Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful for 2 Years!!

It's been exactly 2 years since I moved here and as I celebrate 2 years of 'survival', I decided to write this blogpost to recap some experiences and thoughts. I've written something similar 6 years ago but it's time for another self-reminder. I've been chatting with a friend who moved to the US recently and was reminded of all the nuisances that I had to go through to get settled with the new life here. But I do admit that my journey was a lil' easier thanks to hubby and his family, and I'm certainly thankful for that.

A lot of people back home only sees the monetary perks of working here earning USD. While it is true that we do indeed make a lil' more when we take into consideration currency conversion, living and working in a foreign country is not always a bed of roses, there are also a lot of challenges and obstacles that we have to overcome. There were times when I would question myself why am I so 犯贱, choosing to uproot my entire life and move so far away from my comfort zone, but obviously I did it in the name of love (and marriage)...haha! Besides, this is not the first time I did this so I guess I'm just really 'hiao'?? :P But honestly, I do think it's good to get out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. It takes a lot of courage and optimism to make this leap, but when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and start everything anew, you'll learn and grow so much as a person. Here are 6 important lessons I've learned/discovered:

1. Never take anything for granted
When we're accustomed to the same environment, going through the same daily routine, we tend to switch to autopilot mode and allow life to go by like it's 'supposed to' with the assumption that nothing will change. Same applies to relationships with our families, we tend to take people around us for granted just because they are 'always there'.

When I knew ahead of time that I'll be moving away from home, away from my family, it served as a strong reminder that there's an 'expiry date' to this status quo. With that awareness in mind, I started making conscious decisions to spend more quality time with people around me, going on family trips, and make an effort to spend as much time at home as I can whenever I go back for home trips. The weird thing is, the further away you are from home, the more you'll think about all these things, and the more you'll appreciate your loved ones. 

2. Appreciate the little things in life
This echoes the point above. All the nuisances that I had to go through before finally settling down made me appreciate all the small things that I was used to back home. Small things like applying for social security, opening new bank account, re-taking driving test (after driving for more than 10 years), getting car insurance, applying (and getting denied) for credit card, etc, can be overwhelming and very annoying at the beginning, especially when you are having to re-do all these just because you're in a new country. Worse still, you may be stressed out trying to deal with all these things all by yourself but people around you don't empathize because they've never been through your path. But once you've gone through all these, you'll have a great sense of accomplishment knowing that you're capable of adapting and thriving in a brand new environment. 

Being in a brand new environment also made me appreciate random small things such as blue skies, blooming flowers, warm weathers, smooth traffic, and all the benefits that the firm provides. Moving from a developing country to a developed country definitely helped put things in perspective, and constantly remind me to appreciate all the little things in life (and complain less) coz I know that I'm already very lucky as compared to many people in other parts of the world.

3. Keep both feet on the ground
Leaving my life in Malaysia, moving to a brand new country and starting everything from scratch was a humbling experience. Whatever I've achieved or accomplished in the past 4 years didn't matter because nobody bothered. It was like pressing the reset button, having to start over, to establish myself from nothing, to learn new things faster, and to work two times harder to prove myself. On top of all these, I also had to study for CPA exams, because my previous qualification was a piece of useless paper here. One thing I noticed in our industry is that as people gain more experience and seniority, they tend to forget what it was like being at the bottom and become conceited. This experience is definitely a good reminder to keep both feet on the ground, be humble, and be willing to learn.

4. Look ahead and don't dwell on the 'what-ifs'
Life is a series of decisions and once you've made the decisions, you just gotta keep moving forward. When we chose to embark on this new journey, we also chose to leave the past behind. But thanks to social media, it's hard not to stay connected and be constantly updated of what you left behind these days. The next thing you'll think about, especially at times of adversity, is 'what if' I didn't leave...I may have been a manager by now, I wouldn't have had to take the CPA exams, or life could have been much easier. There could be a million what ifs, but all these don't matter, and it ain't gonna change anything. Might as well focus our efforts on overcoming any obstacles ahead, coz once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.

5. Be open but be yourself
The reality of being in a new place knowing nobody is that it can be challenging and lonely, even more so for people like me who are more reserved or introverted. Besides, you are no longer in the university environment where your peers will at least have some interest in knowing more about different countries/cultures. Being the 'minority' (only Asian) in the office doesn't make you any different from others, which is both good and not-so-good. There's always a pressure to blend in, to behave a certain way, to be more outspoken and social, or to join in a conversation that you probably have absolutely no idea about. It takes time to get used to the new environment and culture, but keep an open mind, observe and learn along the way. There may be times you'll feel left out, there may be times you get lost in a conversation, there may be times you choose to just nod and smile. But no matter what, always do your best to look and act your best, and stay true to yourself. Most importantly, be happy being your true self.

6. Count my blessings 
Despite having to adapt to the different work cultures and the fact that starting over from scratch can be annoying, I must say my journey thus far has been quite a smooth sailing one. Having the opportunity to travel for work (while getting points and miles), being able to still stay in Huntsville and work remotely at times, I'm really in no position to be complaining at all. I'm also relieved and thankful to be able to complete my CPA exams in less than a year without failing. Of course, I'm very blessed and thankful to be surrounded by supportive families who have helped make this transition a smooth sailing journey. =)

Enough of random ramblings. Happy 2 years to myself and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Autumn Weekend in Gatlinburg

We don't really have any more travel plans for the rest of the year after returning from Malaysia but the parents-in-law had a week-long stay at Gatlinburg and invited us to go over for the weekend. The last time I visited Gatlinburg was with the university back in Feb 2009, and we thought this would be a good time to revisit and catch the end of the fall foliage at the Great Smoky Mountains. Thanks to the PIL for the free accommodation! :)

4-6 November 2016: Autumn Color in the Smokies - Gatlinburg

Nov 4: Drove 4.5 hours up to Gatlinburg after work on Friday to meet up with the parents. The 1-bedroom villa at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa was well equipped with a full kitchen and ample space, perfect for the 4 of us. Best of all, great view of the smoky mountains from the balcony.

Nov 5 (Sat): The itinerary for the day was to drive through the mountains. Thanks Donny for driving us around all day. Since we were there late in the season, the leaves at the higher elevation areas have already fallen but fortunately, there are still some colors at the lower elevation areas such as Newfound Gap Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, all within close proximity to Gatlinburg town.

Stumbled upon the beautiful Chimneys Picnic Area along Newfound Gap Road.

Beautiful creek full of boulders

Huge log perfect for photos. :)

So pretty!! Oh this is actually a washroom...haha!!

I was busy being the photographer while waiting for the rest to use the washroom.

Love the colors of Fall!

Panoramic views of the smokies.

And of course, photos to prove we were! :P

Back in the crowded Gatlinburg town for a free tour of the Sugarlands Distillery. 

Dinner at Cherokee Grill & Steakhouse. Had our dinner the night before at the Smoky Mountain Brewery.

Mom bought this jigsaw puzzle and we completed it within one night, while watching the Alabama game. :P

One last pic to wrap up this short but relaxing weekend trip. :)

October Updates

Another month flew by and we're getting close to the end of the year. Fall seems to come a lil' later this year and October has been unusually warmer, but I liked it. October was quite uneventful, mainly just the same old routine of work, eat, sleep. Anyway, here's a quick update before I clear off the photos from my phone. :P

29-30 Sept 2016: Drove down to Birmingham for work and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham.

10-11 October 2016: Drove to Atlanta to meet up and welcome the ex-comrades, XY and KH to the US during their orientation at the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel. Thanks XY for letting me crash her room with the cool runway view. From organizing events together to working on the same job, it's interesting how we all ended up here together. :)

Time for self-praise (= no praise). Unleashed the 'lefty' side of me and made this 'zero-cost' DIY world map with recycled foam board to pin my travels. :P

More self-praise (=no praise). Been maintaining our disciplined/frugal weekly routine of meal-prepping for about 2 years now. I admit, I haven't been very creative trying out new recipes lately and we're still slowly depleting all the veggies that we harvested this year. Well at least they are healthy and fortunately hubby hasn't really complained (not that he :P

Our 'minimalistically-empty' fridge. Left is how it looks like at the end of the week, right is how it looks like after 2-3 hours of cooking on Sunday.