4

Play, Rewind, Pause: The HI5 Experience

Northern Quarter

It’s a rather new discovery this part of me I just got to know. Probably a little less than a year and having to move to Manchester just amplified that notion about me being an introvert. My tendencies have kept me questioning about myself more since I’ve moved here. Of the things that I am more comfortable with versus the things I should be doing.

It hasn’t occur to me what culture shock feels like until I removed myself from the environment I’ve built for a lifetime. It is then that I am able to see the other side of myself without trying too hard.

First week at Hyper Island made me feel like I have a mental disorder. Of course, I meant it in a good way.

I liken the first day as my bubble bursting in thin air the moment we were meant to mingle with other people in Hyper Island. As with every other first day, I know how I will be – awkward. I’ve always thought of myself as somewhat socially inept. Not on an extreme level but to a certain degree, I lean towards it.

For that, I played along where I could but then Hyper Island one-up their game by getting us all to do a personal presentation about the 3 events or people that had impacted us. Each of us, including HI managers and facilitators did it.

Hyper Island Crew 5_6

“It’s an equal level playground this new school of thought,” I told myself.

Everyone had something to say, something to ask, something to answer yet there I was shutting it all down as fast as I could. Well, I tried to and felt guilty thereafter and what an odd sensation to feel – a deep conscience telling me what I did was wrong and it carried on till the next day.

Hyper Island went on another level and kickstarted a Reflection Session after we “check-in”.

It’s funny that there were two running themes that went on prior to my departure and here I am diving head first into it and unearth the very core of my emotions based on these themes (self awareness and reflection).

Wait, what am I doing in Hyper Island you might ask? Masters in Digital Marketing Management is what I got myself into and what’s better – it’s a super accelerated course. Somehow, I have a knack for getting myself into madness no matter where I go.

Piccadilly Gardens

Hyper Island Crew 5_3

Hyper Island Way Week taught us all to be aware and reflect on our actions individually, small groups and eventually to the entire crew. Imagine how nerve-wrecking that experience had been on the second day itself (and will continue till the end of the program). It’s no wonder I needed 3 days to recover from all that “therapy” when we first started. Yeah, I excused myself from the after-class outings because I was emotionally and mentally exhausted from all that digging and thinking. It doesn’t help that I’m really loving the apartment I’m staying too.

Hyper Island Crew 5_2

Brilliant way to kickstart though. Brilliant indeed to break our walls on our very first week.

Even my past therapy sessions didn’t feel as intense as this.

But, on the upside, it taught me to make improvement every single day. Just one thing at a time. It was what I had got myself to do the last 6 years on a personal level. This time, it’s on professional AND personal level. Oh boy.

I knew everyday that I’m thankful for this diversion He got me to do. What was known as my back up plan is now my primary plan and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I know now that, I had to be here right now at this moment because I’m ready on all level. It might tear me apart and stitch up together but I will not be able to appreciate the greatness that HI delivers if I wasn’t where I am today.

Yeah, this is where I’m suppose to be and I better make sure to do the best I can.

Two weeks ago, Max, our program manager asked us to write a letter to ourselves and sealed it in an envelope. I suspect it’s for time capsule but anyways, one of the things I wrote to myself was about making a deal with the introvert side of me. I may take any one weekday off to recharge and any one weekend for the same reason but the rest, I need to make effort to join the crew for whatever they intend to do, as long as I’m ok with it. Everyday since then, I do my best to push myself from falling back to my comfort zone. To others it may seem almost insignificant but an effort is still an effort.

Hyper Island Crew 5_4

Hyper Island Crew 5_5

I’ve enjoyed my time so far. I really have. The people are fantastic. Crew 5 (that’s what we’re called) are from all sorts of background and countries. It’s amazing to know how other people from other parts of the world think and feel. In such a short time, they have shaped me to be a better person one way or another. Truly an amazing chapter in my life even if I don’t even know what’s ahead of me for the rest of the year but with open mind comes with an open heart.

It’s refreshing to not know what other people’s religions are or races for that matter. Malaysia has been so accustomed to pigeon-hole humans into different sectors and lifestyles – they are either Chinese, Indians, Malay or others who believe in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or none of the above. That itself sort of become our crutch in the real world. Everything has to fit into some kind of stereotype and it’s in HI that I learned none of these really mattered.

None whatsoever. Zilch. Nada.

Hyper Island Crew 5

Everyone respected each other. If you happened to say something insensitive, you can be sure that feedback will be given from the horse’s mouth. We’re wired that way in what I would call the Hyper Culture. It makes us more productive, effective and human in so many ways.

We have this space to make mistakes, forgive ourselves and other people for it and make it better. What has been playing on my mind is, now that we’ve created a whole different bubble for ourselves, by the time we get back to real world, that bubble is going to burst and I look forward to see how we can apply all these methods and culture to other people.

To summarise our program, it’s about cultivating some form of leadership qualities in all of us and take ownership of the consequences we are about to cause. I hope you don’t think we’re going do things quietly without any impact..because we will.

Last week was the start of the incredible journey of masters with real clients and mentors from all kinds of industry. I don’t know how to feel but naturally, I’ll give all I have to be better as solo and team player.

 

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2

A Medieval Fairy Tale Affair

While writing for MySelangorStory for the past week like a train determined to send it’s passengers from one destination to another, I felt a certain surge of aware. I was in the zone, relieving the journey I was in and rather than feeling the stress going up to my head; I was enjoying writing instead. I could say I work best under pressure, but it also has a lot to do with the fact that I was writing about my traveling experiences. It didn’t feel like a chore. If anything, it was like a therapy in it’s own remarkable way.

That was also why I started Wanderlust Theories earlier. To recapture the sights, sounds and touch of my journey.

MSS was like the force to continue my passion and a reminder of what I love the most.

So today, I decided to write about Ludlow, Shropshire, England. I had a few places to write about, somehow Ludlow piqued my interest to start this early morning with.

I remember having a cuppa with a cousin who’s been living in London for most part of his life and when I told him about my trip to Ludlow during my Euro backpacking trip, he had this big question mark on his face; one I saw coming long time ago.
“Of all places? LUDLOW?!” was all he said.
See the thing is, I’m an easy traveler. Because I live to travel, you throw me anywhere in the world; I’m sure I’ll bound to find something outstanding about it. That’s how much I love traveling. I won’t deny I have a romantic idea about traveling – meeting new people, learning new cultures and going out of the box but that is because that’s what I have been experiencing, what I have been implementing in all my traveling. 
Therefore, I held Ludlow like I held the bull’s horns. I went and I had the time of my life.
Since I stayed in Tooting, London for a few days with a friend before heading over to the rest of Europe, I found out a very old friend is living nearby. Well 3 hours nearby. Puan Khalijah, or I’m more familiar with calling her as Puan K but told me to address her as Khalijah or her novelist name Iris Ixora, is a family friend since I was in diapers and was my tutor for 6 years before she went to UK to pursue her masters. I never heard anything from her after that. 
Five years later, I got to know she was in Ludlow and so happened to be free while I was figuring out what else does UK has to offer. 
At that point, I was bored of London (possibly because it reminded me too much of Kuala Lumpur). I needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Called her up, bought the next ticket at Waterloo Station to Birmingham and Shrewsbury and off to Ludlow! There’s a detailed travel route to get to Ludlow here. Check it out!
To be honest, when I heard the name Ludlow, I wondered what it was about. Never heard, read or seen this place before and that was enough to convince me to go. What’s a curious cat to do when it’s curious? Investigate!
Meeting Khalijah (she requested me to call her by her name but after knowing her for so long, it’s not a habit that’s easy to be chucked away) at Ludlow Station around 4 in the afternoon, we walked to the city(a medieval one) within minutes and the entire surrounding was a 180degrees opposite of what my stay in London was. I would say it was the perfect anecdote during that time.
Ludlow is a medieval area where the buildings remained the way it was 500 years ago. The sad news was that, I had missed out on it’s 500th year celebration the day before; much like how I missed the GLBT festival in London that happened the day before I had arrived. I guess lady luck wasn’t on my side then. Would’ve made an even bigger impression to my backpacking experience with those events.
There was this weird craving I had throughout the journey. I wanted to drink soup so badly. Good homemade yummy chicken broth with fresh herbs and vegetables (most importantly celery). Just thinking about it is enough to make me drool. Slurp.
So when she asked me what I wanted her to make for dinner, I instantly requested for soup. A whole big pot of super duper yummy soup! She was surprised at first as she expected me to say along the lines of Malaysian food but the only thing I crave while I was there were soup and pasta. No idea why.
A good thing too that I could go without rice while I’m away.
We stopped at the nearest Tesco on the way back and it was pretty neat because the layout in Ludlow did felt medieval; quaint and original the way it has been. Thank god I didn’t have a trolly bag to drag on the cobble stones as it would’ve made the journey difficult. I even managed to post some postcards to some of my friends along the way too 🙂
Obviously, being the biggest chocolate fan in the world, the first thing I went to check out was..the chocolate aisle. Lo and behold how cheap these yummy goodness were! I was contemplating of buying everything there (Wait till I go to Belgium..that’s another story) but managed to hold myself back. The only thing I bought was probably car magazines.
So off we went to her flat. This was yet another godsend place I tell ya! Since her flat is on the first floor, the smell from the chocolate shop below us was just too tempting not to try. Heck, that particular shop even make it’s own ice cream!
Sigh.
It’s like a devil’s place this one. I freaking swear it was. Every time I enter and exit the flat, it’s all I smell. -____-
Her house was a different case altogether. See, I’ve known her since forever and to be able to meet her here, now in a different perspective was quite a shift for me so to speak. I was 21 and in a way, we’re more friends now than just a teacher-student relationship therefore the things we talked about were relatively more matured? Then again I’ve always had a different relationship with her.
As you can see, a BIG bowl of Cadbury roses were laid on the table for me to see (and eat) and next to it were big bowls of strawberries and cherries. Up to that point, I’ve never been to a place with that many chocolates and berries waiting for people to eat! Such a brilliant idea!
Then I found out, she did it because she remembered those were my favourite. Aww, I was on cloud 9 that very moment. Couldn’t stopped myself from smiling ear to ear and .. munching those delicious tidbits.
You can imagine what a big dork I was 😉
To enter this spectacular home was like entering a castle. A bathroom with jacuzzi and LCD screen? What?! I’ve never been pampered with something this luxurious. We finally catch up with her new life after she left Malaysia for UK. Things are definitely looking up for her since 🙂 She deserves all the good things that’s coming her way. With a new family by her side, I think it’s more than she had prayed for 🙂 Oh wait, publishing her own novels too.
I’m very much happy to see her this way.
While she was cooking the soup I was craving for (this reminds me of my younger days when she used to cook for fun with her other daughters at her old place back in KL), I wandered around the place, asking a lot of questions about Ludlow and how she was able to pick this place among other places.
So we started chatting about how she and her husband, Jeremy was charmed by Ludlow and when they went to visit the showroom(which is this very house), it simply took their breath away and he gifted her this flat as a present. I had gathered that they live in many places around the globe. 
I finished the pot of soup in the end. Heh.
Ludlow being a very quaint city, I expected nothing less. We walked during the late afternoon and I got to see where her first book took place. There was this cottage house down the river and she pointed out how Ludlow has been an inspiration for her to write her book. She’s an accomplished Malay writer indeed and I’m happy her dreams are finally coming true, one by one. So it was a nice personal tour this one.
Then she told Jeremy about our presence in their house and he was excited to meet us. He flew all the way from Düsseldorf the night after and came together with his son, Ben who was on the other side of England. I didn’t expect such a warm welcome from her entire family and loved every moment of it too. I had a long (albeit funny) debate with Jeremy about needing visa to go around EU that night when the rest were having fun laughing at us by the fireplace. Cozy and charming, this is my seventh heaven.
During the day, the first view I get in the morning from the window was the square.
With the crystal blue sky to start my day, I couldn’t imagine being in a bad mood while being here. Personally, Ludlow is like a page taken out from a fairy tale book. Really. The hill overlooking us and the panoramic view were divine. Made me want to roll myself over with a herd of sheep. 
It was that captivating.
Yup, I’m a sucker for a place like this. A place for me to escape.
We walked further and went to the other side of the river, where they had boats to go around but when we were there it was closed. We ended up throwing rocks and decide who could throw the furthest. Obviously I lost.  Yet another way to release myself; things I could only imagined, actually came true.
Sometimes it feels good to have some places that never change with time. A place like Ludlow. Around the world, we have cities with tallest buildings, making it feel like concrete jungle. To have something like this, mother nature in all her glory was truly a breath of fresh air. I always imagined myself walking in the woods having to grow up with Mark Twain and Hans Christensen; this was a gift I will never forget even today as I write this again. It’s as if it had only happened yesterday. 

So beautiful. So untouched. So calm. It’s just so Ludlow.


We entered a mansion of a famous poet (I think) and as usual, it’s not Dian if I didn’t trip and fall. I did and I captured this in that brief moment. An accidental shot it was and it is still one of my most favourite shot of all time.


My other favourite things to do is picking up fresh flowers without a care in the world. It’s so cheap, I’d buy flowers everyday! Unlike in KL, buying flowers is like a luxury. The fact that I could pick up any freshly squeezed fruit juice was another thing I love. You could drink it and know it’s 100% natural juice. No doubt about it. The aroma of fresh pastries running across the pathway charmed me even more. There was this lady who made one of the nicest fruitcake I’ve ever tasted with homemade marmalade jam. Oh boy.

To top it off, there was this part of the hill which overlooks the entire area that Jeremy loves so much, he usually makes a point to walk into the woods and up the hill to this particular spot.


It was also by the river further down the hill where I caught this photo of this boy before he jumped around to throw rocks (apparently it’s everyone’s favourite past-time?)


Yeah I had a lot of fun getting to know this new old friend of mine.

By the time moon and stars came up to shine, the entire place turned silent. Everyone’s getting some good quality family time indoors. So did we with indian food to fill our tummies. That was the first time I was introduced to Chicken Vindaloo. Something the Brits love I think? Outside, it was so quiet you could hear the sound of a pin falling to the ground. Infact, I could lie on the road and pretend to be the only human in the world and don’t have to worry about getting hit by a truck. It’s a peaceful deadly night.
The stars! Oh what remarkable creation God has made of you!
There were too many stars, I didn’t even bother to count (obviously I could count stars with my fingers here). It was beyond anything I have ever witnessed before as I observed Ben capturing the night with his camera patiently while the rest took in the view like it was the best thing they’ve ever seen.

Later, we chilled by the fireplace, another experience into my book. There’s no need for television or computer to be entertained if I have a family like them. Like any good storytellers, they shared many amazing stories, painting a picture of who they were/are. Warm and cozy does not even fit them any close. 

Oh, there’s this brown leather chair by the window I fell in love with, which I got to know later is Jeremy’s favourite go to chair. 

The people in Ludlow are an awesome bunch. I could go up to any random person and smile. Say Hello. Ask random questions. They treat you like any other local and it easily made my day everyday I was there.



At this point, the bell ringing from the church behind the flat has become my morning call. And as much as the duck feathered duvet were a calling to bed, I couldn’t spend any longer knowing it was my last day in Ludlow. I woke up, got out of the room and realised no one was awake. I took the house key laid on the counter and made my way out to the market square outside. It looked festive, like they were celebrating life everyday with music, laughter and smiles.

I was as happy as clam walking down each stall, looking through at the things they were selling. Old records, food, clothes, books, more food.. and then I remembered it being my last day, I had to get something for the awesome family who had welcomed me to their home. Then I saw this really joyous lady preparing her table and I inhaled the best thing in the world – double chocolate fudge brownie cake.
Jackpot!



I bought some for everyone of course 🙂 Guilty as charged. I couldn’t help but talked to the great bake too. She was very friendly and happy when I greeted her. It took her since 4 in the morning to prepare this delicious sin. And was more than happy to share it with others. With gold in my hand, I spotted a drawing of a black kitten which reminded me a lot of Khalijah’s cat she adored so much. It was done in charcoal if I’m not mistaken. With one artwork on one hand and brownie another, I could say that I was the happiest person on earth. 

Then I received a text about breakfast being served.

Went up and presented my gifts to them 🙂 It’s the least I could do really.

So that was my little fairy tale story that will forever be plastered in my mind. A place I’ll make a point to visit again (not to mentioned a little magical chocolate factory situated nearby in Birmingham :P). It was a great trip, despite it being a last minute one. A trip I needed to shake myself up.

Ludlow, thank you for having me around.