Saturday, June 27, 2015

UK Guide - International Student Edition

Hi all! Today's post will be focusing on what to expect when coming to the UK to study, and what to bring and what not to bring.

First of all, this country is not really all that hyped up to be. Please get that into your head. Britain is a fine country no doubt, but it rains 80% of the time, or looks like it'll rain and don't let the sunny day fool you. Rain will always be lurking around the next cloud that passes by.

Right! Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to business *cue Captain Shang singing to his recruits in all his topless glory*

Packing

Depending on where you will be staying (halls or house) you will need to plan accordingly how much you'll bring with you across the ocean. 

Living in halls or student accommodation usually means  moving in and out at least 3 times per academic year; Christmas break, Easter break, Summer break. So do plan ahead.

Living in a house or flat with others means that you'll get to keep your stuff in one place for a whole year, or for the duration of your contract. 

*Important advice*
Please be reminded to ask your landlord about EVERYTHING. Everything meaning, your tenancy duration, rent agreements, bills (water, electricity, gas - paid every 3 months), internet. Get your own copy of your tenancy agreement, and ask for a receipt or some form of proof of payment for your rent to save yourselves from miscommunication.
Also when you leave, you'd need to settle all this (internet & bills) at least one month before to save yourselves being charged extra. Especially internet - let your broadband provider know when you plan to cancel your subscription ONE MONTH before. As for the bills, even if you don't use them, there WILL BE a minimal charge, so remember to cancel it off your debit account.

Indoor Clothes

  • Honestly, you don't really need to pack half your wardrobe into two suitcases. Chances are you won't wear half of what you've packed with you. Take it from me, because that's what I did in my first year here and ended up bringing most of them back home again during the Summer.
  • Instead, pack what you need such as underwear, socks, some t-shirts, a couple pairs of jeans, a hoodie or two. You could bring a jumper/sweater or two as they are pretty much the staple clothing article here, but don't over pack. Seriously. And if you'll be staying in halls, bring some formal wear. There will be formal dinners hosted by your hall a few times in a semester. Ladies, that means dresses (or pants if you're feeling like it) and guys, at least proper slacks and a dinner jacket. Oh, and a tie or bow tie. 
  • My advice on packing clothes is, if you think you'll only PROBABLY wear them, or packing them in JUST IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES, don't bring it. You won't wear it.  
  • One other thing: thermals. I'd suggest not getting those with fleece on the underside as you could probably develop a heat rash when it gets too warm indoors- especially when you wear them under your jeans. Instead, invest in Uniqlo's heattech wear. My aunt got me a heat tech top during winter and it is amazing. It's thin, but the material stays so close to your skin that it traps the heat there. Plus it's odorless and absorbs your sweat. Besides, what are you gonna do with thick thermals when you return to your home country? (Assuming that it's only one season all year round, like Malaysia, Singapore, etc.
  • You will also learn that tights are the most comfortable thing to wear here. And everyone here (everyone meaning female) wears them. 
  • Everything else you can buy them here. Primark will be your number 1 go to for cheap but decent clothes, followed by the ever popular HnM, and New Look and whatnot (oh and ASOS but that's online). Charity shops are also in abundance, for those of you who love thrift shopping. Unless if you're really the kind that does not shop at all, you WILL end up shopping. So throw the thought of 'bringing more so I won't have to buy any' out your mind palace window because that's not gonna happen.

Outdoor Clothes

  • Winter jackets, coats, trench coats, etc. can be bought here. I honestly do recommend doing that because unless you've experienced UK weather, you'll probably buy those that are too thick or too thin. 
  • Don't worry too much about buying a trendy trench coat to be one with the Britons. (Actually trench coats will be too thin for winter and will only be suitable for Autumn and Spring, unless if you've got a really warm body and possess the cold-resistant trait- oh wait, that's the Sims.) 

Shoes

  • Hah. Shoes. Seriously, if you can, bring what you'll be wearing 80% of the time (sneakers/trainers), FLIP FLOPS for the toilet because it's so difficult to find any here unless it's Summer, a pair of proper shoes such as heels or dress shoes. THAT'S IT. You'd want to leave as much space as possible for other things you might need. 
  • If you want to fulfill your dream of wearing boots during the Winter months, buy them here. And if possible buy them during the Boxing Day sale or some other major National holiday which usually involves shopping.
  • For muslims, please be aware of the type of leather used for leather boots as some may use pig skin. Ask the shop assistant if possible to clarify. 
  • I'd recommend investing your money on ONE good pair of high quality boots from brands such as Clarks. I bought mine during Boxing Day and I have never been more satisfied in my life (even though it was £70 and my heart was partially crushed). 
  • Alternatively, you can look around the various shoe shops in the city that you're studying and living in and browse. Do take note of the prices and compare. You'd want the best bargain because as a student, you will always be broke. 
  • Additionally, shoe sizes may be slightly different from where you're from. For example, my shoe size is 5-5 1/2 in Malaysia but I'm a size 3-4 here in the UK. 

Food + Other Stuff

  • For those of us who love our home food too much, you may be tempted to pack a whole suitcase of it (like me). I guess you could do that.. but seriously, don't pack stuff like garlic and ginger. Don't laugh, I know some who have done that. Unless if it's something that you definitely cannot find here or is extremely rare, then by all means bring it with you. For me, I packed packs of instant Milo and my favourite brand of instant noodles, in several different flavours. (Because British instant noodles suck. Get the Nissin ones. They're delicious and filling) 
  • If you'll be staying in a house, feel free to bring packs of roux from your home country, even though chances are you may be able to find them in oriental shops here. Or maybe your grandma's special sauce or something. 
  • You could bring utensils to use for yourself, personally I don't really like sharing mine. 
  • You could also bring with you (or buy one here) an induction cooker and a metal bowl for those desperate nights in need of some instant noodles in your hall. Hall pantries are usually not equipped with stoves because they already provide you food.
  • For contact lens wearers, I was advised to bring lens solution from home, which I did. I can't remember how much it costs here, maybe £10 or less? You do the math. 
  • Also remember to bring some medication with you and traditional ointments (because they are awesome!) because going to see a doctor here when you're sick is a major pain in the butt. You'd most likely not get past the nurse before she prescribes antibiotics and shoos you away like a fly. Unless of course if you're seriously ill and on the verge of death. I'm kidding. But things like fever packs are a life saver.
  • If you're feeling pensive about buying stuff, especially stationary, then bring some from home, such as pens and paper. They're more expensive if you compare converted prices. But you'll learn to ignore it over time. 
  • Try to get your grubby hands on free pens from your freshers' fair, or any fair. They work really well and you won't have to buy any!
  • Try to get a really good umbrella, the kind with extra fastenings(?) That make sure your spikes don't bend out of shape. I got mine from home and has lasted through all types of rain and wind that I've encountered so far. You could get one here, but I find them rather expenisive (£10 for one?!) And they usually don't last through 2 storms or so. Be warned.

What to expect

Weather Upon Arrival

Honestly, it won't really be that cold. It will be windy (but that's all the time) but it won't be freezing. When you're travelling over, just wear a jumper and a hoodie and you'll be fine. I'm more afraid of the cold in planes to be honest.

Weather during Winter

Now this one is a bit tricky. Temperatures don't really drop to double digit negative until January to February? It will be chilly during late Autumn but nothing a good coat can't handle. Winter will also mean that the air will be very cold (duh) and you may suffer from the occasional nose bleed (like me). 

During Winter, the nights will be longer and the days will be shorter. That means, the sun will set at 4pm. Yes. 4pm. And that includes daylight savings (- 1 hour) That usually starts in November? Or sometime around there. The sun will rise at about the usual time I suppose. Perhaps 6am? I can't really remember.

Fun fact: In Summer (aka now), the sun sets at approx. 10pm and rises at 4.30am, including daylight savings (+ 1 hour)

Weather in General

NEVER underestimate the weather. As I've mentioned before, rain is always lurking around the corner. Either that, or ridiculously strong winds that feel like Autumn when it's June. Always carry an umbrella with you, or wear a jacket or coat with a big enough hood to shield you from the sudden rain. Weather may also vary depending on which part of Britain you're in. For example, Nottingham is right smack in the midlands and it gets colder during Winter, and Spring, and nearing Summer (someone needs to stop playing with the weather controls!) than, I assume, other cities like London.

The weather forecast may be your best friend, but I wouldn't trust it 100%. Do remember to check what the weather is like generally before you fly so you're able to gauge what to expect.i

People

Hmm what can I say? They sure love to party and drink. It can't be helped, it's the culture here. Most Britons will go out for nights at the many clubs littered around the city and go for things called 'bar crawls'. I didn't know what it was until I came here. Basically it's a group going from bar to bar, drinking of course and ending it at the club, where they'll get absolutely hammered and miss next morning's lecture. 
Also depending on where you are, locals may or may not be racist towards you (if you're not Caucasian). Just be mindful of the people around you. 
And another thing, I've noticed that many Britons are rather shy or awkward in approaching internationals, and for some reason, especially Asians. Most of the time you'd have to take the initiative to talk to them. If not, they'd most probably stick with their own. 

Transportation

Buses are most of the time reliable and run on time. They're usually clean and safe so you don't have anything to worry about when taking the bus at 3am in the morning after a night out. Just be sure to travel in a group at that time, or at least in pairs. Student fares are usually £1 per trip, but do double check with the bus companies to make sure.

Taxis are run by various companies and it's up to you to determine which one is the cheapest. In Nottingham I'd recommend DG Taxis or Lenton Cabs. They even give out £1 off coupons, so hoard those for your nights out. But be mindful about taking them late at night alone, regardless if you're a man or woman (more towards women but hey, gender equality amirite?)

Also, if possible, invest in a Railcard. You'll get discounts when travelling by train, or if you're a bus person, there should be a National Express card, but if I'm right, most students get the railcard. That is of course, you do not intend to travel around at all when in the UK. It's not really that expensive to get one, and it would be a good investment.

IMPORTANT
BEFORE leaving for the UK, do take note to buy either a train or bus ticket to your city of study (if it's in another city away from the airport) at least a few weeks in advance because buying a ticket on the spot is hella expensive (from my own experience). Make sure that you have some time between immigration and customs processing and the time of departure because you wouldn't want to burn your ticket on your first day in the UK. Unless of course, you've booked a spot on your university airport pickup, then you're good to go.

Safety

Britain is generally pretty safe. Despite the various thefts, drunk violence and property damage, you've pretty much got nothing to severely worry about. Just remember to be alert when walking alone and keep your bags close. You can never be too careful. 

Student Life

Your average student life here will be filled with drink parties, clubbing, nights out, binge watching, binge eating, morning lectures, being utterly confused with the weather, cramming last minute in the sweltering library, fighting for a table with a socket in the library and pulling all-nighters. Specific experiences may vary by University. 

Others

Money

Please be mindful that majority of the shops and vendors (and taxis) only accept notes from £5 up to £10. £20 is rare and £50 is most often only used in banks. So if your money vendor hands you a thick wad of £50s, once you get to the UK, go to a bank and get them changed. You'd also want coins, especially £1 as they're very useful for buses and laundromats. 1p and 2p coins (copper coins) are useless and I don't know why we're still using them. 
Invest in a cardholder for your debit or credit card, bus pass, student card, national ID, Boots Card, Tesco Card, etc. You won't have to carry lots of money with you, maybe except coins.

Shopping

Shopping here is a wonderful experience, especially with their brilliant return policies. Of course, you should be considerate enough not to abuse that policy. I have faith in you. You also don't have to constantly carry tons of cash with you because majority of the shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs accept card transactions. 

Shops here usually open from 9am to 6pm on weekdays, while bars will close much later. On weekends, they close earlier at 4pm, so make sure to plan ahead before you head out to do some shopping!

Grocery shopping can also be done online at Tesco, Sainsbury's, etc. 
I can't tell you exactly which is the best, but I usually shop at Tesco and avoid M&S. Morrisons, Aldi and ASDA are cheaper than Tesco (I think). Sainsburry's is above Tesco, but below M&S. I'm not exactly sure about Waitrose as I've never shopped there before. These are the more popular grocery markets available in the UK. You can compare and contrast prices yourself.


Well, I guess that's about all the advice I can think off the top of my head. If there's any more to add, I will do so.
Congratulations on being able to study in this country and I hope you make the best out of your experience living here as a foreigner. All the best!

Cheers.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Uber promo code!

"Use my Uber promo code, judithy28ue, and get £10 off your first Uber ride. Redeem it at https://www.uber.com/invite/judithy28ue"

This is literally my first time using such a service. I've heard many great things about it, but never really had the opportunity (or guts) to try. Since I'll be needing a ride for my fambam in London, might as well give it a shot.  

Not sure if this code is usable for Uber services outside the UK. Do let me know if it does!

Cheers. 

Introspection

Here's just my two cents after some pondering.

It's no secret that the world only, truly and actively look at beings who are successful, popular, beautiful and whatever I may have missed out but belongs on this list. I've observed that people enjoy reading about the lives of others. Call us kepoh (being a busybody) but that's just being human I suppose. Now, how I came to even have this thread of thought in my mind was when I thought of how to boost viewers on my blog. True, I don't post enough or have many interesting topics. So does that make my life mediocre, too plain to be noticed? I don't know. I'm not upset or wallowing in self-pity if anything, I'm simply curious. I follow popular blogs like cheeserland, lashes and strokes, and more personal ones by friends. I often wonder how people like Cheesie or Xiaxue (S'porean blogger) achieve such high reader counts. Time definitely had something to do with it, but asides from that, what else? Cheesie now blogs about her kid, Junya and her life in Japan as a young mother. Xiaxue also blogs about her kid, Dash, and we all know everyone loves looking at babies (okay maybe not, but hey, they're cute and funny when they eat lemon) So, what about before that? From my memories of skimping through Xiaxue's blog and reading about her, and reading about Cheesie now, it's mostly reviews about stuff and fashion, and their every day experiences.
Unfortunately, I don't think my fashion sense is up to par as the world sees it, nor do I have that much cash to splurge on indulgences.

Though at the same time humans, as I've come to actively realize, strive for simplicity and ease. People want the simplest way to earn money; multilevel marketing schemes. People want the easiest way to lose weight; drinks that apparently allow you to do so in weeks. People want the fastest way to fame; doing ridiculous things on the internet. People want to have the simplest method of making or eating food; fast food and frozen meals. Though if it weren't for that trait, we'd probably still be wandering around as neanderthals. I wonder if the same idea applies to reading and watching as well? Entertainment is a simple enough to follow without engaging too much of your brain with, but at the same time it has to be exciting and dramatic. I guess it doesn't necessarily have to be relatable, how are we common folk supposed to relate to Kim K and Kanye's lavish lifestyle?? Yet people still follow endlessly on every news cover of the couple and their kid. Same goes to blogging too I suppose, posts that are too simple, lacking drama and excitement do not really appeal to the masses. Perhaps it's too identical to their own lifestyle. We always want things we can't get, so we look to others who have already achieve or possess that. I'm not saying this on behalf of everyone, this is simply my theory. If you find this as intriguing as I do, feel free to spark a debate or a casual conversation on the topic with your fellow peers and such.

But to tie it all up, I guess we all can't have everything we want.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Horton Hears A Who (2008) - Film Review

An elephant and a world in a speck. Brilliant plot line!

This film brings back memories. I vaguely remember writing about this film in my old blog back in 2008 when the film came out. We watched this in school after our PMR exams were over.

*In Malaysia, PMR (National Year/Grade 9 exam) is what determines a student to progress to Year/Grade 10 and 11.  So you can imagine that it was a pretty big deal. 

Re-watching it now, I am surprised how incredibly deep this film was. Given that it's a story by Dr. Seuss (bless him) I expected nothing less. 

First of all, looking at the IMDB page for this film, it boasts a variety of talented voice casts; Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol, Burnett, Seth Rogen, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill and Jesse McCartney, among many others. I only remembered Jesse McCartney as Jojo haha (even though he only ever utters a word and sing a line towards the end of the film).

Like all Dr. Seuss stories, this one carries a great deal of moral values that we can learn from and reflect on. It's actually quite jarring how 'violent' this film is. No, no, there's no blood, but there is the threat to boil, torture and to publicly seclude. On a deeper level, this film shows the true face of authority, and just how far one with the said power is will to go to 'keep the peace for the sake of the children'. That's usually the case, isn't it? It makes me question our own higher authorities, how collectively as a group/mob singular people can be shunned - like the Mayor of Whoville. It's just so glaringly obvious who and what the film represents: society and the false peace promised to us by democracy and autocracy, which are represented in the film as the council members of Whoville and Kangaroo, respectively. 

The story also shows us a reflection of our society today, or rather our education system; to conform to what is deemed normal, and to isolate and to do away with what is abnormal, such as active imagination. True, that many schools promote the use of imagination but that's also on a controlled scale. Too much imagination and adults would call the kids weird or 'special', and laugh. That's the reality of it, and this film shows us clearly how flawed we are, yet thinking we are supreme beings able to tower over others who we deem smaller.

This is a brilliant film filled with jokes, puns, external references and slapstick humour (almost) that is sure to tickle your sarcastic funny bone, like mine. It is also emotional at a certain point, where we see Horton go to great lengths to protect and save the Whovians despite everyone else around him calling him crazy, but he never gave up and Dr. Seuss has shown us how beautiful that is. Imagine going through 3 million similar looking flowers just to look for a speck of dust! At its core I feel that it is a film about acknowledging how toxic power can be, but as any other Hollywood film, there is always a happy ending. Badsies can repent and all is right with the world again. That's not to say that it's an ignorant view, it is true that life isn't as simple, where we just forgive and forget, but I do believe we can be as such. Villains are people too (or in this case, animals) and what we think is utterly wrong, they think it's right. So, it's also a matter of perspective, and the personal aim for such a drive.

I'd recommend this film for kids and adults alike. Children may not truly understand the complex social hierarchy depicted in the film, but it will definitely teach them a thing or two about respecting others and not judging based on their own personal opinions.

Hyperama is amazing + Ramen & cheese

Yes, as the title states, Hyperama is an amazing place to shop, because everything is wholesale! And wholesale usually means cheaper prices for buying in bulk! I've been asking myself why haven't I been there earlier! (It is my first time there so imagine the jakun-ness) 
*Jakun in colloquial Malaysian terms means to be in awe of experiences and stuff (to my knowledge at least).

I was the trolley passenger.

 
* kirakira *

That was my exact
expression when I saw this.

I didn't buy much though, only several packs of instant noodles and some vacuum-packed braised pork (?) and we collected some cardboard boxes for moving-house later next month. One other thing that defines student life other than cooking, instant noodles and binge watching is moving-house. During my second year, I stayed in halls and being unfamiliar with the way the hall system works here in UK universities, I was very frustrated with having to move my stuff in and out of my room three times: Christmas break, Easter break and Summer break. Honestly, by the second move, I'd learned to not buy on impulse and kept nearly half my stuff in boxes to make packing for Summer easier. Not to mention trying to keep the amount of boxes as few as possible because every time I shift them (and my huge ass suitcases), I'd have to climb up/down three floors (my block is even on elevated ground, so, more stairs) 
So now that I'm living in a house, I don't have to go through all that hell any more. Wahahaha!! *cackling laughter* Though I'm still staying on the top floor (attic) in the house. Why does it seem like I'm fated to stay on the highest floors? :/

Anyway, back to today, once I got home (my limbs are still crying from yesterday's fitboxing session), I immediately began cooking lunch, which was one of the noodles I bought today. Ramen Noodles! Since my housemates left some veggies behind, I'd thought I might as well eat them lest they go bad.


But because it was piping hot (physically and in terms of tastes) I had to eat it from another bowl, hence:


I can't handle really spicy food, and I may have accidentally added the entire packet of spicy seasoning without thinking about it, when I usually only do half or slightly more. Not to mention that all the veggies added more volume to my meal and almost made it overflow out of the bowl :S


I even had to add more cheese when eating it bit by bit (the white dollop which apparently isn't too pleased with being mixed into spicy ramen soup)
Some of you may be thinking, 'are you crazy?! Eating ramen with cheese is simply too weird!' 
in actual fact, it is simply even more delicious to eat with cheese. Plus it tones down the spiciness because of the cream/milk. Everyone should try eating noodles with cheese at least once in their life. I came to know of this while scrolling through facebook and saw a video of a Japanese chef turning simpleton ramen into something classy and edgy after adding cheese on top. My other friend also recommended me to eat as so a few days after that too, but this was the first time I cooked this on my own, so I'm quite satisfied with my meal. ごちそうさまでした!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

There are three things I realised during these couple of days.

One:


Cooking Mama is available on Android!


Imagine to my utter delight that this DS game would be playable on my phone! I've wanted a DS at one point just to play Cooking Mama because, hello, you can cook stuff without looking like a total idiot in the kitchen and burning it down?! I kid. I'm not entirely hopeless in the kitchen, more of the opposite actually *coughselfpraisecough*. Anyway, I would suppose the game's language settings are set to the one your phone's UI is in, but it also allows you to choose which languages you want the game to be in. Of course, Japanese is one of them (duh). The game is free, but (so far) recipes are bought by cash, and they ain't cheap. They come in a bundle of  about six or more recipes that you can cook and combine with. Yes, combine. Now you can be the Michelin Star chef you've always wanted to be (or not). Since this game is relatively new, I don't expect a lot of recipes to be available in the game-shop yet. But last I checked, there are 6 packs to choose from



Game play is simple: you use your finger or a stylus to follow the arrows as instructed on the screen. For example here, I learned how to make a cheese omelette, omurice style. (Also, this was before I found out I could switch languages, hence why the game is in English)



Pretty fun at first, but me being me, I got bored after completing the three recipes given for free. I'll see how the game proceeds after that and whether if it'll gradually reward me with more recipes. Search on Playstore for Cooking Mama.

*edit: after looking through the reviews on playstore, it seems the maximum amount of free recipes you'll get is six. Any more and you'll have to purchase them for $3.99 or for my case RM14.40. That is a lot of money for 6 in-game recipes. See the thing is, this isn't exactly a game I'd devote a lot of my time to, maybe an hour but that's about it. Hence, spending money on recipes instead of two actual meals or something more tangible would be.. well, not worth it. I do believe the other players agree as well. However, as this is new, profits need to be earned and there is always space for improvement. Let's hope the company listens to its players.

Two:

My hair has grown up until my waist. Achievement unlocked! I am extremely pleased that my decision to withhold from chopping my locks off for 9 months have produced a mane of this length. Sadly, this will have to go once I've settled down back home during the summer, and the cycle will begin again when I return to the UK for Masters. Though this time, I'm quite excited because then, I won't be cutting my hair for up to 14 months! I wonder if I should get a shorter hair cut?


I had to bend my arm at some really weird
angles to take this shot, hence the emote.

Three:


I am absolutely out of shape. 
So I tried 'fitboxing' today. It's a fitness class provided by my university's sports membership. I didn't even have to go through the actual boxing workout to go, "oh crap, what did I just sign up for?!" 
It was just doing jump rope for 1-minute intervals with burpees, squats and push ups in between each set, and already I felt like my legs were turning into jelly. And that was just the warm up. To be honest, I've never done a burpee, ever, until today. After that came the real thing. That was then when I (internally) gasped in horror, 'there's more?!' Of course there's more you あほばか, it is fitboxing after all. 
Anyway, if my tired brain remembers correctly, we did two sets per person for boxing, with partners. The other would be the one with pads. The first set was three punches. Nothing too overbearing, right? Wrong. I think it was two minutes? Could be more because it felt very long. The second set was continuous punching until time was up. As I was with the pads first, I thought it wouldn't be too hard holding my hands up as punch targets. Thing is, when you hold your arms up at about shoulder-height, they get tired after awhile. Not only that, you'll be absorbing the shock from the punches your partner throws at you. And at the same time, you also kinda go against your partner's punches, if you know what I mean, kinda like providing the extra force so your hands don't go limp when the punch comes. 
Now imagine doing that twice, then switching to punch another two sets then doing push ups after that. Now imagine doing all of that three times, with each set more punches than the last, and with burpees and squats in between. Then finally, everyone would take turns punching different padders. I don't know how long it took but it was over quicker than I expected. There were 5 groups I think? That would make 9 of us, including the instructor, so we'd each get to punch 5 different padders (well not really because we switched after the round so we didn't get to punch with everybody, which was a relief because I didn't want to punch the instructor when my arms felt like noodles.) 
After all that cardio, we ended with some crunches, hip thrusts, leg raise crunches and planking. I was like 'whaaaaaatttttt gimme a breakkkkkkk!' We did two sets of those, though I felt like the second set was shorter. Anyway, the best part was when we did some stretching to end the one hour cardio-intense session. Lying down and not doing any motions that require a lot of energy never felt so good. 
And I think my legs look more toned after all that work out. Or maybe it's just my wishful thinking and positively hoping that something good came out of that tortuous exercise. 

I may, or may not have looked for
the nicest angle to snap a photo
of my misproportioned legs.

Least to say, after that, I found it difficult to walk down the stairs without having my knees buckle under my weight. But, no pain, no gain, right?
I also signed up for Zumba next Monday. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, June 22, 2015

First on the agenda: お誕生日おめでとう剣心くん!
剣心 would be 166 years old if he were (real) still alive! (heh) Well technically his birthday was yesterday (6月20日) but I couldn't make it :(


But it's never too late! 剣心 will forever have a special place in my heart as being the first fictional man to fall in love with/admire/fangirl over - all thanks to AXN for introducing and feeding me with wonderful anime such as Samurai X/るろうに剣心 and Saiyuki/幻想魔伝最遊記 when I was 9 years old. Ah, good times.

Saiyuki - basically Journey to the West with a whole lot of uh.. violence.

Anyway, second agenda, I had dimsum yesterday at Man's with the people from a bible study group that I attend weekly called Compass. It was realllyyyy good. Though, maybe it's because I was beginning to crave for home-food. Unfortunately, I must have been too hungry to snap any photos of the food we ate hence I can't really explain much about the food (as I can't really recall, now), but I can definitely assure you, I ate a lot.

Anyway, after that, the group split in two; half of us went for mini golf at Cornerhouse, while the other half went shopping. Guess where I went? Haha! I didn't buy anything though - almost did, but didn't. It was a good thing too because I had already spent £35+ just the other day and my wallet still hurts. Anywho, about 4pm our shopping group headed for some tea at my (apparent) regular hangout: Time Out. I ordered my usual teh tarik (Lit. pulled tea) and so did the other five, and one milk tea something. About fifteen minutes later, the other half joined us. All I can say is, we dominated the cafe.

the Compass group!
We hung out for almost two solid hours I think. Just chilling and chatting, while a couple of them played FIFA on the PS3. I also mentioned to one of them how I felt like a host of a party - because I go there so often and post a lot about the food there, they kept asking me to recommend drinks and food and also because I personally knew the owner I felt kinda a sense of pride to be able to share my recommendations of the nomnoms here with them, because I have confidence that they would love it. Haha! Least to say, I was not disappointed.

After tea, we headed of to a friend's apartment for some Indonesian dinner!

Did I mention my friend is a fantastic chef? Sorry ladies, not single.

Can I just say how much I missed eating soto?! It's primarily a chicken soup noodle dish with boiled egg, sliced cabbage and bean sprouts. Back when I used to have an Indonesian maid at home, she would cook this every other week with nasi impit (compressed rice) for my family and I would gobble everything up. It's kinda hard to explain the taste of the soup. It's clear soup, not broth, cooked with serai  (lemon grass) to give it that nice sightly sour taste and yellow-ish tinge.

After my heavy dimsum lunch and tea, I wasn't feeling really hungry by dinner time. So I only had one small take-away box portion. My usual appetite is quite large so everyone was so surprised I declared myself full after that small portion. We had quite a lot left over as well, but I couldn't eat any more (also, I was on a mission to cut down my food intake). We played some games and quizzes and by the time we were done, it was already 11:15 pm and we had to rush off to catch next bus home. Time really flies when you're having fun!

And then, today I made pancakes! It was my second time, but this time round, my friend and I used my ingredients. I had about almost a full pack of rye flour and I don't know what to do with it, so this happened. Actually, we didn't make pancakes because I had leftover flour from my alternative shampoo experiment, but rather I had totally forgotten about it and realised that I did have flour left. Amazing how that turned out!



The texture isn't the usual 'smooth' style, because I used rye instead of regular flour, it has 'bits' in it - kinda like oats, but not at all oaty. And that was breakfast for lunch! Lololol. And thanks to my friend, she even helped me pack my clothes that are to be moved into my new accommodation next term. (Thanks a lot hahahahaha)

Quite an eventful weekend I'd say. Food is always the best thing that can ever happen. #foodie

ALSO, HAPPY FATHERS' DAY EVERYONE! No, I shall not conform to posting a picture of my father and I on social media accompanied by a meaningful text. Instead I shall wait for my graduation. That will be the best fathers' day gift I will ever be able to give him (aside from grandkids, but I'm still single. Heyyyyy)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

To end with the past - welcoming the future.

Today, marks the day I (un)officially complete my undergraduate studies. It has been a fulfilling 2 years (I transferred) of various eye-opening experiences, opportunities and relationships forged that have opened my mind and allowed me to take a glimpse of the world and its many complexities.
Okay I'm just sounding philosophical on purpose. Otherwise, I'm done! I would say I wish I did better, maybe scored more marks to have a solid instead of a borderline total average, but hey, if God gifts me with a miraculous 2:1 (second-upper), then I'm not complaining.
Like I said, it's been a great 2 years here in Nottingham - I got to travel to Paris and perform at a few notable landmarks (a gruelling 12 hour trip - note to self, fly or take a train), I got to experience real snow for the first time ever, in my entire existance (for those who don't already know, I come from a country where Summer is perpetually 365 days a year, where it's either sweltering hot, or pouring cats and dogs, with ocassional droughts and floods. Yay home!), made some really strong friendships (#overlyattached you know who you are), and last but not least learning to cook because we all know that studying abroad is actually all about the cooking.
That's not to say I am done with this forever-gloomy country and its unpredictable weather, I've got another solid year to go because I'll be doing my Masters! See? Unpredictable life. I even got a small scholarship fund from the university I'll be attending! (Just to note, I've never, ever gotten funding from anyone else but my parents. So this is a huge thing for me and for my folks).

So there. That's a very sweet and short summary of my university life. No regrets whatsoever. Whatever choices I've made in the past up till now, whether conscious or not, have led me here. I'd have to admit, I've never expected myself to study abroad. I've more or less expected my life to be mundane, predictable, normal - but looking at it now, I got to say that it's anything but normal. Yeah, I guess studying abroad to most middle-class families is a pretty normal, if not expected experience, but to be honest, it hasn't been easy getting this far. My parents are the ones truely feeling the weight of my education, financial wise. I sometimes feel bad that I put them in such a situation where they'd have to plough away to support me financially. Malaysia's cascading currency isn't helping very much at all. But, by God's abundant grace He has provided, and I believe, pulled all of us through hard and difficult times. For that, I am immensely thankful and grateful for all the opportunities almost literally thrown at my feet, and for my parents' unwavering support.

As I'm sure you will be reading this, (because I will be linking this on Facebook) mummy and papa, thank you so much for all you've done and will be doing, I also apologise for all the ridiculous things that I've done (I can't really remember, but just to be safe, I'll apologise anyway). I know I'm not very vocal about my affection for you both, but know that I love you and am eternally grateful for always being there. Can't wait to walk the stage and accept my certificate with you both (and ah ma) in the audience watching with pride.

Emotions aside, here's a celebratory picture of me doing a mini air fist to commemorate my achievement of a second-upper. Excuse the pallid complexion.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fallout 4 at E3

Lengthy post below.


No, I did not attend E3. In fact, I didn't know what it really was (shame!) until this afternoon. So I've been playing my Steam copy of Fallout 3; a Christmas present from 2014 (you know who you are!). I had previously stopped when I first started during Christmas season because I found the game somewhat scary. I mean, come on - post apocalyptic America with radiation all around and freaky mutated life forms roaming around waiting to eat you? Sounds like a wonderful place to be. Also, I was very used to Skyrim's combat system and so when I was introduced to V.A.Ts (Fallout's combat system) I couldn't get used to it. I was more accustomed to first-person, CoD-style point and shoot combat. Not to say this doesn't work, it does. But it's pretty shitty, to be absolutely frank with you. The aim is terrible and every time I miss when it was clearly aimed at the head (I always aim for the head. Exploding heads are satisfying) I go "COME ON. IT WAS A PROPER SHOT" and grumble some more while hunching over my keyboard and using resulting to VATs instead. Though, in the earlier levels, aiming using VATs is also pretty shit. Anyway, enough rambling about FO3.

In their two part video of Fallout 4's gameplay unveiling at E3 (which I promptly tried to find after seeing a post on tumblr on its character creation, which led me to want to write this post after that) the game director of Bethesda, Todd Howard took the stage and introduced the game which is using their all new-not-so-new creation engine used in Oblivion and Fallout 3 (Gamebryo) and illustrated how detailed the game will be. So the game will begin before the nuclear bombing.

Very 1970s. Minus Codsworth the butler robot.

Do you know how exciting that is?! We get to finally see-first hand and experience (maybe for like, 15 minutes) what pre-nuclear retro America would be like in the game world! What's even more awesome is how they incorporated the character creation system - a bathroom mirror. How ingenious is that?

Wife staring creepily behind you. Lovely.

Okay maybe not, but the way I see it, it's a perfect way of creating your own character, whether male or female (they're both husband and wife) and the best bit? NO SLIDERS! You just point and drag and you can practically sculpt your character's features to your heart's content. And like sprinkles on ice-cream, the character behind you (the gender not chosen) will even comment on like, say, your nose being cute when you're editing it. Your character may even interact with the other non-chosen character about opinions on his/her face! How cool is that?! All I'm saying is, it's not like the game pauses and the player is removed from the diegesis (the world within the book/game/film) of the game and then resumes like nothing happened. Character creation is part of the moving, real-time feature! (I don't know if you understood what I just attempted to tell you, I hope you did, because I can't seem to know how to explain the thought otherwise). Also, the game generates a baby based on the couple you have created. I don't know whether the kid survives the nuclear blast, or your spouse, but a baby generator itself is pretty cool. Also the other best bit is that they've used the same creation engine to generate NPCs as well. That means a whole variety of characters!

Anyway, basically, you play as whomever you leave the character creation menu as. Moving on, the graphics look amazing. Not on Final Fantasy 15's level (that's too life-like but hey, me likey!) but it's incredible enough to have you exploring every nook and cranny of the open world. Though the facial animations are still kinda weird and uh.. awkward, but no matter, that's a minor issue we can overlook. Watch the videos for a more detailed viewing of the game's graphics.

Fallout 4 introduces a heaping ton of new systems and interactions such as crafting. Now you can use anything in the world - yes, anything and everything. Maybe excluding trees) - and scraping them into materials to build settlements. Settlements!! You can even build and place generators which will supply power for your lights, turrets, etc. You'll even be able to place water sources and such. Did also I mention sending brahmin caravans between your settlements? Imagine the endless possibilities! Oh, and totally customizable weapons which will be absolutely wicked.

Finally there's some use to all those toy cars I've collected.

 And soon after, you'll have other wanderers coming to join you! It reminds me of DA:I's fort thing to me. I've not played it because I feared my laptop wouldn't be able to support the high-end graphics, so I'm not exactly sure how similar it is. They've also created a layered armor system, which is music to my ears because now I can literally layer on armor instead of just single pieces of clothing.

Also, DOG. THE DOG IS BACK (as shown in the game's trailer). They've totally upgraded interactions in the game as well. Since the character is now fully voiced, it gives the whole experience a more cinematic feel to it - more closeness to your character instead of being a voiceless screen and having staring contests during 'conversations'. Pretty much like DA2 and Mass Effect. Plus, you can now even walk away from a conversation! Or shoot them in the head, as Todd mentioned. A big change from Fallout 3. Anyway, alongside interactions, you can now command your dog to do various things such as fetch a particular object, investigate, whatever. Just point and command.

Now be a good doggy and fetch me that thingamajig.
Also, the pip boy looks amazing.



They've even made a real life one that comes with the collector's edition. Well, I'm not getting that, because, reasons. *ahembrokestudentahem* But yes, now you have the chance of owning your very own pip boy that your smartphone can fit in it. Also, they've created a second-screen app that coincides with the game and yes, you may have guessed, it's the pip boy interface. I believe it'll be released when the game comes out. Not only that, they've additionally released a totally separate smartphone game called 'Fallout Shelter'. It's been released on ios and soon to be released on Android (whyyyyyy). The best part, the game will be free, playable without internet access and without time cycles. Awesome! Watch 3:25 onward of part 2 for the explanation of the game. Man, has Bethesda been real busy.

Right. With all that being said, I don't think I've left anything out. I wanted to keep this post decent in length so I shall stop here. As an ending though, I cannot wait for this game to be released. And it's gonna be pretty soon! Save the date. Looks like I may need to upgrade to be able to play all this. #broke



 

Monday, June 15, 2015

"You know, I've been thinking ..."

I've seen many people; observed them and their uniqueness that make them distinctively them, and I often ask myself: what are you doing with your life?

Finding out little things about people (be it in a stalkerish way or asking directly like how a normal person would) is one of the most fun and exciting parts of knowing someone. And when you find out certain interests that you and that person in question share in common, you feel a sense of joy errupt in your soul, maybe a little bit of relief, as though finally, someone is interested in the same strange blend of things as you are - finally someone can understand you.

I digress. Initially I wanted to go on about how uneventfully normal my life is. How ordinary are my various (half-baked, mediocre) skills I have attained over the years of my living here on Earth. All this I've forced myself to think about after finding out the aforementioned little things. Such talented people with bright minds and dare I say it, raw talent. Of course I wouldn't be able to help myself from wondering what exactly am I doing with my life, right now, wasting my days away with leisures, or rather what should I be doing with my life on Earth before my time is up.

It's funny though (not really), today at church, the speaker said, 'it is alright to not know what your life's purpose is.' Of course, this is in context to the topic of the week, which was 'Pioneering'. So in that context, she was explaining how you don't need to know what God's plan is for you on this Earth. It is His plan after all, and you're His vessel, to carry out His will.  All you need to do is live life accordingly as he has planned and instructed, and you shall be the vessel He needs. At this moment, some of you might think, 'does Christianity promote some sort of ideology where a faceless being controls your life, and we are supposed to carry out the so-called "will" of this said being?' Well, if you put it that way, sorta. It looks like some form of tyrannical control, but it totally isn't. TOTALLY isn't. We are willing to be used as vessels. That's the difference. Willingness, and faith in things that aren't yet there in reality. I Digressed again. I should really learn to be on point.  So anyway, in regards to that, I guess I've sorta answered my self-reflective question on my reason for existance. Also, another thought/quote just came to me: 'don't compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 5.'

Additionally, with no relation to everything said above, results are being released on Friday. Commence string of nervous muttering and censored cuss words.

Have a good week. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

天皇の料理番-4話目 Emperor's Cook - Episode 4

I literally stopped before going to the next episode to write this out with tear stains still drying on my cheeks.
This episode was amazing, to say the very least. It talks a lot about the human nature of jealousy and the urge to fend for one's self when put in a dire situation. It also talks about gratitude and the sincerity of the heart, and the many ways one could interpret and perceive that. Tokuzo's sincerity lay in providing for his wife and unborn child, and that is what's driving him to do better and better every day. I envy his determination and discipline.

This episode was quite emotional for me (as you can observe on your own), not entirely, but from the middle towards the end. Here we see friendships being tested all in the name of jealousy, and forgiveness all in the name of friendship. Not sure if that makes sense, but it sounds pretty deep. Haha!

Anyway, In this episode we see the development of Tokuzo's vegetable slicing ability - and I've got to say, he's got a pretty amazing set of skills. I can't imagine 健さん training day and night just slicing onions and peeling potatoes to be able to slice at such a speed. Just watch out for the 'chateau' part of the episode and you'll see why I'm so awestruck. We also see 健さん's acting abilities as he carries Tokuzo's personality and emotions from its highest to its lowest, and I've got to say, I absolutely admire him for it. He made me cry, damnit. That's good enough for me!

Here, we see Tokuzo punching the shit out of the spiteful chef.
(spoiler)

I learned a couple of pretty handy cooking tips too.
Did you know, you add salt to water when boiling vegetables to retain its greenness?

I guess you could call this entry a review, but I'd think this was a pretty half-assed review without much depth and analysis, but you could tell I was pretty moved by this episode. That's good enough, ね?

Time Out Corner


Welcome to Time Out, where you can eat 3 tapas (Spanish for appetisers) for £13, and have some amazing brewed tea and coffee!




No, I was not paid to say that but I do know the person who owns the place.
Timeout Cafe is situated in Nottingham, United Kingdom (sorry folks who aren't in the area).

When I first stepped foot into the cafe I was amazed by it's totally hipster and minimalist design and layout. It's a great place to chill and relax with a friend, a nice place to study in a group, or if you don't mind some music playing in the background as you grind your books, and of course, a totally great place for some hipster photos to add to your Instagram collection. They've even got a garden swing!

Excuse the sleeping person.
Apparently they had a hectic day when this was taken.

Have a look at their website for more information. But for the lazy bums out there, here's their menu:



Apologies for the smallness of the words, my blog can't stretch as far to accommodate. Boohiss

As you can see, they have a small but pretty diverse menu of popular Asian foodies and nomnoms. Plus, they've got a totally awesome vintage N64 with a variety of #oldskool games (and a vintage TV to boot), and a PS3 to keep you busy and entertained (sorry, FIFA only for now).

Please handle vintage items probably older than you are
with care.

Here are more pictures to make you salivate and hopefully make you come visit!







Sadly I do not have enough photos (because I believe I should be eating the food instead of my camera, but on occasional exceptions).

My favourite main dish is the Mentaiko (the red stuff (shrimp roe) typically found on sushi) Pasta:


I've had it about 3 times now. It has an interesting flavour, that's how I would explain it. It's got a little spice thing going on, some mayo? I can't really tell. It's  pretty much a fusion dish so expect some fusion! (I'm not sure if that was supposed to be a joke) Don't worry, they've now added the volume of the spaghetti so you'll get your money's worth.

Their (beef/vegetarian) Pho (vietnam noodle dish) is pretty good too. I like the flavour of the soup. Feels like home. You can even add fish sauce and Sriracha if it's too bland for your tongue. A heads up though, they serve quite a lot of noodles and the beef is supposed to be partially chewy and soft (think: medium to medium well), so don't be shocked if it doesn't feel properly cooked or if it tastes funny. I personally enjoyed it and finished it till the very last drop. Also I don't like wasting food I've paid for.


They've also got various tapas, as mentioned, such as Takoyaki, Chicken Karaage, Viet Spring Rolls and Korean Sweet Soy Garlic Hot Wings. These are the tapas I've tried. And I've loved all of them. This place is more worth your moolah if you go in a group of 2-3 people or slightly more. That way, you can order a variety of food and share among yourselves.

With all that said, do take note that this place only takes cash. However, there is a convenient cash machine located just opposite, outside a Sainsbury's.

Timeout Cafe is located at:
14-16
Wheeler Gate,
Nottingham, NG1 2NB
United Kingdom.

Locate the Costa and Starbucks facing Market Square, and make your way down the road between them. The cafe is on the Costa side of the walkway, situated upstairs, between Poundland and Central College Salon (or smtg).

Tel: +44 115 837 3610

Opening & closing times: 
Weds - Sat: 11 am - 11 pm
Sun & Tues: 1 pm - 11 pm
Closed on Mondays

visit their social media pages to catch up on their news and to find out more about their food!