You guys will not believe how many drafts I have for this blog at the moment. I know it seems like I have forgotten everything but no. I stumbled upon a few difficulties and I don't know how to bounce back from it and continue writing my Chapter 21 series. I just need to settle a lot of things that's going on at the moment and I will refine and publish those drafts. I am quite demotivated because the memories are not that fresh and my feelings and thoughts might not be as raw as my previous posts. I also have trouble putting it into words and into this blog. So it sometimes needs me to be in the right mood for it. Another problem I might encounter is when I am in the mood, I might choose to write my book instead of my blog. So that would delay the whole blog post publishing as well.


Plus, Chapter 21 has not ended yet. I have so many more to say about my journey into being 21 and I am still experiencing it, writing my own path and what not. It is on going. With that, I might be publishing things out of order though the archive would still be in order depending on when it happened and when I started writing them. So ya da ya da ya da. I don't know why I am explaining this to you. Maybe I am so frustrated seeing all these drafts and this long hiatus is KILLING me.


I don't know, I am sure I will get all of this arranged. It's so hard to maintain and commit to something, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Before You Click Share

Photo cred : We Never Look Up

In the age of social media and fast networking, information can reach us within seconds and viraling an issue is as simple as clicking the share button. The moment an air-flight company deny service to someone in The United States, next minute you know, a girl in India who is lying in her bed got the news. This tool is deemed powerful and also useful to get attention to recent events that needs a collective effort from many people. However, are we too quick when it comes to sharing?

We are very reactive towards things that has the ability to play or touch our emotion, be it an issue, an event or a creative work. Perhaps it is something about our past that made us able to relate to it or a deep fear we have towards an issue or a passion towards certain topics, we constantly share on social media according to our preferences. Different people share different things. But there's one thing that constantly puts you in a difficult position if you do not share it. Have you felt like a bad person when someone actually tells you "Please forward this to everyone you know" or "Please spread this" and you didn't?

These kinds of favour actually varies from asking for donations, help finding a missing boy to public awareness on scam syndicates or a new imposed regulation. Many wants to use the amazing power of internet and networking in their favour to get these messages out there. We all know what the internet have done and can do. We've seen too many viraled stories and too many cases of people getting famous just because their stories are out there, constantly getting shared. It's like a high school gossip channel where you get to know who is dating who and what Sarah did last break. Only this time, high school consists of the entire world and Sarah can easily be... well, anyone. Many figured, oh, if Sarah matters, why not me or my message?

First thing's first, we have to understand, though the internet seems as if it works like the high school gossip channel, it doesn't. You may not know Sarah personally but you might have seen her your whole life. There's a more humane touch to each news sent and received. Fact checking is easy because you can walk up to people you hear stories about and ask or you might know who is a reliable source to fact check certain rumors. You are also more likely into getting involved in an activity you heard about because you know who is organizing and why they are organizing them. Not getting left out during your high school life may be one of the important things in your social life. You get in the loop, you are a part of the group. However, on the internet, you do not know everyone. This lack of personal touch can make people quite mean and ignorant. They also may simply disregard the important things you have to say. Plus, high school stories always go around the same thing. Love life, social life and achievements. The real life is not like that, there's more to it. There's politics, economy and technology advancements that require attention of everyone in the world. There's also local cases like people losing their things, missing people, local activities and charity work. But all these things are being shared through the same platform. So how are we going to go through all these, keeping updates of what we need or what's important and not getting some news or information lost?

Social media has improved so much now to meet users' behaviours. One that I appreciate the most is the filter feature on Facebook. You can choose who can see your posts. They also have auto-clustered (you can also do it manually) your friends into groups like friends from work, school, friends living in your area, family members etc etc. This way you can target your post to specific people, if the issue is not something general. You can also customize your preference for your news feed. From who do you want to give priority to whenever they post something to who you want to unfollow. Unfollow on Facebook is not the same as unfriend. You are still friends of each other though you unfollow. This way, you will not lose their friendship, but at least you don't have to constantly see updates on that band your friend is obsessed about. You can also choose to block stories from certain apps. Done with which celebrity your friends look like because you don't care? Block the app and your problem is gone.

There's one problem with this feature. Though Facebook is smart to guess which type of friend you lie into, they still heavily rely on data and if those data is not provided, even Facebook can't do anything. I understand and respect people that wants to guard their privacy and do not fill up their current information on social medias. They have the right to do that and I am sure they have their own very relevant reasons. But knowing this, many do not depend on the feature that Facebook has to ensure their targeted audience gets the info. For example, you are one of the committee in an event on your campus. Of course you want to spread the news to people who you know can attend the event which means you should set your post to "Near your area". However, you don't want to risk people not seeing it due to how many people not letting Facebook knows their location, you set the privacy to "Public" instead. Now the whole world knows there will be an eating competition on your campus. True, social medias also takes relevance into consideration but how far can it go? Whatsapp for example, can never filter information for you. I know you are starting to get bored of some friends that keeps trying to sell their stuff on you work group but Whatsapp can't possibly know that you don't want to see that.

Using social medias has started to become an annoyance and a waste of time. It is quite hard to go through or endure all those information. Saying "You should get off of it if you feel that way" is so 2012. Instead of going backwards, why don't we go forward and instill good sharing ethics. Let's start off with Whatsapp group. Before sharing anything, think this way. If everyone in that group is in front of you, would you have said the same thing to their face? If no, do not share. If yes, then by all means, go ahead. If you do not know half of the people in there, maybe you should consider not sharing. Remember I told you about how connecting through devices lacks human touch? Annoyance can happen not because they feel a certain way towards you but they become less considerate towards your situation. What about Facebook? Well, if you ask me, that's the perfect place to share anything you like because people who intentionally turn to their Facebook wants to pass their time so anything you have to say becomes relevant there. However, do be careful when you are sharing things you do not know who it is from or what the real story is. Sharing something untrue makes you just as guilty as the one starting the controversy. Do not react too fast. Again, think before you click share and putting your comments. On Twitter, I believe people should start knowing how to differentiate between being funny, witty, pathetic and stupid. If you feel a tweet can hurt someone's feelings, why would you want to retweet that? I know, I know, Twitter is a crazy jungle and trying to clean that mess up is impossible. But do consider being responsible on your retweets as well, it is important that dumb tweets do not get attention.

Now back to my original concern, why can't you use Internet to help you forward messages? Power of the people has the mind of its own. If it is worth spreading, it will get spread. Randomly helping people is good, no doubt. But just like how you would think twice before donating to that stranger in the streets, that's what you should do too before you waste your time and other people's time by sharing that one post you don't even know who it's from and how bad the actual situation is. I know, in time like this where kindness is so scarce and would be highly appreciated, why do we want to stop ourselves from sprinkling a little of it along the way? Because we have to be smart in being kind and simply putting a little kindness to one person before the kindness to many others is not. It's not fair to waste people's time on some other person's petty story that you could have not be apart of if you just didn't click share.

So, before you click share... THINK.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Afraid To Fall



What is it about being all grown up that we are constantly in fear?

Remember when we were younger, we were not afraid to climb whatever we could climb, we were adventurous. We wanted to do crazy things because it looked fun and we did not know what danger was. We were constantly curious of things and we would actually quench those curiosity. Remember all the discovery we made? Remember all those skills we learned because we were not afraid to try. We wouldn't have been able to ride that bike if we were afraid of falling because we did fall. But we got back up. We wouldn't be able to swim because we would drown and there were times we lost our breath and adrenaline brought us back to the surface before we gasped and our heart would beat so fast. But we tried again. Our best friend wouldn't be our best friend right now if we did not made start the conversation, tagged along without fear and did things together. We have achieved and learn so many things because we were unafraid. Were we too brave that we came to an incident we almost or actually did endanger ourselves and it scarred us forever? Or was it the constant nagging of how we need to be careful by be it our parents or teachers or maybe after observing too many accidents?  Was it all those rejections and backstabbing that hurt us so bad that we constantly guard our heart before picking who we get close to?

No doubt, past experiences and memories keep us safe from making the same mistakes. It is our body's survival mechanism, there is nothing wrong with that. It is vital to keep us alive. But don't you just wish you can forget certain things that result to unexplainable fears so that your subconscious won't hold you back on many potentials you can tap on now that you are older? I, for one, find it so difficult to pick up a new skill. Three years ago, I started equestrian and though I was brave enough to start trying, I was not making much progress because I find myself not able to believe I wouldn't get hurt if I, perhaps, go a little faster or try to canter. I didn't say no but my body was being too careful. But I thought, well, it make sense. Trusting a majestic beast is not easy business. Dealing with horses is dangerous so I didn't think much of it then. But when I took up skateboarding, the evidence were much clearer. This is why I got to know myself so much through skateboarding. It took me 3 times practicing just to be able to push myself on the board at MINIMUM speed with confidence. It was not because it was hard... well.. that too, but it was more because I was being too careful. I didn't want to fall. Maybe it was the worse thing I could imagine happening, But when it did, I got back up and it was not a big deal. Through skateboarding, I have fall numerous times in front of sooooo many people so why is that fear and embarrassment still so deep in me that I still can't fully commit to a trick?

When I went to the ice skating rink back in Madrid, I was always only at the side lines, constantly just holding the rails, Same thing happened, it is as if I never learned. I was afraid of letting go but when I do, each thrust forward, I become a little panic and when I start to lose control, that's when I hold the railings again. It was so hard. Sometimes I would love to look at people in the ice skating rink. For kids though, they picked it up so quick. I saw some children that needed help from their accompanying adult but when they were ready, they just did it. Of course they would fall but I like that determination. The way their accompanying adult picked them up, they brush the ice on their jacket off and they continue like nothing happened. The adults that are just learning always look like they are ready to fall instead of ready to move forward. I know it is instinctive, they can't help it but that what made me ponder.

It is not just about picking up new skills, it is also about how we bring ourselves. I am an extrovert so, making friends come naturally to me and it is easy. But there are cases of some people I met that might give me a certain vibe that makes me afraid to try to connect with them further. Maybe they are just a naturally melancholy person, or maybe he or she just reminds me of bad memories but no matter how much I convince myself, I still can't bring myself to just forget that. Was it due to past rejections that I unintentionally reject this person? It is definitely unfair but I can't help myself. And there's the case of love life where rejections and failures is normal. Well, at least that's how it is in my case because I am still not lucky in this. Now, I choose not to act on my feelings sometimes or unwittingly make negative assumptions to guard my heart instead of taking chances. Most time it saved me but I can't say much because I am still single and for a very long time too. It is great and all because I only have to think about myself but it makes me wonder how much has fear play a role in our lives.

However, I have found a cure to it. It might not be perfect but it does help. I found that motivation drowns fear. There was this one day when I was in the skate park, I wasn't even thinking of learning ollie. At the time, I couldn't even lift turn yet. I have been skateboarding for a month and I couldn't lift turn! That was how slow my progress was! A guy saw me trying to lift turn and he figured my truck was a little loose so he offered to tighten it. But that was not it. He taught me to lift turn and ollie all in that 3 hours and I managed to do one bad ollie and but it was amazing progress in that short period of time. All he had to do was encourage me. When I fall, he would lend a hand to get me up and said I was close and I can try again. When I landed (though it was not an ollie) he cheered and it made me want to try again because I feel like I was close. I was motivated to continue. Motivation can come in many ways. Talking to friends would also create a motivating environment when it comes to feelings. There was this one time I felt like I wanted to at least make an effort to know this one guy and I made that decision after I talked about it to my friends. They rationalized my fears which made me think it was not a big deal to try and the knowledge that someone thinks it is not a bad idea to do it made me actually think so too.

One thing I don't like about this solution I have is that it is the embodiment of dependency. You can only lose or drown your fear when you have someone to provide that motivation. I have tried motivating myself instead but it is not as effective as being motivated by someone else. It requires more effort too because you have a constant battle in yourself to conquer that fear you don't even realize you have some times. Well, at least I admit that I am afraid and admitting is the first step to resolve this problem, right? But that's as far as they go in those movies. "The first step is that you admit you have a problem". And then? Guess I will have to figure it out myself.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Chapter 21 : Healed



I don't know if you have guessed from the beginning of this story, but I am not really healthy. Worse part is I have guessed that I was not but now that I am better, I am sure that I was not. Whoa, what a way to tell a story, huh? Give the whole conclusion to the story in a few sentences and confusing us in the process. So here is the story of how I came to a realization that I am all healed from something I was not sure of having.

For those who have guessed from my tone in earlier posts, I am quite stressed and depressed a lot. I depend on things and people to make myself happy and I can get quite gloomy when I am on my own. A lot of things can demotivate me and there are times it was hard for me to get out of bed. I did find help. I went to the counselor's office a few times to talk things through and help me with whatever issue I might have at that time. I did took a little test with my counselor and it said I had slight anxiety, quite stressed and mildly depressed. I mean, it was just a basic test, it was nothing like... major where the result can be used to consult me to psychiatrist or anything like that. It was just to see what was going on with me. So I understood what was going on but I did not took it crazy seriously. I thought it was the pressure that I put myself under or the surrounding and groups of people I associated myself with. So I thought it might just be in my head and I can get better if I just stop.

That was another reason I went to Spain. I wanted a totally different environment and see how will I do. Honestly though it did look like I was having a lot of fun, truth is, everyday was me trying to figure out myself and I was constantly learning. I was trying to connect with all the important things in life and savoring every moment of that. I had a fair amount of time alone and with good companies. I learned a lot from them as well and listening to their stories and their takes on life. It is such eye openers to learn things from different people's perspectives and see how being heavily influenced with a different setting an culture would give different people different reactions and thought on things. Even before I have told you about the amazing people I meet and what we did so you would have guessed how it was.

There were moments I did fall into depression again. I mean it is one thing to feel sad, that's normal and you have to feel that emotion. But it is another thing to feel depressed, when you feel like everything just come weighing you down and you don't really want to do anything and you stay in bed though there is so many possibilities if you just get out of the door. I was in one of the amazing cities there is, I was in Madrid for goodness sake, why would I want to be in bed? But there were times when I did. And it was okay. I let myself understand that it was okay and I continue again tomorrow when I am all better. I make nice plans for myself or with friends, I treat myself small little things sometimes. Sometimes I looked lonely and most times, I didn't care and it did not matter. I was starting to be happy.

Before leaving Spain I was too scared to go back, actually. I almost felt like I didn't want to. I always say "Not yet, please". This was what my status looked like on my departure for Malaysia:

This post is hard.
I made full use of my final days in Madrid (I just want to use the word aprovechar because it is easier haha) that I used up all energy and muscles I have and end up too tired. My body is aching. I feel sad because I am leaving such an amazing place, amazing routine and amazing people behind. I feel excited to see my family and friends. I am dreading to go back to university for... reasons. I am quite nervous and fatigue from this traveling.
And all of these things I feel, just stirred up into this weird daze like I am just trying to get through any other normal day.So I have no other words to say except "Alhamdulillah" because He knows and this would not have been possible without His doing and if it wasn't Him that made everything easy.
Madrid was one of the best chapters of my life   ¡Volveré, España!

I know I should not let my past fears influence my future so I brace myself the best way I know how, just be positive. I have been practicing it for a whole 5 months, I was already use to doing that. And guess what, just like that, I am now half way through my semester and though I have a lot to study, a lot to do and a lot to learn, I am not depressed. I don't constantly feel anxious. I am not stressed. I know myself more, I know how to handle my problems and I know how to make myself clear so that I influence my environment, not the other way round.

Do I not have problems? Of course I do. I am 21, a student and I am alive. As long as I am any of those, I would constantly have problems. But I found out that it is how you take and perceive the problem that is going to effect your whole day and life path. And in order to do that I needed to have a healthy mind. So guess what? Just like that, I discovered I am healed, I am doing better without the struggles of being anxious, stressed and depressed. And I am eternally grateful.

Now all I have to do is maintain this.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Chapter 21 : Closer to Heaven



The only architect I have ever admired is Allah and this has never changed. Even at times where I felt impressed by the concept of understanding nature to build incredible buildings like Gaudi or the concept that revolves around physics and trigonometry in basics of architecture, none of it is possible because His Wisdom comes first. Nothing compares to His creation and what He allowed to happen and these are among of the few the reasons I will always prefer nature. I thought I would never get the chance to see that part of Spain because the hype of all attractions are always in the city. But I got to go hiking in Sierra Navacerrada and visited Cuenca and I was beyond happy during these two trips.

When I got to know about a hike Aluni was organizing to Sierra Navacerrada in the middle of November, I got all excited. I didn't care how much I had to pay and to know it was free was a bonus! I told everyone I knew at that time about the hike and invited them to come along because good things are meant to be shared. When the day came, I met really nice people and this was how I made my first Slovakian and Estonian friend. It was very easy to bond on this trip considering everyone speaks English and we had nothing else to do during the 50 minutes journey from Madrid and during the hike. Being talkative as I am, of course I was not going to let the time pass with silence. Plus, time seems to move faster when we have conversations.

Even before the hike, I was already one happy kid. The moment we arrived, I looked around and everything looked so beautiful and different, because I am only used to trees that grow in rain-forests. Pine trees and pine cones falling everywhere was just something I have always seen in the movies and in pictures. Not to mention the cool and fresh mountain breeze that accompanied us during the whole hike just made the whole experience better. Let me just remind you it is autumn too. So yes, it was cold. I have always known I have very high resistance towards coldness but I didn't expect it to be very high. I was still sweating at one point. I pulled out my jacket later than everyone else and it was only because everyone was already wearing theirs and I figured it was the smart thing to do so that I wouldn't have to stop in the middle when I actually got cold.


Before the hike

When we were almost at the top, Erika and I took a detour because it looked safe and we wanted good pictures. If anyone knows me, you know that doesn't sound like me at all. I am the type that always follow the path that was given and never thought of doing something like that. I think I have this fear of getting lost, forgotten or left out, I am not sure. Heck, I was never far from my mom whenever we go shopping until I was like... 15. But Erika's attitude towards the whole thing made me realize how it is harmless to go somewhere else sometimes and not be afraid because you always know your way back. And it was the best decision we made because the view was spectacular, I was stunned.

Just a glimpse of the beautiful view

We continued hiking and the view on top was just so breathtaking. We also had lunch there (we packed of course) and Erika said that every time she hike, she would drink a beer on top and she did brought one. She also brought raw green bell pepper and that was the first time I ever ate them like that. Surprisingly it was good. Maybe she had fresh ones and the fact that we were so high up and it was cold was also the factor, I don't know. I still cant believe I ate raw bell peppers.

We made it to the top

Though I can tolerate coldness, I can't say the same for my fingers. They get numb so quick! I basically had to eat with my gloves on and I couldn't take pictures so well. Martin (the guy from Estonia) helped me took pictures because he did not have gloves on. Erika jokingly said "It's because he is Estonian" which for some reason I find so funny because she kept saying it. We were also lucky because two wild horses came when we were there! I love horses! I went crazy I almost forgot what to do with my food. I use to be in the equestrian for a little while so I know how to interact with horses and hug them and everything but I am not use to wild horses. I don't know how they would behave if I try anything so I just pat them and avoided their hind, which is something anyone knows how to do.

Hungry wild horses

On our way back, everyone slept. Given that we have been walking more than 5 hours, it was very called for. But it was definitely worth it. I heard that it is snowing right now, I really feel like going there again!

My visit to Cuenca was actually a last minute decision after Shams invited me along. I did not plan on going because I wanted to really safe money for my Europe trip (big hint on future blog posts). Since Shams wanted to go and Nicole said she will be going too, I figured why not. But now I thank God so much that I said yes in the end because Cuenca is now my new favourite city in Spain! This is where history and nature meets, creating an ambiance that gives you this brief moment of travelling back in time. Built on hills, there were many buildings that appeared hanging off the cliff. Even merely walking in the hilly streets made me smile and bewildered. Nooks and crannies of Cuenca has its story which made me appreciate the beauty of it even more.

Cuenca

The fact that art was also very highly appreciated here made the town even more precious. I can imagine how someone would develop their romantic and creative side here. This quiet, easy going little town overlooks the beauty of nature at its best. The whole serendipity and freshness of the highland wind leaves you breathless. 1000m above the sea level, it looks like the clouds are just above you. All these reasons make you just sit there, close your eyes and smile - you are definitely closer to heaven now.

Where I forgot about my sins and didn't mind if I didn't see tomorrow

Before we went to Cuenca, we stopped at the Enchanted City which is a park with oddly shaped stones (more like boulders). The bus had to climb up the mountain to get us there and the view from the bus was beyond amazing. The fact that it is autumn and the different coloured trees graced the mountains and valleys left me speechless and emotional. When we got there, the bohemian side of me just exploded. Everything, everywhere looked like how I imagined a perfect photo shoot would be. I am crazy about getting good pictures but I am also the kind of person that would like to enjoy beauty without the distraction of my phone. Since we only had an hour or so there, I was torn but I think I managed to make the most out of it. Remind me to come here again for a real photo shoot with my whole bohemian get up though.

I hate how pictures don't give natural beauty justice

I was beyond overjoyed on this trip. Even Nicole noticed this. She said I wasn't like this in Seville and you know I liked Seville. How was I not. I got to see up close the magnificent work of my Creator and my favourite Architect. Nature is always only there to compliment the beauty of man-made creations. But His creations can stand alone and it already looks perfect.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chapter 21 : Hoping for A Beautiful Closure



No.

It's not all fun.

Because running away is never the solution.

As much as I hate seeing the time ticks down to my inevitable day of departure from Madrid back to Malaysia, I am also glad to see the time moves forward to open up new days and more adventures for me here. Right now I am in a room which was once so foreign to me but now feels like home, all wrapped up under a blanket and a comforter, something I have never done before until I experience for myself what they meant by 'winter'. Long nights means more hours of being lonely on my cold bed. The impulse of going out at night is always extinguished by unfamiliarity and lack of companionship. The bubbly personality is starting to shy down after so many attempts of grabbing attention and fail. Even though physically it looks like I am giving up, virtually I am still trying through apps, hoping someone would come along and make my final days here exciting.

Before destiny decides for me, I mold my own and start planning and making plans with people I already know. A possible hang out, a conversation, a short trip. Anything to fill in this unexplained emptiness. Most times I find joy in strolling on a familiar but missed streets with a lump in my throat while basking in the view I know will give me saudade when I am stress under the warmth of Malaysian weather. Did I say joy? The lump in my throat couldn't be easily described by one simple emotion. It is definitely a stir of so many that even I can't name... any of them. My attempt of recording what I witness with my phone for future me is definitely a fail. Trying to capture them in my mind hoping the memory won't fail me.

On the side note, money in my bank account is decreasing every single day and I am getting more and more creative creating delicious dishes out of limited ingredients and I am not complaining at all. Truth is I am trying to get through November as calmly as I can because I am looking forward to a hopefully beautiful and adventurous December. Reality might be catching up but I need to convince myself that I'll cross the bridge when I get there. I have booked so many trips to quench my wanderlust and I am getting excited to see what else Europe has in store for me. I have fallen for Spain as it is and I don't know if my heart will be able to contain the surrealism I will be experiencing. I am hoping to close 2016 with a smile and start 2017 with nothing but positive energy. Plus, this is the first time I get to really see the hype of Christmas building up as the day gets closer. Decorations, music and even the weather are contributing to the kind of Christmas I was fed by my telly since forever. With that being said...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chapter 21 : Chasing The Sun!



The north hemisphere is going through autumn at the moment. While many countries north Spain are freezing, Madrid is starting to get cold especially in the morning and at night. The sun grace us with its warmth in the afternoon but you can't really feel its heat. It's just enough to shake away the chills the autumn wind brings. Many start wearing coats now and I follow suit. I even put gloves on in the morning but I take them and my coat off in the afternoon because it's just the right kind of coldness! So this is the perfect time to run away and head south where it is a little bit warmer. I booked two weekend trips with BeMadrid, both about 3 weeks apart, to cities in Andalusia.

End of October, I went to Seville not knowing much to expect when I booked the trip. A few days before the day, my supervisor was telling me that Seville is very beautiful and some places were sets in films and TV shows (Star Wars and The Game of Thrones). By the time I was in the bus, I was already excited. This is my first time going alone without a friend but I know that I was going to make friends on the bus and the whole time during the trip so it was not a big deal. I met many people from the States and central America. My roommate was from North Carolina and she came alone too. I swear to god, there are so many independent young ladies on this trip I have never felt more empowered. Guys that go on these trip are never alone. They are either with their girlfriends or their friends. I mean it's not a big deal but it kind of give me a different perspective to my expectation the next time I am going anywhere around here. I know I will end up showing my sisters a good time because a chance that a guy would choose to hang out with me is very very slim considering the circumstances.

Plaza de España, Seville

I had a good time during that two day trip considering that I get to talk to most people. I tagged along when they hang out at the bar and just talk and get to know each other. Where we come from, how our country is like, how our life is like back home and our dreams and goals for the future. I am a very talkative person and I love conversations. I would listen to whatever it is that you have to tell me, I will not go silent on you. But to have other people just opening up like that as well, it gets the conversation going and I didn't think I wanted to stop! I don't know if it was the alcohol that made most of them loosen up a bit or I just have not met this many people who can hold up great  conversations at one time like this. And everyone likes being liked. So to have people that give this vibe that they enjoy your company, it just makes you happy. Plus Seville is by far my favorite city in Spain.

People keep asking me if I was going to Granada and Cordoba. So you can just imagine my anticipation for the trip on November. On this trip, an Indonesian lady reached out to me before we met because she was relieved to know there was another Muslim. We were roommates and basically we spent a lot of time together. It's always refreshing to hang out with someone from a different age group. She was almost my mom's age but she was definitely young at heart... just like my mom. So it was nothing weird or awkward for me. I also met someone from Dominican Republic and it was kind of amusing because she has this personality like the fun Latina you always see in movies by the way she talks and make jokes. Sure, stereotypes are unfair but they all have to come from somewhere!

View of Alhambra from the city

Granada was amazing, full of history and culture. Of course I visited the famous Alhambra but I was so disappointed that we had so limited time there with no guide. So I learned nothing out of the visit. But I have learned before that when you go somewhere with these agencies, you only get either one; you learn something or you get a lot of good pictures. You rarely get both. So, even though I didn't get what I wanted out of my visit to Alhambra, at least I got amazing pictures. However, the guided tour that we got around the new and old city of Granada was very very informative. The tour guide was also very passionate about the city so he did not hesitate to tell and show us what he knows. I love seeing people that are able to retell history as if it was a story they have seen before their own eyes. People always relate history to being boring but these kind of people prove that to be wrong.

The night in Granada was very very different for me. On this trip, most of them are native Spanish speakers and even if they are not, they still can carry a full conversation in Spanish. When I tagged along that night, I didn't understand half of what was going on and having a conversation was hard! But it was definitely exciting because this is why I came to Spain for. The language. And I did learn a lot though I was confused most times. This was also a reason why I did not really feel attached with any of them because I didn't get to know most of them very well due to the language barrier but hey, you win some you lose some. At least this experience was very new and not many can say they have been in my situation!

Teteria in Granada

I have to admit I didn't know anything about Malaga so everything I learnt there was an 'ohhh' moment for me. Being a city in the south, near the Alboran Sea, of course it had many history from how people settled there for its resources to all the empires that conquered it in the past. I didn't do much in Malaga other than taking pictures and go for the guided tour. I wanted us to go to Cordoba sooner because I wanted to see a lot of places in Cordoba and I knew it would be raining. But I did try to go to all the nearby tourist attraction for pictures.

Teatro Romano and Alcazaba in Malaga has their own stories

I was physically ready to run everywhere and see everything in Cordoba but the rain was really slowing me down. And no, 3 hours is not enough to do everything. At least I did enter the most important place I needed to see, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. The fact that it was a mosque before it became a cathedral did not upset me as many Muslims claim to feel. I would have felt worse if it was torn down. At least this way, some of the aesthetic elements of the original mosque was kept and we are able to see that and admire the architecture. What I felt was mostly embarrassment of how lightly most Muslims take Islam (including me) and that was why the kingdom fall in the first place. That was how we got weak. Islam is complete and cherry picking it is just making holes in something that is already a whole. This was definitely more of a moment of realization for me.

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

There is this part of me that want to book a train to go to Cordoba one more time and see the rest of the city but I have to consider a lot of things because there are many more other places I have not seen. Plus I got to fulfill my best friend's wish as her birthday gift, took a picture with her name at a beautiful view in Cordoba. That's when I realize how much I miss her and how I wish I was with her on this trip instead. So I think my time here is done.

The Roman Bridge of Cordoba

This trip taught me two things. First of all, as much as it is fun to go and meet new people every time I go on these trips, I still want to be with familiar faces most times because some amazing things are best shared with people you care deeply about. And secondly, as much as I LOVE the cold, I do miss the sun because the second we got to Madrid again, I needed to remind myself there's no escaping this weather and it is just going to get colder too, until I get back to Malaysia though I will start complaining on how hot it will be.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Chapter 21 : Who You Gonna Call?


Being in a new city means new everything. New routines, new discovery, new culture, new timing. All these will shape a new kind of normal which at a point becomes just normal. I adjusted well the first few weeks but since I don't go to classes and the people in my lab are older, I wasn't making friends. Trust me, if you know me, you know it is not because I don't want to. I just couldn't. And by the third week, I was so desperate. I was downloading apps after apps to try make friends near me and Facebook had been helpful too, keeps suggesting me apps to try. And that was exactly how I met my first friend in Madrid.

I was looking for something to do with other people my age. I accidentally downloaded an app from one of the exchange student community here, BeMadrid. That's how I discovered there were free walking tours. When I went there, a girl from the app noticed me and came up to me. We started talking and we went on the tour together. And the next day, Shams and I went to Toledo together. Toledo is an old city near Madrid (a day trip is sufficient) with beautiful views and historical buildings that marked how harmonious Christians, Jews and Muslims use to live together. I am not a history buff but I love stories.

The cathedral in Toledo

Since then, we started planning tonnes of trips or even just a simple weekend together. Each time I see a trip coming up soon, we'd discuss if we'd like to go. Our first long distance trip was with Smart Insiders to Barcelona and Zaragoza on the weekends. And this was how Shams made friends with Josie. They say three is a crowd but I have always been in groups of three so I am used to it. And three is also a perfect number to start doing batshit crazy stuff. We will always remember Barcelona. Well, yes, it is pretty, iconic, historic and all but that's not why.

The Sangrada Familia designed by the famous architect, Gaudi

I have to admit I wish I had more time in Barcelona because there are some things I wanted to do and see but wasn't able to. It just means I'll be here again in the future so I don't mind. Zaragoza was more like a day trip to us. It is in our way from Barcelona to Madrid and we spent half a day there. Plus it was the Pillar Festival during that time so there were many tourists around. I really like the Aljaferia and spent quite some time in there listening to the history behind that castle.

Overlooking the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady Pillar, Zaragoza

By the end of that weekend, I now have friends to keep me company every other weekends or anytime anyone is free. We went to Segovia together, once. It was the first time we tried the fast train and our first time seeing the city without a tour guide. It was kind of cool that we get to do our own thing and just winging it.

The Aqueduct is more impressive in person than in this picture, for real

Coming from different countries, different ages and different backgrounds, I definitely learned a lot. One most important lesson for me was definitely tolerance. Being different is great but tolerance keeps things in check and balance. I love having people of the same mind as me, I admit that. But people of different mindsets open you up to different perspectives and different kinds of normal. You empathize better too and you learn when to say something and when to keep quite. Most importantly, you don't judge because you understand. It is always a safe space with these two and it takes two (or in this case, three) to tango. I have to be what I want this friendship to be too. One thing I appreciate is that there is so much respect and opening up in this friendship, I feel blessed. It convince me that yes, I do have to change the way I interact sometimes because I admit I can be distant at one point of a friendship either due to lack of trust or just being busy, but I also can't blame myself all the time when I am not comfortable being friends with someone. It might be that I don't feel safe in the first place. But I can't change other people to suit my need. I only have control of how I feel and deal with things and it is good enough that I realize all these now.

So here is to us. From that crazy night in Barcelona, our first teatro, our sleepovers, our high-class cooking, rides and roller coasters to perhaps future adventures in different countries (because how else are we going to meet again?). I am so glad we met!