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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)

This Week in Harburg

I haven't written anything in the past 2 weeks, mostly because I've been so frustrated at the lack of free internet in my dorm and in school. At this current moment (initial time of writing, I don't expect to finish this post before my next class at 1600, and this is wed fyi), I still don't have LAN in my dorm, and my phone's wifi system crashed meaning I don't get wifi on it period. Unless I do a full system restore which I will not be doing yet, since I've got 1GB of data on it anyway. But before my next trip out of Germany, yeah.

SO. That's my connectivity issues, some resolved, some worse off than before, but let me tell you that life sucks without the internet! Haha! Maybe I need to properly go off the grid one day and enjoy it, but even someone like me who isn't exactly connected via social networking is super dependent on the internet and some forms of online social interaction.

Let's get to this proper, this is a recap of the last almost-two weeks living here in Harburg, accumulated because I couldn't type on my laptop and was frustrated about it.

Settling in


My building has 4 floors of apartments, with two apartments on each level. Each apartment has either 6 or 8 people, and I think it's priced accordingly. Most people share an adjoining toilet with one other person. Spanking new building, white walls and white of light brown furniture (what there is of it). No LAN yet (I must repeat this over and over), laundry is 2.20 per wash, and I don't use the dryer so I don't know how much that is. Each apartment only has one common room, that's the kitchen. Has shelf space, an oven, a stove, sink etc. Stove is the flat kind, not fire but also not induction. Don't know what it's called, the whole circle heats up when you turn it on.

I'm still living alone in my apartment, which was a bummer at first but I do recognise the benefits like not worrying about safety or leaving stuff around. But it will definitely be nice to have some people to come home to (something I really miss!!!) even if it's not my family haha. And I've refused to buy any cleaning equipment so I'm living in a dump, seriously. I might give in soon. But, but, another exchange student I know is moving in on Tuesday, and I think it's my apartment. If so, then I can finally share the cost of a broom or something. Yay.

I spent two days decorating my room after the inital unpacking. Proud of myself because I managed to spent quite little, apart from photo printing while in sg. Too afraid of permanently damaging walls if i paste anything on it so I used the large piece of cardboard the kitchen table was covered with!

IMAG0015.jpg 3A8741422219AC68176A7E2BC0B2DEFF.jpg IMAG0014.jpg

The Kindness of Strangers

Let me explain the security measures implemented here. To get to my room, I have to go through 4 doors. The main door, the door to my apartment, the door to my room and toilet, the door to my room. One key (with two additional copies) unlocks the first three doors while another key unlocks the last. All of the first three doors are autolocking, so once you close the door that's it.

What happened on like the 4th day of living there was that I left my keys in the keyhole of the last door. And I forgot. By the time I realised, it was 6pm and I was carrying newly purchased pots! Called the office but it was closed, so I stayed over at my friend's place. I hardly know her, she's from NUS but never would have met her if not for SEP. So grateful to her, she cooked me dinner and let me stay on her couch! Offered to share the bed too, but I figured I shouldn't take too much from her. She and her roomie (now, her I really don't know; makes it even sweeter) gave me tons of blankets and extra jackets to keep me warm in the living room!


The next day I went for the international breakfast and the Hamburg tour organised by the tutors. Then at about 2pm I went down to try to get my room opened. The shop beneath my apartment is owned by a Mr. H.; he also owns the apartment and a few of the buildings around. I was told that he's usually found in the shop. Unfortunately when I got there, he'd already left. The two women in the shop, helped me to call him and stuff, and eventually he said he'd come back in a few hours. It turns out that he was sick so decided to leave early :/ and one of the women talked to me as I sat in the shop haha she was so nice. Didn't speak much English but I learnt some German that way.

So, yeah I met a lot of really nice people who were so kind to me despite my not really knowing them : )

School Life and People

School hasn't been a big deal so far haha. School officially started 1 April, but most of the exchange students didn't go for any classes til the second week (now). It's Thursday, so I've gone for a few of my classes. Most don't seem very difficult (despite being masters courses), like some profs will ask if anyone even needs it to be a graded course haha. It's only the second week of school, though, we'll see how it goes.

One cool thing is that profs use both power points and blackboards! At tuhh they have high class black (green) boards that can be pushed vertically up and down to suit the user's height and where they're writing on the board. It also has two hinges on the sides, so two extra boards can be folded outward for more surface area to write on. Most profs write with white chalk. Then this prof brought out a red one and I had to be content with an inward squeal of excitement. Lol cheap thrill. There's also a sink in almost every tutorial room. When the board is full, profs can use a sponge with water to wipe everything away, and then a wiper (like window wiper) to wipe the water away. As a result the bottom edge of the blackboard is encrusted with white chalk when the water runs down. Of course, some can't be bothered and then they use their hand to wipe stuff away.

So far everyone in class has been very vocal about their opinions! Something I'm very not used to, coming from SG. Like seriously, it's not just questions (that's natural but still uncommon in sg) but people almost arguing with the lecturer! Most noticeable in one of my lectures that touched upon the validity of CO2 in climate change. This controversial topic sparked quite the debate, lasted for maybe almost ten minutes? People here are really not afraid to air their opinions whereas little I am still forming my own. This makes for an interesting though draggy class.

I've met a lot of nice people, mostly exchange students. From all over the world! Even got a Ukranian guy and Russian girl, but they get along fine. Pretty well actually because she's in the south of Russia which apparently is much more similar to Ukraine in culture and language. People from Serbia, Sweden, China, India, Canada, you name it, you got it. (okay mostly Europe) and the Swedish girl has the same name as me! Haha except with an f. I have also checked and confirmed that Ikea is pronounced I-kay-uh where I is like in sick.

Of the NUS people I've seen a fair amount. Especially in the first week, we hung out a bit. Recently not so much though, as I'd expected, because they're a bunch of chem eng haha and we only have 2 common mods (out of 7 current ones).

Been climbing twice a week, in prepare font! I want to be at least of respectable skill when I get there, or the trip will be a frustrating waste. Rush to the gym to make the happy day period (leave at 4pm therefore be there by 2) and climb climb climb then work out a bit. I must say that I've regained much of my strength, when at first I could barely do 4 pull ups, now I can do 6 sets of 3 relatively easily. Gonna upgrade to 4 reps per set now. And add more stuff like the fingerboard.

I also went for a run once! Ran around the Harburg stadtpark, actually managed to find it Woohoo. Ran in tights, T shirt and windbreaker. It was weird because I hardly sweated. And at the end I didn't really feel like I'd exercised even though my heart rate was through the roof lol. I think I use sweat as a measure of how much I've exerted myself haha. Will run again next week!

Safety in Hamburg

I thought Hamburg would be pretty safe. Here are some stories to suggest otherwise. But don't worry it's totally fine in the day, there aren't really any pickpockets like in Italy and stuff. I'll just take care not be out alone at night.

Apparently my friend's friends got mugged. Like not pickpocketed, actually mugged. Separately, two PRC guys at night. One might even have been threatened with a knife, the other was a request for money and then a wallet snatch-and-run. That's pretty crazy.

Then when 7 or 8 of us NUS (and one NTU) people were having dinner in one of our dorms, some guy was snooping around. Her apartment (the one we were eating at) is on the ground floor so the windows to the kitchen and dining room look out onto the street. I was sitting facing the window, when I suddenly noticed a hooded figure looking in, about 2 or 3m away from the window. Due to it being a bit dark outside, and the lighting conditons, I could only see his silhouette. I froze, then began babbling that there's a guy outside. One or two others turned to look, then he disappeared.

A minute later there was a ring at the door. One of the guys went to see to it, and he returned talking about a guy with blood around his eye and cheek asking about a party. I thought he was joking at first, and then as I realised he wasn't, I saw the guy at the window again and I freaked out! By that I mean that I sat there and didn't dare to look at the window but kept telling everyone that someone was there! This time he was really just at the window. And I was smack in front of it so it kind of felt like he was looking directly at me, even though I couldn't see his face or anything. Squirming in my seat. He stayed there for pretty long before finally he left. Whew that was scary. After that we closed the blinds and shut all the windows lol.

I don't think the guy meant any harm, I think he was just kind of alcoholic and wanted a drink. (We had a few beers on the table). Kinda creepy though. The bunch who were walking back to the metro walked me home that night.

Cooking Adventures

The past week I've cooked mostly the same things over and over again haha. Since I'm just one person, I have to buy stuff and then use all of it before the expiry date. I learnt though that sometimes the same ingredients can taste radically different with a change of sauces or spices.

My ingredients: minced beef, pork pieces, mushrooms, cabbage, onions, garlic, eggs, tomato, cheese, ham, bread.

Meal 1: penne bolognese with thyme

Meal 2: hot sandwich with the stringiest melted cheese ever :)

Meal 3: rice with cabbage omelette and oyster/black/light sauce pork and mushroom

Meal 4: spaetzle with pork, tomato, mushrooms, cabbage, onions, mustard, paprika. Gravy comes from the tomato cooked long, and the various juices :) IMAG3652.jpg

Meal 5: penne with pork, tomato, cabbage, onions, mustard, paprika, milk. Gravy from tomato cooked long, and reduced milk.

Meal 6: Had a Wurst in Brot today at the ESN (erasmus student network) bbq earlier today, so only a quick fry of the whole pork piece this time, quick marinating in light/dark sauce and sesame oil. No photo. I forgot. Got back at 8 after my late Thursday lecture.

Meal 7: Made french toast! Because as you can see, I haven't been eating bread. Vollkorn toast is cheap but gross. So attempting, à la the French, to use up my stale bread. (Expired 9/4, used 10/4 and 11/4)

Meal 8: rice! Actual proper rice! With fried pre-marinated pork, and stir fried cabbage and mushrooms with light/dark sauce and sesame oil

And a apfeltorten from the supermarket because I felt like eating something sweet (not strictly to be here because it wasn't cooked but it was so very welcome to my taste buds) IMAG0020.jpg

Everything I've cooked tastes amazing. I'm not kidding! And not being overly proud of my culinary achievements either hehe. There's something about freshly cooked food straight out of the pan, cooked by yourself, that makes everything yummy. Sure, the meat might be a little over-cooked and the rice plain terrible, but it still tastes great on the tongue and feels great down the throat. But no, seriously, texture-wise maybe not but taste-wise, soooo good.

I've had a lot of fun cooking. Haven't done anything different from what I'd usually cook in sg when I have the time. Basically what's-in-the-kitchen-let's-cook-it. Next week I'll begin to try cooking recognised dishes. Maybe. Haha. We shall see. Hopefully I don't get sick of washing up before sep is over!

Generally breakfast is cereal (found some really great ones similar to my favourite post selects in sg) and milk. Lunch is cheap at Mensa (a cafeteria) in school. There are 5 dishes available everyday, and the dishes change everyday. Also a salad bar, pizza and pasta bar, fresh juices, soups! Etc. Pay for whatever you take so so far I've been getting a main and occasionally a soup. Dinner is usually at home, sometimes with strawberry yoghurt after for some vitamins (questionable?). Strawberry yoghurt, mmmm… My favourite kind, and almost the only type I'd buy voluntarily. Store-bought in a cup, no fancy Yami yogurt for me haha. Okay, after having so much yoghurt here I may get used to it enough to buy some in sg.

Been attempting to watch my nutritional intake. I get plenty of calcium and dairy and carbs. Protein totally enough. My attempt at vegetables (always a weak point) resulted in my eating cabbage almost everyday! And tomatoes, which historically I've used to fool myself into believing that I eat enough veg, but really, it's not green so not quite there. (and is it a fruit or a veg?) Thus the cabbage. Need to buy more fruits, for more vitamins. I manage my mushroom intake well, though. Actually have to be careful not to overdose. (what, never heard of daily required mushroom intake? Yeah, it's new, as of last week)

Grocery shopping (einkaufen) is pretty easy. After some exploration, and advice from friends, I now buy most of my goods from the Ja! brand in Rewe in Phoenix Center. After that, other things are bought at the Lidl near my place, or Aldi if I pass it. Anything I can't find and really want can be bought at the huge Marktkauf next to Phoenix Center (eg Dr Oetker Vitalis cereal). These are in ascending order of price range haha. Keeping things cheap. Dinner is less than 2 euros per meal! Yay! And this even with overestimation of portion size : )

Plans for the Future

I'm looking forward to not being a slob, and actually owning a dustbin (living out of plastic bags now). Looking forward to actually having people in my apartment!

And I've been planning all my travels, may and June are so so packed it's not even funny. Even then, there are so many places I want to go to but don't know if I'll have the time. Will have to plan this carefully.

One trip I am so excited about currently is my Wimbledon trip!!!! Will make it for the middle Sunday period. Hopefully will get the Saturday (men's 3rd round), and that there won't be any typical wimby rain delay. I won't be getting show court tickets unfortunately because normal wimby tickets require balloting a year before the event! And online tickets apart from that are like a thousand quid. The last real option is queueing up on the day itself. Whether you get center court, court 1, court 2, or ground pass tickets (in that order) depends completely on your queue number and how early you're willing to queue. For center court you're gonna have to be in the cold with your tent the morning before (no, really, there are whole articles and guides written about queuing for wimby). Ground passes, however generally only require your presence from 6 or 7am on the day itself. So unfortunately that's what I'm gonna have to do, and then I'll pray that for some reason Murray gets pushed to court 3 haha.

Apart from travels, I hope I actually learn something while I'm here! There's lots to learn but the inertia against studying is sooooooo high haha everyone I sit down to try to revise I end up doing something else. And there's so much to do. Oh well.

I end this long post finally on Friday night. Hopefully it wasn't too boring haha.

Bis bald! (see you soon)

Posted by seaskimmer 14:34 Archived in Germany Tagged people hamburg harburg tuhh Comments (0)


the eve of battle

sunny 5 °C
View SEP Pre-Trip on seaskimmer's travel map.

It's 9am and 1 degree out, and the morning mist stills shrouds the town.

Okay, well that was when I got here. It's now 12.07pm and the internet cafe meter is at 4.50 EUR, soon to be 5. Just spent so much time researching transport and itinerary for Belgium and Ireland! Oh my. Never paid this much for internet before haha.

Yesterday was a nice day of exploration. In the morning was internet cafe (as usual) and then I headed back to wait for my mattress to arrive. I actually sat at the lobby steps for a while, reading Ben Hur, before I gave up and just waited for the delivery man to call. But interestingly I managed to meet other occupants that way (while looking crazy for sitting there). A few guys including one Italian called Herberto and an Asian girl who didn't stop to say hi.

After that, went to buy a bedsheet (I forgot) and went out by the back instead of the front, discovered the gem that is the Bücherhalle. Herberto said he was going to the library, I had no idea that it was so near. Also, I learnt in NUS that library is Bibliothek in German, so is Bücherhalle a Hamburger thing? Still makes sense (book hall) but wondering why it's different. Anyway I saved that for later, with a desperate hope of free wifi.

And so later I found out that you need a library account at 20 eur per year to use the wifi. So sad. BUT, BUT, I discovered a chinese grocery store/restaurant next door!!!! I know I'm not the most Chinese person around, but I love my Chinese food and I was squealing when I found the rice! Hehe. Instant noodles is expensive at 1+ per packet (not even 5 in 1) though. But sesame oil, soya sauce, oyster sauce all there. There's a supermarket there too, which I figure will be an alternative to the small local grocery store 5 min away, once I'm back and cooking.

There was also a lovely little playground near the library where I sat on the swing for a while. It was beautiful to finally be outside, really outside, with the holly and the birds and the greenery all around. Harburg is pretty, but not that green, at least where I stay. When I get back I'll try to find my way to the big park with the lake. I see it on google maps but I haven't gone far enough yet to see it.

Went shoe shopping as well, cos I decided that I don't really want to walk around in my boots because they get a little uncomfortable after a while. I went into pretty much all the shoe shops in my area (which is a lot) and ended buying Vans knock-offs for 14 eur. Everything is relatively cheap here by the way, for which I'm thankful. Lots of shoes available under 20 eur, most are under 30, even found some for 5. I discovered this awesome awesome thrift store which I'd walked by so many times, and a sell-everything store where I bought hangers and bedroom slippers. I'm definitely going back to the thrift store come April ((:

I've really loved my few days in Harburg alone. I was a little tentative about that and worried about homesickeness etc but it's been great. I love the freedom to do whatever I want and go wherever I want. The freedom to stay as long as I want (eg in the playground, when others would have been bored). But yes, it does get a little lonely at night when there's nothing to do and it's cold outside, and everyone in Singapore has gone to sleep. That's alright though, I manage, especially with keeping track of all my accounts. If I had wifi in my room it'd be better (grumble grumble).

I'll be off for my grand March trip tonight, though. Meeting E in Brussels tomorrow morning! Updates when I get wifi.

Posted by seaskimmer 19:06 Archived in Germany Tagged hamburg harburg Comments (0)

What Sophia forgot

and much more

semi-overcast 10 °C
View SEP Pre-Trip on seaskimmer's travel map.

1. Slippers (new and bought specifically for overseas)
2. Favourite pair of brown shoes
3. Detergent (not a big issue)
4. LAN cable (also not an issue, especially because my dorm hasn't even set the wifi up yet)
5. Bedsheets (would have taken up a lot of space anyway)

That's a list of things I planned on bringing but somehow forgot. Mostly fine that I didn't bring, but very upset about the first two haha.

So, I spent a terrible Monday morning dragging all my luggage around, going to the wrong place and having to walk back etc before finally getting to my dorm. Had to make a call because I was late, but I got settled in pretty soon. The rest of the day I walked around and made multiple trips purchasing the following:

1. Vodafone Sim Card (200mb data)
2. Isana nail polish remover
3. Isana shower gel
4. 2x3x cutlery
5. Ener-bio Nuss-nougat-crème (like nutella)
6. Brot
7. Bettwaesche - flannel bedsheet
8. Cortina - mattress
9. Steppbett - blanket
10. Kissen main (pillow)
11. Kissen small
12. Calgon ultra (detergent)
13. Toilet paper
14. Garnier Fructis (shampoo)
15. LAN cable (3m)

Maybe not very interesting, but I like lists haha.

My room at the start -- bare and empty

Okay, and meantime I explored Harburg, which I feel is gorgeous. I think I love this little town already. I thought it might still be considered winter, but at the grassy patch near the Rathaus (full of politicians and administrators lol. Google it.) there are flowers growing! Purple and yellow, I'm gonna assume they're crocuses even though I have never seen a crocus. Haha.


When I was young I liked to draw up dream houses. Once I attempted to draw a dream town, and tried to have a shop for everything, but obviously I failed. Harbug is a little like a dream town. It has everything in a 2km diameter around the Hamburg-Harburg Rathaus station, from multiple Friseurs (hair dressers), a Euroshop (dollarstore!), multiple grocery stores, a post office and a small mall to multiple bakeries, casinos, the Rathaus, banks, computer shops, phone shops, shoe shops, an internet café (my saviour), and all manner of food shops. The only thing missing is a climbing gym within the radius haha but okay it's not too far away.

The gorgeous Rathaus.


I was so happy as I walked around, I was almost skipping (okay I did a bit)! Everything was so pretty, it was so nice with people walking around, everywhere you turn there's a gorgeous red brick building and a bricked or cobbled path underfoot. And when I was walking to TUHH (my uni) I saw a park! And felt that life was complete. TUHH itself is awesome, a blend of new and old, with red brick, grey metal and green glass in fantastic fusion. Then I got to this mossy area. The moss was soooo thick, soft and springy. I felt like lying down immediately, camping on the moss like an Enid Blyton (etc) adventurer would have done. I pulled a little out (as an adventurer would have done to make camp) and the whole clump lifted away in fat gloriousness. I could have died happy.

Mossy patch

Because my mattress would only be delivered on Wednesday afternoon, I spent the night (and tonight) on my sleeping bag, below my new blanket. Quite ridiculous since my sleeping bag is smaller and thinner than my blanket!

Today I chilled in the morning, then later went to Nordwandhalle, the Kletterhalle at Wilhelmsburg! It's pretty cool, with about the same wall area as OS maybe, including the boulder walls and indoor and outdoor highwalls. Maybe a bit less. Unfortunately I kind of injured my left knee while attempting a drop knee bridge. But it's okay, I just need to be a bit careful walking.


One thing about connectivity: I can't live without it, and I get anxious when denied it. When I didn't have data, and when I realised my dorm doesn't have wifi -- I felt shackled and fearful. Oh my that sounds bad. But truthfully yes. Also, my phone is malfunctioning a bit. Just now, touching any point on the screen would cause somewhere along the same vertical line to be pressed as well. Eg. Pressing 4 would also press 1 and 7 and other points along the vertical line. And it would press the original point multiple times as well. I was freaking out and praying and I really thank God that my phone is okay now. Pray that it won't happen again! I think it's just extra extra scary being alone in a foreign land without being able to communicate with people that I know.

That's a very long post. kthnxbye

Posted by seaskimmer 20:18 Archived in Germany Tagged climb hamburg groceries harburg Comments (1)

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