Settling Down in Edinburgh + Living in the Present

Assalamualaikum wbt.

It’s sad that I only ever think of this blog during long holidays. I just went through some old blog posts written by my Mum and I from 2005-2007. The internet was so simple and wholesome back then, not fast-paced and cluttered like it is today. I aim to attempt to keep the art of long-form writing alive, in this modern age where short, flashy and snappy content tends to thrive. Right… from now on I aim to post at least once a week! Hopefully this statement will age well and I won’t end up becoming a clown.

I moved to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, more than two months ago. I live in a comfortable and cosy two-bedroom flat with another Malaysian Master’s student. I decided this within less than a month of living here, but Edinburgh is definitely my favourite city in the UK. It’s full of history and culture, and the city is so photogenic. There’s so much to do even during a pandemic – so many vast spaces and nature-based attractions. I can imagine living here long-term for years to come, if Allah wills. I think I’ve familiarized myself quite well with the city at this point! I used to think that this city was wonderful, but too cold. Now? As Elsa says, the cold never bothered me anyway.

Doing a Master’s is pretty intense, but I’m passionate about marketing so I am grateful for that! I’m happy for the few face-to-face classes I can get. My circle of friends now includes people in their early thirties and working professionals in various fields. I’m currently on winter break, so I’ve had plenty of time to relax lately Alhamdulillah. My cooking skills have also improved greatly and I was confident enough to give my chicken soup to a friend who was sick, instead of worrying that it would kill her. I’ve also watched two business-related K-dramas over the past month: Itaewon Class and Start-Up. Both have renewed my motivation to succeed in this field.

Yesterday, the 29th of December, was lovely. Definitely a day to remember. Sometime after midnight I realized it was snowing heavily. Subhanallah. It was snowing lightly a few hours before, but nothing to shout about. I woke my flatmate K up and we decided to go outside. I imagined that we’d spend only be 10-15 minutes at most outside our front door, but we spent more than an hour in the Meadows. And we weren’t the only ones either! We saw at least a few dozen people outside at 1AM (don’t worry, the Meadows is a VERY vast green space, the size of a few football fields). It was K’s first time experiencing snow, so she was super thrilled. Since it was in the dead of the night, we could even pose on the empty roads. We also built a small and humble and arguably creepy-looking snowman (“Susah rupanya nak buat snowman ni!” – K). We bumped into a Malaysian guy on a scooter – he said this is his third year in Edinburgh but this snow was the heaviest he’s ever seen.

I used to live in a very remote town in Japan called Urasa as a child, and the amount of snowfall there was absolutely insane. Snow would pile up to twice the height of cars. One year there were bear sightings in town because the snow on the mountains hadn’t melted yet even in April. I was shocked to find out how little the UK snows. The average Malaysian probably assumes it snows every day in winter in all four-season countries, thanks to movies and such.

Anyway, we went for a walk the next morning as well. The Meadows was covered in white, mediocre snowmen everywhere, children sledding, and the sky was blue. we also took pictures at Greyfriars Kirkyard and near Edinburgh Castle. K and I truly just embraced the moment, taking in how privileged we are to be able to live in this beautiful city and enjoy these stunning views.

I also got free homecooked nasi lemak TWICE in one day, thanks to good friends. Rezeki, Alhamdulillah. I also got to explore an unexpected hidden gem of Edinburgh: Craigmillar Castle Hill. It was absolutely gorgeous – at one point we could see the huge full moon on the left side of the hill and the sun setting on the right. You don’t always get to see the sunset in Edinburgh as the weather can be quite gloomy. But the weather was perfect on that day and the ground was covered with hard snow. I felt like I was in a coming-of-age movie, enjoying my youth.

This image doesn’t do justice to the view.

This isn’t the usual winter break a normal international student in the UK would have. You can explore your own city any other weekend – long breaks are for far-off places! Ideally, I’d be in Iceland right now watching the Northern Lights. But I got to watch a projection of the Northern Lights from Edinburgh Zoo, and that was pretty cool as well. At this time of the year I usually go to DAISUKI, an annual winter camp by Platform Siswa Islam Malaysia UK (PRISM), but this year I joined the online one instead.

I am consciously trying to stop myself from thinking “Oh God, at this time last year I was having so much fun or doing something cool or traveling in a certain city”, or “Ugh, I can’t wait until all of this is over then we can do this or that again and be happy”.

Instead I try to ask myself, “How can I make the present – the current time I am living in – count as well? How can I have a good time despite not being in regular circumstances?”. Over-romanticizing the past and the future is toxic when you don’t make the most of your present. So as my flatmate says… live in the present!

Plus, it’s absolutely petty to whine about small things when other people have lost their full-time jobs or their loved ones. It’s been a different year indeed, but Alhamdulillah for every blessing.

“The present moment is a gift, too. In winter, I’ll miss the green of summer. In the summer, I’ll miss the white snow. I’ve made up my mind to stop filling my days with regrets.” — Han Ji-Pyeong (Start-Up)

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Creating contentment.

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