Because the Night Has a Magic Peace

Ahh the golden question of all time. Early bird or Night owl?

As much as I would love and have tried to be an early bird, I would like to admit that I am more productive at night.

Because the night has a certain kind of magical peace that I love. This magical peace enables me to endeavour my magical pieces with a clearer piece of mind.

Unless I have an urgent task to complete, usually after my dawn prayers I am always stoning out in the morning. A cuppa smoothie, coffee or green tea to accompany me wake up my sleepy eyes and mind.

Ironically, I become an early bird when I am overseas. My body clock suddenly changes and I wake up at dawn never to go back to sleep again. Suddenly, everything appears more beautiful, more exciting, more spectacular when I am not in my hometown. This always happens every time, even if I have been to the place more than once.

Such is the irony of life. But what is life without irony? ๐Ÿ™‚

Inspired by Daily Prompt: Because the Night

Oh The Mathematics of Learning…

Inspired by Daily Prompt: Land of Confusion

That would be Maths.

Maths, oh the mathematics of it all.

I remember a time when I was in secondary 1 and we were being taught about equations. I was so confused but was too afraid to my teacher, Mdm Esther Lim, to repeat the lesson. This teacher was also known to be abit kooky. So when she asked if everyone understood, I nodded my head with the rest of the class.

Until she asked me to come up to the board and solve a problem sum.

I looked at the problem sum and tried my very best to solve it with what she had just taught the class.

She had also asked another student to solve another problem so there were two of us in front of the board. Unfortunately for me, that classmate was a tad smarter than me. I could only look at her cleverness in dismay.

Not being able to do any solving, I finally gave up, hung my head low and said, “I’m sorry Mdm Lim, but I don’t understand the lesson.”

I can’t remember what she said after that, but I remember usually obtaining some fails and borderlining pass for my Maths tests and exams. I excel in languages subjects (Malay and English Language) and also Art subjects, and land in the middle of the road for Science and Principles of Accounts. However, Maths was my weakest subjects throughout.

Until secondary 3 where I had a wonderful Maths teacher, Mr. Desmond Lim who was truly the best teacher ever. Everytime I felt afraid to ask him to repeat, he would say, “Don’t be afraid to ask me, I will repeat again and again until you understand it okay?” It was so comforting to hear that because I wasn’t the only weakling in class and hearing that made us weaklings feel more motivated to do better in Maths. So it went on for two years, in secondary 3 and 4 where he never got tired of explaining to us the concepts behind the problem sums and how to solve them.

As a result, from failing to bordeline passes, I obtained a B4 for Maths in my GCE O’ Lรฉvels. (A B4 is the middle of the road, a low B – but still a B! An A would have been over the top to be honest, so I was more than elated to at least get a B for Maths, which was one of the compulsory subjects you needed to pass and get a good grade on to be able to move up to a tertiary institution).

And that is the story of Maths and I. I first hated it, and now while I don’t hate it, I just borderline like it.

The Happy Wanderer goes to New Zealand!

Inspired by Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

Salam and Hello all, I’m back! ๐Ÿ™‚

(Did anyone miss me? Haha…)

Let’s see what’s happened during these past couple of months?

Firstly, I got married Alhamdulillah. ๐Ÿ™‚

bus stop
Yup, that’s my dashingly smart-looking husband in a formal suit during our outdoor photoshoot. ๐Ÿ˜€

And then flew to Queenstown, New Zealand for my honeymoon.

20140226_090003_mard
Super LOVE the breathtaking sceneries in Queenstown, New Zealand. I would love to go there again!

My husband and me went on a self-drive trip for our honeymoon (kiwimoon, which I will refer to) so when I saw this daily prompt, it got me inspired to write. It’s such an amazing feeling when inspiration strikes!

Whatโ€™s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?

I would say that my travel style is a mixture of both itinerary driven as well as being flexible enough to adapt to changes in travel plans.

As it was our first time traveling together, we spent a lot of time planning and researching for the trip. Our travel plans included an itinerary since we would be moving from one place to another (around Queenstown, Tekapo and Wanaka), so we needed to follow a schedule as we would be checking in and out of hotels etc.

However when we were in the towns itself, we let ourselves wander happily and didn’t stick to specific timings or needing to follow every step. We had some places in mind that we wanted to go, so we just went with the flow. Like, on our second day in Queenstown we decided to go up on the Skyline Gondola, explored Queenstown central and then decided on a whim to go on a hike up on Queenstown Hill.

Reading bloggers’ travel posts on NZ really helped me a lot for the planning of the trip, so InsyaAllah, I will blog more about our kiwimoon soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hang in there, kiddo.

Dear 16 -year old self,

Currently, it’s been slightly more than ten years since you’ve turned 16.

So I figured I’ll let you in on some little secrets of what’s to come… ๐Ÿ˜‰

And maybe advice you a little on things. Coz this version of you is wiser and has done a bit of growing up…

You’ve always been a late bloomer compared to your friends, and you’re kind of awkward in your teenage years, but that’s okay.

At the stage where most of your friends started having boyfriends, you wonder if you’re going to ever have one. Don’t worry too much about it. In a few years, he will come looking for you. And soon, you’re going to get married to him. God reserved him for you all this while. So chill…

You have a group of friends from secondary school that you treasure a lot, and I’m sorry to tell you that you’re going to be separated from them because you went to a different tertiary institution from them. But that’s okay.

You soon made more friends in polytechnic and found close friends you now treasure. And the old friends from secondary school? You’re still close with them, so don’t worry about losing them.

So you found out that you were the only one out of your close friends, who went to a different polytechnic. Don’t be too upset kid. Coz hey, that’s where you met him; at a band competition nevertheless. He’s kinda shy, and he’s very passionate about music. You don’t have similar interests, but you’ll work it out.

And while you hated being in Red Cross in secondary school, because it wasn’t your first choice CCA and you joined because of your friend, you became very active in polytechnic. You joined the Malay Cultural Group and even took part in a play as part of their Hari Raya Performance. Way to go! You also joined the Adventure & Rock Climbing Club and even went up your first mountain! You climbed Mount Ophir (or Gunung Ledang in Malay) in Malaysia with them. Way to go! See? You’re cool like that. ๐Ÿ˜€

Along the way, you found a special group of friends who were striving to become better Muslims when you joined Nanyang Polytechnic Muslim Students Network. Through that, you met some of the most inspiring people and you joined Saff-Perdaus, where you developed yourself as a facilitator for youth camps. You loved making a difference in their lives, just as they did for yours.

You’re not supposed to know this yet, but in a couple of years you’re going to lose someone very very dear in your life. If I could tell you one advice now, it would be to spend as much time with ayah, your daddy-o. Coz you’re going to miss him too much when he’s gone. But you’re a tough cookie and you can handle this. Hang in there, kiddo.ย Always remember that Allah will always be with you.

For now, enjoy your single hood. Travel. Get involved in awesome projects. Love your parents and treat them kindly. Create something. Start a revolution. Just be yourself, because it would be such a waste to be someone else. ๐Ÿ™‚

Inspired by Daily Prompt: Sweet Sixteenย 

What a Colorful World

I wish I could write poetic words like Elif Shafak in The Forty Rules of Love or bring you into another world like Rumi or describe the surrounding greenery and mountainous terrains in vivid detail like Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

But I am a journey and so are my words.

However that shall not stop me from attempting this colorful daily prompt!

Write about anything youโ€™d like, but make sure that all seven colors of the rainbow โ€” red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet โ€” make an appearance in the post, either through word or image.

When I see red, I see anger. But I also see boldness. A red lipstick, in warm and cool tones. I am also reminded of the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities, red being the auspicious color for the Chinese.

When I see orange, I see cheerfulness. But I also see uniqueness. Someone or something who does not want to be ordinary. Someone who wants and dares to be different.

When I see yellow, I see the sunflower! The color of someone who always brightens up someone else’s day. Someone who is always smiling and putting others first. I also see happiness ๐Ÿ™‚ See, even this smiley face is yellow. ๐Ÿ˜€

When I see green, I see tranquility. Green is always associated with envy “green with envy”, but green to me is the color of peace. The surrounding greenery, the trees, the grass, the many shades of green that encompass our everyday lives peacefully without disturbance.

When I see blue, I see business. Corporate. Efficiency. These are the first things that come to my mind when I see the color blue. Also, Facebook. ๐Ÿ˜›

When I see indigo, I see a deep passionate soul. Indigo is a very specific and unique shade of blue/purple, sometimes leaning to blue, sometimes leaning to purple, but overall a deep, intense color. Kind of like a deep and intense person.

When I see violet, I see orchids! Orchids being the flower of Singapore, and because my favorite color is this shade of purple. Which, I just realized, explains my link colors. I am suddenly reminded of eggplant and mangosteens.

Inspired by –ย Daily Prompt: Roy G. Biv

Happiness is Knowing that God is Always There For You

I previously mentioned that my family went to a seminar in KL by Prof Dr Muhaya. Well, the planning was not smooth sailing; there were some challenges but Alhamdulillah, Allah made it possible. Here’s what happened in the morning of the trip.

“Oh no, we’re late!”

I had just woken up. The ringing alarm clock showed the current time of 6.30 am, the time that we were supposed to already be at Golden Mile Complex where our bus to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to leave at 7.01 am. Panicking, I woke my mum and sis up and scrambled to shower as fast as a lightning bolt.

“We still have time,” assured my mum, after she had finished her Subuh prayer.

I called a taxi soon and it arrived within minutes. I went downstairs first to meet the taxi driver and asked him to wait. After 10 minutes, my mum and sis still had not came down. I called them up and my mum told me she was waiting for my sis to finish praying Subuh. Suddenly, I turned to see the taxi driver zooming off without even informing me.

“Uncle! Come back!” I shouted.

But it was of no use. I guess he was impatient. Stupid taxi driver, I thought. So unkind. Couldn’t you at least let me know before leaving? I grumbled silently. My mum and sis finally came down a million hours later and we proceeded to hail a cab which fortunately came within seconds. Thankfully, we did not have to wait.

However when we arrived, we were 10 minutes late. The lady at the counter said, “I’m sorry but your bus has already taken off. You need to buy new tickers for the next bus.”ย My heart sank. There goes my money, I thought. It seemed like we had no other choice. We couldn’t just leave. Upset, I told my mum to handle the payments because there was no way I was going to pay for the bus tickets again.

Just then, just as she had selected the new seats (which were more expensive than the online rates I had paid for) and was about to pay, my phone rang.

“Hey, I’m from Starmart. Where in the world are you?! The bus is going to move off already!” Said the voice of an Indian lady from the other end.

Whoa…what?! It was the bus lady from the bus service I had booked from. They’re still here! They haven’t left! OMG!

“Go go go! They must be at the far end! Go quickly!” Told the lady at the counter, who was about to process the new tickets payment just seconds before, upon hearing my latest call.

At the speed of light, the three of us hurriedly scrambled to the far end of the Complex in search of our bus. The problem was, we didn’t know the plate number as it wasn’t stated in my online bus ticket neither did the counter lady inform us, having rushed us off. We saw a Starmart bus but it wasn’t our bus. Finally. I saw the lady who looks to be the one who called me, standing beside our bus. Our bus! Which had not yet left!

“Aiyo…three of you right?” She grumbled as she confirmed our details and assigned us to another bus nearby. Turns out that it wasn’t the bus I had originally booked – in fact, it was a bus from a different company, but hey I’ll take what I can get seeing the circumstances. At that point, our original bus had just left. Perhaps they had assigned our seats to someone else. Or perhaps they just don’t bother with latecomers like us.

Whatever the reason was, I never checked. I was just grateful, and so were my mum and sis, as we proceeded to board the bus, quietly ignoring stares from other passengers and showing them our most “I’m sorry we held you up” expressions along with sheepish smiles all the way to our seats which had the novel inconvenience of being at the far back.

Thank you Allah, for this miracle. We missed the bus and almost had to get new tickets, but you saved us and our money – Your money, to be more precise.

Thank you to my mum and sis who did not miss to perform their Subuh prayers even though we were running late. Never underestimate the power of prayers.

Thank you Allah for making the Indian bus lady from Starmart call me.

Thank you Allah for reserving the space for us in the bus, even if it is a different one.

Truly God is with those who seek knowledge. Alhamdulillah!ย 

Daily Prompt: Happy Happy Joy Joy

Happy Tioman Memories

tioman sunset

My favorite holiday was when I went to Pulau Tioman during my childhood years. I went with my dad, mum, younger brother and youngest sister. I was only 14 but for some reason I remember the trip vividly. Perhaps because I learned to snorkel for the first time during that trip, or because I have a memory of clinging onto my dad for dear life in the waters (although I was wearing a life jacket) or because I was just feeling happy and excited during the holiday. We don’t need a specific reason to be happy don’t we?

We departed from Singapore to Mersing via bus. The journey was about 2 hours, after which we took a ferry from Mersing to Pulau Tioman as the island is only accessible via sea transportation. My siblings and me were so excited that we were going on holiday! No matter how busy my parents were with work, they will always make sure to bring us on a holiday at least once or twice a year during our school holidays.

As for us kids, it didn’t matter how near or far they brought us, as long as it was a holiday and it was out of the country. Sometimes we would go just as one family, and sometimes we would go in a bigger group with the rest of my cousins, uncles and aunties. Alhamdulillah, I have happy memories of my childhood holidays which I have to be thankful for my parents for planning and organizing these trips for us.

At Tioman Island, we stayed in this very rustic 2-bedroom chalet with one bathroom. I remember seeing big ants in the bathroom (like I said, very rustic…) and avoiding it while showering. Surprisingly, I wasn’t very scared of it, just a little squirmy haha. It was also football season so I have a memory of my dad going to the open-air restaurant watching the match (there was no TV in our chalet, hotel policy – must be the no distractions kind of chalet) together with a couple of guys while we hung around enjoying the cooling sea breeze. Ahh I also remember the delicious seafood that was served, it was so fresh and yummy.

Recently, I went to Tioman Island again in 2011 and was pleasantly surprised to find that the resort had been expanded and renovated. In addition to the chalet, they added more types of rooms such as honeymoon suite and deluxe chalet which comprised of 2-storeys; this was where we stayed for my recent trip with my cousins. However, I am glad that although they have expanded the place and have had more visitors these years, the quality of the island still maintains somewhat the same as 10 years ago.

Renggis Island, where we went for snorkeling, still had beautifully maintained corals and clear waters. I say this because this is different from Manukan Island in Sabah, where the influx of visitors have led to a deterioration in the quality of corals and snorkeling experience there isn’t fun because you can’t really see anything much due to the less clear waters. But I guess that is just for the overpopulated tourist spots in Sabah because I do know that Sabah has amazing waters as well and I have not experienced it yet – like scuba diving at Sandakan one day please.

Daily Prompt: Memories of Holidays Past

An Unexpected Companion

Last Friday saw me unexpectedly losing my 1-year old cat. My favorite cat, Kak Long. This one.

I came home after a long day to the news that Kak Long was found at my block’s ground floor, and that she was already dead. My neighbor informed me that the guys from SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) had done the needful and taken her away.

But this post is not about how she died.

It’s about how she became, unexpectedly, my companion. One of my very best ones.

Despite having had a long day, I couldn’t sleep. I kept expecting her to appear in my bedroom, on my bed, where she always slept. She’d chosen my room to be “her spot”.

2 years ago my brother had brought home a pair of kittens, a male and female. Somewhere along the way, they grew up and gave birth to three kittens. Kak Long was the first one out and we playfully called her Kak Long which stands for the eldest sister. Somehow, the name just stuck with her.

She was very active and the most adventurous out of the whole bunch. Always running here and there, stealing food and bringing it into my room. Disturbing me when I was eating just to get a bite of whatever was on my plate. Sneaking into the cupboard when I opened it. Climbing on the windows and so on.

But she happened to be my favourite. Maybe because we had some similarities, being the eldest and the most adventurous. And although she was the first one, she also seemed to grow slower than the other kittens who were developing faster than her. So even though she was the eldest, she was smaller than her younger siblings, which again I could relate…

And she’d chosen my bedroom, my bed to be her usual spot. Most of the times she’d relax and sleep in there, while the other cats slept in other rooms. Every time I try and pet her head, she usually never refuses, unlike some of the other cats. Maybe I was her favourite too.

Sometimes it seems like she knew when I was sad, snuggling up to me, comforting me in her own unspoken way. Other times she’d just sit beside me while I read a book. She had become my companion, greeting me when I come back home, accompanying me cook in the kitchen being a busybody and waking me up when she got hungry.

When she died, I felt a huge loss. I don’t feel like doing anything. I didn’t expect cats to live forever, but I didn’t expect her to be gone so soon. After all, her parents are still alive. But God took her away first. I guess I expected her to grow older, and then die of old age somewhere in the future instead of a sudden death during her adolescence.. That wouldn’t be as painful to deal with…

Non-pet lovers might say, but you have other cats… However, it’s not the same when you have a bond with one. Just like human beings, you can’t say “but you have other friends” when your best friend dies right?

Kak Long, you were more than just a cat but a companion to me. I thank God for lending you to me all this while. I will miss you dearly.

In time for Daily Prompt: Unexpected

My Battle with Acne (I Won).

I guess if I were to pinpoint a fear from this experience, it would have to be an irrational fear of breaking out in cystic acne again. Because even though my skin has cleared up, when I breakout now I tend to get very paranoid. Then I take all measures to make sure it goes away quickly. (Daily Prompt: Fear Factor)

Like Tracy from The Love Vitamin and Jill who recently guest posted from Heal Your Face with Food, I am also a former acne sufferer.

My history with acne started from my late teens until in my early to mid-twenties. The acne was not just a couple of zits but it was the severe kind. If you have experienced this before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I hope you never do because it does things to your confidence and self-esteem. That was my battlefield during those days.

Currently, by a change of lifestyle and food and a couple of other factors as well, I’m happy to say my skin has greatly improved. It is not perfect and not completely “clear”, but I am happy with my skin now ๐Ÿ™‚ I do have scars, but no more cystic acne and any kind of inflammation which I used to have previously. Alhamdulillah.

When I was in secondary school I didn’t have acne. I only had a few zits at my forehead when I was stressed. It all started when I was 16, after my O levels. Secondary school had ended and I was waiting for my O level results.

I started working in a factory producing spare parts for machinery. So I was part of a factory line and I had to wear a jumpsuit and shower cap, the works. I worked for 10 hours a day and we had to meet a certain target by the end of each day. It was during this time that my acne started to flare up. My skin started to get inflamed, I started breaking out like crazy and getting cystic acne (I didn’t know that was what it was called then) on my forehead, cheeks and chin. I reckon the heat and stress levels were the main factors that affected my skin.

I tried everything to make it go away. I relied on over the counter products like Oxy and Clearasil but it didn’t work for my skin. Benzoyl peroxide helped me dry out the acne, but it ended up making other parts of my face dry. At that time, I didn’t really know about moisturizers and what I know about skincare today, so I just did what I thought was right (but not realizing how wrong they were…).

Then I got to polytechnic and well, since my acne did not clear by then, I wanted to cover it up. I went to the nearest pharmacy and bought a face powder from Clean & Clear which claimed to improve my skin as well. Biggest mistake of my life. Okay, it’s not the biggest but it was not the right decision. Instead of improving it, it made things worse. I came back a couple of weeks after and unfortunately, the saleslady who suggested the powder to me in the first place, was not much help at all. Like, thanks? And for the record I never use any C & C products anymore. None of the products has ever helped me with my skin and never shall I touch any C & C products anymore.

At this point my skin was becoming from bad to worse. Especially at my cheeks, sadly. My mum didn’t know how best to help me and brought me to this beauty place called BML. I was diagnosed with oily skin and then that was when I had my first facial. “Painful” does not even describe it, it was excruciating. They recommended me some in-house products which I eventually bought and also made a second facial appointment. Needless to say I did not go to that second appointment.

Among the products, which were not cheap by the way, may God bless my mum, was this lotion that I had to put on daily. This lotion aimed to peel off my dead skin and had a peeling effect. The thing is, it’s not the non-painful peel-off mask kind, but this was really powerful, in a not so good way. It truly did peel off my dead skin, but I was still in school and walking around with peeling skin is not something fun to do. When I got home, I had to continue with the series of products. The face soap, which contained sulfuric acid made it more painful that I had to soothe my face in front of the fan to cool it off the first time I used it. That’s how bad it was. The products aimed to clear up my skin by stripping off all moisture from it including the essential oils it’s supposed to have. My skin was red all over and I was not feeling that great either. So I stopped using them also.

In the meantime I continued experimenting with other less painful cleansers such as those with salicylic acid. My acne started to improve in my final year when my father suggested me to try this cleanser by Herbalife. It had a gel-like consistency and contained lemon and chamomile which calmed my skin so much. My skin became less inflamed by then. And to me it was like a God-sent product because it was so good and it worked! My breakouts started to slowly disappear and even my cousins saw the difference. At this point also I had begun making some adjustments to my diet by drinking more plain water and inculcated it more daily in my diet.

But my diet was still not very healthy then, because at that point I didn’t know that food had a huge impact on my skin! I had been told it was hereditary and even hated my family a teeny wee bit for this. But now, I hate it when I hear that acne is caused by your genes and there’s nothing you can do about it. Because it is NOT! And you obviously and jolly well CAN do something about it. No grudges whatsoever towards my family now.

Even though my acne was still there but seeing some improvement, I had also started building a healthy social life and made friends through joining various clubs and societies. My acne was bad, but fortunately God surrounded me with awesome people. I also picked up rockclimbing and running. I read and educated myself on skincare and beauty knowledge and treat my skin and body better too. Alhamdulillah, my skin is happier now too I believe. Currently my forehead is clear, and so are my chin. I do have some scars on my cheeks but I no longer have huge breakouts. When I do breakout now, I know the cause as well as how to treat it.

Fast forward to today, I’ve learnt that having clear skin for me is a combination of factors. They are:

1. Eating the right food. More plants; fruits and veggies especially leafy dark greens. Less red meat, more white meat and fish. Smoothies work best for me.

2. Water, water, water. If your body does not receive enough water, it will strip off the moisture from your skin and that’s when you get dry skin which results in acne.

3. Sleeping properly. By 1 to 3 AM I must be asleep to ensure my liver is detoxed completely. If not completely detoxed, the un-detoxed properties will go to your skin, hence the acne.

4. Exercise. I rarely rock climb now but mostly run, jog and take long walks.

5. Healthy mind and healthy social life, being in happy, healthy relationships.

6. Last but not least, good skincare does help but most importantly be gentle with your skin. For daytime, I now use The Body Shop’s tea tree cleanser (also has a gel-like consistency which works best for oily skin), a toner with witch hazel, and a moisturizer with SPF. At night, after cleansing and toning I use tea tree oil to combat any breakouts (I still get the occasional breakouts sometimes but they are nowhere near my previous acne times) and Raspberry Roots Sleeping Mask (it’s a gel-like overnight mask) from The Face Shop. I scrub and put on a face mask once a week.

Wow, what a long post! If you’ve managed to read this far, I thank you! I didn’t expect to write this long but reading Jill’s article motivated me to share my battle with acne over the years. I’ve probably also cried as much as her too. I understand the physical and psychological effects that acne brings and I hope this has been helpful in any way.

This post is also inspired by Daily Prompt: Fear Factor.