Rays of Splendour


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First entry of 2017!

Finally blogging a very long overdue entry. I have been meaning to blog for a while now. Blog entries that I have been putting off includes my brunch at Noryangjin Fish Market, a 2 days 1 night trip to Sokcho, my feelings about being back in Singapore, as well as the things I have been up to since I’ve been back. However I have been procrastinating.

Presently, I’ve been back in Singapore for almost one month. I’ve slightly more than a month left before I fly back to Seoul to resume the next semester of my studies.

Things I’ve discovered since I’ve been back:

Body works better in cooler climate

For the first time ever, I found myself to be in a position where I had to acclimatize to the Singapore climate. I’m not sure whether it’s the air here or whether it is something else but as soon as I landed in Changi Airport, I found myself short of breath and reaching out for my inhaler. I’ve been using the inhaler more times in the past 3 weeks that I’ve been back in Singapore than the past 4 months in Seoul combined. I hardly used it there.

Not only that, I have been breaking out in hives EVERY SINGLE DAY! I did not have that back in Seoul. Currently, I have hives on my left legs, right shoulders, behind my ears and fingers as I’m blogging this.

Honestly, it’s getting pretty annoying to be scratching and reaching out for my inhaler almost everyday. I had forgotten how annoying it could be during those times I was away from Singapore. In Seoul, these symptoms somehow disappeared. I’m praying so much that my body gets used to the physical conditions here soon. I really, really, really dislike being in a position whereby the body doesn’t seem to be in a state of balance.

Physical activities significantly reduced in Singapore

Perhaps it’s due to the existence of a plethora of amenities as well as a family car but I found that the time I spent travelling by foot seemed to reduce vastly here. I could clock in between 7000 – 10000 steps on a typical day in Seoul but over here, I saw that it’s difficult to even reach 6000 steps even after a whole day of being out! What happened?

I seem to engage in lesser exercise or heart rate stimulating activities here too. I’m feeling pretty sluggish at the moment from the lack of physical activities.

Surviving on little

I’m currently neither receiving any salary nor have any savings to fall back on. However masyaAllah, I’m very surprised that I could still do quite a lot in order to lead a meaningful existence.

Previously, one of my past times would be to spend a lot on online shopping. It gave me a tremendous thrill to track my packages across the various courier services’ tracking sites and to eventually receive the items I had bought. I could even have online shopping packages arriving almost every day and the number of deliveries would typically accelerate the more work and deadlines I had.

My ultimate vices: clothes and books. My wardrobe and shelves would always be bursting with things and I remember having to frequently clear out my clothes and books by sending them for recycling so that I could make room for more online purchases.

Another past time would be to eat out after work and to travel. In the latter, weekend getaways as well as making extended and multiple trips during the holidays are common for me.

Oh not to mention, the multiple cab rides I tend to take on my way back from work. My justification for the cab rides was that the weather was simply too hot and I needed to get back home asap to escape the heat.

All these translate into high levels of expenditures.

However with the current financial situation, I’m learning to let go of a lot. Getting around strictly by buses/trains. Minimal eating out unless I’m truly hungry or craving for something. No outbound travel unless I have the funds. Strictly only window shopping and no frivolous purchases. It was difficult at first but after a year of being on unpaid leave, alhamdulillah it is getting easier for me.

I’d be lying if I were to say that I have no desire to shop, travel, take cabs, and eat out at the various cafes/restaurants in Singapore.

For instance when it comes to shopping… Oh, there are soooooo many clothes and scarves that have caught my eyes but I’ve been telling myself to stick to the current ones I have. Truthfully, I’m not used to wearing the same things so often since I frequently buy new clothes and scarves but yes, I found that things aren’t so bad.

At the end of the day, I realized that God is opening ample opportunities for me to engage in a practical application of one of the beliefs I’ve held for a long while: happiness and contentment doesn’t reside in the material.

It’s one thing to say those words when you have everything in life. That’s what I learned. All along, I have been saying those words but it was from a position of having them. It borders on being so hypocritical to be spouting those words when I owned so many things and always spending. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I’m made to realize what it truly means to seek happiness and contentment from the immaterial.

These days, my happiness and contentment are derived from simple things I never expected I’d glean such as:

  • To be able to sleep and be safe from harm.
  • To still have food to eat… Sometimes, too much food even though I lack the money to buy them. Yet masyaAllah and alhamdulillah, there is always something for me to eat everyday. This makes me realize that God feeds you. He really takes care of you.
  • Being in the presence of, and communicating with people you love and care about

Allright, entry’s long enough as it is. Hoping I’ll blog more soon and that the next entry will be one filled with photos instead of just words!


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What would I do without Him?

Before I embark full steam ahead with the presentations, term papers and exams in the next two weeks, I figured it will be good to take some time to pen down moments when I felt His presence more than I usually do. These past few weeks, I felt His presence so strongly and I pray that this feeling continues.

For many months now, I knew that my money would not last till end-November. No matter how many times I re-calculated my budget, the numbers kept telling me that no matter how much I cut down on my expenses, I just would not have any money left to pay for the rent, food, transport, and any another expenses for December.

For a few weeks and as November finally rolled along, I found myself getting worried. I prayed so hard for God to give me some miracle, to help me in some way…. ANY way. There were many moments when I found myself reduced to tears for I felt helpless.

Yet, I kept telling myself over and over again not to give in, that Allah is all-merciful and things could change for the better. Concurrently, Surah Ar-Rahman and Al-A’la were the two chapters from the Quran that kept calling to me. They were my staple reads for the past few weeks for reading these two surahs gave me a sense of calmness inside and made me remember how Allah is the most Merciful, Generous, and Most-High. That with Him lies the start and end to all Creations. That He can create something from nothing. That all Miracle lies in His Hands. That no one lifts the heart better than He does and He lifts the heart of those who remembers Him.

It was during one such moment back in November when I felt Him create for me something from nowhere and lifted my heart tremendously in the process. On that Tuesday November morning, I accessed my school email only to be greeted with an email from the people at the dormitory that a vacancy for a double room. Apparently, the vacancy has opened up and I could move in during that week once I’ve settled the payment and health checks.

I kept re-reading the email thinking that I’d understood wrongly but nope, I didn’t! The email was indeed an announcement for a space at the dormitory! It’s a Godsent email: moving into the dormitory meant that the previous financial worries I had would be gone. I would now have the money to pay for the December expenses! Alhamdulillah!

Hence, I accepted it even though the concept of living with a roommate, having the toilet in a separate location from the shower room, and a shared kitchen with the whole level of students living in the dorm did not really appeal to me. I told myself that I do not have a choice if I still wanted a roof over my head during the cold December winter, that Allah must’ve given the room to me because He knew I could live in it.

Keeping a positive frame of mind helped tremendously and before I knew it, I had already done my first round of moving into the dorm. Since I could live in the apartment I’ve been living in for the past few months till 2 December, I do not intend to move into the dorm until my lease is over. Thus, I had merely been slowly moving my things to the dorm bit-my-bit.

However, no matter how much I tried to psyche myself up for dorm life, I am still uncomfortable with it. I still remembered vividly that Monday afternoon last week when I was texting my family telling them how unhappy I was with the shared living arrangements, how difficult it was to cook as it’s a non-halal kitchen, how I had to go outside to get my laundry done, how I’ll have to store away at the Dorm Office all my appliances like the rice cooker and heater, how small the space I had left for prayers was, and how I would not be able to recite the Quran for I would not want to disturb the roommate.

It was then that I experienced another miracle. Another email came in and this time from the people at the graduate student apartment telling me that they have a vacancy and I could move in from 2 December onwards.

MasyaAllah! This was the apartment that I had applied back in August 2015 before I even started school and have been on the waiting list forever. It has it’s own kitchen, toilet, washing machine, fridge, … everything I need to live comfortable. For a vacancy to open up now and for me to be able to move in only on 2 December which was when the lease to my previous apartment was up…. MasyaAllah. The timing.

I’m really blown away by His perfect timing.

Most of all, I’m made to realize yet again that He’s there. He’s always there listening, looking out for us and planning the best for us. It’s just that us, being the ungrateful slave that we are, tend to be heedless of Him.

This is a reminder for myself first that others: What would I do without Him?


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Winter school or not?

Thoughts related to this piece of paper have been lingering at the back of my mind for the past few days.

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Tomorrow is the deadline for submitting this request to sign up for classes for the winter semester. Yet, I’m still undecided whether to do this or not.

Inside my mind, there exists now a file labelled “Why I should sign up for winter school vs Why I should fly back to Singapore for the winter vacation”. It’s a file I keep going to whenever I recall that the deadline is approaching and I’ve yet to make a decision. For now, the arguments for each of the options look something like this.

Why I should sign up for winter school
I get to clear one more course as the requirement for graduation.
It costs way cheaper than a flight back home.
I solve the worry about lacking something beneficial to do for the next few months.

Why I should fly back to Singapore for the winter vacation
I have been missing some people back home so badly and I’d want to be with them again.

Looking at the list, it seems like I have more incentive to continue staying in Seoul. Additionally when I considered how the desire to be with the people back home is a one-sided affair on my part for I am fully aware that it’s not as if there is anyone who has been missing me and wanting to spend time with me, those are moments when I felt motivated to go ahead with the request to continue with the winter semester.

One more day to decide whether I should submit this request.

And then there is another alternative: Not going for winter school nor fly back to Singapore but to spend the 3 months of winter vacation exploring the whole of Korea!

All these decisions to make. Sigh.


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Praying for guidance

It’s been almost one month since I last blogged. Tonight is one such time when I felt clear-headed enough to login to WordPress and blog.

To sum up, these past few weeks have been pretty rough for me. It occurred to me as I’m sitting here and pondering on what to write that I do not let on to my family and close ones the full extent of how down I had been these two to three weeks.

I guess that’s the thing about living so far away from them. With texting and calling being the only mediums of contact, it’s much easier to only reveal aspects that are positive and to make yourself come across as being fine. Firstly, it’s because you would rather focus on that. Secondly, the last thing you ever want is to cause unnecessary worry to the person on the other end.

So, those nights which are too many to be counted when I cried myself to sleep. Or those moments when I sat on my prayer mat, the opened pages of the Quran wet with my tears? Times when I consoled myself to gather whatever strength I’ve left inside to compose myself, wipe the tears and get on with the day? Those are parts of myself that makes it much easier for me to withhold from the people back home.

That aside, I’m currently feeling pretty… well, to describe it aptly, not entirely there and it’s due to various reasons.

I need to vacate this apartment by end-November but the sheer amount of belongings I have, coupled with the thought that I have to pack everything all by myself with no help and then possibly courier back to Singapore some stuff when I just set up home back in August doesn’t excite me at all. Truthfully, I like this apartment very much and find this abode to be such a comfortable place to live in. However the reality is that I do not have sufficient funds to finance living in this apartment.

Then there’s the lack of certainty of when I am able to fly back home. A huge part of me truly wants to go home for the winter vacation. Yet, I do not have sufficient funds to purchase a flight ticket for myself.

Which leaves me to the next alternative: sign myself up for winter school. Honestly, the only reason why I would want to sign up for winter school is because it costs way cheaper than a flight back to Singapore. For about $150 as compared to a flight ticket that costs almost $800, I get to clear one more module as part of the requirements for graduation. Not only that, I would solve the worry of coming back home to Singapore with the prospect of lack of things to do. Seriously when I envisioned myself going back home with nothing to do and a lack of money to spend my days, I dread the idea of flying back even though I very much would love to be reunited with people there.

I really pray that He grants me guidance for I really do not know which choices to make. And I pray that He makes things clear for me for I have a feeling that deep down, I know what I exactly need and want to do however it’s clouded by externalities.


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Being positive is a blessing

I just completed a presentation this morning and I found myself giving a huge sigh of relief after that was done. As soon as I headed home, I did nothing but to literally just sleep.

It feels so good to be typing this with a clear and fresh mind. Those are something I have not felt in the past few days as I have been sleeping for about 2 hours nightly in my bid to clear some school-related stuff.

I was speaking to one of my classmates while walking home today who asked me what I intended to do now that my presentation was over. Her response to my answer when I told her that I wanted to catch up on sleep struck a chord in me. She said:

“Yes, you really need to catch up on sleep. Not good to be missing out on sleep you know. You will become very negative.”

To be specific, the last part of her response on how sleep deprivation can induce negative feelings and thoughts was the one that I could relate to very well.

Due to the lack of sleep in the past few days, it seemed like I’m living in an entirely different body. I am unsure of myself and my decisions in life. I see myself to be lacking in many aspects and am convinced that my presence does nothing to lift or be of benefit to the people in my life. I perceived things to be looking so bleak and have no chance of being completed or working out while at the same time, I had no desire to ensure things go right. I felt irritation or get unnecessarily worried over the slightest and minutest of things.

Suffice to say, never have I felt far removed from my normal self than I had been during the earlier part of the week and it’s all due to sleep. Of course it doesn’t help that not only was I sleep deprived but I was also having the time of the month in the past few days.

So, sleep deprived + monthly hormonal changes = magnified negativity

Honestly, it’s exhausting and saps a lot of your energy. It’s true when they say that negativity is connected to bad energy.

I’m comparing that with the present situation where I am feeling very well-rested and body’s back to the normal cycle. It’s a world of a difference. Being positive connects a person to good energy that enables them to embrace the world from a position of hope that things will be completed, it can work out, that you can do things and that your efforts to be a blessing to others will materialize into something.

If there is one thing that the conversation I had with the classmate as well as the experiences of the past few days had revealed to me, it’s that the state of being positive is one of the huge blessings in life that I tend to overlook.

See, we all pray for many things in life. Some of the things that we typically pray for is for God to grant us good health, to keep our loved ones safe, to be granted with infinite abundance in life and many more. But to ask God to grant us continued positivity in the way we embrace life? I had definitely overlooked that!

I end this entry with prayers that Allah grants goodness to me and my loved ones and that one of the goodness is the blessing of embracing life with a positive spirit. Amin.


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Disrupted sleep patterns

It’s 3.15am at the time that I’m blogging this. I had actually turned in slightly before 12am however by 1.30am, I found myself awaken from sleep for no specific reason other than the fact that my body just decided that it has gotten enough sleep for now.

Since the time that I had awaken from sleep at 1.30am, I had cooked and eaten a bowl of instant noodles, watched one episode of a drama and read the whole text of the 1993 Oslo Accords. I’m wondering what else I need to do (besides blogging) in order to get myself sleepy again for I seriously need to get some sleep before attending a 9.30am class later.

I figured the reason why my sleep pattern’s gone off the mark these few days is because of the worry I have over school.

I have a graded presentation to give this Thursday and three sets of mid-term exams to study for which will take place next week. I’m allright with having exams to study for however one of the papers that I have to sit for – the economics paper – is one that is causing me to have the jitters. Till now, I’m still having problems answering the practice questions assigned so how am I ever going to be able to answer the exam paper next week?

These worries have impacted not only my sleep patterns but also obviously, the reason for the huge breakouts on my skin. As I’m typing this, the entire left side of my upper body from my shoulder to my waist as well as my left hand are seeing bumps as a result of hives. Yes, I tend to break out into hives whenever I get too stressed out from worries.

I probably should get a grip on myself and cut off these worries, though. They’re not helping me in any way.

So I should probably focus on the things and thoughts that make me happy. Like how the mid-term exam is actually an indication that half of the 15 weeks school semester have been completed and that means I only have approximate 7.5 weeks left before I get to go home, insyaAllah.

7.5 weeks. That’s slightly less than 2 months!

Think happy, positive thoughts. That’s what I should do then probably, all these hives will go away. And, I’ll be able to regain my normal sleep patterns too.


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End of the Islamic year, 1437

I thought that it would be apt to spend a few moments doing a personal reflection of the past one year before the new Islamic year dawns upon us. As I did my reflections during the post-Asar prayers just now, I found that it took me to moments that I’m thankful for. I also asked myself whether I had achieved goodness or improvements in the self in the past one year (afterall, isn’t the progress into a new hijri year a symbolic reflection of a move towards change and betterment as well?).

I’m not too sure if I did regardless, here are my reflections on areas I felt I’d made a hijrah in during the past year, for the record.

Survived the year leading the Year 1 Geography teaching team

That was a new portfolio for me last year and honestly, I went into it basically clueless. I’ve never been the one planning the direction the teaching team should take in terms of implementing the syllabus, organizing team meetings to standardize marking or share teaching strategies and settle matters that arose, organizing results processing, or communicating with the entire student level about matters related to the subject and many more.

It was a steep learning curve for me and came at a time just before I was to go on the planned two years of leave from work (which was good as I had the mentality that I just needed to get through that time and it’s done). Alhamdulillah, I did it and despite the mistakes which made me learn even more along the way, I came through it more confident in doing the job.

So when I thought of areas in which I grew in and went beyond my comfort zone over the past year, this was one of the things that came to mind.

Officially went on a sabbatical from work

I consider this a hijrah as truly, it is not easy to make the decision to stop working momentarily. For to do that, I’m basically making the move towards making do with not having money come into my bank account every month (not easy to get used to after years of being comfortable to the knowledge that I would have cash coming in every 12th of the month), breaking years of routine and also, being away from colleagues whom I had became friends with over the years.

I found the first few weeks to be very unsettling. It felt like I was suddenly thrown into a situation whereby I had no direction nor place to go during the times when my family and friends went about their daily task of going to work.

Yet, I treasured the time. During those two months before I started my studies, I had all the time in the world to pursue whatever I wanted and alhamdulillah, I spent most of my days doing things that I would not have otherwise been able to do if I had been working.

Pushing the boundaries on ways to earn money

I figured now would be a good time for me to explore alternative options of earning money besides through being an employee. While I love my job tremendously, I’ve also always asked myself these questions:

  • Is being employed the only way I can earn a living?
  • Is my capacity to earn money only at the level of being employee?
  • What else is available in God’s world that is for the taking?

Hence, being unpaid for now meant that I had all the time to brainstorm and figure out other means to earn money. Whether I eventually stick to the path or go back the employment route in inconsequential. The point is that I have the free reins to explore new frontiers.

Most noteworthy for me was that during the past few months and especially during my free time in Korea, I was able to read up on ways to achieve that. I realized that some of the things I wanted to experiment would require certain skills like photo editing or designing using Photoshop, or other software platforms.

That drove me to learn Photoshop during my spare time. So typically, my Saturdays are days where I stay in and spend it learning how to use Photoshop and practicing on them on my laptop. Time passes by very, very, very fast though when I’m learning and working on this programme.

Therein lies a version of my hijrah: to be brave to explore new territories and pick up new skills!

Made the move to Korea for my studies

This, in my opinion, reflects in a huge manner the elements of a hijrah. I had literally uprooted myself, went to a different locality, set up and organized a life there and insyaAllah, will be doing so until the completion of the studies.

It’s not easy setting up a life away from your loved ones and the confines of the familiar as the past entries on my blog could attest.

Taking the leap of faith

Taking that leap of faith to explore new ties with a person represents one of the big things on the hijrah list of this past one year.

Mr Winter Sonata came at a time that I never ever expected. I had no plans to get to know a guy nor explore any further relationship with a guy. Truly, I was contented with where I was in life, with moving to Korea being the next big thing on my agenda and the one that occupied my mind.

But God had different plans for me – and for both of us – and I concede that His plans are always the best. Though I have not known him for long, he’s become someone I’m truly grateful for.

Reasons why I consider this move to choose to get to know him and continue being with him as a form of a hijrah are these:

  • It’s never been easy for me to open up my heart to anyone so doing this marks a big shift that is uncharacteristic of me. 
  • To choose this path means choosing the things that come attached to it: the person and his entirety, both the good and the bad times, experiences that could be challenging involving people in our lives to those that are happy, being opened to the prospect that there could be moments where both of us might unintentionally do things to hurt each other and to embrace the hurt, and basically, to accept every moment of growth we may encounter as we traverse down this journey together and still choose each other despite any ease or dis-ease.

So okay, those are the big moves that made my 1437. Maghrib just dawned on us here in Korea as I’m about to end this entry. Just nice.

I pray that Allah continues granting my loved ones and myself forgiveness, guides us to closeness to Him, grants us Light and Mercy as well as infinite goodness in the year ahead. Amin.


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Of daily life and school

After almost a week of not updating this blog, so what’s new with me?

Basically, nothing much. Life seemed to have settled itself into a routine for me. There are both good and bad in that, I feel.

It’s good because my days are pretty much predictable. I kind of have an idea of where I would most likely be and what I would be doing at a specific time in the week. For instance, Wednesday afternoons are for school so its mornings will be spent at home either reading or catching up on sleep if I had turned in late the night before. On weekends, I would typically spend one of the days staying in and the other going out because I felt like I needed the stimulation from it. So yes, my schedule is largely predictable and that instills certain order in my life.

The downside to this predictability is that I get too comfortable with it to a point that it feels like my mind (and self) isn’t getting enough stimulation from changes in order to feel inspired. I’ve been so uninspired that I think if someone were to present me with an exciting proposition now, my response would most likely be simply “Oh. I see.”.

Yet overall, I’m appreciating very, very, very much the lessons I gleaned from my classes and this applies to even the Economics class I’m sitting for.

Economics. I never knew this subject could be complex so imagine my surprise when I realized that some of its concepts can be pretty complicated! Regardless, the subject has really forced me to exercise that part of my brain which I suppose I’ve hardly ever used. It took a lot of reading, re-reading and visualising before I can grasp the logic behind the concepts being propounded. It almost felt like I was doing A-level Physics all over again. I wasn’t that good at seeing the logic behind the Physics concept back then and now, I’m working with this logic thing all over again.

I’m telling myself to remain opened to the whole experience though and to be positive. Afterall, what’s the point of learning if you only want to learn something that you’re familiar with? Learning is all about embracing not just the familiar but to also confront knowledge that is beyond your comfort zone. That’s when true learning occurs.


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Things I think about before sleeping

You know those quiet moments when you’ve switched off the lights to your room, laid on the bed and closed your eyes and just awaiting for sleep to overtake you?

Lately, I found my mind taking me to the same thoughts over and over again. During those few seconds before sleep consumes me, my mind never failed to linger to either one or more of the following, depending on how fast I eventually fall asleep:

  • Was it just last month that I was in Singapore?
  • If only this bed I’m laying on is my bed at home
  • So after I sleep, I’ll be waking up to another day away from home?
  • 2 and 3/4 more semesters to go till home
  • What will I do when I am eventually home?
  • I don’t know when I’ll be able to fly back home. When will I get to go home?
  • Please Allah, grant me patience and strength to get through this
  • Funny how I can laugh and enjoy most of my time here but my heart isn’t entirely here
  • I miss seeing my parents’ and brothers’ faces
  • I miss my bffs and miss spending time with them
  • I miss Mr Winter Sonata and I miss spending time with him

It’s week 3 of school. Another 12 more weeks to go before winter break comes. I can do this, insyaAllah.