20 January 2014

When a name is just another name

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ


First came you, then came your name.
Letters pieced together to hold a meaning.
Syllables representing your entire being,
chosen with great love, care and hope;
hope of one day seeing:
the person, that name, one day becoming
a light, a gift, and joy unending.

But when tyrants walk this Earth unopposed,
killing, massacring, slaughtering
tainting this Land with blood, black and dried,
the light, the gift, the life once bright
turns ever so dim.
A mother becomes naught but faint.
A dad becomes naught but saint,
and humanity feels nothing except pain.

For when the lives we built become yet another game,
a name becomes just that - another name.

06 January 2014

Another year. Another start.

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَا تُهُ

Yet another 12 months has passed. What have I done with it? Have I achieved anything in the past year? Maybe. That's hard to say, really. What I didn't get done, I'll do this time round, insyaAllah. What I did get done, I won't tell (much). 

What I would tell, though are either: 1) fragmented due to my tendency to forget important details; 2) a false memory implanted into my head by someone; or 3) both. How time really flies when you're having ____ (fill in the blank with whatever is appropriate), eh?

So to save myself from telling outwardly bloated lies of my otherwise uneventful - yes, I'll allow you to call it that - life and to spare you readers from thinking too much (we all know how hard it is for us to think, right?), I'll just put up some of the interesting/memorable/I-didn't-forget-to-take-a-photo-as-proof moments for the year 2013.

Here goes:

First of, it's coming to Warwick. (I'm pretty sure none of you expected that :P). Yes, for one reason or another, I find myself enjoying my first term here. Maybe it's the beautiful, big, all-in-one-city called Coventry. Maybe it's ridiculous amount of free time we get between classes. Maybe it's the all-so-comfortable lecture theatre seats that never fail to rock me to sleep. Maybe it's the people I meet here. Or maybe it's all of it. I don't know, but after going through 3 months of university life, I end up thinking "Hey, maybe I will make it out of this alive, after all!"  And that is reason enough to be happy.


Next up, meet my room and my (first) bike! Yes, I know how pitiful my life must seem now. "Who in the world list his dormitory-style room and his second-hand, used bike as his second most eventful thing of the year?" I would, of course.

Because, one, this list is not done in any particular order. (I just take whichever photo catches my eye & write something about it. If it doesn't pop up to me, it's not that important. Simple as that). And two, my room is pretty much the only place of privacy I have here. It's the one place that made my first term here bearable. You can call it my personal recuperation space because this is the second place I think of after a hard, long day; the first being that bed in that room :)

Why the bike, then? Because it has saved me a lot of time & money. Mostly money. What more do you ask of a yellow bicycle? Plus I just love zipping past the broken line of people going to and coming back from Tesco on this thing. "You still walking? Pity you..."

This one's just a picture of me in Birmingham. I don't even recall the name of the cathedral in the background. What's interesting/eventful about this picture, you may ask? Two things: the place itself and the rain that was pelting me when this picture was taken (FYI, it was raining outside too as I was writing this).

Yes, the second largest city in the UK (or so I was told. I never checked this statement). The place where you go when Coventry is not enough to sate your hunger for entertainment, food, or shops. The place where  £5 gets you a buffet and another pound gets you nowhere (if you don't get this, just ignore it).

Ah, yes... the ever-present drizzle. Love it or hate it, it's always there for you. I, for one, have grown to tolerate it. It's not that bad really, once you get used to it. It sort of helps you when you are all alone, feeling really tired and stuff, then that really sad song on your iTunes starts to play, and you look outside to see dark clouds and rain. Nothing beats making sad people cry then a good-ol' rain! I told you it helps. In a very unhelpful sort of way...

Next up, the people here in Warwick. From all corners of the world, from many walks of life but all weird in a good way. The way that makes you learn to be accepting. Sometimes in ways that makes you see that you yourself are weird too and it's perfectly fine to be yourself. The one upfront is Rahman, and that's not his normal face. This was on Eid al-Adha. Sorry, but this is the only picture I have plus I think this picture brings my message home :)

Then we have some of the activities we've done here. We've had picnics outdoors, a roti canai session (semua tunjuk skill menebar masing-masing. Ada yang born-to-tebar and some...better left unsaid), potlucks and loads of other stuff. While it may seem that all we do here is eat, that is not true. We also have sporting events, and weekly 'meetings', weekly classes that may or may not involve food. Hahaha~

Hmmm... this one's a bit hard to pen down. The picture may not be so clear. If any of you where there on that night, you would've seen so many stars in the night sky. Welcome all to my night life! Some people go on parties, others watch movies but for me nothing beats walking in pitch black darkness (I'm not pulling your legs here, there really is no lighting whatsoever on the path I usually take) under the starry skies. Usually, I don't bother snapping a photo because it's never going to look good anyhow (you wan't proof? Seriously..? -_-).

There's also the occasional daytime walk. These ones are fine, but seeing as how we rarely get clear skies, there's not much to see really on most days unless you like to see rain. Nonetheless, it is a very pleasurable experience, especially when the sky gets really clear like in the photo :) Notice how the clouds are below the sky and not the other way around. I never bothered finding out why that was the case on that particular day. It was just too beautiful a day to spoil by thinking :)

Now, onto more food! I never really understand why people take pictures of food before eating them. Coming here, where you're thousands of kilometres from home, I finally get it: people take pictures and post them online to tell others that they are still living and are actually eating something passable as food. The first photo is of what I usually eat for breakfast. The second is what I usually consume for dinner. They may not look like much, but they actually taste great and apparently, they're healthy too!

I lost track of how many items I've penned down. Next, three photos from one particular weekend. This was my first ever hiking trip. It was really taxing, but in the end, the view and experience I got was all well worth the effort (and monetary investment). Would you look at that marvellous sunset? :') The third picture was a dinner a very good friend cooked up for me just after I got back from the trip. Thank you very much! That was one of the best meals I had since coming here :) and just behind the plate is a really cool watch I got from my 'secret' Santa :P I even kept the wrapping paper it was in (that was too valuable to throw away).

This is a picture of Edinburgh. I really like how the sky was cut in two here - it's a perfect reflection of what a normal day in the UK is like: rain and clear skies in (somewhat) equal portions. This old city is beautiful. I wish I can go there more often just to walk its streets. Maybe one day I would. InsyaAllah~ so when did I go to Edinburgh?

When these guys came over! Yes, I had the pleasure of spending the winter holidays with my family :) This was at a fish & chips restaurant near Coventry. We usually cook on our travels so a proper dinner like this is a rare occasion for us. Talking of so many food is making me go hungry again :3

Here is a snapshot of one part of the terminal in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I think I've passed by this place thrice in the last three months which is why I bothered taking this picture. It just feels like deja vu times three for me. This was taken en route to our next destination in our little family vacation.

Up next is Amsterdam! Yes, this is the place we stayed at. Nope, we didn't get the whole building to ourselves. And yes, those are (some of) our bags. We don't travel light, I know. Imagine carrying those bags up two flights of stairs that was steeper than anything I've ever seen. How steep, you ask? Two floors high over steps that were each only half my shoe size. I don't have a picture to show, but just imagine a staircase where you need to tiptoe going up. Put a few heavy loads in and you get the picture.

But after the initial pushing and pulling of luggages, we had a nice place to stay with this view to enjoy. Yes, that is a boat docked on the banks of one the many canals of Amsterdam. You can't really complain when you get a view as good as this, now can you?

This here is the national monument in Amsterdam located in Dam Square. This was a little early in the morning so there weren't that many people walking the streets. Come afternoon, this place will be packed with the most numerous object you can find in Amsterdam: bikes.


Nearly everyone cycles here. Forget about young athletes or casual bikers, Amsterdam is the place to go to see old people ride bicycles like they're still in their 20s; young kids riding when you're thinking "How'd that kid got on the bike in the first place?"; men cycling in suit and ties & ladies in their heels; even babies cycling to get milk from a local store. Okay, I may exaggerate there but you get what I'm saying, right? Bicycles are an important aspect of their life here. How important?

Important-enough-to-put-heating-in-our-bike-sheds important! Yes, this is an actual bike stand and on the sides are working, functioning heaters. Only in Amsterdam...

Another unique thing I found while travelling here were the gable stones. These stones were nicely made, painted, then set above doors of many old buildings in Amsterdam. They act as signs to tell people what a building's function was. Some of it makes perfect sense (like a bread implying a bakery, or an axe and a tree probably marking the woodcutter's shop), while others just seem like a big practical joke. 

What's more amusing is the fact that when the emperor Napoleon made it compulsory to have surnames in Holland, many people thought up of their own surnames (you can give anything you want, really). This led some people to believe that the origins of the really funny names you find in Holland to be the result of this particular period in history. When asked "What's your last name?", most of the Dutch replied with a name synonymous to their trade/job but a few 'funny' guys replied "Born-naked" or "From the d*ck". Their joke may have caused a great laugh then. Unfortunately for their bloodlines, the name stuck.

Now let's look at the buildings in this city. I noticed it from when I first entered our apartment: it was not level. Our tour guide explains this was due to the fact that Amsterdam and much of Holland's buildings was built on marsh lands meaning unstable foundations. So if you think your house is leaning sideways, rest assured your sense of balance is not off. Don't worry though, most of the houses are safe to stay in, because according to the locals, the dangerously unstable ones collapsed years ago. The remaining ones are unstable yes, but not unsafe. I hope.

You may notice by now how high the houses are. And yes, they don't use elevators here. So how do you carry stuff up into the upper floors? They use hooks. You may not notice it at first, but look closer and you'll see hooks dangling from pretty much every building in this city. So basically what they do is hoist up anything they need with ropes. I wonder why we didn't think of that before we broke our backs carrying our bags up our apartment?

And now we have the second smallest house in Amsterdam consisting of only that one windowed room on the second landing. I wonder which is bigger? My room or that room?

All this house-talk is getting boring. Let's talk food. In Amsterdam, sweet temptations are everywhere. This was the first shop we went into to get our taste of waffles. It was quite nice, though some may pass it as too sweet to eat.

This is the central station. While it may look like an old building on the outside, its interior is completely modern. I just love old buildings, it's a pity really they love to tear it down back from where I come from :(

What's a trip to Holland without seeing the famous windmills? The winds here are seriously out-of-this-world kinds of winds. No wonder they can use these huge mills to do everything - from grinding spices and wheat to pumping water. Speaking of water, if there's a place with more rain than England, it has got to be Holland.

Windmills are fine and all but the one thing I love most in Holland has got to be cheese. Look at those yellow stuff. Doesn't it just makes you want to stuff melted cheese down your throat till you can't take any more? Nope? It must be just me, then :) did you notice I kept this picture larger than the rest? Did I mention I love cheese?

And what would Holland be without wooden clogs and tulips? I didn't buy those clogs, they were all either too small or too big for me plus I don't think wood is my preferred material for shoes. But I did get some tulips :) I wanted real ones, but it's just too bothersome to care for it especially since my room is not a conducive place for it to grow. So I bought two wooden ones instead. Maybe not as nice as the real things, but it will suffice.

Oh, and did you know that one of the earliest stock market crashes were somehow related to the beautiful tulips? Here's a link for any interested souls out there: Tulip crash.

See how small it is?

We then drove to Brugge (actually my dad drove, I just slept at the back :P). If Amsterdam has beautiful old buildings, this place is a treasure trove of even more beautiful, even older buildings! I could walk these streets for days :3 

In Brugge (I'd put a pronunciation help here, but I don't even know how to pronounce it right), we had more waffles. This particular one was the best I'd eaten. Hot sugary waffles with whipped cream and pralines ice-cream. It was soooo good :3 (pralines is my favourite ice-cream flavour, so I may have liked it even if the waffles weren't that much better than the ones before). Soon after, we returned to Brussels...

...where the very next morning we woke up to this. Two bags worth of souvenirs were stolen. But hey, it could've been worse. This was the first major incident we've ever faced since travelling all these years. An eye-opener for sure. After a police report, while repairs were being made, we went on to do what tourists do best: see more sights!

But before that, take a look at this piece of art. This was taken from an escalator in one of the underground stations of Brussels. Each station the train stopped at has a different theme of art. Here was an idea that could really make the stations back home a little more lively because truth be told, most of our stations look so dead. One day...

Mini-Europe. The name says it all. I felt like a giant walking these 1:25 scale models of famous buildings in Europe. The kid in me wished I could jump into the scene and wreck chaos among the buildings' fake streets and inhabitants (just to get a taste of destruction. I used to build Lego models and break them up for fun) but I didn't do it. What would've happened if I did it?

The models were amazing! This one I liked most. The artists used real stones to replicate the building's original structure and texture. You probably can't see it from this picture but there are even moss covering the 'bricks' making the scene all the more real. And yes, this thing is no higher than my knees.

I can't help but marvel at the details they put on these replicas. Even the statues (each just the size of my fingers) have complete faces with earlobes, nostrils, eyes with irises and every finger carefully carved. I wonder how many people think of the artists and designers when they see these amazing replicas. Not many I'm guessing.


At some point hereafter, my phone's battery died out. So I wasn't able to take pictures of anything afterwards. 


That is all there is. This has been a terribly long post, I just realised. I'm not sure how many stuck out to read until the end but thanks if you did :) Scrolling up, I think this post is not a good representation of the year 2013. It's more like a log of my winter break or the past three months. Hahahaha, I guess it can't be helped that you lose what you don't use. I have to write more often, I guess...maybe I will.

Tomorrow will be the start of my second term in Warwick. Looking back over the past year, so much has changed. Yet so many things stay the same. Here's to a better year, a better life. For all of us. Amin. 

P/S: Sorry if I sound insulting or irritated in any part of this writing. This is what happens when you lose human contact for a few days straight. It could also happen when you have two essays due in two weeks.