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.

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.

Summer 2k17

I’ve always waited for inspiration to kick in before I start writing. BUT BLANK. My mind has been blank. Thus, no update since the last post in April. IT’S JUNE ALINA. But I’ve been meaning to write about my few final days before the summer holidays. So here is the post, that will commemorate my Summer 2k17

 

To start off, it’s difficult being friends with international students. Once it’s summer, they’re all gone. Each and everyone boarding on a different plane going back to places they each call home. Be it Singapore, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Dubai or even Jordan. Spread across the world, all we had was our shared final night in Nottingham. It was my final night at the place where I spent the first few weeks crying and struggling to find comfort in a home away from home, only to find myself surprisingly… dreading to leave.

 

It’s surprising what a foreign place can turn into when you put the right people in it. A room is only a room, but with the right people it’s a home. I discovered my love for my first year of degree reaching it’s peak during the final weeks of exams season. This is where we bond most I guess, while everyone face their own struggles. We tend to depend on each other more for emotional support. The Core Crew (lame I know), but we literally spent everyday with each other – breakfast, lunch, dinner. With piles of books, and empty packets of snacks on the table. Sharing movies in-between revision breaks with 12am quizzes, and 2am naps. Stress was instantaneously paired with laughter.

 

 

Other than my friends, I did fall in love with the place too. I found comfort in Nasi Kukus in front of Tesco, RM4 uber rides to McDonalds, RK Fatima Roti Telur for 3pm breakfast and all-day fluffy Pancakes at Breakfast Club. Although, I hated how far away UNMC was from the city, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this numerous of times previously. But being in the middle of nowhere do have its perks. One major one as the visible starry sky. The stars that would accompany me during my pitch black walk back to my room from the Core, made me want to study longer into the night. Because the later the night, the darker the sky – hence, more stars. It would scatter all around, and sometimes cluster at one side. At the UNMC bridge, I would stand there for hours feeling so small comparing myself to the universe.

 

 

 

On my last night in UNMC, we did exactly that. But rather than standing on the bridge, we sat at the rooftop. Lied on the metallic roof, with the sounds of sniffling mice and stepping into the unseen puddles on the floor. We stayed there for the whole night. Only left to eat right before dawn. We lied flat on the roof, and tilted our head up to look above and noticed how infinite the universe is – realising the sphere shape of the world. Contemplating the existence of other creatures of God and how lonely it would be if we were the only living thing in the entire universe. Whenever, a bird would fly across we would be startled and, if we were quiet enough we could hear every plane that flew above us.

 

 

 
However, it was Aimin’s Penis shaped constellation, Izran’s philosophy class and Mali’s laughter echoing across the night – that made it an incomparable night. The comfortable silence, of nothing but our heavy breathing accompanied with Coldplay’s music. I also finally found the sole purpose of it, it’s to be played for moments like this. To feel nostalgic for something that hasn’t passed yet, but we know will. We were harmonising to Yellow, and whispered all together “I want something just like this.”   And in that moment, while we stared into “forever” and celebrated each shooting star we didn’t miss – I felt both immortal and mortal all at once.

Lit teacher 

I went to teach refugee kids last week Saturday, and it was such a life changing experience. I went in there, with no teaching experience other than memories of teaching my cousins and friends during Alevels. Thanks to Hari, who nudged me with a “go on – teach” and nothing much else – I did. I stood up infront of all 9 kids with a marker in my trembling hands and introduced myself after they all stood up to greet us “Good Morning Teacher”. 

They all just stared at me after that. Each beady eyes, blinked right at me after every few seconds. Waiting for a direction, waiting for a command. I realised being a teacher requires a lot of thinking at the top of your toes moment. I stood there with Khadijah (we were in it together), began with a long “Sooooo……. we’re studying English today”. Slight lift in tone stretching the end syllable, questioning my own command. One of the students gave us the book they use, and we flipped by a random page and thought okay this seems simple let’s start with this. That was my teaching plan. #litteacher. Get it ??? Lit – literature but lit??? I bet they would’ve laughed.. 

After skipping pages and teaching 3 chapters of English and fractions for maths, the kids kept asking if they’ll see me next week. I WAS SO TOUCHED. They wanted to see me again. Or maybe the just wanted to know what week to skip.. Nonetheless, it was so satisfying when they said “I got it.” Especially when they started with arched eyebrows, scratching their head with their pencil. I tried to apply as much psychology as I could – Vygotsky’s Scalfolding methods. Methods of teaching ADHD kids (even though they weren’t, it’s just to keep their focus on me) and operant conditioning (Skinner). 

I’ve always found it selfish to not share your knowledge. It was an honor to be able to teach these children, and share the slight percentage of knowledge that I have. Generally, I’m a blabber mouth, to the point that if I learnt something new I would tell the first person I see after that and pass on the knowledge. Not necessarily teaching, but I always have this need to tell – OTHER PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THIS TOO! Kinda feeling. Trust me, after 33 months of my blabber to Amirul, he can graduate with a Psychology Degree too once I’m done. 

These children’s age varies from 12 to 14 years old, mostly from Myanmar. And they’re learning primary 3 up to primary 6 work. It’s upsetting, they have so much potential just not equal opportunity as others. Everyone deserves the right to education. Being brought up in a family where education plays a huge role – (my dad working for the higher education sector in the government). My dad has always taught me the importance of knowledge. It’s the only thing you have that no one else can take away from you. And for others to not have the same opportunity to acquire knowledge as I have ? Makes me grateful for my upbringing and the opportunities I’ve been handed on a silver platter. These kids, they pay RM 20 ringgit per month, for this education and which frankly should be free. Education should be free and to all. But for this foundation called Blue Skies, to gather volunteers every Saturday – our efforts are just a stepping stone.

 My dad has been working for decades in the higher education, and day by day I hear and see people complain about the Malaysian Education System – the local universities standards not being of quality. The lack in facilities, and complaints about lecturers being boring. The main aim of the government is to provide opportunities for all the children in Malaysia to be able to attend higher education. Education for all, no matter the social status, and opportunity. Everything else is secondary.

Let’s leave with a note my dad once advised my brother when he first got Mi’qael – the most important thing you have to provide for your children, is their education. It’s an investment for their future. Start up the bank account, the moment the child is born and you won’t regret it.