21 of 100 Happy Days: A Warm Break

I like to think we were having a summer break picnic with good food and refreshing, cool drinks. Of course, summer breaks don’t exist in a country with typically warm weather. In fact, the afternoon sun has been scorching lately, so much so I worry for the predicament of the yellowing plants outside.

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At least it wasn’t too stuffy outdoors once darkness took over and it was lovely company. Another weekday well spent to make up for future evenings devoid of possible plans.

And some of us have known each other for 10 years. That’s definitely worth celebrating.

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18 of 100 Happy Days: Camaraderie and Prosperity

When you’ve known one another for ages, especially since childhood, distance and time change nothing. There’s a history behind it all, from solving ‘Enid Blyton mysteries’ and ‘hiding’ from Jurassic Park dinosaurs to later having adventures rooted in reality.

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When we met up earlier we practised another CNY tradition – having 鱼生 (yu sheng, literally translates to ‘raw fish’), a salad comprising vegetables, pickled ginger, pomelo, crackers and raw fish (usually salmon nowadays) topped with several sauces and condiments, where each ingredient symbolises a CNY greeting for prosperity. You’d be surprised how meaningful four words can be.

Everyone gathers with chopsticks to toss the 鱼生 into the air for luck; the higher it is, the better the luck,  although that would leave a bit of a mess. I have a little portion for its symbolic value rather than its sharp, sweet and mildly sour-ish taste, but that’s just me.

It’s my first for the year as well!

PS. I am definitely going to Avril Lavinge’s concert now. Oh the excitement.

The Things I’d Brought Back From Three Years In The UK

On the 10th of October, I packed the past three years of my life into boxes and bags, and took a 13-hour flight from the UK to Malaysia. Leaving was emotional, as if half my heart had sprouted roots, refused to leave. Then somehow as I starting unpacking, I realised just how much I had brought home with me.

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I’d brought back the concrete walls of UEA and the cobblestone roads of Norwich. I’d brought back the line of ducklings in the river, the swan on the Lake, the sparkle of every firework erupting in the skies.

I’d brought back the three-legged cat, a Battlestar Gallactica Marathon, that funny moment just before a friend slipped on the ice. In my mind’s eye there is a castle upon a snowy hill, an arcade by the seaside and a country house on a landscape that stretched for miles.

Being locked in a lecture theatre when I went in to play the piano. Getting lost from following the silhouettes of too many churches. Watching the sun set and rise in the library (a beautiful and tragic scenery). A picnic in the Plantation Gardens. Smoky barbecues.

Listening to Of Monsters and Men in a corridor of the Union House. Watching plays in the drama studio. Watching musicals. The Woman in Black. Museums. Ice-skating and tobogganing. Playing Quidditch.

There are the wafts of the Wafflehouse goodies and the frothy Cromer waves. Pigs-in-a-blanket, Yorkshire puddings and mince pies. The caramelised apple of Brighton. A pancake dinner. Italian pasta in Florence. S’mores by a student accommodation. The crack of the crème brûlée the same way Amélie does in Paris. The ‘best’ fish and chips. A cup of tea (milk and two sugars, please).

I’d brought back a series of firsts. My first concert. That first time reciting my poems in an open-mic. A first Christmas dinner. London Fashion Weekend. The first time watching two friends walk down the aisle.

Seeing another issue of the student newspaper in print each fortnight. Cooking enough to feed a hundred. Mortarboards in the air. First internship, second internship, third and fourth. The dinner get-togethers. The takeaways.

A level of confidence I’d not felt before. A bigger pair of eyes and an open heart. The realisation that the world is much smaller than I last remembered it. The many, many faces.

I listed these in my head as the taxi drove me away, as I waited for the plane to take off (half an hour later than it was supposed to). Now I realised that I have carried all the memories and faces home and have no doubt that I will carry them with me wherever I go.

I can only wonder if, after three years abroad, I have left anything behind.