Fitting In

Today, just somehow, I decided to put on a pair of jeans that I have not touched, what more looked at, for the longest time—and it fitted perfectly. You have no idea how overjoyed I was. Being able to button up without having to suck in your layers of fats was, to put simply, bliss at its best.

I was in the middle of some packing but this rare occasion obviously hit me harder than expected. So, I paused for a good half an hour, slouched in my desk chair, and thought of what exactly I’ve done the past couple of months to arrive at this point.

It wasn’t the easiest half an hour.

This would be the entry where I’m opening up about how much I have been beating myself up for my body for reasons not unheard of. They can all go under an umbrella labelled “Insecurities”. [Clarification: I do not have any eating disorders] 2016 was the year that I decided to start dealing with them by going back to the gym and running on Saturday or Sunday mornings for a short few months (and completely gave up after that because it was messing up my sleep schedule). Running for 2km straight was such an achievement (good lord #SMH) and the rewards were major[ly calorific] (tbh, it didn’t really help that much). 2016 was also the year that I sinfully, truly glorified the idea of brunch and at some points, work was also in the way. Hence, so many breakfasts were skipped just to accommodate whatever feasts I would be indulging later in the day—or at least I thought it was the right thing to do.

I was a mess who didn’t know where to start.

I used to be so certain that I would rather be a happy glutton than an unhappy person with a strict diet. “Diet” was a forbidden word in my vocabulary and I was so compelled by the idea of food therapy just because eating makes me feel so much better. Being single was also the perfect excuse. I couldn’t give a damn about getting the whole “ideal body type” with hopes of finding the man of my dreams. Sorry, fried chicken >>> men.

That was such a toxic phase, I admit. I was in so much denial at first but after much thought, I can safely say that I was unhappy. Something had to be done.

November was month I took off to travel to Seoul, Hanoi and Penang, and to get myself back together. By the end of the month, it was as if I was given a new set of lungs that allowed me to breathe so much better. I have never been happier reconnecting with some friends and making new ones, some whom I’m very grateful for today.

In December, I found myself surrounded by a more positive and motivating environment—and I’m very glad that I chose that path. Work was different and at a more productive pace. There was this drive to look after my body better by watching what and how much I eat. I had no issues with having salads and proteins for lunch(!). Skipping breakfast meant suffering till lunch time because of how much more energy was required. I am very thankful for this change not just for a better job, but also for the people around me who never fail to inspire.

2017 came at the perfect time because this meant starting afresh. The first thing wanted to do was to try to not skip breakfast throughout the year. So far, I’ve missed seven. Those were the days where I needed (and could afford) to sleep in from all the late nights.

I never knew the importance of breakfast until lately. I regretfully, shamefully admit that I was one of those people who would skip them all the time because “I had more important things to do”. I find myself enjoying toast with peanut butter, or sometimes some of mom’s cooking in the morning. For the more pampering-worthy days, I would get up earlier to make a trip to a regular cafe for coffee and American-style scrambled eggs on toast with a side of avocado. Breakfast is also when I can afford a few precious minutes of reading books that I have bought way too long ago to the point where the layers of dust have become the new book covers. But above all, the most meaningful mornings are when my parents would join in for breakfast.

I have not set foot into gym in months, I’ve been eating so much better, and yet I have lost 3kgs since November. This change has made me so much happier to the point where breakouts  are more rare and have saved many facial trips. I have been shopping for clothes a little more (I used to despise it because I would rarely find clothes that I would like and could fit into = demotivation) and have been putting more effort into how I dress every day. This is just me taking on what I have learnt when I was traveling in Japan—that dressing well meant that you know how to take care of yourself.

Fitting into those old pair of jeans meant so much, you have no idea. At the end of the day, this is a continuous journey of self-development and I’m still a work in progress.

 

Back to Snail Mail: Postcards

In this digital era, people seldom send mail to their friends. Why do that when your friend is just a Facebook message away, right?

I personally still love sending postcards to friends who are overseas as a way of showing love and appreciation. Postcards are precious if you think about how the person has taken time to write them, buy stamps and send it to the post office in the midst of their daily activities.

This entry is inspired by a couple of friends who have been asking for tips on how to write and send postcards. Hopefully you will be on your way to the post office with confidence to look for postcards and stamps after this!

overseas-postcards
Some postcards from friends who live or have traveled overseas. Thank you!

How is a postcard different from standard mail?

While standard mail requires envelopes and charges go by weight, a postcard is a category on its own. It is a rectangular card with no envelope, not folded, and is designed for short and simple messages. They require stamps (they do not have special stamps) and are for non-commercial use only.

How much does it cost to send a postcard from Malaysia?

It only costs one RM0.30 stamp to send a postcard to any Malaysian destination while international ones cost one RM0.50 stamp per postcard. Yes, you read that right. It is actually so affordable to send postcards overseas from Malaysia! I still remember sending postcards from Europe to Malaysia and they go for €1 – 1.70 each while the Australia Post charges from $1.85 – 2.75 depending on the zones.

pos-malaysia-gst
Screenshot from www.pos.com.my. Take note of the GST charges on stamp purchases implemented by Pos Malaysia recently.

How long will the postcards take to reach?

Honestly, it depends on the destination. It can take from a week up to a month (sometimes two months) depending on the efficiency of the post offices. As long as all your recipient’s details are accurate, it shouldn’t be a problem. Some countries may recommend purchasing a tracking service although I think it’s unnecessary.

How do I write my postcards?

Typically, the messages are written on the left half while the recipient’s address and stamp go on the right. Some postcards may be designed the other way around — as long as the address is clear.

postcard-guide

Be sure to place your stamp on the very top right. You may also include the name of the recipient above the address.

Your recipient’s address should at least contain: apartment / block / house number, street address, town / district, postcode, state and country (for international destinations). As for the message section, write anything you like! It could be a greeting or a very simple message like:

Hello from *insert city*! It’s raining heavily right now so I’m sitting indoors with hot cocoa and local biscuits. My AirBnb host’s cat is keeping me company.

If you are unsure, look for something happening in the present or a favourite memory of your trip so far. This also goes unsaid but please skip any sensitive information e.g. bank account details, the password to your diamond safe, etc.

Examples of more elaborate postcards:

sharons-postcard

Thank you for this postcard, Sharon! So beautifully done with her calligraphy work and stickers. You can check her out on Instagram @ronnycakes :)

postcard-example
Your postcard does not have to be all that flat. Wax seals, considering how well they stick, are no problem.

For postcards with no pre-drawn lines for addresses, you can always draw them in by yourself. I am absolutely confident that you can draw a few straight lines :)

Where can I buy postcards?

For touristy postcards, you can get them at souvenir shops or even at regular post offices. They go for a few Ringgit and are not considered expensive.

I personally love getting mine from Stickerrific @ Jaya One because of their unique designs. Here are some that you can get there:

old-postcards
Vintage ad postcards.

more-postcards
Top: Malaysian food postcards which I have been using to “torture” some Malaysian friends who are overseas.
Bottom: [NOT FROM STICKERRIFIC] Postcards from the Pansodan Art Gallery in Yangon.

malaysian-snacks-series
Childhood snacks postcards set — perfect for something nostalgic, especially if your recipient is a childhood friend.

watercolor-postcards
Travel life postcards by Taiwanese artist, Silver Yang.

The best thing about Stickerrific is that they can send your postcards for you. All you have to do is pay for the stamps (30 or 50 cents per card) and drop your masterpieces into the box provided at the counter. Alternatively, there is a post office at Jaya One as well that you can visit, located at 53.f-P2, Block D.

Tip: If you plan to get some postcards for keepsake, buy two! No harm doing that ;)

A couple more tips

hand-cancelling

Post offices have their ways of ensuring that people do not reuse stamps. This is called “hand-cancelling” — the stamp marks made across the postage stamps (see image above). They can also come in the form a few wavy lines. To ensure that your masterpieces are not ruined, be sure to leave some empty spaces around the stamp, usually towards the left hand side.

Other than keeping the address area as readable as possible, try not to use gel pens to write your postcards. Look for waterproof ones, ball pens, and you can always trust a Sharpie marker. This is in case of any unfortunate events e.g. bad weather where your postcard gets drenched, smudges appear, etc. Although these are unlikely to happen as postcards are usually well taken care of, it is best to be safe.

Some brands that I have used on postcards that have reached my recipients without any damage: Tombow (Dual Brush Pens, Fudenosuke), Pilot (Kakuno Fountain Pen), MUJI (ball pens – THE BEST!! I swear by these pens!)

If you are sending postcards from an unfamiliar city, always do your research beforehand or try checking with the locals when you arrive. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel to direct you to a post office near you. Some hotel services include sending postcards for you but the only downside of that is not being able to experience sending them by yourself.

For the more adventurous ones or if you would like to make new friends, you can try Postcrossing where you can send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person anywhere in the world. I have not tried it due to time constraints but one day for sure!

More than just a card

Postcards are lovely souvenirs for those who love handwritten crafts, and the best part of it is that you need not carry them back with you. I am always very happy when my friends ask if they can send me a postcard during their travels. You would be surprised how such a little thing can brighten up someone’s day.

These pieces of paper traveling around the globe are more than just paper. I believe that they carry meaning, so personal between the sender and recipient, that technology cannot ever replace.

The Calligraphy Journey ( + Travel Updates!)

Happy (late) New Year! I’m not sure who still reads my website, but hello to you :)

I was partially writing this from Analog, a relatively new cafe I discovered on Instagram some time ago but only managed to visit recently. I regret not doing so earlier because this was the place for me to sit down and do my work. People rarely come to this side of Subang Jaya, hence the slow traffic of customers. I shall savour these few quieter moments before they get flooded with cafe hoppers (hopefully not).

It’s been interestingly crazy towards the end of 2015. I’d usually have too much time to spare during this time of the year but it seems activities are around the clock – not that I’m complaining. Here’s to sum up my last quarter of the year:

What's up, Bali! 🇲🇨 #documentingSEA

A post shared by Emily Choong 🍃 (@emilychoong_) on

 

Early October was spent in Bali for a company retreat where I got to try surfing for the first time (and failed). It was also the first time I tried Bossman Burgers and Mamasan (which recently opened in KLCC) and hiked up Mount Batur for about 3 hours to watch the sunrise (and almost died, but I made it!).

 

There was then a trip to Melbourne at the end of November (booked my flight tickets in March) where I spent a week attempting to complete unfinished business, only to come home with a list of more unfinished businesses (!!). The city is full of hidden gems, most which I have yet to discover. Well, at least caffeine and brunch fixes were checked off the list.

graduation!
I made it back in time for my graduation which most people thought was held in Melbourne.

 

After about a day in KL, it was time to head to Singapore once again for work for a couple of days. My flight back to KL was on an ungodly hour on that Saturday morning because I was rushing back for a lovely afternoon wedding.

 

Thankfully, there were a couple of days to rest for the week as I prepared for yet another wedding the following weekend which involved a road trip up to Janda Baik, a beautiful and popular wedding location. Almost immediately after this second and last wedding of the quarter, it was back to work right up till barely a few days before Christmas Eve where my family and I got to experience home-cooked American-style salmon and about 500g/serving of sirloin steak for a hearty dinner, courtesy of my American cousin.

The 1st day of 2016 was spent deservedly at home to hibernate like a bear and recharge the empty battery.

* * * *

31st October 2015 – The day I went for a copperplate calligraphy workshop for beginners held by Joy and Sharon at Stickerrific, a stationery heaven and nightmare for my bank account. I took interest in this style of modern calligraphy after seeing it a lot on social media and also got inspired by Sharon’s gorgeous works. Plus, I decided to get in touch with my artistic side once again. Can’t help to feel that it’s somehow a part of me, as if one of my Chinese names does not enhance it enough.

I purchased a “starter kit” of a straight holder, black ink and Nikko G nibs a few months ago from Alceestore and have had a bit of a head start. Of course, my strokes were absolutely terrible back then. Here’s a picture of it to give you some encouragement.

calligraphy first strokes

My absolute first strokes!

Paper from Rhodia Pad (Purchased at Haneda Airport in Japan thinking it was just a regular notebook I could use. As Joy mentioned, my earlier self already knew I was getting into calligraphy!). You can tell I had no clue how to work this pen and I was trying to figure it out all by myself. No sense of control of the ink nor consistency of strokes – but that’s the beauty of it.

Going on YouTube did not help too much but there were samples online I attempted to copy from.

Yes, those were the old days!

Now look what difference the workshop made:

For the next 2 weeks, before my Melbourne trip, I was doing drills every day again and again. Yes, I got obsessed with my new hobby (there, I’ve said it).

Hairline strokes are beautiful when you can get them right (getting there!).

A combination of underturn and overturn strokes.

And this particular one…

… has got to be my favourite. The compound curve drill is such a pleasure doing!

And of course, mistakes are made when you don’t focus.

As of this entry, there are less than 10 clean sheets of my 80-paged Rhodia pad left. That is how much I’ve been using it for the past 2 months. I normally practice with quotes so here are a few:

Inspired by my tiny traveler friend, Bea.

Murakami has always been one of the first places I’d look for quotes. Those are coffee stains by the way.

Sometimes you get something off Google.

Or on a popular Facebook page like berlin-artparasites that never ceases to use words to hit you in the face.

Maybe from a book that has impacted you.

Or even some lines from a film you’ve just watched.

I genuinely enjoy this therapeutic form of art, pretty much like the yoga of writing. Time seems to go by so slowly as you craft every word (and get frustrated at how some strokes don’t turn out well or if the ink overflows) but when you look at the clock, you realise you’ve been mistaken.

There have been a good handful of those days where you don’t feel like writing. Something like a bad hair day except it applies to calligraphy. The rhythm isn’t there, you don’t feel the drive to devote time to write that one short line, and so many more negativities. Here’s the thing: That’s how life works. Put the pen down, don’t destroy it, start over tomorrow. It goes on.

I wouldn’t say that this hobby has helped me manage my patience entirely, but it certainly has helped me to breathe a little more. I take deep breaths before I write to calm the nerves and try to not drink anything too caffeinated before writing because my hands shake a little too much for writing under influence. There’s a lot more to this art than just being visually pleasing and I’m more than glad I have this in my life now.

Not too long ago, I got into the Traveler’s Notebook hobby to start organising all my tickets and receipts from travels (because I’m such a hoarder). That’s another story for another day. Follow my Instagram here for more frequent updates!

Rest in peace, Alan Rickman.