Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Driving on the other side of the road

Now that I’m back to driving on the usual side of the car and road, I couldn’t help but compare it to when I was driving in the US. 

I rented and driven two cars for a total of 3 days. 

Th first car was the huge 5.3L V8 engine Chevrolet Suburban and the second was the 1.6L Hyundai Accent and I must say that I prefer the larger one. It felt safer and no one honked me at all when I drove it! I certainly got honked at a lot when I was in the Hyundai. 

And I think I would have driven about 500km going around Monterey, Seaside, Marina, Watsonville and all the way up to San Francisco and back. 

I noticed these few differences when I was driving in the US. 

For one, it was definitely a matter of conscious competence and unconscious competence. I notice now that when I drive here in KL, I don’t think about it at all but I couldn’t not think when in the US. I was in full alert. It’s a don’t-talk-to-me-when-I’m-driving thing. 

Two, I keep having to vocally tell myself to turn into the right side of the road or I will head into the left. I and do at that every turn, “turn into right, not left.”

Thirdly, I need to look out for cars coming from the left, not right when I’m making a turn. I was not so conscious of this and I nearly got myself into a major accident. It was dark and the roads were empty. I wanted to turn left, but I looked instead to the right for cars. I started off and suddenly there was a car coming very fast from the left. Thankfully, I stopped in time. The car gave me a long loud honk as he passed by. And I went, phew! that was a close one. 

Fourthly, I notice that my brain took on a mirror image to what’s left and what’s right, so much so that when Google Map or Waze tell me to keep left, I’d keep right and conversely when it tells me to keep right, I’d think it’s left. Thankfully I have my son there to correct me. 

Fifthly, my car unintentionally kept moving to the right. So I prefer to keep to the right lane so that I have some space and I don’t keep swerving into other people’s lane. But I kept in the middle lane when I was driving back from San Francisco and I keep having to adjust to keep the car to the left. I got honked once when my car got too much to the right. Also, when I’m stationary and when I want to turn out from the left to the right, my son keep telling me I that nearly hit the cars on my right. Thank God I didn’t. 

And finally, when I was driving back from San Francisco in the night, my mind keep going into the emergency mode when I see car lights all coming from the right side of the road. Hence, the two-hour journey back was the most stressful one. 

My blood pressure would have been on the high side because of driving in the US. But it was certainly an adventure and an experience but I’d stick to the left road and right side of the car for now. 

Oh, one more thing to add is the funnniest and most embarrassing one: I’d walk to the wrong side of the car. 

And I did that twice so far. 

Once when the driver came to pick us up from the airport in Taipei, I walked over to the driver side and opened the door. I did the exact same thing when the Lyft (Uber alternative in the US) came to pick me up from the Monterey airport. 

It was so, so embarrassing!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Now I know what jet lag is

I did not experience any jet lag when I arrived in the US, but now that I’m back, I am having it bad. 

I’ve never experienced anything like this before. The furthest I have flown before this was to Qatar, a 5-hour time zone difference, and when I returned, I just went on as usual with no jet lag. 

But this time it’s bad with it being a 16-hour time difference. 

The Mayo Clinic describes jet lag as a sleep disorder and the symptoms can vary but will worsen the farther you travel. And it takes about a day to recover for each time zone crossed. 

With the 16-hour time zone I’ve crossed, if you minus 24 hours or a day from it, I would suffer from jet lag for a total of 8 days. 

This means I will only feel better this coming Sunday. Oh boy...that’s many more days to go. 

The symptoms I have encountered so far are:
• daytime fatigue - I get very tired after lunch time
• difficulty concentrating
• stomach problems - I keep burping
• a general feeling of not being well
• sore achy muscles
• panting after walking up the stairs
• dizziness
• splitting headaches - I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst migraine in a long time 
• eye twitching for one whole day from morning till night - and it was really irritating and uneasy

I am trying to get by each day normally but it’s hard. I don’t think taking naps is recommended but I think I should take controlled naps to rid of some of the fatigue. 

It is certainly a blessing that the next two days are public holidays. Thank you God!!!

But I will have to think twice next time I plan to fly again. 


Monday, January 29, 2018

Broken heart, broken mug

I’m back to work today and when I woke up in the morning, as usual I’d walk over to my son’s room, knock on his door and say, “Wake up!”

But I could only do it mentally...

Then when I reached my office, I took out the CSUMB mug my son bought but it was broken!

Not only my heart is broken, my mug too. 


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Just the two of us

It is a usual Sunday morning fare that our whole family will have breakfast in Restoran Rishadh before we head off to church. 

But this morning it was only my husband and I. And our usual order is without the “tiga idli, satu roti canai, Milo ais.”

I did tell my son that there will be several places, mostly restaurants I would not be able to go anymore. He is big on food and I can see now that the memories we share are marked with food. 


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Bittersweet Home Sweet Home

My plane touched down and I arrived home at 9:30am. 

It is really amusing that after a long 17+ hours flight from Los Angeles to Singapore, the half an hour ride from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur felt like it just lasted a few minutes.

My mom and brother came to pick me up from the airport. 

And as luck or coincidence have it or whatever you want to call it, the policeman stopped my brother who was driving the car and found that he has forgotten to renew his driving license. 

And so I had to drive. 

I was very tired but compared to driving in the US, this was so easy and instinctive. I could do it in my sle...I didn’t have to think or pay too much attention to it. 

Whilst I have enjoyed the trip to the US—except the goodbye part—I didn’t like the food there. And food to me is a big part of traveling if not the biggest. 

So now that I am home, the first thing to do is to go eat something good. 

So the first thing I did even before heading home is to find some good food—ahh...beef noodles...oh so exquisite. 

We had it in Lai Foong in its Puchong branch, famous for its beef noodles. 

But it wasn’t enough. It was still a Saturday morning and I decided to join my parents for their weekly Saturday visit to the mall. 

And we had Lui Char rice at Purple Cane in MidValley Megamall. 

It’s good to be home. 

But it’s hard not to have my son by my side. 

In MidValley, when I saw Tino’s Pizza, I said to my myself, “Hey, let’s pack some home” and in a split second realised that “home” for my son is now thousands of miles away. 

I teared a little. 


Friday, January 26, 2018

This is where I lose the day that I gained

Here is when I lose a day. I boarded the plane at about 5pm and here is also when time is fluid. 

What time and day is it exactly? 

I have no idea. 

I am seated by the window, which is a good thing even though it is much safer sitting at the aisle. 

But for a long flight and I’m of course banking on an absolutely safe flight, seated by the window seat makes it easier to sleep and I do plan to sleep my way home so that I can beat the jet lag. 

The whole flight happens in the night and I did manage to sleep some though not as much as I would like. 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Monterey Day 9: I’m going home, alone

Today is the day I go home alone. And as I have driven him to school and college all these years, this is a long “drive” to college and a long “drive” home. 

I spent the morning cleaning up the AirBnB place as much as I could. I am going to miss this place. 

Like all AirBnBs, I am supposed to check out at 11am, but my flight is at 5:25pm and I don’t have anywhere to go. But the host was gracious enough to let me hang around the house till my transport come to take me to the airport. God bless him!

I got to the Monterey Regional Airport very early, too early in fact. And so I just checked in and spent time reading. 

When the plane lifted off the runway at Monterey, it was kind of momentous for me—it’s like a final goodbye. 

The flight from Monterey to Los Angeles takes about an hour and upon arrival, this is all I see of the city, all lighted up and the roads are mostly congested with cars. It is quite a sight. 

And after this, it’s 17+ hours of flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. 


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Monterey Day 8: It’s time to say goodbye

Today will be the last day I’ll see him for now till I see him again. He has classes from 4 to 6pm and so he came over in the morning and spent some time with me. 

We then went for lunch and as a farewell lunch he decided on Gusto again. 

My son is a food person. He loves to eat and he really has a penchant for anything Italian. So Gusto it shall be. 

He ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara and he dug in before I remember to take a picture. And it was really yummy. 

We ordered a pizza and it was the best pizza I have ever eaten. 

We then walked to the bus stop which is just a block away and waited for his bus to take him back to campus. 

It was quite a long wait which was fine by me since I get to talk to him and as a mom goes, to give him more advice with the should do and shouldn’t do. 

I can’t say he liked hearing it though. 

And then the bus came and off he went. 

Goodbye dear. Be good and have fun. 


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Monterey Day 7: At the Elkhorn Slough

I met up with Lois today and she brought me for the Elkhorn Slough Safari Nature Boat Tour. 

Here’s the jetty that leads to the boat we will be getting on. 

And off we go...

I only have my iPhone camera with me and it wasn’t so effective taking pictures in the sun. It was after all a beautiful day - clear skies and perfect weather for a boat safari. 

This photo is suppose show you a whole colony of sea lions lazying on a dock away from the sun. 

And here’s a sea lion flapping his fins above the water to regulate his body temperature. He has to keep his fins up because he can’t keep it warm in water like his body can. 

I will see many, many, many types of birds during this boat ride, except I am no bird watcher to know one from the other. They are all just birds to me. 

And here are birds on stilts. 

I don’t have any good pictures of otters but the Elkhorn Slough boasts of the only place on earth with the largest number of sea otters. 

And here we are enjoying the ride and the sun. 

And we completed the tour with nothing but some delicious seafood. 


Monday, January 22, 2018

Monterey Day 6: It’s a book day, it’s a tsunami watch-night

My son starts attending classes at campus today and I’m all prepared to spend the day on my own. 

I returned the rented car in the morning and got back to the AirBnB where I planned to accomplish four things today: 

1. Read my bible
2. Read a book
3. Catch up on my blog
4. Revise my language flash cards

I only managed to do one, that is, I read a book. 

I did try to blog but I couldn’t upload any pictures and I gave up. 

One thing I have not mentioned is this: when I first arrived at Monterey, we walked to Target and I bought a Kindle Paperwhite. 

I know I have too many devices already but I have always wanted an e-ink reader. Amazon does not deliver to Malaysia and now that I’m in the US, I will never forgive myself if I don’t get one. 

And so I did. 

And I finished reading a book today, which was also much needed and relevant for my current situation in trying to adjust to a new life chapter of an empty nest. 

Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name
by Bryan Chapell

I have blogged about the book before and I’m glad that it is timely that I continued reading it in Monterey. 

And I’m loving my Kindle!

But the day is not over. 

I have not really been sleeping well but when I did and  for whatever reasons I still could not figure out why, I woke up at 1am and checked the weather app. 

Was it a sub-conscious act? Why would I check the weather app at 1am when I am suppose to be fast asleep?

Because when I tapped on the app, the weather alert was marked red. I tapped on it and there was a tsunami warning alert. 


I was wide awake by then and I found out that there was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Alaska that prompted a tsunami warning for Alaska and most of the Canadian coastline (marked red in the map below), and a tsunami watch for the US coastline right down to California and where I am (marked yellow).

I spent the next three hours checking the news and update alerts, and also reading up on what I needed to do should I receive a notice to evacuate. 

I tired out by 4am and fell asleep. I woke up at 5am to check on the alert again and found that the tsunami watch has been lifted. Phew!

Wow...what an adventure for me, and all the time still lying in bed. 


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Monterey Day 5: Full day out and it was a great weekend

I got connected with a church way before we came to Monterey. I googled for the nearest churches to the university and found two Methodist churches and a Presbyterian church. 

The emails sent to both the Methodist churches sadly did not garner any replies. But for the Presbyterian church, I requested the pastor from the Presbyterian church I am currently attending to email them. 

The church pastor, Joel Robbins and one of the church elders, Andres Czerwiak emailed us. 

And so off we went to Covenant Presbyterian Church today to attend their 11am service. 

The service is liturgical, using the hymnal. And for the first time in my life, I did not know any of the hymns and thankfully I can still sightread using the music scores. 

And I really like this hymn, Praise My Soul, The King of Heaven. The melody and especially the timing is quite unusual. 

We joined them for lunch after church and had a good chat with some of the members there, including Lois Deupree whom Pastor Joel connected me with before I came to Monterey because she offered to bring me around the city when I’m available. We couldn’t find a time before we met but when we met at church, we agreed to meet up on Tuesday. 

After church, I decided to take a drive to Monterey city, since I still have the car I rented yesterday. We started off with the 17 Mile Drive. 

The drive took us along the beach... a restless sea...

...the woods...

...and a closer look at the Monterey cypress. 

The drive took about half and hour and we exited at Carmel and so we also drove around Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

My son then suggested we drive to Watsonville. It’s quite a nondescript town about 30km away and I wondered why he was so interested to go there. 

I found out why. 

My son had been quite obssessed with this crowd-funded food replacement called Soylent and the 7-11 outlet in Watsonville carries the breakfast version of it and he wanted some. 

The product claims to meet all nutritional requirements for an average adult, and you can apparently take Soylent all your life and have all your nutrients covered. Not sure how far it’s true but I definitely got fooled into going to Watsonville.

But it was alright, since it was a pleasant drive. 

It turned out to be a very nice weekend spent with my son before he starts his classes tomorrow. I will not have the car anymore for my remaining length of stay here. And I will only be able to see him again on Wednesday before I fly off on Thursday. 

I’m going to be a mess, so God help me. 

But this is also where I realised I made the right decision to extend my stay. My initial plan was to fly in with my son on Tuesday, send him off to college and fly off on Friday and arrive home on Sunday, back to work on Monday. 

Everyone I talked to advised me that since I am flying so faraway, I should stay longer. 

I am so, so glad I listened. 

I really treasure the time I spent with my son over the weekend which I will never have had I opted for a shorter trip. 


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Monterey Day 4: San Francisco, here we come!

It’s Saturday and we decided to make full use of the day. I had made a call to the same car rental outlet two days ago to book a car and finally they did manage to find me a small car - a 1.6L Hyundai Accent. 

The first thing we did was to go to the bank and get an account opened up for my son. And yes, the banks in the US are opened on Saturdays and this one is even opened from 9 and to 4 pm!

It took us an hour to get it done. 

After that and after much persuasion from my son, we decided to drive up to San Francisco. 

He wanted so much to go and I don’t know why I have dialed down so much on my adventuresome spirit lately. I finally gave in and agreed to go ahead with it. 

Well, driving on the different side of the car and the road still need some getting used to, but I am confident I will manage it well. 

The scenes certainly look different to me. 

And we even drove passed NASA’s research center. And we notice familiar places on the signboards - Palo Alto, Cupertino...

We reached the southern side of San Francisco after a two-hour drive...

...and we decided to turn off to a mall for lunch. My son wanted to try out the burgers in Five Guys and here we are. Burger heaven?

I think I have never had so many burgers in my life. 

After lunch, we headed into San Francisco. 

I love how it looks here in the city. 

We were heading for the financial district but we were caught in a traffic jam as I have never before. It was a literal back-to-back gridlock. It took us almost half an hour to clear just one block so I can turn left to get ourselves out of the jam. And no, we didn’t make it to the financial district. And no we didn’t end up even taking a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. They have closed roads in the city and roads are gridlocked everywhere. 

We arrived at the city center, found a place to park our car and we walked around a bit but not for long or far. 

I was getting tired and whilst my son kept insisting that we walk to Chinatown, I said I am not going to walk up and down the high inclines to get there. 

So we went to get our car and drove there instead. A good thing too - it wasn’t worth a walk. 

You need a car in San Francisco but parking will be expensive. You don’t need a car in San Francisco but walking up and down hill will kill you. But of course there are trams and buses. 

It was a really short trip to San Francisco and I felt I must end it with a drive to the world’s crookedest street - Lombard Street.  

It was a most interesting drive - it felt like driving down from Genting Highlands but will all the turns compressed tightly into a short drive. 

Then it was time to return to Monterey. Driving back was most challenging. I was very tired. It was already night. 

But I still have to drive with full attention on my driving and on the road. Back at home, I drive with unconscious competence. I don’t have to think about it. But here I need to drive with conscious competence that needs my full attention for two and a half hours. It was very demanding and tiring. 

And I found that my car kept moving to the right unintentionally. I couldn’t help it and so I had to consciously keep my car to the left. I got honked quite loudly once when the car went too much to the right. Oh dear...

Thank God I finally got us safely back to Monterey.