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The journey begins

sunny 28 °C

On a bus now from Frankfurt to Prague, with an hour's stopover a Mannheim.

I love that the scenery out the window has changed since March. Not just with regard to the place and climate and particular fauna, but also with regard to the seasons. In March the trees were bare and cobwebby with birds' nests, and the fields were brown and solemn green. In April the trees had fresh young leaves of a peculiarly light green, and the flowers had begun to bloom in profusion. Come may, the flowers had started to fall, but the trees matured. It's finally the end of July, and I see rolled bales of hay dotting flat yellow fields, and crops grown up in their straight rows. All of the trees are a dark thriving green.

I love that the weather has changed too! And this is more a personal preference because I think everyone knows my sensitivity to the cold :D in March I would be freezing in my 3 layers plus winter jacket. Then, I learned to walk quickly outside, both for warming up purposes but also to get back into a warm place sooner. At the end of April, the knob on my heater was turned for the last time. In may the end of 3 layers (the winter jacket was discarded in April). June signalled the gloriousness of single layers and shorts, but also reminded me of the existence of sweat. July has actually been much better, with less days above 30 degrees. Wearing shorts again is the best thing about summer!

On Sunday night I sort of finished packing at 2 am haha. Then, exhausted, I went to sleep, and continued packing in the morning. That entailed throwing a lot of things away, and just stuffing things into both bags. Checked out, will have to pay for the walls which I didn't clean (I forgot), and handed over the keys. But I got tricked, cos I thought I'd get to go in one last time, but she locked the toilet door from my side too so I couldn't even say goodbye! S helped me to bring my stuff down 3 storeys, bringing down my yellow suitcase was the WORST. And after just about managing to get it all the way to E's place in darmstadt, I regret ever thinking I could make it back home by mrt haha. Taxi here I come. Very worried that I've overshot my 23kg, E said she'd try to borrow a weighing scale from her neighbours. Had ice cream with E, then back to Frankfurt to sleep.

Also, I finished Joan yesterday. I lament the end of Joan, more literally than figuratively though. Mark Twain was a little too obsessive about how awesome Joan was, and ended up with a draggy trial section. He did win me over to his perspective that Joan was amazing. Apparently he wrote a fairly accurate account of her life. I think I'll read some non-fiction about her when I get back. Rather interesting.

But now I'm struggling over whether to start on the Neverending Story on my phone (which beguiles me with its fantasy pedigree, and also I really like children's books) or the more non-fictional Seabiscuit (which was there first). Okay, never mind, I've decided on the former since a charger is on hand. K bye

Posted by seaskimmer 04:48 Archived in Germany Tagged bus books weather frankfurt hamburg luggage darmstadt Comments (0)

Harburger Days

Der letzte Tag

sunny 31 °C

It's 10.45pm and I'm sitting here at my desk for what seems like the last time. I'm 90% done with packing, all the rest of the stuff will be thrown into any small available space in half an hour. Tomorrow I check out at 9am, sell my mattress and bed stuff at 10am, run down to Marktkauf to get Ovomaltine for a certain A, and then set off for my bus to Frankfurt at 11am.

But now, now all I have is a sense of loss, or maybe it's the feeling of leaving the familiar and stepping into the unknown. I have two weeks of somewhat planned exploration, a kind of transition period before I head back home. And once I would have thought that going home would relieve me of all this awkward uncertainty and nebulousness. I think now I know better, and will prepare myself accordingly.

Home, defined as my room, will always be my ground zero. But I understand that home, defined as Singapore, has changed, in the same way I suppose I have changed. Coming back I'll have to deal with that, all relationships will be sort of the same and yet imperceptibly different. The conversations I've missed out on, climbs, popcorn prayer! And that's not necessarily bad. Change is the only constant, and no matter how annoying, discomforting, and downright wrong it can be, I guess I've come to terms with the need for adaptability. If that means accepting that things can never go back to the way they were before, so be it. I will survive. After all, I've managed the past 5 months!

Okay, enough emoness for now. Today I did sort of attempt to drink Hamburg in, to remember these 5 brief months. I woke up a little earlier and had breakfast at the fish market with S, which is apparently the thing to do, especially if you've been out all night partying at Reeperbahn (but obviously I just joined the morning crowd). The food was kind of whatever, maybe I didn't get the best haha. There was this old-ish band playing old rock and roll in front of a crowd, they were awesomeeee. I also had a nice time just sitting outside in the sun, eating my crab sandwich in front of vegetarian S hahaha. Going back with the S-bahn, I'll miss crossing the rivers twice to get to Hamburg, and once to Wilhelmsburg. I see my old Nordwandhalle everytime on S3 and S31, and I'm kind of sad that I didn't get to go in the past month. Ughhh. I'll miss my gym. I didn't even finish all the blacks and purples. And as we were walking back through the station, I told her I was smelling the pee smell again for the sake of remembrance hahaha.

I packed for most of the day. That involved La Sera, UB40, Big Mountain, Coldplay, Muse, John Mayer, Norah Jones, and not much packing. I was doing random exco stuff (another big deal, things will never be the same), doing my laundry, cooking a mountain of sambal fried rice, cleaning my room, throwing out the trash, borrowing a vacuum cleaner, and attempting to borrow a weighing scale. Oh yeah, and then watching Rushmore with S over my sambal fried rice dinner. (it's really good) (the movie, but the rice wasn't bad)

I guess I should go finish packing. Writing this has helped to reduce the magnitude of the end of Harburg! I don't know how I'll feel when my room becomes clean and white again (only possible when it's empty, aka none of my stuff in there hahahahah) and it becomes just another room, not my room. Emoness begone.

I'm looking forward to a dramatically nondescript return to sg actually. I really want to walk through the gates at Changi Airport, just me and my bags, and get to the MRT or the taxi stand. Like it's been for the past few months. Sort of. Exercising my poetic license to depart from sg with a huge bunch of people, and return with none. Besides the symbolism, it's also a chance for me to reflect and say hello again to sg on my own terms. No need for a rush of words, it's just me seeing home again :)

Posted by seaskimmer 13:45 Archived in Germany Tagged germany reflection hamburg harburg 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 : )

==========================================================================================

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/

==========================================================================================

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)

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