About Friendship

Today, is a sad day when my mentor, also a close friend was laid to rest. I’ve known him for more than 2.5 decades. The kind of friend whom you don’t need to keep in touch often (rarely, actually) but when met, catching up on family, kids, work, etc., came naturally.

A brilliant person, visionary and quick-thinking with great sense of humour. He roared like a lion when angry. All that I learned and practiced throughout my corporate career till today, especially on marketing, I learned them ifrom this guru. I’ll always remember him as a great leader. Of course, he was not a saint. He had his shortcomings, in a big way, well…he was always big in everything he did. Let’s say I adopted what’s good and learned from the not so good experience.

I still can’t believe that I’ve lost a close friend last night. But, I’m glad that he was with his beloved family when it happened. His elder son mentioned that his late father looked at peace. May he rest in peace. If he were here to answer me, he’ll definitely say “I surely will!”.  I pray for his lovely wife and children he left behind. I’m sure he had done and planned everything for them to carry on in his absence.

We all know that life is fragile. One minute you’re talking with someone and the next, he/she is gone. Like in my case, after meeting late last year, we promised to meet again once everything settled down after the new year. Supposed to meet again in February but our travel plans and work came in between and therefore, we had to postpone them. Now, there won’t be any chance for a chat over coffee anymore.

Let’s now talk about friendship. There are friends whom we stay close and in touch with, regularly; Friends whom we hardly keep in touch though staying in the same city or state. And, friends whom we can’t meet because we are residing very far apart, like in different states or countries. Mostly, we keep in touch more with our Facebook friends than others (family, classmates, schoolmates, etc). Facebook friends become our regular buddies whilst our buddies have become once-in-a-while friends. Some, lost touch altogether!

Remember we always tell our friends, “let’s catch up”, “keep in touch”, “hope to see you again”, etc? I find them to be meaningless but merely polite way to say goodbye for now. How many of us really make an effort to keep in touch? How many of us really call one another to make time to meet up even for a while, face to face?

With the development of technology, the emergence of social media and short messages, we hardly meet face to face physically. We get to keep in touch through our social media status updates. Everyone is busy. No one seems to take a breather anymore. No time for friends, sadly. I know deep down, when we get older, really older, we need our friends. Friends to smile with us, talk with us, listening to our voices and laughters, exchanging hugs and all.

I hope it is not too late for us who are still living and breathing, to say keep in touch and really mean it and do it. We don’t know when our time is up. Not all get advanced warning. Let us not regret missing the chance to meet up for coffee or tea for a short chatz or just to relax in the company of good friends.

Let us make time for friendship. If you haven’t done so for a while now, pick up the phone and start filling up the calendar, even if it is just for that once a week event. Meet up and celebrate friendship. Say what you want to say to the person when he/she is still alive and can appreciate it. Let’s not wait till the the person is no longer there for friends to gather and missing the vacant seat.

As for my mentor cum close friend, I know you’ll be in a good place. You shouldn’t have said you wanted to retire at the age of 59. It also happens to be your year of birth. Anyway, nothing surprised you, right? You always believed that when the time has come, it’ll just (snap fingers)! All in God’s hands. Farewell, dear friend. Don’t work too hard up there, you hear.

~ Alice N.

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Finally, I did it!

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For those of you who have been following my posts since the inception of this blog, you’ll know when I began the journey of my Master degree. I bet many would have forgotten about it or thought I had given up. You see, the average part-time students take about 3 years to complete the course. Here, I took double the time frame to complete it (3 years in “hibernation”). I avoided sitting myself down to tackle the thesis. Instead, I used my wakeful hours for work, PTA activities and family. I tried, yes I did, to put aside 30 mins each day to look into my thesis but I was just too tired to lift a finger. I also tried to read at least a journal, half a journal, erm…… a page a day but it’s just not gonna happen. Sigh….

Looking back, I attended 10-hour weekend classes without fail, passed my finals each semester and completed my 10 courses on schedule! That was done during busy period of my life including travelling to Singapore almost every other week! I was amazed that I did it after all! Thereafter, the last lap…writing the thesis. Without completing and passing the thesis, I can’t graduate. Without that, all effort and time I invested into this course will be flushed into the drain, negative return to that investment. Not just monetary loss but those that can’t be bought by money, for instance, my personal time, time supposedly spent with my family, time that can be used to do other productive things and the damaged cells caused by accompanying stress (LOL!).

Let me share this with other students reading this. Selecting a supervisor for the thesis must be done carefully. Supervisor-Student relationship is vital in deciding the success in completing the thesis. It is a norm to hear students changing supervisors, not once but several times. The same goes to changing topics for the thesis. Selecting and engaging the right supervisor for the thesis is of utmost importance because the lecturer is expected to provide guidance, advice and offering valuable inputs into writing the thesis. The right supervisor will ensure that your goal is achieved no matter how long it takes. The one goal is to complete the thesis and graduate.

One particular lecturer has earned his reputation in our uni for being the most stern but brilliant lecturer. He knows his subjects very well that there is not way to fool him. Everyone cringed in fear when facing him for viva voce as he will ask questions which many face difficulties in answering them. When I finally met him for a course which he lectured in my class, I found that he is not that fearsome after all. He explained his lessons well, crystal clear but his expectation for post-grad students is rather high.  Without given much thought, I proposed to him to be my supervisor for my thesis and he agreed! I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I felt that learning from a perfectionist has more pros than cons. Now, I can validate that statement after seeing the end results.

Next, selection of the topic for the thesis was more challenging than selecting the supervisor. Preferably, a topic which is not widely written about; considering how my thesis can contribute to the community/industry or future researchers. It must have a good size of sample to test on. Once the topic was established and accepted by my supervisor, the reading of scholarly journals began. I love to read but not scholarly journals. I dozed off many times while reading them. I was advised by other lecturers that to write a master thesis, one has to read between 50-100 journals. The more the researcher reads, the easier it is to write the thesis. When I read up to the 25th journal, I felt as if my brain had long gone into coma. All financial journals looked and sounded the same. The only difference was the types of sample used. Findings were mostly inconclusive!

Writing thesis is all about self-discipline. There isn’t any classes compulsory to attend or exams to sit for, so the student is literally left on his/her own with occasional communication with the supervisor, if at all. I discovered from my own experience that when we don’t set and lock that time aside to read a journal, make notes, write a sentence/paragraph/sub-chapter/chapter, we will fall into lazy mode or dancing around the thesis all the time. Lame as it may sound, simply because there is always something else which is more important to be attended to. It could be meeting deadline for your work, preparing that presentation slides for a client, write that report for your office, attending to children, calls to your social works, etc. The thesis will eventually get pushed deeper into the stash of work/stuffs that are best left unseen and forgotten.

That was exactly what happened to me when my thesis ended up hibernating for 3 cold years. Office work would always take priority because my clients paid fees for my works. Sometimes it involved travelling out-of-town to their offices to meet with the rest of the board members for presentation and discussion. Then, there’s the PTA. I was and still am an active member and for someone who is a almost-perfectionist and would do her best for anything and everything, it was hard to turn my back on matters which require my attention. Serving thousands of students, teachers and parents has always been challenging but I enjoyed doing it alongside my committee members, teachers and parents.  The same passion I placed on my advisory works, working closely with clients and their family members or board members. Concurrently, being there and enjoying private moments with my family members especially the growing children – studying, chilling and travelling.

At the final extension of my course, I had only one last semester to complete my thesis or I fall out. With no other choices, either I make it or break it, I had to force myself to do what was necessary to ensure that I complete the whole thing and graduate this year, 2018. If not, my son will be graduating before me or I won’t be graduating at all after 6 years of effort, time and money involved. Nah, I told myself…I can’t just give up or I won’t be able to face my children. Can’t imagine me saying to my kids, “Mommy can’t’ make it cos it is tough. So many things to juggle. I just can’t do it!”. I’m sure as you read the simple line, you’d say…excuses, excuses, excuses! I would too. And, what kind of message would I be sending to my children? Give up when the going gets tough? We always advise our children not to give up so easily. When we start a race, we must finish it even if it means crawling to the finish line! I have to go on one way or another. I have to change something to get different results this time. That was the time, in late 2016 when I gave up my job so that I could free some time for the thesis.

Besides, I am most grateful to my supervisor who guided me all these years, patiently at that, making things look clearer and simpler. That helped in motivating me to move forward. Being assured that you have the right coach gives you the peace of mind to do what is required of you. Fewer worries mean clearer mind to think and write. I can’t thank him enough. Dr R is one lecturer who doesn’t give up on his students, no matter how lousy (moi!). He is most understanding and his approach is more of encouraging than pressing. Simply brilliant!

Finally, in April 2018, I completed my thesis (to the satisfaction of my supervisor and the Board of Examiners) after attending my viva voce. I was glad that my presentation went well. My thesis had to undergo reasonable amount of amendments to “perfect” it. Once the thesis was bound in the black cover hard copy accompanied by CDs, my heart was bursting with great joy. I DID IT! Finally, I said to myself…after all I had done and gone through for the completion this journal. It felt like I have just conquered the mountain! The feelings can’t be put into words. Feelings of relief, happiness, freedom and….lost! One biggest challenge in life has been conquered. What’s next? hahaha..yeah! Before the ink dries up, my mind has started planning for the next project.

While waiting for the final results (marks) and convocation, I get my new plans in gear. Learning a new language, Japanese, since I’d be visiting Fukuoka this year-end, I hope to be able to converse in Japanese with the locals.

Next in line, is to attend an academic writing course. This is to prepare me for what’s ahead. It at all possible, I plan to continue with PhD in 2019. In my master plan, I wish to become a lecturer at the next career stop.

Besides, activities at the school and PTA will fill up my calendar as we will be having our PTA project in July; silver jubilee celebration thereafter. There is always something going on every month. Now, we are planning for the year 2019 to 2020! I will pave my way for the incoming president next year. It is time to pass the baton to someone else.

All in all, year 2018 is quite an exciting and meaningful year. The best birthday gift is the completion of my master degree before I turn the big 5-O and attending my graduation ceremony after my 5-O birthday. To me, it is a great achievement!

For students reading this, everything is possible as long as you continue to believe in yourselves. One cannot work alone. You need to have positive people supporting you, around you. They lift you when you are down; they celebrate every little progress you make along the way. I have such circle of friends whom I call the MM Group. We celebrated or simply to cheer or motivate one another by gathering for a good meal, chats and laughter to de-stress. I owe them big time and they showed me what friendship is all about…everyone is busy but they make time to go to you, to be together even for a couple of hours.

For adults reading this, if you have been thinking of continuing higher education, at whatever age you’re at, go for it! I’m not the oldest student graduating from a master degree. I was told that the oldest master student in my uni was a man in his 60s! There is no age limit to continuing ones education. I will not stop till I obtain my PhD at whatever age. Let’s hope I can do it in this life…hahaha…

It is not the paper certificate which matters. What matters most is actually the experience and the journey while seeking the knowledge. It opens my mind, sharpens my thoughts and most of all, it reveals that I can do whatever I want to if I persist and work very hard on it. Never lose sight of the goal and it’ll get you there.

I hope you get to learn something from my experience. Have a great weekend, folks.

Cheers,

~ Alice

 

 

 

 

Life as a Student

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In our family, we have 3 students of different levels. Younger child is in high school, her older sibling is an under-grad while I’m a post-grad student. The kids are cheering me on for PhD! As a firm believer of life-long learning, yes I hope I could do so as it has been my wish to do my PhD before I kick the bucket. For now, let me settle my Masters first.

Based on my experience, being a college student at the young age right after high school was much better than being a mature student. When you are a young college student, all you really, seriously need to worry about is making that grade at each exam. Your time is spent mostly on attending classes, studying in the libraries, meeting friends, traveling during the semester breaks and occasional parties. For some, with the inclusion of part-time jobs.

As a mature student, with family and a job, it is tough to try to fit in as many tasks as I wish, into the same amount of time everyone has. Weekdays are spent doing full-time job, attending to family and weekends for full-day classes. There is no break in between as all 7 days are taken up. Most time, studies get attended to after doing works which I’m paid for. Family is important too, and will have to settle the kids first before I get to do my assignments. My take is, if at all possible, study as much as you like before you settle down with a family. Studying while working is not easy but you can handle it best when you are single.

I started my course when my son was still in high school. Usually most part-time mature students complete their masters within 2.5 years. I’m not that model student. It has taken me 5.5 years to finally complete my MSc Finance (pending thesis approval). At the beginning of the MSc journey, I went through all the required 10 courses, core and electives combined, as scheduled; but I ‘wasted’ 3 years after that, lying idle – where my thesis was concerned. Those 3 years I spent every wakeful hours, with very little sleep doing financial advisory works for my clients and being active in the PTA at my children’s school. At that time, I felt that my job and the PTA needed my attention more than the thesis. The only sin I committed was getting too committed to my job and executing my role wholeheartedly in the PTA. Of course, there’s my family, occupying my 24/7 – on top of the list.

Finally, in December 2016, I left the workforce hoping that I could switch my focus to completing my thesis while serving the PTA. That move certainly took away quite some weight off my shoulders. Where the thesis was concerned, it was tough to pick up from where I left off. Kind of like the engine had gone icy cold. It took some time for me to warm up to resume writing.

When I first started writing my thesis, the abstract to be exact, I thought I could write just about anything, easy-peasy. I was so wrong! My first dissertation was done way back in 1997. Today, at post-grad level, the expectation and standard of writing is much higher. I admit that I was struggling a lot with it, moving at snail pace. Finally, a friendly lecturer advised me to read between 50 to 100 journals before beginning to write my thesis. I was reluctant to stop writing to make a u-turn to reading more journals. I didn’t get her then. When the same advice was repeated by other lecturers, including my supervising professor, it started to dawn on me that, like it or not, I had to do just that if I wanted to complete my thesis. Yes, it was dry and boring stuffs, reading almost similar contents over and over again but by different authors. Dozing off while reading was a normal scene, even with a cup or two espresso to accompany. Reading relevant journals wherever I was, whenever there was a pit stop while sending and fetching daughter for her school activities and running chores. Now the best part…Having read through past researches, I discovered that the more I read the clearer my mind became. Ideas started pouring in and a structure was slowly taking shape in my mind. Finally, after all the hard work, right before the PTA AGM 2018, I completed my thesis. Yay!!!

For students reading this, whenever your teachers advise you to read more books, you know why now. It helps to enhance your writing skill and boost your creativity. It also helps you to see a clearer roadmap ahead on how to write your essays, project papers or thesis. There is a standard pattern to academic writing. The only difference between one author to another, is incorporating your thoughts or personal opinion into your writing. How we perceive a certain subject is different from the next person. That is why we cannot copy others’ works and treat it as ours. Treating others’ works as ours is committing plagiarism. It is a very serious offence in the academic world. Therefore, be mindful when you write your papers. I believe in my own work regardless how long it takes me to complete it, no matter how imperfect it may be. I’d like to look at  the finished product with pride in my eyes and clear conscience in my heart. It takes a bit, or rather much longer in my case, slowly but surely I completed it. That’s what matters.

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I wasn’t an A student; just an average student. I love outdoors more than classrooms. The only indoor I like was the library or book shops because I love reading books. Believe it or not, I began to enjoy studying only when I started working. I realised that in the workforce, being smart in a logical way, hardworking and all weren’t enough to climb the corporate ladder. I was an ambitious young woman out there. I wanted to achieve the extraordinary, to break my own records. What I found out is that we need to have higher qualifications accompanying the quality of work we produced to be promoted more quickly. Without the certifications, it takes teens of years to get a promotion if you’re lucky. That was told to me by a senior in the office. I was like, seriously??!! I couldn’t wait forever to get my promotion!

I asked my boss (at the age of 23) why people with degrees or masters get high position jobs without much experience? He replied,  a person with qualification, though lacks experience, can be taught or trained more easily and they tend to grasp the knowledge and skill more quickly. The grads armed with theories (supposedly), will put the theories to practice and execute the jobs well. That motivated me to be a student again.

Now, I study to enhance my knowledge so that I could sharpen my skill. Additionally, I’d like to see myself as a role model to my children, showing them that age doesn’t stop a person from seeking education. I was told by a librarian in my uni that the oldest post-grad student to graduate was in his sixties!

Why do I study besides being a role model to my kids? Well….education is the key to opening doors to more opportunities. The more you study, the more keys you have to open more doors (opportunities). What do I mean by that? In case you are seeking a new job, your certs may be able to provide the chances you need to secure one, regardless where you are, locally or abroad. Why restrict yourself with just one key of opportunity? The more equipped you are, I’d like to think that the more secure your future is going to be. I may not use my certs right now as my job doesn’t require anymore certs, but who knows what might happen in the future? I still attend seminars occasionally to learn new things and to keep abreast with this fast changing world.

Lastly, when you get the chance to study, study hard (if you notice, I did not write “study smart”). Make sure to get a good return from your investment….your investment is your time; your return is acquiring knowledge and graduating from the course you studied for. If you are a student doing part-time job(s), treat it as PART-TIME. I know when you see your payslip, you’ll be tempted to put in more hours to earn more. I’m telling you, this is little money. If you cannot handle assignments and PT jobs, you’ve got to let go the little money no matter how tempting it is. Your investment as a student is Education. Leave the tuition fee to your parents. It is their responsibility. If you are in a more difficult situation where you’ve got to rely on yourself, then, study harder to earn a scholarship…when there’s a will, there’s a way. Speak to your student counsellor about your options. Failing which, take a study loan then.

Being a student is FUN. Yes, you read me right. If you think it sucks, you have not entered the workforce yet. Part-time isn’t really into the workforce yet. Almost there but not there yet. That’ll be another post to cover. Right not, enjoy being a student with exams, assignments and projects to worry about. Take a step at a time. If you ever have any issues, always talk to your counsellors or advisors. Some unis have student advisor, some  unis assigned academic advisors and career advisors to their students. Meet with them often to seek guidance. Be not afraid to admit that you are weak, for the ones who seek are the ones who are actually strong. There are always people around you who are willing to extend their hands to you. All you need to do is grab that hand and let yourself be led till you get yourself on your feet again. When you do well, volunteer to help others.

I hope you get to learn something from this post. All the best for your studies. Take a break when you need to but do not give up!

Cheers,

~ Alice

I’m Back!

Hi all, it has been so long since I last wrote in this blog. Many things had happened and lots to occupy my time. I think, if you give me 48 hours, that’ll still be too short for me to complete the tasks I want to get done before I retire for the day.

A quick update on my thesis….I almost terminated it halfway if not for my prof’s encouragement. Lots of struggle trying to complete the thesis. It wasn’t easy when I’m involved in the PTA of my daughter’s school, of which I was elected the President and still am. I was determined to turn it around and to ensure that the PTA accounts get back to black again; I made 2017 the year to maintain and upkeep the school assets to benefit the students. Against all odds, we made it and I was most proud of our achievement. I felt so touched to witness the great teamwork displayed by parents and teachers in every program we executed. Bravo to them all!

As for the thesis, Prof guided, advised and motivated me making the toughest task seemed tolerable and achievable. I literally carried my laptop everywhere I went including during year-end holiday; I read and wrote on the plane, train, in hotel rooms and at the cafe. No time was wasted even for a short 30 mins of meal time. Finally, on the 9th of February 2018, I completed the thesis and checked my 1st draft before submitting to Prof for his comments. Now, pray for the paper to get his approval with minimal amendments.

Dearest son has settled in at his new dorm and university. He is now in his second semester as a transfer student and coping well. I’m glad that he has made great friends and got a wonderful room-mate too. I like the uni instantly when we first went for registration. The parents orientation was well planned and most informative. The second visit was when I brought my daughter along last year-end. Yes, we miss dearest son, miss his jokes, voice and presence. Glad that we could FaceTime him daily if we wish to. We have been chatting regularly.

Dearest daughter is now in Form 4 (Sec 4). Being in the pure science stream is challenging, with tonnes of homework to complete on daily basis. I pray that she’ll find a way to cope and keep up. Education today isn’t like what it was before. When I was in school, I had time for homework as well as lots of playtime. Today, the students are glued to their chairs, trying hard to complete their homework into the night. They have to spare time to attend extra tutorial classes as well as extra-curricular activities. The kids are busier than their parents!

So, what’s in store for the new year 2018? Besides maintaining my position in the PTA, I plan to groom my successor. I believe that new people bring in fresh ideas and could be more effective too. I don’t believe in the same person over-staying in a position and doing the same things but expecting different results. That is for the PTA.

As for my career, it is time to start chatting with a few people before making any decision. That shall take place after the Chinese New Year holiday. We’ll see where that leads me to.

For this one week or so, let me get my life back; go for movies, writing blog posts, and reading my novels and books. I’d like to meet up with friends again for lunch or tea, including having me-time drinking coffee with a book to read. Also, to my daughter’s delight, get back to cooking meals for her. I feel rotten having to eat out all the time or call for food delivery. She misses home-cooked food. Before this, life was all about thesis, thesis, thesis;

I am most grateful to my Prof, teachers who became my cheerleaders and motivators, friends offering encouragement and most of all my husband, parents and children, giving me the time and privacy to focus on my thesis, most understanding when I wasn’t doing my thesis. These people are my No. 1 supporters in everything I do in my life. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

This is just a short update since the last time I wrote…can’t remember when that was. Tune in for more coming your way.

Cheers!

~ Alice N.

 

14 days of Great Adventure – it’s a Wrap!

We started our journey from the 3rd day of August. Mom and son explored Amsterdam, New York City and finally reached our ultimate destination – Bloomington, Indianapolis! We did some sightseeing and went on food tours. We had fun.

It’s exciting to see dear son got settled down in his new living environment; his dorm, getting along well with his room-mate and making new friends from other countries. I guess getting the new bicycle helped a lot. I’m glad it all turned out well for him. Bloomington is a wonderful city where everyone is equal. Much thanks to Indiana University (IU) which exposes the city with multi-cultural influence. People are friendly and most helpful. I so love Bloomington! Nothing fancy but just nice and cosy. Love the houses architecture too!

IU students can be found everywhere. Many of the domestics work part-time at retail stores and restaurants. While we were at Edinburg Premium Outlet, about an hour away from Bloomington, we came to know a senior student manning the check-out counter. Both Sonner and the kind young lady exchanged contact details so that she could connect him with the others in her students-group. I observed, the wonderful IU culture extends to students as well, not just their administrators. They readily provide support to new students without hesitation. They openly expressed excitement for getting to know new friends. Amazing, isn’t it?!

As for me, I made some new friends too, from India, Taiwan and China. We met at the parents orientation activity. This particular Taiwanese mom was so kind and brave to drive us around. As for me, despite having almost 30 years of driving experience, I wouldn’t dare to drive on the other side of the road. It scares the daylight out of me.

What I like about Bloomington road safety is that, all modes of transport, e.g. car, motorbike and bicycle, have to stop at junctions to allow pedestrian cross the street. All must stop at STOP signs and yes, including bicycles. Bicycles aren’t allowed to overtake any vehicle while on road. Meaning, the cyclist has to cycle behind the car, if there is one in front. It can only move forward to the front of the traffic at traffic lights junction where there is a spot specifically for bicycle to stop at. However, where there is a cycling lane, bicycles can cycle freely on that lane. In a traffic jam, no cars are to cut queue. It is understood that everyone stays in the line. No drivers would tolerate misbehavior on the road. They won’t hesitate to walk up to you to tell you off.

At those restaurants and bistros pouring alcoholic beverages, the floor staffs will first ask to see your ID before admitting you into the premises or taking your order (for alcoholic beverages). Under-aged patrons are not allowed to sit at the bar at all. You can expect good service from the floor staff. Of course, don’t forget your tip. A Thai restaurant I went to even printed calculated tip raging from 15% to 25% to ease the payment.

One day, I was served an overdone and dry petite steak for lunch. When I informed the waitress about it, she apologized and immediately order for a freshly cooked steak. She left my plate be so that I can eat the sides while waiting for a replacement for my petite steak.

I noticed that waiting staff at all eateries make an effort to check on us in case we need any further order and if everything is alright. I think it is their culture, not entirely driven by the hope for a larger tip. Back home, I tipped as well but the service and friendliness can’t match that in Bloomington. I could see that they take pride and pleasure in their jobs. The enthusiasm to serve well makes the difference.

At the hotel, the evening before my check-out, the front desk staff helped me booked for my shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport. She even offered to print out my boarding pass and bus ticket, to be delivered to my room! How’s that for six star service?! Thanks to Biddel Hotel. I’d like to shout out to Mark, Sonja, Jeremy (he told me to inform dear son to look for him should he need any help…WOW!) and Mary, the most cheerful cashier at the foodcourt. Mary has a collection of more than 200 hats and she wears a different hat to work everyday. She is in her 60s. These people made a huge difference to my stay in Bloomington. It feels like the whole place is like a family town! There is no total stranger there. That kinda feeling. Sweet, isn’t it?

On my last morning at IMU, we bumped into a group of Malaysian students. 6 of them, one studies in IU while the rests were studying in other unis but are taking a tour around IU. One of them, a Hoosier, exchanged cellphone numbers and promised to add dear son into the Malaysian students group. We count our blessings that dear son gets to meet so many wonderful people offering to help and ready with advice. Thank God for that.

I’m now aboard a plane to NYC, for a duration of 2 hours. 4 hours transit for onward flight to Amsterdam. This is really a marathon …in total, 22 hours on air and 13 hours of transit. I’ve never done such long haul before. The most I clocked was 13 hours flight with 7 hours transit. I’ll write as I move from one airport to another. How fun is that?

The plane is descending approaching JFK. Then, my 4 hrs transit starts before I board the next flight to Amsterdam. I have to fiddle with the time again, to keep jet lag to the minimal.

The 4 hours passed real fast. I’m now boarding for Amsterdam, an 8-hour flight and expected to arrive on time at 11.35am local time. Gonna catch up on some movies and perhaps have a short nap too.

At Schiphol airport, after taking my lunch, i checked into the hotel for 5 hours. It’s better this way for long hours of transit as I get my privacy to freshen up, FaceTime with my kids (separately) and take a short nap. Lovely!

Finally, boarded for KL! My last leg of the journey, balance 12 hours. Can’t wait to be back! Enjoyed my champagne and spicy steak wrap. Movies and nap again. Finally I got to catch up on watching all the movies I didn’t have the chance to watch. Nice!

Touched down on Malaysian soil on 18th August afternoon. On time arrival but the baggage claim was slow. Dear hubby, ma fille chèrie and mom came to the airport to meet me. Glad to be back and that also stamps the long distance that separate us from dear son. I’m not too worried about that as I know he’ll blend in well. He is very much similar to me. We just adjust ourselves to new environment, and make the most of it. Moreover, we can always exchange WhatsApp messages and FaceTime for real time chats. Just need to watch the 12 hours difference in time.

Thankfully, I have sufficient time to freshen up and change before driving out to school for my PTA meeting. As it’s raining and the traffic was slow, I’ve advised my deputy to start the meeting on time. I know I’d be delayed.

Glad I accomplished all I set out to do. Though I was away, I keep tabs on activities in the school, especially the progress of our Rainbow Run 2.0 meetings via feeds from my wonderful fellow committee members. Thanks, guys!

As you read, you’ll realize that this post has been written in parts and along my journey home from the 14 days of my great adventure. I hope you enjoy reading it. That’s it folks! It’s a wrap!

Cheers,

Alice

Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers!



Finally! The flight from NYC to Indianapolis took 2 hours and here we were, in Indianapolis! It was 10.30 in the morning, local time. Excited but at the same time, I was concerned about how were we going to get to the Uni from the airport. Was it near or far? As we walked a few steps further, right in the middle of the spacious arrival hall, we were greeted by a gigantic IU banner! When we took the escalator down towards the exit, we spotted a help desk set up by Indiana University! As we approached, we were greeted by a student volunteer who then told us how to get to the uni campus. What a great welcome, especially for new students. Thank you, IU. Bravo, IU!!!! At the Go Express Shuttle counter, the attendant, a kind elderly lady cheerfully gave us a brief introduction to Indianapolis and Bloomington. We were the 1st Malaysian customers of hers! She kept a list of countries which people came from, with whom she had interaction with at the counter.

From Indianapolis airport to Bloomington, the journey took around 1 hour by shuttle bus. Quite a distance away with not much to see along the way except for scatter of houses and isolated small shops. The shuttle took us right up to the dorm entrance, thankfully!

Sonner got checked in. We planned for him to stay in his dorm in advance so that we have time to get supplies, for him to get adjusted to the new living environment as well as getting to know his room-mate before semester commences. Don't expect 5-star but it's a nice size for students – 2 beds, 2 study tables, 2 closets and bathroom attached. As days passed, the room became cozier (his feedback) and he got along well with his room-mate. The Korean buddy studied in Malaysia for 2 years before coming to Bloomington. He even spoke Malaysian English!

I checked into my motel. Since my booking was done late (considered very late since it was a peak season), I have limited choice of hotels to choose from. Despite the state of its exterior, the room was clean and the Queen-sized bed was comfortable. Took me a while to get to know how to operate the air-con and coffee maker though. However, had a hard time with the shower which kept giving me higher than average temperature of water. Spoken to the front desk twice about it, still not fixed. Sigh.

After experiencing 2 challenging nights, I finally got the chance to change hotel to the one on campus ground. Many parents had checked out after their children's orientation. What a great relief to be nearer to Sonner's dorm. It's a short walk to downtown too! I no longer need to call fr Uber ride just to have a meal. This hotel was so much more comfortable. I longed for a peaceful sleep and finally getting!

All in all, I sat through 4 days of Parents Orientation, missed the first 2 days as we were still in NYC. The email from uni reached us late, after we had done our flights bookings. Nonetheless, not all were lost. They were accommodative and offered me a private campus tour. Bloomington is a small town but people are friendly and most helpful. Spoken to an Uber driver who had just transferred to Bloomington from another state in March. He loves this place. The locals have been exposed to the presence of many foreign students that they got to learn and understand different cultures other than their own. This is indeed a beautiful town with beautiful people!

We shopped at Target, Best Buy and College Mall to get his supplies. He quickly got a road bike on the 2nd day of arrival when we saw he size of the campus. Walking is possible but if one is rushing for classes, it'll be crazy to walk from the dorm to another building. It stretches to quite a distance in between. Staying here, if you move around on foot, you can easily reach your 10,000 steps a day, no sweat! Very good exercise with fresh air.

Every Saturday morning till 1.00pm, there is the Farmer's Market located in front of the City Hall, where residents can get fresh produces like vegetables, fruits, plants and herbs. Additionally, there are some local handicrafts for sale too.

The Indiana Memorial Union (IMU) building houses the Biddel hotel and convention centre, has in-house foodcourt, bookshop, IU shop, Starbucks, Burger King, cafes, bowling alley, and several halls for students to study and do some works. A short walk to the Sample Gate (main entrance of the Uni – pictures below) and downtown.

No worries about food here. Besides McDonald's, Taco Bell, Bloomington Bagels, KFC, Pizza Hut, Chilis, etc, there are Thai, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Burmese, Indian restaurants! Seafood restaurants like Red Lobster and The Running Crab are a few minutes drive away. There's Barnes & Noble bookshop to get the latest publications, books and mags alike. I can't stop telling you guys how much I like this place.

As for IU, it has the Asian Culture Centre (ACC), not specifically for Asians only; others who are interested in Asian culture are always welcome. The seniors immediately got Sonner to sign up as a volunteer photographer for ACC when they learned that he has his own equipment. I'm glad he'll have some other activities to keep him occupied besides attending classes.

The uni provides an academic and a career adviser to each student to guide and support them throughout their studies. There is also counseling for students who might have personal issues like depression, time management, sleeping problem, getting settled down, etc. Here, IU Family is not restricted to merely students and alumni but includes staffs, parents, benefactors, and anyone who is linked to IU. It is one big happy family.

I would highly recommend this uni to anyone, anytime. The environment is most suitable for studying – fresh air, trees everywhere. This small town provides sufficient shops to serve the community. Not much of distractions, unlike in the big cities. When one has too many choices, they can pose as problems than blessings, sometimes.

I'm left with a few more days, 2.5 days to be exact, before I fly home. I can safely say that I'm glad Sonner settles in well and faster than expected. He'll survive here well. I pray that he'll carry himself well and have a wonderful campus experience these 2 years here at IU. And of course, graduate in Y2019.

Yup, I'm a proud Hoosier mom! Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoosiers!

Cheers,
Alice

Exploring Big Apple

Our next destination after Orange country was the Big Apple. Yeah, from Orange to Apple! Took an evening flight for 8 hours to reach New York. Time difference between New York and Amsterdam is -6 hours. Between New York and Malaysia is -12 hours. Sharing the beautiful image that greeted us the minute we exited from the JFK arrival hall.

Again, to avoid being jet lagged, we timed our bedtime. We were awake at 6am in Amsterdam which was 12am in NYC. After checking into the hotel, we got ourselves city tour and boat cruise tix from the concierge, for the next day. My son couldn't wait to taste the food of The Halal Guys. Off we walked from the UN Plaza to Fifth Avenue. The evening was moderately cool, good temperature and comfortable for long walks.

Finally, The Halal Guys! We had the combo meal. Not bad. They were in many places, always with a long queue. Once the stomach was filled, we walked back to the hotel. FaceTime session with family back home and finally slept at 1am! That was 25 hours since we woke up in Amsterdam! That's a record.

The next morning, we decided to try out hotdogs by the roadside stall as we saw on TV shows. Then, we hop onto the Big Bus. It's drizzling and looks like going to pour heavier soon. Oh no……

From the bus ride, we got off for our cruise along the Hudson River. Remember how Sully did an emergency landing on the Hudson river? According to the movie (based on true story), it made a record when all passengers on board survived the dangerous yet unusual landing. Following picture shows the landing path along Hudson River.

Though it's raining, we are kept dry on the boat. We had some snacks – nachos and pretzel with hot choc.

It rained the whole day in NYC. It's a pity that we couldn't cover as many places as I planned for originally. Couldn't make it to downtown and uptown sides. Save it for next visit. We only managed to move around the midtown. We walked to Madison Square Park, armed with NYC gift shop umbrellas, for the famous Shake Shack burgers. No shades whatsoever, the place only had garden tables and chairs but it was raining. We ate by the Shake Shack unused mobile stall which provided us with a makeshift table and a bit of cover from the rain. What an adventure it was….

On the way back, we managed to grab some Yankees caps and NMDs from FootLocker. There wasn't any sale going on at FootLocker NYC, unlike in Amsterdam (didn't have our sizes anyway). Oh well….we are happy campers just the same.


Finally, we were back to the cosy hotel. Exhausted, we agreed to order in-room dining. A great plan as we had to wake up very early in the morning for our flight to THE destination.

The following morning, the bell captain convinced us to hail the Yellow instead of calling for an Uber ride. Cab rate to the airport was on fixed rate, plus highway (toll) charges, which added up to less than $60. A very friendly and helpful bell captain. He even spent 10 minutes advising my son about life. George, who's now in his 60s, came to US from Ghana. A proud dad with 3 adult professional children working in the big cities in America. Thank you, George for the advice!

At the airport, again we fill up our stomachs with Shake Shack burgers. The ones at Madison Sq Park were better and not that oily.

For our health conscious friends, these are a nightmare, right? No worries….we walked a lot and able to burn all those fats (excuse…hahaha). Moreover, it is okay to live a little. We hardly do fast food back home. Au revoir, NYC!

That's it folks. This wrapped up our Big Apple (lack of) experience.

Cheers,
Alice

My Orange Experience

A day after my birthday, my son and I flew to Amsterdam. Our flight plan en route to Indianapolis is with 2 stopovers, Amsterdam and New York. Since we are flying so far away from home, we might as well stop at these two cities to rest, relax and sightseeing. Also, to allow son and I to spend a little bit more holiday time together. Let him relax before the next semester commences. I know he is anxious, new environment and all, yet excited about what lies ahead. He also misses his sister and girlfriend terribly, being separated from them. It is the first time in 15.5 years being separated from the sister cum bestie for the first time. Fortunately, with FaceTime, they can video chat anytime.

Our KLM experience for this long-haul night flight was wonderful. We were served with snacks, dinner and breakfast. Had our sleep then watch 2 movies till we touched down at almost 6.00am local time. As usual, when there's a train service to my destination, I'd rather use the train than a cab. The train station was just a few steps away from arrival hall. Bought our tix and off we went searching for the right platform. Boarded the train but it was not as convenient as the one we took in Osaka, Japan which has a special compartment to stow your luggage securely before proceeding to your seats. On board the Amsterdam train, space along the aisle was narrow. If you are traveling with more than 1 luggage, you wouldn't find it easy to move them around. Despite all that limitations, taking the train was easy and straight forward. We reached central station within 30 minutes.

From the train terminal, we took a 10-15 mins walk to our hotel. Weather was clear, quite cold and very windy, just the way I like it. Though it was very early, before 7.00am, the hotel allowed us to check into our room immediately! Excellent front desk service; the lady showed us around the lobby – tea making area, the same place where they hosted wine drinking session every evening from 5pm to 6pm. Off we went to our room. Neat and cosy. Love the cup and saucer and the familiar Nespresso machine.


Off we went to hunt for a cafe for our 2nd breakfast. I've always liked to sit at the sidewalk cafe, sipping my hot cup of coffee while watching activities around me. We can't do that back home on a sunny day. Armed with the city map, we walked wherever the legs took us. We were fortunate to arrive early that we got the chance to enjoy 2 full days in the city before departing for our next destination the following day. Son and I felt that having 3D 2N in AMS is just nice.

We took our time to visit some museums and had a cruise tour along the canal. We returned to the hotel in time for the wine drinking session. Dry white, red wine and rosé were served with some finger food. The staffs were friendly and chatted with every guest. Dear son looked younger than his age that he was politely asked for identification before being poured a glass of wine. The legal age for consuming beer and wine in Netherlands is 16! Well, he can still drink here but not anymore when we reach the States.

We walked to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner. After the long flight, we'd better take it easy on Day 1 but sleep at proper bedtime so that to avoid having jet lag. The sun set around 9.30pm. It's nice to see the sky so clear and still bright at dinnertime.

The following day, we bought ourselves the City Sightseeing (hop on and hop off) bus and boat tour. It is the best way and shortest time to cover the entire city. Made easier when I downloaded the app into my phone. That Sunday was also the Gay Pride Day. The whole city came alive with so many people, music and colours. They party all day long. What a lovely and exciting experience from merely watching the crowd!

Finally, upon checking out, we took the train to Schipol International Airport. The train arrived and left on time, not a minute more or less. So, remember to check for the time and the right platform. Our flight to New York was in the evening and touched down the same evening, local time. Couldn't wait for another new experience. Big Apple here we come!

To sum it all up, AMS was a wonderful experience, an eye opener, with beautiful weather. People were friendly, the place was rather clean (except for the morning after, after the party). The cleaning vehicle didn't stop sweeping the roads. However, I'm not used to the smell of weeds in the air. It's being sold in every corner. I was told that it's prescribed as medicine to treat some medical condition to help patients be more focused or something. Anyway, then most memorable food experience was the freshly made stroofwafel and the no1. Both son and I enjoyed our stay in AMS, discovering places and food.

Cheers,
Alice N.

Final Year of My 40s

Today marked the balance of 12 months of my life in the forties. Frankly, age has always been just a number and I really mean it and live it as it is. I accept that life has its ups and downs. Nonetheless, I look forward to experimenting more new things in life, facing new challenges and of course, watching my children grow and transform. Exciting, isn't it?

That's what life means to me. To my body, however, as years advancing, I can feel that it isn't as flexible as it was some 20 years back. I'm sure you guys know that too. This doesn't apply to the younger ones, well, not yet. I have to remind myself not to spring out of bed (an old habit), not to run or turn too fast, or I'll pull a muscle or tendon or whatever. That is why I am back to the gym, combined with Pilate sessions which help a lot to keep myself fitter. I love food, therefore I exercise to eat (not a good example, so don't be like me). On a more serious note, I realize that I can't just sit and eat while idling away. People like me who enjoy good food must take great care of ourselves so that the body can serve us well…and to eat some more (hahaha)

To my mind, it seems to get stuck in the time machine where the clock stops some 30 years back…hahaha…I'm always up to monkey mischief and never fail to have fun with my teenagers. I see myself as their mother as well as a loyal and honest friend. I love and cherish the time spent with the children, mine as well as students at the school. The students are like children to me, whilst teachers are friends. I find that I learn a lot about life through their eyes and life experiences, young and the elders alike. They are amazing!

So, what makes this person (me, of course!) tick? Year after year, I learn to know myself deeper and get in touch with my inner self. I learn what I can, can't and won't do. I know what I actually like and dislike. I'm more brave and confident at speaking my mind. I understand that I can't and won't please everyone. I learn to choose who to care deeply for and who to keep at arms length. I know I can make some difference when I put my heart and soul into it. Most importantly is, whatever comes out of a sincere and caring heart, nothing could go very wrong. Decisions I made and actions taken may not please everyone but it usually serves the right recipients and purpose.

Yup, the 24 hours that you have is the same 24 hours I get. I learn to prioritize and be more selective on how I spend my time. You can call me a juggler alright. Not all are perfect. There were times when I ran around like headless chicken (yeah, happened quite a lot). I can't give much to the community that I serve, but time, brain cells and leg works! I find great pleasure in sprinkling some encouraging words when needed, splashing a friendly smile, sharing a simple meal, lending a hand here and there, exchanging ideas, imparting some knowledge…having in mind, everyone has his/her own battle to fight. Everything may look all rosy outside but sometimes it was a just brave front being worn to show the world that despite the gloomy steps ahead, there is still hope. Having said that, it would be wonderful if each of us could be kinder to the next person. We have the ability to choose to be pleasant with people around us despite having a lousy day. Who knows, that simple act may actually lift your spirit!

As much as I wish to, this year I won't be able to spend a quiet day alone doing what I enjoy doing at each Birthday, which happens to be…hanging around a mall, eat and enjoy my food in my own company then spend some time at the bookstore, reading a book while sipping a cup of Long Black then move on to having a bowl of ice-cream before heading home. That is a typical birthday for me. I enjoy the silence and not having any conversation with anyone. I enjoy reading a book, at the cafe, while sipping coffee and eating a slice of cake. I only have myself to please for that few hours. I treasure the calmness and quiet time alone.

This year is different as the first born will be leaving the comfortable and familiar nest to further his studies. We'll be flying in the next 24 hours or so but I have yet to pack or make any preparation for the long journey (except flights and hotels secured). It is my first trip to the States and I pray that it will be a pleasant one for us. Excited and anxious at the same time but I so looking forward to the journey. So, that shall be treated as my birthday celebration.

To all my lovely family and friends, thank you for your wonderful wishes. Your presence and friendship mean a lot to me. Love you all always.

Cheers,
Alice

28th Month into Glivec

In November 2016, dad went for his CT Scan. He had been going through scans for monitoring the tumour on 8 to 9-month intervals. Same procedure that he has now accustomed to. His oncologist was satisfied with the results.

The tumour size remains unchanged. Tiny lesions in a few places remain stable, are probably benign. Dad will continue to consume Glivec as it is working for him. He has lost a bit of weight as compared to 3 months ago. His Dr isn’t concerned about it. His blood sugar is good, well under control. He is encouraged to eat more. I’m relieved that all’s good.

Dad continues with his morning walks around the lake garden on clear mornings. If it rains, he’ll stay home. Life goes on as usual. Watching over grandchildren at home, having breakfast and tea with friends and catching up on soap operas on TV. During weekends, get will go shopping or eating out with my brothers. I’m pleased that my second elder brother is back and staying nearby. Sundays are family gathering day for my two brothers with my parents.

The next routine meeting with dad’s doctors will be early March 2017. I hope by then, he’ll put on some pounds. We shall continue to pray for my parents’ good health and living a happier and fulfilling life. I am sure this new year is going to be a wonderful year for them. Now, planning for their next holiday destination. It is good for them to relax and be in new environment once in a while. Feeling happy is a great medicine to better health, besides exercising.

Our program with Max Foundation is still active and we are grateful for the continuous support from them. Thank you, Max Foundation.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Fulfilling New Year in 2017!

Cheers,

Alice N.