Bravery 

I grew up watching Disney movies and Harry Potter and without a doubt most of the time, the main characters were brave (Except for Ron Weasley obviously). Growing up with all these characters, I could never relate. C’mon I did the quiz which Harry Potter house are you, I was put in Hufflepuff !!! Even watching Jennifer Lawrence shoot at arrow right at that Apple, made me shriek. I have no drop of bravery in me. I blame my parents. It’s just not in my blood. My parents have always taught me to avoid the situations, be careful rather than be brave. Fair enough, they want me to survive long enough to be brave one day, right? That’s what I think anyways. It’s not like I have a dragon to fight anytime soon in my life, or compete in the hunger games to survive.

I’m trying this bravery thing out and a movie quote keeps ringing in my ear. All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it. One of my favourite movies – We Bought A Zoo.


I had a period of time where I’d say yes to everything, and gave everything a shot. Then something really bad happened !

 


After that, I learnt that maybe saying yes to everything and giving everything “a shoot” wasn’t the best thing to do. My phobia for snakes got even worse, I can’t see a picture of one without having nightmares about them. I don’t take that much risks anymore – saying yes to them when they asked me to stand on stage was a risk okay! I didn’t know what was going to happen. What were they going to do to me ? What animal was going to be handed to me ? I remember thinking it would be a bird for some reason. But the hell not! It wasn’t. IT WAS A MASSIVE BLOODY SNAKE. It was quite hard after that – to say yes blindly.
Though my life doesn’t require dragon slaying or saving the country for the pride of my family. Life does require a bit a bravery. Even the littlest things, because sometimes the things on the other side can bring you so much joy and is probably worth the risk – like getting to take a picture of the llama first. So inhale courage and exhale fear.

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Homesick. 

I’m way overdue for this post, and a lot has been happening. I am physically and emotionally drained. Through out this process I realise I underestimate myself a lot. This seeds from being underestimated my whole life. My parents never think I’m capable of being alone, especially not surviving alone across the world without them or anyone else to rely on. I don’t blame them, I’ve also never had the chance to be alone. I guess they trust Amirul, they always have. But Amirul and I are 2 hours apart. It’s not like I burn my finger and call him to kiss my booboo. I mean I can, but it’ll be healed by the time he gets here.

 
I’ve gotten comfortable being alone. I always have been okay with being physically alone, I mean I loved eating alone and being in my room alone before this. But now it’s a whole new level of alone. I don’t have anyone else to rely on other than myself. It’s a bit lonely sometimes. Everyone’s a stranger, the whole city is a foreign place but I find comfort in knowing that everyone else in my shoes are also feeling the same. In that case, I’m not the only one, am I?

 
Sophia made me meet up with someone she knew from KL, in her words “it’ll be nice if you meet him, you’ll have that homey connection”. And I did. It was exactly that. René and I bonded over missing Nasi Lemak Village Park, and maggi goreng. Planning for Asian night, and also pizza night. We only had each other anyways. Until, Nina came to the equation. I texted her randomly to go to a spoken word workshop that I didn’t want to go alone to. Though we didn’t find the room the workshop was in, we did however continue to call each other up everyday since then. Nina + René + me = Skwa. (A typo René made in saying squad but that’s what we call ourselves now)


Other than them, my housemates (Mary, Amber and Alex) as Amirul says “absolute angels”. They are ! They taught me how to use the dishwasher, sent me to the train station and also would pick me up at the tram stop when I get to scared to walk in the dark by myself. I am blessed to have them as my housemates, they’re so warm and welcoming. Burrito night, just dance and also charades. I can’t ask for better housemates. They’re as good as it gets.

 
I realise, throughout this experience Home is without question where the heart is. I feel at home when I’m in London, I feel at home when I’m with Nina and René looking for desserts at 12am. I feel at home when I Skype Aimin and Nate, Sophia and Sabreena, and ofcourse Amirul. However, I feel like I left my heart across the world at home when I Skype my family.
Home is where the heart is.

Time to grow up 

Yknow how you never truly feel your age, until you’re 45 with a heart condition and you have to stop yourself from ordering McDonalds? Okay it’s not a common thing to think about. But when I was preparing for my UK exchange, I felt my age bar rising. 

It goes DING

21 ! 

21 ! 

21 ! 

21 ! 

21 ! 
Going to the bank by myself, having to explain what I need while they stared at me like I made no sense. Collecting all my documents – crying at the photocopy machine because no one was there to help me and I didn’t know what I was doing thinking if I mess up my visa it’s all my fault. 
GROW
I had to look for accommodations with the only advice from my parents were to stay within the budget. I would constantly have to google map the potential accommodations distance to the campus and nearest bus stop and even grocery store. I had to communicate with the landlord and the agency myself, and sign the contract – signing my name. MY OWN NAME. Not my parents nor any other guardian. 

GROW THE FUCK UP ALINA.  
I guess, it could be an Asian thing. Like when we watch TV shows about the western culture, kids move out at 16. Some start a family by then. It’s nothing new. By 21 they should be working earning their own money, living in a bachelor pad with their friends. However, in the Asian community – we’ve been fed with a silver spoon all our lives. Having our parents do everything for us. Maybe I can’t speak for everyone (I’m sure everyone grows at their own pace). My sister went to the UK when she was 19, all alone. Here I am about to fly with both my parents. Hey, I am the baby of the family ok. Don’t judge. 
It was really different compared to the time I registered for UNMC. My parents didn’t register me, but Amirul did. He helped me move in, he registered for me and also got my student card for me (all I did was smile for the picture). This time round, Amirul would be registering for himself at UEL and I’d be registering myself for UoN 2 hours apart by train. 
Time to rely on yourself Alina. You’re turning 21 – STFU and grow up. 

DAY 3 – cooking/ baking (COMMUNITY SERVICE)

The kids at PDK are more familiar with us on day 3. The moment I came in they would say “hi kakak!” It’s pretty funny, that they call me kakak when most are older than me. They are 22 to 44 even, yet they call me kakak. It’s really respectful even when they know I’m younger.


We baked cookies and prepared all the food we were bout to feed them. There were a lot of kids, around 35 and we made extra for the teachers too. I had Azmir, one of the autistic student with me to help me, he listened to me very well and knew how to follow the given instructions. Though he repeated everything I said, every single time. He echoed EVERYTHING, even Okay. I asked him to have a bite of everything we were making and he tasted everything as we made them, and said all the food tasted delicious which was good to know. It was really sweet how excited he got when I gave him his plate of food.

After feeding everyone, I was pulled by Nazirah. She has Down syndrome and was very caring towards another child whose mother was late. She kept asking me to comfort the child, and to call his mother to pick him up. It really shows that, though they are limited in other areas, they definitely do not lack affection nor empathy. I also found out that she was a child of one of the teachers. So I had a talk with Nazirah’s Mom and she told me that Nazirah was all they have, though they tried to conceive another. You can really see how precious she is to her mother. Her mother did not treat her any differently, there was no sympathy in her eyes when she looks at Nazirah. But only love and truly she saw Nazirah for who she is – cheeky, sweet and playful.

My 3 days at PDK was definitely a humbling experience and also an eyeopener. Not only did the kids and teachers at PDK made me grateful for what I have been blessed with, they made me grateful for life itself. They are so content with life, and it’s not ignorance – I can tell you that. They really showed me that it’s up to you how you deal with your shortcomings. If you want to see the greatness of life, that’s what you’ll see despite the bitterest lemons you’re given.

This sums my 3 days spent at PDK Diary. If you’d like to know more about PDK Semenyih – their Facebook page is Pdk Semenyih.

Also, Im asking everyone to help PDK Semenyih, by spreading the word.

They are a non profit organisation, which means that they rely on people like us. You can buy the childrens’ art works, and also baked goods made with love.

Here is their bank account:
Agro Bank
No Acc: 100556100005060-1 (Anak Anak Istimewa PDK Semenyih)

Any contribution would be much appreciated.

DAY 2 Art Class (Community Service)

We did some arts and crafts with them for day 2 – Candle drawing and cling film art. These activities allowed them to use their senses morec also it could be calming and therapeutic for the students. They were all very creative in their own way, presenting pictures with dramatic colours and colour blocking. They stroke their brushes in their own way too, some really thick and strong while others really soft – each one unique to their own senses. 


On day 2, I started to know the students by names, rather than describing them by their conditions. Before this I would mention “a Down syndrome student” (inconsiderate I know. I learnt that) but now I would say Farisya or Diana. The relationship between the kids and I are getting more personal, there’s no barrier between us anymore. We became friends all in the matter of 2 days. I see them for who they are rather than their physical disabilities. With this experience, they definitely weren’t the only one gaining benefit from this community service. 

 

I bonded significantly with Diana a 44 year old student with Down Syndrome which was really focused on her painting. She was in the zone and wanted to paint every corner and edge of her paper. When Avery and I made a template for them to colour in with the cling film art, she was so happy with the results she kept clapping and asked to do more. It was so rewarding to have made her that happy and excited – felt like all the hard work was worth it.


People always get so uncomfortable when they are  surrounded by people of disability, or some even look at them with complete sympathy. When in fact they are happy (happier than us to be frank – fully limb functioning, right amount of chromosome somewhat healthy human being). Some even completely oblivious to their disability and only see themselves just like everyone else – aren’t they after all? They share the same core value as us, being taught always to be kind, speak softly never harshly. But why – just because they stutter, or have extra chromosomes we look at them like we’re not the same? When we are all made by God and all made with our own set of life challenges. It humbled me, to realise that how ignorant I was to think that I was more “blessed” for being born “healthy”? But it now occurred to me, aren’t they the blessed ones instead? 

Community service diary 

In Malaysia, the government requires every student to do community service before they graduate their tertiary education. I did mine over the summer, and this is a collection of my reflection journal for my 3 days spent at PDK, a non profit organisation centre for disabled children in Semenyih

DAY 1
On Monday, at PDK were the cerebral palsy kids. These kids struggle with their minor muscle movements and can’t walk, some can’t even sit. I was in awe to see all the children incapable of their own voluntary movement – I felt grateful for being born healthy with all 4 limbs attached and well- functioning.

When we came in, they were all on the floor surrounded by 2 ladies (one teacher, one nanny/caretaker) each child giving the kids massages. The massage softens their muscles and also, their joints because with cerebral palsy their joints tend to tense up. We then learnt how to massage the joints too with guidance by the caretakers. We also bought some whistles and some bubbles for them to exercise their minor muscle movement of blowing. They were all so excited when they saw the bubbles, and tried so hard to blow. Some failed while other succeed, but everyone including the caretakers were laughing and enjoying our simple act.


I spoke to one of the mother of the children  about an operation available for the cerebral palsy kids. I asked whether she was considering it, she simply shook her head and said “God gave me him for a reason, to love him and care for him. Not to fix what was already made perfect by God.” It truly touched me, and left me stunned for quite a while. That someone could actually have so much faith, and be so grateful and accepting towards life and what God gave them.

That was my lesson for day 1 – to simply be grateful. Be grateful for whatever life has given, in whatever condition God gave it. Everything happens for a reason I’d like to believe. Sometimes life gives you problems that you don’t even need to repair or fix, but just accept.

 

The theory of “Happiness Quota”

Amirul once spoke me about his theory of Happiness Quota. He told me, in life we only have a limited chunk of happiness that we’re allowed in a period of time. He theorised that Happiness acts like quota of data, where it starts full and gets lowered as more induced happiness events come around. Like great birthday party – 30%, long streak of good relationship with friends and family – 15% or a bit chunk would be something like marrying the love of your life 90% !

Lately, my happiness quota has reached its lowest ever and it’s taking a while to recharge. Sadness has been my common visitor and has stayed longer than anticipated. Sometimes sadness doesn’t even come with problems, it comes alone and unpacks Aunt Nostalgia, and all the uninvited guests.

So, I’ve made a list on recharging my happiness quota or maybe even it could be a list of  how to cope with sadness around.

  1. Simply, do not do shit you don’t want to do. Be it, seeing certain people or finishing the chicken breast part of rather than the skin of fried chicken.
  2. Leave the things/ people/ situation that makes sadness linger.
  3. Take time for yourself, and all the things you want to do that may charge your happiness. Activities can range from taking a walk, or shopping. A day at the park with ice cream is the perfect charge for my happiness.
  4. Be grateful. Take the time to acknowledge all the blessings and good people in your life.
  5. Don’t keep Sadness locked up at your home, bring sadness out and introduce him to others. Maybe sharing your personal sadness with others can ease the burden. Everyone just wants to be heard.
  6. Charge others’ Happiness Quota – while you do this, yours might charge too.

 

Here’s a video by one of my favourite youtubers Anna Akana on How to talk to people with depression.