Category Archives: Oxford

The Hour Long Discussion

“Very interesting read. I am curious to know what that hour-long discussion was about, more specifically. Do you think you could muster up the courage to give us the main points of that discussion, or were those memories wiped out by hours of studying for exams? If so, it’s probably not very important.

Either, thanks for the story, it definitely reminded me not to laze about, which is as yet my biggest flaw.”

In response to the above reader’s comment on Something About Talent, I tried my best to recover as much details as I could from the crevices of my memory.

As representatives of a governement linked company, it would be ordinary to expect from them the standard – Malaysian students abroad must come back and serve the country – statements. One of them who were present is also the CEO of Talent Corp which is established to combat the “brain drain” phenomenon in Malaysia to entice high flying Malaysian graduates to work with the companies and industries in Malaysia.

However, personally these guys are in favour of Malaysian students remaining abroad for a few years (depending on what type of career you are heading towards, as a few years in one field will seem like a blink of an eye in another) to allow the student to mature as an individual and gain experience in the desired field of work.

And then I remembered somebody waving his arms in the air as if to draw a graph, demonstrating the growth of an individual marking the height of development to stagnancy and I forgot what else. I clearly remembered every single one of them said something to answer to my question, but I really can’t recall exactly what has been said.

If any of the attendees of the event is reading is this, please do help with my memory jog. Unless someone would like to enter my subconscious and extract the memory of the events of that day.

I remembered it happened in the JCR, Balliol. I remembered most of the faces of the people I met. I remembered we were served tea, coffee and juice. There were pastries as well. There wasn’t much mobile phone reception at the corner where I sat. I remembered going to Nando’s afterwards. I seem to remember more things about food than anything, do I?

Dr. Afifi Al-Akiti

On my way to Gloucester Green to catch the Oxford Tube, I saw Dr. Al-Akiti walking with his family less than a hundred metres in front. I was really tempted into taking out a postcard I bought for my grandfather and asking him to autograph it. I didn’t.

At that point in time I was wearing shorts, a shirt with the some of the top buttons undone and my hair was… in its usual characteristic state. He and his family were Malay, and expecting him to be pieous (he adorns a songkok almost all the time), and I was a Malay myself it would clearly be tidak beradab, or utter disrespect to greet somebody of high intellectual standing as himself in that state.

I guess it was a self-consciousness of the code of manners coming from my roots and upbringing as a Malay which hesitated me from running up to him and say “Hi” (obviously I won’t say “Hi!”. I would greet him with the standard salam – Peace be upon you, in Arabic as I do with most of my Malay Muslim friends/colleagues). I could have passed off as a non-Malay (most Malays in UK cannot tell I’m a Malay at first glance, until I start speaking Malay :p ) but I knew sooner or later I will be ratted out anyway. Then again, it must have been the self-consciousness.

I contented myself to observe him at a distance and dropping my pace so I could linger the Al-Akiti-was-less-than-a-hundred-metres-ahead moment just a bit longer. I’m not sure of his age exactly, but I thought he looked older than he really is. He slouches, or seems to slouch. He must have felt my eyes drilling the back of his age for he turned back momentarily that we faced each other (from a distance) briefly before he returned into his happy bubble with his family.

Cookies and Dreams

Its lengthy description would be chocolate cookie dough in vanilla cupcake topped with cookies and cream containing an Oreo surprise. The topping was made using double cream whipped to soft peaks, sweetened with a touch of icing sugar, kissed by a little essence of vanilla with crushed Oreos folded into it.

Two dozen of these tasty treats made its way to Oxford, went round a smoothie bar, the covered market, several book stores and museums before ending up in some happy people’s digestive systems.

The cupcakes were originally intended for Michii as a form of good luck wish for her finals. After giving me a wonderful tour of the town, I set out to explore solo (as she had to return to her revision) ending up with a pre-owned Dickens from a quaint second hand bookstore and killing time in the Ashmolean before heading to Keble for dinner and where I stayed for the night.

Once again the cupcake embarked on a merry-go-round of Oxonians (there were two dozens of them initially anyway) resulting in much needed merriment among the exam-stressed recipients.

I met up with a good friend of mine for supper where I related to him on my academic progress and my pleasure of finding a stock of classic reads for £2 each at a particular book shop. Unexpectedly I attended to a mini-lecture of why-I-should-stop-reading-fiction-and-must-read-facts-from-now-on. He suggested that I start reading biographies of successful figures (in business or politics I guess) alongside economic matters such Times magazine…blah blah blah.

My counter argument was that many of the biographies or autobiographies (of businessmen, world leaders or politicians) I have read tend to skew towards patronising or condemnation of the person being written about. Besides, why do I have to fork out tens of pounds for a hard-covered picture book when I can easily access a concise version of it by an interview in Times or speeches in TEDtalks?

The best autobiography I have read would be “Boy” by Roald Dahl. Wonderfully written with vivid descriptions. The reason why I love reading non-factual stuff is because sometimes, facts can be depressing. Fiction is an escape from the stresses of life. When I say I read fiction, I’m not reading itsy-bitsy fairy tales. Although I’ve just finished reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, I have actually gone through the “introduction” parts and the additional notes which include a brief on the life of the author and references to the metaphors, sarcasm and jokes peppered throughout the book.

Currently going through a collection of short-stories by Kipling and then next will be Dickens. Will attempt to trudge the factual stuff once I’m done with my leisure reading. Until then expect flowery words and onomatopoeias from me.

I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to Good

The decision to overnight in Oxford was a spontaneous one. I only wanted to attend the Prime Minister’s speech at the Sheldonian, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet up with the corporate celebrities so off I packed a backpack full of lecture notes, past year exam questions, a battered copy of Felder and Rosseau, calculator and all. Not to forget a tray of home-made Tiramisu for the generous hostess for the evening and black dress and a pair of heels (which I ended up not wearing, I wore my flats instead) for the next day’s events.

Had dinner at Balliol’s dining hall where the food reminisced of the days in Mantin. No offence because I noticed many similarities except Mantin’s dining hall do not have potraits of past heads on the wall. Instead, there were beautiful students’ drawings and paintings.

Headed to Wolfson where I was to stay for the night. Since the hostess has yet to return, my friend and I crashed at my friend’s place for a while before he and his companion schemed to lock me up in the library.

Despite sounding like torture, I found myself enjoying it because there was no loud “speakers”, the other human being on the same floor was at the far away from where I sat, I didn’t have my laptop with me so I couldn’t Facebook, I was at an unfamiliar place so no-one came to my desk to say hi or ranting exam stress, my mp3 player ran out of battery so I wasn’t jumping on the chair to k-pop, j-pop or whatever music it plays. I literally faced the book for a solid one hour and a half or so before my friend called me out as my hostess has finally returned. Yay to productive revision!

Woke up the next morning, headed to Balliol and then over to Cowley to Nando’s with two lovely people I’ve befriended and joined by an ex-classmate of mine whom I have not met for ages. One of the girl I met at the event remembered meeting me at the visa application centre last year. I was duly impressed by her memory as she could recall my telling her of the problem I encountered during the application.

Afterwards, I met another friend and sat down for coffee while waiting for the doors to open at the Sheldonian for the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s speech. At the Sheldonian, I bumped into an ex-Head Girl from Mantin from what seems to be years ago. That was another lovely encounter of the day. After the event, as they were no other nearby alternatives, we took to secretly using the Old Common Room in Balliol to let her pray. My friend, who took the key on the pretext of looking for a missing item was rather anxious all the while as he told the key-keeper/guard he would only be in for 5 minutes as there was a booking made for that particular room in a short while.

All the while I was laughing at him for being afraid of breaking rules. My friend, the ex-Head Girl, was recalling how I had been the Drill Queen back in the boarding house for rule breaking on a daily basis. Well, I was placed in the house with the strictest rules, how could I resist?

Returned to Wolfson that evening, and my hostess prepared one of the best “Kampung” Fried Rice in the whole of UK I’ve ever tasted complete with a sunny side up and a chicken quarter. Had an intriguing conversation with her friend ranging from Tate Modern exhibits to faith.

He almost had me rolling-on-the-floor-laughing when he asked me as I was just about to pray, “insya-Allah or insya-Darwin?”He studies a Biolgy related field, can’t remember exactly what it was. The reason why I wanted to laugh so hard was because he reminded me of Biology lessons back in Mantin, where there was the endless debate regarding Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (I’m pretty sure I won the argument, although my teacher refused to admit. Haha.)

Then I took the train back to Bath and spent the rest of the night in the library doing some serious revision. I persevered until dawn, slept for half an hour and continued. Had a good dose of caffein once the café opened and an almost croissant and a banana to fuel me the next couple of hours. By then, I was a little worried about collapsing halfway through the three hour paper, but I survived! Thank God.

I went back home that afternoon and passed out the moment my head hit the pillow. Woke up to realising it was really the next day and that I had slept with my contact lenses on.  Now, that is what you call an awesome day.

Best Shots of 2010

Another year has passed, and I must say, it had been a very good one. Year 2010 had been one of the most stressful, most fun, and most defining moment of my life to date and I say, Alhamdulillah, for being able to cherish nearly every single moment of it. To sum up the past year, I have compiled some of  my favourite photos I took in 2010.

1. Best Mugshot : My Name is Sieau.

2. Best Camwhore : 1920s Shanghai.

3. Best Group Photo : Raya 2010

4. Best Editorial : The Little Iban and the Mountain (original cover), Alia House page for KTJ Annual Magazine

5. Best Scenery/Location : Bath Skyline in the snow, Oxford – Hollywell Manor.

 

 

Happy New Year to All!

Curry Dreams Tonight

I feel so pathetique having canned tomato soup for dinner. ( Stares at soup. Continues eating.) For the need of justifying myself, I am an able cook. A very able cook. Its just that I’m just to lazy to do any cooking and the cleaning up today. I shall cook tomorrow.

I swear my friend had spiked the curry I had over the weekend.

Oh, and there was the chillied aubergines with mussels as well. Wicked. Thoroughly wicked. Like Defying Gravity.

The food was so potent all of us were no longer upright afterwards. We sat down a little while longer watching Los dan Faun online.

 

Good food.

Great company.

Love life.

Thought Osmosis

I have been sleeping late and waking up really early ever since I got to Oxford and I blame this on the other engineer in the room. Whatever he does, be it playing DoTA , actually working on his research, or scheming a plan for something, I could almost ‘feel’ the innards of his brains working. And by transmission of brain electromagnetic waves or something, my. sleep. was. just. plain. disrupted.

I guess it was a good thing I decided to get out of Bath for a bit. From the little things I’ve picked up from some reading or conversations, I learnt the application of several big words – Marginalised. Omnipresence. Bourgeois. Institutionalisation.

All the things I’ve heard and being told up to right now, has made me re-evaluate my thoughts, my plans and my future, over and over again. Note that, these people I am with are no ordinary blokes. It is refreshing to be around people with similar school of thoughts and who has been through what yourself are going through and beyond.

Not everybody would talk and listen enthusiastically on antimatter and Schrödinger’s cat over a nice plate of mee rebus and nasi goreng kampung in the busy basement of the Malaysian Hall.

I feel so lucky. Ultra-lucky. From the atom at the tip of my hair to the DNA in my toenails.

Now. Breakfast. Signing off, as I try to wake the fluffy duvet furball at the corner of the room.

Have a great day!

One Morning in Oxford

I woke up before sunrise, checked Facebook, did my prayers, too lazy to shower, left toothbrush at home, somehow got dressed, face washed and feeling rather famished. My friend was still curled up in the duvet, so I nibbled on some Hobnobs while waiting for him to wake up.

He never did.

Not until about four hours later.

In the meantime, he lent his camera to me while I went to explore the place where he lived. I didn’t go far.

I just popped down to the common room downstairs and look what I found.

HOGWARTS! For a moment, I actually thought  the place has house elves (I was still half-asleep and hungry at that time). I promised myself to be good, so I didn’t touch any of those. Instead, I took pictures of them.

The piano was half-broken, but I thought it had a very nice Baroque touch to the keys. The piano pieces I found were technically demanding. Music speak : Chopin, Beethoven, Hadyn, Rachmaninoff. I found some of these composers best works in the pile of music books. And I went on ecstasy on discovering a Beethoven flute and violin/viola sonata! These type of pieces are reasonably hard to find, and to buy them from high end music stores is equivalent to two weeks worth of grocery (I’m a scrooge, I know).

I returned to the room to find the bloody engineer still in a fluffy ball of duvet. Made him wake up (which took much coaxing) and while he went to continue his slumber in the shower (he’s still not back yet as I’m writing this) I did a little photography from his window.

Farted by the Ox

Remember my last post When the Ox Farts? Okay. I think I’m getting my reward now and is royally farted at. Late bus, later train, switched trains twice, banged by a leather handbag, toes rolled over luggage, I have now arrived in Oxfartford. Why do the nice people always get the nice stuff? Because we’re awesome. A couple of minutes after getting out of the train station, a weird old loony had to bang me with his plastic bag. @%^£$%^*#!!!!!

Not all is less than good however, I met a nice young lady while on transit at Swindon, and we found our word of the day – Significant. Somehow, we started talking about the weather, and I was being sarcastic and said something about difficulty of walking in “significant amount of snow” and we started laughing.  Our conversation was peppered with the word “significant”  in almost every other sentence, and it was really fun talking to her. She is a second year medical student. I forgot which university she is studying at, but I remember her name, Anne. Or was it Anna?

I thought it was a really pleasant encounter, as not many strangers (who later becomes your friend) would listen to your aspirations to work in a chocolate factory with genuine interest, or laugh genuinely with you over a puny little things such as the word “significant”.

Significant encounter, indeed.