Being a Foreigner in my Homeland

Two days ago, I embarked on my journey from Germany back to Malaysia. I hadn’t been back for 2 years. I was quite excited about the journey and felt like it was time to visit home. 

Coming back from Germany, I couldn’t help but notice the differences between Germany and Malaysia. When I left Germany, everything was gray and white (though it was quite romantic to me). On the other hand, Malaysia is covered in greenery and the sun shines bright. As soon as I got to the airport, I also noticed how friendly and joyful Malaysian people are. Quite a difference compared to German culture. 

When I landed, I felt like I experienced a culture shock in my homeland. First of all, I have forgotten almost all of the Malay I know. Walking around the airport, people were speaking to me in Malay and all I could do was give them a blank stare (I was also exhausted from my flights). Thank God Malaysians speak very good English. Also, seeing so many hijab-wearing Muslims around, reminded me I hadn’t been back for way too long. This all feels so foreign to me now.

My home is located in the southern tip of Malaysia, right next to Singapore. Before Corona time, I would fly directly to Singapore and take a car back home which is about a 40-min drive. But now the pandemic has made me take a little detour. I needed to fly into Kuala Lumpur and take a domestic flight back to my hometown.

The pandemic measures in Malaysia are quite strict compared to most countries.

Lucky me, the government approved my home quarantine application. I got to do my 7-day quarantine from home. 

I am not sure if it’s jet lag or that my soul hasn’t caught up to my body, I haven’t been able to center myself yet. Most of my days are spent taking naps, on YouTube, reading books, and sleeping when the sun comes up. I haven’t been able to gather the focus or creativity for the projects that I wanted to do. I was planning on being productive during my quarantine but now I’d be glad if I could just get some good night’s sleep.

My quarantine bracelet. They take quarantine seriously here.

It’s Snowing!

Growing up in the tropics, I’ve always been fascinated by the snow. For people who live in the cold climate, many dread the snow. So-called snowbirds love escaping the winter by traveling to the tropics. I, on the other hand, love traveling to the cold during winter. (ps, flights are also super cheap going that way!). 

This year, I did the same, flying to Germany to experience the European winter and was praying for snow the whole time. And yes, I’ve finally got my snow after being here for almost 3 weeks! 

Seeing the snowflakes falling from the sky makes me so happy! I instantly jumped up from my bed in the morning. The air smells fresh and crisp. It lifts up my mood for the entire day! Vera (my current roommate) thinks I am crazy. But hey! I grew up in Malaysia! This is cool for me!

Vera’s mom heard that I love the snow, decided to take me to the mountain to experience more snow. Three of us drove in the heavy snowfall, to a town in the mountains one hour away from Munich. The view of the mountain and lake along with the snow was quite romantic. The whole time, I couldn’t stop smiling and marveling at the snow-covered trees and land. 

My first experience of snow was 16 years ago, when I had just turned 20, I moved across the world from Malaysia to Minnesota. From the tropics to one of the coldest places in the states. It was December 31st, probably also the coldest time of the year. The cold climate, seeing the shape of a snowflake for the first time in my life was amazing! I couldn’t believe snowflakes really do look like how people draw it to be.

I survived my first winter with the only light pink and rather-thin winter jacket I brought from Malaysia. No hat, no gloves. One time my ears were hurting so bad from the cold that I thought they were going to fall off! But anyway, I liked the cold. It was rejuvenating to me. Even though I was born in the tropics, I feel like my body is made for the winter. 

The grass is greener on the other side. And most likely because I don’t have to deal with living with the snow my entire life, that I get to enjoy it. At the same time, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to choose to live in the weather of my liking. 

Next week, I will be saying bye to the cold and going back to the tropics. Right now, I can’t imagine being in the heat, wearing a tank top and flip-flops again but I’m sure I’ll miss the cold and the snow!

Playing The Piano

Last week, while sitting around the dinner table with Vera, she showed me some videos of her family playing music together. Vera’s family is considered a musical family. Her dad is a jazz musician, a piano tuner. Her mom is a singer. Her sister is a professional pianist. Vera’s interest is in drums but she can play pretty much any instrument.

As I saw them having fun with music, I told her a dream that I have had since I was a little girl. I’ve always wanted to play the piano. When I was little, I would beg my dad to let me take piano lessons. In contrast to the general perception of Asian parents wanting their children to learn 10 different instruments, my dad was the opposite. He thought learning music was a waste of money. I did manage to convince him to take me to piano classes but every time on the way to class, he would complain about how I was wasting his money. Nonetheless, I took a few months of class and stopped. Having a piano at home that I can play has always been a dream still.

I told Vera this story. She said she could borrow a piano from her parents. 3 days later, she did it! We carried a weighted keyboard up 3 floors to her apartment, set it up in the living room, adjusted the height to fit me. Dung dung dung! I was beyond happy and thankful. Thank you, Vera! I told her I’m never leaving her apartment ever.

My favorite piano piece is Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi. I have listened to this song hundreds of times and always wish I could play it. I immediately set up my mind to learn to play this song before I leave Germany. 

With that said, I first translated all the bean-sprout-looking notes to alphabetical notes that are easier for me to understand. Then, I dived into the first 16 bars of the song. I practiced again and again until I mastered the part. Then I moved on to the next 16 and the next. I start each section thinking “omg this is impossible to play”. Then I break everything down, slowly, practice the same bar again and again and again and again. Having learned to play the guitar, I know there are no tricks to this. All it takes is repetition. After about 20, 30 times doing the same thing, the muscle memory forms in my fingers. All of a sudden, I went from this is impossible to I am totally rocking it! 

The feeling of my fingers on the keyboard is something magical. I almost feel like my fingers belong there. I am now 5 days into it and have learned almost half of the song. I sometimes play for 1-2 hours non-stop. It’s actually hard for me to stop once I get my fingers on the keyboard. I play the same thing again and again and find satisfaction in seeing myself improve slowly but surely. 

Learning an instrument always reminds me that talent is overrated and that practice makes perfect. As long as I keep at something, put in the time and effort, I will ALWAYS get better. Not only in learning musical instruments, this also applies to everything in life. In building my business, my yoga and meditation practice, writing, drawing, all I focus on is not how good or bad I am but how much effort and time I put into what I do. Instead of finding satisfaction in the results, I find fulfillment in the process. Tony Robbins says “Repetition is the mother of skills” and “Progress equals happiness”. It’s not rocket science. Put in the time = Get better = Feel happy. It doesn’t take a genius to do this. 

I want to thank Vera and her parents again for giving me this opportunity to fulfill a dream! I can’t wait to master this song!

The Books I Read in 2021

Once upon a time, I wasn’t much of a reader. Sure I knew reading was important to my well-being but I never had the concentration or the time for it. One or two books a year was considered quite a success. 

In the past few years, I have successfully developed the habit of reading, especially after I started traveling. I gave up on having physical books since they add a lot of weight to my backpack and switched to digital books. My iPhone is my bookshelf. Now I carry over a hundred books on my phone everywhere I go. I LOVE reading on my phone because I can read anywhere, anytime! Sitting on a plane for 10 hours is now my favorite place to read. And a perfect day-off to me now is reading my books without interruption.

I started setting goals on the number of books I wanted to read every year. First it was 5 then 10. The past two years the goal was 20 and I successfully reached that goal as well!

So here in this post, I am excited to share with you the 23 books I read in 2021 (in chronological order):

  1. *Karmic Management – Geshe Michael Roach
  2. Happy Money – Ken Honda
  3. The Tenth Insight – James Redfield
  4. Believe IT – Jamie Kern Lima
  5. Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
  6. On Fire – John O’Leary
  7. The Traveler’s Choice – Andy Andrews
  8. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck – Mark Manson
  9. The Little Things – Andy Andrews
  10. Atomic Habits – James Clear
  11. The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
  12. The Mastery Of Love – Don Miguel Ruiz
  13. Getting The Love You Want- Harville Hendrix, Helen LaKelly Hunt
  14. The Ride Of A Lifetime – Robert Iger
  15. The Big Leap – Gay Hendricks
  16. Your Faith Is Your Fortune – Neville Goddard
  17. Freedom For All – Neville Goddard
  18. Prayer – The Art Of Believing – Neville Goddard
  19. Out Of This World – Neville Goddard
  20. Feeling Is The Secret – Neville Goddard
  21. The 7-Day Mental Diet – Emmet Fox
  22. The Power Of Awareness – Neville Goddard
  23. Living With A Seal – Jesse Itzler


I wish I could dive a little bit into each book but that’s going to take a while. So here, I’ll share my top 3!

#1 – ‘Believe IT’

My favorite is definitely ‘Believe IT’ by Jamie Kern Lima. I wrote a post right after I finished the book reflecting on the book and the insights from it. This book is captivating and inspiring to the max! It’s just amazing to see how Jamie went from working as a waitress at Denny’s, not knowing how to create a product or build a business, getting no’s everywhere she asked, to building a company that got bought by Amazon for 1 billion dollars in cash, becoming friends with Oprah, and the first and only female CEO in the history of L’Oreal. The way she shares her stories in the book is raw and real. I can feel her from her words and it definitely inspired me being also an entrepreneur to never give up. It doesn’t take talent to create something great. It takes grit, love and the sincere intention to serve. Jamie, you’re my hero!

#2 – ‘Greenlights’

My number two is ‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McCougnney. Because of the hype generated around the book, I decided to read it and I wasn’t disappointed at all! Some friend told me the audio version is even better! The book was the type of book that’s hard to put down once you start. He has a brilliant way to tell his stories and shares his insights and takeaways from his life experiences. To me, he used to be just a rom-com guy, an actor that sometimes does make good movies, but the book totally changed my perception of him. I love reading autobiographies of people and their life stories. Matthew was authentic in his sharing and I resonated a lot with his insights. 

#3 – ‘Getting The Love You Want’

Lastly, the book I want to share is ‘Getting The Love You Want’. It’s probably the best book I have read about intimate relationships. I read that whole book in one go. The book reframes the way we generally see romantic relationships and the purpose of two people coming together. There’s so much goodness that could come out of a relationship once we know how to navigate and relate and thus create the most gratifying journey with our partner. If you ever want to read a book on relationships, this should be number one! I am still praying that one day Avner will read it too. 😉

This year my goal is to read 25 books and I can’t wait to share the snippets, insights, and my thoughts on them with you!

My Love Affair with Life

I just finished reading the book called ‘Living With The Monks’ by Jesse Itzler. It’s about him going to a monastery to live with the monks for 2 weeks.

One of the lessons Jesse learned from the monks is that the monks are in love with their life. They have a ‘love affair with life’. When I read those words, it hit me hard but in a subtle way. I recognized that I do have a love affair with my life. I love my life. Not in the cliche way but in the truest sense. 

I love to see my life unfold. Leading a rather unconventional life, I get to constantly let life surprise me. For example, last night on New Year’s Eve, I spent time with Vera’s family, Jewish immigrants in Germany. I got to immerse myself in their family love, experience their family culture, listen to their stories. They accepted me and loved me as their guest and a temporary member of their family. I had the kind of experience I probably wouldn’t have had if I had a conventional life where things are pretty much predictable and planned. Having this kind of lifestyle really opens me up to experiences that I would never think of or plan for myself. 

The last two months traveling with Avner around Portugal and Spain is a similar affair. We didn’t really have a concrete plan. Some days we didn’t even know where we would sleep that night. Being totally open to what to come and staying curious along the way is a love affair itself. The mystery, the anticipation, the curiosity are the key ingredients to living a life that never gets boring. 

I am a sucker for new experiences. I absolutely love meeting new people, especially those that I meet randomly. Like an old Portuguese man who doesn’t speak English and requires me to use sign language, translation app, and a lot of laughter to communicate. Meeting my friend’s family who takes me in as part of their family. Being in a foreign land for the first time and getting my way around not understanding their language or ways of operating. 

I love the constant learning about my environment, new culture, and new people. I integrate all the new information into my being. As the more I experience, the more I expand. And that drives me, fulfills me, and makes me feel alive. 

I feel blessed to lead the life I have. I appreciate even more my courage to play with the unknown, to sometimes sit with discomfort but to ultimately taste all the juice life has to offer. 

‘Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’

What’s your relationship with life? A love affair or a dead marriage? How do you spice things up so your love for life gets tastier and juicier?

Cheers to a great year ahead!

New Year’s Eve 2021 with Vera’s family