Berlin

A lesson in independence and exploring unfamiliar places on my own. Unexpected surprises, hidden gems, museum-hopping, getting my long overdue doses of Starbucks, and having fireworks explode at my feet along the streets of Kreuzberg when the clock struck midnight. Being thrown into a city of >6 million people was a small shock to the system at first (Trier has just under 120k people), but it quickly proved to be a lot less intimidating than I had expected. A good start to the year?

Yes. Yes indeed.

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Adieu, 2016

Welp, that’s another year done and dusted! I will say this – 2016 didn’t fly by nearly as quickly as previous years. I think I can attribute this to spending most of the year bumming around at home. I’d also like to think that while 2016 was fairly taxing in terms of emotional and mental wellbeing (I’m looking at you, grad school applications), it the past year wasn’t as draining as 2015. There were far more good times than there were bad/sad ones.

Watching the fireworks at midnight with Fahmi and Akif by the boats in Hobart. Trying not to die from climbing the steps during the Cape Hauy bushwalk. Wiping away tears as I walked away from Eric’s house, minutes after saying goodbye to him and Pushka. Nearly going deaf from the David Bowie tribute gig with Jess and Mel. Forcing myself to take breathe slowly through my BCD while marvelling at all the underwater life around me. Being in denial over the fact that I’ve left Tassie for good. Losing sleep over lengthy phone calls with Evan and laughing at the never-ending clinking and clanging of pots and pans while he worked. Breaking down as my sister and I changed clothes in our dad’s car immediately after our grandfather’s cremation. Feeling my stomach churn as I inched closer to the roller coaster at Universal Studios Singapore. Walking around in literal circles as Fahmi, Amir, and I struggled to find the door to dal.komm at IOI Mall. Nearly crying when Seb and Xhulia surprised me with a birthday cake. Actually crying as I hugged Jess, Grace, and Mel at the airport. Watching movies at home or at the mall with dad. Annoying mum in the kitchen. Hanging out with Joan and Keefe via Skype, leaping from one wild topic to another and joking about how we’re all going to hell for being so unholy. Shrieking with joy upon spotting Gabs coming around the corner for an impromptu catchup. Hauling the massive box containing my Ikea desk out of the post office, onto and off the bus, and up the staircase in my block (and silently laughing at myself).Watching the night lights of Kuala Lumpur as the plane heading towards London ascended into the troposphere. Downing Moët and coconut water with my sister and cousins during Ultra amidst the noise and stuffy air. Eating my first currywurst while strolling around the Weihnachtsmarkt.

All these and so much more. My heart is so full, in the most bittersweet way. 2016 has been humbling. 2017.. Ágætis byrjun.

Loving, leaving, longing

A while back, my sister and I were about to cross a busy road after having wine at some joint along Cuppage Rd, Singapore. We were talking about romantic relationships — the ups, the downs, and everything in between. I told her about this one theory I firmly believe in: that there’s at least one take-home message from every relationship (and every almost-relationship) you’ve ever been in. Sometimes these nuggets of wisdom don’t sink in until much later, but sometimes they hit you once the relationship disintegrates, whatever the reason may be.

For me, these lessons have been:

Stick up for yourself, even if it means disagreeing with your partner. Love and faith alone are not enough to sustain a happy and healthy relationship (optimists will disagree). Trust your partner. Despite the fact that it’s difficult to do, acknowledging when things aren’t working out is best for both parties. The transition from lovers to friends/almost strangers never gets less shitty nor frustrating, but it’s just part of the entire healing process. It is better to not get involved with anyone at all if you can’t fully invest in them. Work on your issues with double standards. Be your own person; you don’t need someone to complete you, only someone who complements you. Hindsight is almost always 20/20. Too much of a good thing is bad for you (yes, even laughter). Know your worth. Don’t lose yourself in the process of making others happy.

On an unrelated note, after a lot of flailing and whining about what to do over the Christmas/NY break, I decided to bite the bullet and head to Berlin for a few days at the end of December. Transport to and from Berlin has been booked, as well as my stay at a backpacker’s close to the city. I like Trier, but I think it would be a pity if I stayed here the entire time school’s out. André has provided me with a list of at least fifteen places to check out while I’m in the area, which is a bit of a tall order.. But I’m super stoked to explore Berlin on my own 🙂

Level 24 reached

Finally, an even-numbered birthday! The irrational part of my brain can calm down a little bit now. Frankly, it’s just like any other Saturday. Except this time, I’m blatantly refusing to do anything uni-related. It was an overcast day in Trier today, and I spent a few hours walking around town with my camera. I popped by the Trierer Drom, Konstantinbasilika, and Palastgarten after having the biggest kimchi don of my life at Chibi-ya. Needless to say, the streets bustled with people since it’s the weekend, and the Weihnachtsmarkt is on — despite this, it was nice to zone out and have time to myself, away from campus and my studio.

The overall aim was to have minimal interactions with humans and I think I achieved that nicely; but tonight’s a different story. Séb insisted on cooking dinner (tartiflette, to be exact), so Xhulia and I are hanging out at his place tonight and watching LOTR: The Two Towers! Even though Trier doesn’t feel like home yet, I’m certainly glad to have people here that I know I can count on. Last night, Séb, Xhulia, Sooyeon, Melody, and I met up at the Weihnachtsmarkt with a bunch of others (some from the MSc Environmental Sciences program in later semesters, and one chick doing the MSc International Economics) and explored what the market had to offer. I think Glühwein is my new favourite beverage, foreal. I didn’t expect it to be so strong, though!

While eating lunch earlier, I wondered when I first started viewing Tassie as one of my homes. My guess is it was probably sometime in 2011, and the realisation definitely didn’t hit me like a slap to the face. Trier though? I’m a bit skeptical. Granted, I’ve only been here for a month, and goodness knows you can’t rush these things. (I feel like this has been a recurring topic in recent posts. I’ll try to shut up about this)

In any case, my family is healthy and happy (the parentals are currently in Perth), and that’s all I want for my birthday, really. S/o to my sis for asking for a sibling, and s/o to my parents for giving in to her request. 🙂

Vierzehn Tage

Some thoughts from my brain machine after spending fourteen days here.

Classes have been much tougher than I’d anticipated. Yes, this is grad school. Yes, it probably doesn’t help that my brain was essentially lying dormant for the past seven months. Yes Toto, we’re not in Tassie Kansas anymore. There’s a lot more math and physics involved. Lectures aren’t recorded, so missing class isn’t really an option anymore. We’re using RStudio again but I’ve always been a bit crappy understanding the script. We’re also using things like Vensim, Stella, and Erdas Imagine, which I’m completely unfamiliar with. Also, it’s customary for students in a class to knock on the tables in a classroom with their knuckles at the end of every class. Why? I have no clue. Apparently it’s like applause, but not.

I’m taking 6 modules (excluding the introduction courses for MSc ES students like myself, and the interdisciplinary stats refresher for Masters students) for this semester, instead of 4, which is the usual case for most Australian universities. Oh, and did I mention that some classes start at 8am, and some run until 8pm? These Germans are hardcore. My timetable, apart from Monday, is pretty packed.

Food at the cafeteria is insanely cheap, at least compared to what I was paying for on-campus f&b at UTAS. You can get soup, a main, a salad, and fruit/dessert for under 3 Euro. Even coffee from the not-as-shitty-as-I-thought vending machine is 90 cents. It doesn’t look like mochas or chai lattes are a thing here.

My studio’s fairly cosy. My couch doubles as a bed, which means I have more space for a desk and closet. My kitchen doesn’t have an extractor hood so the entire apartment smells like food whenever I cook. But my shower cubicle was recently refurbished and the studio’s warm at night (while it’s 1 degree out), and honestly, I’m looking forward to making it as homey as possible. Can’t wait to set up my photo wall 🙂

As far as social life goes, I’ve made a handful of pals in my cohort. There’s Séb, Tash, Bettina, Sooyeon, and Feli. Unfortunately, I feel like my relationships with family and friends have been put on the backburner due to my schedule and the time differences. I haven’t properly talked to my parents/sister in what feels like forever, and not having a stable internet connection at home only makes things worse. That said, I’m signing up for an internet contract tomorrow (but apparently it’ll still take a couple of weeks for everything to be set up).

Life here is good. Uni is being one tough sucker, but I have a lot, and I mean a lot to be grateful for.

Hallo, Trier

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Today is my sixth day in Trier. How has it already been almost a week? How? Life has been fairly hectic since dad and I arrived. From having trouble locating my Airbnb (because there are several buildings located at Zeughausstraße 8), to being utterly taken aback by the language barrier, braving the public transport system solo, attempting to navigate my uni’s campus, encountering problems at the bank due to my lack of a permanent address, looking for a flat to move into, and crying during Skype calls for the first four days here.

Having dad around definitely helped. He left Trier today and is now in a plane headed towards Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. I miss our meals together, but most of all, our quiet walks back to my Airbnb at night. Now I’m properly alone in this new and scary and exciting and beautiful town, and my emotions are all over the place.

I miss home. I miss my parents and my sister. I miss my girls and my bros. I miss my friends from Tassie, and the little family we made for ourselves all those years. I miss eating homecooked food (eating out for a week is making me feel sluggish). But I am warming up to Trier, despite the cold that hits like a slap to the face when I leave my apartment every morning. The autumn colours are stunning, ancient Roman ruins are scattered around town, people are generally friendly (though perhaps not as warm as Australians), there are bakeries everywhere, and the architecture is brilliant. Vineyards are aplenty and wine is cheap — 2€ for a glass at the little pop-up bar in town.

Current hurdles to clear include but are not limited to: sourcing furniture for my flat, adapting to the huge differences between UTAS and Universität Trier, catching up on lecture material that I’ve missed out on, getting an internet contract for my flat, and adapting to the time difference between Trier and KL/Singapore/Perth. I will be okay in due time, I am sure of this. The huge issue though, is not knowing when I will be okay.

That being said, I have an insanely awesome support system. Fama + jie, HP, Jess + Mel + Grace, Evan, Joan + Keefe + Sandy, Fahmi + Amir… You guys are the reason I haven’t lost my marbles. Thanks for listening to me rant via text/Skype/Twitter, and for reminding me time after time that I will be fine.

Two years in Trier. Here we go.

T-24 hours

It is 2345. In 24 hours, I’ll be in a Boeing 787-900 operated by British Airways headed to Heathrow Airport in London. The flight will take approximately 13 hours and 20 minutes, and judging by the seat map, it’s pretty full. I’m scheduled to arrive in London at 0530h local time and I have 3 hours until my next flight to Luxembourg, which should take slightly over an hour. Following that, I have an hour-long bus ride to Trier. I should arrive in Trier no later than 1500 local time.

I’m terrified. Not as terrified as I was over the past week, but still terrified. Now I’m mostly sad. Sad about saying goodbye to my family and friends. Sad about leaving my comfort zone. Sad about no longer having tasty homecooked food, or even mamak, for that matter. Sad about not being able to ring up my friends and plan meetups. Sad about the impending 6-hour time difference that will inevitably affect my relationships to some extent. Sad about being so goddamn far from home (why am I doing this again?). Sad about potentially not making it home in time, should something horrible happen to any of my loved ones. Sad about causing other people’s sadness in seeing me leave.

Over the past seven (almost eight) months, I’ve been fortunate enough to say goodbye to my grandfather, witness a dear cousin tie the knot, spend time with extended family on both sides, share the joy in the births of three babies, attend a friend’s wedding, learn how to drive and dive (though not simultaneously), breathe life back into old friendships, and strengthen existing ones. I am immensely grateful for the memories I’ve made in my not-so-short stint at home, and I look forward to making new ones in Trier, albeit with some trepidation.

Here goes nothing.