The Other Side of the Sky

I stumbled into a lovely second-hand bookshop the other day and found Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘The Other Side of the Sky’, a lovely collection of short stories that was first published in 1958.

The Other Side of the Sky

Clarke was one of the first science fiction writers I read, and he quickly became one of my favourites, even when, as a young girl, I sometimes didn’t fully understand what he was writing. To my eyes, he was a brilliant thinker, someone who knew the concepts of physics well and could imagine the future in a semi-plausible way – even if he was a bit too optimistic about the advances in space travel, and putting dates to events that turned out to be way too early.

The short story ‘Venture to the Moon’ is a lovely little piece – fictional, of course, written about the first landing expedition to the Moon. Reading it in 2015, knowing that the story was written in 1957 and well before the actual American expedition to the Moon in 1969, was very interesting: a view into what Clarke imagined the first landing expedition to the Moon could be like, and a comparison to what actually happened.

My favourite part was the fact that he pictured it as a joint effort: Britain, the USA and Russia in a joint venture to land on the Moon. Of course, we know that this didn’t turn out to be the case, and the USA won that particular race. Being British, it’s no surprise that Clarke includes his country as one of the illustrious countries partaking in the mission.

He doesn’t portray it all as a peaceful walk in the park, either (and which would have been unrealistic, I feel) – the countries have agreed to work together, but the leaders still want the bigger portion of the glory, as some of the events in the story show. Nevertheless, I thought it still painted a beautiful picture, of countries being able to work together, and the Captains of the three ships do not bear grudges, seeing each other for the humans they are instead of what nationality they bear.

‘Venture to the Moon’ is told from the viewpoint of the British Captain as he looks back upon his time at the Moon, many years after event. Another short story, ‘The Other Side of the Sky’, is about someone working on a satellite relay station. Both stories are a collection of short vignettes of events that happened while they were working. While fictional, to me they feel as if they could have been real anecdotes of the characters’ time in space.

Then there are the other stories: some a bit wacky, some very interesting. There is the exploration of the concept of a one-sided planet; an imagining of how a telepathic alien species managed to communicate with Man; and a snippet of the time after Man conquered travelling amongst the stars.

If you love science fiction, I highly recommend this book. Never mind that it was published in 1958 and some of the events have been bypassed by history: this is a book written in that hopeful era just at the cusp of the Space Age, when space travel could almost be grasped, a book full of imagination and wonder.

A Foreigner In My Own Land

So… I’ve been back home for a little more than a month now, and while it is great to be amongst family and friends, I have to say there are times when I’ve felt a little bit like a foreigner in my own country.

How so, you ask?

Well, there are times when people will be speaking to me, in English, and I have no clue what they are talking about…

Take, for example, the other day when I called up the local karaoke to book a slot for that evening. I asked to book a room for 7 people from 8pm that night, and then the lady replied, and I had no idea what she was saying.

So I said, “Sorry, could you say that again?”

She did (this whole conversation was in English, mind you) and I managed to catch something along the lines of, “One five eight,” and ,”Eight two two,” and presumably at the end, a question asking if I agreed to whatever she was telling me.

Which would have been great if I knew what she was saying! So I asked her to repeat herself again, but slowly, this time, and…

I still didn’t get it!

There’s only so many times you can ask someone to repeat herself so at this point I had to pretend that I understood and told her, “Yes, I agree,” without knowing what exactly I was agreeing to. (Later, after arriving at the karaoke, I gathered that she had been telling me about the kind of pricing deal they had on the rooms – RM158 for an 8pm to 2am slot in a medium sized room that fit up to 8 people.)

After a few instances of this sort happening I had to concede that my grasp of the Malaysian English accent is not what it used to be. *insert sadface here*

You see, the British speak very clearly and quite a bit slower than your typical Malaysian English speaker, who tends to speak very quickly, does not pronounce his or her words properly and also tends to let words run into each other or jumble them up. (I’m not saying this to put down my own country’s accent – it’s just what I have noticed.)

I used to joke to my British friends that if they put a bunch of Malaysians together and tried to listen in on their English conversation, they probably wouldn’t understand a word, and I used to say this proudly, because we have evolved our own unique way of speaking English… however this joke is not quite so funny when I have problems communicating in my own country!

Rush Hour MemeIt’s okay, though. When my English comprehension fails, I can always speak to them in Malay…

The Non-Essential Guide to Bath

It’s easy to find a list of the must-see, must-do tourist attractions of Bath, but what about other things that are still interesting, still fun, but just… well… not really essential?

I’ll start off with a quick list of ‘essentials’ – these are what I think most websites will talk about, and what most people will recommend if you have a short time in Bath: Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths, Thermae Bath Spa, Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent, and the Circus. I won’t elaborate further as you can look them up on the Bath tourism website.

What I’d really like to share is a list of other things you can do if you are in Bath for any decent amount of time:

Boating on the River Avon

P1050269_FotorCambridge and Oxford are well known for their punting and boating activities, but did you know you can do them in Bath, too? The Bath Boating Station offers three types of boating experiences: rowing, punting and canoeing. The River Avon is a lovely and rather quiet river to be on (there is the occasional motorised riverboat, but they don’t come round too often), with lots of trees and wildlife – I once spotted little cygnets bobbing along the river with their parents. Head upriver away from Pulteney Bridge and you’ll end up at the Bathampton Mill, a great place to moor your boat and have a meal or drink before heading back to the station. The Bath Boating Station is open during the warmer months of the year, from April to September.

Bath Skyline Walk

P1060096_FotorThe city of Bath is situated in the Avon Valley and surrounded by hills. One of the great things about this is that you can head into meadows, woodland and nature very easily, as well as enjoy wonderful views of the city from places like Alexandra Park. The Bath Skyline walk is a six mile route marked out by the National Trust that goes along the hills around Bath, through valleys and woodland. You will see some amazing views of Bath, lots of wildlife and, at the right time of year, flowers. The route also takes you near Sham Castle, an 18th century folly that was commissioned by Ralph Allen to provide employment for local stonemasons.

Bath Christmas Market

Source: The Daily Telegraph.

Source: The Daily Telegraph.

This is, obviously, a seasonal attraction, but one that I love to visit every year, even though there are crowds upon crowds of people. The Bath Christmas Market is not as huge as London or Birmingham, and doesn’t have as much food as other Christmas markets, but it is just very pretty to walk through: there are the rows of decorated traditional wooden chalets, surrounded by beautiful Georgian buildings.

No.1 Royal Crescent Museum

P1050934_FotorBath has many museums, and I think this one makes some of the Top 10 lists, but I wanted to highlight it because I think it’s awesome. As you may have guessed from the name, this museum is located at No.1 Royal Crescent, which like the rest of the Royal Crescent was built in the 18th century. The museum shows visitors a typical wealthy 18th century Bath home, with Georgian interior design. The best part of the museum is the presence of knowledgeable guides situated in each room, who will tell you interesting stories about the way people lived and some of the famous residents of 18th century Bath.

Bizarre Bath – The Comedy Walk

P1050970_FotorBath is a historic city, but sometimes it’s good to have a bit of a laugh, and Bizarre Bath will give you lots, with some magic thrown in as well. It’s less of a walking tour around Bath than a piece of street theatre. You will end up walking around the streets of Bath, but don’t expect to learn anything historical! It’s been a while since I went on this walk, but I do remember having some funny details of the city pointed out to me, that I had never noticed before. The walk is seasonal and only runs from April to October.

Mini Golf at Royal Victoria Park

Source: ArtanAbart, TripAdvisor.

Source: ArtanAbart, TripAdvisor.

I know, I know, you’re asking yourself, “What’s so special about mini golf?” To be perfectly honest, I haven’t played mini golf anywhere else but every time I’ve gone to Victoria Falls Adventure Golf, I’ve always had lots of fun. There are 18 holes, lots of different water features and nature all around you; the scenery is quite picturesque.

So there’s my list! What other activities do you like to do in Bath? Let me know! And if you haven’t tried some of the things on this list, why not give them a go the next time you’re in Bath?

The Joy of Spring

Alright, I know it’s the end of May, and technically, spring started way back in March, but tell that to my winter coat, which was still fit for use in the beginning of May with night time temperatures dipping down to 0°C (!!!) – I swear, for the past few years, spring has been arriving later and later…

I am not going to turn this into a rant about how late spring was, however, so let’s move on to one of the reasons why I love spring: flowers!

I must say my appreciation for flowers has grown throughout the years. One might call me spoilt, for, having grown up in a tropical country, flowers are pretty much available all year round. My mum had orchids and other flowers growing outside, which seemed to always be flowering, so I never felt the absence of these splashes of colour.

Living abroad for a number of years, in a country of four seasons (I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but yes, the UK does officially have four seasons), has meant that I appreciate flowers a whole lot more now. When winter has ended and the weather starts to become warm and nice, you know spring has arrived when all the flowers and baby animals come out to play.

It feels so glorious to step outside in a light jacket and see bursts of colour everywhere. It is moments like these when I finally see the attraction of gardening. How lovely it must feel to plant bulbs in the autumn, and know that lovely tulips and daffodils will come up to welcome you in spring!

P1050528e_Fotor 3








Slang Quiz: Malaysian vs British

In commemoration of our 8-year friendship (!!), my housemate and I decided to make a video together and… yup, you’ve guessed it, post it on Youtube! So here’s us, quizzing each other on Malaysian and British slang:

We had a lot of fun with the video. So much so that we wondered why we hadn’t done one sooner, so that we could make more! Oh well, I guess that’s another reason why we need regular reunions!

Not A Budding Photographer

I recently spoke to a friend about how I love taking photos, but hesitate to say that I love photography, because while I love taking pictures that look very nice or artistic, I don’t love learning about things like ISO settings or Photoshop or balancing your subject/background/insert-photography-jargon-here. I see an angle, I like it, I take a picture, and hopefully the awesome iAuto setting on my camera will take what I’m seeing.

My friend (who, in my eyes, is a proper amateur photographer, and is very passionate about photography) said, “A true photographer will never look down on you because you don’t have a fancy camera.” (And because I don’t know how all the different photography settings work.)

So, thanks friend, I guess I can say that I love photography, after all!

I found this peacock wandering along on Brownsea Island, strutting his stuff.

I found this peacock wandering along on Brownsea Island, strutting his stuff.

The Elusiveness of Productivity

Does anyone else find it hard to be productive? I seem to manage fine at work, but the minute I try to transfer being productive to my personal life, it normally ends up with me not getting very far.

The issue could be that with work, there are consequences for being unproductive. Snoozing your alarm for an hour and then coming late into work every day, or spending half your work day on the Internet, is not really going to get you very far in your career, is it?!

I am in the very fortunate position of having a significant amount of time in which to pack up my life in the UK. I’m currently not working, so theoretically the whole day, every day, is available for me to sort out my things, pack, and finish administrative tasks like making sure I cancel my gym membership and get the final bills for my house.

I’m trying to be all organised and productive and not spend my days waking up at 10am, watching lots of TV and being a zombie in front of the computer. I mean, all of those things are enjoyable, but I feel that things like learning Korean, reading some books and writing in this blog are a more productive use of my time.

So far it’s been a big fat fail. The Internet is too alluring. Sleep is too comfortable.

However! *raises index finger* I am fighting against procrastination! I will conquer it! (Crunch time is also getting closer, but uh, let’s just pretend I’m winning instead of being forced to be productive lest I want all my belongings left in the UK, shall we?)

'Be Productive'. Source: DreamingDeer, DeviantArt.

‘Be Productive’. Source: DreamingDeer, DeviantArt.

Strategy Number 1
Use music to wake up. I have a tendency to snooze my alarm or turn it off completely, then wake up an entire hour later. I’ve managed to force myself to pick up my iPod and get it to play music through my speakers. I’m one of those people who can’t really sleep when there’s music playing.

Strategy Number 2
No Youtube or Facebook. These are my absolute killers in terms of productivity. Once I get on Youtube, I get distracted by all the suggested videos that are lined up to the right of the video I meant to watch. Cue hours of clicking on video after video, thinking you should stop but never quite managing to hit the little ‘x’ on the top of the screen.

Strategy Number 3
Reward system. Sorting out your things and doing administrative tasks like cancelling your bills is really boring. So I try to give myself a reward like watching something or playing a game, and make sure I put a timer on it, because there is always the risk of getting sucked in and never going back to that task you were meant to do. Music also helps when I’m actually doing the task.

Now let’s hope that I manage to sort out and pack everything with plenty of time to study Korean!

Pack Up and Go!

Off on a New Adventure. Where to? Oh, I’m glad you asked. I’m moving here:

View of Seoul

View of Seoul from Namsan Tower.

I’ve been there on holiday before, but I’ve never lived there. At the moment, my Korean is also limited to saying things like, “Hello, I am Nicole,” “Where is the toilet?” and, “I want to eat now.”

Which are all important things to know how to say, but a bit limiting if you want to have a conversation with someone. That’s okay, though. I’m raring to go and ready to learn the language!

I created this blog because I feel like it’s a new adventure, a new phase of life, one which I would like to share, so I hope you will have as much fun reading it as I will have writing it. (I’m assuming I will have fun, is that being too optimistic?)

I won’t be in South Korea for a few months yet, though – first it will be some rest and relaxation at home, in Malaysia, and then, then, it will begin.

The New Adventure.
South Korea.
대한민국 (Daehan Minguk).

… just to clarify, I will still post stuff, even though I’m not physically there yet! After all, they say that the paths we take can be just as interesting as the destination… or… something. You know what I mean.