Friday, October 26, 2007

MPhil degree approved!!

I just received an email from the Course Administrator a few minutes ago that my MPhil degree has been approved by the Board of Graduate Studies, University of Cambridge. All 36 of us! That's great news!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reading here

I can confidently and officially proclaim that I have settled down here. I am staying in Caversham, the "better" side of Reading. It also means higher rental cost, lesser student population and a quieter area. When I moved into the house on Sunday, I was temporarily staying in another room, while waiting for the landlady's son to move out. I moved in yesterday when he left. It's a massive room with a kingsize bed, TV, study table and a built-in wardrobe from one end of the wall to the other. What I particularly like about this room is the wardrobe. There are four sliding doors with full-length mirrors on it. This gives the room a spacious feel. Already, it's a big room that needs two heaters to warm it up, and now the mirrors will make the room feel even bigger, brighter and cleaner.

The landlady is staying in the house and she's a lovely lady. She offered me the biggest room in the house without paying the extra. "That's a room fit for four; two on the bed, two on the floor", she said. I personally think it can fit five actually. I just need to move away the shoe rack for the fifth person. But that's not to worry. The landlady expected guests in the house anyway. So she's reserving one room empty in the house specifically for her guests or the tenants' to stay in it. She could have rented that room out actually.

I started work two days ago. Everything's okay. I have lots to read and I am picking up speed on things. I thought of a picture that I took recently of Kit and a chair at the Bangsar Tea Clubhouse. That's quite indicative of how much I am reading here. If there's any message I can use from this picture about the pile of reading materials I am reading, it would be "unusually high".

I really hope to be "airborne" by the end of this month. I am quite happy so far. The Project Manager has already asked me to help him with his presentation to the Directors on a new system for the project. It's a good start I would say. I like to be trusted like that. It makes anyone in that situation feels nice, important and respected.

If I may be a little bit petty, there's neither any punchcard system for time-in/out nor an hourly time-log record or a whiteboard demanding staff to write their whereabouts on it. I shuddered when the punchcard and whiteboard craps popped out in my mind. It reminded me of the previous company that I worked for.

River Thames: Two shots taken in the morning

One shot taken in the evening

Reading is a picturesque place. There is the River Thames meandering through the town and this reminded me heaps about Cambridge and the Colleges. I need to walk on the riverside every morning to get to work and home in the evening. It's a great antidote to feeling sad about leaving Cambridge. Even the distance and time to get to work and return feel the same as from Wolfson to the Engineering department. There's still one more thing that I am missing here. I know how to resolve this. I just need to bring my bike over from Cambridge!

Musical for a song

It was 7pm Friday and I thought, maybe I should go to Oxford Circus and check out the London Palladium. I knew it was the theatre for the Sound of Music. It was much talked about in summer and I thought maybe I should find out about it myself. It was already crowded with people waiting to get in when I arrived. I walked in to the ticket counter and asked if there was any ticket left. Last minute person that I am, I asked for my type of ticket. They said they have three at the ground level, called the Stalls. It was just 8 rows from the stage. I expected to hear the most expensive price for that one and considered that as a no go, but it was rude to just walk off. So I asked for the price to decline it. As I have expected, the agent said, "Well, that's the 55-pound ticket..."

It was too expensive for me. Sensing that I would not continue with the transaction, the agent continued, "....but the....wait a minute, I think I can give you a discount on that one since we just released them as last-minute tickets. Hold a sec...**paused. The agent looked at his terminal**....okay, I can offer you that for 20 pounds. That's the price you'd usually pay for the cheapest ticket here."

My eyes opened wide in disbelief. I acted on impulse and continued with the transaction without a second thought. I knew I shouldn't even spend 20pounds since I am not earning an income and that's alot considering that I would soon spend on other expenses like rental and its deposit, furnitures, cooking utensils, food ingredients etc. But 20 pounds to be seated so near to the stage???? They've got a deal, man! The devil in me thought, what the heck, let's consider that as the "Prelims" for settling down here. To cut the long story short, there I was, I bought the ticket and sat through 2.5 hours to watch the Von Trapp family.

I just found out I shouldn't take a photograph inside, but yea, that's how the Palladium looks like

At least 8 songs were sung in the play. But I paid the ticket for a song.

Learning London

I stayed at Winson's place in Fulham when I first arrived. I am really grateful for his generosity for putting me up for almost a week! It's in West London, so that's quite a nice (and expensive) area. Chelsea FC is just around the corner.

I did the remaining tourist stuff in London that I intended to do before this. When I first arrived, I went to pray for a while at the Westminster Cathedral, thanking God for my safe arrival. I visited the British Library, Museum of Garden History, National Portrait Gallery, 2nd visit to the Imperial War Museum to finish off the remaining parts of the Holocaust exhibition that I left out in 2004, dim-sum with old school friends in Chinatown and lots of window shopping. Some planned, some unplanned. I left out eating Ben & Jerry's ice-cream on purpose, so that I have a reason to go London this weekend!
Two Ben & Jerry's shops at the same street in Leicester Square!

It's a different experience visiting London in my own time as compared to when I first came in 2004. It was more of a photographing tour then. Now, I have all the time in the world! The city appeared much bigger this time. I felt I am able to soak in the history and architecture when I sit, admire, read and visualise the stories in my own pace and time. I have also discovered many other things which I have missed. Somehow, I discover and learn new things, brands and names, whenever I come here.

Just like three days ago, I found out that metal and resin combined, can be a form of art. This work of art is made mainly for women as accessories. Winson and friends went to the Les Nereides and proved that metal and resin can also be an expensive art.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Multiplied. But, fruitful?

I came to the UK last year with a 30kg luggage. A year later, when I needed to move to Reading, I realised I have multiplied my assets! I almost had a hard time transporting them today as I wasn't sure if the boxes would fit in one load. I was really glad when all the boxes fitted into the car nicely. They have taken all available space in the car, including the front seat. Now I have forgotten what I have put into the boxes. I hope they are useful.

Little thing packs a punch

I am getting more and more dependent on the navigation system. It all started in August when we were planning for our trip to Cotswolds. I knew how efficient this little gizmo worked when I was in Japan. So I purposely bought a GPS for our trip and it worked like a dream! Driving with the GPS saved plenty of time and reduced the need to cross reference at each junction with a road map. It's dangerous to do that anyway.

I brought it back with me when I returned to Malaysia recently. It worked in Malaysia too! When I visited Singapore, I brought it with me and it proved to be really helpful. Last time when I got out of the MRT, I was always confused if I was walking on the right direction. I can be walking south, when I should be walking north! Again, the use of the GPS prevented this from happening. I held the GPS while walking on the streets. I was given the strange stares. They probably thought I had an electronic Feng Shui compass.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thank you, Friends!

I had a great 5 weeks break in Malaysia. The foods have been great and I never had the chance to stop eating the myriad types of food here. I weighed myself when I first arrived; 63kg. This morning I weighed again; 66kg!

I will start a next chapter of my life in the UK, Reading to be exact. Reading isn't what you would usually pronounce. It's pronounced as "Red-ding" here. I have weighed many options before deciding on this new career milestone. It wasn't an easy decision to leave family, friends and contribute to what some may call it as a brain-drain to the country. Brain drain???? I certainly feel flattered by remarks indicating that I actually have one! Hahaha!

Serving the nation can be done in many ways and from anywhere in the world. Read globalisation. For me, this can be done more effectively when I have the experience and equipped with the right skills to do the right things for the country. Learning from an established institution provides the opportunity for me to know what works and what doesn't. These priceless experiences can then be transferred to the development of the nation.

Sorry for writing as if I have cut and paste from a questionaire of "why you should be allowed to leave the country". Am sure many of you will understand.

Five weeks weren't enough for me. I attribute this to everyone in Malaysia whom I have encountered. Their great company and hospitality have made my stay in Malaysia feel extremely short!

I am looking forward to graduation in July 2008. I have had an FAQ, "Why do you graduate so late?" Well, I could have chosen this November but I have promised my (ex) course mates to graduate together then. Graduation in Cambridge is very flexible. We graduate according to Colleges and there are specific dates to choose from. These dates are usually similar and available for all of the 31 Colleges here, throughout the year. A member of my College once said, "Take your time to choose a date. You may even graduate in absence if you wish. Some people choose to come back for graduation after 10 years!" Maybe 10 years is too long a wait for me. One year is just nice. Besides, July (I feel) would be the best time of the year to be in the UK especially when the weather is mild (20-23 deg C) and we get to enjoy the long daylight! Think about eating dinner in bright daylight! And hop over to Europe for holidays?

I am very happy to hear that Air Asia will be flying to the UK end of next year. It's great excitement for everyone. Getting to the UK can be as low as 300quid return. This will make staying alone in the UK less painful. Getting visitors once in a while can make staying there a little more colourful and act as an antidote to boredom. However, this new service can potentially increase my carbon footprint substantially too. I know I will be tempted to fly home more frequently!

Finally, I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made my stay so meaningful this time. I particularly dedicate this to my parents who have given their consent, support and encouragement to me to take on this next step in life. Their blessings matter and mean a lot, as they do not merely show a mark of approval per se, but a great sacrifice to accept that their son may no longer be easily available whenever they need him and that reunion dinners will never be the same again.




1st dinner

Trip to Genting Highlands

Skytrex Adventures

Farewell seafood dinner in Banting

Farewell lunch at Sentul

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

3R, Season 13

3R is back in town! The 3Rs are Respect, Relax and Response, a female TV magazine shown in national TV, TV3 and pay satellite TV channel, Astro Ria. 3R addresses women issues. I hear you now ask, "what does it have to do with you then?" Actually, none. But I attended the press conference for the new season, after being invited by Kartini (Tini), one of the hosts for the show.

The 3R hosts posing with their sponsors; Rafidah, Celina and Tini in the centre of photo, dressed in red, black and grey

It's a small world. The other hosts, Celina and Rafidah were past acquaintances. Celina was my ex-classmate in 6th Form, while Rafidah, was in the same Prefects' Board as me back in 1994/1995. And I know Tini from the Chevening programme. A full reunion, I must say?

Honestly, I do tune in to see the show. Some of the issues were interesting. 3R provides the avenue to look at things in a different way. It breaks down women issues into pieces and put them under magnifying glasses, making them easier for the males to understand the females.

Even though Tini invited us under the pre-text for a get-together, and ahem, free dinner, Noris who came with me and I have enjoyed the night and the company of the few interesting people whom we sat together at the same table. We spoke to Lee Mee Fung, Executive Producer for the movies "Goodbye Boys", "Bernafas Dalam Lumpur" and the upcoming "Kami". Nothing beats listening to the "uncut" version of the films than from the producer herself. We also met up with one of the founders of 3R, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir. She was a friendly and humble lady, who obliged to take a picture with us, even though she was busy with other people.
Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and daughter

I have also recorded a preview of 3R's new season. It looked fresher, more vibrant and colourful. You'll find in the Youtube, an obvious case of me trying to pirate this preview. First hint: People walking around and laughing in the background. P/S: Permissions already sought, so don't bother reporting this.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Visit by ESDers

It's the Visit Malaysia year. I am glad three of my coursemates came for holiday and chose to visit this country. I was on holiday myself but I was also the tour guide this time. It was different talking to friends in the classroom and talking to them again in a new place, especially when you are playing host.

Owen came for a week, while Chris and Melissa, 5 days. Their visit kept me occupied for a week. Their stay has enabled me to learn heaps about my own country. I had to explain history to them at the places we visited. It was until they came that I realised about the tiring role of a tour guide. As a tour guide, I am also expected to know the background and history of those places that I bring. At least to the SPM level of history lessons.

The best thing was not only knowing about Malaysia but Malaysians too. I like being asked questions about the multi-racial society in this country and how the different races live with each other. Their stay covered many of the things which I had also intended to do, eat or meet:

Buildings and monuments: Sultan Abdul Samad, KLCC, A Famosa, St Paul Church, Tugu Negara, Mini Malaysia, Thean Hou Temple, Hindu Temple in KL Petaling Street, Chinatown, Putrajaya

Nature: Waterfall in Hulu Yam Bharu, Batu Dam, Batu Caves, KL Bird Park, Crocodile Farm, Fireflies in Kuala Selangor, KL Lookout Point in Ampang,

Culture: Ramadhan Bazaar, Mooncake Festival, Chinese Wedding ceremony, Traditional massage by the Orang Asli Sakai.

Food: Nasi Lemak; Roti Canai, Telur, Bawang, Kaya, Pisang, Planta; Nasi goreng Pattaya, Padprik, Kampung, Cina; Prawn mee, Dim Sum, Yee mee soup, Bah Kut Teh, Hainan Chicken rice, Chicken Rice Ball, Wan Tan Mee, Nasi Briyani, Yong Tau Foo, Chee Cheong Fun, Ayam tandoori, Mooncake, Purple Dragon Fruit, Duku Langsat, Seafood BBQ in Banting, Cheese naan, Mooncake, Teh tarik and lots of teh tarik!!

The final night of their stay, I arranged them to attend a wedding banquet with me and indulge in a 10-course meal.

Yoke Mei and Ricky's Wedding Banquet

2nd dinner after wedding banquet organised by Noris. He made this place like an open-air formal.

Sungai Sendat Waterfall

Melaka trip


National monument

Owen, Melissa and Chris trying out the Nasi Lemak and teh tarik.

14% of the 2006/2007 ESD students chose Malaysia...

Thanks to Noris, Fahmy, Azela and Eskandar for contributing their time. Additional thanks to Noris and Fahmy for taking a day off from work to be the tour guides for Melaka and Putrajaya and also organising for the 2nd part of the dinner after the wedding banquet. Special thanks to Yoke Mei for inviting us to her wedding; Gary Chan & Pooi Fern for inviting us to their Mooncake reunion dinner.