan because I feel that only the skin tastes great, the chicken meat is well, chicken meat. He makes gravy most of the time but when I saw the big opening in the chicken, I suddenly felt like filling the void. And voila, I made stuffing!




The best part is it didn't take long. The marinating task probably takes 10 minutes then you just leave it. The stuffing takes another 10 minutes. Then you just stuff it in. I made my own bread crumbs then mixed them with chicken broth, butter, milk, herbs & spices, spring onion, mushrooms, fresh parsley, salt, pepper and finally a beaten egg. You can have so many variations! Next time I'll put chillies and garlic.

Over the years, we keep updating our mothers how we fare with cooking. I think they may be expecting some demonstrations when we get home. That's quite nerve-wracking. We never tried cooking under pressure so that may be a problem. Well, I guess we just have to keep experimenting then... hmm, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hey There Love

I woke up from my afternoon nap yesterday to Rafiee watching a movie while playing with my toes, the same toes he claims abnormal because of their various shapes. Gosh I love that guy.

They say to truly know a person, you have to live and travel together. I should truly know him after moving in and out of 6 homes and backpacking to 20 countries. Friends find it baffling that we can stay home for days but one thing that I can't seem to explain enough is that we simply enjoy each other so much we can actually live in a box for a long time without getting bored. 

Like yesterday evening when we played badminton and our version of football to decide who would clean the dishes and do the laundry (which by the way, I won all of them fair and square), I had to climb onto his shoulders to get the shuttlecock from the rooftop. He then pretended to be a camel and with me clinging to his sweaty head, he ran and skipped around the lawn... twice!

Having only each other to rely on through sickness and in health for two years and waking up to see the same face without fail every single morning, it feels comforting that we can still talk and laugh endlessly like when we first got married. And probably more. Some nights we stay up just talking and some mornings he annoys me by purposely letting the sun in when I'm still sleeping. Granted, it may already be 8 in the morning but a girl needs her beauty sleep! 

What I like about our relationship is how we are so many things to each other. The two and a half years of marriage with the additional four years of dating only confirm how we complete each other.


I thank God for letting me have him in my life and even as our European honeymoon may be coming to an end, God willing we'll have so many other honeymoons together!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Home is Calling

Two weeks before Ramadhan, one and a half months before leaving our longest home in Europe and two months before going back to Malaysia. The last two weeks in Europe will be a hectic transition of Denmark - England - Ireland - France - Hungary - Spain - Turkey. It's getting more real each day.

Last Sunday was spent in a colleague's house, having a really lovely meal. It only made me feel like going home even more so that I can start cleaning the apartment, planting some flowers at the window boxes and hosting a lovely meal myself for the in-laws.

Isn't the window garden just charming?

 


Playing a happy homemaker on weekends!


Although, that lady may look a little too excited and surprisingly really clean for the role.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Political Affairs

I used to be one of those ignorant people who think that they have nothing to do with politics. Then a Chinese friend of mine made me think when he said "Why do I care about the politics? This is my country. If our people don't bother then who else will?" He made me think hard and now I'm less oblivious.

To be honest, I wasn't clear what Bersih (Clean) 2.0 was about until on the historic day itself and it was only because I asked my Ayah while we chatted on Skype. I didn't even take a minute to read the news. I dismissed all political headlines. Facebook since then has become a virtual battlefield. First, a man died during the rally and the policemen just watched the unfortunate event unfolded. Now, the whole thing is said to be a conspiracy and that the so-called deceased is still alive. Who knows what new stories will emerge tomorrow. So whose side I'm on?


None and both, it's back to the classic lesser of two evils law. While I believe that not all of them mean any harm, there are still enough folks who manage to get their hidden agenda intertwined. So let's try not to be foolish and fight for a side on extreme level before considering and verifying all the facts, shall we?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Ignorance is Bliss?

I was running out of TV series to watch so I watched the second best thing; documentaries. From A Lion Called Christian to Elsa: The Lioness that Changed the World, I was reminded by the kitten I named Elsa about 15 years ago. Even back then, I've always loved big cats. I remember now that I knew the name from the 1965 movie Born Free based on the true story of Elsa, a lion raised in captivity. Those are some of the beautiful love stories between men and animals.

Navigating through the maze of YouTube, I stumbled into a movie called The Bang Bang Club based on the amazing true story of four photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa. One of them took this heart-wrenching photo that won the Pulitzer for Featured Photography in 1994.


The starving toddler was crawling to a feeding centre with a vulture nearby as if it was waiting for her to collapse. Nobody knew if the poor girl managed to get help in time. The photographer became so depressed that he committed suicide three months after he won the award.

The other two friends didn't get a happy ending either. One was killed in crossfire and another lost both legs in an Afghan mine.

I don't know if I should stop reading news and watching this type of documentaries. I'll be a lot happier in my little safe bubble. They are inspiring in a way but very disturbing in many. Here I am comfortably writing from my lovely cottage when most people are struggling with life and death for a better future. I guess it's true what they say, what you don't know can't hurt you. But still, I'll take my chances for that little ray of hope. Hiding from the truth does not make it any less real.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Esctasy

I had a productive week so all is well again.

Work and thesis are progressing smoothly.

One proposal is done, another one can wait.

Book is almost done, well the first draft anyway. A lot of work still has to be put into it before I can actually show it to someone.

Healthy eating all week except for the BBQ (think I consumed a little charcoal, don't ask!), a bag of crisps, a vanilla pudding with chocolate sauce and raspberries (freshly picked from the garden, yummy!) with wait for it... cream. Nobody's perfect.


Supposed to go running every other day but always too lazy / hungry at the end of the day. I still can't enjoy Danish lunch, no matter how good it is to the locals. Inevitably with the decreasing metabolism, I gained weight. It's now 47 kg but as long as my BMI is in the healthy range, I won't bother too much.

Hmm, what else? Oh, I've started eating tomatoes! I'm proud of myself, I hated the red, sour fruit / vegetable. I still do, but it's undoubtedly the healthiest kind so I keep thinking about the nutrients while I literally shove it down my throat.

And I'm switching to organic products! They're freaking expensive everywhere so I'm trying at least paraben-free for personal care. The organic obsession came after reading numerous articles about the long-term negative effects of chemicals. Better late than never eh.

The weekend so far has been wonderful. It's raining and gloomy even though it's the middle of summer but I really don't mind, it's my favourite weather here. I guess because it doesn't make me feel guilty for staying home. I just got a message from our friend asking if we're going to be in Copenhagen today because it's the much awaited Jazz Festival so at least I can blame the rain for my idleness. I stayed up late last night so even though there was no sound of the neighbour's cat (too cold for the little guy), I could still hear the trains so it may be only Saturday but I'm already revitalised.

11.45 am. Should start preparing hubby's favourite Pakistani chicken biryani. Then more TV / movies / books and perhaps a nap later. Lovely.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Poof, Vanished!

This weekend feels like a dream. Well, maybe not a dream per se because dreams are supposed to be beautiful even when it's unreal and lasts for what seems like 15 minutes. At the risk of sounding unappreciative, my weekend has been almost non-existent. 

First, I kept falling asleep by 10pm so I missed my favourite time of night when it's completely silent that I can hear the sound of trains in the distance and occasionally the footsteps of the neighbour's cat on the roof. I always look forward to it at the end of every week.

Second, I put off (again) my proposal and book writing. I can't do it. I can't work on weekends, it just doesn't feel right. So looks like I'll be paying for the deflection next week which is a thought enough to bring a bluer shade to the ill-fated Monday blues.

Third and fourth reasons involve a delayed garden BBQ and stomach cramps but what's the point of complaining what's done and gone?

On a lighter note, I finished Robin Sharma's The Monk who Sold his Ferrari which is not really new but his fable is classic. Ironically and funny even, it's a motivation book. 

Here's hoping a more productive week ahead and I hope you readers had a better weekend than I did. I'm leaving you with this inspiring video of Kevin Richardson, an animal behaviourist also dubbed as the lion whisperer. His work is amazing. Also, take a look at Simon King's documentary of two cheetah orphans. Simply phenomenal.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Ticking Clock Comes Full Circle

Is this stress I'm feeling?

I'm supposed to write a proposal. I don't normally work at home but I've only got two months to straighten up a lot of things so time is gold. That doesn't really make sense, does it? You can buy gold but even the world's richest man can't buy time. Well instead of working, I've been staring at the laptop clock as if watching the tiny arrow moves will somehow slow down the universal time. I need to think but the clock keeps ticking and thinking about the ticking clock makes me anxious. I feel like screaming "Stop you bloody clock! Just give me time to think!" which probably sounds familiar in a mental hospital and that scares me. Have I fallen off the track? Dang, three minutes gone writing all that.

Take a long, deep breath Izni. It's no big deal. You can do this. You have everything it takes to pull through. This is nothing compared to what most people have to endure.

Writing is really a therapy. No wonder people bare their emotions, complaints and prayers online. Until a second ago, I used to think it's silly because you don't need Facebook to talk to God. I guess sometimes you only need to put it out there to get your perspective. I'm done now. Ticking clock or not, here I go again.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Unburied Treasure

I got myself four new books to cherish. Okay, borrowed from the city library and due in a month, more like. One of them is for the husband:


He’s obsessed with The Beatles. He also thinks John Lennon looks like Ayah when they were young. I told Ayah and he laughed, it has to be a compliment right?

The main reason why I started to borrow real books again instead of the e-book version, I work all day staring at the laptop and I come home to more staring at the laptop until I hit the sack. Imagine the level of strain I’m putting on my eyes and I just turned 26 only a few days ago which by the way, hubs had a couple of surprises. The point is I still have dozens of years of eye strain, God willing (the longevity part, definitely not the latter). I also waste at least 20 minutes a day waiting for the bus. Well, 40 minutes if the ride itself is taken into account but since I can’t get through a page on a moving vehicle without a massive headache, I prefer talking to myself.

I checked out this book by Allison Pearson for myself.


I have a soft spot for career women juggling so many balls, no surprise there. I’ve recently finished Marian Keyes’s Sushi for Beginners, courtesy of Bri who had to leave behind one of her books since she had packed too many new clothes.

Of course once in a while I just have to get a disturbing book that leaves me high and dry thinking of the what ifs. I don’t really know why. I guess it’s the curiosity. This time I picked Perfect Soldiers by Terry McDermott, a reporter who covered the 9/11 tragedy.


I sort of cheated because I initially got Philipe Kerr's Hitler's Peace but it was too dull for me so I returned it after a few pages.

Finally, I’m reading a book that I can absolutely identify with: Reif Larsen's The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet. It tells of adventures of a boy who loves to draw and map his observation. One extraordinary thing about this book is that it has illustrations so to fathom the content is like going through a puzzle. Your eyes are always moving around instead of going down and down then up and down and down again for hundreds of pages.


The forecast calls for rain over the weekend so it’s just the perfect setting to bury myself in the limitless imagination.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

It's Coming

I knew this feeling would come. I just didn't know that it would come this soon.

I do not want to leave Europe.

The adventure is coming to an end. We've started booking our flight tickets home. I suppose I should look forward to new adventures like starting a family, a new job or a PhD, planting flowers and vegetables, furnishing my mini library, meeting my old friends, eating out at our favourite food stalls and travelling to other parts of the world. It is what it is and with booming budget airlines, I can always come back. Sure it won't be the same but that's life, it moves on with or without you. Keep up or you'll be left behind with memories holding you back.

We're going back to two of our favourite cities; London and Paris. My little sister is coming to Europe so those cities would be the ideal starting points. We're also going to trace the beautiful scenery of the movies PS I Love You and Leap Year in Ireland, can't wait! Irish accent is too charming, I'll probably record the locals in action like what I do randomly wherever I go. The funny thing is, it feels insignificant when I'm in the middle of recording something like a street performance but watching the same recording a few months down the line, it feels so far and almost unreal.


Sigh, I digress.

We're going back to Hungary for my thesis defence and after a week, we'll fly to Spain for my graduation where Mama will be joining us so we're going to the Catalonian countryside before returning to Malaysia together.

And that's the end...