I lost my hat (and I’m done with my thesis).

I am back, after a prolonged period of absence where I was just basically avoiding all forms of human contact apart from with my flatmate. It was getting dangerously addictive to stay away from all forms of electronic communications that I was so tempted to never emerge again, but I realised I have so much to account to my friends back home that I had to immediately banish that thought. Plus my mind was getting all tangled up from the lack of non-thesis-related writing that in the end I had to force myself to get up, get over my post-thesis laptop trauma and compose this post.

Just to get you up to speed with what has been happening, I had been bogged down with my thesis for the past 6 weeks or so. It was a long period of time to be concentrating on something if you ask me, but my supervisor clearly did not share the sentiment; after seeing my progress four weeks before the deadline, he freaked out a little (a lot) – according to him, I was very much behind the schedule with my writing and when he saw that I did not have a single trace of panic in my voice, he made me write this on my laptop screen, capital letters and all, to drill down the message.

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True enough, the weeks following that were nothing short of manic. I spent hours and hours in the library, trying to make up for lost time. I guess my friends were right all this time: I should have started writing much earlier.

I did not know how I did it in the end, but I managed to churn out a 6,000-word story plus a 6,000-word dissertation in 2.5 weeks. It was probably not my best piece of work, but hey my supervisor offered to be my reference for my job application in the end, so I guess it wasn’t too shabby after all.

Now that I’m back, I wish I could start by telling all of you about something cheerful – my library exploration, the trips to Stockholm, Oxford and Cambridge and possibly about all the chocolates that I consumed while writing my thesis. Alas, I have to get back to the surface with a rather grim matter, something that has been bothering me for the past few weeks. Just like everything else, I figured I would feel slightly better if I just rant to the whole world about it through my blog. So here goes.

I lost my hat.

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The very hat that I had previously flaunted to everyone and anyone polite enough to listen to a weird person talking incessantly about her hat. The very hat that had kept my head warm throughout the winter in London and Copenhagen.

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At this point, I find it pertinent to inform all of you my lovely readers about this one important fact: Just in case you haven’t noticed, I really like my hat.

Owing to my abnormally large head size, finding a hat that suits me had been a real challenge. Wearing a beanie has invoked much laughter from my sister and friends: my dear sister said I looked like a Hershey’s kiss. One of my friends had a much better PG-13 description: she said I looked like I was wearing a grey condom.

So imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this beauty at the discount rack of an Accessorize outlet at Paddington. Not only did it look pretty, it miraculously fit my head (if I squeezed hard enough)! When I wore it, it felt a little like when Harry Potter held his wand for the first time at Ollivander’s – sparks were flying everywhere and I immediately knew that this particular piece of clothing had chosen me to be its owner.

Continue reading “I lost my hat (and I’m done with my thesis).”

I am and will be MIA until the 5th of May.

I decided to write this post for several reasons.

One, because I’m in a real danger of breaking my track record since this blog started – I have written at least one post every month since December 2013.

Two, because I just submitted the first full 6000-word draft of my thesis to my supervisor so my brain has some capacity to churn out words. I still have another 6000 to go, but that’s besides the point.

Three, because my stress level is at an all-time high, I get irritated by little things very easily. I simply have to rant.

In particular, this recent phenomenon of people not taking my warning seriously.

Recently, I posted this on Facebook, which I’m sure many of my Facebook friends saw judging from the number of responses that I received.

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And then a strange phenomenon happened. More people are starting to text me on Facebook, people that I haven’t even heard from in a while (I’m talking years).

I appreciate a lot of the well wishes that came for me in completing my thesis. And I do understand that there are some questions that you might forget if you didn’t send me right away. I sincerely apologise for not having gotten back to you. Many of you have been incredibly gracious and understanding and you don’t know how much that means to me.

Plus you are fine, you are not the ones who irritate me.

It is those who then proceeded to text me again to nudge me for not replying. If I have read your messages and not reply you during the next week or so, that’s because I simply haven’t got the time to. Which part of “I will be rubbish at replying to your text messages” do you not understand? Unless you are my parents (and possibly my flatmate) who will genuinely get worried whether I’m alive if I didn’t reply for a day, you will simply have to wait.

I know I sound really snobbish and I should not be ranting about this. I should even be grateful that I have friends who still text me. But that is precisely why I posted that picture with the caption, because I do cherish my friends and will always do my best to reply everyone promptly but I am simply going to be rubbish during this period. And I will get back to you in due course, just please don’t text me again simply to nudge me to reply.

Even chocolate baits won’t work. Maybe.

Primrose Hill Market, London.

I was recently introduced to a friend of a friend who went backpacking around South East Asia last year. When I spoke to her, I felt a familiar feeling of shame creeping into me, the same one that always appeared whenever I spoke to travellers like her.

She, after a few weeks in my side of the world, has visited more places than I have the twenty six years I was living in the region.

Usually, a few minutes into the conversation, the name Cambodia would come up and I would have to reluctantly admit that I haven’t stepped on that country’s soil even once.

“I have been to Myanmar though,” I normally added in a bid to present myself as a more appreciative South East Asian.

I attribute this shameful phenomenon to what I call proximity ungratefulness. When a place is so close to where you live, you will naturally find it less exciting and will not go out of your way to visit.

I am thus careful of not letting the same thing happen to me here in London. I try to appreciate things around me, even stuff that is within walking distance from my flat.

One of my most recent finds was the Primrose Hill Market.

Primrose Hill is world-famous, and I have been there countless times. It has a beautiful unobstructed view of London and is equally charming during the day and night.

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But today I’m not here to talk about the Hill. I’m here for something that happens at the foot of the hill every Saturday, unbeknownst to many: the Primrose Hill Market.

Continue reading “Primrose Hill Market, London.”

Hackney City Farm, London.

At the start of this year I ambitiously declared that I have found a magical way to slow down the time.

Yet 2017 has simply been ramming itself like a charging bull on steroid, and I’m at loss once again on how to make the time stop. With a blink of an eye, it is already March. The weather got a lot warmer, the daylight stayed for a couple of minutes longer each day, and flowers start to blossom; spring is just around the corner.

It is strange to think that just a couple of weeks ago I was trying to ease back into the chilly weather in London, having spent December and January back home in the tropics. And on one of the coldest days of February, we visited the Hackney City Farm.

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Being surrounded by friends who grew up close to the nature, I have often behaved like an ignorant city girl in comparison. I remember asking someone, to both his bemusement and amusement, whether the flowers on the flowerbed we walked past were real (they clearly were).

Don’t get me wrong; I love the nature. I really do (except for those crawling insects that come with the nature in the tropics, and maybe snakes. And a couple more weird looking animals). And I have a weakness for cows – I think they are one of the cutest creatures alive. I am just never exposed to them very much.

So imagine my excitement when my friend told me about Hackney City Farm, which was set up for people like me: so I don’t have to drive (not that I can) for hours to see cows and horses and donkeys, and I get to immerse myself in the earthy smell of manure right at the heart of the city.

We agreed to meet right around lunch time so our first stop was brunch at Cafe Frizzante, which was located inside the complex. It being located inside the farm added a nice touch to the location.

It sounds barbaric now that I think about it, but the first animals that we encountered at the farm were this.

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The bacon and sausage that were once pigs.

Continue reading “Hackney City Farm, London.”

Back in Copenhagen, again.

There is nothing quite like your first love (in Europe).

Everyone remembers their first love.

It probably happened a long time ago.

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This was taken 8 years ago in 2009, when I was probably 8 kg lighter.

For some, it might have been just a short-lived crush. But for many, it lasted for a few years.

Because for some reason, you kept coming back for more…

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2010

And more…

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2012
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2013
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2014

Continue reading “Back in Copenhagen, again.”

A crazy long year that was 2016.

I used to measure my year by the number of countries I visited. Travelling has been such an integral part of my life – it is largely how I spent growing up into almost-adulthood since I was 20. The swift movement of packing, catching the planes and trains (or missing them) and exploring new sights while getting helplessly lost have in themselves been valuable lessons and shaped very much who I am today.

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I figure out life just like how I travel: looking perpetually lost.

This time round, however, counting the number of countries I visited seems to be somewhat… superficial.

I get a severe writer’s block every time I try summing up what last year has been for me. Often times, 2016 felt like a giant piece of blanket, made of patches of different cloths randomly sewn together, each piece as distinct as it is colourful. Way too often, the parts felt like it would give way any time, the thread holding them coming loose, but somehow it worked out, the fabric all stitched up somewhat nicely in the end.

(And you can tell that I am excellent at analogies. Not.)

Last year was my craziest so far, and by far. I lived in three different countries within a year, and did some extensive travelling in between. Most of my friends never quite knew where I was, and to be honest, sometimes I didn’t really know either.

I know that people say the older you get, the faster time flies. But I think I have found the recipe to slow down the time. You just need to have things keeping you constantly on your toes, so much so that it keeps you awake at night sometimes.

For me, trying to keep half-watch on what I own has been keeping me on my toes. I needed to make sure that by the end of every few months, I could still cram everything into my suitcases, ready to hurl them to the other side of the world. Being the hoarder and over-packing person that I am, it was a challenge in its own right.

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I have had 100% success rate so far packing all these into suitcases.

Not to mention that it was the first full year that I was jobless in a long time – the fact that I didn’t have a steady stream of income was hitting me hard. I had to think hard for a lot of purchases that I used to take for granted, although on hindsight, it did keep my possessions in check, hence helping me to be less of a hoarder.

Continue reading “A crazy long year that was 2016.”

The best of 2016.

A look back at some of my most popular posts in 2016.

Until yesterday, I was without both my camera and laptop for three long days. I had to send them both for some TLC, and I regret to announce that only one of them came back to me.

My camera, that I often affectionately refer to as my baby, went through some sensor cleaning and is now back with me safely. Considering I never left my flat without it for the past one year or so, having it taken away from me for full seventy two hours did give me some separation anxiety.

My laptop, however, suffered from a much more unfortunate fate. I will let the picture below speak of what had happened.

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And of course it went beyond repair one day before a big deadline.

The cost of repairing it would almost be equivalent to buying a new one, so after fighting furiously for its life, I had to make one of the most difficult electronic decisions in my life: I had to let it go.

You may find me weird for having such a strong attachment to a piece of technology (let alone sharing my sentiments for the whole world to read), but that laptop has gone through so much with me.

It was one of the main reasons for the birth of this blog. I typed every single post (129 of them to be exact) of this so-called travel blog on that laptop – it practically gave me back my flair for writing. My mediocre pictures appeared twice as sharp and brilliant thanks to its screen resolution that was way ahead its time. It travelled with me to all the different countries that I have been to since the end of 2013 (there were a lot of them).

So it does feel extremely weird that I am now writing this very post on a new laptop that I had just purchased in a rush to fill in the gaps so I can continue applying for jobs during my winter break. For one I kept touching my screen to try and scroll down since my previous laptop came with that function (I was spoilt I know).

But in the words of G.K. Adams that I recently came across in the book “After You” by Jojo Moyes:

Sometimes in order to keep moving forward, not only must you take one step at a time, but you must be willing to look back occasionally and evaluate your past, no matter how painful it is.

As a tribute to the enabler of this blog, I have decided to use this post to look back at some of my most popular posts in 2016, all of them came to life thanks to my now defunct Lenovo Yoga Pro 2.

Continue reading “The best of 2016.”

London Christmas sparkle, 2016.

Happy Christmas everyone! 🙂

While I am very grateful for my part-time job here in London, I often complained that being confined in Camden Market for 7 hours a day for the greater part of December meant that I completely missed out on the Christmas atmosphere that has been going on all over the city.

Before I knew it, the last month of this year has flown by – it’s Christmas Eve and it is time for me to pack for my trip back home.

As I was backing up my pictures to my hard drive and looked through some of the photos that I took over the past few weeks, I realised that I have actually visited a number of Christmas-themed landmarks in the city.

The good thing about London is that it is crazy about Christmas. The festivity has started since early November, practically right after Halloween. While some people including me find it slightly off seeing Christmas baubles being sold everywhere so early, it actually came as a saving grace this time round since that meant that I still managed to enjoy some of the beautiful Christmas lights sprinkled throughout the city.

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Although I do have to admit, sometimes London did take the whole Christmas thing a bit too far. They had a full-blown event for the Oxford Street Christmas light-up, which was basically when tourists flooded the street – I am ashamed to admit that I was one of them –  in the rain and freezing cold waiting for two hours for Craig David to flick a switch, with a prelude by some substandard band blasting their songs through crappy sound systems.

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Also, special appearance by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

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But other than that, the rest of the Christmas atmosphere was wonderful.

The alleyways right next to the busy Oxford Street was very charming for example.

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Continue reading “London Christmas sparkle, 2016.”

Whale watching in Tromsø, one year ago.

I just met a good friend for dinner, and we realised something.

The last time we met more than a year ago, life could not have been more different for both of us. Especially for her.

The last time we saw each other was in October last year in Copenhagen. At the time, I was wide-eyed with fascination after moving 10,000 km up north, while she had felt trapped living in Singapore and wanted to move somewhere else. That was what compelled her to go on a solo trip to Europe, and I was lucky enough to have her visit me while I was still studying in Denmark.

Fast forward a year later, she is living half a world away in San Francisco, a whole new world of opportunities right in front of her. While what brought her there might not be a job like how she had planned, she did break free in the end and is in the midst of her own kind of adventures.

Whereas for me, I am situated slightly less up north than last year. While I knew that I had signed up for a life of uncertainties when I decided to drop everything back home and enroll into my Master’s programme, it still did not prepare me for just how different and unexpected things could be in a year’s time.

Exactly this day last year, my sister would be arriving at the Central Station in Aarhus and we were about to embark on an exciting adventure in Norway. I would have broken down the night before because my computer had crashed 10 minutes before my exam deadline, forcing me to submit an incomplete paper without the bibliography. I would have feared that I might get expelled for accidental plagiarism and might have called my programme coordinator crying and begging her to still allow me to go to Berkeley even if I were to fail that exam (I passed). I would also have barely recovered from the shock of having my room broken into in the midst of my exam period.

This year, I am having a quiet night in my cosy room in London (theft-free, hopefully) on a Saturday, my legs sore from standing for 7 hours a day for the past 5 days working in a shop in Camden Market. Instead of going further up north for my winter break, I am flying home to see my family and friends again after having been away for only 4 months.

And as I am sitting on my bed overlooking the misty night pondering about this, I realised something else about myself.

That I truly am a procastinator.

It has been exactly a year ago since I went to Tromsø. Whilst I did manage to scrape something up about my successful Northern Lights chase, I have completely ignored writing about another major nature wonder that we did in the lovely city (and had spent equally a lot of money on): the whale watching.

Being a great travel planner that I am, I did not even know that whale watching is a highly recommended activity in Tromsø. It was not until a random guy who came to teach us fishing in the freezing cold on our first night there told us about it that we came to know about such expeditions.

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The said random Norwegian fishing guy.

At first we brushed the idea aside as some kind of tours that tourists get cheated into. However, when we failed to see the Northern Lights on our first attempt, my sister and I resolved that we would not leave Tromsø until we saw something else other than some snow and the all-day darkness.

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Okay and maybe the pretty city lights.

Continue reading “Whale watching in Tromsø, one year ago.”