The trouble with surprises.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I’ll get back to blogging about my trip soon but first, let’s just talk about my and Jo’s epic failure at surprising Celine for her birthday. Crying face

So Ce’s 21st birthday just passed a little under a week ago, but Jo and I knew we couldn’t be there with her physically to surprise her! And so, we concocted a plan to lure her out on the pretence of a normal lunch about a month before her birthday, get her a cake, and then take her with us to get her present in the right size.

We were all in the same house so it was pretty difficult to speak without being overheard, so we had to Whatsapp and whisper our way through our plans when we finally decided to minimize suspicion by Jo going out on the morning of the lunch to ‘run errands’ when she was really picking up the cake, whilst I would take/accompany Ce for lunch.

HAHA this is so sad, but Jo ended up walking for ages and ages looking for an open Paul, and the only 2 stores she went to were both closed! When she finally decided that Paul was a no-go, she went to Hummingbird Bakery, made the order, and as she was about to receive the cake from the cashier, realized that she didn’t bring her purse out with her!

So there I was, walking with Ce on the way to our lunch venue (which we changed at the last minute), on the phone with a very frustrated Jo who was near our initial lunch place.. and realizing that our surprise plan was going very, very poorly. HAHA, and so, the gig was up! I had to tell Ce that we were celebrating her birthday, and brought her along with me to the nearest Paul.. to pick up her own cake.

I’m sorry, Celine! We will do better next time hahahaha. We love you! Red heart

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Then it got me thinking and ultimately concluding.. that Jo is really bad with surprises! Okay, I have to take partial responsibility for this one since it would’ve been more logical for me to go out to get the cake in the morning as I live in London, so that’s my bad. BUT.. Hahahaha, she’s going to be so upset with me for this post, and I assure you, she is the most well-meaning person there is, but when it comes to surprises, she almost always gives it away!

I haven’t really blogged about my birthdays for the past few years but they are such great memories that I thought to share them on here for a bit.

In 2013, Jo invited me out with some friends to Sunway Lagoon for my birthday. But, there was actually a surprise party planned for after that. Now, she had been acting really suspiciously for the days before, asking questions about what I was going to do and where I was going to go, and being strangely evasive over everything!

Hahah AND she was asking really direct questions like ‘What IF I had a party, who would I want there’. So suspicion was already there.. and it was confirmed when on the day itself, she was strangely MIA and made up very bizzare stories about using the bathroom and having problems at the carpark.

I don’t remember the details of this, but to remove all doubt, hours before the party, I was next to one of my friends who was at Sunway Lagoon with us when beep! His phone buzzed and there it was, ‘Tiffany’s Surprise Birthday!’ flashed across the screen as an event alert from Facebook.

LOL IT WAS SO FUNNY because when I entered the venue and saw everyone there, I didn’t know whether I had to pretend to be surprised!

I can’t remember what I went with in the end, but it was such a wonderful birthday and I had so much fun.

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With the best cake ever! An adorable ice cream cake!!

Alright, thinking about it a little more, the surprise being leaked wasn’t really Jo’s fault. Maybe it’s less of that, and more of the fact that I’m a very suspicious person. Hmmm..

Haha, a year later in 2014, a few of us friends were out playing board games. However, that evening, it was meant to be En Leang’s surprise birthday that we wanted to throw for him. But, I kept suspecting that it was going to be a dual celebration for us both.

When I told Jo that we may have to change the date of the event, she was very very insistent. You HAVE to come, she said.

“But I want to spend time with Seth…”

“I know you want to spend time with him.. But not today.”

LOL OK.

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And it was!

Hahah, it must’ve been such a nightmare to organize, with me trying to get involved to help plan it when part of it was for me too, as well as the intention to change the date, so I think I need to cut Jo some slack. Thanks for all the effort! Smile 

Actually, En Leang had to leave early for another event with his family, and I ended up having to tell him about the suspicions of a surprise so HAHA, it’s my fault too for ruining it for him.

AND, there was this other time where we were throwing Sanjana a surprise party and had the cake hidden in the kitchen. When I popped in and out of the kitchen, I had to make up a ridiculously bad excuse about interviewing the chef for my blog. Hahaha, she obviously didn’t buy it.

Surprises are incredibly difficult to pull off, because you’re often doing them for someone you care about, which generally involves lying to people you care about, and that’s so difficult!

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So I take it back. It really isn’t just her. Later on in the month, En Leang invited me out for a birthday lunch, but accidentally kept naming all the other people invited! So not much of a surprise there either.

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Regardless of whether it was a surprise or not, I find myself being so thankful every year during my birthday month because the people you really love and care about put so much effort and time into making sure you have a wonderful day. When they try to make it a surprise, they try to make it a day that would be better than what you’d expect. Even when they don’t, when they do take the time out of their lives to pay attention to you for one day, that’s such an honour!

I really enjoy celebrating the birthdays of my friends. It’s like you get to show your love and affection for your friends on a day where the focus is really on them! It’s just such a joyous occasion to be able to celebrate, and I’m thankful that I still have friends I care enough about to want to celebrate their birthdays.

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More blessings than I can count. Red heart

From the (almost) inside.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

So it’s been a number of days since the incident at Low Yat Plaza, where a ridiculously small issue of a stolen cell phone escalated into racial riots involving hundreds of people (and thousands online). But a little like how squabbles in relationships are signs of deeper underlying problems, the resulting violence in KL is not just a matter of ‘revenge’ over the supposed injustice of being conned, but a reflection of the existing misunderstandings so many hold.

As a quick summary for those who don’t quite know (based largely off Facebook and a combination of newspapers), on Saturday, a guy was caught stealing a handphone by Oppo shopkeepers. His friends returned that evening and thrashed the store, causing a lot of damage. A video was recorded showing a Malay guy being beaten up by some Chinese shopkeepers, was posted online, and soon spread like wildfire. In reality, people of any race from the store would’ve helped, but as the Malay staff had left to break fast (it’s fasting month), the attack seemed racial.

The next day, it was business as usual till about 8pm. I was at Low Yat Plaza with my mom getting my phone screen fixed for the umpteenth time (only RM130!) when a large group of people arrived to show ‘support’ (violently) for their Malay brother who they felt had been treated unjustly.

It was terrifying.

I had passed my handphone to the man at one of the stores and was walking around with my mom on the Ground Floor, when I decided to take a look at some cameras on the First Floor. We walked past a stationery store and I decided to grab some pens whilst my mom went to the toilet. I had finished paying but had to wait for my mom in the store as I didn’t have my phone with me. Thank God I didn’t wander around because minutes after, I heard a loud scream and chaos ensued.

It all happened so quickly. All the shopkeepers were frantically shelving their goods and pulling down the shutters, and many were running, running frantically into the stores. I had never seen people move so quickly and there I was stock still in the stationery store, separate from my mom and wondering what on earth was happening. The man behind the till in the shop I was in rushed to his manager and they collectively started pulling down the shutters. I thought it was a terrorist attack.

They quickly explained what they knew about the situation, peppered with lots of “Didn’t you read Facebook ah yesterday!!” and when I understood the gravity of the situation, I realized I needed to call my mom. The toilets were near the escalator where I heard the scream from and I was so worried she would get caught up in it. I borrowed the shop’s phone and kept calling, but she kept hanging up because it was an unfamiliar number. I was starting to get less calm, but after the 5th ring, she finally picked up! Turns out she was trying to call my cellphone at the time. I told her to stay in the toilet and because I had a better view of the situation from my position, I told her I would call her when it was safe to come out.

Suddenly, there was a rush of people up the escalator, all in black and the shopkeeper quickly took out a padlock to lock the shutters. The stampede was some of the shopkeepers from the Ground floor who had run up the escalator to hide with their friends on the floor I was on. I knew that if I was locked in with the shop, it would be very difficult to find my mom after so whilst it looked relatively clear, I decided to head to the toilets. I gave my mom another call, told her I would meet her there, and snuck out under the half open shutters to find my mom.

Somehow, I got lost and ended up in a corner near the staircase, and as I tried to double back, I bumped into my mom. It was such a blessing that we managed to accidentally find each other because she had left the toilet trying to find the stationery store, so even if I had found the toilet, she might’ve already been somewhere else. At that point, there were groups of people from the Ground Floor still running up the escalators in large groups, and some of them had knocked into my mom just a while ago. We later found out that the entrance on the Ground Floor was blocked off by the rioters and for many, the only safe way was up.

We stood there in the open for a bit, trying to figure out where to go when a Malay man yelled to us “Keluar kat sini!” (Go out from here!), pointing to a staircase behind some shops. My mom and I quickly headed in that direction and as we were entering the stairwell, we saw the shopkeeper who had my phone! “Shop closed, shop closed, come back tomorrow!!” he shouted at us, and we all escaped the building from the side exits.

We were truly blessed that day to have avoided a potentially horrendous situation. Reports published later showed that the rioters became very violent, causing a lot of injuries and the situation only settled down after 4am. We had parked our car at Pavillion (about 15 minutes away) and had an uneventful walk back there, walking past crowds of jovial people who had no idea that just a few metres away, something like this was happening.

It was so shocking we didn’t know what we could do. So all we did was be thankful.

The next day, word got around about the incident and a call to the stationery shop revealed that many shopkeepers were absent from work.

Meanwhile, social media was abuzz. Everyone seemed to be weighing in on the Low Yat drama. My Facebook timeline was largely condemnatory over the actions of the rioters with some lined with hope, most lined with fatality - “Malaysia is screwed” - and it’s so heartbreaking that a nation famed for its multi-racial harmony, has made headline news over its discord.

Opinion articles condemn keyboard warriors who sit behind their screens and do nothing but name call and bully. But actually being there, although just briefly, and seeing for myself how some people react horribly in real life, I can’t help but wish that all the drama would stay on screen. Stay a keyboard warrior and CAPS LOCK to your heart’s content. Or better yet, what happened to if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? The people who eventually met up and went to riot would’ve probably started off at home, reading about the incident and watching videos on their phone. A little push of ‘we shouldn’t just sit and complain about it’, eventually led to this.

So take responsibility. Be responsible when you post and when you write and when you act. When you challenge people to take action, ask yourself if it’s really something you want them to do. When you write, think of the people who would read your words and how they would feel. Plenty of us cut ruthlessly at others online, but when we offend, ask them to unfollow, to leave, to stop reading. But the fact of the matter is, information is thrown at us. You have a right to say what you want (freedom of speech and all), but accept that creating this content gives you power in how you can influence others.

When I try to understand the perspective of the people who came to riot, the opportunists who came to ignite racial tension, I keep coming back to the idea that this animosity stems from somewhere. I wish I could just point my finger at news portals alone and scream ‘There! Look what you’ve done!”, for all of their deliberately provocative headlines and biased reporting, behind the intent of ‘voicing the other side’ but it isn’t just them. It’s all of us, in the way we live our lives, in the way we teach, and the way we are taught.

We’re educated to know that being vocally racist is unacceptable. But so many of us hold racial prejudices or bias. We’ve met enough people to know that stereotypes are often just stereotypes, and can be found untrue, but yet that’s where our mental starting point begins. What can you expect though, when private college students are forced to attend Malaysian Studies, where they put up a slideshow telling you that Chinese people are unscrupulous (and hardworking), whilst Malays are loving (and therefore, lazy). What can you expect when BTN is seen as a good idea?

What can you expect?

I think we can expect more.

I think we can expect more from ourselves and from each other. We can hold each other to higher standards of behaviour. We should expect ourselves to know better.

We can expect ourselves to want to be better, to improve, to change the way we see things.

We can stop ourselves when we get angry when we read something online. We can tell ourselves there are better ways to resolve conflict when we talk to people who don’t share the same viewpoint. We can start reading and opening our minds (someone once told me I should read stuff written by people I disagree with – great advice!), we can start being more understanding, we can start being more.

I know it’s easy to say, and difficult to do, but if we start with ourselves, with the way we speak to our friends, to the conversations we engage in, to the news we share, by just thinking of the people on the receiving end, maybe that will make a better world.

If not a better Malaysia, at least a better we.

(On a side note, people stopped caring about 1MDB fairly quickly Smile with tongue out)

Edit: INTERESTING STUFF TO CALMLY AGREE/DISAGREE WITH:
http://www.themalaymailonline.com/opinion/boo-su-lyn/article/low-yat-was-about-racism-deal-with-it

http://m.malaysiakini.com/letters/304945

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysias-pm-najib-says-will-use-sedition-act-against-low-yat-trouble-makers (Playing with fire here, supporters..)

http://malaysiandigest.com/frontpage/282-main-tile/561498-after-the-low-yat-plaza-rift-when-will-malaysians-stop-racial-profiling-one-another.html

http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v8/sp/newssports.php?id=1152646

Camden Town Market

Thursday, July 9, 2015

It’s hotter in Malaysia, but the heat is 10x more unbearable in London, where air-conditioning is nearly non-existent and it’s socially unacceptable to use an umbrella in the heat. People will stare. And laugh.

Experience is a wise teacher.

But on good days, where the sun shines bright and skies are blue, but the breeze blows cool and the temperature is low, throw on a maxi dress and days like those become perfect days. We were blessed to have one such day before I flew back to celebrate boyfriend’s and my anniversary (*pops champagne* *throws confetti* *sets off fireworks*) and we headed to Camden to satisfy our (mainly my) food market cravings.

Straddling the border between Zone 1 and Zone 2, Camden Town Market comes highly recommended because:

i) It’s easy to get to; buses stop right outside! (214 and more)
ii) Visitors there are very people-watching worthy
iii) It’s open EVERYDAYYY!

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Perfect weather from the front seat on the top deck. Best way to ride a double-decker!

The market took a bit of a hunt to find because of some construction, but ask around and you’ll be easily directed. And when we got there, oh gee, so much to see!

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I think I’m a terribly confusing market companion because my plan changes with every step. But hey, when everything looks so good, can you really blame me? I start off wanting this and that, but believe in doing the entire tour of the market to really be sure. However by the time we’ve walked through half the market, I’ve partially lost resolve due to hunger, changed my mind on the initial this and that, and eventually find myself forgetting what it was that I wanted initially.

And even if I do remember, I am not a risk taker with market food. It isn’t a matter of hygiene or stomach upsets, but I get so worried that I won’t like something. There’s so much pressure!! Every object of consumption you choose incurs an opportunity cost for the other safe, yummy thing you could’ve gotten instead!

So for our market visit, we went with these relatively safe options of kebab and Mac & Cheese!

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And although I keep thinking that the deep-fried pizza or the shrimp burger would’ve been a more adventurous market option, the food we got was still really good! The chicken kebab was good and filling, accompanied by some rice and a salad, whilst the Mac & Cheese was so so gooey (mmmmmm…) and made even better with the crispy bread crumbs on top! The portion was a lot bigger than expected though so I recommend sharing it. I’m a massive cheese lover but even still, found it too much after half.

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Ooooo EYE CONTACT.

Loads of seats under huge umbrellas so it’s a great place to grab a meal!

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Ask for ice from drink stalls, fill your cup with water and you’re set!

And yes, I brought a cap. Caps are wonderful, everyone should bring caps everywhere. They’re like face umbrellas but so much more portable and you need not use your hands. If only umbrellas could be worn as caps, I swear the world would be a much more comfortable place to live in.

Look ridiculous on the streets.. Then take it off for photos!

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Like so!

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WITH THIS BEAUTIFUL CHOCOLATE MAN.

We spent the rest of the day having more delicious food, building a beautiful rabbit named Lily, and basking in the greatness of each other’s company.

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Before Lily got stuffed with her wonderful cotton-candy scented innards!

That’s all for now. Open-mouthed smile

I’ll be back for more, Camden Town! Rolling on the floor laughing

10 Signs You’ve Returned to Malaysia After a Year In The UK

Thursday, July 2, 2015

1. You instinctively fill up your water bottle from the tap, catch yourself before you take a legitimate gulp, then start freaking out because you’re worried you’d get cholera.

imageWhich you apparently won’t. Sure, SYABAS, suuree.

2. You stand on the right side of the escalator only to realize that.. no one else is. Forget walking up and down escalators! If Malaysians wanted to walk, they’d take the stairs.

3. Malls are 10x more amazing upon return. Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road have their own appeal, but nothing quite compares to having a cinema, an arcade, hundreds of shops, restaurants, and banks all in ONE building.

4. Cars become both liberating and claustrophobic. One minute you’re happy to drive / be driven around everywhere, the next, you’re missing the good ol’ Underground, not having to park, and as you sleep at night, you find yourself whispering “Freedom.. Freedom.. Where art thou..”

5. “Well, back in London we..” “Oh, in UK, people say..” You find yourself constantly talking about the UK. It’s easy to forget that people are less likely to pretend to care here.

6. The Internet sucks. Full stop.

7. I call it reverse culture shock. Once you’ve been overseas for a while, coming back home starts feeling foreign. People seem too rude, the weather is too hot, and everything is too dirty.

8. “OMG food is so cheap! And omg it’s so good! A meal for the whole family is what? 12 pounds!” “Eh, eh, divide by 6, not 5!” OMG SO CHEAAP. You start converting everything to Pounds and suddenly feel like a millionaire.

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9. Until you realize it isn’t. What? Ben & Jerry’s cost RM30?! Sainsbury’s £2 deals never seemed so good..

10. You shrug off the burden of self-sufficiency, bask in the glow of your loving family and friends, and by the end of it..

DSC_0639I wanna stay home foreverrrrr!

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