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 🙂

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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.

SG… Again

So! Singapore, for the third time this year. The #zoocrew reunion, also known as #gagmaskbenderSG 😂  It started off with a 4-way Skype call the night before, each of us giddy with anticipation. Joan landed in Singapore about an hour before I arrived via coach. Upon disembarking the bus, I recklessly dumped my backpack on the ground, smack bang in the middle of a road, simply because I’d waited a month for a hug from a particular person. Kinda glad only a handful of people know who I am on the island. Shortly after, I nearly got bowled over by Joan in Bugis – I swear, for someone so small, she packs a punch. Friday night consisted of super, super haram conversations at Tomo Izakaya, followed by drinks at a little bar in Chinatown.

For some reason, my mind can’t remember what happened on Saturday morning and arvo apart from HP and I eating roti canai at a hawker centre in Clementi. Well done, Rae! =.= We met with the gang for dinner at East Coast Lagoon Food Village and watched the sunset from Bedok Jetty before calling it an early night. On Sunday, we woke up hella early and headed over to USS, where we took the bloody Cylon rollercoaster three times HAHAH! The first two times were terrifying, but we all eased up the third time around. Forking out the extra $$ for our express passes proved to be well worth it as we spent no longer than 20 minutes waiting for our turn at each ride! We ended up going on all the rides, and we repeated a few of them (like the mummy ride). The Sesame Street ride was surprisingly fun; I felt like a kid all over again when I saw Big Bird, Telly Monster, Grover, Cookie Monster, and the other usual suspects. We ran out of steam by the end of the day, so we settled for a simple but tasty meal at a hawker centre a few minutes away from Sandy’s place in Kallang!

Monday consisted of an early trip to the airport to see Joan off with Sandy. Keefe had KOed the night before, so he didn’t show up 😂  Some much-needed downtime at the aquarium followed, and the day ended with some really good beer at Freehouse and a weepy MRT trip to Ang Mo Kio. Again, I’m happy I’m not a local. The next morning, HP and I grabbed a slightly late but hella scrumptious breakkie at Forty Hands. I. Love. Poached. Eggs.The end. The ensuing bus ride up to Seremban was interesting to say the least, but I won’t get into that.

Honestly, this is a very poorly written post. It’s mostly because I found out last Tuesday (my final day in Singapore) that my student visa had been granted, literally 4 weeks after I’d submitted my application at the embassy in KL. Naturally, everything’s a bit of a mess right now because I’m trying to come to terms with leaving home after 7 months and I’m looking for a place to live (beyond my first two weeks in Trier). Aaah. Leaving home never gets any easier. More updates to come (probably).

Ultra SG

When one of your cousins scores free tickets to Ultra Singapore, you go. No questions asked. Just book return bus tickets to and from the little red dot, figure out accommodation, and get stoked as hell to see your family. That’s literally what happened two weekends ago. Chin che ~acquired~ a bunch of tickets for Ultra SG, told jie, and before I knew what was happening, I was in a bus headed down south at 10:30 am on a rainy Friday morning. I think I can safely say that this year, I’ve hit a new record with #YOLO-ing.

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The bus ride was supposed to take just over 4 hours, but due to the holdup at Singapore’s customs, it took about 6 hours. Gah. Though I will say, the journey was pretty smooth on the whole. I had so much leg room! And it was nice to listen to ‘Sweater Weather’ by The Neighbourhood during actual sweater weather for once, since it rained the whole way down.

After hastily checking into G4 Station in Little India, the first order of business was to stop by the Cat Museum with Hai Ping. Because cats!

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The kitten room was fairly populated, not with kittens, but with little kids – which made it a little hard to squeeze in any contact time with the felines, but we managed to give a few of the adults on the other floors of the museum a quick pat. There was this one really fluffy and nua ginger cat that purred like I’ve never heard a cat purr before, though.. I got to give him some chin scritches, which seemed to please him. After trying (and failing) to navigate the MRT, we eventually made our way to Mandarin Gallery, where we had dinner at Sacha & Sons! The latkes with pastrami and hollandaise were so damn tasty.

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If you’re a fan of Scrubs, you’d get the deli reference 😛 We adjourned to Chinatown for beer at Smith Street Taps, which was frankly, a bit of a bitch to locate. Thankfully, the beer more than made up for the long walk we took to find the joint. We called it a night after that, and my first night at the backpacker’s was interesting, to say the least. I slept in an 8-bed mixed room, where 3 of the other occupants were, um, snoring quite loudly. I barely got any sleep, but hey, this is what roughing it out is all about! I’d never stayed at a backpacker’s before. Frankly, I’d do it all over again, sleep disruption and all. 😀

The following day, Hai Ping and I grabbed lunch at Bugis before heading over to Bayfront Avenue, right by Marina Bay Sands, for day numero uno of Ultra SG! We got in fairly quickly since it was still pretty early (just after 2pm, when DubVision were spinning). We walked around a little and checked out the stages that had been set up, as well as the f&b options. It had been 3 years since my last rave, and I’d forgotten how stupidly expensive f&b costs at events like these. SGD 12 for a Carlsberg? Ouch. If I were Australian, I’d say “Oi mate, yeah nah, get fucked.” Probably.

Anyway, it took quite some time for the festival grounds to fill up, partially due to the congestion at the entrance of the venue. My sister, cousin, and their friends were held up in line for over an hour! After everyone had made it in safely, we parked our butts at a sweet little spot not too close to the stage (it was muddy as hell up front), and not too far back either. It was humid, searing hot, crowded, but my God, it was fun. We got to watch W&W, Alesso, Afrojack, DJ Snake, and deadmau5!

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4 out of the 5 Suans in the Ong family 😀 This was taken while Afrojack was spinning! Chin che had bought a VIP ticket for herself, which meant she had access to unlimited drinks – throughout the evening, she brought us Cokes, bottles of coconut water, and water, which would have cost us… a lot of money otherwise. Hahah! Thank goodness for that, truly, because it was so hot out. We’d heard about several patrons passing out from dehydration 😦 Water stations should have been set up across the venue instead of charging patrons 8 dollars for a bottle of Evian; hopefully next year’s festival will take its patrons wellbeing more seriously!

DJ Snake’s set proved to be less than enjoyable, so HP and I went to check out Gryffin, who was performing at the stage at the opposite end of the venue. It wasn’t super crowded, so we actually got to sit down and enjoy his set, which turned out to be far better than I’d ever expected! Once Gryffin wrapped up, we made our way back to the main stage to catch deadmau5. I was surprised to see lots of attendees walking in the opposite direction, though. Maybe a more mainstream act to close the first night would have been a better decision on the organisers’ part, I reckon if they’d swapped Afrojack or Alesso’s spot for deadmau5’s, the crowd would have stayed until the very end.

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Seeing deadmau5 had been on my bucket list for the past five or six years, and now I can gladly cross it off! He played a really, really good set with some oldies like Avaritia, Strobe, and Ghosts N Stuff, along with a couple of tracks that I didn’t recognise. Rumour has it that he’ll be releasing a new album at some point! It was a huge pity that the signature Ultra symbol wasn’t lit up the entire night, supposedly due to a power trip.

After a whole day of standing around, some supper was definitely in order by the end of the night. After wolfing down some chicken rice and fried rice from the coffee shop opposite G4 Station, I managed to score a couple of hours of sleep – once again, the snoring from my roomies kept me awake for most of the night. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as the first night. I should probably also mention that staying at that hostel was my first experience in sleeping on a bunk bed! Gosh. #shelteredaf but hey, I’ve unlocked a new achievement, and for once, I’m happy I’m not taller, because I wouldn’t have been able to sit up comfortably in bed without my head touching the ceiling.

The following day, I ventured over to Orchard Road, where I met Sandy for brekkie!

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We had a very tasty brekkie at Providore in Mandarin Gallery! I loved the decor there. I tried kombucha for the first time (another achievement unlocked), which basically just tasted like diluted apple cider vinegar. Always a grand old time seeing Sandy; belly laughs are guaranteed. The best part is, I’ll be seeing her (along with Keefe and Joan) in just under almost two weeks again!

After brekkie, I nipped back to the hostel to change clothes before HP and I made our way to Bayfront for day two of Ultra. The organisers had taken note of the negative feedback from the event’s patrons (and there was lots), and as a result, there appeared to be more staff present, the queues to enter the venue were better managed as were the f&b queues, and payment processes at the f&b and merch stalls were running smoothly.

The lineup for day 2 that we managed to catch consisted of Jauz, Marshmello, Carnage, Kygo, Above & Beyond, and Axwell ^ Ingrosso. Jauz wasn’t super memorable, but I do recall having a very d’oh moment where I made the connection between the animated sharks on the huge screens and his name… Sharks… Jaws… Jauz… Geddit? HAHAH. Marshmello and Carnage exceeded expectations, but the real fun started from Kygo onwards. It happened to be Kygo’s 25th birthday (what am I doing with my life, foreal), and his set was a nice mellow change from all the untz-untz we’d been listening to. Yay for tropical house!

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The Suans during Kygo’s set 🙂 Just like the evening before, Chin che saved the day (and our wallets) by bringing us drinks – but this evening, we got to have some Moët, on top of water, coconut water, and cider! That said, I stupidly thought I could hold the cup in my mouth steadily to free up my hands, because I needed to take something out of my bag – so of course, I ended up spilling expensive booze on my top. Of course. =_=

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As night fell, Above & Beyond took to the stage. Up until that point, I’d never listened to their music, but the two hours that followed were just incredible. Their entire set was such a pleasant surprise, and Suan Yean and I couldn’t get over how much fun we were having. They didn’t speak to the audience once, instead communicating with us through heartfelt and uplifting (read: cheesy) messages on the giant screens. It was utterly refreshing. And there were none of those horrible countdowns or “Everybody make it bounce!” samples that practically every DJ had included in their sets prior to Above & Beyond.. just solid music. I’m not sure if it was because this was the first taste I’ve had of their music or if it was the atmosphere or the combination of both, but Above & Beyond’s set made me feel something I hadn’t felt before. Truly one of a kind, these Brits.

After a whole day of waiting for my favourite acts to close the festival, Axwell (sans Ingrosso, who had an ear infection) started his set just after 9pm. It was incredible! Despite his sidekick being AWOL, Axwell held the fort. I nearly lost it when he played ‘Barricade’, I was ecstatic when he teased us with oldies like ‘Greyhound’, ‘One’, and ‘Antidote’, I danced my heart out when he played ‘Sun Is Shining’ and ‘Something New’. He even played ‘Levels’ by Avicii at one point, which was definitely a crowd-pleaser. I hadn’t danced (flailed, really) like that in ages! My only regret is not recording more videos on my phone because I was dancing so much. Well, there was that, and my phone was running out of space. Don’t get a 16GB phone, guys! The music, thumping bass, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and excitement from the crowd made for an incredible sensory experience. Words don’t do it justice!

90 glorious minutes later, Axwell ended his set, there was a mad rush to leave the venue. The hold-up was massive; like a tin of sardines, if you will. Apparently 30000 (or 45000, depending on the source) people turned up, so you can picture the amount of human traffic involved. We were all squished up against each other for what felt like eternity, when in actual fact it was probably just ten minutes or so. A lot of patrons were audibly unhappy with the security present, shouting about how they were inept at their job, but hey! They were doing they best they could under the circumstances. In any case, most of us split off once we’d exited the venue as we were heading to different parts of the island. Hai Ping and I headed to the little coffee shop opposite my hostel, where I managed to meet up with an old pal from SSI, Zaky!

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He’d just returned to JB after graduating from the University of Melbourne not long ago, but he was in the area because he had a date with a chick 😛 We both look horribly tired and unglam here, but we’d both had a really long day! The last time I saw Zaky was by sheer chance in KLIA before we both boarded the same flight to Seoul about 3 years ago, so it was really quite lovely to see him and hang out with him briefly before he had to catch the last train and bus home.

Side note: the top three most played songs throughout Ultra SG were, in no particular order, ‘No Money’ by Galantis, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ by Calvin Harris and Disciples, and ‘This Is What You Came For’ by Calvin Harris and Rihanna (plus TSwizzle). I’ll admit, hearing the same three tunes in almost every act’s set was a bit annoying after a while.

Fast forward a few hours to my last full day in Singapore 😦 The original plan was for us to do the TreeTop Walk in MacRitchie Reservoir, but I was dead tired from the weekend and it was raining in the morning – so we decided to spend the day at the ArtScience Museum instead! But first, food. Pancakes, to be exact. With this happy goon 🙂

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Our little adventure to the museum was heaps of fun! We found a nifty little slide which was surprisingly fun to zoom down, failed at art (refer to our crappy turtle below), and I touched way too many things that I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to touch (fml).

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Overall, it was swell! I enjoy visiting museums in foreign countries whenever I can – but I haven’t even paid a visit to Malaysia’s national museum in KL, hahahahah. Fail! I met with sis for dinner at JiBiru, followed by my very first taste of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (super late to the party, I know I know, don’t remind me), and a glass of riesling at Wine Connection on Cuppage Rd. Not a bad way to spend my last night in Singapore, I reckon! 🙂

That brings us to my final day of the whirlwind trip! Hai Ping and I met up for brekkie, and we wandered around Haji Lane in search of a joint that was open. We didn’t find very many options, but we did grab some iced coffee from CAD Café!

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In the end, we settled for some hella tasty shawarma from House of Kebab along Arab St. The portions were huge and I couldn’t finish mine so I doggy bagged it for the bus ride home. The journey up north was largely uneventful and the bus wasn’t even half full – but it was nice to have some downtime after spending almost every waking hour around people!

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Cheers to you, Singapore, for one hell of a weekend. I couldn’t have asked for more – family, friends, food, and a couple of nice surprises thrown in. I’ll be back in 15 days! 😀