Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2016 In Review

Writing a review of 2016, as is customary when the new year has begun (for quite some time now, huhu).  Hmm. If I could summarize 2016 in a sentence, I would say that 2016 has been a hectic yet rewarding year for me. Here's why:

Career

I guess career-wise 2016 was really a hectic year for me. After 8 months of waiting, I was called for the PhD Viva in April. I was informed two weeks in advance, when I was chilling out at Nok's place in Kuantan, so practically I had ample time to prepare. But preparing for the Viva was  really nerve-wrecking. I really had no idea who my external examiners were until the day before the Viva. I was so fucking worried!  I mean, these two examiners were like professors in the field I am doing - so yes, there was that worry that they would be very critical of my work. But it turned out the internal examiner was more critical - well, that was sorta expected. My supervisor had assured me that the internal examiner had passed me but still, that was no consolation. I still worried over the other two external examiners. I found out that one was a professor in India, and the other one was a professor from Idaho, USA. That professor from India though. The irony was I had had her book on my desk for months and didn't even bother to read it! Well, anyways, these professors were happy with my work and didn't have much to comment.
The Viva itself was even more nerve-wrecking. There were so many people in the Viva Room - the Dean, Deputy Dean, someone from the Senate, The HOD, my Supervisor, an admin officer and the internal examiner.  I had post-it notes all over my thesis but I didn't even get to touch it!  It was like a round-table discussion, with everyone in the room giving a li'l bit of his or her opinion except for the HOD, whom I think gave too much of her condescending opinion. Without even reading my work.   Thank God she wasn't my examiner!
I had a lot of support from my friends especially Chong, Nok and Muzhafar. The latter even took the time to drive me in the morning and waited patiently outside the Viva Room with Nok. Nok and Stef even got me a bouquet of flowers as soon as I stepped out of the room. Later I found out that Stef had actually been asking people at IGS and had already known about the external examiners' reports! I only knew about the reports whilst I was waiting to go into the room! Pn Lina, the clerk who is in charge of all PG matters told me not to worry because my reports were okay. It was a relief to hear that and  I felt like half of my anxiety and nervousness were gone. But they came back when I went into the room and saw so many unfamiliar faces, waiting to hear about my thesis!
So after the Viva I was told I had passed, with minor corrections. I was given three months to do the corrections but managed to complete it in two months. I had to complete in two months anyway because the deadline for claiming my thesis allowance loomed really near. Either I hit or miss the deadline! I chose not to miss it because a lot of money was at stake! LOL! Plus, I wanted to make it to the convocation this year!


 Just after I stepped out of Hell. Hehe. Thank you, Nok, for always being there for me. 

My convocation was extra special because it fell on my birthday. Yup, 15 October. I was H.A.P.P.Y. It's not every year that I get to celebrate my convocation and my birthday on the same day. Definitely never again!  My family came, my two BFFs Nok and Lin came. Another thing that made it special is I shared the convocation day with my two other BFFs, Ann and Agil, who had also completed their PhDs around the same time I did. 


The pinnacle of 5 years of H.A.R.D work


                            Probably my favourite non-selfie in 2016. Haha! On my birthday, after convocation, chilling out with Stef, Sabine and Nok. 


Other than my thesis, my appointment as the English Lit Bachelor's program coordinator kept me pretty occupied since I spent most of my  time working on the department's curriculum review. Thank God I had Ewan, my ex-student cum colleague, who had tirelessly assisted me throughout the process. Another appointment, as the secretary of MICOLLAC 2016 - our department's biannual  international conference - kept me pretty occupied too. On many occasions I found myself going home really late at night to settle things related to the conference. Being the Secretary was like being the coolie.  Even more so when the conference was held. I was like a mother hen going here and there doing this and that!
Despite my busy-ness, I managed to send an article for publication. It was accepted after much rigorous improvement but I  was told it wasn't going to be published until 2017! Bummer!
I also managed to get a research grant. Yup, despite my busy-ness, I managed to come up with a proposal  (which was largely churned out of my thesis - I just tweaked it a bit). More surprisingly some of my colleagues at the faculty congratulated me on getting the grant. It felt odd a bit but I hoped they were sincere.
So, even though I did not have any publication in 2016, I am quite proud of myself for being able to juggle a lot of things that came my way. I went bonkers a few times, yes but was still sane. Hehe. I also got appointed as the Vice President of Association for The Study of Literature and the Environment ASEAN (ASLE -ASEAN) - a newly-formed association based in NUS,Singapore. I got called by INSPEN to conduct some training on research.  Still got called by Bahagian Matrikulasi to vet and mark papers. Got some extra money for part time teaching. I was blessed.

The ASLE ASEAN newly-appointed committee with Prof Scott Slovic

At MICOLLAC 2016

Travel

Domestic travel was key in 2016. I visited a lot of local places. Went to Langkawi with Nok after so many years. Went to Melaka - thanks to Nok and Stef who were doing research on Kristang, the language of the Portuguese-Malaccans. Even got to participate in Intrudu - some kinda water festival celebrated by people at the Portuguese settlement. Everybody goes around splashing buckets of cold water on other people! I even got dumped twice into a big bucket of iced water! It really amazed me how those kids managed to carry the heavy me on their backs! Haha! It was during this trip too I was introduced to those delicious food at the Protuguese Square - salted egg crab, curry devil and terong pimenter! Yums! And that mango juice - simply out of this world!
I also went to Sg Lembing in Pahang - what used to be a thriving mining town under British colonial adiministration. Stef, Sabine, Nok and me stayed for two nights there - we left KL the day after my Viva. It was fun discovering a small cowboy town smack in the middle of a forest and learning its history. The good thing about Sg Lembing is they preserved a lot of the things in the town - the library (or 'khutub khanah' ), the school, the mine, and more importantly,  the trees! Went up the Panorama Hill to catch sunrise. The  2 hours climb up was totally excruciating but worth it at the end!
Kuantan has also become my second home. Thanks to Nok. I made a few trips to Kuantan just to spend time with Nok. I love you, Nok! Hehe.
I went to Singapore with Chong to attend ASLE-ASEAN's first meeting cum workshop.  It was fun as I got to meet Prof Scott Slovic again and made new friends from ASEAN. Also got to  explore part of Marina Bay Sands especially The Gardens by the Bay. Man-made marvels that left me awestruck!
Went to Penang for the MICOLLAC Conference. Extended my stay there with Nok - just relaxing and winding down.  It was during this trip too that I stepped foot at the famous Penang Hill. I also tried parasailing for the first time. I was scared outta my shit but enjoyed it nevertheless!
Went to Bali, after so many years, with the Fantastic Four. Again, I tried something new - something I never thought I would be doing. White water-rafting. It was a 14 km-long of adrenaline rush but I enjoyed it tremendously! Woohoo! This was also the first time I went on a vacay and stayed at a private villa with a private pool. I enjoyed it tremendously because I got to swim to my heart's content without worrying about people around me.


                                                  14 km of adrenaline rush! Woohoo!

Personal

I am single but not looking. Seriously, I am done with looking.  I think it would take a special kind of man to really wow me and I suspect this man does not exist. Even if he exists he must already be taken, dead or still in mom's womb. Or an impressive figure in fiction. 
I finally lost my handphone. Hahaha. All this while I'd heard horror stories about people losing their handphones. Never thought I would experience it. But I guess my number was up. I got so mad because I lost it at my tailor's house and it was so fucking obvious that she took it! 
I welcomed another baby niece in July - two weeks after Raya. This bundle of joy was really taking her time to come out to this world. After cracking up her head for weeks, my sister named her Qadeeja Amberly.  Deeja for short.


                                                    Baby Deeja!                                                 

After so many years of keeping my hair long and straight I decided to highlight it and cut it short! Many people, strangely, were happy that I did these! Hah!
I found that I was smitten with these three male artists - Hozier, James Bay and Sam Hunt. I don't know how some people could be so talented, and able to poke the deeper recesses of my senses. Haha. Hozier especially, has a distinctive style - almost dark at times but still beautiful. James Bay - so young yet his songs are so matured. Sam Hunt- well, he's taken the country music to a totally different level.  
Towards the end of December 2016, the Singbles family were shaken by the news of Suhairah having suffered a stroke. She underwent two operations and we really thought everything was going to be okay. Yati and I visited her after the operations and she was fine, talking to us happily like her usual self. But things took a turn for the worse after that and as we entered the new year, Suhairah left us forever. May God bless your soul, Su!  We may not be that close and we might not have a long history of friendship but you will be missed, Su!
The Singbles family had a two-night stay at a villa in Pengkalan Balak, Melaka to mark the arrival of the New Year. We had planned this many times over and finally everyone managed to agree on the date and venue.  All of us except Su and Joey were there. We had fun but everyone was kinda in a somber  mood thinking of Su fighting for her life at the hospital. But because reservations have been made and couldn't be cancelled, we went anyway. Little that we knew Su's condition would worsen.


Su and me about two or three years back 


2016, In Short

I guess 2016 was not so bad. I was really busy with a lot of things but managed to handle them.Wishing 2017 would be less hectic yet rewarding. Hahaha! That's really my optimist alter-ego talking. We shall see. Somehow I could foresee 2017 as a road with many twists, all intended to make me a better person (I hope) and be better able to relate to the human condition.



To have the kind of year you want to have, something has to happen that you can't explain why it happened. -Bobby Bowden

Monday, October 3, 2016

I Remember This Date

You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories ~ Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

I remember this date
I would have baked you a cake
I would have bought you a gift
I would have picked you up

We would have dined out
Or went to the theatre
And stayed in the car for hours

And you would have made time
With an eagerness you hid so well

I remember this date
Fondly
Though the eternal I had hoped
Left suddenly.





Thursday, June 16, 2016

Piggy Banks (Part II)

A penny saved is a penny earned. ~ Benjamin Franklin. 

I had two piggy banks for 2015. One was the 52-Week-Challenge piggy bank and the other was the Coin piggy bank.

The 52-Week-Challenge was fun. I was very disciplined and by the last week of 2015, had saved about RM1378. My Coin piggy bank on the other hand, yielded about RM265. I decided to treat myself. End of story, LOL.

For 2016, I have three piggy banks. I am continuing with the two piggy banks mentioned above and added another piggy bank. This third bank is what I call the 1-Ringgit -1-Day Challenge. It was suggested by my BFF. The aim however, is not to reward myself but rather to use it for Qurban. My BFF told me that if I saved 1 Ringgit a day, by the time Raya Haji approaches, I would have saved enough money for Qurban. So I thought, yeah, why not?

Piggy banks are all about discipline and enthusiasm. And they always give you happy endings ^-^




2015 In (Late) Review

Doing this belatedly. Can't help it, I overestimated myself and now suffer from bouts of guilt. To my over-thinking mind, recapping the year that passed is a must, no matter how late. I just hope I can still remember those life-defining moments that happened in 2015. Here goes:

1. Lost a very good friend, Rohaizad, who'd finally gotten his green card and migrated to the States to be with the love of his life. It's not like we've never been separated before. Ro has always moved around, and once in a blue moon he'd come back. But this time it felt different because his leaving has that sense of finality to it. We met for the last time in JB. I'll never forget his enthusiasm and  his almost child-like eagerness to meet up. We had coffee and goofed around at Jalan Dhoby. He was so happy with the farewell gift Lin and I got for him. Two Malaysian recipe books since he loves cooking so much.  I almost burst into tears when I bid him goodbye. He's such a good friend. Luckily we have Whatsapp so we still keep in touch now and then. I miss you, Ro.

                                          Ro was happy with his farewell gifts!

                                         Goofing around at Jalan Dhoby

2. I brought my TESL kids to see a play at KLPAC. I was worried the play would bore the kids but they seemed to enjoy it. This batch was a very enthusiastic lot. Most of them have never seen plays in English and seeing them happy  experiencing theatre for the first time made me happy.

3. I was invited to be a judge for the National Residential School English Drama Competition. It's not something I hadn't  done before but what made this memorable is the presence of Tiara Jacquelina, a passionate advocator of the arts and a very graceful lady, who was kind enough to sponsor the trophies for this competition. It was really an honour to have her grace the competition.

                                                Judging is hard work ^-^

4. I went to Barcelona and Maldives. Barcelona for a conference with Ann, Aniza and Padma from Sunway. I was told I could apply for funding to go to the conference so I applied. After a rigorous application process which really tested my patience, they rejected my application. Like, one day before I was supposed to leave for Barcelona. I went anyway. Luckily I had some money saved. What made the trip worth it was the publication of my papers with Ann in a SCOPUS journal. I had two publications, yeeha! The conference hotel was in the outskirts of Barcelona so most of our time were spent in Sant Boi, a quaint town 30-45 minutes away from Barcelona. It was nice knowing the hotel where we stayed at used to be a castle. But it was also scary. Hehe. Barcelona was nice, and despite horror stories of pick pockets and thieves, we enjoyed ourselves, especially during the visit to Gaudi's signature landmarks such as Park Buell and LeSegrada Familia and to a Flamenco show. Met Bill Philips from University of Barcelona. Quite a nice guy.

                                             Ann and me in Barcelona

Maldives was like a double celebration for me. It was less than two weeks after my birthday and earlier on at the end of August I had submitted my thesis. The Fantastic Four went to Club Med Maldives and had fun, especially in the evening because they had a show every night followed by some clubbing session afterwards. Activities were abundant. I enjoyed the Aqua Zumba. Also enjoyed our one-night transit in Colombo. But this trip really cost me a bomb. Huhu.

                                             Maldives' kinda morning...

5. Also managed to bring my sis, mom, nephew and niece to Melaka for a short holiday. I booked a nice apartment in the middle of Malacca town, equipped with swimming pool.That was the most I could do. I hope they had fun. I hadn't been to a zoo for a long time so took the kids to Melaka zoo. I think I was more excited than them. Hahaha.

                                                    Raya with my family

6. I finally submitted my thesis on 28 August 2015. What a relief! I felt like the whole planet has been lifted off my shoulders! I had gone through so many hurdles and challenges before I could finally submit it. There was that MicrosoftWord challenge which delayed my printing. My proofreader Khalil was also late. My supervisor - well, late should be her middle name. I did the pre-submission seminar - after I got scared out of my shit. Two weeks before my seminar Elham my friend had hers and was verbally attacked after her presentation. I became paranoid and expressed my concern to my supervisor. I told her I didn't want to get attacked like that. Not when I am about to submit my thesis. Luckily my seminar went well.

                                             The day I submitted my thesis!

                                              Celebrating my birthday in class

7. I got involved in a voluntary-basis project with SUTRA Dance Company. SUTRA, whose founder is the legendary Ramli Ibrahim, was involved as one of the organisers for KL International Dance Festival. The event took a month to complete and involved dance groups from all over the world. My part was to help run concerts at the DBKL Auditorium i.e. ushering guests, monitoring audience in the hall. I had fun watching all the dance shows, especially those from Malaysia and India. I also made a lot friends. My proudest moment was when I was invited for a dinner event at Ramli's SUTRA and he thanked me for my part in the event.

                                            A dance show by ASWARA

8. A friend told me about Tinder, an app that connects people who are looking around for people who are looking around. Hehe. It reminds me of those dating websites back in early 2000s, those that Kak Wan urged me to join. Well, I tried it, mainly as a  reward to myself for submitting my thesis. Met a few guys online but I didn't feel any connection - not the kind of connection I used to have with my ex-muse. Bummer. Maybe I still can't get over him *gosh*. Well, maybe I felt some kind of connection with one or two guys but they didn't last long enough. Anyways, what I learnt from Tinder is that it is a VERY promiscuous dating site, most of the guys seem attached in one  way or another (fuck yeah, I can tell) and are there for fun (and fuck, it goes without saying). So after a few weeks of going nowhere, I decided to uninstall it. Yeah. I felt so relieved. I felt liberated. I guess I'm just too old for dating games. Plus, guys nowadays fail to interest me that much. 

To recap, 2015 has been good to me. I had a few hiccups here and there but eventually I stepped into 2016 with peace of mind! Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe.


For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice.― T.S. Eliot

Monday, March 16, 2015

Piggy Banks


Why do we put money into piggy banks? The reasons are varied but for me, it is a way of rewarding myself.
I don't remember having a piggy bank when I was a child. Back then, I only got money for my school expenses, given by my Mom on a daily basis. The money that I got was only enough to get a decent meal during recess, so I didn't have extra money to put into a piggy bank. I watched with envy every time my Dad put some money into his piggy bank. He would put those small change that he got into his piggy bank, which was made of clay, a replica of a rooster. His reason was obscure to me, but come to think of it, maybe men just do not like carrying coins in their wallets. Or pockets, for that matter.
The only time I would get lots of money was during Hari Raya. I would get some money from my family, uncles and aunties, but that would disappear fast as it would be used to buy whatever I needed. Yup, money was not easy for me to get back then. This is why when I entered university, I worked during semester breaks and sometimes on weekends, so that I earn my own money and need not ask my parents for it.
My parents did not really teach me how to save money but I learned from them indirectly. My Mom's money-saving skills was exemplary. She used to save part of her salary religiously that by the time she retired, she had saved enough money to build a house back in her hometown. Also, throughout her working years, there have been occassions when money was needed and she already had some money handy. Like when she bought two pieces of land in her hometown. Like when she bought me a second-hand desktop so I could do my thesis when I came back home on weekends. Like when she handed me 20k for the downpayment of my first car! She made me speechless every time!
I started saving money when I taught in school. I used to save about 400 ringgit every month, with the aim to travel to UK. Hehehe. But a lot of things happened along the way. I got married and whatnot.  I got divorced. I also had a lot of part time jobs. I saved some of the money I got. I always told myself, if my Mom could do it, so could I. Plus, I've always believed in the need to save up for some rainy days ahead.
So, my point is, I've never had a piggy bank. Until recently. I've always saved my money in banks. About two or three years back, a friend told me about her piggy bank, which, when full of coins, would yield about 400+ ringgit. She would then use the money to top up her car insurance payment. I thought that was really cool!  So I tried it, beginning on 1 January 2013. I bought a piggy bank at a 5 ringgit shop. My target was to save money into the piggy bank for a year. So whatever  small change I had, I would quickly put it into the piggy bank. I would do this almost daily. So by 31 December 2013, I got about 300+ ringgit! I'd always intended to use the piggy bank money to reward myself. So I got myself an Armani watch at JPO.  I've always liked Armani watches anyway. The same thing happened by 31 December 2014. I got about 200+ ringgit. I got less savings this time around because the coins have shrunk in size, a move by Bank Negara that has baffled me until today.  Hehehe. With that money, I managed to get a good deal on an Armani watch. I was happy!
This year, 2015, I added another piggy bank. Thanks to a pin I came across on Pinterest, this second piggy bank is a piggy bank of notes. Yup! The whole idea is called The 52-Week Money Challenge. The image below illustrates this challenge: 



So, by week 52, 31 Dec 2015 to be exact, I would have a total of 1378 ringgit! Isn't that a wonderful way to close 2015 and welcome 2016? As of now, it's already the 12th week of 2015. I have actually saved up about 66 ringgit! Woohoo! So far I've been doing this with great discipline. Every weekend, I would mark in my calendar how much I've put away for the second piggy bank. Just so as not to lose track. 



See ;-)? 

As of now, I still haven't decided what I'll do with the money. Maybe go on a shopping spree. Or a short holiday somewhere. We'll see! Whatever it is, I'll reward myself. If I don't do that, nobody will ^-^ ! 



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hats and Such

I was a Victorian lady last weekend ^-^


A friend had thrown a birthday party for his teenage daughter. The theme was 'Garden Party'. A quick google confirmed that this kind of theme would entail hats. I have always liked wearing hats. Or caps, for that matter. If it is socially acceptable in my culture to wear hats around the clock, I would gladly do so. But, nah. I get to wear a hat only when the occasion arises. 
I had not bought a hat for a long time. So naturally I had to find one, to suit the 'Garden Party' theme. Went to Mid Val but the hats there were so expensive! I was reluctant to buy because of the probability that I would only wear it once. Victorian-style hats are occasion-specific, I think. 
How I ended up with a nice hat, at the last minute, at a very cheap price, was funny! I had walked into a shop at my housing area because I thought I'd look for a flower hair clip or hair band to wear to the party. Then I saw this very nice, dainty-looking hat. I reached for it and saw the price tag. RM16.90!!! I couldn't believe my eyes! The same-looking hat would cost me RM89.90 at Mid Val! I quickly dashed to the cashier and paid for it, thanking divine providence for such a blessing! And this happened two hours before I was supposed to leave for the party! 


How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about. ~ Philip Treacy