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!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

5 Things NOT To Do After Returning From Abroad

I'm beginning to feel like my time in Singapore is nearly over.  I'm headed to Hong Kong tomorrow, coming back to Singapore for a day, going to see Justin Bieber in KL, then it's my last week of class, then I'm going to Bali for a week, then I have finals, then Bangkok, back to Singapore, and finally Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and HOME.  Though this is all happening over 2 months, I have no doubt that it's going to fly by.  It's pretty crazy to think about considering I feel like I just got here.  I can still vividly remember the feeling of my Mom leaving me in the hotel room at 3am in the morning.  I was still jet-lagged so my body forced me to stay awake and deal with the emotional train that hit me right when she left.  I was all alone in a new country on the opposite side of the world from what I then called home without a clue of what to expect.

I like to think I've come a long way since then.  Of course this is extremely cliché, but I feel like a much more cultured person.  HOWEVER, I can't help but think that I will be extremely annoying based on an article I stumbled upon about 5 Things NOT To Do After Returning From Abroad - tips for successful reentry to the US after studying abroad.  This is a little premature, but I thought it was funny because of the truth in it.  I can already here myself beginning every comment I make with "Well, when I was in Singapore/ Thailand/ The Philippines/ Indonesia/ etc...."  I think that my many friends abroad right now will find humor in this too.  Let's try to not get on each other's nerves when we all get back ;)

Article: 5 Things NOT To Do After Returning From Abroad

I'll do my best, but let me just apologize in advance for everything that I may say or do that is extremely annoying.  You have my permission to slap me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Singapore Cinema Experience

Singaporeans love watching movies and going to the cinema.  Many people do it to get inside and cool off from the hot and humid weather outside (or the random down-pour that occurs daily).  I often justify going to the movies by telling myself it's a "cultural experience".  However, it doesn't really make sense to me as to why it's so popular.  From my experiences at the theatre, I've found that they are uncomfortably cold, LOUD LOUD LOUD, and I don't even get to pick my own seat.

Another thing that irks me a little bit is that mainstream movies come out much later than in the US.  The reason for this is the intense censorship process in Singapore, which focuses mainly on sexual, political, racial, and religious issues.  My roommate is taking an Asian film class and she learned that in Singapore, they won't allow movies that promote equal rights for same-sex couples.  The delay is also in part due to subtitling in Chinese.

I apologize if I'm getting annoying by talking about Justin Bieber all the time, but I'm going to see him in concert in ONE WEEK!  I'm just so excited.  Anyways, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never came out in the US on February 11th.  It comes out in Singapore tomorrow.  That's TWO MONTHS of delay.  What on earth could they possibly find offensive in a Justin Bieber movie?  (This question is meant to be a rhetorical question.  I don't want to hear your jokes about his music offending you haha)

I was able to see the Justin Bieber movie today in a "sneak preview" and needless to say I loved it, but I'll spare you the details.  I saw it by myself, which was actually a really fun and awkward experience.  I encourage you all to go see a movie by yourself.  When the movie first started I was SO excited and thought, "I wish someone was here with me to share the experience!"  Then, I ended up crying in the movie so I'm kind of glad I went by myself haha.

Well that's my 2 cents about movies in Singapore.  Speaking of money, the movies are cheaper by about $3 USD, if not more.  I plan on diverging from the mainstream movies and viewing an Asian movie soon.  They're pretty weird from what I've seen and heard from my roommate, but I guess it's all part of the experience!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Never say never

...DARY!  Justin Bieber is going to be LEGENDARY!

In life, when someone tells me I cannot, should not, and especially do not do something, I often see it as a challenge.  I think that's common in a lot of people, but I really want to prove them wrong.  What I find a bit odd is that when I tell myself that I'm not going to do something, I think I'm subconsciously challenging myself.  I think this is a good thing and the reason why I love trying new things.  I love proving myself wrong and telling myself "I can do anything, don't tell me what I can and cannot do" (yes, I know that's strange).

Many of you may know how much I love long hair.  I love being able to twirl it, curl it, braid it, whip it, etc.  Well I recently found myself saying "I'd never cut my hair short."  I think you know where I'm going with this... Challenge accepted.  I got my hair cut!  AHH!  The last time I had short hair was probably in the 5th grade...

Cheese!  I don't know why I didn't cut it sooner, I look so good.
But trust me, it wasn't easy.  I hate my hair in Singapore though, so I just figured it couldn't get any worse.  I was literally twitching in my chair as the stylist was chopping.  One thing I hate more than anything is when your hair stylist doesn't listen to your requests, but it turned out okay?  I'm not sure on my opinion on it yet.  Definitely going to take some getting used to.  Rest assured to my Dad and the rest of you haters, it will grow back.

My best reenactment.
So there's a valuable life lesson learned from my idol and the ever-wise 17-year-old, Justin Bieber.  Never say never ;)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Remember when I said that Singapore has the cleanest bathrooms in the world in my 'Say Uncle' blog post?  Well, I take it back.  That's all I'm going to say.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Welcome to the good life

There are many hotels and places in Singapore that come to mind when I think "luxury".  I find downtown Singapore to be an extremely classy place.  Even when I'm just walking around there I feel refined and elegant.  Marina Bay Sands is at the top of that luxury list.  The hotel includes a shopping mall, an ice skating rink, a theatre, a plethora of dining options, a casino, an Art Science Museum, and a Skypark complete with 3 olympic-sized swimming pools, jacuzzis, and a priceless view of the city.  You might recognize the hotel from an earlier post of mine where I talked about how I wanted to stay there!  WELL... after a long search of finding the absolute cheapest price through travel agents for a 2 person room, on Friday (April 8) Emma, Cass, and I took a break from our fairly budgeted yet very blessed exchange student lives and stepped into the life of luxury for 22 hours.

Activities of our slumber party included:
  • pretending to be super rich kids while lounging on the skypark deck next to the pool on the 57th story

  • taking endless photo shoots documenting the view

I didn't get the memo about the leg pop.

  • enjoying freshly made bruschetta (by Cass), tasteful cheeses, olives, and French bread
so classy
  • pushing our two double beds together to make a large, incredibly comfortable super bed with fluffy pillows and blankets :)
Good morning!

Just being silly.
  • devouring complementary macaroons that we were delightfully surprised to find in our room after our pool session
  • walking around the mall and looking at things far out of our price range
  • testing the perfume, makeup, and nail polish in Sephora

  • wearing our hotel robes and slippers everywhere we could

  • hanging out by the bay admiring the view of the city that never ceases to amaze me

Marina Bay Sands
  • tearing up to a chick-flick
  • eating endless amounts of food at the included breakfast buffet
  • sipping on fresh lime, lemon, or orange infused water
To wrap it up, it was a very fun and much-need girls night (with a guest appearance from Alex and Toby, but what's a girls night without boys?).  I'm soooo grateful for all the things I get to experience!