Whoo. The end of Week 4 of this term and I’m only just making time to write a blog entry, huh? I guess I’ve been busy, or rather, the little “free” time I had was filled with watching episodes of Project Runway, Little Mosque on the Prairie, or Heroes. While tracing drawings or sketching, mind you. The reason I have this free time anyway is because it’s Thursday evening, and I don’t have lectures or anything on Fridays , and I’m waiting for Maghrib (which is at 6pm!) to break fast (and later go to a Muslim sister’s house ’cause she’s making Turkish lasagna ), and I don’t feel like doing work at the end of the week and when I’m all excited for something happening on Saturday (you might already know, but be sure read till the end if you don’t!). I actually recorded a vlog some time ago but it was total rubbish (and had bad lighting) so I’ll just write, using proper subheadings and we’ll see what I remember.
One of the many paths on campus..The Canterbury campus is not that big, really, but the walk from my house (which is still on-campus) to central campus, where our studio and lectures are, takes about 10 minutes (if I’m running late, or am walking as fast as I can while ignoring the screaming pain in my leg muscles) to 15 minutes (when I’m strolling and ignoring how everybody else is passing me at extreme speeds). Like I’ve mentioned, most of the walk is on a small path through some woods. It was charming the first few times, with the squirrels and occasional rabbits (or hares, I can’t be sure) crossing your path and scurrying up trees — the squirrels, not rabbits — but four weeks in and I’m now quite sick of walking so far to get to campus at least a couple of times a day. I suppose unfit, pathetic me shall get used to it sooner or later, but right now it still feels like an annoying workout.
Map of the campus. The red path I doodled on shows the route from my house to the Marlowe building, where Studio 1 (and some of our lectures) is. That takes 10-15 minutes. Green path shows the route to the main university bus stop. And if you’ll search for a small blue M, that’s the Markaz, which is… kind of a surau/gathering place for Muslims.
Path to Park Wood Ow… I’m so full… (Please read that as “Oym siowww full… “) This is a few good hours after I’ve typed up the above and I’m just home from Jeyda’s place, where we had the Turkish dinner. Whenever I have dinner with the sisters I always end up very very filled. They have such good food and are such nice people and we talk about all sorts of stuff. And I’ve never reached that part of Park Wood before. Park Wood is the student housing “village” on campus that I live in. There are houses with standard rooms, houses with superior rooms, and flats. Just tonight I discovered how freaking awesome the flats are. The grass is way greener on the other side of the neighbourhood, literally. They’re obviously more expensive though, but clearly all the buildings are new and the flats are en-suite and kitchens are huge and shiny…
(Oh, and we passed by the laundrette — gosh. Huge, white, well-lit room with a glass wall, and with big shiny metal washing machines… Too cool.)
The laundry place nearest my Court (a 4-minute walk away) is not only small, but the machines are sometimes out of order, and the worse part is when you only realise that fact after you’ve loaded in your laundry and detergent. Good thing they spit back the coins to show they’re not working. Speaking of which — they’re not cheap either. A normal cycle on the washer takes £1.80; dryer is £0.60. And the whole process takes almost 2 hours. (Dryer alone takes 48 minutes or something. )
The row of houses in front of mine. Anyway. Most of the houses in the UK I’ve seen are brick houses. They love exposed bricks here. I mean, in Malaysia the houses are made of bricks too, but they plaster over it so all you’re likely to see are white smooth walls. But here, noooo; they have all sorts of bricks in different shades and … yeah. I’m not saying I dislike it, but it’s definitely different. And things are quite efficient around here, I love the change machines and photocopy card dispensers and printer credit machines and things like that. And when you log into the computer with your own username, you get your own desktop and disk space and all that, so there’s no mess (think spyware, ugly wallpaper, desktop full of icons, etc.) you usually associate with public computers (like at the labs at INTEC? ). Probably standard stuff for universities here but I just wanted to mention how I appreciate it.
Silent study room in Level 3 of the library. There weren’t many people when this pic was taken because it was Sunday. That said, the cost of printing (5p for black and white A4, 20p for colour) and photocopying (same price for b&w) does add up. I’m probably going to buy my own printer soon. Maybe one with a scanner in it as well. So far my assignments require printing stuff for reference, and if I sketch in Photoshop I’d like to show some evidence in my real sketchbook too… you get the drift.
Oh, I should probably talk more about the house. Ground floor has two bedrooms (both are male occupants — a French guy and an Indian guy), a bathroom-with-no-shower, and the kitchen. Upstairs are three female-occupied rooms (me and two British girls) and the bathroom-with-shower. No living room, and kitchen’s quite small (but quite functional and fine), but I haven’t had problems with waiting for somebody to get out of the shower (there were more berebut-ing going on back in Akasia with only 4 persons to a bathroom ) or anything like that. And my housemates are quite nice, although our interaction so far has only been along the lines of “hey”, “good morning”, and little chit-chats in the kitchen.
Back of the house, where the kitchen is.The tiny house I live in.Wow, perfect timing. I hear a birthday song from outside. (For the second night in a row. [It’s 12:24 am.]) Like most university accommodation, noises/music/loud voices from outside (or *cough* from one of the rooms in the house), at random times, are common. Generally it’s not too bad, I think it might be worse if you live in one of the colleges with corridors, and at least I’ve found a use for the earplugs MAS gave me after my flight from Malaysia.
The collage assignment.Architorture isn’t that torture-y for now. But I might take that statement back soon. Like I said, we have Fridays off, and lectures are only on Monday (1 hour), Wednesday (about 2 hours), and Thursday (I believe 1 hour). Tuesdays are tutorials (mine starts at 2 pm ), and there’s a seminar and workshop session on Thursday as well. All the rest of the time, you’re supposed to be in the Studio doing work. And boy, do we have a lot of work. This is bordering on torture-like, but once you get the deadlines sorted out, they’re … manageable. We have three modules (subjects, essentially) going on right now, each with different projects.
A sketch that was part of the social hub project. The whole A1 presentation board looked quite ugly, so I’m not showing it here. The ones that have been completed are the Social Hub thing, some site survey drawings, and a collage of yourself in a study. The ones that have not been completed are… a pyx (shoebox display thingy), site survey model, another site plan drawing, a whole set of models/drawings of your residence (this is the one with the conceptual stuff and blahdiblahs) you’re putting on the site, study drawings and models of a room you’re designing to showcase an artwork of choice (this module is about daylight and lighting the artwork properly), and a model (as well as essay) of a built house already chosen for you (this module is about houses ). It’s much more than it sounds like, trust me.
Group 7 and 8’s corner of the studioThe Studio is quite nice, the drawing boards (or desks, as I call them) are arranged according to tutor group, and I think we don’t have enough desks for everybody right now, but still it’s not that cramped or anything. We had workshop inductions recently (my group was the last one, thanks to a postponement), and I was fascinated especially with the stuff in the electronics workshop. I saw The studio at night, from outside. I’m not one of those night-people who stay in the studio about 16 hours a day (I haven’t found it necessary so far), but there are those super-rajin archigeeks who do…huge machinery that I’ve only seen on TV, on shows like American Chopper and Mythbusters and TechTV (back in the old days). Like metal rollers and band saws and welders and laser cutters… I guess my interest in making/building/assembling things just swelled after seeing these opportunities for different mediums and techniques. Although we won’t exactly have classes or anything to learn to use those stuff. It’s more like you’ll ask for help from the supervisor when you decide that your project needs to use this and that.
Lecturers and tutors are quite good, if I can say so myself. Occasionally there’d be certain amounts of zoning-out during some lectures, but I’ve always liked it when things make sense and the lecturer relates things with one another and I see connections that I never knew about before. Of course, 99% of the time I have no idea what the answer to the lecturer’s random questions are, and get the feeling that I’m supposed to know what I don’t know, (because quite a few people — usually guys, actually — do know what I don’t know) but I guess that’s how we learn. And our abilities and experiences vary greatly. The people in my studio are either studying Architecture, Interior Architecture, or Interior Design, but we’re grouped together for the first year, and especially during the site survey assignment, I was so appreciative of the fact that I’ve drawn site plans/elevations/sections before. During Art class at INTEC. Some people have never drawn technical drawings in their life. And no, the programme doesn’t really include step-by-step lessons on drawing or anything. I think the options are — you see what other people are doing and learn from them, or you open up books and learn by yourself, or you ask a tutor to show you some pointers. I’ve mostly done #1 and #3. Haven’t gotten any books except the ones that I brought from Malaysia. I just don’t think I’ll even have time to read things up at the rate our assignments are being dished out.
Hmm, I suppose the student population isn’t as diverse as other universities, perhaps ones in larger cities, but a plus point is that you can easily recognise the same faces and the communities are closer that way. When we first arrived here, it was obviously Ramadhan, so we hung out with the Muslim sisters quite a bit. (Had quite a few Indian food iftars, yummeh.) And some of the nice experiences for me, included the ability to give a wide grin when you see another hijabi pass by and be greeted with a similar warmth, as if we knew each other. I realised that wearing my religion on my sleeve gives me the sense of belonging to a family, one that I wasn’t aware I even had. Like what I mentioned in a comment I left on Elf’s blog, I was taken aback when another person (stranger) gave salaam to me in the middle of walking, because it took me awhile to realise that people can tell my faith just by looking at me. Even though I’ve worn a headscarf for the majority of my life, I might not have discovered things like these if I stayed in a Muslim country like Malaysia.
Just shows that when coming to study in a foreign country, you learn so much more than what you study.
On the other side, in my first few weeks, I did sense that others looked at me differently (maybe negatively, or at least awkwardly) because I have a scarf on my head. I didn’t know how to respond to those stares, and usually either looked away, or down, or stared back (but rarely took this option). But somehow I haven’t noticed it anymore lately. Maybe there are more people wearing tudungs here already so it’s not a weird thing to see, or maybe a headscarf is no big deal in the first place (seriously, hoodies with the hood up look roughly like a muslim scarf, and some people do wear scarves around their head when it rains or something ), or maybe I’ve just shrugged off the insecurity/self-conciousness.
Oh yes, forgot to mention that the Malaysian population here is also quite small. There are more Bruneians, but I’ve probably already said that in the last blog. The other day as I was walking alone in the town centre, a group of makciks (totally Malay-looking) passed by me, and I gave them a smile but continued to walk. And one of them turned around and beckoned for me to come and talk to them. And like the four of them made a semi-circle around me and started interrogating. One of the comments I remember was along the lines of, “Sombongnye, lain kali nampak Melayu pakai tudung, tegurlah…” which irritates me the more times I hear it in my head. I mean, I usually tegur the Malaysian seniors that I know and have met, whenever I see them in town or in the library, at least with an “Assalamualaikum“, but … to me it’s not sombong to not stop and talk to strangers, is it? I didn’t mean to be rude. I just… tend to greet with a smile and that seemed enough in this case. And at least I stopped in my tracks and came talking to you, did I not?
So then the there were the usual questions of what/where are you studying, what year, what sponsor, yadda yadda. I answered politely and didn’t ask them anything. Then I got to thinking that… if I weren’t a hijabi and perhaps don’t look that Malay, they’ll never have thought that I’m a fellow Malaysian, and in turn won’t result to staring at me while I walk and calling me stuck-up when I didn’t stop to introduce myself to them. I know this is such a small thing that I’m bringing up, and that the ladies are nice people who meant well and just wanted to be friendly and meet more Malaysians, but … yeah. I don’t know, it just left me feeling … weird.
A view of the shop rows from the upper level of a Unibus Kay. Town centre is … pretty nice. I’ve bought a bus pass (£120 for one year) so I don’t have to pay anymore for bus rides in Kent. The ride takes less than 20 minutes, depending where you stop (usually it’s the last stop: the bus station right at the beginning of High St.), and of course double-decker buses are the coolest. It’s ironic how Malaysia’s just starting to have double-decker buses, but they’re only express buses (long-distance ones, essentially coaches here), while coaches here are mostly single-level buses while the regular services are the ones with more seating.
(Can’t help but compare everything with my country, by the way. Just the way it is.)
We visited Canterbury Cathedral and Leeds Castle (which is not in Canterbury, but Maidstone) as part of the Welcome Week events for International Students, so… here are some pictures, and a whole lot of Leeds Castle here. Britain has a lot of bird life, that’s all I’ll say.
I bought a craft magazine that came with knitting needles at WHSmith, and 3 balls of yarn in my fav colour combination from a charity shop. Cheap, too. (But the mag wasn’t.)The stores here are all… by brand, so it’s like, you can’t tell what it sells just by its name. Who would know that Boots is a pharmacy, and Wilkinsons sell home/kitchen/hardware stuff, for instance? It’s until you go there and see the store and start exploring; then you’ll figure it out. Which is part of the reason I haven’t been clothes shopping at all (I still haven’t bought a raincoat/waterproof jacket, or proper outdoor coats as an alternative to the bunch of hoodies in my wardrobe ), because I don’t have time to explore which are the more affordable places with suitable clothing for me.
The sewing machines on display at the craft store Last Sunday though, I was working on the collage project (quite last-minute — I slept at 4 am that night) and desperately needed more raw material to use, so I went off finding charity shops, mainly. And I decided to stray from the very long High St. and instead turn into the smaller paths branching off of it; and what a pleasant surprise I found. There was one heavenly-looking craft store, and a sewing machine store, but both were closed since it was Sunday. But there were many other nice shops, one was called Siesta and had all sorts of little knicknacky handmade things, and stuff from all over the world, and clothes Some of the stuff in Siesta. Colourful, no?upstairs, and it was just a colourful, quirky little place. Didn’t buy anything, but made a mental note to come again soon. And I was following this lady and her children along a street, and was surprised (again) to find that I’ve reached Sainsbury. Which is a supermarket, that I’ve never been to before, but I knew that it’d usually take two buses to reach there. Places are actually nearer than you think! So then the lady and her children disappeared inside and I walked back the way I came to arrive at the town centre again.
My favourite grocery place would be ASDA. One; because it seems to be the cheapest, and two; because it’s the only supermarket that sells Halal meat (chicken and lamb, usually). It’s further than Sainsbury though, so again; you need to take another bus from the bus station to get there. I’ve just received an e-mail (oh yea, another efficient thing — everything gets sent by e-mail: notices and announcements and voting for elections and everything! So convenient. ) about a free university bus service that will send students straight to ASDA though, so that’ll be nice. Except it’s only on Saturday, and we all know how stores are packed on the weekends…
There’s a Tesco at the town centre, although it really is more expensive, and also convenience stores called Essentials on campus. They’re good only if you’re desperate and need some bread or milk to avoid being breakfastless. But for lower prices, ASDA rules.
Oh, yes, one more first for me — I’ve finally seen what a self-checkout is. We don’t have those in Malaysia. At least not when I last visited a supermarket back home. And, I’ve discovered what an eco/green country this place is. Seriously, they don’t just say “reduce the use of plastic bags”, etc. but you actually see people carrying reusable fabric bags and stuff. And clear bags for recyclable items at the kitchen, and the cashier always asking beforehand whether you need a bag or not, etc. How I wish I have my fabric stash and sewing machine here, so I can make a huge nice fabric grocery bag and not having to use a generic canvas one that they sell at the stores. (I still use the regular plastic bags provided, until I last tidied up my Plastic Bag Drawer and realise that I’m collecting them much faster than I use them up for garbage. So maybe next time I will get one of those reusable totes…)
Also, it’s in supermarkets that you notice how big the value of the currency is. Items priced below one pound (eg. 45p, 79p) are not rare at all, compared to a supermarket in Malaysia where the only thing priced for a few sen would probably be cheap sweets. And a decent week-worth of food would at least cost RM50, but here so far it’s been about £20 for me, except for the first week when I had to buy pots and pans and knives. (Read one of the comment replies from me in the last entry for an annoying question I was asked when buying a knife. )
One of the open houses (or open kitchens ) by some students for Raya, although this one wasn’t on Raya itself.How could I forget to mention my Raya? Basically, the day started bad because I thought that Eid prayers were at the Markaz, which is less than 10 minutes from my house. It was actually at Darwin college (since it’ll be a bigger congregation, and that’s where they usually have Friday prayers anyway), which — if you’ll kindly scroll up and view the Campus Map again, is way up at the top right of the image. Lovely. I was already halfway through the route, cold and damp because of the rain (and not having an umbrella at the time, I think, because my blue one from Malaysia has had to retire thanks to the powerful wind here), in the middle of an empty campus, when … I decided to just go back home. Because it was probably too late to catch the prayers anymore.
Brown boxes, ooh.So then it was a pretty normal day, I cooked some instant ketupat (although instant is a relative term — it still took 90 minutes, I think) though only managed to eat it at like 3 pm because of a site survey / studio work, and the only highlight of the day was getting a loud knock at the door, which was a delivery lady with two packages for me. All the way from home. (I love getting mail. I love getting huge mail even more.) The boxes were full of stuff that I couldn’t fit into my suitcase, heheh. Mostly art supplies and some Brahim’s and more clothes. (If you don’t know what Brahim’s is; it’s basically a brand of instant food/sauces. Some products come with cooked meat and potatoes in it already, but some are just the gravy.) Oh, and a pair of shoes my mum bought ’cause she thought I’d like them.
Mm, yeah, basically I spent Eid drawing up a car garage while other people measured them, and then re-checking the drawings and measurements with other people who measured and drew. At night though, we had another Muslim-sisters-dinner and that was good. Although it somewhat clashed with a gathering at a Malaysian’s house and we decided to go with the sisters instead because … it was on-campus, closer.
Dreaded blue screen error… Ah! And it was a bad day because my laptop was dead since the day before Eid. The BSOD came up, and the error was different than the one I’ve seen before, and restarting the computer or choosing any of the Safe Modes did not help. I was on the verge of a breakdown, not knowing what to do or who to go to, but Googling from a computer at the library showed quite a few help pages, and I decided to try the solutions out. But — they all required a Windows XP installation disk, or at least a boot disk, neither of which I had. I racked my brains thinking of who to ask, who might happen to have a Windows XP CD… I thought of my housemate below who studies Computer Science, but … I’m just not very good at asking for favours and things like that. (The other housemates are taking… Accounting, Accounting, and Forensic Science. ) And finally, it was Azmah, my pal whom I complain about everything to , who slowly said, “Oh. I think I miiight have the CD here somewhere…”, to which my ears perked up and face lit up and yup — there it was, the magical CD, and after I did what the sites asked me to — BAM my laptop came back to life. With all my precious files and folders… Thank God. (I think this happened after Eid dinner with the sisters. So I guess there were a few highlights of the day.)
(I phoned home on the morning of Eid too, since my laptop was dead and I had free International minutes from my phone service anyway. It wasn’t Eid yet in Malaysia because we celebrated it a day earlier here. [The day of Eid depends on the sighting of the moon or just what the Islamic department decides, etc.] It was extra sad just because I was mourning the (apparent) death of my laptop, and you know how I become without internet access for a whole day. )
There’s probably more that I wanted to say, but it’s seriously 1:50 am and I’m gonna have to go to town tomorrow to get stuff for… *this is the thing I wanted to mention* my trip to Barcelona on Saturday. It’s a field trip with most of the Architecture batch, and which I’ve paid for during induction week. Costs a lot of money and we will have work to do there, so don’t be too jealous. Trip is for 8 days, will be back in Kent on Saturday the 25th. I’ll take lots of pictures and enjoy the slightly warmer weather (though it was surprisingly sunny around here last week, for no reason). Might post this entry tomorrow instead because I haven’t put in all the pictures.
The tag on the pair of jeans. 13-year-olds are taller than me, really. In the background is the bright red belt that came with it. Haha. So it’s Friday evening and I still haven’t posted this entry, but anyway — wanted to add that I went clothes shopping today, and… discovered that the kids’ department is where I belong. Like, the “9-14” age group. At New Look, I saw a rack of jeans that seemed to be around my size, so imagine my surprise when the tag said AGE 13 on it! I also grabbed an AGE 14 and tried them out, but nope — too big. So I bought the Age 13, even though the leg length is more than an inch too long. (The price was £12, but there was a 20% student discount so I ended up paying £9.60. I know, not exactly Primark price, but I don’t think we have Primark here. Boo.)
Also bought two t-shirts (they came together, can’t buy just one ) for £9.99. Can you tell I love shades of grey right now? Grey hoodie made out of soft almost velvet-y fabric. Costs £9.99 — I thought there was a half-price discount, but afterwards I realised it was only for “marked items”, which turned out to be an ugly brown version of the same jacket. But I don’t mind, I consider £10 to be the “affordable” range for tops in general. I shall also try to ignore the crown *bling* decoration. Then at H&M I strolled into the kids section again and true enough, the largest size (which is “14+” or “14+5” in my case ) pretty much fits me, unless it’s a top with particularly narrow shoulders. I think Kim and I have joked before, about us being able to wear kids’ clothes in the UK, but it’s actually true. Kim, you especially can totally have a field day with kids’ clothing, I’m not kidding. Actually I’m not sure whether to look shifty and embarrassed or sneaky and gleeful while browsing the kids’ racks… The clothes are cheaper, for one, but … I don’t know. To realise that you’re the same height and size as the average 13-year-old British girl is slightly … disturbing. Maybe.
(And another problem is the style of the pieces. Wayyyy too much of Minnie Mouse, Hello Kitty, pink, and glitter. )
Kay gotta go pack for tomorrow. I think the dryer I used at the laundrette today was broken (even though it swallowed my coins and the machine did its cycles and everything :shakefist: ) — my damp laundry is now piled near the heater in hopes of them drying by tomorrow morning… Bye-bye!