Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's my pleasure...

Am looking forward to the reception organised by the Trustees of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust and the Cambridge Overseas Trust.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

UK Executive National Council

I felt like I was a roti canai dough this whole week. An assignment due this Monday and a national council to attend in London, for the Malaysian UK Executive Council (UKEC). Work, lotsa work! This dough is really stretched to the max! Only a thin film coming in between breaking or holding up.

An exhausted roti canai dough complements a glass of teh-tarik!

It is an honour (so I should not complain) to be invited by the President of the UKEC to attend for a national council in London. I attended to deliver and contribute to the new mission and restructuring of the society for 2007 in my capacity as the postgraduate representative of the Cambridge University Malaysian Society (CuMas). It was a very satisfying and fulfilling mission. I also met a lot of new faces in the Malaysian fraternity.

The universities that were represented in the council were:

Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Cork, Cambridge, Cardiff, City Uni, Dundee, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Imperial College, King's College, Lancaster, Leeds, LSE, Loughborough, Manchester, Newcastle, NUI Galway, Queen Mary, Reading, Sheffield, Staffordshire, Surrey, East London, UCL, Warwick, Wolverhampton and York.

The delegation

It was a large representation and I must say that I was glad to meet all the heads of the Malaysian societies in each of the universities. Apart from that, we had the group photo opportunity and chance to savour our Malaysian food, prepared by the Malaysia Hall. Curry chicken, sambal telur, curry fish, rendang daging..they were just excellent!

The lunch


One of the highlights that came out of the council was to host distinguished Malaysian speakers for dialogues, when they stop over in London for official trips in the next few months. Among those names that were proposed were Dr Zeti, Anwar Ibrahim, Chandra Muzaffar, Datuk Nazir Razak, Datuk Musa Hitam, Datuk Azman Mokhtar, Datuk Tony Fernandes and etc. I am really looking forward to that.

I guess my £20 investment in applying for a Young Person's Railcard for discount travel to London (frequently) would pay off very soon!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

First Snow in Cambridge

I slept late last night (this morning) at about 2am. Cambridge was expected to snow at 2am, so I opened the window occasionally to check. Nothing outside. I slept.

When I woke up at 8am, and opened the window, the sky was pinkish and it was strange. I thought that I must be still in a daze or something, from the inadequate sleeping hours. There were alot of chattering outside my room. A commotion, I thought?

The Wolfson College "pi-qiu"
It was snowing! The cleaner lady was outside looking up at the sky. It must have just started and I probably woke up in time for that. I was still fresh from my sleep and was trying to press my hair down while looking at the fluffy snow flakes. The melting flakes definitely helped put some moist onto my hair and styled! How convenient...then, my eyes grew into excitement.
A video was taken:

I knocked on Anthony's door (or Tony as he's called), the Ghana-ian living opposite me.

"Hey Tony! Wake up! It's snowing outside. You don't wanna miss this!"

The Lee Library, Wolfson College

Tony came out. We were taking photos.

Then I called on Eskandar. Eskandar was like," Alden! OMG! It's only 8.30am! I'm still sleeping! What do you want?!!"

One of the tennis courts at Llamas Land

"Come out man! Or just pull your curtain. It's snowing outside! Hey let's go to the city and take some photos after we're done with Wolfson." The snowing started to get heavier after 15 minutes. I was thanking God when I looked at the garden and saw how beautiful the garden turned out to be when it was white and when it wasn't.

King's College and River Cam

The Backs at King's College

Click to enlarge. Panorama view of St John's College

St John's College

We went into King's, Trinity and St John's College for photo opportunities. It was just marvellous! I did not realise I left Wolfson on an empty stomach and without my scarf and extra warm clothing! I nearly froze to death! It was -6 deg C then! I only had my jumper and a pair of gloves on!

Shot taken in the morning

Shot taken at noon. Stark contrast..

The snow did not last through noon. It melted and even that, I felt extremely satisfied with this short experience of a "white Cambridge". I certainly do not want the Urasa, Niigata (Japan) type of snow, where it would be snowing almost every day and pile up to 3 meters until the end of May. If you want to ascertain whether or not I have exaggerated about Urasa, do check this video and tell me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K4hiD1bI98 (take note of the road signs and height of snow)

Another snowing Cambridge video contributed by Kiki: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_ukhwv8tgU

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fen Ditton Run

My position and the top 8 positions

After a hectic week of chasing after assignments, readings, group meetings and Compaq repairmen, I told myself to 'let it all out' on the roads in the weekend. It was the Fen Ditton Dash/Run.

Fen Ditton is one of the parts of Cambridge that I have not ventured and am I glad that I did today, because this place must have been the true side of Cambridge at its best! River Cam, scenic view, local folks, local activities, behind-the-scenes of colleges' boat club trainings and most of all, away from tourists!

Cambridge was supposed to snow today, but I guess we'll fix that for another appointment. So, the weather was great. It was cold at about 5 deg C, but there was sun. I was in my usual pair of Nike shorts to suit with my all black attire (no) thanks to the 2005 Singapore Marathon finisher T. Cold, very cold. I was also in gloves, and it helped alot.

The left side of my shoes

The Fen Ditton Run is an 8.1km run over ahem....pockets of muddy green, smooth footpaths, gravel stretches and sticky clayey silt! Imaginatively a yucky run. Indeed it was....very yucky. But hey, didn't I get more than what I expected? Let it all out on the roads man...but I forgot to exclude my pair of shoes. Read on...

I did pretty ok this time. My time was 40mins 26 secs, an improvement from previously. I wasn't at the bottom 2 this time, yay! That means I have improved? I believe so, for the benefit of doubt.

The right side of my shoes. Someone caught me taking this photo and asked, "As evidence eh?" I said, "Nah, it's for my blog.."

Here he is..coming...arrggh, damn the puddle of water!

Heck, I believe I could have done better if not for my Adidas that kept stucking onto the clayey silt, with 5 occasions running back a few meters to collect it from the silt where it lodged. At least 7 runners overtook me for that. Yeah, I was actually walking with my socks on to collect the missing pair! Drat! Double drat! It was just yucky...but it was also satisfying and liberating to soak your foot into the cold, moist silt. Eeew.... I threw my socks away after the run.

Baits Bite Lock, what an interesting name...the last stop in my additional run before heading back.

Scenic view of River Cam and the 'behind-the-scenes' of boat training for the May Bumps. **May Bumps = Inter-College rowing competition over River Cam**

Next week's training distance is set for 10km before mileage picks up the week after. It's just part of my London Marathon training regime. I am glad that I have added on to today's mileage even though I did an 8.1km run, I went on to cover a little more to finish at 16km altogether. Did I say a 'little more' or double? Oops, am sorry. Haha! That was when I discovered Cambridge in its true form, still untouched and unknown to tourists. Shhhh.....don't tell anyone about this article...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Strong Wind and Storm Battering Britain!!

Nine people were killed.
Tens of thousands had their journeys severely disrupted due to high winds.
A man died when a lorry was blown onto a car!

It took me twice the effort to ride a bike on the opposite direction of the wind.
My bike was swerved out of direction and nearly hit a car by the sudden gush of wind!
Sight nearly impaired by falling twigs!

Thank God for bringing me home safely...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Not As Good As It Seems

I used to have high regards on how things work here. When you heard about services in developed countries, you think of efficiency, speed and a little bit of brains, at least. But it is not what it seems to be actually. At least not for me anymore. Such impression is beginning to erode due to my countless experience of getting services here. In fact, the very fact that I needed services and more of them now doesn't bode well to how things are actually functioning here.

First of all, I am really stressed. There are so many things that pressed the right buttons in intimidating me lately.

1. When I first arrived, my luggage was missing. I am not attributing this to the people here but what happened after that really got me infuriated. To file for a compensation, it has to go though layers and layers of paperwork, emails and telephone calls. I finally got my compensation after 6 weeks.

2. I tried to sign up for a mobile phone contract; I was told it would be processed in three working days. I signed up on 1 December last year. It's already 10 January 2007, today. I called them up two weeks ago and was told that it would be solved by the next day. Till today, I have no news from them. I never bothered to call anymore. So, my hope for a new Nokia phone is now in the backburner.

3. My 9-month old laptop went berserked and decided to quit on me in this most critical time of the term with loads of assignments. Thank God Wolfson College has a good PC:student ratio and the number of computers here looks more than the students of the college. The system is powerful and it is just perfect; so I get to work on my assignments, including blogging for the time being. But that's not what I want to blog about though. I called HP last Friday to pick up my lappie. Empty promises, nothing but empty promises. I was promised that they would collect the lappie on Monday, i.e two days ago. Fine, people do get lazy at times, so I overlooked and settled for the next day. On the next day, they have yet to call me after 4pm, so I called instead to inquire. The buggas actually forgotten and I was glad that I was proactive. So, they arranged it to collect it the next day, i.e today. How bad could things be from here? I woke up pretty damn early to settle all my printing in the Engineering department and submitted my assignment that was due today, hurried back to my college and waited for Mr. Collector from HP. No sign of turning up. It was until 11am that I sounded the alarm bell in mind and decided to leave for the PC room and wrote HP an email if they were ever going to arrive at my doorstep.

When I finished doing that and went back to my room, a yellow slip was tugged in between the door gap. It was Mr Collector! 'Sorry We Missed You!'. I was like...What! You $^%$^&^%&^ made me wait for the whole damn morning and now just left without giving me a call that you arrived. I felt that it was my fault to be such an absolute idiot and left the room before noon. The agreement was anytime from 9.30am to noon. The note was written at 11.30am and I returned to my room at 11.35am. So it was my fault. But was it entirely my fault, I asked again. O well, HP already took down my mobile number and they could have called me if I was not around in my room. I could be in the toilet which is just next to the room, for goodness sake! I nearly blew my top when I saw the hideous looking note on the door.

Now I have to wait for the next day which would be another day of locking myself up in the room. Going by the mobile contract trend, I wonder if my lappie is ever going to be fixed. I am not so ambitious in thinking so far ahead though. I would rather hope for something less of a miracle to happen and that my lappie be collected first!

Did I present to you how pissed am I now. I should be working on my assignments now but I decided to vent my anger here. I guess it makes me feel better to release abit of steam here than in the assignments.

To be fair, I have also received good services around here especially those that I experienced from the university. I have no issues with the university. It's just great here, the service standard here is the epitome to how things should run in the entire UK service industry.

At some point of time, I am not sure if I should be thankful that I am having these problems in an English speaking country than if I had them in Japan. Communicating and trying to get my message across in Japan would have been entirely frustrating too. But at least based on my experiences with them, they are smarter (no malice intended). I mean at least I could communicate effectively here, including telling my piece of mind to Mr. Collector tomorrow that their service is just perposterous and ridiculously not user-friendly at all!

I took a deep breath, sat back and try to recollect my emotions. Then I asked myself, have my expectations grown ever since I came here and experienced the high quality service in Cambridge, or have I been spoilt by Japan with the speed of things, or have I been an ignorant fool that things in Malaysia weren't that bad after all, or have I suddenly become more and more of a perfectionist. Then I looked out the window and thought, hmm...maybe I should leave this for my blog readers to answer....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year New Look

Fireworks display in London on New Year's Eve

First of all, Happy 2007 to everyone! It's been exciting waiting and looking forward to this new year and counting down to the goodies coming ahead. Did you also notice my new blog outlook?! So many things to look forward to;

Time to train up for the marathon!

1. Baby Brendan's first birthday,
2. First marathon in the UK
3. Graduation, hopefully
4. Job or PhD
5. First CNY outside Malaysia,
6. First Easter outside Malaysia
7. Possibility of flying home cheaply if AirAsia seals the JV deal with Virgin
8. More marathons in the UK or Europe
9. Possibly playing host to my friends (in Japan) who are planning to visit Malaysia (VMY 2007 mah..)
10. Possibly family and friends attending my graduation in Cambridge!
Just these 10 things already kept me looking forward to the new year. There are many more...

New Year in Cambridge was quiet but not as dead as Christmas. There were no fireworks. Fireworks were only in London. I counted down at The Eagle Pub where Crick and Watson, the two Cambridge scientists announced the secret of life, the DNA. So, what better way to celebrate the new year than a place that announced new answers to life! We (actually the people around us) counted down for 5 times, and went up to year 2012! Watch the video and observe how many countdowns were there altogether...


You had been looking at all the nice things that I posted up here. Now this picture is not a very nice thing to be boasting about. This shot was taken by my friend who came for a discussion on assignments at 1.30am. That's typical...

I had been very pressured and getting alot of stress lately. It is just hectic here. There is almost no holiday for me, at least. I have been waking up early and sleeping late every night (morning) on assignments, one after another. It is just a bottomless pit and there is really no end to it except until the course ends. I envy my friends in other universities who could even do a part-time job during their postgrad studies. What is this man!

Anyway, on New Year's Day I had bah kut teh for the first time in the UK. Winson invited Sean and myself to his house for the rare Malaysian delicacy. Was yearning to eat that for a long time! Cold weather, hot soup, yau choi with ikan bilis and a spicy concoction of garlic, chilli padi, black and soya sauce.

L to R: Me, Winson and Sean having bah kut teh. If you are thinking about the flag, that's a South African flag and I have no idea how it got up there. And there are no South Africans in Winson's flat.

Wah lau eh! Syiok oh! Haha...that was how Sean expressed himself before sitting down at the table, a typical cool Singaporean....

I have not thought about new year resolutions yet. I just want to be healthy, happy and be ever more faithful to God who decides on what He thinks I deserve, rather than what I think. I also hope that all the people whom I meet could exchange the energy of joy and love among each other with a greater degree of altruism in the spirit of reciprocity, so that this happiness is not only for myself, but is shared with others and others with me.

I also hope that those great moments and encounters in my life are not hollow and tainted by material greed in disguise of happiness. And I wish everyone again a Happy 2007 and may you get what you have set out to do and achieve in life.