Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

The semester is coming to a quick end and I'm getting excited to make my final run at Southeast Asia (for now that is) before heading home.  It hit me today that the people I've been spending the past 5 months with will all eventually be returning home to various parts around the world.  The relationships I built with my friends were extremely accelerated.  Halfway through the semester I felt like I knew these people my whole life, but it's not hard to accomplish when your spending everyday together getting lost in unfamiliar cities, trying Asian mystery foods that may or may not give you food poisoning, getting sun burnt at the pool, riding elephants, enjoying each others company, and pretty much anything that means avoiding schoolwork.

I've learned some crucial life lessons from my friends.  Did you know that not all Australians surf?  They do have some pretty interesting slang, though.  The word for 'Hello' in Swedish is 'Hej', pronounced 'Hey'.  I have a new obsession for cappuccino thanks to my Dutch friend and I can now stand to drink a beer thanks to my German friend.  As amazing as an experience it has been, it would be nothing if it weren't for the people I had the privilege to share it with.  We all come from different parts of the world, but we're really not all that different.  Thanks for everything guys!  I love you all.

Shout out to Per Wettergren and the Freckled King.

Buddy pic.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hungry Ghost?

So I've never heard of the term 'hungry ghost', but according to wikipedia: "Hungry ghost is a Western translation of an Eastern phrase representing beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way."  This video is from a couple of years ago, but I can tell you from first hand experience that this is exactly what happens at this library every morning during finals week at opening time.  What you don't see is that when the students enter the library, they start sprinting to get the spots they want.  Tables with plugs are in high demand.  You can also hear the Singaporean accent in this video!  Pretty crazy, huh?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Pain is temporary, GPA is forever."

I always knew that studies here were taken very seriously, but I may have underestimated just how much.  Finals are a short week away and the vibe on campus feels panicky and intense.  I even started to get a little overwhelmed, but I was able to finish up my work before today, which is my last day of class at NTU!  It's bittersweet (but mostly just sweet) and I can't believe the semester is nearly over.

I received an e-mail that was sent out to my entire hall from one of the residence hall directors regarding the upcoming finals.  The quote in the post title was the dramatic climax.  I read the e-mail in the library and broke the silence with my uncontrollable laughter, which resulted in countless dirty glares (my b).  The rest of the e-mail included phrases like "we're all in this together!" and "let's all help each other!" and "love your hall friends, love your neighbors, and love your roomies!".  I think the email was meant to be encouraging, but that was far from the emotion I felt whilst reading it.  This wasn't said directly, but this is what I got out of the message: 'We understand that you're all very stressed right now with finals... and you should be.  Your GPA is THE most important thing in your life right now and forever.  But hey, at least you're not alone because you're all competing to get the best marks.'

Inspiring, right?  Though I found the email humorous, to most of the students of NTU this is no laughing matter.  With many extracurricular activites ending in March because exams were approaching and the countless posters that have been hung up for weeks now wishing luck for the exams, it's clear these students are not messing around.  I've arrived at the library at about 8:45 the past couple of mornings (it opens at 8:30) and by 9am there's not a single free table.  In my past two days at the library, I've put in about 20 hours of work.  woo woo!  Feels like home, but the only reason I've been buried in the books is because I'm about to take a week long trip to Bali, Indonesia before finals while they continue to put in 12 hour days of studying.

I feel like I should be more worried about my finals, but I'll leave the worrying for when I return from Bali :)

The Justin Bieber Experience

I know I'm going a little Overboard with the whole Justin Bieber thing, but Baby I am still SOOO Stuck in the Moment of the concert.  I Pray that I can come back Down to Earth soon.  Because Cass really does Love Me, we were able to find a Common Denominator and she agreed to take a Ride in a plane to Malaysia with me to see him!  I never thought I'd see him in concert, but now I know to Never Say Never.  It was a One Time experience and it's definitely Up there on my list of highlights!  Regardless of what beef people have about Justin Bieber, I think he's very talented and was Born to be Somebody.  Seeing him in Malaysia made me realize that he has a Bigger impact on people than I thought.  The audience was diverse with people of all ages and nationalities.  It wasn't just little girls, but he does seem to make every girl feel like his Favorite Girl with his song lyrics that are a little beyond his years.  The concert was also extremely affordable because it was in Malaysia so we had GREAT seats and I didn't have to be a Rich Girl to get them.  Well my Bieber Fever is at an all time high and along with millions of other girls, I'm a little bummed he didn't Pick Me (he's currently dating Selena Gomez, I still think That Should Be Me ;)).  So if you're looking for Somebody to Love or something to make U Smile, no need for Eenie Meenie, give some Justin Bieber music a chance and you'll be One Less Lonely Girl :) (or boy).  Seeing the Biebs in concert is even more evidence against my ultimate question, "Is this real life?"  I'm still living the dream and This Dream is too Good.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Always do what you are afraid to do."
                                                     -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I hope you can all hear my enthusiasm in the title, which is just my first attempt to express how much I loved Hong Kong.  When I came on exchange, I made it one of my goals to go to Hong Kong.  There was no real reason behind that except I love big cities and it's definitely a change of pace from places like Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia.  I knew this weekend would probably be my last chance to visit HK before the semester ended, but the timing wasn't right for any of my friends to come with because of other planned trips or families coming to visit (jealous).  I'm not one to travel alone because I think it's boring, but luckily my friend Kristin is studying there right now who kept me company as we explored parts of Hong Kong that she hadn't even seen yet!

To be honest, I didn't know much about Hong Kong before I got there except that it was a big city that I wanted to visit!  I was pretty surprised to fly in and find that there are mountains ALL around as well as bodies of water that separate Hong Kong into different islands.  The trip started out with amazing view #1 of Hong Kong on top of the IFC mall where we ate dinner.  We then headed to Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), which is THE place to be when the sun goes down.  The area was packed with clubs, bars, restaurants, and  people of all ages.  It's a great place to people watch.  Then came along amazing view #2 of Hong Kong which was on top of a rooftop bar in LKF.  We didn't stop dancing until they kicked us out, but when we went outside I wouldn't have guessed it was 5am because the streets were still packed with people and most of the food places were 24 hours.

Despite our long night, we woke up at 10am to see the sights!  A personal favorite of the trip was the Dim Sum place we went to for breakfast called Maxim's Palace.  It was very classy and they even served it the traditional way on trolleys.  The next tourist attraction was the Star Ferry.  Nothing too crazy, just an exciting, quick, and cheap ferry ride to get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon (and vice-versa) with a nice view (but not amazing).  From there, the day was filled with street markets in Mongkok, malls, the Hong Kong Heritage museum where we saw a Pixar exhibit, and visiting Kristin's campus, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.  Oh, and let's not forget our brave venture of tasting stinky tofu!  I had heard of stinky tofu before, but never smelt or tasted it.  It was pretty easy to recognize when the scent hit my nostrils.  We both tried it and decided it wasn't for us, but it seemed like the locals went crazy for it.  Yet another Asian food mystery along with the durian that I will just never understand.  Why eat something when it smells that bad?  Don't they know that the sensation of flavor is actually a combination of taste and smell?  Another less daring food attempt was bird's nest.  Eating "bird's nest" is a Chinese delicacy.  I know what you're thinking... twigs and sticks and feathers and leaves, but that's not what it is.  I'm not exactly sure of all the ingredients, but I know a large part of it it bird's saliva.  That might not sound much more appetizing, but we cheated and had it in a frozen mango drink, so I couldn't tell you what it actually tastes like.  Finally, we ended the day with some VERY fresh seafood.  Fun fact of the day: At many Chinese restaurants, it is common and necessary for you to wash your own dishes with hot water that they provide.  I was an amateur, but at least Kristin knew what was going on.

Dim Sum at Maxim's
Chinese medicine shop
Near the Ladies' market in Mongkok
Stinky tofu
Pixar exhibit

The next morning, we were up at 6:30am!  This time it wasn't because we were out partying, but to take a stroll through the Botanical and Zoological Gardens to watch many people practice Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art!  This was another highlight of my trip.  One guy even had a sword he was doing some moves with.  We weren't gutsy enough to join in on the fun, but it was worth seeing.  After going back to sleep, we took a walking tour of the Western district.  This included some really nice malls, some really random and weird malls, riding the double decker trams (which are often called 'Ding Ding' because of the noise they make), watching fishes get ruthlessly smashed and scaled at the Sheung Wan Market, and seeing the many neighborhoods of Hong Kong.  We visited the Man Mo Temple where I REALLY wanted to get my fortune told, but it cost a fortune (pun intended)!  I also got the chance to try some great egg tarts, which originated in Hong Kong as well as a cup of coffee that took about five minutes to brew by siphon making it "deliciously smooth".  I am far from a coffee connoisseur, but it was good.  To end the day, we walked along avenue of the stars where the only stars I knew were Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and then watched 'A Symphony of Lights' - Hong Kong's skyline light show.  The Hong Kong skyline is THE most impressive skyline I have ever seen and watching the light show was amazing view #3.  Very beautiful.

Tai chi at the botanical gardens
Haha. Ew. Welcome to China.
Egg tart.  nom nom nom.
World's longest covered escalators in SoHo.

About half of the skyline. nbd.

After the light show, Kristin and I had a little farewell dinner at a sushi place, something we both have a love for.  I'm so glad she was able to spend the weekend with me and show me around Hong Kong.  She was great company and it was fantastic to see a familiar face on this side of the world.  My final day there I was off to fend for myself.  I headed up to Victoria Peak for amazing view #4.  It was a beautiful day, but things were a little hazy.  I'm not sure if it was just the Hong Kong pollution or if it was just foggy.  Either way, it was still pretty.  After the peak I strolled around Hong Kong Park and people watched.  It was gorgeous.  I loved being in a garden with flowers and waterfalls, and then looking around me and seeing sky scrapers.

At the peak!

Above and below: Hong Kong Park

In conclusion, Hong Kong is awesome.  Hands down, one of my favorite places in Asia thus far.  I feel like I could live there.  It has a lot of culture, and I love the hustle and bustle of the city life.  It's visually stunning with the modern skyscrapers combined with mountains and Victoria Harbor.  SO glad I made the last minute trip.

More pics here:  CLICK ME!!!