Bits and pieces of my life
Life was good
Life was simple when I was a child.

Life certainly wasn't a box of chocolates but it wasn't terrible either. 

I had my fair share of disappointments, thoughts that life wasn't fair, feelings of despair about my looks when I hit my teen years, and a hodgepodge of emotions. 

But that was part of growing up. As they all say. And yes, that's still part of me till this day because I am still learning and growing. If there was anything that my past had thought me, it is to look to the near future to have a sense of direction, live in the present to make the most out of my daily life, and glance at my past every now and then to appreciate how it has all come to be and sail on a boat of dreamy nostalgia. This post is a short detour through some of the reminiscent of my childhood and teen years.

Back in those days, my only concerns were school grades, my pizza face and the mundane worries about getting school essentials for the new year. My social life wasn't the most happening although I did have a few friends at school who served just to fill the void I felt at school and to remind me of my homework (and also to set my social skills straight). 

You see, I was blessed to have a computer at home with Internet. It also came with a printer and a set of speakers. My history with using the internet goes back to the year 2007 when Pa got us our first family laptop. It was a Compaq, I recall. It served us well for 6 years until my sisters and I each got our own personal laptops, thanks to Pa. My laptop became my main source of distraction but also my main source of knowledge. Little did I know of how a pure chance of owning a laptop at my young age would transform my life afterwards.

First there were the online educational games. I used to frequent sites like FunBrain, PopTropica, and MiniClip. These sites were packed with so many fun games that were not only highly addictive but they also thought me history, general knowledge and aroused in me a sort of child-like curiosity and suspense like no other. Poptropica is a virtual-world game whereby you have an avatar of your own, a Poptropican whose mission is to travel the map of Poptropica to various islands and complete challenges there, ultimately earning your Poptropican a medallion. I really can't stress enough just how much this game has thought me as a little girl. I think I can still learn a handful of things from playing Poptropica, even at age 21.

my Poptropican avatar in the Home island.

Then came the age where my sisters and I were completely hooked with virtual world games. Poptropica was a classic, it sticked through my teenage years as well. Apart from Poptropica, there were other virtual world games that we played like Zwinky, ToonTown, Club Penguin and Pixie Hollow. Toontown, Club Penguin and Pixie Hollow were three of Disney's four MMO games. I vividly remember playing these games like it was yesterday. The fun and enjoyment didn't die as I grew older but it died because Disney decided to close all those games. It's ironic to think that Disney was actually capable of ruining my childhood. For fellow fans of these games who are reading this blog post, watch this video to know why these games shut down :(

ToonTown Online

Pixie Hollow

As I grew older and begin to find interest in writing, I discovered blogging through the then popular blogging platform, Blogger. This was also the time I was exploring other social media like Twitter, Tumblr, MySpace, etc. Through Blogger, I discovered not just my inner writer but also my hidden web designer *coughs*. 




My blog circa 2012. Yes, lots and lots of cats.


Writing blog posts was in itself very rewarding as I felt the power in being able to express myself in words. But beyond that, in desiring to break-free from the constraints of the standard theme editor and customize the blog look to my liking, I discovered web design and web development. I was thrilled by the level of customization that were made possible with HTML and CSS. Hence, my journey into web development begun. I considered it more of a hobby back then. I used to sneak out of bed at night to code my fresh ideas to life. Little did I know that this small passion would grow to influence a major life decision - enrolling into a CS degree and choosing to specialize in software engineering, particularly in web and mobile app development.

After those carefree years, when I entered higher secondary and when I started exploring other things outside in the real world, I began to adapt into growing responsibilities. I still spent hours on the computer but on more serious things such as scholarship applications, online banking, in-depth theoretical stuffs about CS, religion and philosophy, etc. I began to find leisure in online movies, Youtube videos, online tutorials, and needless to mention, social media. But I am glad to say that I am not as nearly as addicted as I was with these current forms of entertainment as I was with my childhood online games and when I first discovered web design. That sheer enjoyment and carefree-ness defined the good times I had in my childhood and I don't think I can ever re-live those moments.

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Hour of Code at Tiara Permai Primary School
  Sometime earlier this year, I got looped in an email from the Director of WWCode KL who was looking for volunteers on behalf of UNESCO's Hour of Code program director. The program wast to be held in conjunction with Women's Day. The aim was to have several women volunteers attend to primary school girls to guide them in a game of code blocks where they can learn basic concepts of programming. I enlisted as volunteer and after that, there were several Skype meetings with UNESCO's science program director, Ai, a school teacher, Mdm. Fadzillah and three other volunteers. We decided to conduct the program in the afternoon of 27th of February at SK Tiara Permai.
  On the day of the program, I traveled to Sentul to visit Tiara permai primary school. I was on my study break and since I had only two final papers to sit for, I figured I had plenty of time to spare ๐Ÿ˜‹(it was an excuse for me to escape from my boredom). I reached Sentul an hour early and so I decided to grab some light snacks for lunch. I wasted a bit more time on my phone before riding on a taxi to the school. 

The entrance gate to SK Tiara Permai
  I reached the school during the time the morning session of the school was over. The cars driving in,  carefree students running about and the sweltering heat was all very overwhelming. It all seemed to familiar too. For a brief second, I found myself reminiscing on memories of my own primary school years. The school guard then directed me to the library where the teacher, Mdm. Fadzillah was at. There was already another volunteer, Kwan Lee, at the library with Mdm. Fadzillah. I greeted the two of them and introduced myself. I took a seat next to Kwan Lee and chatted with her while waiting for two other volunteers to arrive.


From left: The headmistress, Sarah, Adila and Kwan Lee.

 After meeting and chatting a bit with the headmistress, Mdm. Fadzillah took us back to the library. her students were already inside, all seemingly excited to try out Hour of Code's Dance Party code game. Mdm. Fadzillah handed chromebooks to the girls while Adila explained some introductory slides to the girls. All of us volunteers realized just how broken our Bahasa Malaysia had got since we left school. We struggled a little bit to communicate with the girls in Bahasa Malaysia but there was no any real language barrier. The girls were able to understand our instructions and answer our questions just fine๐Ÿ˜.


Let the coding-jamming session begin!
It was really interesting to observe the girls learning about events and objects in coding through the game. One girl exclaimed "Ahh I see now why we were getting two of the same dancers, the Moose dancer was named dancer1, it's the same name given for the Cat dancer! The names of the dancers play a role!". The girl cleverly resolved to giving unique names(variables) for each dancer (object).


An hour passed by quickly and Mdm. Fadzillah wrapped up the session and asked the girls to submit their project links once they were satisfied with their work. In the meantime, Adila took the opportunity to ask the girls if there was anyone among them who would be interested to study IT/computer science. It was good to see a few of the girls raise their hands excitedly. I felt like I needed to let the girls know that coding is not always drag-and-drop code blocks, and so I told them that in reality, there are lines of typed codes. The girls salam our hands before we left for a group photography session at the Skype room.

Candid!
After that, the girls bid us goodbye and headed back to the library to resume their Dance Party projects. Meanwhile, Mdm. Fadzillah showed us around the Skype room and explained to us that she and her students often engage in Skype video call sessions with school children from around the globe. The schools would exchange knowledge about their country's language, culture and even scientific researches. 

Photographs, batik, bookmarks that were exchanged with schools around the world, among many other souvenirs displayed in the Skype room.

Mdm. Fadzillah then invited us to join her for lunch at the teacher's cafeteria but she had yet another thing to show us outside the Skype room! Mdm. Fadzillah proudly showed us a large map drawn on the floor just beside the Skype room. It was drawn in a Monopoly board game style. Mdm. Fadzillah demonstrated to us that students would have to throw a gigantic dice and move some steps and if they land on a country name, they would pick up a flash card bearing that country name and they will get to progress if they can answer a small trivia about the country. I thought that was a brilliant idea to expose primary school students to geography as they don't have that subject in their syllabus just yet.

Game of Geography
Finally we go downstairs to have late lunch! I had a hearty meal after a long albeit enjoyable dayโค๏ธ.

But first, let's take a selfie!
We chatted a bit and finally called it a day when someone brought up the topic about traffic๐Ÿ˜‚. Sarah volunteered to drop me off at the nearest LRT station.

  Volunteering to teach[informally] at a school was a whole new experience to me. There was so much to take back at the end of the day. I loved bonding with the little girls and sharing with them what I was passionate about - coding. Also, women teaching girls to code seemed like a very empowering theme to pursue. I hope to have more opportunities like this to come in the future ๐Ÿ˜Š.


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A Night Walk
  
  Ears plugged and shoelaces tight, I set off for the tracks on the field nearby. The wave of music from my phone is slowly seeping into my mind and my being as I approach the field. I look up to the heavens and I see the stars shining in their bright luster against the backdrop of the night sky. My eyes are quick to spot Orion's Belt and an isolated diamond emanating a faint glow. The tempo of the music in my ears is slowly building up and I start to feel a rush of adrenaline. I take longer leaps forward and soon enough I am walking at a faster pace, jogging at intervals to my heart's content. My mind is clear of the mundane worries of the day and is drowned in a sea of infinite calmness brought about by the good music in my ears, the gentle zephyr that ruffles my hair and the thumping of my own beating heart. I look around the vast field in awe, in realization that I am here all by myself, at this time, at this moment, I own this field. At the culmination of this thought, I dance and I twirl around in unconstrained freedom and without a care in the world. I find myself marveling at the fresh air, the magnificent night sky, the night lights even, and life itself, all of which I so often take for granted journeying through life in the fast lane. For a while, I am drowned in my own thoughts. Drops of sweat start to trickle down my face and my breathing gets heavier. I have built enough motivation and momentum now to keep going. I feel a sense of accomplishment as I go beyond limits that my mind have concoct before this rewarding undertaking. I keep track of the laps I have completed . "One more", I urge myself. I take note of the time on my watch. Nearly an hour has passed by. I finally call it a day and decide to go home. I make a promise to return to the fields another day, another night soon. Before long, I return to my mundane work but now with a renewed spirit and zeal.

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