Jars of kimchi

Jars of kimchi

On Wednesday, I took an hour long drive to the nearest Korean grocery store. Along the way, I missed a turning and got slightly lost, but managed to get back on track. I took several photos in the store but most of them look like what one will see at a higher end grocery store: large produce and meat sections, wide aisles, and nicely stocked shelves. But there is one thing that one will never find in an American-style grocery store – kimchi, lots of kimchi!

Here’s my shopping list:
1 box (20 packs) of Kimchi ramen – $11.99 (lately I’ve been bitten by the eat-instant-noodle-at-night bug)
1 box (12 packs) of tofu – $9.99
Edamame – $0.99
3 cans of curry paste – $2.27
1 can of coconut milk – $0.89
5lb of jasmine brown rice – $3.29
Egg noodle – $0.69
2 packs of Mama tomyam noodle – $0.78
1 small pack of kimchi – $3.99 (it wasn’t that good, i think the ones that I made taste better)
1 pack of stir-fried jab chae noodle – $3.99 (not that good either, though I have no idea how to make this)
Dang myeon noodle – $1.99 (with this, I can find a jab chae recipe online and try it out)
I also bought ingredients to make my own kimchi:
nappa cabbage – $1.11
korean radish – $0.58
korean pear – $2.49 (expensive pear but according to my roommate, it’s an important ingredient in kimchi)
korean watercress – $0.99
green onion – $0.25
ginger – $0.30
1 bottle of salted shrimp – $2.99

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Thanksgiving lunch and dessert

I was invited by Erica, my small group leader, to a Thanksgiving lunch with her family. Instead of having a traditional “lots of cooking to do” meal in their home, they went to a buffet Thanksgiving lunch at the Hotel Bethlehem instead. Lunch was good. I had oysters, shrimp, squid salad, turkey, gravy, mash potatoes, grean beans, cranberry jelly, butternut squash soup, baked brie, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin pie, chocolate cake and coffee.

Later in the evening, I was invited to have Thanksgiving dessert with Tom and his family. Tom is a Malaysian, originally from Batu Gajah. He, his American wife and their two teenage daughters go to the church that Marvin used to attend. I was quite reluctant to go, it was dark, it was raining, and I don’t like driving 65 mph on the highway in the rain at night. But it was Thanksgiving after all, a very big deal here, and it’s nice to spend time with another Malaysian. So I drove 30 minutes to Easton, met up with Marvin and followed his car to Tom’s place. For dessert, I had a slice of chocolate pecan pie and more coffee. The pie was the best I had this Thanksgiving season.

Quite an eventful Thanksgiving though not as exciting as last Thanksgiving.

Trivia about Easton: The real Von Trapp family (The Sound of Music), after leaving Austria for the United States, had their very first concert in Easton, PA.

Boston, here I come….

My proposal for a poster presentation (School-based Individualized PBS: A Meta-Analysis) at the Fourth International Conference on Positive Behavior Support has been accepted. I get a free trip to Boston next March, courtesy of the research grant that I’m working on. This is probably one of the few perks of of being a graduate student.

Now I need to actually get the research completed 🙂

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship invited the international students over for an early thanksgiving dinner. I went to the same event two thanksgiving ago. When the bus pulled into the church’s parking lot, it was like a deja-vu experience. A traditional thanksgiving dinner was served: turkey, mash potatoes and gravy, sweet potato souffle, dressing, and cranberry jelly. The dinner was pretty good, but now that I look at the photo that I took of the food, it doesn’t really look very appetizing 🙂

One interesting trivia: This Thanksgiving, Americans are going to eat about 690 million pounds of turkey!!

Medical bills

I think I’ve finally received my last medical bill for the thumb injury. Here’s a breakdown of what everything costs, how much the insurance paid, and what I paid.

May 31, 2006 (Emergency Room)

Cost: $3249.15
Paid by insurance: $1868.26
From my pocket: $151.04

May 31 & June 9, 2006 (Prescription-narcotic painkillers and antibiotics)

Cost: $93.46
Paid by insurance: $53.46
From my pocket: $40.00

June 9, 2006 (Thumb surgery)

Cost: $4468.00
Paid by insurance: $3276.92

June 2 to September 13, 2006 (Occupational therapy)

Cost: $8586.00
Paid by insurance: $1193.62

Total cost: $16,396.61
Total paid by insurance: $6392.26
Total from my pocket: $191.04

As you can see, the cost and amount paid are not equal. There’s some kind of discount-thing that happens between the provider and the insurance company. Even if the insurance did not pay the whole discounted amount, the provider sort of waived the leftover amount (I hope, since I didn’t receive any additional bills).

I remember telling someone (before the injury) that I’m paying all these biweekly insurance premium payments and I have never benefitted from it. I spoke too soon!

Brain drain

I know Malaysia is facing this “brain drain” problem and I’ve never gave it much thought. Of course, my Malaysian friend who’s going to get her Ph.D. from Harvard soon, would not return to Malaysia. And there are numerous Malaysians who would/could not return due to various reasons. But the brain drain issue really hit me today.

I was at a colloquium today, two Singaporeans, an associate professor and his doctoral student in special education, were here to share about the Reconstruction of Teacher Education in Singapore. They were talking about how Singapore is moving towards being an inclusive society and is setting aside a large sum of money to fund “inclusive” special education. Teacher training program in Singapore now includes a short 12 hour training on special education and disabilities. It is great but then Singapore is a smaller and richer nation, unlike Malaysia.

Anyway, the colloquium ended and I managed to talk to the two Singaporean speakers. And guess what? Both of them were/are Malaysians (KL-people) working in Singapore. Because of the vast opportunities offered by our neighbor, they are now working towards changing mindsets/beliefs/attitudes of teachers about individuals with disabilities, but in Singapore.

It never dawned on me that special education in Malaysia would be affected by brain drain. I just assumed that not many people were interested in this area. Now I realized that they are Malaysians specializing in this area, but it is our neighbor who’s gaining from their specialties. By the way, I was invited to join them when I’m done here. If local universities (or the government) would not hang on to or attract top Malaysian brains in high profile areas like economics or engineering, I doubt they care about hiring good people in special education.

But what about the special needs population in Malaysia?



This small group of friends were part of a larger group of international students that I attended bible study with during my first 2 years here. Once I showed a friend a picture of me taken with a large group of Africans in church, and she asked, “Do you go to a black church?” No, I don’t, but at that time, the international students that went to NC4 were either from Nigeria, Ghana or Cameroon. My chinese friends were going to the Bethlehem chinese church, and since I don’t read chinese and I can’t sing mandarin hymns, I decided early on that it’s not right for me. So I continued on with NC4, and kept on going for the biweekly international/african students bible study. It was a struggle at first, trying to find some place to fit in comfortably yet nothing really fits. And when I finally got used to being the odd one who belonged, slowly the group got smaller and smaller, people were graduating and leaving, eventually the group dissolved.

One culture shock that I still haven’t really gotten over with is the fact my African brothers and sisters love to dance. Every single birthday, baby shower & christening, and graduation party that I went to will end in a finale circle dance. Everyone from the young to old, will start dancing and moving in a big circle.

Once I was telling someone that this mass dancing-thing would never happen in Malaysia, especially not at a Malaysian-Chinese family gathering. Can you imagine, after CNY reunion dinner, everyone from grandparents, parents, teenagers and kids, started dancing together? And my friend asked, “So what would people do at parties?” “Well, after food, they may start gambling.” Hahaha.

Anyway, the farewell party was to celebrate Marvin’s (far left)completion of his Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He’ll be leaving for North Carolina to start his new job in the coming week. Marvin has been a great friend and brother-humble, generous, wise- a fine example of a servant-leader. With his “junky” Nissan Sentra, he has taught numerous international students (me including) to drive. When Eric crashed his (Marvin’s) car while learning to drive, Marvin still offered to pay half of the repair bill. Even with that incident, it did not deter him from loaning his car to any of us (even new drivers) who needed it. After I hurt my thumb, Marvin gave me numerous rides to and from the therapy center. He’s so generous to the point that sometimes people take him for granted, but I can see now that he’s storing up treasures in heaven. He’s reaping what he so generously sowed. While most new international graduates struggled to find a job after graduation, Marvin already has a job waiting for him several months before he completed his doctorate.

He will be missed. I look forward to visiting him and Priscilla in North Carolina, after their wedding on 07-07-07 🙂

Busy “non-work” Saturday

STAR tutee

Last Saturday was a busy day. I went for the STAR tutoring session again. The tutors had to be there at 11.30am for a short meeting with the director of the STAR program. The meeting was basically about the tutor-tutee time that afternoon and what are some activities the tutors could do with their tutees. Last Saturday was a special STAR sessions, after the usual one-on-one tutoring session from 12.45-2pm, tutors had to spend 2 hours (2-4pm) with their tutees, sort of a get-to-know-each-other time.

As usual, lunch was served. At the previous session’s lunch, the fare was ok, not exceptionally good but not bad either, but this week’s lunch was….. well now I know what crappy school lunch is like 🙂 And I’m not one who complains about food, but this week’s lunch of sloppy joe (spaghetti sauce with lots of ground beef) on a bun, macaroni salad, and iceberg lettuce was pretty bad. I had a class in qualitative research with a professor who did a lot of research on school lunches. She said that you could tell the quality of the school (in terms of teachers, curriculum, grades etc) by the lunches they served. Good schools offer salad bars that have a variety of different vegetables, while bad/poor schools offer only iceberg lettuce for salad. I think I may actually have my own lunch first before going to the tutoring session next time. Come to think of it, I would have been OK with the iceberg lettuce and macaroni salad, but the sloppy joe on bun..I’m never having that again.

The tutors were supposed to eat lunch with their tutees, sort of share in their misery..hahaha. But I kept looking around but couldn’t see my tutee, Barbara. When I approached the director, I was told Barbara didn’t come for this session. Hmmm I wonder if it had anything to do with my rather rusty mental mathematics skill during the previous session. Anyway I was hooked up with a new tutee, Jasmin.

Jasmin is 13 years old and is taller than me! We worked on her Science homework, specifically on the topic of Mitosis and Meiosis. OK, I did a lot of that in school, especially in STPM Biology, but that was years ago. I remember there were many phases but I couldn’t tell which is which or which came first. Since she didn’t bring her Science textbook, and she wasn’t too great in this subject, we struggled through it together, and hopefully I see her again during the next session! I basically told her that with mitosis, you end up with 2 new cells with the same number of chromosomes as the original cell. And with meiosis, you end up with 4 new cells with only half the chromosomes of the original cell.

For the tutor-tutee time, since she didn’t want to go for the football game, I took her on a campus tour. We followed another tutor and his tutees to the gym rock climbing wall and they fooled around a little. Then I took her around some of the buildings on lower campus, and paid a visit to Mei’s apartment, just to show Jasmin what student housing looks like. After that, we drove up to the mountaintop to visit the college of education, went to to the tower to get a 360 view of Bethlehem, and visited my territory (my little cubicle). Finally, drove back down the hill, sent her back to the STAR location, filled up an evaluation form and headed home. Actually I didn’t head home, I went to KFC to get some food for Marvin’s farewell dinner.

It was a small dinner gathering, only 5 people altogether. According to Marvin, it was the inner core gathering. We had a good time chatting and catching up on things.