Did I make the right choice?

Why did you choose ASU (Arizona State University)?

That’s the question that I get asked and get asked quite often when I meet new people. And every time I get asked about it, my answer is simple. I chose ASU because of the weather. It doesn’t snow in Tempe nor is there much of rainfall. But it does get cold every now and then but that is because I am unwilling to wear multiple layers of clothing. But that’s the cliched answer that I tell everyone about.

One of the biggest reason by far that I chose ASU was because of the weather conditions in Phoenix but also because of the potential that I saw. Compared to my potential first choice which was Washington State University, ASU was better in every way. Whether it be campus size or facilities, ASU was better. But, then again we did lose the homecoming game against the WSU Cougars in October.

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The potential that I saw with ASU is the number of students on campus. Not only does the school have over 70,000 students across the different campuses but the student body is represented by the most diverse international student body of all the universities that I shortlisted. But one of the problems that I was nagged about by my mother is the lack of Malaysians in this school. She was worried for me. With the sunny weather all year round and diversity of students, I made the decision to come to ASU.

So, did my instincts lead me the wrong way?

I don’t think so or to be more specific, I can’t definitively say yes or no because I can’t compare with something that never happened. Over the years, I have learnt that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to life. Every decision leads to another path in life. Maybe I would have had a better time elsewhere. But as is, I think I made the right choice.

Maybe its because of the people I met here at ASU that made me think this way.

Here’s a couple of unedited photos that I took the first time I roamed the ASU campus. I still remember it like it was just yesterday. The cold winds, cloudy skies and slight rain.

Let it go!

If you don’t let go,

You will not be able to move forward,

To see the road ahead,

Humans have memories and feelings,

Only your heart can see what matters the most,

your eyes can’t see things that are truly important.


I have been posting too much negative stuff in this blog recently, I hope this is the last of them.

These posts are not necessarily negative in the sense but how I came of writing them is from negativity. But instead on focusing on the bad side of things, I tried pulling out the positive outlooks from them.

I never wanted them to be negative in any way but they just tuned out to be negative because of my mental and physical state when I was writing it.

I’m not just like learning new knowledge this year but I am also beginning to understand another side of myself. The side that even I didn’t knew exist. I guess this is what you call like evolution where things change or you can also call this the potential that I have yet to harness. I believe that it is the latter. My potential is being brought out in these situations. Trying to draw out positive energy from the negativity that is in my life.

So, let’s get on to it.

“every cloud has a silver lining”

I have heard this quote being used in multiple occasions in the past. I knew the definition it was trying to go by but I never quite felt it applied to any situation in my life. Not until recently.

I don’t know how to put this out but I was slammed in the face with a very deadly failure (in my mind that is). In the past, I was able to resist going into such a state when I was hit with failure because I was expecting it. This time around, the outcome turned out to be the complete opposite of what I was expecting. I am on the road to failing a course in university.

My initial reaction was a pretty usual one but as I assessed the problem much closer, I began sinking into this depressive state. My emotions was flying just about everywhere. One minute I am happy and the next minute, my whole world is gloomy.This thing lasted for about 2 days…I guess. I was sinking deeper and deeper into this depressive state but I didn’t quite show it to others when I meet them. That is one of the silver lining of this problem. At least I am not indirectly affecting the mood of everyone else.

It was definitely a weird two days, I am actually pretty surprised that was actually still up and running doing other things that I needed to take care of and not being antisocial and reflecting my internal mood outwards.

I’m supposed to be like explaining how this quote plays into my story right?

Let’s leave this story for another day.

The ever-lasting balance

It’s a brand new year and also the start of a new semester. The novelty of studying in America has definitely worn off and I have gotten used to pretty much everything about studying here in Arizona; So, looking forward into this year, my plan is to switch things up a little

To be honest, I am really scared for this semester. I know it is going to be tough because I am trying to retain my GPA here. But I believe I will be able to make miracles this semester and this year because I totally outdone myself last semester. Will talk more about that in my course reviews that should be trickling out something.

Over the last couple of weeks while travelling around, I have been reflecting on the past year (academically) and the biggest problem I have been facing every semester is time management. I have changed my planning style twice last year and still things didn’t quite work out. The problem is that I just can’t cope with things that are out of my control like being lazy, emotional breakdowns, etc. Also, the schedules that I have been making up don’t have much leeway if something does crop up. So, for this semester, I am trying something totally different. Will explain in detail sometime this year.

Like what I said in my 2016 review, most of the things that I did last year revolved around doing volunteer work and that was because I wanted to try out everything to see what works. It was also a platform for me to meet new people. This time around, I will continue to volunteer work but that will not be my priority. I will be prioritizing things that will improve my academic life as I complete the final stretch of my college degree.

All in all, everything that I will be doing this year has to do with good time management and there’s only how many hours a week so I will need to properly utilize the time. It is probably going to end up being some sort of a disaster but I am confident that the plan that I came up with will work? I guess.

I can honestly say that this new scheme I thought of has something to do with prioritizing things. It seems that previously what I have been doing is taking certain things too lightly which caused big problems in the long run. Classes, research, blogging and socializing; All these have their own priorities. I just need to figure out the right balance that will be the best use of my time.

Twenty-Sixteen : Finally twenty, no longer sixteen

About a year ago, I was on a plane on my way to America. I was expecting to great things for 2016. Every time I deeply think about it, I still have that surreal feeling that I am actually here.

Believe it or not, I actually spent a lot of time this year thinking what this 2016 year-in-review entry will look like. I had this t-shirt idea very early on this year. I wanted to do like a photo journey of what I did throughout the year but it is a little impossible this year if I want this entry to be published on time. This year I took a lot of photos, 315.87GB worth of photos and videos to be exact. Maybe I’ll consider doing it sometime in 2017?

But moving back to the actual year-in-review. I have spent exactly 366 days in America and I have done a lot in the past year. More than I had in mind when I boarded the plane here on December 31. I actually got the idea of this t-shirt thing when I was doing my class reviews. The idea behind this was that, If I were to choose one picture that represents 2016. What would it be?

Initially, I thought of representing the year with like the happiest photo of me but that didn’t represent what I did this year. I could’ve done a collage of photos but collages are so out of date these days. So, I ended up with the photo above. It might just look like a random selection of t-shirts but each and every one of them tells a story of my life in America.

I don’t have time to cover the story of all 29 t-shirts. But what I’ll do is talk about three main ones that paint the entire story of 2016.

Where it all began

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When I was doing my preparations to attend ASU, I was thinking about a lot of things. One of them is that I wanted to be more outgoing. And my solution for this is to do volunteer work. I thought that since that I’m here already, I might as well try out every opportunity that came my way. In a lot of ways, this ‘The Color Run’ t-shirt represents the start of everything. It was the first of many volunteer activities that I signed up for this year.

I can tell you that I was a little hesitant about doing it initially because I was a little shy and afraid. But I did overcome it and this became the stepping stone of my journey here in America. Frankly speaking, I didn’t make any friends through this volunteer activity but it did help me build my confidence around people.

Global Guides

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I really don’t know where to start with this one.

I can’t imagine what my life would be without the Global Guides program. Everything I did this year all started with this very program. I still remember during the first day of orientation, where I was all alone and getting my box of food and sitting down on a table. A guy with a blue shirt then approached me and started talking to me. He asked me a couple of questions and after that I felt a bit more at home. I was never homesick at that time but talking to the guy made me feel calmer. Till today, I still keep in touch with that guy.

That is why I decided to sign up for the program. Since I have experienced it first hand, I know what my responsibilities are. Often times, my motivation is definitely for the free food that is being served but it all becomes worthwhile when I get to meet amazing people. The bulk of my friends that I talk to are made through this program. This semester alone, I have made over 100 friends (measured by adding people on facebook) and I take this metric real seriously because I don’t just simply add people of Facebook these days.

While the color run is the stepping stone of my volunteer experience this year, learning about the Global Guides program assured myself that I made the right choice in choosing a school and proper mindset.

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I might have said it before but I am going to say it again. Joining this organization feels a lot like ‘determinism’. I can tell you that I had no interest in joining this at all. But boy was I glad to be accepted into this organization. CIS is really the link to all the people that I have previously met here at ASU and also served as a platform to engage with new people.

The boys and girls that I met through CIS has been among the best people I have ever met in my life. I mean what I say. In Spring 2016, I was more focused on building my network of friends but in the Fall 2016 semester, I continued building my network but also to proceed in improving the relationship between the people that I already know.

I can honestly say that I am not the most enthusiastic or friendliest of people but I am thankful that somebody is willing to endure with my weirdness. Not going to talk more on this as I have a separate entry in the works that talks all about the people I have met in America.

Fulton Schools of Engineering

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E2 camp, I covered it quite extensively. This was one of the random opportunities that came flying by me without me noticing. I am not exactly sure how I found out about it but I am thankful that I found it. It was definitely a pleasure to work alongside other American students to welcome new American students to the Fulton Schools of Engineering. This is probably the most complex of all volunteer activities that I signed up for this whole year but boy did was it a fun challenge. I learnt to overcome several things like working with a female counterpart, being energetic all day long and also learning how to properly convey messages.

Another experience which is not a volunteer thing but rather a paid position is my experience as and undergraduate teaching assistant. I will be talking more on it during my class reviews which are a little back on schedule due to time constraints that I have been having for the last couple of weeks.

What’s next?

Whether I like it or not, 2016 is coming to an end. I am excited to see what 2017 has in-store for me. Classes this year will be extremely tough but I hope that I will still be able to do more volunteer work this coming year. As the novelty of being in America has worn off, I hope to spend more time this year chasing other goals.

But even as is, I have reached my number one goal that is to do things that are out of my comfort zone. I’ll get started on that photo entry thing as soon as I find time to do so.

Here’s to 2017! Hopefully I won’t slack too much on these entries.

Fall is over

For the second time this year, the semester is over yet again. Unlike in Spring, this semester was hard, like literally. But education won’t be fun if things were easy right?

I’ll be talking mostly about my expectations and the reality of this semester in this entry and I’ll leave the nitty and gritty stuff about the classes that I took in my class reviews which I am hoping to complete by the end of the year. I was really, hard pressed at getting it done by the time I was done with the finals for the class but that clearly didn’t happen. Right now those reviews are like 10% done.

Over the Summer I actually listed out seven(7) goals that I wanted to fulfill in this semester. Most of them were just things based on what I noticed during the Spring semester. Sadly to say, I only managed to get 2 out of the 7 things that I set out to do. I’ll just talk about what I managed to achieve this semester and just leave the other 5 things for another day.

The first of the two in my list was to make more friends. I didn’t clearly define what I meant by making friends but how I calculated was based on my interactions with them. One of the biggest reasons why I have met with more people this semester compared to the last semester is because I was more outgoing that I usually am. Being more outgoing and doing things that I wouldn’t usually do was my second goal of the semester.

It all started with E2 camp where I had an amazing time, then came orientation where I met with lots of interesting thing and then finally is the club that I joined this semester where I became closer with a couple of people that I previously met. Honestly speaking, I am not much of a people person. I don’t have much friends. I know a lot of people from school but never in my life that I had this many friends that I can actually talk to on a personal level.

The friends that I have made this semester (each and every one of them) will always have a special place in my heart. Although I might not be the most outspoken one, I have experienced a lot of things during this semester while interacting with them outside of classes, during camp and casually on campus.

If I were to describe this semester in one word, it would be ‘unexpected’. Everything that happened this semester was really beyond what I could predict. Like what I learnt during Philosphy 101 last semester, at the end of the day, everything goes down to determinism. What’s meant to be will eventually come to place. It felt like all of these chain of events that happened this semester is based on my decision but I believe it’s fate that put everything on the table.

The things that I did this semester was so unexpected to the point that I just felt lost at times. Lost in the sense that my mind was blank.

But overlooking at what I did this semester, the thing that I am most worried about all semester was my grades. Compared to last semester where I didn’t have much friends, I spent most of my time studying rather than going out and socializing with others. I can definitely said that I didn’t study as much as what I liked but I think everything turned out pretty well, I guess. We’ll see about it.

Looking forward to doing some meaningful things during the winter break.

 

My E2 Camp experience

Honestly, I don’t really remember how I found out about E2 Camp.

I would like to say that I read about it through the newsletter but it also could’ve been through the stalking that I was doing about the Fulton Schools. But either way, attending this camp has provided me a different perspective towards my experience here at ASU. This is probably the push that I need as the first semester novelty of studying in the USA wears off.

A couple days before camp, I was somewhat reluctant to go to the camp because I was anxious about what I was supposed to do. I did not attend E2 Camp before so being a one-up level compared to the campers is a difficult task. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I was given a schedule, a handbook and also paired up with a co-counselor but even then, some things are just hard to do without prior experience.

What is E2 Camp?

According to the ASU microsite, E2 camp is

E2 is an exciting way to jump-start your success in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.You will meet other students, faculty, and staff and learn skills that are important to your success as a Fulton student through a variety of fun and interactive activities. Upperclassmen, faculty, and staff serve as resources to students during E2.

As I said earlier, I did not attend E2 Camp during my freshmen year and I kicked off my E2 Camp experience as a counselor. The description provided online is pretty spot on. The general theme of the activities is teamwork, communication and some good-ol fun.

Comparing the activities during E2 with the freshmen level courses that I took last semester, there is a lot of similarities in terms of what they teach. First and foremost has got to be the Fulton Difference. Things like the tutoring center, professor office hours, undergraduate research, job opportunities were heavily talked about in most of my classes in the Spring semester. And to no surprise, there was talk about mostly the same things during certain E2 Camp activities.

But beyond the planned activities, there was actually quite a big chunk of free time allocated during the camp. That time was not only there to give groups the opportunity to discuss about the group cheer but it is also the time where campers and counselors alike are given the opportunity to mingle around ourselves or to approach faculty.

Was it worth the time?

For the most part, yes.

I can tell you that my ideal representation of E2 is having a group of motivated freshmen students that are passionate about camp and want to win. But that clearly did not happen because life doesn’t always give me what I want. Overall, I did eventually come to like my group after a couple of activities. I would have like to to talk to them individually about their plan for the academic year but I didn’t have the time to do that.

Nevertheless, the individual conversations that I did have with my campers ended up being a fulfilling one. It was definitely a privilege to be able to share my experience with a willing party and provide feedback about the expectations that other people had.

Other than having these conversations with my group members, I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with faculty that I would never get to speak in person if it weren’t for E2. People like the Mr Fulton (didn’t get to speak to him but I did get to see him in person), Dean Squires, staff from the Dean’s office, Professors from different Engineering schools and alumni.

Round 2?

Funny thing is that I did not know that this was some sort of competition between different groups up until I started reading the counselor handbook. All is not lost but I will be going for a second round of E2 later next week and I a hope that my experiences during the first camp will help me better lead my campers.

New York City

The Big Apple

I am still not too sure why it’s called the big apple but I presume that it has something to do with the size because Manhattan clearly doesn’t look like an apple.

But anyways, last week I had a glimpse of life in NYC and it felt different and familiar at the same time. One thing that I instantly got used to is the layout of the streets which is typical United States where most of the major streets are in a grid layout. But the easy layout didn’t stop me from getting lost because frankly, I am not very good with directions.

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While the general layout of NYC is the grid layout, there is a couple of exceptions and one of them is the diagonal intersection along the 7th avenue. There is where the iconic Times Square digital screens and billboard resides. I actually could not recognize it when I first entered the intersection because it didn’t look like what pictures depict it to be. For one, the iconic Nasdaq digital screen is actually tucked away in a corner with a building obstructing part of the screen. I didn’t manage to get a full  picture of all the billboards because I didn’t have much time to look around for that spot which can get the full picture.

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An approximate map of where I walked

I am pretty sure there’s a specific position you need to stand in order to get that picture. I only spent about 15 minutes at Times Square because there was a lot of people there plus the weather was hot that day. Also, there was some construction being done along the intersection.

My mission for that day was to go along 5th avenue and that is what I did. Since, I wanted to experience the full NYC package, I walked the streets sidewalks of NYC with my earphones. It felt like I was blending in with the locals. I’m not going to talk about what I did in NYC because that is not the point but I was basically stopping by both the Apple and Microsoft Store while making a stop at Trump Tower.

Along the way, I realized quite a number of things about NYC. First and foremost, I finally understand why the traffic in NYC is like that. The problem actually lies with the people. A lot of people (including me) tend to cross the street without looking at the pedestrian traffic light. It usually starts with one person and then others follow on and that is just part of the congestion. The nature of the grid design of NYC also means that there is a traffic light on every block which means that the chance of a gridlock to happen is very common.

Speaking of blocks, I managed to walk a couple of dozen of blocks in the course of two hours. From my not so scientific calculation, I came to the conclusion that it takes about 1 minute for me to walk a block but that also depends on the amount on traffic and the number of shops along the sidewalk. Some stores have some nice window display that calls for a picture or two. Overall, walking is a fairly tough thing to do and I can see why those electric skateboards are popular in this city.

Walking in general was tiring but I did find out that walking along the sidewalk of NYC to be a very relaxing thing to do once you put on your earphones. The weather at Times Square might be hot but along the sidewalks, the weather is noticeably cooler with gushes of cool wind every now and then.

But that is about it when it comes to NYC. I have just had a small taste of this dense city and there is still a lot of things that I need to see. I’ll save that for my next trip to the Big Apple.

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A new season

I have always imagined what it would be to live in a place that has 4 seasons and gratefully, I am able experience that this year. In January, I had a little taste of winter with the cold winds and unexpected rainfall that rarely happens in Arizona according to the locals. Soon after that, I was greeted with Spring which is a weather condition that is not much different compared to Malaysia. The sun was constantly up but the winds was still a little cold. Personally, I think that is the most optimal weather. Not too cold and not too hot.

Something that I learnt about the weather conditions here is that they are sometimes a little unpredictable. The weather is unpredictable in the sense that sometimes the weather is hot (~28 degrees) and the next day it goes down to around 18 degrees. I still remember that one week where the temperature in the evening was as cold as it was when I first arrived.

The lesson here is that I should always check the weather forecast before going out. Something that I have been taking for granted back in Malaysia because the weather is mostly hot and nothing specific is required when it rains because I always end walking in the rain.

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After Spring comes Summer and this is likely the most sought after season for Americans because of the term ‘Summer Vacation’. I actually don’t know why I am writing this article, the only reason why is that I wanted to talk about the hot weather and I also took a nice photo of the first day of Summer snapchat filter. The reason why today is the first day of the Summer is because of the Summer Solstice which is when the sun is directly in the center of the equator of the northern hemisphere. It is also the day with the most sunlight.

The weather here in Massachusetts is still quite nice in the afternoon but it does get a little chilly in the night still. But I will be heading back to AZ in August and boy have I been following the weather there. Everyday is like above 40 degrees which is nothing compared to the hot weather that I have experienced.

When I decided to attend ASU, I was well aware that the weather there was scorching hot. But little did I know that the hot Summer weather actually lasts for 5 months. That’s nearly half the year with temperatures more than 30 degrees.

I am already bracing myself for when I get back.

My first wave of reviews

I am finally done with this. I was initially targeting this to be published the week after the final exam but as it turns out, writing a course review is not that simple. But I did manage to complete all the reviews and I am pretty happy with what I managed to come up with and my initial goal was to average in about 1,000 words for each review and I managed to exceed that goal.

In total, this took me a little over two weeks to complete. I took about a week to write these 6 reviews and I did try writing all of them in one shot but I couldn’t. My mind could only focus at evaluating one course a day. After writing a rough draft, I used a couple more days to refine the grammar and the structure to assure that these reviews are as good as they could be.

This is something that I have been wanting to do since the start of the semester. And the biggest reason why is that throughout the semester I have asked people countless of times about the experience that they have with a particular class taught by that professors. Things like exams, workload, grading and homework are part of the conversation because often times, the ratemyprofessor reviews can be a little inaccurate and lack of depth.

This is the first time that I am doing such a segment and I didn’t bother to research on other creations that are online so I’ll just start off with talking about the things that I usually ask. All I can say is that at the time of posting, this is what I have. I would  value your feedback on what kind of things that I might have missed in my review and I would gladly update the review to include that information provided that your request is not too much in the future that I forget about the deep details about my experience in that course.

It is not easy to talk about everything as some things like talking too much (in detail) about the assignments and tests are in violation of ASU's Academic Integrity Policy

Throughout my reviews, I try to keep them as wordy as possible. I don’t think images are necessary in such a review but each article does include a featured image that I specifically chose. That image is my representation of the course when I think about it. Also I have bold(ed) some words in the review which point to the important aspects of that class so do take note of those keywords.

College experience, it is what you make of it

Within each review, I have included an ‘At a glance’ segment at the very beginning of the review which gives you the rundown of the course itself and also links to the Professor’s profile alongside the link which brings you to that course’s ASU course page. Additionally, each review also comes with a conclusion which is not too long and you can take it as a TL;DR part it you don’t have the time to read my story.

But, that is about it. The you can check out the reviews through the links below and just remember that your experience may vary because it really depends on what you make of it. This is how life is, you can’t expect everything to be easy

My course reviews for Spring 2016

  • FSE 100 with Professor Yinong Chen — An introductory engineering course that revolves around projects. Read this review
  • ENG 101 with Professor Ivan Wolfe — The first of two fresman level english courses that is required by ASU. Read this review
  • PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore —  This is my first time learning about philosophy, it’s quite an interesting course I would say. Read this review
  • HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth — American history from the start till the end of the civil war. Read this review
  • CSE 120 with Professor Martin Reisslein — The basics of digital logic with both theoretical and practical work. Read this review
  • IEE 380 with Professor Linda Chattin — More statistical formulas and concepts than you can imagine. Read this review

First Spring Break

Ah, Spring Break. The week that passed by in just a blink of an eye. Spring Break is just a glorified name for a mid semester break here in America and as it’s name suggests, Spring Break happens during Spring and the week long no-class period is the time to do anything. Similarly, there’s also a Fall break which takes place during the Fall semester and should not be confused with Winter Break which is the period between the end of the Fall semester and the start of the Spring semester. While all American colleges (or Universities) do follow the same Fall, Spring, Summer semester system, different institutions have their own semester start date and thus the Spring Break week does differ for places.

Time does fly real fast when you’re not noticing it. This is my 10th week here in America and the experience so far has been pretty amazing. Meeting with new people every week and the cool thing about these big classes is that you meet someone new every class. The bad news here is that, it’s not easy to make quality friends during these big classes. Unlike everyone else I know which have jumped over to the state of Califronia during Spring Break, I have been stuck in my room completing my assignments that is particularly due the week after Spring Break. All is not lost, I did manage to brush up on what I have learnt in the first half of the semester but frankly speaking, some of these classes don’t even have final exams so what has been tested previously will never come up in the next quiz/exam.

Done with the first 8 weeks of the semester and there’s 6 more weeks left before Summer is here…

But here it is, in a couple of images of what I did during Spring Break. *excluding the assignments* mainly because I didn’t feel the need to take picture of me typing out my assignment.

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Did a lot of cooking during Spring Break
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Went on a house/apartment hunt for the next semester. Still having a little dilemma about where I am going to stay.
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The usual faces
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Night photography?
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Annnd, the Galaxy S7 arrives
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Had shaved ice. Pretty good actually, ice cream at the center is not a good idea though
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The annual Aloha Festival
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Lined up 15 minutes for this ‘award winning’ fried soba noodles. Apparently it’s Hawaiian
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Had dinner at the only Malaysian restaurant around. The ‘Nasi’ wasn’t too good, probably due to the canned coconut milk opposed to fresh one we have in Malaysia.
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Watched my first movie in America. Zootopia was pretty good, lots of laughs