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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

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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!

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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!

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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
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Meal 2: hot sandwich with the stringiest melted cheese ever :)
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Meal 3: rice with cabbage omelette and oyster/black/light sauce pork and mushroom
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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.
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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)
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Meal 8: rice! Actual proper rice! With fried pre-marinated pork, and stir fried cabbage and mushrooms with light/dark sauce and sesame oil
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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)

Confessions


View SEP Pre-Trip on seaskimmer's travel map.

Dear Mum and Dad,

Please don't be mad.

Okay I've just WhatsApped you guys anyway but here's a full account of my couch surfing and hitchhiking activities so far:

Couch surfed in Brussels with this really nice guy called Nicolas. That's where we met a really cool fellow couch surfer from California who's been traveling eastern and western Europe on her own for the past year and two months. Nicolas' place was clean and nice, just that the hot water wasn't reliable.

Hitch hiked from Bruges to Ghent with a lovely couple, lady was called Ellen. They live in Ghent and were super nice, wrote down a list of local things that we can do, and best Belgian beers. (held up 'Ghent' written on the back of my bus ticket at the side of the road leading to the highway to Ghent for about half an hour, with thumbs stuck resolutely up) (most people will shrug shoulders apologetically if they can't take us. These three guys were funny idiots who all gave broad smiles and thumbs up as they passed us by)

Couch surfed in Ghent with an architecture student called Pavel. He lives next to his parents (Nicolas lives above his mum's shop, she's a dentist) in a place that used to house hobos. But they got chased out and he redid the whole place on his own. Our bed wasn't the cleanest but the shower was heavenly. There was another couch surfing couple there but we didn't have much chance to talk to them.

Hitch hiked from Ghent to Brussels with a Belgian Air Force engineer (wanted to be a pilot but hearing wasn't good enough). He was pretty cool. And he doesn't actually live in Brussels but a town further down, so he spent quite long detouring through the poor city traffic for us. (held up sign written on pie box for half an hour as well) (we accidentally almost attempted to hail a police car. They were amused.)

That was all with E. With S I attempted to couchsurf a night at Darrens place in Cork. At first he seemed okay, like the picnic at the water's edge was lovely, but when he brought us to his place we were disgusted. It's absolutely filthy and filled with stuff everywhere. There was a pile of half eaten bread on the table, and the kitchen was a mess of uncleaned dishes and random food. The toilet bowl itself was alright but the shower looked supremely dirty and S spotted a garden slug. That last piece of news didn't bother me because I'd already made up my mind not to shower that night. We slept on Darrens big bed with 2 Belgian and German girls who we'd spent the day with, while he slept downstairs in the living room. The bed wasn't clean, had a bunch of crumbs at the side, brushed most of it of but guess who slept there? Ugh. The four of us spent a while coming up with a plan to beat it the next morning (we'd initially planned on staying 2 or 3 nights) before going to sleep. At least it wasn't cold. The Belgian girl did a fantastic job the next morning of explaining why we were all leaving, and we walked away with a sigh of relief. The moment we got to our hostel, S and I took a shower. So relieved. Hope I can wash that set soon because it's one of only three sets I've brought.

Couch surfed with a guy called Owen and his roommates on our third night in Cork. At this time it was E, S and I. Slept in the living room on the couch and the sofa bed. Not the cleanest but understandable for college guy standards maybe? Hot shower also amazing here. If you read my other post I'll tell about the people there.

Conclusion: there are good and bad experiences to be had in couch surfing and hitchhiking. So far I've been blessed with fairly okay ones. I'm not going to do it all the time because it's not always safe to, like in Portugal and Spain (my next stop) but Belgium is known to be safe enough. I do think however that it's an amazing way to get to know locals, because a true couch surfing experience involves interaction and conversation with your host. It's always good to hear the slang and the culture and the ordinary lives of the country. As much as I would like to believe that I could roam around the countryside on my own like a lost waif and breathe in the essence of the land, I think that maybe half the experience of travel is the people.

That being said, I will be responsible and not romanticise it too much, so I'll just be friendly along the way, stay in hostels and talk to other travellers etc. And I also don't do any of this alone, if alone I'll pay for normal stuff.

Sooo yes that's an account of things so far, you know I don't like to keep things from you guys. Let me know when you've read this fully?

Love, Sophia

Posted by seaskimmer 11:31 Tagged people travel hitchhike couchsurf Comments (0)

Beautiful Sunday

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

This song has been running through my head since 8 March, Bruges.

I've been blessed with amazing weather for the past two weeks (it's been two weeks, today!), been warmer than usual with no rain, and brilliant sun and blue skies! Apparently the week before I left (when I was stuffing my face with dim sum, ramen and sushi), it was cold and sort of rainy in West Europe. So it's a real blessing, this weather.

Even in Ireland right now, everyone's telling us how lucky we are to have the sun, because obviously Ireland is know for being notoriously unpredictable and rainy. That's probably what has made the city and scenery so very wonderful. I can't imagine trying to go to Kinsale when it's drizzling. It wouldn't be half so pretty.

Apart from that, I've met so many amazingly nice people, from the people who've helped me find my way around places, those who've gone out of their way to recommend places and stuff. And people who've made extra effort to bring me places. Yay. The world isn't really a terrible place, not all the time at least.

I think in the future I'll be much nicer to foreigners, especially tourists in Singapore. Hold me to that promise, people.

Posted by seaskimmer 16:51 Tagged people weather Comments (0)

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