Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Marjon, Plymouth - Part 4


I used to stay in a school hostel for 5 years and I only went home every few months. So, living away from my family is not a totally new experience. But, studying in UK and living away from home and family for 6 years is another matter. That was the first time I left Malaysia for a foreign country and it would be months or years before I could see my family again. Flight tickets were not cheap. And it meant travelling non-stop on a plane for almost 14 hours!

I was happy that I wasn't alone on this epic journey. 29 other Teslians were also on board, new friends that soon would become good friends as we travelled along this path together. 15 of us would study in Bognor Regis, West Sussex while the rest, including myself, would be studying at the College of St Mark & St John in Plymouth, Devon. It is more commonly known as Marjon. Now, the formal name has changed, along with the status. It is now called the University of St Mark and St John and even comes with a new logo.

At first, I thought we would stay in a dorm or hostel rooms during our first year but it turned out that we would be staying with an English family for a year! Imagine the anxiety and curiosity that we felt as we met our new families for the first time. John Burke, the INTEC Director of our college, spoke to us personally to match each one of us to a family. I wasn't ready to live with a family which has a dog but I was willing to stay with two small children. I was also ready to be a temporary vegetarian (seafood is okay) in the house. Breakfast would be cereal and milk. My lunch would be at the college. Dinner would be prepared by my host mom. They had been briefed by INTEC regarding the Muslim Halal diet and other restrictions.

When we reached the college after a four-hour bus drive from London, our host families were already waiting for us. After a welcoming speech and matching a student with a family, we left for our new home. My new family consists of Calcidonia Smith, who came from Malta many years before, Nicholas Smith and their two beautiful children, Stephanie and Gregory.  Both of them are grown-ups now and Stephanie is married, with one kid. From what I know, Nicholas and Gregory are now working in Hong Kong while Donia and her daughter are still living in Plymouth.

My new house is in Woolwell, Plymouth, about 20-minute bus ride to the Plymouth city centre. It took me 5 minutes by bus to go to Marjon but around 40 minutes if I were to walk to college. Since the bus service was not very frequent, I preferred to walk and burn some calories (as if).  The 'exercise' was not that taxing because of the weather and temperature. Most of the time, it was windy, cold, dry and sometimes foggy or rainy. I didn't really sweat much. I usually wore my sweater and jacket and boots to college. I learnt to walk fast like the Brits and arrived on time (or earlier) for classes and events. I learnt to queue everywhere and say thank you to people at the - bank, college, market, supermarket, library, bus station, shop, etc..... and these habits seem to stick to me until today.

I had my own room in the house, not too big and not too small, just nice. The view from my window was pleasing since I got the room facing the front lawn. There was a single bed, a desk, a cupboard and the best thing there was a black and white mini 'telly' that lasted for the whole 6 years! Thank you, Donia for giving it to me as a leaving present at the end of that one year. Before I was a Korean drama addict, I was first a British telly addict! Like I said before, I can live without a radio but not a television...  :P

To be honest, I was scared at first. I remember the first night there, feeling cold and a little lost. What if they could not understand me? What if I could not understand them? I was wearing my blue baju kurung because I wasn't sure of  what was suitable and proper. It was early September of 1991 and it was Autumn season. Luckily, the house had central heating and my room was warm and cosy. My first winter was challenging but fun! I remember we asked permission form our lecturer to go out and play in the snow and build a snowman... just like those images from the telly. But the snow which fell over Plymouth was brief and by the second or third day, it would have melted away....

Donia and her family treated me nicely and even though there were moments of tension or confusion, we managed to retain a good relationship. We talked a lot about our backgrounds. I described Malaysia to her and she would share about how she came to UK from Malta. I found out from her that there are some similarities between Arabic and Maltese language and music, and it turned out that the island, Malta, was once colonized by an Islamic Empire...

I guess, both of us found some kind of understanding and empathy since we came from another country to live in Britain. I felt a sense of camaraderie with her. I appreciated all her efforts in trying to make me feel welcomed in the family. She even tried cooking rice and vegetable Malaysian style and buying Indian ready-made curries to go with the dishes. I love fish n chips ( Plymouth is famous for it) but not spaghetti in tomato sauce... I like cheese and onion Cornish pasties and the rectangular vegetable ones.  I used to buy shrimp sandwiches from Mark & Spencer and we found a lot of Malaysian products in an Asian foodstore, Maggi noodles, Lingham chilli sauce and belachan, to name a few.

                                                                    (image from Donia's FB photos)

I experienced my first Christmas with them. They also took me to visit many places in and around Plymouth. They took me to the GP when I fell sick and even taught me a few new things (like how to operate a lawn mower). I was really grateful for their help and kindness. In return, I used to babysit the two children when the parents were out. I discovered that children are universal in their behaviour and characteristics. These kids are similar to the kids back home. They have their sweet time and then their tantrum time...!  Stephanie and Greg are adults now. I wonder if they still remember my presence in their house at that time. Probably not so much. They were only toddlers then.

It was sad to say good bye when I left the family after the one year was over. We did keep in touch during the years I was there but we seemed to lost contact after I came home. But thank to FB for reconnecting me with Donia again after all these years. My only wish is for her to visit Malaysia some day so that I can return the favour and take her travelling around Kedah.... ;)

                                                                                        Thank you Donia. Love, Jess.... X X X X

Monday, 27 March 2017


Marjon, Plymouth, UK - Part 3

Korea done. Bandung done.
Now I shall go down the memory lane once again to Marjon, Plymouth, UK. The 1990s.


I used to work part time during weekends to earn extra pocket money since the stipend we got was not much. I worked at Kurbani, an Indian restaurant which was owned by a family of Bangladeshi origin. The pay was not much but it did cover my groceries for a week. The owner, Mr Tarafder, whom everybody called 'Uncle' came to UK in the 1960s in search of  a better life. After many years of working in a restaurant, he finally opened one in Plymouth. His children also worked there.The head chef was Reza Tarafder who actually has a degree in Engineering. Being a filial son, he decided to work for the family business. I guess it was not an easy decision to make at that time.  I also got to know the other family members - Reza's mother (Auntie), his wife and his cute daughter, Tasnim.

The restaurant was opened for 2 hours during lunch and  opened again at 5.00pm for dinner. I work the evening shift as a kitchen assistant. I was not the first Malaysian to work there, nor the last. Every Saturday and Sunday evening,  I took a bus to North Hill to go to work and Reza would take me home after the restaurant was closed and the kitchen cleaned. I usually went back around midnight. My job consisted of cleaning the floor, peeling sacks of onions, cutting up vegetables and washing the dishes. The only thing I regret is that I did not recall the recipe of any of the Indian dishes which were on the menu. I had seen how they were prepared every weekend but I just couldn't remember the steps. Silly me. I know. Just to name a few dishes : chicken tikka masala, chicken vindaloo, rogan gosth, naan, chaana chat, mango chutney, papadoms, raita and the sweet, sweet lassi... I still miss the chicken and chickpea curry that Reza usually cooked for the staff.  I also loved the peshawari naan cooked in the clay oven.

Today, they no longer own the restaurant. Reza now runs a mini post office and Uncle has finally retired. The brothers have their own work and Reza's children have all grown up. We are friends on FB and sometimes, he called me out of the blue from UK just to say hello and we would chit chat for a short while. One of his favourite question was : have you got married? ;)

Thank you, Reza for the work and the friendship. You were like a big brother that I don't have. Despite the hard work in the kitchen, it is one of my cherished time in UK.... ;)

Kurbani Forever!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

BANDUNG Wisata - Day 3 and (Day 4 - Final day)


Jia was not feeling well from the previous night. It was probably food poisoning. So, she decided to stay in bed and would not be joining us for our last day tour of Bandung. We felt bad for her but she needed to recover fast since we would be going back the next day.

That morning, we went back to Aria Jeans again before heading to Sapulidi restaurant for some minor alterations. The Sapulidi restaurant which is located at Lembang is unique as it is built around mini padi fields and streams. There are many huts to choose from. It was drizzling when we arrived. The rain falling down the attap roofs created a soothing ambience as we waited for our lunch. The spread was amazing! I like that they used old crockery to serve the food. The Sundanese food tasted delicious too.... After lunch, we walked around the area until we reached the landmark of the restaurant - the sapulidi scuplture. It is huge....!

After lunch, we made our way to Cibaduyut where leather goods are sold in shops that line up the main street. You can buy shoes, bags, etc here. Just make sure you bargain the price first. We went to find a rather pair of  sandals for our mother. My siblings bought her a pair once during their first Bandung trip, and my mom thought they were really comfy. So this time, we bought a few for her.  Hopefully, the sandals will last long.

Coming back to the city, we decided to stopover at a textile shop that we saw two days earlier. It is the D'Fashion and textile Shop located at Jendral Ahmad Yani road or Kosambi as it is widely known. It is a lace heaven, people! The price ranges between 45,000 Rupiah and 500,000 Rupiah.. The choice is wide and affordable. You can choose  pretty laces in many colours depending on your budget.  

After going ga-ga over the beautiful laces for a few hours, we reluctantly left the shop to go buy some cakes and desserts. A must in Bandung. I bought a box full of brownies of different flavours from Kartika Sari at Jln Haji Akbar / Jln Juanda. My favourite is Almond Brownies.

 For dinner, we decided to 'tapau' food from Kampiun Bistro, Jln Kebon Kawung, a modern cafe near the famous bakeries. We were too tired to dine in.  We just wanted to reach our hotel and rest our feet a.s.a.p. So, in the end, we bought a variety of Nasi Goreng! They were yummy. This was our last night at the hotel. We had to pack our bags before we could go to bed. To our horror, the bags had somehow multiplied and we were not so sure about our fate at the airport the next day.....

Next morning, Our guide, Pak Manan, was already waiting for us at the lobby to take us to Bandara airport. Somehow, he managed to stack all our luggage inside the van. We said goodbye to him and thank him for his help and wish his family well. We had to hire two porters to carry our luggage since we had to hurry to the check-in counter. Just as we predicted, the kilos had exceeded the limit! So we had to take out some goods and transfer it to our hand luggage. I ended up with  an extra bag to carry.

The morning flight was full. After 2 hours of blue sky, we reached KLIA2. I was glad to arrive safe and sound. Since our flight to Alor Setar was that night,we still have a few hours of free time. So we decided to lepak at Zaza's room at Everly Hotel for a few hours before taking a taxi to the airport. She was not returning home with us since she had to attend a meeting  in KL the next day. 

Alhamdulillah, we arrived at Kepala Batas safely that night. Jia and I bid farewell to our cousin, Tun Tija Bismi who was with us during the trip to Bandung. 

Selamat tinggal, Bandung. 
Sampai ketemu lagi!
 I would definitely visit it again.... :)

Hatur Nuhun...!  

Day Five - Snowing in March!

Morning ritual - breakfast with bread, maggi mee and serunding Hangang Park  Itaewon - Talent Cosmetics (Now - Ha...