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Berlin

I went to a few ww2 memorials in Berlin. And after seeing all those, being moved close to tears by the personal tragedies of individuals and families in the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, I think I'm just reminded that evil exists. What happened to the Jews and other discriminated people groups was horrible. I don't know how the persecutors lived with themselves. It's a reminder though that we all have the capacity to do great evil, especially when it creeps up slowly like in Germany, and it seems like a norm when everyone around conforms. I mean, when everyone is doing something, it can be hard to think right. I guess the question is whether you can remember your own personal yardstick that you will remain true to, or perhaps you'll remember truth that must be adhered to.

Apart from that, I didn't spend much time in Berlin. Only 1 day so I just ran around seeing as much as I could. Focused mainly on history. My friend told me she went for the alternative sandeman tour, and that it was really good, she saw the soul of the city, etc. I could tell, a bit, that people were really artsy and fashionable.

For most of the day Berlin was almost underwhelming. I stood above the bunker where Hitler committed suicide, and outside where the arsenal used to be, but felt nothing. Until one point, when I was between the French and German churches, one of the churches began to chime. And I was finally transported back into the past. I could see Hitler coming down the road, and the masses alternately reeling in fear and horror, and ecstatically hailing the Führer. Music brings things to life.

One interesting thing that maybe describes Berlin is how the government occasionally tries to control graffiti by painting over a piece. But this only allows a new work of art to be created on this new blank canvas. The art isn't always great, but it's an expression of the people.

One really annoying thing is that these two Singaporeans desecrated Singapore's name by writing their names and sg really largely and uglyly on the east Berlin gallery. Apparently they're one year my junior in smu, Marc neo and Dominic khoo. Disgrace to Singapore.

I had a pretty interesting day because I met t and her 3 friends there. She'd travelled with them in Germany already, and it was their last day together. We actually went to play pool that evening, something I perhaps would never have done on my own. I really am a homebody. And have a different travel style. But it was fun, it was cool to meet them. 1 Canadian and 2 nus Singaporeans. And my friend.

Would upload photos but I'm still in Scotland right now. So I can't show you how annoying Marc neo is haha. But whatever, thought I should at least give a brief update.

Posted by seaskimmer 14:29 Archived in Germany Tagged germany berlin war singaporean Comments (0)

New Things

Unfamiliarity breeds patriotism

semi-overcast 8 °C

Friday, 2 May

Today I went with S and MJ to Neumuenster. It's a designer outlet mall about 2 hours of train and bus from Hamburg. I kind of regret going, because I really have no money for that kind of place. I only agreed yesterday night because I thought it might be fun and I thought I might be able to get a few good deals. But by the time lunchtime rolled around… I began to remember past experiences and the current state of my accounts! Then I decided to go along with the plan so that S wouldn't go alone (or so I thought) and so that I could be a bit more social lol. By the time we got to Neumuenster and I'd paid 11eur for a two-way train, and 2eur for the bus there, I was wishing I'd stayed in Hamburg and paid 5eur for Nordwandhalle instead. In the end I did manage to buy a pair of slippers, which was of an acceptable price and which I kind of needed anyway. But the whole time I was thinking, this would be so much cheaper in Primart…

According to the countdown on my phone, I've spent 62 days overseas and have 94 days left. I'm 40% through the 156 days : ( Even in this relatively short time, I think I've already learnt a lot.

I've learnt from keeping track of my money and deciding that I don't want to completely drain my accounts that money is hard to come by. I've never been so conscious of my spending before. In this respect I'm grateful to various really thrifty friends (ahem… E) who've shown me that living cheaply is a matter of perspective and priorities. Not to say that my parents haven't taught me to be careful with my money, but it's so different when my peers do so too.

I've also learnt more about accepting harder times. We've got all these sayings, no pain no gain, stretch yourself, blood sweat and chalk… but it's hard to keep the end in sight when you're actually going through that tougher time. The concept of strengthening through applying greater stress applies to pretty much every situation in life. I need to not be so soft, to stop complaining, to look ahead, and to shoulder on.

I've met many many people in the past two months and have had opportunity to observe. In some aspects I think I'm less naïve than some. For example in the money thing, I have one or two friends who really don’t realise that they spend a lot, because they're pretty rich. Also in terms of being open to new cultures, some display ignorance and others, prejudice. Seeing these things in them also made me consider my own deep-set, subconscious ignorance and prejudice. I think this is a lesson in lifelong learning as well as humility.

Another people thing: Europeans have a very different travel style from Asians. Asians tend to want to visit many places and take photos of all the famous places. Europeans will stay in a single country for a longer time, are more willing to chill and explore and talk to people. I think Asian style travel gets exhausting and meaningless after a while. And European style travel can be boring and doesn't let you see enough of the world. As always, moderation is key, so maybe I'll mix in a little of both.

Hamburg is gloriously sunny on some days but otherwise cold and windy. I miss my Singapore sunshine. Recently watched a few videos and read a few articles related to Singapore. Nostalgic and patriotic. I'm totally gonna follow the next election properly and read up on local politics, which I've never cared about before. Doing my best for my country! Anyway I'm having fun here, eager to see more of Europe, excited to hear what my profs have to say (maybe). I watch the counter on my phone with both trepidation and yearning. In the end I'll just try to make the most of my time here! What that means I'm not too sure. We shall see.

Posted by seaskimmer 08:54 Archived in Germany Tagged singapore shopping germany reflection hamburg daytrip Comments (0)

Kaffee und Kuchen

sunny 19 °C

One of my Dad's colleagues is German, and had a business trip to the refinery in Hamburg. Coincidentally, he was from Luebeck, and his sister lives in Hamburg! We got in touch and I was invited over to his sister's house for tea. She lives in a suburb northeast of Hamburg, technically not even in Hamburg state (which they are very proud of!). Many of the houses are like a hundred years old or something, very cool. M (the guy) drove me over from the train station in his sister's convertible Mini : ) Have I mentioned that I like Minis? After The Italian Job haha.

We had lovely tea in the backyard. Eventually I got to meet his sister's husband, son, and daughter. We played this card game while waiting for the Rhabarberkuchen (rhubard tart) to be fully cooked. The cards had pictures on them, and it’s a competition to put down all your cards, by naming the one picture on it that is present on both the card on the table and in your hand. So I named as much as I could in German, with help from the little 7? year old daughter. I learnt Kerze (candle) and Schloss (lock) then, along with a few other words haha.

The Rhabarberkuchen was really yummy! They were trying to find the most typically German things for me haha, so we had that with whipped cream and coffee.

The sister and her husband are both in the water industry, the husband for a governmental organisation and the sister for an NGO. According to the son, they end up talking about toilets a lot of the time during dinner hahaha. Sounds like my family, except maybe with a less physics and chemistry slant.

Anyway I had a lovely time, everyone was very nice. And the son will actually be going to Singapore with his grandparents in June! I promised to give them food recommendations haha. For both the son and for M, the colleague.

Here's my email to them, let me know if I missed out anything : )

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Hi ____!

Most of the food that I will recommend will be local dishes, which are generally Chinese, Indian, Malay, or a fusion. Most of these places will be in coffee shops or hawker centres.

This list is a really good place to start, although it's not a complete list of the 'best' Singapore food as you can tell from the comments below it. http://sethlui.com/best-local-famous-foods-to-eat-singapore/

One of my personal recommendations would be the Katong - Joo Chiat area. This is mainly the stretch of East Coast Road between Still Road and Tanjong Katong Road. Not only are there many many good food shops in the area, the buildings are in typical Peranakan style. If you're interested in history and architecture it will be a nice walk. Here's a list of places to eat, some taken from the sethlui list.
- Katong Laksa (noodles. there are two along East Coast Road)
- Bak Kut Teh (pork ribs. Sin Heng Claypot Bak Kut Teh 439 Joo Chiat Road)
- Wanton Mee (noodles. Fei Fei Wanton Mee, 10 min walk in from East Coast road, 62 Joo Chiat Place)
- Chicken rice (either 5 star or Boon Tong Kee, they serve slightly different styles, both along East Coast Road)
- Din Tai Fung (famous chinese food and Dim Sum chain, one outlet is at the big shopping mall Katong I12)
- Chin Mee Chin Confectionary (Kuchen, 204 East Coast Road)
- Nonya/Peranakan Kueh (Kuchen, Kim Choo Kueh Chang, 109 East Coast Road)
- Crab (whether chilli, black pepper, or other styles. Long beach. 1 hour walk along the beach from Katong)

Other places with a cluster of famous food stalls include Maxwell Food Center, Bedok Block 85, East Coast Lagoon Food Village (along the beach) and Old Airport Road Food Center. Check out this list of hawker centers. http://www.ladyironchef.com/tag/best-hawker-centre-singapore/
This blog is also good to find really good cafes selling western food.

One thing you really have to try is durian! It's a pungent fruit that looks like a round pineapple. There are two varieties, sweet or slightly bitter. Most people either hate durian or love it (I'm the latter). I'm not sure if it will be in season when you go, but here are some places to buy them: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/dining-guide/hawker/where-to-buy-durians-in-singapore-*aid-69763f00/ the best types are Mao Shan Wang and D24. Expensive, but worth it.

Alternatively you could try durian ice cream! Udders has it (there's one along East Coast Road), here are some others http://www.hungrygowhere.com/dining-guide/best-and-top/durian-ice-cream-*aid-f7981900/

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I think I might have overloaded them with information. But I think I controlled myself pretty well already! I also realise that it's very skewed to the East hahahaha.

Posted by seaskimmer 01:53 Archived in Germany Tagged food singapore germany hamburg Comments (0)

Yet another summary

I've been so busy, haven't had time to do any writing! This will be a summary of everything since then. Sorry I'm so lazy.

For reference, my normal school schedule (not including seminars) is Tuesday morning, wed morning, Thursday whole day with long break between, Friday possibly morning.

Summary of events:

14th Monday: Lüneburg
15th Tuesday: Cell!
16th Wednesday: uninspired climb session
17th Thursday: long day in school
18th Friday: Good Friday! Day in Lübeck

19th Saturday: day in Bremen, das Wetter war sehr schön. At S's place again that night for wifi and blankets for wh

20th Sunday: Resurrection Sunday service! Met cool guy who recommended the large park/small reserve at mittlerer landweg to cycle. Had a sehr schön afternoon stroll and read at Blankenese, met up with m and wh at the hbf. Accidental 7 eur Döner Teller dinner sigh.

21st Monday: Lüneburg again with m and wh haha. I brought them round as I did exactly a week ago, the difference was that m and wh were much more happy to sit and soak in the atmosphere. Sat at the top of the kalkberg for an hour or more, and later at a random cafe on schröderstraße for another few hours! It was a much nicer day than the week so many were out in the sun at the many cafes on that street. So nice to have long talks with friends! It's been a long time, since E and S in Ireland.

Went home, cooked nice dinner, then to T's place so m can have a long talk with him haha. Ended up leaving at 2 plus am Hahaha. Good times.

22nd Tuesday: woke up at 8 urghhh, earlier than usual so that I could get m and wh wifi in school! Also they don't have the transport pass so we walked to school, additional time there. Cool thing, eduroam. As long as you have an eduroam account you can use it in any school! C'est enorme.

Class, then went for lunch with them (poor people, they don't have cheap school food hehe) and then class again. Photo together and with t, then back home. Out to rewe to get sandwich material for their dinner in Amsterdam that evening, ostensibly also for m to buy a bunch of chocolates! Okay i bought a whole lot of rittersport you can't find in sg, with advice on which ones they were.

Back to pack and make sandwiches. Then I went with them to the hbf and saw them off to their train to the airport. Actually had one of those wave as they go off in the train moments. More on this later.

Back home again, I was just about sympathising with S since her bf just left at the same time (he'd stayed over a few days) but then suddenly he turned up again (we used the doorbell for the first time. That was exciting) because he missed his flight haha. So then I couldn't sympathise with her but ah well he's a cool guy.

23rd Wednesday: class then use wifi in school. I forgot to bring my credit card so I didn't buy anything but I did all the research for the buying. Off for another uninspiring climb, I need new tiles, new routes, and a new training routine, but mostly I think I need to set routes again. Haven't been doing that. Not enough tiles I think, but that's just an excuse. Headed back, cooked and ate dinner, talked with S some more. Went to the other S's place o return blankets and for wifi again so I could book various tickets, then back to pack a bit more.

24th Thursday: we've reached today! Hurrah. Woke up and rushed to school for morning class. In the end it was cancelled, I don't even know when the announcement was made, I checked studIp so many times. Went back early, packed, called parents, cooked lunch, made awesome sandwiches for dinner.

On the sandwiches: lettuce, tomato, red pepper, buttered bread, ham. And then this patty, or attempted patty. Should have learned from the previous day that one egg is not enough to glue together a whole chunk of minced pork. Nonetheless I tried it again. And failed. Then bright idea to used melted cheese, it worked somewhat! Cooled the meat down completely at room temperature and then in the fridge, then it was ready to be out together. 3 of those sandwiches and then 2 Nutella and ham sandwiches for breakfast. Seriously it's good, the salty and the sweet together. Mmmm.

Yesterday night I actually realised that I'd bought my ticket using D's credit card! Scared, and sent emails to deutsche Bahn. Because when you buy the ticket they say it's important to have the same credit card, and also I did get checked for the credit card on my first CNL (city night line) train. But today's train was the first train I actually bought so I didn't really know yet I guess. Today I printed out some details so that I can try to prove that I didn't steal the credit card or something. Was praying so hard haha. Thank God, they didn't check. Hopefully the one back home also won't (is Hamburg home now?)

Just met and talked to this cool German girl, K, for a few hours, she speaks English but I told her I wanted to practice German. She was very patient with me and really helped me a lot! Honestly I hardly speak any German in Hamburg cos everyone is so international. But anyway looks like I managed to get info and company for Lüneburger Heide! Yay! Fantastic. I've been wanting to go for a while now, just not enough info.

Old friends
Okay, and now some thoughts. As m and wh and I were having dinner on Monday, I commented on how a year ago I couldn't have seen us doing this. Having a home cooked dinner, us three together, in my dorm in Germany. How strange it is that we should be thrown together like that. Or rather they, cos they're in the same uni otherwise they'd never hang out together.

It was so nice to have friends to talk to again! I mean, I've made lots of new friends (okay maybe acquaintances) which is cool and fun and interesting, but it was so comfortable to talk to people I've known for a few years. It's the same as travelling for a long time and then returning home.

I was honestly really sad that they left. It's like I'd gotten used to not having old friends around, then suddenly they come and I remember what it's like and then I can't bear to have them go again! Like picking at the scab of an old wound, except not so serious and not so dramatic haha. But it's okay, I mean I'm on the way to meet old climbing friends. And I might travel with wh and m and L to Munich!! Just nice that the dates I was looking at are exactly the dates that they've already booked. That's thanks to the efficiency of L haha.

Connectivity Update
So. Agree several falsely, cruely raised hopes, I think I've finally got internet! S and I both sent another complaint letter to Baade haha. But it turns out that we've had a internet form sitting in our mail boxes for a few days now. Just that we both still haven't gotten our Post Schlüssels which is why we haven't seen it. But according to others in the dorm. Pulled out the form from the hole, signed it without reading (all in German. But I saw the word internet repeated many times) and passed it to A to help us submit.

Sooooo Internet should be here tomorrow! Of course I won't be there to see it, and actually neither will S, so now I have an incentive to return to Hamburg after this awesome Fontainebleau trip hahahahha. It's like Christmas, it's gonna be great, I can't wait to have wifi in my own room! Maybe you guys with 24h access to unlimited internet will think I'm like enslaved to it or something, but I've lived without it for enough time to appreciate it. Honestly I'm so excited. Hehehehe :)

Alright, it's 1230am and I'm halfway between Göttingen and Frankfurt now. Time to sleep, not because I need to get up early (930 eta) but because I'm simply tired and haven't had much rest lately.

Hope that this weekend will be crazy fun, that Fontainebleau will live up to expectations but not be too hard. And also that when I get back I'll actually feel like studying cos I really need to!! Furthermore pray that my mapping will go well and that Cecilia will give me what I want! Cos I really don't want to take air pollution, it feels like ese3201 again and it's on friday. I've planned too many things on Friday already.

Ciao.

PS I really should get my photos of everything up on fb. And look at my Lübeck and Bremen photos so I can actually remember what I did there. Promise to get a 'review' of each up.

Posted by seaskimmer 15:42 Archived in Germany Tagged germany hamburg daytrip summary Comments (0)

Worth its Salt

semi-overcast 8 °C

Today was Lueneburg day! [edit: that was Monday, today is now Thursday]

The day dawned bright and fair. No, just kidding, it was raining when I woke up and I checked the weather forecast: rain. Oops haha. Was partially afraid the others would be too lazy to go but in the end everyone who said they'd come came.

Met at HBF, took the 1100 ME to Lueneburg Station. Only half an hour! Yay.

Geography
Lueneburg became a major city because of its salt mining industry. It sits atop a huge salt deposit deep underground. This particular deposit has a surface of about 1sqkm, centered around the Kalkberg (Limestone hill). The deposit begins 40m into the ground and continues for at least another 4km. In fact, salt deposits can be found all over the world, but with one of the highest concentrations in Germany. They form in sea basins, in which seawater can flow in but only some can flow out through a narrow channel. Over time, the water in the basin gets more saline due to evaporation (and constant saltwater inflow). A deposit of different layers forms, with different levels of solubility:
1. Limestone (not very soluble)
2. Gypsum/anhydrite
3. Rock salt
4. Potassium nitrate (very soluble)
Tectonic movement leads to the uprising of a small hill and the sea basin becomes completely separated from the sea. It dries out, sediment is deposited, and a subterranean salt dome has built up. In Lueneburg's case, it's the Kalkberg.

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Salt deposits in Europe

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Different kinds of anhydrite

History
Lueneburg had already been inhabited since before the 900s, and saltwork had also already commenced. However, it was only until 1189 that the city was given town privileges, and in 1158 became part of the Hanseatic League (a northern German trade group; a powerful economic and defensive alliance). Lueneburg monopolised the lucrative salt production industry for many years. At that time salt was primarily used to pickle herring from the Baltic sea for Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Lueneburg became one of the most important cities in the region.

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salt trade

The downfall of Lueneburg can be attributed to a few events. The Hanseatic League ended sometime in the 17th century, and there was an absence of herring around 1560. Finally, refined salt was invented, a much cheaper alternative, which worked by drying seawater. As a result, Lueneburg lost much of its wealth and business and slowly spiraled into mediocrity.

The city center has remained largely the same since then, because hardly any new houses were built there from then onwards. This is a vast difference from much of Germany, partly because it did not suffer any damage during the wars, or from other disasters like the Great Fire in Hamburg. Lueneburg has been slowly restored since the 1970s, while the salt mine officially closed in 1980. Today, Lueneburg has a population of over 70,000 (not bad) and has a university and an industrial estate, not to mention quite a good tourism industry.

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Seems like typical Lueneburg architecture has a lot of red brick, with black or green patterns

Lueneburg can be remembered as the place the Reichfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler committed suicide in before he could be interrogated in 1945. Furthermore, it was also where the esteemed J. S. Bach grew up.

[admission: much of this was taken off wikitravel, which I used to research for Lueneburg before I left. It was a really really interesting read.]

Summary of Events
I'd planned out a rough walking tour of the city, hitting places of major interest. I was like the tour guide, haha, leading everyone around and giving brief descriptions of each place.

1. St Johanniskirche
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2. Am Sande (the main square)
3. The Rathaus am Sande (with porcelain bells!)
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4. Marktplatz (the market place square)
5. Old fishmarket (am Stintmarkt, but was nowhere to be seen)
6. Alter Kran (old black crane at the historical harbour)
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7. Hospital zum Roten Hahn
8. German Salt Museum

Most of these places was just a quick explanation and photo then continue walking. Just my style.

Lunch was after the Rathaus, 6.90 for buffet haha. Ate 2 full plates plus dessert to attempt to make it worth it. Felt like splurging a little after so much home cooked food!

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No one else wanted to pay 4 eur for the Salt Museum (the guys just kept complaining that the Brewery Museum was closed on Mondays) so I went in myself, excited to learn more about the industry that put Lueneburg on the map. I was given a folder of English text to read; basically English translations of all the German text up on the walls. The museum was interesting enough. It went over some basic scientific and geological principles of salt, explained the significance of salt in human history and culture, and also the history and process of salt mining in Lueneburg. Lots of maps nd infographs everywhere, and later lots of scary mannequins haha.

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Shall not bore you with too much of the details, so here's just one cool thing: at some point in time, the owner of the salt mine decided to mechanise the process of bringing up brine from the well. He made a hydraulic water wheel at the Elbe, then converted the round-and-round motion at the river into a back-and-forth motion system that spanned like 2km or something. Basically very far, considering that everything was still made out of wood and was pretty crude. Many people at the well itself lost their jobs, but men were now required to work day and night making sure the wooden system was always working. It was highly prone to failure (sick 8 days, working 1 day) and made a huge racket that could be heard quite a distance away. This story has no point to it, I just thought it was interesting to see the beginning of the mechanical age.

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Literally, Lueneburg is the salt in the soup, but as a phrase it means that Lueneburg is that extra something, the oomph haha.

I was done, and realised that the rest had gone shopping! So I told them I’d meet them at the Kalkberg (hurrah to data), and proceeded to wander around the Sendungsbiet (literally sunken region), which is an area that has sunk pretty badly over the years primarily due to the salt mining. Lots of buildings are clearly bulging or not straight. I went over to St Michaelis, the church of young Johann Bach, and attempted to get in but I didn't really see any open doors into the church lol. No matter, I'm not like his hugest fan. And at that time it had begun to rain (again) so I put up the hood of my (lovely lovely) goretex jacket. The wind was crazy strong and freezing, I could hear it rushing overhead, and the grass was rippling rather violently. Kind of funny because the wind pushed me towards the gate and out of the church, like it didn't want me hanging around! But as soon as it started, it was over, as temperamental as it had been the whole day.

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St Michaelis

This time I went up to Kalkberg, which was a wonderful green area probably frequented by joggers on better days. Went up a few paths I knew wouldn't lead me to the top because it looked pretty with the sun shining on it, but eventually climbed up the full 20m (est) to the top. Not very high, but still afforded a pleasant view of the town. About 10 minutes later, the 4 of them arrived and we began the customary phototaking session.

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Green sign says 'vorsicht einsturzgefahr' (danger of collapse), I be like, is that climbable?
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Back down to the town, went to the chocolate museum (it wasn't a museum, it was just a shop) where Y and I bought chocolates! By that time it was about 6 plus and it had begun to be really cold. Made a 1min side track to the Wasserturm (water tower) en route to the bahnhof, but it was closed already so we couldn't go up.

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On the train back, I saw interesting cloud formations from the window. Vertically striped clouds?? Took a photo over the random guy sitting on the window seat lol and then when looking at the photo realised there was a rainbow! (For some reason it's not turning up very well in this photo)

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T and I got off at Harburg and bought some groceries at Lidl. It was 8pm and really freezing then, 6 degrees with unrelenting wind. I was glad to get back to my room. Marinated my chicken and stuffed it into the freezer, baked my salmon and potato. While baking, I ate cold leftover mashed potato (it was in a plastic cup and I couldn't be bothered to transfer it to something microwaveable) and cleaned the kitchen and my room.

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People are moving in tomorrow! The apartment will be full. So I wanted to arrange everything in a safe and orderly fashion. Tomorrow maybe I will see about getting people to share the cost of the kitchen equipment. Hurrah to people in the house!

I also met K, a Thai guy living opposite. I thought he was Korean lol. He was nice enough to get my rubbish bin from my landlord, keep it for me, and put a post it on my apartment door telling me about it. (I didn't know we got rubbish bins. K only found out because another guy asked the landlord about it) He was in ACSI, then ACJC, did 2 weeks of double degree Chem Eng/Biz in NUS then dropped out to study in Hamburg. So he's been here for quite a while. Same year as my bro in ACSI, but hadn't heard of him. Sounds like a long conversation but really it was only 5 min and the entire conversation has been transcripted haha.

Alright! I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow (Tuesday, this will probably be posted on Tuesday in school so that's today I guess haha) so I'm going to sleep!

Posted by seaskimmer 04:12 Archived in Germany Tagged germany daytrip lueneburg Comments (0)

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