Chinese New Year in Malaysia

Since I am always away from my family, I make an effort to always come home for Chinese New Year. Last year was probably the only year I missed in a very long time. This year, I am happy to join my family again for the biggest day on the Chinese calendar. 

This year definitely feels different. Because of covid, everything seems quiet. Visiting friends and family is usually a big part of Chinese New Year. But this year, due to obvious reasons, people are not encouraged to visit others. The only home I visited was my grandma’s house, where I only stayed for 10 minutes. 

New Year’s eve dinner, also called ‘reunion dinner’ is usually eating hotpot at home. It’s called reunion dinner because it’s the time people travel back to their home town to visit families. I love eating hotpot at home on new year’s eve, watching tv, waiting for fo the countdown. But this year, to save time and hassle, my family decided to eat out at a Korean restaurant. It was not as eventful but having a nice dinner together is all it matters.

Another important Chinese tradition is the giving and receiving of red envelopes (aka angpao). People put cash money in red envelopes and give them away. It’s a lot simpler than buying and giving gifts. The rule is once you are married, you have to give angpaos to people younger than you or who are not married. If you are not married (like me), you get to receive angpaos from people who are married. Not a bad thing for not being married! It still amuses me that my married younger sister needs to give me angpao every year. And though I don’t need to, I enjoy giving angpaos to my family, especially a big one to my mom. 

Last year, I had the worst financial year of my adult life. Fortunately, I ended the year with some money in the bank and I am so happy to be able to give it away to my family this year. I’ve never been so happy giving my money away! A big purpose of my goal of making money is to give to my family. To be able to make money and give it to my family gives me so much fulfillment. They give me the fuel and motivation to do good things and make good money. 

Chinese New Year has come to an end which is also the time I plan for my next travel. Saying bye to family is not always easy especially at times like this. As much as I love traveling, I also know the importance of spending time with my family. I sure hope Malaysia will ease travel restrictions soon so I get to come back whenever I want without going through quarantine and covid tests. The time I am spending in Malaysia this year has been very quiet and I’ve got a lot of time to rest and recharge. I thank my family for taking care of me as always. Without their support, I would not be able to fly the way I do. Now I am ready to spread my wings and venture out into the world again. See you at my next stop!

Money money money!

The Best Customer Service In The World

My brother and I went on a sibling date at a famous hotpot restaurant. As soon as we got seated, I could feel the chill from the AC and thought if I should ask to turn the AC down. Anyway, right after the waiter took our order, he came back with a blanket. He said, “In case you are cold from the AC, here’s a blanket for you”. A restaurant that gives their customers blankets? I instantly felt like I was in the first-class seat on an airplane.

This restaurant is called Hai Di Lao. This chain restaurant was founded in Sichuan, China, and has made its way to over 15 countries around the world. The owner of the empire is the richest person in Singapore (can you imagine that? Singapore!). People flock in every day not only for good quality food but most importantly the quality of their service.

They are famous for going above and beyond for their customers. Just to start, there’s a daycare in the restaurant so parents can eat in peace. There’s a nail bar offering manicures and hand massages so ladies can get pampered. They can change the screen protector of your phone for you. They give ladies hair ties to tie up their hair. They generously give plenty of popcorn, dessert, snacks for you to take home after dinner. And all of this for FREE! 

Even though I have to mention their price is not cheap, I am very happy to spend my money here because of the level of service and quality I get. I love the extent to which they make sure each customer leaves home full and happy. Whenever I dine here, I feel being cared for, looked after, and know my experience is important to them. 

Another example I want to bring up is Zappos – an online shoe store that got bought by Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars. Other than their 365-day return policy, they are also famous for their call center. They are known for having the best phone support. Other than calling to get help on your orders, you can literally call them for anything! They have helped people order pizza, rehearse a play, give driving directions before GPS was popular. Their longest customer service call is over 10 hours! They have made their customers’ satisfaction the utmost priority. While most call centers do their best to reduce call times, Zappos does their best in making sure those who call in are happy no matter how long it takes. 

I think we could all learn from these businesses – putting customers first. Anticipating customers’ needs and fulfilling them generously and diligently. So often businesses put the emphasis on the cost of operation and finding out ways to squeeze or save every dime. Hai Di Lao and Zappos have proved that when you put your customers’ happiness as the most important thing, the business thrives.

I’ve mentioned in my other post about a quote from Panache Desai “Our job is the excuse through which we get to love people”. No matter what kind of job we have, our main purpose is to love people. 

If you’re an entrepreneur or whatever kind of work you are in, can you think of ways to increase your customers’ satisfaction and make it a mission to make them feel loved and happy?

Getting pampered with blanket and pillow while eating hotpot.

Being a Foreigner in my Homeland

Two days ago, I embarked on my journey from Germany back to Malaysia. I hadn’t been back for 2 years. I was quite excited about the journey and felt like it was time to visit home. 

Coming back from Germany, I couldn’t help but notice the differences between Germany and Malaysia. When I left Germany, everything was gray and white (though it was quite romantic to me). On the other hand, Malaysia is covered in greenery and the sun shines bright. As soon as I got to the airport, I also noticed how friendly and joyful Malaysian people are. Quite a difference compared to German culture. 

When I landed, I felt like I experienced a culture shock in my homeland. First of all, I have forgotten almost all of the Malay I know. Walking around the airport, people were speaking to me in Malay and all I could do was give them a blank stare (I was also exhausted from my flights). Thank God Malaysians speak very good English. Also, seeing so many hijab-wearing Muslims around, reminded me I hadn’t been back for way too long. This all feels so foreign to me now.

My home is located in the southern tip of Malaysia, right next to Singapore. Before Corona time, I would fly directly to Singapore and take a car back home which is about a 40-min drive. But now the pandemic has made me take a little detour. I needed to fly into Kuala Lumpur and take a domestic flight back to my hometown.

The pandemic measures in Malaysia are quite strict compared to most countries.

Lucky me, the government approved my home quarantine application. I got to do my 7-day quarantine from home. 

I am not sure if it’s jet lag or that my soul hasn’t caught up to my body, I haven’t been able to center myself yet. Most of my days are spent taking naps, on YouTube, reading books, and sleeping when the sun comes up. I haven’t been able to gather the focus or creativity for the projects that I wanted to do. I was planning on being productive during my quarantine but now I’d be glad if I could just get some good night’s sleep.

My quarantine bracelet. They take quarantine seriously here.

It’s Snowing!

Growing up in the tropics, I’ve always been fascinated by the snow. For people who live in the cold climate, many dread the snow. So-called snowbirds love escaping the winter by traveling to the tropics. I, on the other hand, love traveling to the cold during winter. (ps, flights are also super cheap going that way!). 

This year, I did the same, flying to Germany to experience the European winter and was praying for snow the whole time. And yes, I’ve finally got my snow after being here for almost 3 weeks! 

Seeing the snowflakes falling from the sky makes me so happy! I instantly jumped up from my bed in the morning. The air smells fresh and crisp. It lifts up my mood for the entire day! Vera (my current roommate) thinks I am crazy. But hey! I grew up in Malaysia! This is cool for me!

Vera’s mom heard that I love the snow, decided to take me to the mountain to experience more snow. Three of us drove in the heavy snowfall, to a town in the mountains one hour away from Munich. The view of the mountain and lake along with the snow was quite romantic. The whole time, I couldn’t stop smiling and marveling at the snow-covered trees and land. 

My first experience of snow was 16 years ago, when I had just turned 20, I moved across the world from Malaysia to Minnesota. From the tropics to one of the coldest places in the states. It was December 31st, probably also the coldest time of the year. The cold climate, seeing the shape of a snowflake for the first time in my life was amazing! I couldn’t believe snowflakes really do look like how people draw it to be.

I survived my first winter with the only light pink and rather-thin winter jacket I brought from Malaysia. No hat, no gloves. One time my ears were hurting so bad from the cold that I thought they were going to fall off! But anyway, I liked the cold. It was rejuvenating to me. Even though I was born in the tropics, I feel like my body is made for the winter. 

The grass is greener on the other side. And most likely because I don’t have to deal with living with the snow my entire life, that I get to enjoy it. At the same time, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to choose to live in the weather of my liking. 

Next week, I will be saying bye to the cold and going back to the tropics. Right now, I can’t imagine being in the heat, wearing a tank top and flip-flops again but I’m sure I’ll miss the cold and the snow!

Playing The Piano

Last week, while sitting around the dinner table with Vera, she showed me some videos of her family playing music together. Vera’s family is considered a musical family. Her dad is a jazz musician, a piano tuner. Her mom is a singer. Her sister is a professional pianist. Vera’s interest is in drums but she can play pretty much any instrument.

As I saw them having fun with music, I told her a dream that I have had since I was a little girl. I’ve always wanted to play the piano. When I was little, I would beg my dad to let me take piano lessons. In contrast to the general perception of Asian parents wanting their children to learn 10 different instruments, my dad was the opposite. He thought learning music was a waste of money. I did manage to convince him to take me to piano classes but every time on the way to class, he would complain about how I was wasting his money. Nonetheless, I took a few months of class and stopped. Having a piano at home that I can play has always been a dream still.

I told Vera this story. She said she could borrow a piano from her parents. 3 days later, she did it! We carried a weighted keyboard up 3 floors to her apartment, set it up in the living room, adjusted the height to fit me. Dung dung dung! I was beyond happy and thankful. Thank you, Vera! I told her I’m never leaving her apartment ever.

My favorite piano piece is Nuvole Bianche by Ludovico Einaudi. I have listened to this song hundreds of times and always wish I could play it. I immediately set up my mind to learn to play this song before I leave Germany. 

With that said, I first translated all the bean-sprout-looking notes to alphabetical notes that are easier for me to understand. Then, I dived into the first 16 bars of the song. I practiced again and again until I mastered the part. Then I moved on to the next 16 and the next. I start each section thinking “omg this is impossible to play”. Then I break everything down, slowly, practice the same bar again and again and again and again. Having learned to play the guitar, I know there are no tricks to this. All it takes is repetition. After about 20, 30 times doing the same thing, the muscle memory forms in my fingers. All of a sudden, I went from this is impossible to I am totally rocking it! 

The feeling of my fingers on the keyboard is something magical. I almost feel like my fingers belong there. I am now 5 days into it and have learned almost half of the song. I sometimes play for 1-2 hours non-stop. It’s actually hard for me to stop once I get my fingers on the keyboard. I play the same thing again and again and find satisfaction in seeing myself improve slowly but surely. 

Learning an instrument always reminds me that talent is overrated and that practice makes perfect. As long as I keep at something, put in the time and effort, I will ALWAYS get better. Not only in learning musical instruments, this also applies to everything in life. In building my business, my yoga and meditation practice, writing, drawing, all I focus on is not how good or bad I am but how much effort and time I put into what I do. Instead of finding satisfaction in the results, I find fulfillment in the process. Tony Robbins says “Repetition is the mother of skills” and “Progress equals happiness”. It’s not rocket science. Put in the time = Get better = Feel happy. It doesn’t take a genius to do this. 

I want to thank Vera and her parents again for giving me this opportunity to fulfill a dream! I can’t wait to master this song!