tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
a.k.a. part of our Huddle song on Friday. Went really well actually.

Something else happened on Friday that I forgot to write about in the last entry. In this city, a portrait drawing class received photos of us (the same ones on the website) and used us as practice. During the Celebration we all saw potraits of ourselves, as drawn by this class.

Some turned out really well, some were barely recognizable...mine was deemed a portrait of my twin brother Tony. (It didn't help that the website photo of me is rather bad to begin with.) Hey, at least it makes for an interesting souvenir.

Also, we had a great discussion with Bob and Hiro about the future of Up With People, especially its business side. Basically - we need more money, yo. Hopefully we sparked a few ideas and things work out for the better.

I woke up at 2 o'clock this morning for no real reason. I think my brain has travelled to Europe early. My host mum kept thinking the baby crying woke me up but I heard nothing of the sort. Being bored and way too awake, I went downstairs to the computer and chatted online for a while.

Then at 6 o'clock sharp, I hear this very loudly:

"TING TING TING! OHAYO GOZAIMASU! YOUR RICE IS READY!"

Nothing reaches the height of surrealism more than a talking rice cooker.

Apparently that thing says Good Night too if you set the timer. I swear, it should be the focus of a horror movie. The Rice Cooker. With lines such as:

"Ohayo Gozaimasu - Your rice is rotten today! Have a great breakfast!"
"Ohayo Gozaimasu - I am fed up of rice! Give me something else to cook!"
"Ohayo Gozaimasu - I will take over the world! Listen to me, stupid minions!"

Seriously.

We went to Disney Sea this morning. Like Disneyland except things are more water-based. It was pretty interesting...it wasn't as packed and it was easy to get Fast Passes (gets you to the front of the line) so we didn't have to wait long. Syoko, my host sister, was disappointed that the Mermaid Lagoon was closed though.

I got hijacked for a magic show - basically trying to make a piece of rope hang from an upside down bottle. I know how the trick is done; I had a similar bottle back home. I miss doing magic; I really should get back to it. I was thinking how useful it is to learn circus and magic skills - they really are a workout, they aid with reflexes and flexibility and agility, and it's a blend of the body and the brain and the mind and soul. Everything together.

Tomorrow - HALLOWEEN! My favourite day of the year. Also our flight day to the Netherlands. Nifty. I already have a plan for the day; let's just hope I remember the thing. I'm supposed to pack but I am as always procrastinating.

This faerie will rest her wings for a long flight tomorrow.

Konbawa!

Sep. 20th, 2005 08:13 am
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Ohayo gozaimasu from Toyota, Aichi, Japan!

My brain still hasn't registered that I am in Japan. Perhaps because the 11 hour plane ride didn't sem very long - there were familiar people and ample opportunities to chat and hang out. One of the flight attendants, Tom, was very interested in Up With People; they even announced us on the PA system on the plane and made a special greeting for Yoga's birthday. Way cool.

The one time I get an American roommate - Noelle - and it's in Japan. Funky.

The house is pretty interesting...3 kids, they don't speak much English but we're communicating. Our host mum is so sweet!

Give me a while to register Japan. I'm probably going through some mild form of culture shock but I'll be fine, I hope.

In Denver

Jul. 30th, 2005 08:38 pm
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
The adventure has started! I'm rather sleepy at the moment, so this will be kept short. Apologies in advance for any incoherencies.

The flight to Denver from LA was chaotic. EasyCheckIn wasn't that easy (thank goodness I had a credit card, otherwise I would have been in a bigger bind. As it is, I was to juggle between papers and bags, and my luggage had a mind of its own. United Airlines also suddenly decided that they would downsize the plane, which meant that much of the people were shoved off to another flight later in the day. No way was I giving up my seat now just so I could fly first-class later.

The staff at United were very friendly though. And their biscoff was nice.

I was one of the first to arrive that day...I helped hang around the airport looking for people. The staff are cheery and friendly; nice people. And for you Malaysian Idol fans - one of them is a CARBON COPY of Vick the 3rd Place guy. Seriously.

Most of the WorldSmart crew are here already. We've pretty much made our friends - Katie the documentarian with a digital video camera with her at all times (Victor, you have nothing on her), Brianne the energetic friendly redhead, Noelle from NY, and Chris the UBER COOL MEXICAN CHICA WHO IS NOW MY BEST FRIEND. Well, maybe. We've got two uber-tall people (Andrea and Parker), quite a number of shy ones, a few boisterous ones like myself...mixed bag. There's more coming in the next few days, so yeah, more remains to be seen.

They had an interesting way of linking us to the host families. They gave the host familes and us a passcode ("hostcode") and they'll need to intepret the hostcode in some way they know how. My hostcode was "table tennis"; my host dad took a flat ping pong racquet and taped golf balls to one side. Heh.

I am staying for the next 2-3 weeks in Denver with a Scottish/English family who have been here 22 years. They have two kids in their 20s; one's married, the other's a musician. Their house is GORGEOUS. They also have 2 large dogs (Sam the golden retriever, Simon the boxer mix) which scare me somewhat because they're so big and boisterous.

The host mum is in London due to a family emergency; she'll be back on Monday. The host dad is really sweet. I may meet their host son, Andrew, soon.

I'm feeling sleepy, and it's hard to type on an ergonomic keyboard, so I'll write more later, Feel free to ask questions.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
3rd chunk:

Now That I'm Here

The one thing I did not expect to happen while on arrival would be to walk into a film set. And yet that is exactly what had happened.

I, somewhat lost and looking for my uncle, went to the arrivals hall - what greeted me were giant lights and cameras and people with signs going "Welcome Home Leila! Happy Birthday!" and balloons and roses. I was wondering which reality show were they filming now and whether this "Leila" person was on our flight. Hey, might explain the Daniel Bedingfield lookalike.

It took a while before I found my uncle. And it was then that I figured out what was up with the film crew - a movie named Shanghai Kid is being recorded at the airport. There were huge signs next to the door (they weren't put up yet) saying that there's a movie being filmed, do know you're on camera. I don't think they've started filming when I came up, but if you watch the movie and see a somewhat lost girl with a pile of bags...you know who...

The arrivals process itself was OK, if somewhat unfriendly. I was at the wrong immigration counter (I was at the one meant for citizens) and got sent off to one for visitors. The officer there was all right, but rather formal - he asked me what I was doing here, what course was I doing, where was I studying. Gave me entry for six months. He then took scans of my index fingers and my retina. I was warned about them beforehand, but the retina scan was so quick that I barely even noticed anything being scanned.

There were two luggage carousels for our flight; it was kind of confusing trying to keep an eye on two carousels at once. I thought my bags had arrived, but before they reached my side of the carousel, they were gone.

It was at the second carousel (after the first one stopped spitting bags) that I found my bags, as well as the Bangladeshi couple. I heard them talk to each other in Bengali, and then noticed their Bangladeshi address on their baggage, so I talked to them for a while. (Something inherited from my mother.)

They weren't the only Bangladeshis I bumped into that day.

I was waiting at the customs counter when I suddenly hear the customs officer ask me "Are you Bengali?" in Bengali. He saw the "Bangladesh" entry next to my nationality, and he conducted the whole thing in Bengali. He let me go (he just wanted to know what the heck I was doing here and in Malaysia) but it was still kinda jarring. I've travelled across continents and I hear language used in my family. Odd.

The second customs officer was very straight-to-the-point - "OK, go that way". Not friendly at all. Oi.

My uncle took me back home via the SuperShuttle - shuttle buses that take you from your home to the airport and vice-versa. Fare per person was on the high side...US$20+...that's about RM80! Might as well fly to your house if it's going to cost that much...

We were accompanied in the Shuttle by a few other passengers, including one from Venezuela who was doing a recording of the whole thing for his brother. The trip itself was pretty interesting - a raised round purple restaurant (serves alien food, I'd imagine), biker dudes with LOUD speakers blaring R&B music, a tarot shop right in front of a Catholic church, Little Koreas and Spains popping up here and there...

My uncle's apartment turned out to be in the Little Korea area. Kind of - they were surrounded by Korean buildings and establishments. Most of the neighbours were either Korean or Spanish. (It was unfortunate that I heard a major racial slur yelled by one of the neighbours against the Koreans this morning.) It was a simple one bedroom apartment (the living room became a second bedroom) - modest, but livable. And worth getting used to, since this will pretty much repeat itself over the course of the 19 or 20 weeks ahead.

I think my uncle here is a cousin of my mother's. He and his wife are doing science-related post doctorates; they met in university in Japan. They have two sons; Picasso, two years younger than me but an absolute genius and a half, and Priyo, a seven-year-old that cracks me up hardcore. He wants to be a scientist but he's got more of a future as a comedian.

I slept at around 1 am last night...woke up at 5 this morning, partly because the giant fan had been turned off. (My sleep gets affected if the electricity goes off anytime in the midst of my sleeping.) I couldn't get back to sleep again, even though I was really tired. I saw the sun rise; early, but quite quick.

Everyone got up at around 6 or 7, and we had breakfast together. All sorts of things - hash browns (yum), wheat cereal (urgh), some other things I can't remember. And then I was left alone.

Los Angeles can be quite boring if you're home alone with no one to talk to.

I spent most of the day online, watching television...those old episodes of Newlyweds and Love Connection are disturbing. Very obvious cases of date abuse and spousal abuse and disrespect, and they're laughing over it. There was also a zanier quality to the older gameshowes though...everyone was natural, not prissied up and trained for TV.

My aunt came back later and took me to the Children's Hospital, where she works. While she was at her meeting, I walked around...it was nicely-decorated, with giant alphabet blocks and trees and book tables and all sorts of fun kid stuff. The gift shop had some faery greeting cards, some of which I've seen before online...but nice! Faeries are always good.

I felt really out of place though, whether at the hospital or on the buses that brought us there...fish out of water; me out of my own element. Very strange.

We encountered the "unfriendly LA person" again while at the 99 Cent store. I was looking for a body towel (I couldn't find mine) and a prepaid calling card. When trying to figure out options for cards, the cashier was very surly and uncooperative. "They're all the same, why should you bother?" Not exact words, but exact attitude.

What's the matter with people? Is politeness a lost virtue now?

I'm back home now. I'm probably missing a lot of details here, but I really should get back to sleep. Tomorrow is my last day (for now) in LA; on Saturday I'm flying off to Denver.

And then everything starts.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I've had some sleep (ok, 4 hours) and it's about 8:25 in the morning here. Everyone's gone off for their own work so I'm home alone.

Here's the second chunk:

On The Flight

I was seated in the first Economy Class row - originally 26C, right opposite where the flight attendants sit. However, there was another guy that came in and had my seat too. (He shall henceforth be known as Double-Seated Guy, or DS Guy for short.) The flight attendents checked out passes, and it turns out my seat got swapped - so now I was at 26A, right behind the exit.

Quite an interesting spot, that.

The first leg of the flight was to Taipei - 4 hours flight, pretty much like flying to Dhaka. (Incidentally, I encountered a couple from Bangladesh on the flight - will elaborate on this later.) In our row:

Me, checking out the view while contemplating using the exit shelf as a temporary table. Well, not really. But I took out the inseat table as soon as I can and started writing in my journal - I needed something to do.

Middle Guy 1, who spent the whole flight watching movies (Beauty Shop, and something else with Jimmy Fallon). Incidentally, Malaysian Airlines are airing Sepet this month, but only to routes in Australia, UK, and Africa. Sigh.

DS Guy, who is quite the cutie spent quite some time looking out the exit window, admiring the view. We chatted for a while. He also spent a lot of time studying the GMAT - turns out he's starting on a Masters degree soon. Whoa. He's also travelled around the world - Peru, Brazil, Thailand, all sorts of places.

The leading flight attendant for this leg was a lady named Precious - heavy blue eyeshadow, seemingly British until she launches into her very Malaysian-Indian accent. Like Asha when she's making a point. She could have been either very hilarious or very patronizing...but we didn't interact long enough to find out.

We had a "light snack" (more like something that makes up for lunch) - chicken, fish, or curry. I took the fish; eh, it was OK. It tasted like it was swimming in oyster sauce - not bad doe me, as I eat oyster sauce on occasion. mmm umami.

Then we had the best after-meals snack ever - ICE CREAM! Crunch - vanilla icecream with a crunchy chocolate centre and cover. I turn into a little kid when given icecream...come on, who doesn't?

We stopped over in Taipei around 8 pm for about an hour. Already I was being bombarded with text messages from Maxis and FarEasTone (Taipei's telco provider) - apparently I can get free weather reports, and now's the time to activate GPRS on my phone. There was an Internet section, but you needed your own computer, and it wasn't clear on how exactly you were expected to pay for it. The only store worth visiting - the bookstore, of course - was closed; however, they did have a rather intriguing store that was connected to their Museum of History.

We all hung around the departure lounge for a while. Security checks were normal - I did set off the metal detector, and the guard thought I still had my cellphone with me, but I showed him the phone on the Xray carousel and he let me through.

There is a Daniel Bedingfield lookalike on our flight.

The next leg - Taipei to LA, 11 hours or so. It seemed faster than before; last time, it took about 24 hours. Or at least it felt that way. Still, 11 hours straight on an airplane can get boring.

We had a new Middle Guy (2), who brought along a book titled "50 Facts That Should Change The World". He too spent the flight watching movies. He was also sniffly; and now, thanks to him, I have a blocked nose too. Bah.

I spent most of the flight reading my downloaded materials on my PDA. I couldn't spend long hours on it though; my eyes started to hurt. I did spend some time playing trivia games (since when was a question on Little Women considered "Science"?!) - DS Guy wanted to play multiplayer with me, but it wasn't working.

Another leading stewadress, Lee Ling, complimented me on my rainbow toe socks. YAY SOXES.

We had fish again for dinner! Not our choices this time; they ran out of choices. The fish was mediocre, not even umami. I'll be darned if we have to take fish again for brunch.

The immigration papers were a bit confusing, mainly because there wasn't enough space for all my pertinent information. And I wasn't sure how to value the host family gifts I brought over (you have to provide the value of anything you're bringing over to the US that's staying there - gifts included). I eventuallyw wrote that they were all worth about US$40, but even that seemed a bit much.

Sleeping was an experience in and of itself. I didn't have a lot of legroom, and there was that exit shelf in the way. After trying to twist into various positions, I eventually tried putting my feet up on the shelf. Whee, slippery - and whee, I'm too short. But what to do? I had to fall asleep somehow.

The skies made very interesting patterns. There was bluer-than-blue sky below, then light blue and white slies on top, split in the middle by a brilliant orange sunset. (DS Guy alerted me to it) It was like nature's idea of a straight line...perhaps not completely straight mathematically, but perfect. LAter on, as the sky got darker and we went towards night, there was this lone star...small little jewel on a velvet blue sky.

Taiwan at night looks like an electric lung. The island is shaped like one...there were dust-red capillaries of its lifeblood, traffic and people...its cells, the skyscrapers and buildings, lighted up with activity.

The clouds look like swans.

We were reaching Los Angeles, and there was something curious about the cloud system there. Apparently, due to the water being cold but the land being hot (LA is a desert city), clouds don't cover the land. This creates an interesting effect when viewed from an airplane - it looks like there are lands that come up to sky level. Like another world.

LA by plane is an experience in itself. There are sprawling deserts and mountains...one wonders how they travel back and forth amongst all that dust and sand. There were also squares and rectangles of grass, desert, concrete...and nothing else. Just squares and rectangles of space. SO MUCH SPACE.

There were also interesting seeing the patterns of the buildings - huge sprawling mansions and multi-level buildings, constrasted by blocks and rows and small little houses. One of them belonging to my uncle; another, to my future host family.

There was quite a buildup at the washrooms just before we landed. We almost formed a Bathroom Brigade right there and then. One of the stewards was in charge of cleaning out the sinks; it must be a sight, walking out of the washroom door only to be confronted by a guy in a suit and plastic gloves.

Brunch was spinach omelettes with tomatoes, chicken, and hash browns. Much better.

The descent looked like we were going to land on the highway. Illusions are interesting in the air.

The flight felt very freeing...I was alone, I had to fend for myself, but it was alright. I didn't need anyone, I wasn't homesick, I wasn't worried. I didn't have to depend on anyone to get by.

Everything was fine.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
It's 11:17 PM, I'm at my uncle's house in Los Angeles, and my body thinks I'm still on the plane because everything is bobbing up and down around me.

Where do I start...

I'll do this in chunks, because there's just a LOT to tell you. First chunk:

Before The Flight To Los Angeles

It was a bit chaotic just before we (me and Mum) left the house to go to the Senai Airport in Johor. Mum kept coming up with random things to add (I had to stop her at the nailcutter), I was trying to transfer some files over to my PDA for reading on the plane, and the zips on one of my bags broke. Thank goodness we had another one that was identical (it's the Hitz.FM bag if anyone is curious) but it took a while for me to convince Mum that the Hitz bag was just fine, no need to push other bags on me. And just before we really had to go, my computer decided to hang. Bah.

We made it to the airport (way ahead of time - there's not a lot to do in Senai) and we made it on the flight, albeit with a gate change in the middle. Nothing major here. (I do remember nattering to my mum about something; I forgot what though.)

My last meal in KL (that sounds drastic) was mee rebus and teh tarik. Noodles cooked in a certain type of sauce ("rebus" means "boil", as in "boil an egg" not "boil water") with milk tea that has been pulled between two mugs to ensure frothiness. I asked for less chillies and they gave me extra chillies instead. Oh well; the teh tarik made up for it.

Dad found a travel bag store and wanted to buy me more bags. Uh, no.

So many emotions were going through my mind...joy, sadness, excitement, nervousness...so many things. I was alternately laughing, screaming, and crying. It was intense. I started to wonder if I had gone mad. I have absolutely no frame of reference for this; I couldn't compare it to anything. This is maddening.

Immigration went without a hitch (tip: if you hold a Malaysian IC, even though you have a foreign passport, you can go to the Malaysian Passport counter). There were free Internet kiosks at the departure lounge, though one computer had some sort of log in problem (and it was a bit on the slow side). There was quite a line to board, but it was pretty painless overall.

This is a codesharing flight between Malaysian Airlines and Air India. It's going to Los Angeles from Kuala Lumpur via Taipei (and perhaps Hyderabad, since there were quite a number of people that started there). Fear the multiculturalness.

I did receive a bunch of phonecalls from those who have been in my life for a while. Even talked to my best friend via SMS for a while. It all seems like I'm going off forever, never to return.

Well, I am returning...but I don't think I'm return the same. Even as I walked through the immigration counter, I had already changed.

[Stay tuned for more chunks coming up...I need to sleep sometime...]
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
My series of flights begins tomorrow, Wednesday morning, at around 11 am, from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur. From there, I will fly to Los Angeles at around 3 pm.

I'm not sure if I will be updating this log between now and my arrival in LA, so don't expect any entries for about two days at least.

The last two assignments have come in. One about leadership, and the other about any general questions we had. The leadership assignment stumped me a little; they asked about your leadership role models, and if anything you read recently had any connection to your thoughts on leadership. My role models tend to be lone rangers; they neither lead nor follow, they just do what they want to do. If anyone wants to join them, great...but they don't need anyone with them to survive. They're self-sustainable.

I will need a great deal of self-sustainability to survive - not just WorldSmart, but everything after that. I don't want to rely on anything or anyone. Almost everytime I do so, it has ended in folly. Best to keep control to myself, so I can keep track of it.

It's the fast track to insanity, but I'm already pretty much crazy so that doesn't make much of a difference.

I brought up the issue of religion and religious freedom in WorldSmart, spurred on by the "cult" concerns mentioned in the previous entry. Let's see what their response is to that. I don't think it'll be too drastic or horrible...but a little reassurance is nice sometimes.

I am licensing this log under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. This means that you are free to distribute this log, or any of its entries, anywhere (and heck, remix and parody it if you want) as long as you:

* Attribute it to Tiara Shafiq
* Provide a link to http://www.livejournal.com/users/upwithtiara
* Provide the same license in your distribution
* Not use this for commercial purposes without my permission - i.e. don't publish this log into a book and sell it without my permission, don't use it to advertise something, and so on

There is an exception to the NonCommercial thing. Newspapers and magazines are free to syndicate this log in their publications, as long as I am credited, there is a link to this log, and I am notified about it.

I'm not sure if there are any newspapers or magazines that want to syndicate this, but if you want to, go ahead - just credit me, link this, and tell me about it.

I'll catch you in Los Angeles. Till then, take care everyone.

Here goes.


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