In 2017

 

I learnt a lot about gratitude this year. To be grateful, is to look at what you have instead of what you do not. I’ve been really grateful for a lot of things in my life, from the simplest thing of having all 4 limbs attached to having the opportunity to move to the UK for my studies. I’m grateful. In Islam, Allah said be grateful and I will give you more. I believe I was drowned in blessings this year. Although it was still a challenging year. I had a lot of things stripped away from me, mainly my home and my comfort. However, that was the catalyst that taught me to be grateful. That’s what taught me to look at all the things I have instead of all the things I did not have. So this final blogpost of the year is a list of things I’m grateful for.

 

I’m grateful for …

 

1. My skin clearing up from acne. Having a full face of acne was really challenging. It ruined my self confidence and really affected how I saw myself. It made me focus on who I was inside instead of how I look like. Although I’m grateful for clear skin, I’m also grateful that I experienced acne, it really emphasised the saying that beauty comes from within for me.

 

2. My family, my parents first and foremost. For sending me off to the UK and settling me in too. For spending their money just for me to experience studying abroad. Be real, they get nothing out of this! They could’ve spent that money on a vacation or anything else that’s more worth while. It demonstrated to me that the love parents have for their children is not only selfless, but full of sacrifices. And not to forget my sister, who has been the nicest to me ever in life – for giving me pep talk through my breakdowns and pushing me to venture out and grow.

 

3. The challenges I faced this year. I’m thankful for all the shit that came my way that forced me to grow. Without being pushed, excused me..SHOVED ( to be exact ) out my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have grown as much as I have this year.

 

4. My health. My community service experience during summer holidays truly taught me to be grateful for what I was born with. For the things I’ve always taken for granted and never thanked god for having. You never know when they can be taken from you, yknow? So I’m thankful for having these blessings for as long as I have.

 

5. The Boys and the leechers of Beeston. I’ve never spoken bout the boys (and Nina) in Nottingham that has taken care of me and reminded me of home while I’ve been here. They made nasi lemak to cure my homesick and more importantly they opened their home to me. Made me feel like I have a family here. To Mario, Hamzah, Haziq, Jack, Mag and Alif (not to forget Nina). Thank you for being family and making me feel like I’m at home.

 

6. The people at home. For never losing touch, and always being there for me no matter the timezone. The late night calls, 5 am FaceTime. Sometimes the accompanying me to walk back home at night calls. The good news and bad news call. Thank you for using technology in the most beneficial way.

 

7. Amirul. To have grown with me, and to continue to grow with me in the future. I can’t thank God enough for giving me you.

 

I want to end 2017, with a massive final Alhamdulillah for every little blessing and unspoken prayers answered.

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Character Development

I’ve always screamed “I’m a strong, independent woman. I can do it myself !” This was just referring to carrying a lot of groceries bag to the house from the car because to go back was for losers. Ammirite? I would always joke about it. I took it as a joke, calling myself strong and independent and a WOMAN. I’m a child. Let’s be real. I’m learning to realise that. So that’s step 1.

 

When I turned 21, I felt young. I felt like I have my whole life ahead of me. Funny, because I was dreading the official premier to adulthood the whole of my 20th year. I’ve always thought I was growing up when I was paying for rent myself. I thought I was growing up when I started to drive myself around. I didn’t realise, all these were just the first few milestones of many more. But I wasn’t grown up here *points at head*. I’ve been told that I was wise, but really tho, I’m not. I’ve just realise, a whole new aspect to explore.

 

Let’s say my life is like a book, I realise my character lacks development. I want my character development to be as strong as Rachel’s from Friends. From being a clueless baby to independent and successful. I’ve been stationary in my growth for a long time. I can’t say I haven’t grown, I have. Just not dramatically enough, and also not independently. I’ve grown with the people I’ve surrounded myself with. My friends, and my family. Decisions were never 100 percent my own, there were always external factors that I had to take into considerations – mostly the permission of my parents. #asiankidprobs. I thought I knew myself very well, to a certain extent I did. I knew what I liked and did not like. But I just stayed in my comfort zone though. I would never do anything that would completely push me off the edge of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t try anything new without analysing them first, and consulting with my other half or my friends who knew me well. They would go “oh no you wouldn’t like it.” and I would be swayed by what they say and not do it. My self identity was defined by who I was hanging out with and, how they described me was how I would describe myself. I had no sense of independence at all.

 

Being completely alone, and placed in a completely different scene feels like a blank canvas almost. I can splash any colour, and write anything. The fact that I’m only here for a year, makes me want to make a mess! I want to define who I am as I wish, by myself and for myself and definitely not for anyone else, nor is it to fit anyone else’s expectations of me. I’m here to explore my options. Try new things and keep the ones I already know I love. My sister keeps giving me a Pep talk about being alone – “Mak and Ayah raised you well enough to be strong.” True. They did. So next time I’m saying “I’m a strong, independent woman.” I’m gonna fucking mean it.

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.

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?