Wednesday, November 28, 2007

brrr... it's cold!

Arrived in Dulles International Airport subuh buta... the sun was not out yet and it was cold!

Took a cab to Farisa's house. Cuak jugak since it was so early in the morning and I don't really remember the way. Manalah tahu... a girl can never be too careful. But alhamdulillah, sampai her place in one piece :) albeit ngantuk yang amat. Didn't really sleep on the plane.

Pressed the bell but no answer. Hmm... I did get the house right and I did speak to her just under an hour ago. Rupanya Farisa was out getting some groceries. It was so nice to see Farisa again. She hasn't changed a bit... must ask her rahsia kecantikan ;)

Was so glad to be indoors, out of the cold. Her house is magnificent! I've loved it since my very first visit and now it's even better. The ever amazing hostess, she made me a wonderful breakfast after seeing Salman and Seth off. Sophie pun dah bangun. Seth has grown so much since I last saw him 2 years ago... and he's such a charming boy :) Very friendly and genial. I've never met Sophie before but she's equally pretty and lovely, with the cutest curly hair :) Farisa is so blessed to have two wonderful children. Salman too doesn't seem to have aged.

Over a filling breakfast of sausages, eggs, homemade hash brown and waffles (she really fed me well :D) we chatted about the going-ons in our lives these past few years. Soon it was time for Sophie's nap... so I took advantage to freshen up. Since my last visit, they've renovated their home... the guest room is now in the basement, on the same level as the entertainment room and library. Gosh... does she have lots of books!! Her great taste in decor was evident all throughout the house. Sangat cantek!! I wish my house is like that...

We continued to chat while I took out the stuff that her mom pesan from my suitcase. I showed her my bounty from Houston... and she highlighted that I still have some space for more shopping, hehe... girls would be girls.

It was actually a short stop at Farisa's place because I was spending the next two nights at the FDIC student residence... am tumpang-ing NSY in her room. Also have to go to the MAS office somewhere on K Street. So I re-packed my small bag dengan barang keperluan and we left for the Springfield Metro station, but not before a short stop at Macy's ;) I had informed Farisa that despite all the shopping, I've not found a gift for my mom. And so, off we went.

Managed to find a platter for my mom... itu je lah the best thing that I could get for her since her instructions were quite clear "something for the house". Susah betul nak shop for my mom. Nice *something for the house* are usually besar and berat, and given my already dire baggage situation, I had a tough time finding something for her.

After studying the Metro map, I took the train into the city... destination: Ferragut West. Nasib baik lah no need to change trains. It was quite jauh... terlelap juga lah dalam train tu ;) Bila sampai, terus cari map to get my directions. It was really cold outside and I don't want to salah arah... especially while I'm lugging a bag. Fortunately it wasn't very hard to find the building (although I did tersilap and went to building 1776 instead of building 1667, hehe).

Unlike the lady at the LA MAS counter, the ladies at the Washington MAS office were really nice. Just had to wait for 5 minutes to have my ticket reissued. Sambil tu sempat tanya directions for the venue of my meeting esok harinya.

It was really cold... colder than I had expected it to be. Tak boleh jadi ni... the clothes that I had brought untuk the meeting tu not tebal enough. So singgah kejap kat DressBarn which was just around the corner in search of a sweater. Got myself a light blue sweater which was on 50% discount.

I still had slightly over an hour before NSY habis her meeting. Should I jalan in the city or head straight for Arlington? In her sms when giving directions to go to the FDIC residence centre, NSY kata there's a Starbucks next to the Virginia Square station. Hmm... menarik tu. Have some coffee to warm me up and can make use of their free internet. So off I went...

I've never been so happy to be sitting in a Starbuck. Armed with a tall latte and choc banana cake, I started to check emails. And it was warm! :)

Around 5.40pm, NSY sms to inform that her meeting dah habis. We had earlier agreed to meet at 6pm... masa tu I wasn't sure about how long it would take me to do my ticket etc. Again... the theme untuk hari ini ialah silap bangunan. Although her instructions were quite clear, it didn't stop me from tersilap and pergi entrance yang salah. The cold must be affecting the capacity of my brain to process information...

NSY was already waiting for me at the lobby because the place ada security check and memerlukan the guest untuk membawa orang lain masuk bangunan. That's the leceh thing about federal buildings in the US... semua pun ada security guard. The room was besar... siap dengan a complete kitchenette.

"What are your plans for tonight?" I asked NSY. "Jom pergi shopping?" she replied. Haha... this is really turning into a shopping trip for me. "Let's..." and soon we were out the door.

We headed towards Pentagon City. Although this was my 4th visit to Washington DC, I've never been to Pentagon City sebab selalunya Farisa would send me to Potomac Mills. I wasn't planning to buy anything other than perhaps cari another gift for my mom and sweat pants for my sister. Tapi I ended buying a blouse and long johns (because I don't want to be frozen to death tomorrow when I walk from the Metro station to the meeting venue). Macy's had 20% extra discount on all items and they had racks and racks of sale items. Sangat teruja! Ralph Lauren blouses were only about $10 dan bermacam2 benda lain lagi. I tried on several things but none looked good on me. And in the end, my eye caught this nice blouse, which unfortunately wasn't on sale. Tak try pun.. just ambik and beli. Sebab kat US if you don't like it boleh return ;) NSY got some baju and around 10pm we headed back to Arlington.

So much for reading up and preparing for the meeting the next day, I mentelaah kat shopping complex... hehe

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

three cities, two airports… crossing the continent

Today was tiring… a whole day and night of transferring between airports and cities. Now I know how it feels to be a jetsetter… it ain’t fun, believe me.

The day didn’t start too early… fortunately. I managed to get a few hours of deep sleep. My flight to LA wasn’t until 5pm, so there’s plenty of time to get ready and enjoying the company of Linda, Muqriz and Marissa. Mizlan had left early for work… tak sempat nak wish him farewell and to thank him for being such a wonderful host.

By the time I finished taking my shower, Linda was already busy in the kitchen making lunch. Today she made tuna bake… yumm!! For breakfast, we had bagel with cream cheese. Ooh… how I love those! Kenapa lah kat Malaysia, bagels are not easily available and the shops that sell them, semua pun tak sedap as compared to the generic supermarket ones that you can find in the US or the UK.

The kids were also up… malu je I for waking up so late. Not a good role model at all ;)

After breakfast, I decided to take a walk on Linda’s *Wisteria Lane*. Her neighbourhood is so typical suburban America… the only thing missing were the picket fences. Lovely place to bring up a family. As I walked, I could hear children’s voices… there must be a school nearby and the kids must be having a break. I was a bit cold… but the air was fresh.

At 2.30pm the taxi arrived. It was sad to say goodbye… The four of us shared hugs and kisses. I wish I had more time to spend with them.

The journey to the airport took almost an hour because traffic was quite heavy. With three bags in tow, I somehow managed to tarik all three into the terminal. The taxi driver was nice enough to help me tarik some of them across the road. Tak tahu lah macam mana nak manage all three otherwise.

Check in was a breeze but the security check was leceh. I forgot and had put on my normal hairband which was made of besi and as a result the alarm went off. Had to go through a body check… aiyaa! The officers are actually nice and courteous tapi melecehkan betul… dengan segala harta benda yang kena keluarkan through the xray. Nasib baik lah I had a lot of time to spare.

Lepas semua tu, I stopped at a shop to get a souvenir. Sampai situ baru perasan that I had not bought any fridge magnet pun… something that I usually cari whenever I visit a new place. Tapi, considering that I didn’t even pergi Houston city pun, I guess I didn’t deserve to add that into the collection ;)

Still had under an hour to kill… although still kenyang from lunch, I decided to have some makan since it’s going to be a long journey. Found a shop selling tex-mex food… apa lagi, nachos lah :)

It was a full flight to LA… and unfortunately I have the dreaded middle seat. Sat next to a lady who works with disaster relief organization. She was on her way for a 2 week tour of South East Asia. She’s mainly involved in organizing donor funds, managing projects to build schools etc. Such a noble job… working to help people. That’s my dream… to do something meaningful that makes a difference.

Tak lama pun borak dengan dia because soon I dozed off. I think I started to tido as soon as we left the tarmac and didn’t wake up until we were about to land ;) Must be all that food, hehe…

Landed in LA just after 7pm. After ambik bag I went on to check in at the United Airlines counter for the next flight. That was a breeze… and the lady at the counter was very nice. Positive points for United :)

I had 2 hours to kill before boarding, so contacted Nora about my new flight details since I’m now flying via NY to go home. First destination was the Continental desk which is the airline that I’ll be taking from Washington to NY. Had to explain about the changes and they assisted to search for my details in the system and printed the itinerary. However, I had to get new tickets reissued by Malaysia Airlines.

For those of you who have flown through LAX, you’ll know that the airport is huge. And like all US airports, the terminals bergantung kepada airline yang you take. So I had to make the long walk from Terminal 7 to the international terminal… which was a good distance away. Tak apalah… exercise sikit.

Usually MAS officers are nice tapi I had the bad luck of having an unfriendly lady to assist me. Sombongnya… I tahu lah that my hal is not a simple check-in thing but tolong lah tunjuk muka even if you’re malas. Ish… rasa nak lepuk pun ada. While waiting for her to do the necessary, I managed to call the travel agent who informed that I have to do the change in Washington. Nasib baik lah when I went back to collect my ticket it was a different officer. Si minah tu menyibuk2 kat belakang the guy nak tahu as I explained to him… hmph, sorry lady… cold shoulder lah for you.

After all the susah payah, I quickly made my way back to Terminal 7. Nasib baik lah tengah winter, so tak lah berpeluh2. Dalam kekalutan hal ticket tu, I forgot to tanggal my besi hairband… so apa lagi, berbunyilah alarm bila go through the security check. This time lagi leceh… I was even taken to a private room to have the offending item taken off. Macam ni lah agaknya rasa bila kena masuk interrogation room. Too bad lah… you nak check I you have to wait for me to buka and pakai tudung balik… and pakai kasut, simpan laptop etc

After clearing the security check, I headed towards McD for some dinner. Sebelah tu was Wolfgang Puck punya cafĂ©… tapi malaslah, since there won’t be anything much pun yang boleh dimakan kat situ.

The flight to Washington was also full. What is it about Monday? Why so ramai orang travelling today? Apa2 pun I’m looking forward to having some shut eye. As expected, the seats weren’t anything to shout about and apakan lagi service. At times like this, I’m glad that I usually fly MAS, even with all the warts.

Just as we were settling down, the guy sitting behind me started to make a ruckus. Apa hal lah pulak ni… the guy next to me pun muttered “oh gosh… what do we have here”. Apparently the man making the fuss is unhappy that the person sitting next to him is *invading* his space. Despite explanation by the *offending* person, he went on and on. The flight attendant had to intermediate and carikan someone who was willing to change seats since the flight was full. When the *offending* guy got up, rupanya dia agak besar. Ish... so inconsiderate lah that *making a ruckus* guy. Apa2 pun... lepas tu I just sat down quietly and tried to sleep. In 4.5 hours time, I'll be in Washington DC...

two girls having a chat...

I needed to pack. I needed to figure out how to put in all the things that I’ve bought into the two suitcases that I had with me. It had to be done tonight… or otherwise I would be in big trouble tomorrow.

So that was the mission… after dinner and watching this cool creative cake show on the Food Channel, I retreated to my room to start the mission. It was a bit overwhelming in the beginning. But slowly but surely, everything WILL find it’s way into the bag.

I turned on anak lelaki Pak Zain while I packed. Lama dah tak dengar…

I was half way through the first bag when Linda came in… “Waa, you’re going well” she said with a smile. And we started chatting…

Earlier in the day, while cooking lunch, we shared about what was going on with our lives, the issues that we face, the dilemmas, the confusions… I having her around back home to talk about those things.

So… at this late hour, our conversation drifted back to the same topics. Despite living different lives… thousands of miles away, the issues that we face aren’t that different. Well, ok… her issues as a homemaker with two young kids in a place far away from family and friends aren’t exactly the kind of things that I have to face on a daily basis as a single, working woman. But nonetheless, the themes are more or less the same. We both have dreams… hopes… and dilemmas. Who doesn’t right?

I told Linda about the matters that have been on my mind these past few months… it was good to have a fresh perspective. Her advice reaffirmed what I had decided upon… that the time isn’t right, that the circumstances aren’t the best. Masa dan takdir akan menentukan…

While I rolled the clothes, sumbat *little things* into every nook and cranny, pushed down the barang2 into the bag, the conversation flowed. Gosh… I’ve forgotten how easy it was to talk to her… and fun too. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper girly conversation without some gushing about men would it ;) Well… the conversation did revolve mainly around that anyway. And family… and career too. I was extremely glad to hear that she does plan to return to work sometime in the future because she is a talented lady and an asset to the organization.

In the months leading to her taking time off from work, we hadn’t spend much time to really talk to each other. I was adjusting to a new position, she had a new baby… I admit, it was largely my fault, for not making the time. But fortunately, it had not resulted in a wedge between us. Something that I’m extremely grateful for…

After several hours it was time for Linda to get some deserving rest… it was past 3am. I finished up, locked the bags and snuggled into the bed as the early birds were leaving their nests…

Monday, November 26, 2007

shopping sampai tak sedar diri...

Hi everyone... I'm a shopaholic

It's official. My credit card bill, I tak sanggup nak congak dah berapa... all I know is that it's already in 4 digits. Itu belum campur the cash yang I bawa. Goodness... this is what you call SPLURGE!

Can't help it when you find shops that sell stuff your size (and larger) and that most things are less than half the price of what you would pay back home (even after convert into MYR). No guilt... because semua tu benda yang akan digunakan.

Today... again bangun lambat. I woke up to Muqriz (I think) opening the room door. I remembered sleeping with the door slightly ajar, but bila terjaga masa alarm bunyi, the pintu dah tutup. Was my snoring so loud that it bothered the children? hehe...

The plan for today was to do further shopping sebab semalam sempat masuk 3 kedai je. So Mizlan came back for lunch and to send me to the outlets. Linda couldn't follow because she doesn't think that she can cope with the two kids on her own... although she very much wanted to.

First stop was at Osh Kosh (yes... walaupun I don't have any kids), then Jockey, Lane Bryant (did MASSIVE damage here!), Mikasa (kat sini tak beli apa2), a shop selling barang2 rumah yg I tak ingat nama, Nike, Liz Claiborne (again... but didn't buy anything), Naturaliser (coz I liked that weekender bag, but didn't buy pun in the end), Guess, Van Heusen, Tommy Hillfiger, Samsonite (didn't buy), Levi's (pun sekadar tengok2 sbb dah takde space dalam bag). I think that was it. Linda called me shopping queen and laughed when she saw my shopping bags.

They came to pick me up at 7.15pm... and we headed to the mall pulak. No... we're not done shopping yet ;) Also because I needed to get the iphone for MrB. Feeling rather guilty for spending so much, I decided against buying an iphone for myself. Tak apalah... tunggu the next generation. Despite spending so much time at the outlets, I was still unable to get Mama anything. Nothing was interesting and small enough to bawa balik. So we headed to Sears... pun takde, but I ended buying items for my soon-to-be-renovated bathroom. Also teringat that Ina wanted some stuff from Victoria Secret. Masa kat Apple shop, the sales person was super friendly... macam2 lah dia explain about registration, free class, hooking up etc... I just angguk macam faham walaupun masuk telinga kanan keluar telinga kiri. If MrB asks me anything later, habis lah...

Mizlan also wanted to get some polo tshirts for work so we stopped by kat Gap. Muqriz was sleeping in the stroller and Marissa was busy crawling all over in her all pink garb. We stopped at the computer accessories shop next door to cari that nice laptop bag like the one Linda has, tapi yang size besar was a bit too expensive. Also stopped at Sephora to get Ebbe something.

Lepas habis tu it was already quite late... and we decided to tapau je food from Tommy Bahama's. Gosh! The food was really good. We had crab cakes, tuna salad and seafood pasta. Sangat yummy... thanks Linda and Mile for taking such good care of me :) Two nights ago we had dinner kat Red Lobster. Also very nice... especially the mushroom stuffed with lobster meat.

Tony Bahama's was located kat the upscale commercial area of The Woodlands. Since Christmas is less than a month away, the decorations were already up. So sambil waiting for the food, I went jalan2 to click on some photos. This place is simply lovely... siap dengan colourful fountain. Marissa got super excited looking at them. Nasib baik lah Muqriz was sleeping in the car :)

Did a quick pit stop kat H.E.B supermarket... the cold storage or hock choon of The Woodlands. So cute their shopping trolley :) And the fruits were so gemok and delicious looking... I couldn't help myself :)

Tonight mission impossible was in full force. Trying to put everything into my luggage...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

retail theraphy :)

Today (and last night) was a day of shopping! Woke up late... jet lag was finally catching up with me.

After a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, grilled mushroom, and toast... we headed towards the outlets in Conroe. Naik Mile's new Volvo C90, which is going to be Linda's wheels once he gets his own car. Best betul this car... complete with individual tv screen for each kid and we had Mile's new GPS to guide us to the shops ;)

The navigator ;)

Linda & Muqriz


Mizlan... our designated driver :)

It was raining... and cold!

Boy did I shop today! shoes, handbags, clothes, underthings... masuk 3 kedai je tapi beli barang sampai penuh the car storage area. Great buys because they were having post-Thanksgiving sale. Sangat worthwhile ber-shopping :) I was so engrossed that forgot how time flew. Kesian the kids kena tunggu...

I'm in Utopia!!

Check out our bounty... 7 handbags

and 7 (gigantic) shoes... all that's missing are the seven dwarfs, hehe

Got home around 6pm... the kids & Mile were already hungry. So Linda & I worked in the kitchen while I told her tales from the office. Menu for tonight were beef ginger, ayam masak cili and mixed vege. Linda is a great cook... I was well fed :)

After dinner, played around with Muqriz and Marissa... gosh, those kids are simply adorable!!! The entire 4Ms are great actually :)

I've not been thinking about the matter that bothers me... the shopping helped ;) But the issue did come up during my conversation with Linda, although I didn't tell her the crux of the matter. I don't know whether I should... bringing up something which is not profitable pursuing. But then again, maybe she can provide an external perspective (although she's not that external to the subject matter). Oh well... we'll see. I'll be here until Tuesday, still plenty of time... and tomorrow us ladies will be by ourselves (with the kids of course).

Was thinking about heading towards the NASA Space Centre on Tuesday before heading for the airport. But the reviews were not that great. Since today moi bangun lambat, we didn't get to pergi visit Houston city itself (and went shopping instead, hehe...). So maybe I'll do that instead. Check in early and get into the city for a bit of sightseeing. Hopefully it won't rain...