From India to Illinois : I moved continents!

I’ve been missing for a while (again), but this time I have an extremely valid reason – I was firstly holidaying around the US, and now I’m settling in at my new home. After living a little more than the first two decades of my life at the same place, I’m now living away from home, because I’m doing my PhD at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The level of adulting (kindly excuse my use of crazy words) has gone up, people.

In the last couple of weeks, I have…

…learnt that packed lunches are a wonderful thing

…already got my first set of bruised scabby knees

…pulled/pushed doors in the wrong direction (way too many times)

…gotten a water account in my name (well they first named me Baner (first name) Jee (last name), but I got it changed after I’d laughed a full minute)

…left my water bottle in class (and then retrieved it the next afternoon)

…learnt that I can cook well enough and my experiments aren’t bad at all

…had a staring contest with a rabbit in front of my apartment building

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After the staring, it royally ignored me

…understood that if your front door is open and someone is moving around in your room, it’s probably just the maintenance guy fixing your window blinds(and not an intruder, so don’t scream)

…stuck to my resolution to wash dishes as soon as I’m done with them

…gotten lost in Walmart (and Target. And JC Penney)

…repeated myself several times (slowly) because my English is accented

…learnt that my English is accented

…been expressed deep commiseration and laments over the fact that I’m a doctoral student, and will probably stay here forever

…already gotten socialized to dread midterms

…confirmed that UIUC is indeed surrounded by cornfields, but what people leave out is that within those cornfields you have pretty much everything you might need

 

…visited the ‘Taste of Champaign-Urbana‘ and despite the live music and delectable food, been most excited by the froyo spoons which change colour when cold

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…got a taste of what the (in)famous #gradlife is about

…observed the “Undergrad” and seen several stereotypes played out

…observed the “Grad” and seen several stereotypes played out

…realized that I’ll probably be okay.

Now these realizations/learnings were only in university, so you can imagine how much I was bombarded with while I was being touristy before I got here. It wasn’t as much of a culture-shock as it is a learning process. The widespread reach of American movies, TV series and Tumblr has done at least one thing – made American popular culture known to everyone.

And now I must go and study, because you know, Grad school and all that.

(I’m probably just going to chat with my flatmates about which restaurant we’re going to try out this week)

Thoughts About Living in a Malaysian City Away From Home (Guest Post)

(Today, we have the first guest post on this blog. I’m very excited, so without further ado, over to Daphnée and her experiences of living away from home. Go check out her blog through the link in the bio after the post)

I have been living in Malaysia for 2 years and I don’t miss home.

Many would call me heartless; after all, I am merely a student and thus I still depend on my family to get by. However, I have always been the adventurous type, not necessarily the sporty one, but the one that likes to wander around and discover new places, live new experiences.

I live in the city of Subang Jaya; this name might not be familiar to all. Compared to the small town I used to live in, this place was a city of lights for me, especially that I reside in the township of Sunway – a mixture of the tourist and student lifestyle. Mornings are pretty calm; most of us wake up late anyway, unless you have an 8 a.m. class, while evenings are filled with the scent of a multicultural fusion cuisine and nights with bright multicoloured neon-lit buildings and loud music (if there is an event, but in any case the area is very eventful).

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However, I believe that this is not how one is supposed to define one’s city. I believe that whether a city is boring or interesting depends hugely on how you create your own experiences from it.

Why don’t I miss home, really? It’s certainly not because I hate my family or whatsoever. I don’t even define home by the people I love or I am very close to, but by my level of comfort.

I don’t miss home because I make that time spent in that city worth it.

I may only have 1 year left living here, as I’m graduating next July, and so far I can say that I have been successful in making Sunway my home. At first, I had tried to make friends with everyone, whether they were local or international, in order to both blend into the city life and have people to relate to. I then explored every corner, from public transportation to the best (cheapest) grocery store. Yes, if you really want to get to know a city, it’s best to take note of those mundane places, instead of the touristic spots. Personally, that’s how I really got comfortable.

Homesickness was never an option for me. I was 19 when I left my nest and I was determined to bring my concept of ‘home’ with me, and I did. I was not afraid of loneliness either; I took it as an opportunity to grow as an independent adult and to learn more about myself.

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I believe that, eventually, Subang Jaya could be like any other city: it offers you a wide variety of lifestyle choices; you just have to choose your own, and from there, make the most out of it. For instance, while many students here tend to go clubbing every weekend, spending a lot of money on booze and expensive clothes, I choose not to as my allowance is quite small.

However, not having a lot of money doesn’t mean that I don’t get to enjoy city life. In fact, the first thing I found wonderful is the close proximity of libraries and bookstores. Back in my home country, I had to travel an hour by bus at least to get to the nearest ones. Here, I have access to two libraries from two of the universities surrounding me… by walking for 5-10 minutes, I get to read books for free!

In addition, Subang Jaya is well-known for its variety of restaurants, cheap or expensive; they have it all for all tastes, cultures and… bank accounts! Food is like a culture thing here; food is how we socialize. It’s a whole fulfilling experience all by itself. Moreover, it’s one great way to get to form your gang of friends, those that think like you, have similar interests (because you’ll end up leaving the restaurant at midnight although you came in at 7 p.m.) and… yes, budgets.

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In the end, I would say that the joy that came out of living in a Malaysian city for so long was much based on the experiences I chose to experience, the people I chose to hang out with and the time I also chose to spend on myself.

Be aware of your choices because, yes, you can take control of your lifestyle… to your own advantage. It does take time but it is worth it after having adjusted to and been familiarized with everything around you.

And know that being away from home doesn’t really mean anything in the end because you can choose to bring home with you along your journey and travels.

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About the Author:

Daphnée Kwong Waye is a 20-something blogger at An Evil Nymph’s Blog who is following her childhood dream of becoming a writer. On top of that, she is currently studying psychology… and everything that touches the field of arts in university. Indeed, she has too many hobbies. 

The Nerd is In

Being a nerd/geek wasn’t ‘cool’ when I was in school – it meant you studied all the time, and no teenager worth their salt is going to own up to studying when in school.

Now however, I see these terms picking up again and it’s becoming a fad. Being a nerd or a geek now means being passionate about something, and I wholeheartedly support this definition. There is nothing as wonderful as hearing someone passionately talking about something…it changes them completely.

Talking to someone who is genuinely interested in something you fiercely love makes for wonderful conversation.

So anyone wanting to discuss Harry Potter without being a Muggle, kindly contact me.

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Late-Night Musings : Trust Issues

Trust Issues are the worst kind of issue to have. Ever. They colonize your mind and seep into your very neurons, making it hard (if not impossible) to open up and give up your inhibitions.

And ironically enough, the only way to get over trust issues, is to actually…

…wait for it…

…trust someone!

(And then keep worrying and getting anxious about whether that person is actually worthy of trust or not, and whether or not you’ve made a royally messed-up decision by opening up again or not.)

Oh the barriers we create for ourselves! How happy we would be if we could set our minds free instead.

PS. This is the most inconvenient thing to begin thinking about late at night.

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(from the net)

Nighttime Excursions and Celestial Mysteries

Every night, I go out for a walk in the park in front of my house with a friend who lives a few houses away (Hi Abhiti!). We’ve formed this tradition of sorts since a year or so (though it’s become regularized more recently) and we never run out of things to talk about.

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(from the interwebs)

For example…

where is the Moon? (a daily favourite, because the Moon hardly ever appears in the same spot in the sky and on some days hides behind houses, frustrating us to no end as we debate whether it’s a new moon night or not)

is it a rat/mouse or frog or cat which is rustling through the hedges? (this is creepy and more of an inner monologue I think, though we do discuss it too)

how well-trained is the pet dog that someone has let loose in the park while we walk? (I really like dogs, but when a hyperactive one runs towards you barking, you kind of freeze and wonder whether you should begin looking back at your life)

what kind of nocturnal birds are screeching at night and sounding nothing like owls? (I have realized that my information-level about nocturnal birds, save for owls, is woefully inadequate)

oh cool! That’s a bat flying around the big flood lights (more of an observation. We don’t get to see too many bats here)

what invisible creature is the cat stalking so intently? (we don’t have night-vision, so it could be ghost for all we know)

when we were kids, we could see so many more stars in the sky (this is another daily observation. Clear skies are a delight)

we should go to the Planetarium some day (follow-up to previous conversation)

how lucky are we that the power outage occurred on a full-moon night? (one night, there were power outages three times, leaving parts of the park in pitch-black darkness, so we retreated to the open areas where the moon, thankfully, showed up and shone bright)

air traffic has become so high! (there are planes zooming in all directions above our heads)

will we see an UFO? (my friend claims she saw an UFO once while she was in the park. So now, we look up every time we hear a noise in the sky, and I think we’re both hoping to see something…outside the ordinary)

Needless to say, our walks are more about us chatting and less about the walking itself. But even then, it’s a part of my day I look forward to, because being outside at night is always a mysterious and interesting prospect. And there are still so many questions to be answered!

Early Morning Epiphanies : Email Accounts

While checking my email account just now, I somehow got sidetracked by the fact that the list was cluttered with mails that I really didn’t need to keep. So I began deleting the extraneous stuff.

Fast Forward around 7 minutes, and I’m deep inside my past mails, skimming through mail subjects (and opening a mail when I can’t tell what it’s about) and reminiscing about that moment in time. I went through till the end – 2007.

It was like walking down memory lane, albeit it was more to do with my professional and academic life rather than personal (at least in more recent years). Places I have worked/interned at, assignments for college, invites for alumni meets, mail-exchanges with prospective employers, automated mails with admit cards for entrance exams…the list goes on. I’m sure everyone has such mails somewhere in their mailbox.

Only because I’m sometimes crazy enough to clean-up through my inbox, do I take these bizarre walks through the past. But I just realized – your whole life is kind of shadowed in your inbox (especially if you, like me, keep some mails just for sentiment’s sake).

The painful ones though were from people I don’t talk to anymore or have grown distant with, or seeing my past innocence in my writing.

It’s too early in the morning for such intense rumination!

Note To Self: Save email decluttering till later in the day.

Late-night Musings: Pros and Cons

“Every single thing has pros and cons. Nothing is perfectly good and nothing is absolutely bad. There’s always some grey.”

Who said the above? That would be me. *thank you thank you*

Whenever I’m faced with difficult decisions, I’ve found myself making mental ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’ lists, however cliched that might be.

Based on my extensive (twenty-something years) life experience, I have come to the conclusion that…

Every. Single. Thing. Has Pros and Cons.

All that changes is the perspective with which you look at something. When you change your perspective, something seemingly perfect can also throw up some negatives, or something which you’d judged horrendously bad, may start revealing some redeeming qualities.

I am absolutely sanguine about this fact…every thing in the world has positives and negatives.

And once you realise that (and try to remember that), life starts looking a little less horrifying.

Okay I’m done musing for tonight. But here’s when your musings begin. Try and think of something which has no pro or no con. If you can think of something, you get a cookie. A virtual cookie.

Kthnxbai.