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!




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!


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.


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.

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.