Monday, 18 April 2016

Reflections: Helen Storrow Seminar 2015


Exactly a year ago, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the Helen Storrow Seminar held at Our Chalet, the oldest Girl Guiding World Center. Hitting off my Swiss journey after arriving at the Zurich International Airport, a 3-hour long train ride to Adelboden was one gloomy ride accompanied by a missed train connection and an exceptionally cold, foggy and frosty day. Like any Girl Guiding event, the familiar sight of the Girl Guide trefoil is always a great relieve.

Putting the Malaysian flag up
Helen Storrow Seminar 2015 :D
Malaysians at HSS2015
With a focus on environmental issues, empowering youth and women and fostering leadership skills in youth leaders, it was a week filled with tonnes of activities aimed at self-development. Throughout the week, I was kept occupied with activities like a breathtaking hike to the Magic Tree, leadership skills development sessions, environmental sustainability discussions, advocacy activities, a mini campfire, Swiss Night and International Night.

Hiking to the Magic Tree
Getting inside a magical tree
Legend has it that the Magic Tree grants wishes
Hiking to the Magic Tree!
The valley of Adelboden
Exchanging ideas and discussions were definitely my favourite moments
Environmental Project Panel :)
Advocacy session calls for an English Parliamentary Debate

Amazing to be with these girls in our tiny patrol, Grey Wolves
Grey Wolves :D
Asia Pacific representatives!
However, nothing beats our day out at the Adelboden Adventure Park. Starting off with over an hour hike, together with the rest, we were guided through slush and ice to the Adventure Park deep in the valley of the Alps. The adventure circuit was no child’s play with 6 zip lines, each higher than another; tight rope walks over 50 meters high; abseiling off a bridge and a heart stopping pendulum swing. With acrophobia, the adventure park more than just a physical challenge to me. I’ve never been a fan of heights and free falling. So, the entire adventure circuit felt like a scary devil out to get me.

Starting off on the gentle zip lines, bringing me higher as I continue on was pretty exhilarating. By the time I’m done with all 6 zip lines, it was time for a high rope course. Tight wires pinned into pillars of a bridge set at hundreds of feet above ground was a scary sight. Imagine having to walk across the entire course! My feet felt like marshmallows and I actually resorted to chanting prayers all the way to get to the end. By the time I got to the top of the bridge, my adrenaline was gushing through every single cell in my body.

After abseiling off the bridge, it was time for an optional challenge, a pendulum swing off the very same bridge. Though I’m never up for such adventures, I had an extremely supportive group of facilitators and participants which made me break through every self-made inhibitions. A year on, I am thankful I took the leap of faith; jumping off (I think I was pushed off the platform though) the bridge into the valley leaving me dangling only on ropes; screaming like a mad woman.

Pretty successful at pulling off a smile on the zip line
Zip lining across the valley
Panic smile - Nothing is more torturing that waiting to be sent down a bridge
Sometimes holding on is better than letting go
Here's my ultimate fear expression - seconds after this shot, I was pushed off this tiny platform
Off into a free fall and endless screaming
Dangling on ropes was no joke
Ropes were life saver
On our last day, a video recapping our journey throughout the week left us feeling bittersweet and our eyes teary. On 26th April, with exchange of hugs and tight embrace, it was time to bid farewell. With some time to spare before hopping onto the flight out of Switzerland, with a few others, we took the opportunity to explore the town of Bern. Great times always pass by in a wink and finally, I was on my train ride to Zurich International Airport. On the final train journey, the great memories and reluctance to bid farewell to such an amazing guiding experience was extremely overwhelming and left tears rolling down my check on the train. The old lady sitting next to me on the train couldn’t help to steal glances at a crazy Asian girl crying all by herself.

Federal Palace of Switzerland
Blue skies and Swiss heritage
Roaming in Bern

A year on, looking back, it was a short 8 days seminar packed with tons of memories and immense learning opportunities. It was more than just a blend of cultural exchange. Rather, it was a platform for self-development, an opportunity to overcome mental challenge and fear, a chance to explore ideas and definitely a path to form strong guiding friendship across the globe. On a personal note, it gave me a chance to strike off the jumping off a bridge in my bucket list and made friends with a bunch of amazing people.

Starry night from Our Chalet

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Malaysia, the Homeland

Since birth, there has only been a place I've known to be the homeland. Tracing back to my forefathers, generations of my family including my great grandmother who lived to a ripe old age of 95 was born in this very same homeland. Whilst generations of my family had spent their entire lifetime in this place; through the fearful Japanese invasion, the jubilant celebration of independence of Federation of Malaya and the unification of Malaysia, chants of extremists rallying against other ethic groups calling for the exodus of Chinese had been very much a heartache. 

Throughout the years, memories I've had and that of many elders in my family revolved around the same homeland shared with other Malaysians. Generations of my family had plough through the rough times together with all other Malaysians. We've earned an honest living in the Malaysian economy, played a part to develop the nation and rejoice with every one of our country's glorious days. 

Despite being ethically Chinese, there's hasn't been much recollection of Mainland China (where many believed that's where we Chinese belong) except for holidays which included the horrifying scene of old aunties doing their business with the toilet doors wide open. In fact, there is not a slightest idea of the way of life in China or its ideology in the present day. Nor do I have any clue of its social norms or be able to read and write in Chinese. 

How much do I know about China? Besides, the history books I read at leisure, there's no other connection to this land. How much do I know about Malaysia? Apart from the history books, I'd probably know every nook and corner of Penang, speak its language from local dialects to the national language besides being capable of mapping out the country with my eyes closed. In fact, years after my schooling days of bagging the book prize for Malay language, mind you, I still remember the daunting peribahasa and komponen sastera.

For the years spent during the pursuit of a law degree in London, there has always been a time where cravings for Nasi Lemak, the fragrant coconut milk rice accompanied by sambal bills caused sleepless nights. The hunt for good rendang, satay, ayam masak merah and roti canal had always been in the list too. Surely, I'd miss my dim sum and home cooked flavours but that hasn't put our local Malaysian delicacies aside. When they say food unites Malaysian, I would vouch for that for it is our passion for Malaysian delicacies that breaks the ice. 

The years abroad had too given me the opportunity to see the world; to take flight and explore. Again, it is the very whisper of the local Malay language or the Malaysian habits of 'lah' that kept detecting a Malaysian in the radius so easy. Just days ago in Hong Kong, I've had a delight spotting 2 Malaysians in the Avenue of Stars and having a great chat over the high cost of living in Hong Kong. 

Over the past years, racist remarks had been on its high. Politically fuelled incidents and the condition of the day had made Malaysia even more vulnerable. Yet, instead of unifying the nation, minorities had been boo-ed about their unappreciative acts, called 'pendatang', told to return to where we are from and being shown the door out of the country if there has been any dissatisfaction. Well, dear sir, here's some ideas to consider:
  • The country had been built on the foundation of unity of a multiracial society.
  • Many of us in my generation and before was born and breed here. We certainly did not come from another country and seemed asylum here. Where should we return to too if we had not known of another homeland?
For all I've known, Malaysia is the homeland and I hope to see it prosper like our neighbour down south; to achieve a status of a developed nation; to stand tall in the eyes of the world; to be a highly regarded nation for its transparency and democracy as well as to be a place where all Malaysians feel welcomed as a citizen of the country.

Happy Malaysia Day!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Secawan ‘n’ Such – Great Coffee & More

Searching for a good cup of coffee in Penang is not quite as easy as it is in London. With the bloom of cafes, hunting down for a good brew is slightly easier and I found the antidote to my caffeine cravings in Secawan ‘n’ Such on Hutton. Since my first visit, Secawan had pretty much been my favourite cafe in town. Read all about it here!

Having missed the breakfast menu during my last visit, here’s one of the revisit just for their breakfast and well, coffee. Then, there’s many many many revisits - hitting 4 visits in a week (just as frequent as I hit the gym LOL). My Instagram suddenly felt like a coffee spam.

Coffee aside, here’s more of their menu!

Miss Bearnaise @ RM 24.90
Look at the wonder of smoked salmon and egg put together!
One of my favourites for breakfast! There is nothing better to brighten up the day with toasted English muffins topped with smoked salmon and perfectly poached eggs and drizzled with hollandaise sauce. The English muffins were fluffy but not quite the best but the generous serving of smoked salmon definitely make up to it. Though the eggs felt slightly over-poached, with the whites becoming somewhat of the texture of hard boiled eggs, the yolks were still runny just like how it should be. Miss how rocket leaves are used in this in London.

Pancakes @ RM 14.90
Fluffy pancakes + strawberries = happiness
A sugary mess

Ordered on the influence of sugar craving, these pancakes were absolutely delish. Fluffy and light, the pancakes were served with fresh strawberries, fresh cream, maple syrup and passion fruit puree. The passion fruit puree is a great touch to the pancakes creating a hint of fruitiness and sourness on top of the sweetness of the maple syrup. A blend of sweet and sour made these pancakes an absolute amazing morning sugar boost.

Like my friend said: no cafe should ever get the basics of pancakes wrong. So, here's a good job done!

French Toast @ RM 14.90
Gluttony called and here's additional bacon strips for RM 4.00
The classic breakfast of fried bread dipped in egg, the French toast here is served with banana and strawberries with maple syrup and cream cheese syrup. The large cuts of bread were fluffy and I could lightly smell the fragrant fried egg in the French toast though my friends beg to differ. Served with maple syrup and cream cheese syrup, the scent of maple syrup was overpowering the cream cheese syrup. A bulk of carbohydrate and sugary rush for the day!

Rocky Road
Rocky Road @ RM 9.50
Never a fan of chocolate cakes, this Rocky Road totally nailed it. Smooth chocolate cake layers topped with more chocolate goodness and lightly torched marshmallows. Though the top chocolate layer was too sweet for my liking, this slice of goodness was irresistible.

Carrot cake
Carrot Cake @ RM 9.50
A true nutty goodness. The carrot cake was perfect for me, just the right amount of sugar (most would think it could be sweeter) with heaps of nuts. The thin cream cheese frosting adds just about the right amount of sweetness to it. Absolutely in love with the crazy loads of nuts and tiny bits of shredded carrot.

Cafe Latte
A perfect combination for lunch
Absolutely love this wall mural

All my visits had been extremely pleasant thus far and their new roast of coffee beans is simply excellent!

Check out Secawan ‘n’ Such on their Facebook page and visit them here:
205, Hutton Lane,
10050 Georgetown, Penang.
Opens Tuesday to Sunday from 8.00am to 12.00am
Updates: Secawan will be open on 15th & 16th Sept :D

Limited roadside parking available. For a more convenient parking, park at New World Park and walk just minutes to Secawan ‘n’ Such.

Food rating: 8/10
Service rating: 9/10
Ambience rating: 8/10
Price rating: £££££

Overall rating: 8/10