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Love at First Sight

Seriously? We’re going to talk about this topic? Isn’t it just a myth?

Yes. Yes, we are. Because here I am in a loving relationship after having fallen in love at first sight with my second husband Cung. Yup, after everything I’ve been through, I gave love another shot, proposed (!), and here we are. He doesn’t believe in it, though. He had his own set of experiences.

Let’s rewind.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever fallen in love at first sight? Did it go well for you? I’ll bet the answer is no. The several times that I have fallen in love, at first sight, didn’t go well for me. Looking back here are the reasons why.

Love-at-First-Sight Failures

  1. I didn’t take a realistic assessment of how possible the relationship was. It was long-distance involving oceans and miles and miles of flying and different time zones and altogether too much of a hassle. The stress of the situation piled up to the stress of everything else. The bonds did not manage to solidify, not with half the globe standing in between.
  2. I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted for myself. Did I want to focus on a career? Did I want to build a family – get married quickly and have kids? Or did I want to get rich? I wasn’t quite clear on my own goals and because of that, the roller-coaster of hormones made everything even more mixed up.
  3. I wasn’t aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Many people have told me that I am charming. This is a great asset, but it can really backfire on me if I don’t know when and where to hold back, or when to press forward. What I’m saying is, I have been as much at fault at making other people fall in love at first sight with me, even though I was not ready to follow through!

I guess what I’m saying is it takes a lot more than one look to make love work. It often takes painful (or sometimes just dumb) experiences, but what’s important is that you learn a little bit more about yourself each time, so the next time the stars align and love hits, you will know how to deal with it.

What are your experiences with love at first sight? For some extra fun reading on physical reactions of love at first sight, check out this article.

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Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Alright, here goes me reviewing a very hype book. By now, I’m quite aware my taste in books are somewhat different than the trendy ones – although I do get curious every now and then.

Quick Description

Our main character is a journalist named Monique Grant, who was chosen by retired Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo to write her biography. Throughout her glamorous and scandalous life, Evelyn Hugo has collected and outlived 7 husbands, including outliving a daughter. Evelyn has engineered her public image in such a way to hide unflinching truths, which she now gives to Monique. A question runs throughout the whole narrative: why Monique?

My Thoughts

I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads because I think it was so-so for me. I can understand the hype – who isn’t interested in the glitzy behind-the-scenes of Hollywood? The empowerment themes for people of color and LGBTQ are also a plus point going for this book.

However, some things didn’t sit right with me because the author does a lot of “forcing a point” through Evelyn’s story. There was not much room for the reader to arrive at their own opinions nor to disagree. The whole book feels like it’s teaching how to live life, and it had some alright lessons, but also some I disagreed with.

An example is this quote:

“When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things.”

The Seven husbands of evelyn hugo

My Kindle has automatic highlight function, and it’s showing me that 8 thousand other readers highlighted this quote. So I guess a lot of readers like it. For me though, I disagree. The statement actually contradicts itself, having stated “opportunities are given” then in the next breath “nothing is given, you have to take it.” But didn’t the text just say that opportunities are given?

The world gives so many things to us – life itself is a gift from the world. If we’re reading and breathing, we’ve already taken free clean oxygen, burned some fossil fuels, or used up some tree bark.

The world gives free air for us to breathe, soil for us to grow crops, a whole planet for us to enjoy. And from the moment we popped out of our mothers’ wombs to the moment we decompose, all we do is take from the world and emit harmful poisons to our planet. Unless we are very careful with our lifestyles and have a strong commitment to leave this earth a better place, then I assure you that both you and I are criminals in nature’s eyes. I am guilty of it myself.

Personal Bias

Obviously this book is not about relationships with nature and with our environment, it’s more about human relationships and it’s got some great lessons on that. Yet my personal bias is kicking in whenever I read narratives that are only about humans. Because the world isn’t just about humans.

We know that after the pandemic. A tiny virus slammed down our activities and plans, and we had no choice but to work around how to survive with a constantly mutating virus in the air.

Ending (Spoiler Alert!)

The ending is controversial, as the whole book tries to be. And here is one point where I do agree with the author. Yes, I honestly believe that individuals in their right mind should be able to exercise their right-to-die. Done properly, it can be a meaningful and relieving experience for everyone. Take the case of Betsy, who was diagnosed with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease.

“Dying is easy, try living in this body.”

Betsy (VOX.Com)

So all in all, I thought The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was so-so. If you like scandalous, empowering, well-rounded tragedy narratives, try the classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

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Movie Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Out of the darkness…into the spotlight…

That song is now forever cemented in my head. I must also join the hype for this one and also talk about Jamie! In short, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a musical movie about a high school boy Jamie who decides he wants to wear a dress to prom.

The events of the few weeks leading up to the prom become touching and emotional as Jamie gets mixed receptions to his intentions. His best friend Preeti and his mother supports him, while his teacher, some macho bullies, and his father opposes him. Another key figure is a mentor who teaches him the ways of a professional drag queen.

The stage musical came before the movie, and it was inspired by a documentary titled Jamie: Drag Queen at 16.

Songs

It’s a musical so let’s talk about the songs. In short, they are fabulous. Put them on your Spotify play loop now and you’ll see what I mean.

The lyrics by Tom McRae are realistic and not forced, with a lot of witty humor. The melodies are simple and memorable – it reminds me of Les Misérables’ songs. Indeed the composer Dan Gillespie Sells said he connected with Jamie’s story and therefore could write the songs in a way that was hopeful and confident instead of tropic and cliché.

Some of my favorite are Spotlight (I covered it on my IG channel), Over the Top, and Everybody’s Talkin About Jamie. My Man, Your Boy is touching but whenever I listen to it I cry and bawl and sometimes I don’t want to cry and bawl, but this song makes me so emotional every single time). So it’s on my “emotional” lists not my “play all the time” list.

Story

Just like the composer, I love stories like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. It’s got a timeframe which is well defined ( a couple weeks into the prom and prom night), a clear focused struggle (he just wants to wear a dress to the prom – he isn’t trying to change the world or be a billionaire, or answer the world’s problems), realistic relationships (probably cuz its based on a true story), and a satisfying ending: everyone dances at the dance party. Simple, focused, sweet. And by being true to himself in this one thing, Jamie has touched and impacted many hearts.

We often forget that sometimes, it just takes one simple small stone to dislodge, and then the avalanche will roll.

If you like movie musicals, another one I recommend is In the Heights by Lin Manuel Miranda.

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Digital Art Commission

This is the second digital art I’ve commissioned this year, the first one being a Nisha fanart. This one is an illustration of one of my poems: Live Your Life. The poem is part of the collection A Season of Poetry.

Here is the digital art commission, and the artist is Laurentia Prisca.

September 2021

Get to Know the Artist

As usual, curious me asked the artist some questions so I can get to know her better.

Airin : How did you learn to draw?

Laurentia : Self-taught from tutorials! And also seeing references which is similar to my style.

Airin : What attracts you to making digital art ?

Laurentia : I saw some of my favorite KDrama illustrations on Instagram, so I got interested to try it out, but not seriously. When the lockdown started, I was so bored being at home all the time, so I decided to refresh myself by working on the digital art.

Airin : What do you do for work ?

Laurentia : I’m a geotechnical engineer.

Airin : (at this point I am highly impressed) I bet you have other hidden talents! What are your other hobbies?

Laurentia : I enjoy singing, and I watch a lot of movies.

What a cool gal! Check out her other digital drawings on her Instagram gallery.

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Podcast Episode 11 – Vaginal Health Part 1

Hi down there. How are you doing? I hope you’re alright. I’ve realized that I don’t know very much about you, and as I get older, I’m really paying for my ignorant behavior. Let’s try to change that shall we?

Indeed, although my vagina is SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF MY BODY yet I have neglected getting to know it on a close and loving basis. The result no doubt is a lot of pain and scary visits to the gynecologist. Not to mention expensive. In the journey of us trying to get to know our vaginas better, however, I realized that even health professionals are still culturally shy in educating women about our own organs.

Dr. Michelle Dawn Shen

So one of the steps I took to fix that is to have an open conversation with my dear friend Dr. Michelle Dawn Shen of Rajawali Hospital about vaginal health. The talk was amazing, and we went more in-depth than I expected, so I’ve divided it up to 2 parts.

In this first part, Dr Michelle shared some great insights on vaginal fungus (yeast infection), how NOT to get it, and also on cervical cancer. Her voice is brilliantly hilarious and satirically spot-on, and I hope you will learn some really important insights into vaginal health. I know I certainly did.

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Tips For Finding Work

I remember in my last semester of college, one of my fears were “would I get a job”? Would I be able to make enough money to support myself?

It has now been about 14 years since I graduated, and let me tell ya, I’ve had at least ten jobs. Come to think of it, I was already working 3 part-time jobs even in college. I had even started a side job in high school. I’ll go through them briefly here because in this economically difficult situation, more than a couple of people have come up to me asking if I have work (jobs) for them. I know it must be stressful and scary, but I hope my experience will help you get some tips for finding work.

From Librarian to Counting Wildlife, to Cleaning Toilets

High School

  • Teaching piano lessons for kids.

Undergraduate years in college :

  • Staff in the Dining Hall. This includes helping the cooks, lay out meals in massive amounts for the student population (hundreds would eat in the Hall during meal times), dishes duty, mop and clean floors before and after meal times.
  • Observe in the Nature Preserve. This was easily one of my favorite part-time jobs in college. I was an environmental science major, and I signed up to walk 2-3 times a week in the nature preserve (sometimes everyday during Spring / Winter / Summer Break). My duty was to observe the wildlife that I saw during the walk and write them all down. CAN YOU BELIEVE I GOT PAID TO DO THIS? I loved those walks.
  • Maintainence Crew, aka cleaning crew. This was the job almost all international students did because it paid the most per hour and was the least glorified job available on campus. I regularly cleaned toilets, rooms and apartments (after students moved out), laundry rooms, take trash out from dorm public rooms, you name it. Yep, I cleaned toilets to help me get through college. I say this with pride now.

Graduate school years :

  • Music Librarian. Oh this was fun, not too difficult, and I got to be with books. Old, music books. This was my first library job, and I really enjoyed everyone I worked with.
  • Teaching Assistant to my piano pedagogy professor, which allowed me to build a great relationship with her and learn a lot from her.
  • Piano Teacher in the Music Academy. This paid really well, and I got to meet some awesome kids and families, some of whom I still keep in touch with until now via Facebook!

After graduation I did many many music related jobs, everything from on stage to behind the stage to preparatory work to marketing work. This helped me really understand the ins and outs of the industry.

It’s the Attitude

Okay so, this post isn’t supposed to be a CV, you say.

What I want to share is that if you take a look at the various things I have done for work (and the various things I’m doing now to stay afloat in this pandemic induced economic crisis), you’ll see that it’s not really about the job. It’s about the attitude.

I was willing to do anything, from counting birds to cleaning toilets to organizing up my professor’s cabinets to archiving hundred year old music books. All of those jobs I did for the span of at least 1 year. That, folks, is what matters most – that you’re willing to hustle, and willing to give it a shot not just for a month or two.

With that attitude, I’m sure you’ll be able to find work no matter how difficult the economy condition is.

Another inhibiting factor is sometimes our internal voices. Take a read of my post on dealing with toxic voices.

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Nisha 3 Title and Release Date Reveal

Who’s excited for the last installment of the Nisha trilogy!!!

In this post I will reveal the TITLE, the DATE OF RELEASE, and a short excerpt!!! If you are ready…

Drumrolls…

Yes, the third book will be titled Elements. What are the elements? And how will the Elements help Nisha, Saad, and Faris to defend their beloved little kingdom?

You can find out on 31 January 2021.

Excerpt of Elements Chapter 2 : Trade-Offs

Nisha watched silently as Elian and Ademaro began to set up three small tents in the middle of the woods. They were resting the night here, having just left her aunt, General Char, Faris, the Outer Movement Wizard, and everyone else at the Border. Ademaro and Elian had volunteered to accompany Princess Nisha in her journey to the Lair of the Order of the Witches and Wizards. Their mission was to convince the Order to send mages to support them in the fight against the Aklumites. 

This journey was about a week by horse. At the end of the first day, Nisha’s guardians chose this location of the forest to sleep. Nisha wanted to help them set up camp, but she had no idea where to even begin. In the end, she opted to watch silently, not wanting to be a hindrance. When Ademaro and Elian were finished, the Princess automatically cringed. 

“Your bedroom for the night,” Ademaro gestured with his deep voice. His kind face looked a bit sorry for her, but circumstances allowed no time for luxuries. 

“I’m sure the earth is, ah, great to sleep on,” sighed Nisha. No complaining, she reminded herself. “I suppose if I could manage sleeping on those hard bunks at the Border, I can handle sleeping on the ground.” 

“Do you mean you’ve never slept outdoors before?” asked Elian, surprised. The young archer had spent most of his childhood hunting and trekking. It was almost inconceivable to him how one could spend their lives trapped inside buildings.

Nisha blushed. “I was sheltered,” she explained pointedly. “It’s not like I had a choice in the matter.” 

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Elian said softly, taking a step closer to Nisha. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She noticed that either by training or simply by the way he was brought up, Elian did not even rustle the leaves as he approached her. 

Ademaro tactfully walked away to take care of their horses, leaving the two youngsters to their discussion. Oh, to be young, the hardy warrior reminisced with nostalgia. 

“So what did you mean?” the Princess asked. She kept her voice steady, although the fluttering in her chest had picked up in speed and volume.


Can’t wait? ME NEITHER!!! Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peek scene of Saad, Ged, and the mysterious girl they picked up.

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Recommended Podcasts

Hey hey hey! Here we are with a post about the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, which I definitely recommend!

English-based

  • Business Unusual (Barbara Corcoran). Listening to this podcast always gives me great insights on business, and also life. Barbara just gives it as it is without any sugar coating, which I appreciate.
  • Happy Writer Podcast (Marissa Meyer). As a fan of this author, “meeting” her through her podcast is always fun. She also brings in other authors and we have the same taste! Yes!

Indonesian-based

  • Janda Becanda (Widow Jokes with Tania). A great listen for everyone who has the experience of being widowed. Tania gives tips and jokes on how to thrive widowhood.
  • Abjad Tersirat (Yunita). Totally taboo. If you like those topics that everyone else shies away from, this podcast is for you. I love how Yunita is so raw in discussing these everyday matters!
  • Sahabat Buku (Book Friends with Rastiti Era). Rastiti is a podcaster from Bali, and you gotta love her Balinese accent! She talks and reviews the books she has read. Bookworms will find great recommendations here.
  • DipidiffTalks (with Dipidiff). An official book ambassador from Bandung, Dipidiff sends encouragements to her listeners via insights she learns from books.

Of course, I also have my own podcast, in which I interview cool women around me. What podcasts do you listen to? Or perhaps you’re familiar with some of my recommended podcasts? Let me know in the comments!

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Reading Aloud

Reading aloud is something I have naturally done since a young age, without giving much thought to it. I suppose I had been lucky enough that someone at some point of my growing up had taken the pains to read aloud with me.

I remember in junior high I used to enter storytelling competitions where I would memorize short stories and perform them live (from memory) in front of a jury panel.

Benefits of Reading Aloud

As it turns out, reading aloud has tons of benefits!

  1. According to psychologist Colen MacLeod, reading aloud helps memory. People consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This effect is beneficial for younger kids to the elderly.
  2. Reading aloud helps detect memory issues earlier, such as Alzheimer’s disease (source: National Center for Biotechnology Information). From someone whose grandmother had memory issues and died without remembering anyone anymore, I am a bit concerned about this in my genes. Thus if I can detect it sooner, it would be better for me later on.
  3. For young minds, reading aloud helps to sharpen focus, improve vocabulary, and increase levels of comprehension (source: Learning Loft). This means, if you have a young child, encouraging them to read aloud to you is a practice of great value!

Recently, I’ve started reading aloud performances on my Instagram channel. There is a lovely section of Anne and Gilbert (Anne of Green Gables Series), the iconic first meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (A Study in Scarlet), and also some of my writings. The prologue of Sacred Rituals is there along with the beginning chapters of Nisha.

The more I read aloud, the more I like it. Another book influencer that reads aloud is the highly popular Jaysen, dubbed “king of booktok” from Ezeekat Library.

If you like to listen to read-aloud (aka audiobooks), you can also out Nisha audiobook at my shop, which I narrated. If you’d like to read aloud something of mine, let me know! It might be fun.

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Book Review: Rule of Wolves (Grishaverse)

Well, well. Many a twist happens in this last installment of the Grishaverse. Rule of Wolves is quite epic in comparison to all the other previous books. The plot unfolds in poor decrepit Ravka with our dears Nikolai and Zoya. At the same time it incorporates matriarchal Shu with Tamar and Princess Ehri, and of course Nina and Hanne in cold cruel Fjerda.

First of all, I am glad we don’t spend too much time in Ravka. As I said before in King of Scars, I think Ravka’s getting old. It seems Leigh knows it because that last bit at the ending was certainly breathing in new winds of change to the conservative country.

Second of all, it’s fascinating that the title “Rule of Wolves” is not about Nikolai and Zoya, but about Nina and Hanne! Wolves refer to the wolves in Fjerda, and I love this! Talk about winds of change coming for Fjerda. This part was brilliantly done, in my opinion.

Lastly, going into Shu Han territory was…interesting. So far, Leigh has never taken her readers into Shu Han territory. Thus I enjoyed getting to know this country with its vastly different cultures and customs. I’d love to read more about Shu Han because I think Leigh is just beginning to set up this area – introducing the culture and customs to her readers.

Predictions for what’s after Rule of Wolves

The ending opens a lot of possibilities for a new adventure. It hints at the return of our favorite protagonist Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows, so I don’t think this is goodbye.

In fact, my prediction for the next installment is that Kaz will have to go into Shu Han to steal what Zoya needs, while Jesper will face up to the full measure of his true self in Ravka and die a valiant death. Inej’s ship probably will be settling scores with the slavers in Kerch, while perhaps being backed up by the ministers of Novyi Zem.

Nina? Oh Gosh. Who knows with Nina. I feel her story arc has been the most unpredictable throughout this whole series, it’s as if Leigh treats her like a wild card. Beware the Heartrender turned Joker.

In the meanwhile, I await which actor will be cast as Nikolai in Season 2 of Netflix Shadow and Bone. Ruairi O’Connor, pretty please. Also, while waiting, why not check out my Grishaverse fanfics.