Wednesday, 1 June 2016


Those who know me well enough would know that my current obsession in the UK is Lush. 

Lush Cosmetics.

To be frank, actually there are not many other things that excite me about the UK, so when I have something that I LOVE, I'm soooo into it! Even if that means stupidly drooling over odd-looking soaps, naughtily-named moisturisers and heady-smelling blocks of goodness!

I was first introduced to Lush when I was in NZ, nearing the end of my 2-year study there. What a shame! I only got a chance to try one of its products, one of the most popular facial cleansers, Angels on Bare Skin. I'm hooked, ever since. But there still isn't any Lush store in Malaysia, thus imagine my excitement when I'm in the UK! What more when I got to know that it's actually an English product. 

Invented in England..and in my case, also made in England. 

Ok, I'll just list some of the reasons why I love Lush.

1. They work!

Yerp, some may feel that syampoo bars and cleverly-named beauty products are just a fad, but there must be a good reason why this company has been stronger than ever for the past few decades. Many have reported Lush products have changed their lives, especially those who have serious skin conditions. Many people really do swear by their products. 

2. They are natural! and 100% vegetarian.

Well, I'm not a vegetarian. But it sure is good to know that the products are completely sourced from plants and other natural ingredients which are usually good enough to eat! Which means they're, insya Allah, halal! But be careful that there are a small number of products that contain wine and other intoxicating alcohol (not the ones permissible for cosmetics). You know lah how they like to add alcohol in food or food-like products like this, just for the fun of it. But fret not, Lush is very transparent in its list of ingredients. 

And because the products are mostly made of natural ingredients, they smell divine. You can detect that a Lush store is not far from you from its strong distinctive smell even from 500 metres away! The products are even hand-made! and some require refrigeration. Lush tries its best too keep the items in 'naked' packaging.

-Latest visit to Lush, Coventry. Look at all the naked goodness!

3. They are ethical.

The ingredients are all sourced from ethical companies, or even from poorer communities to help them with their economy. Products are not tested on animals. Yey!! Even if the products need to be properly packaged, they come in 100% recycled containers which can be reused or returned to the store. You'll get a free fresh mask for every 5 empty containers returned. Some items, like The Charity Pot lotion, is sold solely for charity purposes, thus the name. 100% of sales of this product are donated to small deprived organisations. Wonderful! 

This is a good alternative to other more commercial products which support animal testing or even the Zionist regime (e.g. all Loreal-affiliated companies, including The Body Shop!). 

4. They are sooooo cute and aptly-named!

I admire Lush workers who are responsible for naming the products. They are geniuses!!! I'm such a sucker for witty words. 

5. They have the best staff ever!

I don't know how they always get to hire the chirpiest people ever existed on earth. The staff are so friendly and they consist of people of diverse backgrounds. Some are fully-tattooed, some look like trans, some are hijabis, some have crazy piercings all over their bodies, some look like nerds, some are really macho-looking men who look good enough to work in the parliament, some look like grandmas, some look like gothic goddesses, some look like Osama Bin Laden, some have pink hair,  some appear like drug addicts, and some are softies. But, they're all sweeeett and helpful!! 

6. You are entitled to free samples.

So yes, the items are on the pricier side, but you can always ask for free samples, both at the store and online. Not one, up to even 5 if you want! They are usually of generous amount, good enough to be used for up to two weeks. That's convenient for those who have very sensitive skin, allergies, or the tendency to be picky. Try it out first, if you like it, come back to buy a bigger tub or a full-sized item. The mini tubs the samples come in can in fact be kept for travel purposes later. Convenient!

7. There's this thing called the Kitchen!

This feature is only available online and if I'm not mistaken, only in the UK. They promote exclusive or seasonal products that are usually sold out in 2 days or so. Everyday there's a new menu added to the kitchen. The items need to be 'pre-ordered' and Lush will indicate when they will be ready. Lush claims that the kitchen products are fresh and they are sent fresh the same day they're finished being made. I just get excited over knowing all these new items although I rareeeeely bought any of them. I just find the idea to be very smart. You can even see how the items are made through their Instagram pages and even their own TV Channel link! I haven't tried the TV link yet. 

8. They have an interesting line of unconventional fragrances. 

The fine fragrances are made of mostly essential oils and are claimed to be inspired by art, music and poetry. I tried a few such as Karma, Lust and Sikkim Girls, and I love them all! Clearly, they are also oddly-named! The packaging is simple and surely does not really look exclusive, unlike most mainstream perfumes. Because they use natural essential oils, they claim that their perfumes smell differently on different people because of the natural reaction to people's different types of skin and body heat. 

9. Lush even has its own freakin' spa!

How cool is that? But this is only available at limited outlets throughout the UK. Not available in Coventry. And the spa packages are super expensive! Hint2 nudge for a present, coz I clearly wont be able to afford it. Hahaha. I'd rather spent my money on their products and enjoy the spa-like experiences everyday. 

I think that's all for now. Be prepared to read a number of Lush-related posts in the next 3 years. Hahaha. 

So, have you been Lushed?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

My Favourite 'Muslimah' Brands

You may be more than aware that these days Muslimah clothing brands are mushrooming in Malaysia. I really admire these people's entrepreneurial skills which at the same time, appeal to the growing Malaysian Muslim ladies community who prefer more syariah-compliant clothing. 

I'm no exception.

And in fact, after a few years of becoming a hijabi, I have some favourites. Not all of them are that glamourous, but they sell items that fit my tastes and needs. Here they are:

1. Cattleya Couture

I love their long tunics (colourful, ironless and with pockets) and instant shawls which to me are not only pretty, but very practical (instant and ironless). After having two kids, you don't care too much about looks sometimes. What matters most is that you are able to get ready in minutes, in total chaos. 

2. Rina Salleh Clothing

Rina Salleh is a fusion of style and practicality too. But I think it's a little more fashionable than Cattleya in the sense that the style of their clothing is a bit unique. It, however, sometimes lacks the practicality (like many of their shawls are not instant and ironless and some of their tops are pocketless). 

3. Benang Hijau

Benang Hijau has almost the same vibe as Cattleya Couture but I have only recently realised that it doesn't only sell shawls, but it also has quite a good selection of tops which look quite good and practical too. But price-wise, their tops are a bit pricier than Cattleya. 

4. Love To Dress

I loveeee LTD dresses! I mean, I don't even love dresses to begin with, but their modest long-sleeve dresses are to die for! And they have options for petite people like me! Hooray! It has very neat detailing and uniquely simple designs. The only thing that stops me from buying more is because it's quite expensive and ironing the dress can be a little too laborious. More suitable for more celebratory events like weddings, graduation ceremonies, or even Raya!

5. MMBasic

This is a new favourite. I have just realised that the kurungs they sell are pretty!!! It's like not too traditional, with a simple fusion of some Western-inspired silhouettes.

There are many more good labels out there, especially more expensive ones like Duck, Kree, Aere, Jovian Mandagie, Rizalman, etc. But the five brands above are the ones that win my heart, so far, in many respects.

I'm not a fan of more mainstream Muslimah brands like Zawara, Calaqisya and Bella Ammara anymore. After buying some of their items, I realised that, generally, their styles and practicality do not exactly match my preferences.

And of course, sometimes when I like something so much, but the prices are too unreasonable for me, I would ask my tailor in Malaysia to help me 'replicate' it. She managed to replicate a skirt I love from Kree before. I'm soooo happy! It's a lot cheaper this way!!! And scarves too. After my visits to kedai kain, checking the prices of the material per metre and realising how much these brands are making money out of selling such scarves, I have also bought some kain metre myself and asked my tailor to jahit tepi. Settled!

Oh and if you wanna buy these brands, they are available on their individual websites, Modvier, and can also be bought via OPS (Official Personal Shoppers). I have just discovered about OPS these past few weeks. I knew about personal shoppers, and that they charge a bit for their service. But you do not have to pay for 'upah' with these OPS. I think the companies have officially appointed them and give them a good pay for their service. Win-win situation I guess. 

Just to be clear, I'm not a brand-oriented person. But if I don't have the time, and these brands readily sell something that is nice and convenient to wear, what more if they have a major sale, why not??

Takyah dengki2 kejayaan bisness orang lain. Let's be happy about other people's achievements and support them.

If we want to be successful like them, we should then learn from their stories. 


P/S- I am not paid by the companies mentioned, not even 1 cent. Hahaha.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

You are what you wear?

Obviously I haven't updated my blog for quite some time. I have lotsa things on my mind that I've been thinking of writing about here, but I keep postponing. Grr...

Some of the reasons I made this new blog and closed the old one are:

1. My old blog was a little too 'childish'.
2. I wanted a new platform to share my PhD journey. 
3. My previous blog had too much of my pictures not covering my aurah.

So relating to no.3, I'm gonna talk a bit on clothing today. I hope this won't be too lengthy, as my other entries.

My good friends before I got married knew how 'stubborn' I was when it came to clothing.

During those days, I would consider myself not too sexy, and surely not that modest. On normal occasions not governed by any 'rules', I wouldn't wear any head scarves. I didn't exactly come from a religious family. So, it didn't really feel odd. I was not being rebellious. I just didn't feel like wearing it. I considered my hair to be a big part of my identity. Yeah, of course I gave lotsa 'excuses' which were then all very valid to me. 

My secondary school was pretty religious actually, and I was surrounded by mostly religious friends who observed Islamic teachings, clothing-wise. I was ridiculed my some boys about not wearing the hijab. Some even had the audacity to say "Kalau tak pakai tudung, baik bogel je". I cried. Did that make me want to wear a hijab? Nope. It pretty much had a reverse effect. I became even more stubborn and hated all these pretentious people who acted like God.

Even during university years, when I joined UiTM for a while, I was among a very small number of 'free-hair' girls in UiTM Jalan Othman. I always received cold stares from seniors. Not exactly motivating.

When I joined IPBA, there were 10 of us in a 'dorm'. 7 of us were Malays, and at the beginning, I was the only one who was free-hair. I didn't care. I just was the kind of person who didn't give a d*mn, as long as I did not interfere in other people's business.

All through the university years, there were ups and downs. Whenever I was with 'alim-looking' people who were being nice to me, and didn't seem to judge me, I really thought highly of these people. I admired them. A true reflection of Muslims. Nonetheless, there were people who were a little too judgmental, saying nasty things, who totally turned me off from becoming 'one of them' - wearing head scarves but whose personality did not exactly reflect true Muslims, who by right shouldn't judge others.

Actually, even my own mom started wearing hijab after the age of 40, and I started wearing one after I got married. Ok, to be exact, 3 weeks after I got married. So I have been a 'hijabi' lady for just over 6 years. I remember feeling very anxious to see my mom's reaction when she first saw me in hijab. It was at the airport in Alor Star. She was trying to find a girl with long hair, but couldn't find one. Of course she looked shocked when she finally realised my new image, but I'm glad it wasn't too awkward. Hehe. Doesn't really matter now. We all develop at a different pace. 

Ok I don't even know where this is going, but basically I think I want to convey the message that wearing a hijab is still relatively new to me. It has started to feel normal in the past 1-2 years, but not really before that. 

And my progress to 'improve' myself, in terms of covering aurah, has been quite slow. I started off with just wearing 'bawal', not quite covering the chest area. I didn't care much about whether my pants were too tight or if my top was too short. Then slowly, with the examples shown by good friends, I started wearing longer tops, bigger shawls, and then slowly wearing socks and hand socks. It wasn't a drastic change for me from the beginning, obviously. Of course I wish I had made a better and faster change, but I do believe that it was such a gradual change too that made the habit easier to be formed and difficult to be lost, in my situation. I think, knowing my personality, if there were people who condemned my un-Islamic way of dressing in my first few attempts at covering my aurah, I would have been defensive and turned the other way around, out of disgust.

I would like to thank my friends and anyone around me who have been silently preaching me to be a better Muslim, in this respect, by simply becoming good role models. By exemplifying good behaviours, and modest looks which make me strive to become a 'better' Muslim. That it feels attainable..That it doesn't seem difficult...that they could still look good!

Clearly, there are a lot of things I need to improve in this sense. For example, I still love colours soooo much. So for now, it's very dfficult for me to give up colourful clothing and makeup. Oh, and heels too! I still love fashion. I know there are many opinions on this, but this is the best I can do for now. Allah knows my intentions, I'm not out to attract guys etc and He knows I'm trying my best. He is the All-knowing, who looks for my effort, not 'perfection'. But, insya Allah slowly but surely, I will try to be a better person, on the inside and outside.

Does covering my aurah 'better' than before means that I'm a 'better' person now? Nope. Not necessarily. There are in fact at certain points of my life I feel that I was nicer back then, when I didn't exactly look Islamic enough. This journey teaches me to be less judgmental and be more open to diversities around me. Only Allah has the right to judge.

Now, I'm more than happy to shop for Muslimah clothing labels which sell loose tunic tops and other less revealing styles. I realise I can still look acceptable, feel good about myself whilst trying to please Allah too. Yeah, I had to give up some deep-seated interests in earings and hairstyles, but I've developed other new interests too. I'm more than excited these days to have a good collection of nice instant shawls that will make my life easier, as easy as it was to just go out of the house after a shower with damp hair. There are no more excuses.

Islam is easy. Let's not make it difficult.

Thank you Allah for your help and for bringing the right people into my life.

Thank you.


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Things I Love about Coventry

I think I'd mentioned a few weeks earlier about how I've started loving The University of Warwick but not really loving Coventry and the UK, just yet.

Today, I can say that I've started to love Coventry too. Not as deep as my love for Gombak, Shah Alam or Wellington, of course...I've only been here for 14 weeks! 

But since the 1st of October 2015, I've been to short trips to other cities, like Birmingham, Cardiff, Swansea, Bath, Bristol, and Oxford. Not much, but I can start to see some additional appeal of living in Coventry somehow. 

The reasons I start loving Coventry are:

1. The People, The Culture

Malaysians here are quite a close-knit community and we help one another in all sorts of ways. Allah gives me the opportunity to meet like-minded Malaysians over here with whom I can be good friends, till Jannah insya Allah. For example, my friends Aireen and Hana are the closest to me now as they live nearby and come from related fields of study. and of course their characteristics too seem to blend well with mine, surprisingly, considering my eccentric nature. Alhamdulillah. 

So we get to grab some drinks together, have impromptu lunch, surprise one another with random acts of kindness,  go to gym together sometimes (we signed up together starting last December), go to the city together, join Parkrun and etc. I find friendships the most invaluable gift for now coz I don't get close to people that easily, that fast...and it's quite amazing I can do that with these two people. Alhamdulillah

-me with Aireen-

 -me with Hana-

Other Malaysians are super nice too. There are a lot of regular informal religious talks-usrah being conducted too, the kind of activities that I rarely attended in Malaysia :( . So this is a good exposure, clearly. and of course there's makan-makan too afterwards, that can give me temporary satiation for my lust for Malaysian food. 

-One of the Usrah sessions-

The beautiful thing is, other local people here are quite nice too. I've been blessed with wonderful neighbours. So I hope we could live in the same house for the next 3 years, insya Allah. Hopefully, the landlord loves us too. Never met him/her, though. and so far I've not experienced any racist encounters in Coventry yet. Alhamdulillah...May we always be protected by the mercy of Allah.

I also have fellow mommy friends like Siti, Nabilah and Esther who have children about the same age as mine. So we understand each others' challenges and get to meet quite often when we send our kids to school in the morning and fetch them at 315pm.

And I get the chance to attend some Islamic talks in the university too. The Islamic association here is pretty strong and established. Love it! 

Every single week there will be free talks that are open to ALL! Yes I mean ALL. You don't have to be Muslims, you are not required to don the hijab, etc. Although some religious preachers may not agree with this approach, I think such a welcoming and unrestrictive culture can really change the perspective about Islam and vanquish the growing Islamophobia among many people here. They can attend the talk and listen for themselves that Islam is a religion of peace. All are constantly reminded not to judge others. I can already see a number of familiar non-Muslim faces who frequently attend such talks, look very interested to join Islam and start learning about it. Alhamdulillah. And an additional advantage is I get to know new friends too! Just yesterday, I got to know two French muslims and two British muslims and they are soooo friendly!!!

2. The University of Warwick. 

Of course. I've even dedicated one post just on this. You can access it here too: The University of Warwick

3. The residential area

It's peaceful and clean here. I feel pretty safe, although I still don't dare to walk at night, except in the university area. 

I've been to Birmingham, and I personally feel that it is generally too crowded, dirty and less safe. What is quite embarrassing is that, usually a place in the UK is dirty and unsafe when it has a high percentage of Muslim population. :( . What an irony when our religion clearly promotes peace and hygiene. :(

4. The city

It's not as bad as I thought it would be before I came here. Not too 'kampung'...and not too extravagant. Yeah, it may not be as pretty as other cities like Bath and Oxford but it's fairly ok. And it's not as walkable as Wellington, but it's a fairly small city in which you can finish exploring on foot in less than a day. It has many eateries and even IKEA!And it has a reasonable amount of shopping places that can still tempt the shopaholic side of me. 

I like the fact that it doesn't seem to have places for clubbing. Or maybe there are, but quite hidden. 

The location of Coventry is also quite strategic, smacked right in the middle of England which means all other major cities are not tooooo far from Coventry.

5. The food!!

There's a huge selection of Halal food here. I was very surprised! Both at the university and the city. In the city, we have one halal KFC, one Halal Nandos, one Halal Subway, Chicken Cottage, and an endless number of other less established Halal eateries, from Middle eastern cuisines, to Indian, German chicken sausages, etc! We also have an area called Foleshill, which is pretty much a Halal food heaven! 
-where we usually buy our Halal raw meat-

Here too we have a mobile app named Just Eat for takeaways. I think it's something like Malaysian Food Panda.

You can filter your search for Halal outlets, and I found 58 choices of Halal restaurants from which I can make orders for home food delivery! That's impressive. But I've only tried that once. Though convenient, most ready-made foods in the UK are not exactly cheap. It's always cheaper to cook by ourselves as the grocery items in supermarkets are super-cheap!

6. The roads and rules

Yes, UK roads are notorious for its endless roundabouts. But, comparatively, the roads in Coventry are not thaaat confusing, with not that many cars. The rules are also easier to follow, and the city doesn't have as many cameras as other bigger or more 'established' cities like London or Oxford. We got two love letters (read: summonses) from Oxford only after being there for less than 3 hours! Crazy!! 

7. Weather

This may sound weird as UK is not known for good weather, in general. It also doesn't have a 'unique' weather like Wellington, but generally it's OK here. Fairly temperate. Generally not windy but it was quite windy at the end of Autumn in Nov/Dec. But stiiilll ok. The winter really feels like winter although snow so far seems to be an occasional phenomenon. It snowed this morning at 6am but I missed it. No heavy snow showers that have disrupted anything so far. But perhaps, too early to tell. The temperatures are plunging now and I haven't experienced Spring and Summer in Coventry yet. We'll see. 

-that morning when it snowed!-

8. My house

Hahaha.. yeah, not perfect. But I can call it my temporary home for now. Just a small terrace house with 3 bedrooms. Not as pretty as many other houses here, but oklaaa.. Comfortable enough to live for the next 3 years, insya Allah. There are also a number of nice helpful Malaysians in this area. I even carpool with some of them on certain nights when I want to spend longer hours in the university until midnight. and it only takes 5 minutes by car (and 30-40mins walk) to reach the university and the nearest 'shopping centre'. Not too bad. The nearest supermarket and hypermarket from home The Cooperative and Sainsbury, are just 5 and 10 minutes walk away from home, respectively.

I guess that's it for now. Will edit, if necessary.

Ciao! Salam.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

"Orang mana?"

That's a very simple question asked by many fellow Malaysians, which is far from easy for me to answer. 

People tend to usually quote their birthplace to explain where they are originally from, or perhaps a current residential place, long enough to be a part of their identity. 

I like exploring identity issues...but the truth is, I'm sometimes confused about my own identity. 

Back to the question, it's awkward for me to quote my birthplace as I happened to be born in Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Only lived there for the first 2 years of my life. Can't remember any bit of it. I don't really like to be associated with Australia actually. Hahahaha. So no, I can't say that I'm from Australia for sure (although I was told that I actually have a choice to be a PR/an Australian citizen easier than the general non-Australian public, if I want to, but thank you). 

-Royal Hospital for Women, Paddington, Sydney-

So, I usually quote my parents' birthplace and the place they were raised as where I'm from. That's Kedah. My mom is from Alor Setar and my father is from Changlun. Not as awkward as saying I'm from Australia but it still personally feels funny as I never really lived in Kedah. The longest I've lived in Kedah was 6 months, and that was when I was teaching in UiTM Merbok, Kedah. Not long enough to actually establish myself as a Kedahan I suppose. My obviously outlandish Kedah accent doesn't help either. :P


So what are my remaining choices? The closest one (to the heart) is actually Gombak, Selangor. That's because as far as I could remember, the first memory of my childhood was in Gombak.. We lived there upon returning from Sydney Australia in 1986/7. and since then, I lived there for about 14 years (1987-1991; 1996-2004). I was in Rompin, Pahang in between those years (1992-1995). 

-My primary school, for 3 years-

My whole secondary school years were in Sekolah Menengah Seri Gombak-- a humble daily school, 10 mins walk away from home. No regrets. Absolutely my choice. :) . Back then, it felt ok to say I'm from Gombak, but these days...again, it feels awkward since none of my family members lives there anymore. 

-Sekolah terchenta-

Mid 2004, our family moved to Presint 8, Putrajaya, as my father used to work there before retirement. I rebelled as I loved Gombak so much. It was a place where I learned about life and established a lot of meaningful friendships.

-The view from my bedroom in Putrajaya was really something like this-

Thank God I only had to live there for 6 months before going off to Wellington, New Zealand for a 2-year study period, a part of a twinning programme with KPM. 

-Wellington city, New Zealand-

When I returned to Malaysia end of 2006, my family had already started living in Jitra, Kedah that year, until now. What a culture shock that was! Gombak-Putrajaya-Wellington-Jitra. Grrr...

-Bandar Darul Aman, Jitra, Kedah-

For my Masters studies in June 2008-November 2009, I lived in Kuala Lumpur mostly. One semester in Kolej 11 hostel in UM, one semester renting a room in a crazy Indian granny's terrace house in Bangsar, and another semester renting a room in a flat-rumah kedai level 2 in Taman Seri Manja, PJ Old Town. Quite a crazy ride I must say.

Before I came to Coventry for studies, I lived in Shah Alam for work purposes as I was teaching in UiTM Shah Alam. I love Shah Alam, but I had only lived there for about 5 years. I guess not long enough to say that I'm from there too. 

-Picture taken from our condominium unit on level 7 in Seksyen 9, Shah Alam-

and now, I'm in Coventry for PhD studies. Doakan... 

-Coventry city-

But since my parents are from Kedah, and they are in fact currently residing in Kedah, I guess that's my best choice. I actually personally treat Kedah more as my 'kampung'...not exactly MY place. It has always been that way. A short visit to Kedah during Hari Raya once a year, since I was small. Or during university term break (during final year degree and Master studies), at most. What to do...

So I guess, I will never get the answer. That question will always be the most unappealing question for me to answer. I would be hesitant and I won't ever be happy with my answer. 

But that's alright, I guess eccentricity is in my blood. ;)

I might as well just give people the link to this post if they ask me "'orang mana?" rather than bore them with a 20-minute lecture about my regional identity. ;)

What matters most is that all these places have somehow contributed to at least a part of who I am today as we learn different things in different settings. :D

But if you are a non-Malaysian, my answer is absolutely clear -- I'm a Malaysian. :)

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Darwish's schooling experience

As requested by Ms Yana, here is a (hopefully) short story of Darwish's experience in his new school in Coventry, England so far.

So on the 23rd of November, after about 53 days of absolute boredom at home for Darwish, he started schooling in one of the state-run schools in Coventry.

We applied for a different school nearest to home, but that school was fully booked for the Reception class that Darwish has to be in. So we got our second choice, the second nearest, which is 10 minutes drive away. 

Not too bad, but the thought that his school could have ideally just been a 5-minute walk journey from home bugs me at times. I'm still considering changing his school soon, but we'll see how our luck is. Here, they are really strict about class size. So it's not that easy. 

The different school year groups are:

1) Nursery- 3 years old (turned 3 before the September term that year). Free for only 3 hours per day. 
2) Reception - 4 years old (turned 4 before the September term that year)
3) Year 1 - 5 years old (turned 5 before the September term that year)
4) Year 2 - and so on... "
5) Year 3 - "
6) Year 4 - "
7) Year 5 - "
8) Year 6 - "

That's why Darwish is in the Reception class although he is already 5 years old, as he was born in October. But I'm okay with that since I think it's better that he learns more basic stuff first and play more. ;)

And that's why Harith is not eligible for anything at the school yet as he was only 2+ years old by September last year. Grrr...

The school, from Reception to Year 6, is totally free of charge for 6 hours per day. So far we only had to pay for the red sweater school uniform and his school bag. That's it. The pants and inner white polo shirts can be bought at Tesco at cheaper prices. 

That's the nice thing about schools in the UK. For nursery, you will only need to pay for anything more than 3 hours per day...and it's extremely expensive!

The lunch and snacks are free too for Reception up to Year 3 classes. Menu is given weeks earlier and parents can choose exactly what their kids eat every day. Fruit, water and yogurt are always available throughout the 6 hours. 

His school is Okaaayyy.. Nothing to shout about. Very multiracial. It's located in Canley, an area which is near to the university but  notorious for some naughty kids, low-income families and a range of immigrants (including us Malaysians of course. Yes, we are the Banglas!). It put me off a bit actually at first, coz I was worried about his safety and all but so far so good. 

The safety at school is well taken care of and the range of ethnicities in the school could be an advantage really.  All parents for all levels MUST send their kids in front of their respective classes every morning. Not at the main gate.That is at 8.45am sharp. And the kids must be fetched at the same place at 3.15pm. So 6 hours of class time. 

-Darwish on first day of school-

He has White, Black, Arab, Malaysian and other Asian classmates. and a number of Muslims too. so I feel quite at ease about this. We don't feel like the only foreign entities here. huhu... The school library even has this book:     :D

The daily school routine is:
1. Wait at the classroom door at 8.45 am until the teacher calls in. 
2. Allow the kids in...and the kids will go to their assigned area to hang their coats and place their school bags. 
3. Attendance will then be taken. 
4. Classes will start. God knows what they are studying coz parents can't stalk their kids. 
5. Wait at the door at 3.15pm 
6. Teacher will open the door and parents can state the name of their children and only then the kids will be allowed to leave the classroom. 

So safety issues, insya Allah, ok. 

This is how much they place great importance on attendance and lateness. Every second counts. 

Every Tuesday, all kids get to choose the books they love from the library to borrow for a week, to be read at home together with parents. This is the book Darwish chose for this week. I think this is our influence.. of watching too much MasterChef at home. hrmmph...huhu.. 

Last December, the mood for Christmas was all over the school. Although Christmas is supposed to be a religious celebration, but what I notice is that it has become a cultural phenomenon too. Darwish's teachers and friends are well aware that he is a Muslim but he still got a lot of X'mas cards from them! He even made one. The one in green on the left, in the pic below!

There was also a X'mas celebration 2 weeks before X'mas. Parents were also requested to bring sweets and chocolate for the kids. We went with the flow as long as the event was not something clearly religious that may confuse him. We don't want to be too restrictive to the point that he's missing the fun with his friends. That's important for his social skills and confidence too, I think. So far, we only didn't give permission for him to attend an event at the church. The school respects students' different backgrounds and beliefs. Consent forms have always been given days earlier..prior to any additional events in/outside school.

 -Darwish became a sheep at the Chrismas celebration. All other kids' faces must not be revealed on social media without the parents' consent. It's UK schools' policy-

Oh one thing I forgot to comment on was Darwish's language skills. Back in Malaysia, he only had  roughly 20-30% of English. In school, he used mainly Malay and at home, there's a crazy mix of Malay and English with some Kedah's slang. hihi... He started to really speak at 4 years old after entering Dzul Iman kindergarten near to my house in Seksyen 9, Shah Alam. I guess the environmental pressure finally pushed him to speak. Alhamdulillah. 

So here in Coventry school, I had to tell the teacher about all this. That he used to have a speech delay and that he only spoke around 30% of English. He seemed to be fine. No complaints about language upon returning home. I only taught him essential phrases such as "Teacher, may I go to the toilet, please?" But there are 2 other Malaysian kids in the class, one of which told her mother that Darwish had been talking to the teacher in Malay in the first few weeks!!! What to do, I guess the teacher had to guess from context what Darwish meant. 

But I think things are better now. He has not drastically grasped the English language skills like what many other parents "warned" me about. It has been 1.5 months since he started schooling, but at home, he still uses Malay language a lot. I can see his English is improving, for now I think it's 50-50 and he's unintentionally teaching his younger brother too! But to be honest, I'm not that keen to push him too much in that aspect. My plan is to just speak more Malay at home with my children since he's exposed to 100% English at school. My idealistic hope is that he gets to slowly improve his English and still retain his Malay language as his mother tongue. It's not that we are going to live here forever! Just 3 years, insya Allah. I hope it works! 

I have to look beyond these years, equipping him with excellent and a strong foundation in  English language skills that will (hopefully) help him in future academic and life endeavours whilst not forgetting his roots. So that he can be equally good in Malay and English, and survive in Malaysia too, academically and socially. I guess I'm not one of those moms who is too obsessed in pushing her children to acquire native-like English language mastery to the point of neglecting the mother tongue, although I'm an English language teacher myself. ihiks. I survived learning English through TV cartoons, books, and schools with 100% Malay communication at home, and he will too. But I sure am glad that my study years here would give him the additional advantage, in terms of learning English from the English people, I hope. Aminnn.

All is well. All seems fine and fun. But what is 'interesting' and depressing is that Darwish still prefers his old humble Islamic kindy. He still mentions his Ustazah's and friends' names every now and then. 

I always asked what he did in school here, and he said everything was fine and fun with lotsa plays.

But when asked about preferences, skolah sini ke skolah kat Malaysia, rumah UK ke rumah Malaysia, he would always unhesitatingly choose the ones in Malaysia.

It saddens me that after 3 month he's still homesick. and the truth is, I am too. 

Monday, 4 January 2016

Azrin's 2016

Hello rusty blog!

You know what. The very reason I set up this blog was actually to share my PhD journey in Coventry with my fellow friends. 

3 months down the lane, and obviously I haven't shared much right?

A lot of things have been going on but I have mostly shared them on Instagram.

I don't seem to get much motivation to write on this blog these days..and to be frank, I'm not sure why.

Year after year and it seems to be just the same since I got married. Occasional posts here and there.

Obviously my kids are taking a lot of my precious time, which I'm not complaining about. I guess that's natural. I don't like to use my kids as an excuse, although sometimes you just need to accept the realities of motherhood. 

But, I love writing....and sharing.. 

so I guess blogging has to be one of my resolutions for 2016.

I have had a notorious history of having a looooong list of resolutions, and only achieving perhaps, hmmnn.. one?

So, here I am, doing it all again...and just being sooooo Azrin.

In random order, I must: 

1) Be more ORGANISED. I have countless notebooks. Make use of them!!

2) Be healthier. I have been on a very relaxed diet and a few personal workout and gym sessions for the past one month. Only lost 2kgs...which I think is just water weight coz I don't feel any smaller. So, need to be more determined. Eat more quality food and shake my tooshie like crazy! For God's sake, I need to lose around 10 more kilossss!!!! 

3) As mentioned earlier, blog more!

4) Join more support groups ..or any groups at all. Get to know new people, widen the social network, and keep in touch.

5) Improve my relationship with Allah. In all ways.

6) Be kinder to all people. Perform random acts of kindness, even to strangers. Don't judge, don't discriminate. 

7) Have better time management! All the more important when both husband and wife are doing PhD and handling 2 small children. 

8) Have better financial management. Which seeeeemed to start on a positive note as I have begun setting some money aside for savings, travel, etc. Let's see how much and how long this will motivate our family. Hopefully, it'll be a long-term good habit!

9) Explore more new places. From the small unfrequented cafe in the university... to the farthest end of England. We'll see. 

10) Improve my self-confidence. I've always been the kind of person who is easily intimidated by people around me. Here in Warwick, in my department, my remaining confidence can easily go down the drain amongst people who seem so intellectually capable. I didn't even say anything in my PhD class during discussion in the first 4-5 sessions for the fear of sounding stupid. Later I summoned up enough courage to give my opinions, and it wasn't so bad. In fact, it felt liberating! Confidence is building up, but still not enough to appear like a respectable PhD student. 

Ok, that's all for now. 10 is enough. Let's try not to be too ambitious. 

But for the sake of my sanity, please pray that I get to materialise all these. Aminn...

Monday, 16 November 2015

The University of Warwick.

Salam all,

In my previous post, it may sound that I was not that ecstatic about my experience in the UK so far. That is still true, up to now, but in reality, there are a lot of things to love about the University of Warwick! 

Some basic info about Warwick Uni:
  • A relatively new uni in the UK which has just celebrated its 50th birthday this year (thus having no real old-style English buildings). 
  • One of the Russell Group Universities in the UK.
  • located in Coventry (not Warwick), close to the Warwickshire towns, the very centre of the UK (making it easier for travels).
  • 3 miles away from Coventry city centre (yes, all in miles here. Pening!)
  • Two biggest cities in the UK, i.e. London & Birmingham, are just 1 hour and 20 minutes train journey away, respectively. 

and based on my experience for the past 1 month, these are particularly the things that I like about the university:

  • The Islamic Prayer Hall: Wow, just wow..BIG with HEATED ablution facilities, kitchen and the all-amazing WATER HOSE in the toilets!!! which is also heated!..though the heat can 'take you by surprise' at first! So go easy ya... ;D and it is just next to the Chaplaincy. 

  • Rootes Grocery Store: A very convenient university's own supermarket. A tad expensive but ok for you to grab some random snacks or quick lunch/dinner meals with quite an impressive selection of Vegetarian and Halal Indian food and sandwiches. Alhamdulillah.

  • Restaurants & Cafes: Yerp, still about food. There is a WIDE selection here. But, of course being Muslims, your choice is a lot more limited than others but I think for a university in a Western country, the options for halal and vegetarian dishes are quite amazing. There are Xananas, Cafe Library, Cafe Social, Le Gusta, Costa Coffee, to name a few. Of course we can't go to these places daily (because of financial limitations), but it's wonderful to have that option on some of the days you forgot to bring some packed lunch/dinner. Another wonderful thing is that we can treat our student card as a prepaid card for food via 'Eating at Warwick' scheme. You just need to topup some money on the card and enjoy 10% discount at all these uni-based cafes/restaurants (except Costa, though). and many Malaysians flock to Cafe Library on Fridays  for its signature Fish & Chips during lunch.

  • Study spaces: Warwick surely understands students' diverse learning styles. Some need to study in dead silence, in an acceptable level of quietness, or in a totally casual atmosphere. You can be sure there's a place that suits you best. As for me, I like the Postgraduate Hub which is a little noisy as I am a 'casual' learner who cannot learn in silence. Dead silence is the creepiest for me. Actually I am not a library kinda person. Rarely in the past that I studied in the university. But I need to go to the university now to 'run away' from my kids. hahaha... Can't focus much at home as there will be a couple of skinny and chunky little creatures calling out my name every 10 seconds. But my husband and I are taking turns to go to the university, to be fair and to save up on childcare services. Just make do with what we have. Alhamdulillah. 
Pg Hub

  • CAL: I love my department CAL (Centre for Applied Linguistics). Very casual atmosphere! As usual, staff members in a Western university never really care about being called a Prof or a Doc. We call by our first names. CAL is super small. Which turns out to be a good thing! It is just one wing on the first floor of the Social Sciences building. but lectures for MA students may be conducted in other buildings too. and I love its positive attitude. On the first day of Induction, we were happy to be informed that almost 100% of previous PhD students in CAL managed to complete their studies within 3-4 years. Now, that's motivating! and also the fact that I have the awesomest supervisor!!! She's a German and she guides me a lot in reading. She's known for her kindness and full support for her supervisees. and it turns out that we believe in the same thing, that is to WRITE from the beginning. READ & WRITE right away. We meet once a fortnight. I would need to email what I have written with a list of biblio and reflections one day before our meeting. She would respond with detailed comments within a few hours..I would read those comments and we discuss on that during the 1-hour meeting the next day. I am not required to be constantly on campus. One disadvantage at CAL, though, is that we are not even given one room or personal workspace at CAL. It is a small department with very limited rooms. There are only shared research rooms in which you need to share. Seating is on first come first serve basis. I don't really like that (I mean sitting at a table where other people's stuff are all over the places) so I would just go to PG Hub for studying. The good thing is, the supervisor doesn't get a chance to stalk me at all! hahahaha... 

  • Tesco & a small shopping place: Uuh yeah, Tesco hypermarket is just 10 mins walk away from my department. It is located within Cannon Park Shopping Centre which is quite a pathetic looking small mall, but oklaaaah. Actually, it is practically within the university area. Tesco is where our family does our grocery up to now...but we heard Aldi and Lidl are cheaper. So, we'll see! But Tesco's location is super convenient!

  • Beautiful views along the way to/from the university: And personally, I think you can only truly feel it when you are walking or cycling to the university. It is worth the 40-mins walk journey from home.

Warwick university is slowly finding its way to my heart.. but UK, hrmmm...a long way to go. What to do, NZ has set quite high standards in my expectations of life on a foreign land in a Western country. ;)

Will share more later, Insya Allah.

Salam. Ciao.