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Apr 17, 2014

Making Things With My Hands

I like craft. I always have as a child. I finally got around to learning a new craft from a good friend of mine (thanks Serena!). It’s called amigurumi!

Amigurumi (編みぐるみ) is defined as a knitted or crocheted stuffed toy on Wikipedia. My past crafts involving sewing are mostly done with felt or some kind of fabric. It amazed me when I learned that both knitting and crocheting don’t really involve any fabric and the primary crafting material is a variety of yarn in different sizes, colours, weight and textures. Making stuffed dolls out of tying knots, imagine that!

The day Serena taught me how to crochet, I spent about 3-4 hours at her dining table trying to shape yarn into the base of a Mario mushroom. Throughout the course of attempting to complete the amigurumi, my fingers hurt, I was frustrated with my slow progress, I repeatedly made mistakes in counting the stitches and I told myself - this is probably going to be my first and last. All I wanted to do was finish the mushroom and put the crochet hook away.

In slightly over a week, I finally completed the mushroom. I felt accomplished although not entirely satisfied with how it  turned out seeing that the shape wasn’t near perfect, there were little holes in it, and a portion of the mushroom was crocheted inside-out. That dissatisfaction actually pushed me to make another amigurumi. And another. And another. I’ll get the hang of it, I thought. 

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The Totoro I made in the picture above is about the size of an egg; this was my second amigurumi after the mushroom and it sure looks a lot better! When I completed the tiniest details on this little guy, I decided that… hey, I actually like doing this! Then I made a pair of turtles for my sister because they’re her favourite animals in the whole wide world :) 

I had another reason for wanting to learn how to do amigurumi. Long before I started, I wanted to craft a Kratos figurine for a special someone. From Google’s search results, the closest figurine that anyone has ever made of Kratos was a crocheted doll. I am extremely grateful for the free tutorial that GoldenJellyBean put up on her Youtube channel and blog and had it bookmarked for a good year before I learned to crochet and finally made it. It was a really fun project to do, obviously the most complicated amigurumi I’ve done to date with all the little details to embroider and sew onto his body. 

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I’m really glad that I didn’t give up on amigurumi from the petty little things that bugged me in the beginning. For those want to learn the craft, do remember that practice makes perfect. It’s quite a bit of a learning curve and requires one to dedicate some time and attention to it. The next time I post about craft, it’ll be on my experience with this thing:

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Cheers!

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Apr 04, 2014

Learning Chinese!

I am infamously known amongst my friends as a “banana Chinese” - one who is Chinese by blood, but barely knows the Chinese culture or language. Although my parents are of the Hokkien and Cantonese descents, I have never been taught to speak either dialect. Attending a private school and transferring to a government school in Malaysia also means I have never been taught Mandarin in school. 

When I switched to a government secondary school, I was much more surrounded by Mandarin speaking students from various Chinese schools and a few of them have become a part of my high school circle. Here and there, I learned to pick up a few Chinese phrases from “Hello, how are you?” to “Where are the toilets?” (sometimes the latter is more essential than you might think). 

I quite value the language now as an undergraduate in Malaysia. There have been countless times I wished I could read or speak Chinese - the time I got into a car accident and the other driver couldn’t speak English or Malay, when I’m ordering food in areas that are more dense with Chinese, when I’m aimlessly clicking all over TaoBao.com trying to make a purchase from mainland Chinese e-tailers, when I read job descriptions that require Chinese… you get the picture.

More and more Malaysians regardless of race are enrolling their kids in Chinese schools. I’ve had a Russian classmate who was learning Chinese and could read and write the language. I came across videos of Africans  living in China who could speak and sing in Chinese. I felt like a disgrace to my own lineage. Every single time I meet a stranger and they assume that I speak the language because of my race, they have this genuine look of shock on their face when they find out I don’t. I hated it, but I can’t blame them. Wouldn’t you assume a Hispanic in America speaks Spanish?



So I set out with a mission to learn the language. 

No, seriously.

Slightly over a month ago, I purchased a book titled “Reading and Writing Chinese” by William McNaughton. I purchased a book on Chinese which is not written by a Chinese. The irony. 

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As you can see written on the book cover above, it has thousands upon thousands of Chinese characters - the book is about 1.5inches thick. I began going through the characters and just… just how was I going to finish this book!? 

I bought myself some Chinese exercise books with large grids that kids use in Chinese schools and started to do a minimum of 15 characters a week. I figured I could finish the book in 18 months if I kept that pace. 

I hit that goal on a pretty regular streak and thought about it again. If I could do 5 characters a day - that’s 35 characters a week - I could finish the book in less than a year! 

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Today, almost a month has passed since I got the book and I’ve learned 104 characters. Next time I update this blog in relation to this life-long mission to learn Chinese, I’ll be sure to include some Android apps that I use to learn Chinese on the go. Wish me luck!

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Mar 26, 2014

The Gap Year Plan

Today marks the 60th day since my university life has come to an end with the completion of my final exams. In these two months, I haven’t gotten a job or applied into postgraduate studies. I have decided to take a gap year!

As the days of my final semester flew by quickly, I thought long and hard about what I was going to do after all that was over. No more nagging lecturers, boring tutorials, ice-cold auditoriums and cafeteria food. Much questioning and pondering have left me feeling that I’m probably not going to catch a break for a long time if I don’t now. 

Taking a gap year doesn’t necessarily mean that one is on holiday, playing video games at home all day long, being a couch potato, or going bungee jumping in New Zealand. Like seriously, stop assuming any of the above to be the case.

My intention of taking a gap year is primarily to learn things that are not taught in school or college, to learn things that I WANT to learn, be it a new skill, or knowledge. The second reason is hopefully, a chance to backpack across some part of the world whilst paying visits to friends and family abroad, perhaps Europe. 

What’s in my gap year plan?

  • Getting experience with small projects related to my field of study
  • Learning languages (Mandarin, German & French)
  • Gaining extra general knowledge
  • Educating myself on finance
  • Getting fit!
  • Levelling up my crafts
  • Playing more music

How long is the gap year plan?

This is a question that I don’t have an answer to yet. It will probably be a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 12 months depending on how well I progress with the gap year plan. This blog will be updated occasionally with the fun and struggles I have in attempting to execute the plan on my own freewill and determination. 

To my friends and classmates who have closed the chapter of university life with me, congratulations on making it through the gruelling years and may the odds be ever in your favour. Cheers x. 

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Jan 01, 2014
Ñ Salutations, 2014.

Salutations, 2014.

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