Yeah, it’s not an achievement but at this point of time, anything I try and succeed in, seems like one, lol. Also, this is no food blog, so I don’t have a suitable category for this post. I’ll just put this down under “Others”.
So, basically, a friend of mine introduced me to these Starbucks frappuccino. I am no fan of American coffee because Indian coffee recipes taste quite different from coffees here. The Indians usually like their coffees heavy on milk and cream, and hence, I cannot develop the taste of ‘coffee-heavy’ coffee at all, somehow. So, I ended up getting addicted to this delicious drink, which comes in different flavors. By the way, this is no promotional post. And since Starbucks drinks are expensive for a grad student like me, who anyway keeps whining about money, I decided to give it a try a home. This 5 minute drink was much easier (and cheaper ;)) to make and tasted exactly like Iced Mocha in India, I seriously don’t know how a mocha tastes in USA though.
So, today, after much search for different recipes on the internet, I decided to give it a try. I’ll write the recipe down, you can decide the quantity of each ingredient yourself depending on whether you like coffee, chocolate or sugar more.
Take water in a pan, about 1/4th of the bottle shown in the pic, warm it just enough to dissolve instant coffee (Nescafe instant coffee). Cool it for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, add sugar, chocolate powder and chocolate ice-cream to the bottle. Again, the quantities will depend upon what taste you like. I used about 1/2 teaspoon of coffee, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon ice-cream and 1 teaspoon chocolate powder. You can also skip one of the chocolate powder or ice-cream. I think chocolate ice-cream gave a creamy texture to my drink, which was good for me. You can even change the flavors of “choco” powder and ice-cream. Try Vanilla, Strawberry, whatever you like!!
Add the cooled instant coffee to the bottle, shake the bottle to mix the ingredients
Fill the rest of the bottle with chilled milk.
Of course, if you have time, it’s always better to blend, to mix the ingredients properly, have crushed ice as an added topping and give it a frothy texture. But the time constrained student I am, this worked wonders for me. This is going to be my daily dose of caffeine from now on!
Side Story: Nothing here. I am so busy that I am not getting time for myself. Between three part time jobs, 3 courses, research and job hunting, it feels more hectic than last semester ;-;
But I am trying to manage. I am definitely not attending language classes this time because, of course, no time. I am still doing Japanese through Duolingo and WaniKani here and there, I miss them most of the days, so yeah, language learning is on halt as of now ;-;
All seems sad, you say. Anything happy, you ask? Hmm… lemme think. I have started going on morning walks because I have bought a new phone and can play PokemonGo easily now. Does that sound happy? Yeah, I need to exercise my broken ankle, and so, apart from going to and fro campus, I go for morning walks now, which is pretty fun.
Anything else? Hmm… I wonder. My apartment is cleaner now, there is no fight of who will clean what. Whoever gets whatever time, we clean! That’s why my whole being is in peace. I guess this is a kind of happiness?
Oh, by the way, I will keep writing like this, without a set schedule, in future as well since this is school time. I admit, I was never a regular updater but still. I might skip months even this time. Anyway, I am feeling so sleepy right now, pulled another all nighter for another assignment. Gotta have my frappuccino to drive away this sleepiness. Until next time o/
Today’s song: I have no idea why I keep coming to this song again and again but his voice *melting away*
A regular reader of the blog told me that they wanted a break from all the reviews I have been posting lately and wanted to read what I was up to these days. Honestly, my life has been as boring/ uneventful, as this post’s title.
As I have been lamenting for quite some time, I injured my leg in the first week of June. Actually, more unfortunate events had befallen me during this time period which are not worth mentioning. All in all, my plans to spend my stipend in visiting various places in US were ruined and rather I had to spend my money on hospital bills. I am still getting treatment for it and more illnesses.
I have been taking so many medicines the whole summer and I feel so sluggish these days. I sleep more than 12 hours each day, a blessing for some of course. But for me, it’s bad. I had so many plans to spend my time but I have been wasting time in hospital visits and sleeping. I haven’t even talked to real life people apart from my family for quite some time. I am enjoying this alone time though. No energy wastage, saving my fucks to give to things as well. However, I do want to travel.
But who wants to read the depressing stuff? So, the best thing that happened this summer was I got to spend almost a month at home. So much food!! Another good thing happened was that I got introduced to a variety of Chinese drama. Till now I have only followed K-dramas religiously but now I am actually following C-dramas as well. This has increased my craving to learn Mandarin seriously although I am intentionally not starting it. When I am confident in all the languages I have picked up so far, I’ll concentrate solely on Mandarin for sure! It might be little far ahead in future but Mandarin is definitely on my list.
In language learning, these days, I have only been doing duolingo, especially for Japanese. It’s not perfect still I am learning a whole lot of new vocab. Shout out to my lab mate and great friend who compelled me to maintain my streak and hence, I have to log into and do lessons at least once a day.
In other news, I have been reading this translated novel of When a Snail Falls in Love. I have been wanting to write such stories. Actually, I did have a whole lot of stuff written in my notebooks but now I was searching for them and I cannot find them. All my original stories are lost. ;-;
I am still searching for those, I don’t remember where I have put those stories. I have those registers with me but I cannot find the scripts I had written. I don’t know if I tore the pages and hid them somewhere else. I gotta rack my brains and search!! I only remember only one of them and that too just the setting.
Other than that, it’s almost time to return to US. Last sem and big decisions to make including whether to go for a job or PhD. My plans for writing are unstable as usual. I want to draw as well but I am not good enough. If I do ever find and write those stories, I could at least make the character designs, I am confident in that 😀
Also, a friend of mine went to Japan for his internship. I had asked him to get me Shinrei Tantei Yakumo novels, so now I will officially have Japanese Light Novels in possession. I would have loved to translate and post here but it seems there are already official translations available so I won’t be doing that. Translation reminds me I still have a manga chapter to translate since forever but I have no motivation to do it. I would like to finish it before going back though so that I can start my semester without any distractions/ other things in the back of my mind.
So, this was my update for past few months. What are you guys up to? Are your vacations over? Let me know in the comments below.
Today’s Song: I have been following this drama called My Mr. Mermaid. A cute romantic story. And opening and ending are climbing up my list of favorites. Here is the ending song:
I am finally back to write about the sequel of the drama I wrote about few days ago (I was supposed to publish that two weeks back but my trip back to home took up all my time. More about that later). Also, I did ask my Chinese friend and there are novels for both The Mystic Nine and The Lost Tomb. Called as Dàomù Bǐjì in Pinyin, this series is about the journey of a guy who comes from the family of tomb raiders (basically part of mystic nine, though he doesn’t know this in the beginning) called Wu Xie. In the novels, he is an antique shop owner, in the series he is an international student who has just returned to China to hand over an antique from Germany to his country. He feels strongly about foreign countries possessing Chinese artifacts.
Plot: So, in the drama, Wu Xie (played by Li Yi Feng) comes back from Germany and encounters some bad guys who are after this relic. It turns out that this relic has a part of a map to some tombs which might contain huge treasures. He is helped out by a fat guy in shaking the enemy off initially. He later finds out the other half of map from a girl who claims to be one of the mystic nine families and it turns out to be a location of a famous tomb.
Wu Xie’s uncle gathers some men and they all set off to find treasures in the tomb. The men include a mysterious person called Zhang Qi Lin (played by Yang Yang) who doesn’t speak much and has some incredulous techniques with him. He always comes to the rescue of Wu Xie later when the adventure actually starts. He is successor of Zhang Qi Shan in the mystic nine.
Anyway, they go into the tomb, only to face countless questions and weird enemies including man eating bugs and zombies and of course, the previous group, led by a foreigner as usual. They lose some people, get to know more about the mystic nine and of course…….. no spoilers 😐
Second part of the plot deals with Wu Xie discovering the real identity of the girl who gave him the other half of the map. He also gets a typical turtle from the tomb about which he wants to find out the truth. He has to get in touch with Huo grandma who is the only one from her generation remaining from the old mystic nine. She is a wicked lady who still exerts power in the antiques and tomb raiding area and refuses to entertain his party. Wu Xie finds himself in the clenches of his foreign enemy again and the end. THE END!!
Characters: Not much here. We get to know about Wu Xie a lot. He’s the main character after all. There is no other development at all. Last part of the plot ends so abruptly that I still cannot process what happened. Li Yifeng has portrayed a naive, kind character very well but I am not sure about diversity in the roles he takes. The other drama I watched, The legend of Chusen Season 1 also has a similar character portrayed by him.
The best acting though is by Yang Yang. That mysterious character of Zhang Qilin he portrays, draws you so much that my most of the frustration as a viewer is that I really wanted to know his background. Although, after watching Mystic Nine, one does come to know who he might be, but I still want to know. There is this chemistry between Li Yifeng and Yang Yang. People have speculated that there is definitely something between them and some people claim that there are author’s notes in the novels which do confirm this. However, bromance or not, their chemistry is amazing. I am no fujoshi but the subtle hints in the drama, I somehow like those.
Other actors are veteran, their portrayal of characters is as usual. However, there is not much in the background of those people. 12 episodes are not enough. There is as usual that annoying fatty uncle (that’s how he’s called in the series) who is greedy for the treasures and ends up creating trouble for everyone. Then, I am not sure if this foreigner villain is descendant of the one in mystic nine but the villain in the movie of this series which I’ll review sometime later has same surname as the one in the latter series.
Wu Xie’s uncle’s character seem so very pitiful. He wants to take out the treasures and help Wu Xie at the same time but he is unable to do both to the full extent. I still won’t comment about the Huo family as the next season should be the one to reveal their secrets. I am looking forward to next season though they are not going to cast Yang Yang as Qilin (*cries in a corner*).
Good stuff: Only Yang Yang and Li Yifeng
Bad Stuff: I have too much to complain about in this series. Their music is not good, especially the bg. They build up so much tension with bg music that the viewer is compelled to think that an important moment, a discovery, a monster, something is gonna happen only to find it a normal moment in the drama. I don’t remember the openings and endings at all as opposed to the mystic nine whose OSTs I still listen to, even after a month.
Then their graphics are not upto par at all. It’s like they hired all the newbies to do post production editing. The graphics seem like those in 2000s, probably 2000s had better graphics in their dramas which confuses me a lot. They do a better job for a variety show like Happy Camp, how could they do this to a large scale drama production like this.
Plot of course. Who would like that abrupt ending, there is no talks of season 2 although the producers have said that they would adapt 8 novels in 8 seasons. Plot wise, I am not even sure if I should criticize the drama or wait for next season as I am waiting for many other. What is wrong with Chinese Drama producers??? Ugh
And there are confusing movies which adapt the arcs but change the actors, and it’s so hard to let go the first set of actors to appreciate the second set in movies. I would rather go for animations than live actions, just because of this reason.
Then there is no clear female protagonist as of now. There are two potential people who come into mind. One is the girl Ah Ning who is the villain in this season but gets softer towards Wu Xie because he saves her life. Second is the Huo’s granddaughter. The intentions of both of these girls are unknown (AND I AM STILL WAITING FOR NEXT SEASON, DAMN IT!!). But then why can’t a female person go into tombs to search for the treasures? Same was in the Mystic Nine. (However that changed in the Candle in the Tomb).
Other things: All in all, I would rate this drama as 4/10. It has great potential if only they tie the loose ends, make subsequent seasons and hopefully cast the same people. Otherwise, it remains a mystery to everyone. I WANNA LEARN MANDARIN JUST TO READ AND UNDERSTAND THESE NOVELS!!
I will not recommend this drama until and unless:
You are going through withdrawal symptoms of Mystic Nine and want to see more tomb raiding.
There is some news about the second season of The Lost Tomb.
You have already read the novels and want to compare them with the drama just for your satisfaction sake.
You want to see Yang Yang’s and Li Yifeng’s chemistry (which happens in first part of the drama only coz Qilin disappears after their quest in the tomb).
You have been warned. But if you still want, you can watch the drama here: The Lost Tomb
Just for the sake, here is a trailer:
Today’s Song: The usual
Side Story: I wanted to do so much after coming back but I am still trapped into the cycle of long hospital visits and the medications. I don’t feel like doing anything anymore ;-;
And as I said before, I am hooked to the tomb raiding series and I finished another drama called Candle in the Tomb. I have all the praises for this one. And then I started another drama called My Mr. Mermaid while in between I finished 2-3 more dramas like When a Snail Falls in Love, Secret Forest etc. etc. I hope I’ll get to review all of these soon. Let me know if you guys want any one of those done first.
And I bring another Chinese mystery drama based on another acclaimed novel. And supposedly the drama again did not live up to the expectations of novel readers (At this point of time, I am not sure if the novel for this drama exists or not. But its sequel does have one, for sure! It might be that there are references of this story in the actual novel of the sequel but still, I need to do more research).
This time it’s just a review because of too many loopholes in the plot and lack of good graphics. But the sequel, which I’ll review next week, suffers from the latter problem so much I would rather appreciate the graphics of Mystic Nine, lol. So, review is mainly because of the plot. Also, I am suffering from the drama withdrawal symptoms even after all the rant I am gonna write. Gimme novel, or next season or whatever, just give me something ;-;
Plot: If I am going to write the plot out, it will take too much of space, because it is mystic ‘nine’ after all. So, I’ll try to be as precise and understandable as possible. The mystic nine is set in early 1900s. Changsha is ruled by 9 families called old 9 gates. The head of these nine gates Zhang Qi Shan, also called Fo Ye (The Head of the First family, played by William Chan) is also the defense chief of the city.
One day, a mysterious train stops at the station of the city with dead bodies of Japanese people and coffins inside the train. He researches and finds out that this is related to the peculiar mines just outside the city. He wants to enlist the help of Er Ye (The head of the Second family, played by Zhang Yixing), because his family has a history of tomb raiding and the knowledge of those unknown secrets runs deep in their family. But Er Ye has given up that family business in order to receive good blessing for his ill wife Ya Tou. Hence, he works as Chinese Opera singer these days. They come across a magical medicine being auctioned at some other place which might save Ya Tou. So, Fo Ye helps Er Ye to get that medicine, staking his family fortune so that he could convince Er Ye to help him with regards to those mines. Er Ye indeed helps him uncover the truth, but the truth is far more complex than it seems.
The mines are not only ancient tombs of some of the greatest poets of China but they contain something which Japanese people want and hence, they have been doing some experiments in and around the caves. Fo Ye, with the help of Er Ye, and other gates, tries to find out the truth behind the mines and the Japanese conspiracy.
Now, the plot is what actually drew me in. I have never seen anything related to tomb raiding. It was scary but exhilarating to watch. I actually watched the sequel to this drama called The Lost Tomb first. Although I did not like that one much owing to non-existent plot just like this one and horrible graphics, just the tomb raiding part kept me going on with these two. Not to mention the handsome guys to fangirl on ❤
However, the plot has so many problems with it, I cannot even count. I’ll explain those later in the post.
Characters: Characters are amazing but not so amazing. Fo Ye is the ultimate person and sees the most character development. From the most rigid personality who keeps the country above anything to the warmest of husband after he falls in love with Yin Xinyue (played by Zhao Liying), William has done quite a good job. My favorite character however is Lieutenant Zhang, right hand man of Fo Ye. His one smile melts the heart of girls in an instant. Oops, fangirling mode on again. His character is loyal and intelligent.
Er Ye is proficient in martial arts but is too blinded by his love for his wife. So much that major part of the 48 episodes goes into his reminiscing about her after her death and his hallucinations about her. And that gets boring, like really boring. Anyway, next character is Ba Ye, the head of eighth family in nine gates. He is a great fortune teller and becomes a kid in behaviour when he is near Fo Ye. Some times, you as an audience feel like sewing his mouth shut so that he could not whine. However, he is as helpful in the whole series as Er Ye. He is not shown with any family attachments in the series.
Now since, this is about nine families and is set into war period, it’s natural to have tons of important characters, nine being the heads of the nine families. I am pretty sure, given the popularity of the novels, too many cooks did not spoil the broth here after all. But drama does not do justice to all the characters. While the title is nine gates, the other gates gain importance only in last few episodes. Except that the evil disciple of Er Ye forcefully takes up the seat of Si Ye (The Fourth) and the seventh gate, the shrewd Huo girl, joins hands with Japanese earlier in the series, only to find her family reputation in jeopardy because of her actions.
Speaking of females, the two most important females of the series are Ya Tou and Xin Yue. Ya Tou is wife of Er Ye and is sick with an unknown illness for the major part of the series. Not much to her character. Xin Yue is daughter of the hotel where the auction for that magical medicine takes place and is really irritating in the beginning. As the series goes on, she becomes one of the most likable and clever character. There are more pretty female characters essential to the plot.
When there is so much evil in the series, there are definitely evil characters. There is this whole Japanese part to the series. And these characters have their own share of screen time, unnecessarily so. I skipped most of the part of their discussions, which saved me almost half of the time I spent on the series watching. And I advise the same to everyone who is watching or planning to do so, especially in the second half of the series. Not gonna spend time on explaining those.
Bad things: My biggest complaint is with the plot. The problem is, the story is all over the place. As with ‘Decoded‘ some side plot is started, and it gets lost somewhere, starting another story, just to abandon it again. Viewers are left with so many whys and hows at the end, it’s unbearable. The mystery of mines isn’t solved till the end, for obvious reasons since it sets the premises of whole story. But in the last episodes they just mention it once, and lo, finished. Similarly, there are supposed to be thousands of traps inside the mines, but in the end, anyone could enter them just like that like where did the need of Er Ye’s family go now? And this is just starting of the list.
Also, some of the graphics are like those kids shows with fairies and magic of the 90s. Heck, even their graphics were better than some of the tomb stuff shown in here. And this drama was made in 2016. I expected more, but given the intricate details of mines and caves, I wouldn’t complain much here. Those rants I’ll save for next week.
Good things: I should start writing good things first. Anyway, I was about to give up on the series halfway through after reading all those awful comments from hurt viewers. But I persisted. So, I guess it’s best if someone reaches the good things after my whining about the flaws. It would mean the series is for you. I loved the tomb raiding part. I kept watching the series because I knew more adventures were coming. They had to enter that mine again and again anyway.
I also liked the usual politics and games. However, there wasn’t much evil in the evil characters to be honest. Not much psychological warfare either. Ugh. Another good thing for all the females is number of good looking males in the series, and I am not even talking about Zhang Yixing.
This was the first series I watched starring William Chan and he suited the character well. And the rare occasions when he smiled *melting away*. Same with Lieutenant Zhang. To think that guy is just 22 years old in real life! Zhang Yixing needs to be just Zhang Yixing, he’s perfect like that. The beauty when he transforms into the opera singer, I was mesmerized. Ba Ye is not bad looking either but well, his character is a bit maddening.
Music! Music is incredible as well. I am still listening to the opening and ending themes, and plan to do so until some new song grows on me. Background music is not as dramatic to make an impact but goes well with the situations. And costumes! I love this thing about period dramas, you get to see those historical elegant dresses, not only for women but men as well. Also, the mansions! The amazing stuff!!
And of course, action. Being from Wuxia genre, it has plenty of martial arts scenes, amazing stuff at that. Probably people who are familiar with wuxia genre, might find it bland, but this being my one of the first series in the genre, I loved it. It was not over the top, so felt a bit real at least.
Other things: I am still so furious that I did not get to see this through the end, like every fan who is patiently waiting for a season 2. But the demand is the same characters which is next to impossible. The ending was ok, people who have read the novels know better. Which makes me want to read them as well. Again, as a standalone drama, its ending was an open ended one.
I have been quite into mystery genre these days. Lack of good series in anime world in this genre has turned me towards dramas and I have had a mixed experience so far. From absolutely brilliant to what the fuck just happened, I have seen a whole lot of series. One of them I came across while searching about the main lead Chen Cheney (Chen Xue Dong) was ‘Decoded’. I have become a fan of his acting after watching some episodes of another drama called Rush to The Dead Summer (Dropped it coz I read some spoilers). However, do take my advice, all the synopsis about the series I read on net were wrong. Like really flawed.
Plot: The story is set in first half of 1900s I think. Rong JinZhen is supposedly an autistic person who is genius at Maths. He was adopted by the principal of the university he is studying at. They have blood relation with each other, but still JinZhen’s past is majorly unknown. He is recruited by a division working for Chinese government on breaking codes used by enemies to communicate with each other. This division has been dealing with a pretty nasty code called purple code which has not only not been broken yet, it has driven the principal person working on the code earlier, mad. Rong JinZhen is their only hope now.
He faces difficulties initially because he’s unable to bear the harsh life of military, not to mention people who doubt his abilities. However, he is able to overcome everything thanks to his friends and supportive seniors. In the end he finds that this code he is trying to break is related to his former teacher John Lee. He discovers more and more about himself and his teacher through his assignment as the decoder.
Inconsistencies: Now, about inconsistencies in the plots all over the main drama websites. Some say he joined a spy organization. No, he joined a division with Chinese military. They do some spy stuff but they are more than a spy division. Then some say he discovers more about his family, especially mother while decoding the code. No, there is definitely a mention about his family in some initial episodes but he doesn’t discover huge secrets about his past like mentioned. I don’t know about the novel, but certainly not in the drama.
Also, it’s never explicitly mentioned if Rong ever had autism. He does appear to be lacking in daily functions and social interactions, but I am not sure if that could be called autism at all. Not blaming the acting, it was pretty good. It might be that less was understood about autism in that period and hence he is just taken for a stupid person. Again, not sure about novel.
Bad stuff: Now inconsistencies about the drama plot itself. The ending, I felt, was too rushed. The story builds up so much and ends in the last episode just like that. I was disappointed by the rushed ending but not by the ending itself. Hence, it’s a recommendation and just not a review.
Also, as I said above, they never mention autism explicitly. As far as I know about autism, the people get triggered by any ‘change’ around them and hence act harshly towards people around them (please do correct me if I am wrong anywhere. My knowledge about autism comes from articles read online and the manga called Hikari no Tomo ni). But Rong accepts it all, without much fuss.
Also *spoiler starts* it seems like that behavior corrects itself quite a bit in the second phase of the series. Again, not sure how representative that is of autism in real life. I tried reading some more articles but stats are really not in favor of autism correcting itself with age it seems *spoiler ends*.
Another thing I dislike about the series is, they don’t really show the logical thinking of Rong while solving the code. (Any numb3rs fan here?) Give something to the nerd in me!! I wanted to see some Maths ;-; And, some characters were chucked out just like that after building up a fancy plot around them to make them seem like an important character. I don’t really know what to do with that. They could have omitted some of the additional details to have less episodes than 41 probably. I really wanted to skip the part just before Rong’s second phase of life started. Now I think about it, the second part of the drama really sucked and dragged too long. I just wanted to skip to the end, but I still did not give up, must have watched the series at 4x speed, I think.
Good stuff: Despite all these loopholes, the drama has made quite an impression on my mind. Apart from the plot, the character delivery by each and every person is powerful. I especially loved the seniors in the division, their conflicts and confidence with regards to Rong are portrayed beautifully. Character development is good as well. Sound track goes amazingly well with the series. It is full of laughter and tears as usual.
My favorite part is when Rong gets to meet the previous principal investigator of purple code who is now unable to solve anything and spends his days playing chess. The bonds formed at the division are so relatable that it reminds you of school or may be college days, not as harsh of course. But peers, doubts on the friendship, fights over one girl, that one especially helpful senior/teacher etc. etc, I totally reminisced about my school/ college days somehow.
If the plot is true to the novel, the author is no less than George R R Martin, many of your favorite characters will die. But well, it’s a war drama, cannot do without the deaths of good people. Every encounter cannot be all happy. Each side loses some things and some ones before good triumphs the evil. Sacrifices are essential, otherwise the work would lose reality and depth. Cannot do anything about it. The deaths in the series also remind me of Maes Hughes in FMAB (I still cry on the gifs of that episode). I am pretty sure, if you’ve started watching this series already and know about FMAB, you would definitely know whom I am hinting at.
So anyway, recommended, not highly, but still if you’re into mystery and thriller, you should give it a try. It is officially available on YouTube with English subs. Watch here (thank God they’re official, will not have to think about copyright issues ^^;):
Short Story 1: As some of you might know from my twitter whining, I have fractured my ankle (it’s been almost a month). I was going to start writing regularly as I have accumulated quite a few series to write about (and some English novels as well, I am reading a few books these days, thanks for the influence my library *blows kisses*). All my plans went down the drain. It’s so tiring to use crutches. I sincerely salute all the people who have to use crutches/ wheelchairs and similar aids, for any reason, from the bottom of my heart.
Harder is putting up a brave front in front of my family. They are sitting halfway across the world worrying about me which makes me sad. And my OCD is setting in because I am practically helpless and cannot clean my room. All the books are lying around like anything and only I know how I fight between the urge to clean it all and having to rest my foot ;-; Despite everything, I ended up cleaning my bathroom which was in utterly devastating state.
Short Story 2: Working on my internet addiction, I decided to just not switch on my laptop at all when I come back home from campus. It’s been quite a successful strategy so far. I have left all the dramas and anime I was watching, for now, might start with Habaek on Monday. I have been able to finish 3 novels in a week, reading during just that time. I am also giving some time to Duolingo as well, given that they have added Japanese, gotta brush up my prior knowledge, I have forgotten everything. So, this is how I am spending my summers. How about you?
I have always been curious about the idol life in South Korea, because I know they are made to work a little too hard. The successful idols are not only versed in dance and singing, they get to learn multiple languages and stuff, and I always wonder where they find time for all the extra things apart from training the whole day. Some of them are big gamers, some know whole lot of musical instruments, some are trained in multiple languages, some are amazing cooks etc. etc. And I always always admire them for all these skills they have. Of course, they have acquired those skills with hard work.
So anyway, I was actually looking for some of my favorite idols’ and actors’ pics to put as my desktop wallpaper and I stumbled upon the fact that Zhang Yixing aka Lay of EXO has written an autobiography in 2015. And all hail the multilingual fans, some of them have actually translated the whole book of 91 pages for people like us who cannot read Chinese. Well, it was just 91 pages, how long could it take to read anyway? But the emotional roller coaster it took me on, was beyond expected. I haven’t read many autobiographies to be honest, so I am not sure how they really work.
But this one, I say roller coaster because it was so relatable, not just in the terms of how Asian parents generally are, nor how there is a competition among your peers since your childhood, but everything. From his desire to find what was right for him, from his fears about being in another country without any help, from jealousy and concerns about his peers being better than him to his regrets of not being able to do much for his parents, every single thing struck a chord with feelings inside my heart.
As a review, I would just say, it’s worth a read, not because as a fan one should but because he made it big in life, and he was just 24 when he wrote the book. A whole bunch of 24 year old would find a bit inspiration and a way out to their feelings, if they’re not able to express them well. I actually went through my whole 24 years of life while reading the book (*cue: flashback again*). The structure of book is a bit weird, probably some things are lost in translation. A few things would not make sense, again probably due to language differences. Although, most of the things are chronologically listed, he still jumps from one incident to another which might put off some people. It’s just like reading a person’s personal diary, really. It feels like he’s talking to the reader. And some of the things he says are too profound.
What I took from the book? That he is far more intelligent than he is able to show on TV. It shows his humility as well. Everyone knows Lay as a dork, especially from “Go! Fighting” but as he rightly says, anyone would be like that before the super seniors he worked with in the show. His craving for learning stuff is at another level. I have a new found respect for him, not that I did not respect him earlier.
The book also gives a sneak peek into SM’s training regime. Well, don’t know how much to trust him on it, but it sounded about right.
What touched me the most was the last part, where he tells about his mother. I could really picture my parents there. Having sacrificed everything for me and my sister, they just worry about us. Even a slight scratch to us pains them. And here we are, we haven’t really done anything for them till now. The one sentence, that pinched me the most was “The first thing she asks me is not how my day went but if I have eaten and slept well.” I am pretty sure most of the parents are the same. Mine also don’t ask about my studies or anything, that’s one of the last worries they have. All they are concerned about is my health and well-being. Shucks, something went into my eyes, aaarggghh…
And since it’s just 91 pages, it won’t take much of your time. So go and google and you’ll find the first link is to the fan translation (The translators don’t want to distribute their work without credits and I am not sure if posting the link here would be just. It’s really easy to find though, so while it is still out there, do give it a try!) And if you are able to read Chinese and can buy his book, please do so!
P.S.: Is it just me or there is a resemblance between Baekhyun and Ji Chang Wook? Btw, I am only following Lay in all EXO songs these days 😐
Yes, I am tired of providing just updates of my life but it so happens that I am entangled in so many things, that even though I wanna write regularly, I just am unable to. You do understand that ‘so many things’ includes anime and drama watching, right?
Also, my 2nd semester at CMU is over now, so I am a bit relaxed. Work starts again in one week, although I am still giving time to library work till the end of month. Pretty good hiring manager we have in the library, he let me work for extra 2 weeks.
Anyway, I just thought I would post a reflection of my last sem before moving on on this blog as well as in my life. These 5 months have been the most hectic months of my life. I have never had such a mess of my routine, not even when I was preparing for those gruesome engineering entrance tests. But after everything, I have a decent GPA, had good food throughout the semester, time for language classes and CMU anime club and I was successful in earning my daily expenses for all five months. I am very proud of the fact that I was kind of able to juggle everything despite the belief around me that I won’t be able to (including me and my family, just to add). I’ve probably never enjoyed my tremendous work this much as well.
And, I have come to fall for books once again, though my internet addiction doesn’t leave time to take up many. I am trying to avoid my laptop these days and pick up some more books including some bilingual books. I hope I am able to stick to my plan. Also, been trying to get back to 9-4 sleep schedule. It got messed up thanks to my 2 night shifts per week. I don’t regret my 2nd sem at all though, like I have some regrets in the first sem in terms of courses taken and work I did. I could’ve definitely done more and I discovered my immense capacity last sem.
Regarding my language learning journey, well, I have stopped giving time to Japanese altogether. I want to start again with Wanikani but it will take some courage to see those 1400 reviews and 400 new lessons. As I said in previous post, I took up Russian out of pure curiosity and although, now I know the alphabets, I am still losing interest. I don’t know if it was Duolingo or just me being lazy. I’ll try to attend the whole beginners course again in summers, hopefully I’ll regain the interest. Since, I had experience with Italian, I decided to try Spanish this summer and it’s super easy thanks to the 5 months I dedicated to Italian, though I don’t remember much there, to be honest. I do, however, recognize the similar words in Spanish and Italian. I am still continuing with my Korean classes, and have moved to intermediate level. Just need more practice. The pace of the classes I am attending is amazing. Just that I need to practice all those somewhere.
All in all, I have come to realize CMU community is one of those, which inspires you to achieve new heights. I have never been that eager to absorb knowledge through reading/ surfing. I keep pestering my friends at Indian Anime Club to study with me so that they and I, all remain motivated. I never had that urge to improve my knowledge in BITS (not that I am furious about that or anything, it had its own pros. If not for BITS, I would have never discovered my passion for East Asian culture and foreign languages). So anyway, I want to read more and more books now. My job at library has made me discover so many books, I can simply spend my whole summer holed up in library and reading books. I obviously, cannot be Elon Musk, reading 2 books per day, but I wanna keep my pace at 3 books per week now. Of course, my research would take up majority of my time, but hopefully I’ll utilize my weekends then. Not only I have access to CMU’s library, I know what books to find where in Carnegie Library as well. So, I can just go there, find a corner and start reading. Argh, it’s so frustrating, why didn’t I rediscover my love for books sooner? Anyway, it’s time for me to go finish the latest book I am reading.
See you guys next time, hopefully with a review.
P.S.: As I said above, it’s a matter of proper time management and help around you. If a lazy person can juggle research, 5 courses, 2 night shifts per week with classes on the same day when the night shift ended (including one compulsory presentation on one of those days) and cooking at home, any one can! I have always been an advocate of good home cooked healthy food and I managed them all. And this is coming from a person who used to spend all her time in bed watching anime all the time, once. It won’t be wrong to say that what I did last sem was a kind of an experiment, and a successful one at that, to test my limits and to prove to myself that it’s not impossible as I was told by people around. There are a whole lot of people who say, all hail frozen stuff, they become your life because no time. Well, honestly, to each their own. But I definitely did it. Also, I had lots of help from my friends when it came to courses. So right help and right techniques, do help.
It’s been a while, as usual. This time, I have been actually really very busy. As I stated in some previous post (or did I at all?), I have taken some 5 grad courses, I have research to do and then I have a part time job for which I have to pull all-nighters twice a week. So, I am pretty busy. I have been unable to keep up with new anime even. However, I do find time to go to anime club every week. I have missed only twice this semester. I have been to quite a few movies as well and meet friends not from my department at least bi-weekly. Now that I have written it down, I realize I am really enjoying this sem. And then, I have joined these free language classes which will be the main focus of this post.
One of my Chinese friends knew how interested I was in languages (she herself is a big fan of Big Bang and hence is interested in learning Korean) and she took me to these free language classes that are held in Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (by volunteers I think, not sure). I have joined Korean, which is held every Saturday, Japanese which happens every other Monday and the Russian which happens every alternate Thursday. There are options for Chinese, French, German and Spanish as well. I wanted to join Spanish but had already missed number of classes so gave up on it.
First of all, let me review Korean classes. I joined Korean classes when they had already done 8 weeks of work, out of which 4 weeks were spent in learning the alphabet supposedly. Thank God for that. The best part about these classes is that there is structure, there is review and there are buddies to practice with. We have learnt the general stuff in Korean till now: Where do you go?, Your family, What do you like?, making verbs out of nouns etc. etc. This time, the grammar sticks! Because we’re continuously using it in practice. We form pairs and try to talk. The teacher is really helpful and cute as well. And since she is not actually a teacher, we get to learn from a commoner’s perspective: the commoner’s language. I have been to 2-3 classes and enjoyed them thoroughly. This is the most fun class out of three.
For Japanese, since it happens once in two weeks, I have gone to only 2 classes. They were teaching very basic stuff: What do you like, time etc. I was planning on dropping this class because I thought my level was definitely above than that. However, yesterday, when I got to know that minutes in Japanese are ‘ふん’ and not ‘ぶん’ which I had thought was the case all along (for like 5 years! Gosh!), I realized I have never really paid attention to the details. I was also struggling with numbers greater than 10 somehow (THESE ARE SUCH ELEMENTARY THINGS!! No wonder I don’t pass my JLPT exams ;-;). Well, it gave a huge blow to my confidence but after the practice session, I did get a little bit of it back. So now I am planning to go through it till the end. And if I end up interning in summers in CMU only, then I’ll have access to the new semester of classes, so I can join Spanish and French and second level classes for the ones I am learning already.
Third is Russian. The first class for me was a disaster. Not because the classes were bad, but because I had missed more classes than I had thought I had. I joined them in probably 5th class and though the class was small (like 8 people) all of them were proficient with the alphabet. I had learnt their alphabet 2 years ago, so obviously I didn’t remember anything. But the teacher was quite patient with me and let me attend the classes. I promised her to learn the alphabet before next class and I did well with reading in the next class (a small yay!). I have no clue what happened in the classes I missed though. The one I attended, we talked about family, pronouns and gender. I have also started with duolingo for Russian. Russian is totally alien to me except one song I hear in Ukrainian which is distantly related to Russian language including similar alphabet. But I am enjoying learning it thus far because the teacher is interesting as well.
Here is a link for if you’re in Pittsburgh and interested in attending the free classes: Pittsburgh Free Language Classes
They will start new ‘semester’ of classes in summer, May I think. Check their website for more info.
So, this is what I am doing apart from all the academic stuff. I would have loved to post pics of worksheets but it might be copyright violation so I won’t do that. I’ll post the song I talked about above.
I am not one of those who plan their days, weeks and months. Like, I do make a mental note of what to do in the day but I am unable to follow most of it. Even if I do start making to-do lists, that goes on for one week, may be two at max. This time I decided to change it and went for weekly planner.
Best part is, I got it for FREE! Yup, that’s right. I went for this one: How Life Unfolds Printable Weekly Planner. At CMU, we get a semester quota of 40$ for printing and I had some amount left at the end of the semester. I decided to print these for 26 weeks. Although, colored prints would’ve looked good I didn’t have enough balance to go for that. Nonetheless, black and white does the same work as colored one, so that’s that.
Anyway, I don’t have one of the written ones with me right now but the one I use looks something like this:
There are other templates on the above link, so you can try out whatever suits your taste.
I generally start with writing my weekly goals down on top of front page. Then for each day, I write my agenda on the left hand side and what I actually did on the right hand side at the end of the day. In back, I use the space for notes to list down the groceries I need to buy and my meal plan based on what is available to me and what groceries I am planning to buy and on which day of the week (since due to meetings and extra classes the day of grocery shopping might change).
As I said earlier, I am quite inconsistent when it comes to to-do lists. That is why I only printed 26 sheets. I already skipped last week because it was the first full week of the semester with my on-campus job and loads of meetings. Now I can settle down and plan my stuff accordingly. When I am able to accomplish what I set for the day, the sense of achievement is heavenly.
Not that I am not procrastinating. I definitely am. Given the new hectic schedule, many things are going on back burner. I need to gear up more.
By the way, when I made my time table for the semester this time, including major stuff which cannot be skipped in any way, like meal prep, classes, sleep, job, I realised I had so much free time to study. I hadn’t really ever counted how much I was wasting out of it. Unsurprisingly, max was going into social media and addiction to my east Asian entertainment (after cutting some of it for meal prep). I decided to use pomodoro technique to keep me on the track. Let’s see for how many days it works.
Continuing from my last post I think it’s about time that I write a bit about my finances. I won’t elaborate much but I am glad I am maintaining at about (500 +/- 30)$ per month including rent, utilities and groceries.
As I said last time, I have heard and read many stories where a lot of students couldn’t afford their rent or food. Hence, they would live in shabby places and eat noodles to save on time and money. Honestly speaking, I draw my inspiration from them. I am fortunate to have enough to live in an apartment and eat all my meals everyday. However, I won’t deny that I still live a frugal lifestyle, without spending much on luxuries. But if I do find something which I would regret not buying later, I do go ahead with that purchase. Before I start, I would say that after my rent, phone, internet and electricity bills, I am left with about 80$ a month for groceries and other things.
Now, it is not to say that I cannot ask for more. I definitely can. But, to be honest, loans scare me. Debt is always scary, even if you have a job with you. Also, it doesn’t fit right with me that I ask my parents for money beyond absolute necessity (this is the Indian scenario and parents support their children financially till whenever parents wish). Hence, I try. Keeping my budget under 500 has been difficult. It means less occasional outings whether for food or vacations or just shopping. I did try some things to earn from here and there, since I was a new student and couldn’t really get an on campus job last sem. So, what did I do? Here is a list:
I got my rent reduced because I agreed to live in living room: We are three students sharing a 2 bed 2 bath apartment (sharing an apartment rather than having your own studio apartment is always cheaper). Hence, the third person had to manage with living room. I agreed to live in the living room for a reduction of 50$ per month in my rent. With a separator, it pretty much feels like a room/ private space to me. So, I am happy. For that, your flatmates need to be adjusting though. My flatmate who has a private bath in her room was fine with her rent increasing by 50$ per month, then only I could do this.
I signed up for various apps where I could save/ earn money: Ok, so this is bit of a stretch, but I signed up for various grocery cashback apps which give cashback on select grocery items in their catalogs. They are especially useful for people who eat (especially cook) non-veg and have drinks. I haven’t cashed out anything from these apps yet apart from an Amazon Gift card of very small amount from ReceiptPal and 27$ worth check from InboxDollars very recently. I won’t review any of those because there are plenty reviews out there. However, I would list down what all I use:
InboxDollars: This is a survey site where you can earn money doing various activities apart from taking surveys. The thing I like the most about them is their TV section. I put the TV on on the website and keep doing my work. After sometime, it does ask to click a button to confirm if I have been watching the videos, but even if I am not, I can just refresh the page and the playlist of videos starts all over again. (They have put a cap of 50 cents per day recently which is disappointing!)
I recently cashed out a 27$ check from them after three months of joining. That too, because I did not know about the earnings from TV section. Earnings from occasional surveys add up too.
Beware that this is not a place where you can become rich or earn your rent. But it’s enough to make about 30 bucks per two months passively. If you do surveys (which are hard to qualify for, just a heads up) and other stuff actively, you can earn more. People say they have made upto 70$ per month on the site being more active. Well, grad students don’t have that much time.
Right now they’re giving 5$ to any new member who joins. And if you’re interested, you can use my referral as well: InboxDollar Referral
Apps like Checkout51, Ibotta, Shopmium, SavingStar: They all are apps which give cashback on groceries you buy. They have new list of items every week and you just have to unlock that particular item and scan your receipt. While Ibotta has many selections, they generally need membership details for the given store and Aldi is not there (the place where I do my major grocery shopping from.)
Checkout51 has number of stores but their variety in items is dropping down. However, these both would be my go to cashback apps. I haven’t cashed out anything from these yet but it never hurts to get some cents back on your purchase every time passively. One day, they will all add up. Walmart’s Saving Catcher is another option if you do your major shopping from Walmart. I’ll write down the referral codes for these too –
Ibotta: rflsgnl (if you sign up using this code, you earn 10$ and I get 5$).
I still don’t know how coupons work, but if I ever get time, I would like to try those too!
Apps like ReceiptPal, Yaarlo: I particularly like Receiptpal because you get a 1$ increment in Amazon Gift card for each 16 receipts you upload on their app. It can be anything whatever you buy. You read it right! I did sign up for Yaarlo but I am not very happy with its earnings. Nonetheless, nothing goes in snapping a picture or two of your grocery receipts. Another app is ReceiptHog, similar ot ReceiptPal, however they don’t have any space with them and I have been on the waiting list for 3 months already. I won’t really recommend that.
Referral Code: Yaarlo: 4AUCKPG1667
The only catch here is, none of them is super fast. For some, it might be time consuming to just check out offers too. I check them out on bus or when I am idling around with social media etc. But trust me, when I received that 27$ check on 5th Jan from InboxDollars (I had won a 10$ worth target gift card too earlier), and when I deposited it to my account, I was overjoyed. Seeing that account balance going up always makes one happy.
I stopped eating outside: Not exactly. But yeah, I do my cooking entirely at home. Not only do I save money but my diet restrictions also has something to do with it. I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat eggs even in things like cake etc. but in US even pasta can have egg. Hence, I avoid all outside food whenever I can. A lot of people complain they don’t get time to cook because cooking takes up a lot of time. I have observed that with time, you start taking less and less time in cooking. Also, you can always spend less time on facebook.
Home cooked food is fresh, healthy and cheap (I did some calculations and one meal comes out to be less than a dollar when I cook all the meals in a month by myself). And I will emphasize on healthy. My parents, who have always had healthy food in their youth are struggling in their 40s. I can’t imagine maintaining my body that long given all the junk I have already consumed. I want to keep fit with exercise and good diet. That is also one motivation behind me cooking everyday. I also save time when I make all my meals for the day in the morning. Or may be on Sunday and use them till Tuesday. Whatever arrangement works for you. That one hour affair pays me for the whole day(s). Proper nutrition also means more energy and better concentration.
I participated in researches: A lot of colleges are involved in researches where they need help of human subjects. Not talking about experiments on you but just interviewing, aptitude tests kind of thing. Try to find if that happens in your college. Mine has a huge system where various studies are available. They don’t pay much but if doing fun activities for 20 minutes is giving me 10-15 bucks, I am totally up for it.
The mistake I did was, I was too ashamed and egoistic to sign up for them for a meager amount. But when I participated for the first time, I found it to be a relaxing activity. The hospital and another university near me pays as high as 600$ for some studies. Without an SSN, that particular study would have paid me 150$. Not bad for 6 hours of your life. (I didn’t qualify for it though, so that’s that).
Find an on-campus job: Goes without saying. It is the best way to earn money and add something on your resume. Because I did not have one last sem, I tried all of the above to make/ save some extra.
Some more things you can do is to stay away from subscriptions you don’t need. I don’t really watch TV, so I don’t have any netflix or hulu subscription. I use WhatsApp or free video calling apps to call home. Another thing I have heard about is, you can, in general negotiate your monthly bills in US. I have no experience in that at all though. Investment? Well sure, if you can. I don’t have that much money or aptitude to start investing in US yet, but some day soon.
Initial expenditures can blow anyone away. I spent whopping 2000$ in my first one and a half month here. After that, I have been trying to take care of my budget. I did start noting down all my expenditures. Writing down keeps my desire to spend more in check (or checking your account balance frequently 😛). I am not bothered about people saying that I am stingy. Because at the end of the day, I want to be in less and less debt without ruining my health.
I know the feeling of spending my hard earned money without any pressure of loans on me and I would like to achieve that state as soon as possible. Hence, I am not afraid, not concerned of ‘missing out on stuff’ right now. Nor do I forget to reward myself once in a while with good food or something I really wish to buy. I rewarded myself with food from my favorite restaurant very recently on finally landing an on-campus job. These kind of rewards keep me motivated to do better as well.
So, these were some of the things I have been following till now to manage my finances in US. What are your pet peeves?