When darkness falls too soon

I've transformed into a giant chocolate marshmallow. 

I've transformed into a giant chocolate marshmallow. 

When I was preparing to move to London for a year - everyone was quite concerned if I had enough winter clothing with me. I was really fortunate to be given enough coats, scarfs, gloves and beanies to keep me warm and toasty through the wintry days. I really thought I was prepared to face the much anticipated end of the year in London until November came along and showed me that there is more in store: early sunsets, i.e. shorter days

I quickly realized that I was not prepared for this. I had an inkling of idea of this before I came to London but I didn't think as much about it as I had about the dropping temperature. It first started to get dark by 5:30 pm in November. Now, the sun starts to set at 4:00 pm - which meant that I only get about 9 hours of daylight (that is if I am lucky that it is not a heavy overcast day) instead of the typical 11 hours which I am used to back home. 

Not only feeling disoriented, I feel lethargic and sleepy most of the time - which I later come to know that it's due to the lack of sun exposure which contributed to the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for inducing sleepiness (so yes, these are actually sold as pills for those having difficulty sleeping). Outcome of this? I kept going to bed a few times a day! Which is frustrating of course, as time (and precious sunlight) is wasted away on my warm, cosy bed. Thankfully it is already the end of term and I have a month of Christmas break to live this sedentary lifestyle that is now forced upon me. But maybe it isn't so bad after all, now that I have a valid reason to have more than a cup of coffee a day because it would help me stay awake. I was also advised to get vitamin D to boost up my energy in this season but to my disappointment, most of the drugstores has ran out of stock this week. Guess I'll just have to feel like a sloth for a few more days until the vitamin Ds are restocked on the shelves again.

The break of day - at least the sunrise is still normal, which comes around 7:20am.

The break of day - at least the sunrise is still normal, which comes around 7:20am.

Not only that - I wasn't prepared for the cold and dry air, especially in a room with radiator on. The radiator, while effectively keeping me warm, it has efficiently dehumidify the air as well. The air becomes so dry that it aggravates the nose and dries it out. Outcome of this? My nose became so congested to the extent I have trouble sleeping at night due of breathing difficulty due to all the mucus building up inside. What I am facing is not unusual, it is just that I am not prepared for it. I brought along with me a tiny humidifier from home but I broke it not long ago and didn't think about replacing it until now. Clearly, I have underestimated the role of my tiny humidifier which I took for granted earlier.

Walking down the street, chasing the last sunlight at 4pm. I was going to have tea with a friend at a cafe nearby but it felt like I was going to have dinner instead with the sun setting like this.

Walking down the street, chasing the last sunlight at 4pm. I was going to have tea with a friend at a cafe nearby but it felt like I was going to have dinner instead with the sun setting like this.

But then again, it is not all doom and gloom with this season as I may have inadvertently suggested. It is also a season when people are geared up in the festive mood (donning their Christmas sweater, reindeer antlers and Santa Claus hats), the yummy Christmas goodies all stocked up in Waitrose and Sainsbury, the Christmas lighting and decorations of popular streets, public parks, buildings, etc and the Christmas carols and just being together with loved ones, family and friends. This year, December is very different from all the ones that I had. While I wished I could be home for Christmas, it isn't the most practical decision to take. I've got two essays to hand in, and the return flight to Malaysia would cause a dent in my savings. Further, how many more chances would I get to spend Christmas in UK? 

It's nice to soak in the Christmas cheer with all these beautiful lights on the streets, parks, houses, buildings, etc. Back home, Christmas decorations are only confined within malls, purely for capitalistic gains :)

It's nice to soak in the Christmas cheer with all these beautiful lights on the streets, parks, houses, buildings, etc. Back home, Christmas decorations are only confined within malls, purely for capitalistic gains :)


Meanwhile I guess this is a good time for me to decompress from a hectic term and recollect and reflect on my thoughts, organize my lecture notes and explore London and UK. It is no doubt an intensive year in this MSc and I am glad there is this slot of time to just breath and just be. A year from now, I will look back at this moment in time and I hope that I have made many fond memories here to last a lifetime. 

Deal With It: Not Everyone Will Like What You Are Doing

I made a mistake thinking that everyone would understand or support the documentary that Andrew Han is producing. Although the idea of the documentary was birthed out from a genuine hope to preserve nature for our next generation, we've encountered many who seem to take offense for reasons unknown to us.

While their snide and cynical remarks can be discouraging (sometimes painful to hear), it has somehow put us in the spot where we rethink how much we really want to make this documentary happen even when nobody believed in what we're doing. This, plus the countless rejections for interviews, data scarcity, lack of resources, technical issues, working late nights, and even financial strain.

Many, if not all of us are fighting a battle we know nothing of. So let's be kind to each other.

Therefore, I just felt the need to put this out there: nothing worth it ever comes easy. It helps to go back to the first time we set our minds and hearts on pursuing our cause and to recall why we need to do the things we do. Hang on to that.

My sincere hope is that this post might also encourage some of my friends out there who are seeking for a glimmer of hope in a world where people are ever so ready to be critical of us. Hang on in there, it'll all get better.

Fading Cultures

Dissecting my disposition on fading cultures.

A particular culture only lives as long as there is ownership. Ownership will stay as long as there is relevance. Relevance exists where there’s value defining it. And the kind of value that we uphold defines our identity. It is a tragedy for ‘good cultures’ to fade away, but that is because inevitably, people change with time. So does culture.

But why do some of us fight so hard to prevent a certain culture from fading from our lives?
Because culture leads us back to our roots.

Because culture is a heritage passed down from our forefathers.
Because culture is our anchor of familiarity in a rapidly evolving world.
Because culture breathes character and depth into our lives.

Gender: a stereotype

There has been numerous occasions where I encountered gender stereotypes in my life.

Some are quite petty, while some are downright uncivilized. There is one though which has changed the course of my life - although not for the worse. I was lucky to have found a place to belong after being steered away from what I really wanted to do but this experience has left a lasting impression on me that will constantly serve as a reminder that I should never surrender to or advocate gender stereotype.

Although it has been more than 10 years, I still remember the day when an academician told me that urban planning is an industry dominated by men; and therefore women will almost certainly face challenges and will need to struggle to keep up in order to make it. Because of this remark and out of the lack of self-confidence, I dropped my intention to enroll in the School of Housing, Building and Planning in USM.

I look back and wish I had received as much empowerment for women as we have today. I still have a deep interest in urban planning which could have been my career path today if I had just went ahead despite what people tell me what women can or cannot do. If there’s a message from this experience; it is to never ever trade-off your passion or interest to fulfill the society’s typecast idea- that which gender should be the limit to someone’s ability to rise above challenges. And also; never be that parent, sibling, friend, mentor or partner who snuff out the dreams of someone you know just because of gender stereotype. 

(May 11, 2015)