Let me cut straight to the point on this one – London was my ticket out of the precarious situation of being alone in Manchester.
I had survived a week of alternating between the shock-denial-isolation stages of a breakup partly because I was writing 2 mid-term essays (hey nothing like diverting all your energy into school, no?), was getting support from friends here and had a nice visit from a beautiful family mid-week. But I knew instinctively that I could burnout anytime.
When the essays were submitted (not my best work, but hey, I did what I could), when my friends have all flown off for their respective spring breaks and when I finally realised I had a good one week alone before I was due to fly to Spain, I made a spur of the moment decision to head to London to seek solace in the company of good friends.
London was the perfect place to escape as it couldn’t be any more different than my days in Manchester.
Manchester and London are worlds different (North and South England, really) and trust me, they don’t really like each other. I got that in my first week in Manchester, when the Mancunians I met warned me to never say they’re like the Londoners. 😛 I guess that’s why I get quite defensive when people assume I’m in London. For one, London is a 5hours bus ride/ 2.5hours train ride away, so no, I am nowhere ‘near’ London. 🙂
I had a culture shock the moment I alighted from my bus in Victoria Bus Station. London is bustling with people, all seemingly in a rush, with their fast pace and self-absorption. It was so rare to receive a smile or a greeting from anyone, very unlike the laidback and friendly attitude of Mancunians. The accent is also very different (think Harry’s vs Ron’s accents in Harry Potter), so much so it took me a while to readjust.
But before I go further and pitch these two cities unfairly against each other – for they each have their charms and soot – I’ll give it to London for being such a dynamic city. I cannot imagine it otherwise, what with the diverse groups of people residing in it and the amount of things with international significance going on within its borders.
Yet, the biggest attractions for me were the friends and food. I’m not exactly a big fan of busy cosmopolitan cities, as you will slowly find out. This entry will be about the people I met and the food I ate (hehh), so if you want to know great halal food places to eat at, read on! 😉
Anyway… It is always too easy to listen to the negative voice in the head and sink into the pit of self-doubt when alone. I am human, after all, so I did the next best thing: I sought back-up. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. It’s such a dangerous mentality to have when you think that you need to face everything alone just to prove a point. You don’t. It is especially important to have a group of cheerleaders around you who will tirelessly try to support you as you pick yourself up. For me, it just so happens one is currently residing in London, working on her final year project. 🙂
Asyifah – truly a god-sent, I have to tell you that. She was amongst the first who extended a supportive hand when the news broke out. More importantly, she welcomed me with open arms in London and gave me a place to stay and a listening ear despite the late notice. It felt so good to see and embrace a familiar face from home after months in Manchester! Better still to talk like no time has passed between us. She couldn’t have given me a better gift. Syif, if you’re reading this – thank you and I love you babe. ♥
My first night in London, Syifah brought me to My Old Dutch pancake house, which was walking distance from her place. They have three outlets so click on the link if you’re interested!
I had learnt earlier on National Pancake Day (!!!) that the idea of a pancake in the UK is very different from what I was used to back home. I’d always thought pancakes to be thick, fluffy and warm, much like American pancakes. Here, they’re thin and chewy! My Old Dutch has both options, so don’t fret if you’re not too adventurous! 😛
I had the smoked salmon pancake, which was so darn good! The salmon was fresh and the cream sauce was heavenly. Every bite was just orgasmic!
Syifah had the chicken curry, which tasted kinda like thosai to me, but still delicious, nonetheless. 😛
If you’re up for some pancakes loving in London the next time you’re there, I’d say give this a shot! 🙂
I also met up with Cikgu Sazali, a teacher I was blessed to have met in Bukit Panjang Government High School. He’s currently pursuing his Masters degree in UoL’s Institute of Education. He is the man I respect the most, second to my father! He leads by example, showing me that the true teacher inspires to open up the minds and hearts of students, and that compassion and the thirst for lifelong learning are the marks of an educator. I cannot wait to be a teacher now especially because of him! ♥
Somehow, I’m sure he realised I was missing Malay food terribly (I need my sambal and spices!) so off we went to Tukdin, a Malaysian restaurant located at 41 Craven Road (nearest tube station: Paddington). He claims it’s the best he has tried in London and oh boy, judging from that one time experience, I couldn’t agree more! IT WAS SPLENDID!
Okay, I may be speaking from a position of not having had good Malay food for more than 2 months at this point, but OMG, the dishes were just cooked so right! My favourites have got to be the satay goreng and teh tarik! Sedaaaaaap oi!!
It was a heartening experience, having a good meal with amazing company. Cikgu Sazali had brought along his friends (a Singaporean and a Korean) who were also doing Masters in UoL and ahhh, I cannot tell you how inspired I was! And of course, talking in Singlish with fellow Singaporean in a foreign land is always comforting. 🙂
In the short time I spent with them, something that has been laying dormant within me for a while stirred awake: the goal to pursue my postgraduate studies in Education.
Being shown around UoL’s campus and listening to him speak with pride and passion of his work just made me remember how much, once upon a time ago, I was so bent on doing a Masters degree in Education too. I’ve got to admit that the dream was chucked to the back of my mind when saving up for marriage and starting a family seemed more important for the time being. But now those aren’t in the picture for the foreseeable future, perhaps I should start considering saving up for this particular goal. Doing a Masters programme isn’t cheap, what more if I want to do it overseas, but hey, a person can have goals in life, no? 🙂
I also met up with my junior college homeboy Yi Xiang, who’s currently studying Law in Bristol but was in London for some law thingy thingy. Ahhh, so many Singaporeans studying Law in the UK! Definitely good timing for the two of us, I’d say! So good to meet and catch up, like no time has passed between us. Of course, better still, over a cup of teh tarik and milo. 😉
The last group of people I caught up with were the Singaporean Muslim Students Overseas (SMSO) people! I was really blessed to have known them in the first place cos settling down in UK was made a lot easier. Raimi was the first guy whom contacted me when I posted a question on the facebook page and subsequently got me in contact with the Manchester chapter girls. Nafisah is just an incredibly smart sweetheart, nuff said. 🙂
They’d brought me to have dinner at Noodle Oodle, a halal Chinese restaurant renowned for their duck rice. This particular outlet I went to has Bayswater as its nearest tube station but I heard there’s one in Oxford Street too.
I was never a fan of duck rice but the duck I had at Noodle Oodle was legit!
Didn’t hurt that the other dishes were just…. too awesome to taste after all the bland food I’ve had back in hall! London is seriously a food haven for me.
Of course I went to do a whole other bunch of touristy stuff to while in London, like er… taking a picture with a royal guard. 😛
But I’ll leave the pictures and comments for next time. 🙂
What I really wanted to remember particularly was how everything boiled down to good timing and good ukhuwwah/relations. No matter where I am, it is always important to have faith that I am on His lands and He will be guiding and protecting me the entire way. This entire London trip was unplanned but the ease of the journey was remarkable. I was placed in the company of people who have my back and my spirits were continually uplifted and strengthened throughout. On hindsight, it also prepared me for my solitary sojourn around Spain. I cannot be thankful enough. ♥
Indeed, within the heavens and earth are signs for the believers. And in the creation of yourselves and what He disperses of moving creatures are signs for people who are certain [in faith].
Surat Al-Jathiyah: 3-4