Growing up, I realised there was an odd disconnect between my mind and my body.  My mind thinks I can do great things that my body, realistically, cannot. My mind thinks I can achieve great feats, but my body just cannot (without the proper diet and consistent training). My body will signal pains, aches and injuries to me, but my mind will not believe them. Excuses, they say, but I cannot tell what is real from what is made up.

I do know one thing for sure, though: When I sneeze twice in a row, my immunity system is compromised and I will likely be down with a cold/flu soon. I know this because I very rarely sneeze, and this is a consistent  pattern I first noticed when I was in poly: After two consecutive sneezes, I fall ill. And about 10 minutes ago, I sneezed. Twice.

Me falling sick comes as no surprise. The past few days have been direly long and hectic travelling back and forth across the island to various locations for various purposes. E.g. Go home to collect stationary/laptop/spare clothes, go Buona Vista to help out for LCG, go Paya Lebar to catch PF, flittering from site to even further sites for job interviews. In hindsight, it was a mistake to schedule interviews during an eventful weekend, but I didn’t foresee to be so involved in them. Regardless, I finished whatever I could and attended the interviews (both late, both after very busy events, sadly). I don’t think my interviewers were pleased about that, but I did the best I could in such circumstances.

If it is meant to be yours, my mother told me, it will be yours. I suppose this is the Asian mother’s equivalent of the Latin phrase que sera, sera.

Funny enough, in retrospect, I wonder why I dedicated considerable time and resources to an event / purpose I do not bother much about or believe in anymore. It was a sacrifice, but I must remind myself that I ultimately chose to do so to support someone (not so much of the cause). I hope it was worth it for him, in the end.

In other news: Transend coming – too weak, haven’t trained proper, and the spare tyres around my midsection and thighs are solidifying themselves. And my Hanoi post-trip blues are not going away as fast as I’d like. I keep looking out for blue skies, only to be met with grey ones. Still looking, though. There are silver linings everywhere.

 

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To just be.

I’d like to think I’m aware of each second that ticks by but in the whole scheme of things, time is a concept I fail to grasp and treasure completely– like every other mundane day, it melts into a forgotten blur. Already I can’t remember what I ate this Tuesday. Urgency, on the other hand, is real. More assignments and impending adulthood? What joy! 

It’d almost be completely hopeless if I tried to pinpoint the exact moment when I caught myself spacing out amidst the busy chaos that is the later parts of September and early October. Though I cannot remember when, I remember what I caught myself thinking about subconsciously:

My mind didn’t drift off to a past image or memory, but to a specific sound. For those who have ever travelled in an airplane, I found myself disconnected from the real world, from my body and conscious surroundings and listening to the muted hum of an aeroplane mid-flight – when you’re seated next to the window seat at the wing area, the outside scenery is nothing but blue and there is a certain quiet except for the muffled jet engines outside, working hard and spinning fast, bringing you to your next destination.

Waiting.

I was on my final way back from exchange. I was on my way back to Singapore from an adventure that lasted five and a half months. London to Dubai, Dubai back to Singapore. I was on my way back to friends, family, him. I stayed awake during that 8-hour flight, waves of emotions crashing down on me one after another. It’s the feeling of going back to familiarity, a routine you mastered and perfected, everything will be the same just as you’ve left it. It’s the feeling of leaving something behind, something you once struggled with but eventually accustomed, grew to love too much all too fast. Nothing is the same.

Perhaps it is the nostalgia of exchange, the carefree jet-setter couchsurfing lifestyle, that I subconsciously pine for. That melancholic sound of muffled jet engines – so vivid! – reminds me of flying. I was in the plane on the way back, in between territorial air and land spaces – neither here nor there – I could just be. Just be what? Just be where? Neither. Just be. It brings back such lovingly painstaking memories that was the wonderful half of this year, now drawing to its close. Onto the next one I say. More adventures and life events to come, more achievements to unlock, more tragedies to befall and more lessons to learn.


September has been eventful. The front parts are a little blurry to me but more relatively recent bits are fresh in my mind.

Man. Cat.

His 22nd birthday. Last year’s surprise executed for him (first time celebrating his birthday in our relationship) was a pleasant one, albeit the process was arduous and backfired on me a little so nope, swore off that plan (long story) – decided to send him on a fun little amazing race instead :D, with FOC-inspired clues thrown in the mix. Home to Bounce to Bugis, small decrypting of codes and mini tasks involved.

Boyfriends deserve to be spoilt too. Probably blew half my wallet and midterm out of the water because I dedicated so much time to plan and execute this day rather than study but I regret nothing. Then again I haven’t seen my results yet so maybe

He said he enjoyed it, and that is success enough for me.

Then the weekend came.

PPC2016

Poor photo quality aside – Entered the Public Policy Challenge 2016 alongside Cheryl, Hameed and Thasneem, my incredibly capable teammates. And despite the clashes in trying to come together physically to fulfil the requirements of the Challenge (more essays, readings and case studies galore!) – we pulled through and emerged as one of the four Champions through our essays and presentations.

We honestly didn’t expect to win. Seriously, we didn’t. We did try our hardest and consulted our assigned mentor (Ms Denise Tan, one insanely cool and competent lady) on how our proposed policies would help the state and its people in the coming of the digitised economy, but during all the presentations we felt ours was inadequate and nowhere near their creative ideas that harnessed the full capacity of technology (or, that was how I personally felt).

Imagine our surprise when they called out our names as the final champions. TEAM PASTA FTW! (Lol yes that was our name. Would you rather Team Curry? Cause we love that too.)

All in all, despite the shelving of other responsibilities and commitments to focus on the essay-writing and presentation-preparing aspects, it is a glorious feeling when your hard work really pays off in the end. I have nothing but gratitude to be able to partake in this opportunity – learning more about the public policy processes in Singapore, how the planning and execution goes, objectives at stake. Far from perfect, but always, always looking to improve. My only criticism is the need to take into account Sociology and the unintended consequences of these policies, but one step at a time.

And then, the day after.

Survivors

Hall 4 survivors, gathering for a wonderful cause. It’s times like this that make me miss Hall 4 so much my heart actually aches, and also propels me to want to do my FYP but yes, we gathered. To sing, to dance, to make mirth and merry and joy and help our dearest Sultan create a music video to propose to his own dearest. An honour indeed to be part of something beautiful (holy matrimony wooooo).

Congratulations to the newly engaged, Firdaus and Maisarah! May you two always be happy and full of cheer, courage and love (:

Video here:

Of course, when our Sultan asked we’d jump straight into it. First of our survivor batch to propose/marry – what an honour indeed to be part of this excitement. Have to say though, I’m not too sure when but somehow news of people I knew over social media (seniors, friends etc.) started popping up a lot more and the trend is pretty much almost everyone (of similar or close ages) is getting married or engaged. Well, that sparked a bit of panic in me because it’s really one of those odd situations where half of your friends are single (successful/but not drunk), and the other half are getting married/engaged.

I identify with this so hard. Here I am just praying for adequate employment in the slowing economy… and getting fat eating chocolate.

Climber climb on

Rockmaster. Recess week drew to a close and RM Novice Women competition reared its head with overhang walls and a very terrifying slab. Managed three tops (of which, two flashes) and two bonuses. Except for the slab, the routes were my style and I completed them with relative ease – for someone who didn’t train for two weeks prior because of whatever listed above I’d say it was a good fight and good fun. Though not enough, I think I redeemed myself from the disaster that was Bouldermania where mistake upon mistake cost me dearly in that comp.

Fared much better here, but still need to fight more. Above: Jannah, Clarice, me and Sheryl. Just the four of us representing NTU but somehow competing alongside my seniors calmed me down an awful lot. Must be the super chill aura they exude. To more, Allez.

That was last Friday, and then… Sunday.

Old school

Featuring old school snacks and sweets, soy bean egg tarts, homemade macarons and a beautiful croquembouche (that tower of cream puffs basically), this nostalgic ensemble was present at my cousin’s wedding.

Yep. First of the cousins / Neo bloodline to get hitched (internal panic +330%). It was a simple affair – tea ceremony, ROM and wedding lunch banquet. Nothing too lavish or over-the-top I’d say but it was still a wonderful event nonetheless. Couldn’t be happier for her and her husband who planned the whole event. Spirits were high, people were happy and having fun, stuffed with food and an abhorrent amount of sugar (NOT THAT I COMPLAINED HAHAHAHAHA). One could say meaningful and traditional rituals of the marriage institution.

I wish them (Wei Xin and Dickson) well, happiness and great fortune as they embark on their wondrous lives ahead as a wholesome pair (: 


But (sociology yay!) of course, watching the whole affair from the sidelines (literally, there was nowhere else for me to stand and munch on stuff), weddings in Singapore are a specific privileging device only for heterosexuals. Hearing the ROM solemnizer define marriage in Singapore as between “a man and a woman” suddenly made it hard to swallow. How many more alternative loving couples out there in this country are we ignoring in the pursuance of this stringent definition of “marriage”, that ultimately links to receiving other benefits from the state (e.g. housing, education, healthcare, childcare)? How is it fair people in love are excluded from this institution because of state and social sanctions?

I personally don’t think gay marriage will destroy the world (unless it’s too fabulous for us to handle). There is nothing unnatural about it except for the fact that the sexual organs in either partner are unable to naturally produce an offspring. Even then consider:

(1) the fertility of existing male/female pairs. If a husband and wife are infertile and unable to produce offspring, does it reduce their masculinity and femininity or overall legitimacy of their marriage? Or are these just socially indoctrinated views? And then there’s the alternative of reproductive technology and adoption. How do these affect the purpose of a marriage and what is defined as a family?

(2) The stifling and arguably sexist belief that marriage cumulates in having children (you assume it is a woman’s end destiny to be a mother because of her biological structuring and having a womb? Oh, friend, you are so wrong).

If this loses me a lot of friends or earns me backlash and criticism, so be it. Like why I created this post – to reminisce the hum of jet engines – I’d like to just be. And I’d like to just be sleeping now. 3:10AM woooo.

Split, Apart.

Because I am pretentious, who’s about to embark on the rewarding but arduous journey of doing my Graduation Project (#GPwoes) or should I have embarked on already? I shall expand the title of this post to be more like sociological articles encountered before (with, of course, failure). One can dream of being successful one day, but for now here goes:

Split, Apart: The Dialectics of Class, Gender and Global Inequalities

a.k.a. 48 hours in Split, Croatia: HTF did I end up here?!

To safeguard the anonymity of the people involved in this story, I will use pseudonyms and general physical descriptors. 

Some background info about this little strange and surreal story:

I arrived in Split from Zagreb after a rocky overnight bus ride that lasted five hours, and it was my penultimate stop before I headed back to Zagreb (again in an overnight bus) to catch a train back to Budapest, and then my flight back to the UK for the last few days before I moved back to Singapore. Tight schedule indeed. I’d been travelling nonstop for a month-ish again spanning May to June, so at that point I was physically and mentally drained save for random bursts of social energy (cheap gelato helps). Besides meeting up/bunking with couchsurfers, most of the time I was travelling and exploring alone but I was very open to chatting with strangers when I felt like it. It earned me social capital, opportunities to develop empathy, respect and a lot of funny situations.

I didn’t expect this to happen at all, but it did. And I didn’t know how to react at that time. But now, almost three months later, reflecting on my exchange journey and splashing about into my final year in NTU as well as reading up on soci academic literature (rusty. readings backlog. help.), I think back to those times, unsure (still) of how to analyse it or make of it so I leave it open-ended – a story with questions but no need for answers because there just doesn’t need to be any. So much for everyday experiences, but here goes:

I believe in the Universe. It is a glorious entity, and like religion to some and cake to others, the belief in this magnificent being brings me comfort and help me believe that things fall into place, where they need to be. So imagine me, groggy from the overnight bus ride (and bumping into soci course mates, fancy that small world), wandering through the quiet, empty but beautiful streets of Split at 6AM in (that reminded me so much of Venice) in search of my hostel, mindlessly awed by its waterscapes, blowing up my phone memory even more by taking photos of the scenery…

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And then I met Lance.

Now Lance is a white Caucasian male, above 60, eloquent and a really nice person. He sees me taking photos of the scenery, and asks if I would like him to help me take a photo. I decline – I only take photos of sceneries, not so much of myself. I ask him where he’s from, as does he, and we begin conversing. Somehow we walked along the seafront, got lost, and by accident I helped him find the car rental shop he was looking for (but being that early, it was closed). By the privilege of being a “small” Asian female student or maybe I was a nice person to him, he said he would help me find my hostel – and so we set off, wandering deeper into the town, through unmarked corridors and streets, talking about everything and anything until we finally found it.

During the hunt for my hostel I found out he believed in the Universe as well, and for some strange reason the Universe “told” him to ask me if I wanted my photo taken (earlier meeting). You can imagine my surprise when I heard that – not many people I know openly state they believe in the Universe so I was thrilled. What a connection established. What a small, beautiful world. I thought our meeting had ended when we found my hostel but I was wrong – Lance told me to meet him that night for dinner at 7PM at this restaurant, and he would bring a couple of lady friends he knew I would love to meet and get to know being the sociology major I was. We exchanged numbers and parted ways.

At this point, I was half elated. The Universe had answered my one little problem: I was running out of Croatian kunas and I thought… well, if I can get a free dinner, why not? Travelling taught me to be thick-skinned. But, hey it also brought me a new friend. So the day went by, and night fell… and 7PM dawned.  I waited at where we were scheduled to meet, and Lance arrived with two Croatian ladies, Yvonne and Irene. Yvonne, tall and slim, with short hair and a piercing gaze. Irene, shorter, chubbier, long hair and insanely bubbly.

So we sat to dinner: Lance, Yvonne, Irene and I. Lemme digress here that holy shit, this fine dining shit is off the hook and I will probably never get to eat awesome ass shit like this again ever in my life unless I earn substantial peanuts. 

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So we talked during dinner, exchanged details about our lives. I asked what Yvonne and Irene did for a living, and that’s when I knew things were about to go a very different way. Irene leaned forward to me and was saying, “Oh! We work as–” but was instantly cut off by Yvonne, who snapped something in Croatian. Irene remained silent while Yvonne answered for her: “We work at night.”

I don’t know how I got the idea they were security guards, so I asked them more questions. Isn’t working at night tiring, will they be late for work etc. Subject changed, I found out more about their interests and hobbies. Irene made her own perfumes and scents, which I found super cool. Earlier that day, apparently Lance, Yvonne and Irene went for a drive outside Split and the ladies showed Lance the countryside and traditional Croatian villages. I looked at the pictures, I watched the videos, I felt the twinges of admiration and envy…

When Lance started talking about how amazing a driver Yvonne is, and how much energy and spirit Irene had. “She’s an old soul,” he grinned, patting her. And theennnnn he started talking about how he got her lingerie and how great she looked in it and how it’ll complement her figure and fiery energy. Then he said it: “You should have watched her dance last night!”

It finally dawned on me. I looked at Yvonne and asked, “Are you two dancers?”

“Strippers.” Straight-faced.

Well! 5 months abroad and I really didn’t expect this! But this is not a bad job, nor a good job. This is a job. Dignity should not be attached to work that is meaningful in its own ways.

“Cool!” was my reply. I started complimenting their strengths cause hey, pole-dancing isn’t easy. It works the arms and core. Somehow me showing genuine interest in their work made Yvonne smile and open up to me more, she told me what time they worked till (9PM to 6AM), how the place worked, how it looked like, where it was…

“You should come visit us later!” Irene chimed in, bubbly as usual. Literal :D So, we chatted some more, and then they left for work, leaving Lance and I alone to enjoy dessert we ordered after they left. And this is where I really didn’t know how to feel.

“So you found out that they’re strippers,” he said.

“I don’t judge them for it.”

Neither did he. But in summary, Lance recounted to me how he met these two ladies. The Universe (wtf) told him to go to the strip club the night before where he met Irene, and after getting to know her, talking to her, watching her “work the pole”, he knew he wanted to get her out of there. Though I cannot remember in verbatim, he couldn’t believe someone as gorgeous as her with a beautiful personality would be working as a stripper, “taking her clothes off and letting men touch her”. Irene was aware of his intentions, but refused to leave without bringing Yvonne along.

So he told me, “I’m on a mission to rescue these two girls and get them out of there.”

His plan was to get them out of that strip club, and he would employ them and give them white-collared jobs he knows they’ll fit perfectly well in. “They both have degrees! And they’re working the pole!”

Croatia – I found out from my couchsurfing host in Zagreb, from the walking tour guide, from a lot of people – is a corrupt country. There’s not a lot of employment opportunities to go around, so I guess that’s why they had little choice but to work in a strip club (but again, this is not a bad job). This aggravated Lance, hence his insistence and repetition to me that he wanted to “rescue” them from that job.

Somehow the night ended with me feeling the food coma and sleep depravation, so I said I would head back to the hostel to rest… but not before Lance saying he’ll head back to his hotel after he visits the girls. I changed my mind and tagged along and that’s how I ended up in a Croatian strip club after 24 hours in Split. Small place, two poles, ladies in lingerie, loud music, darkness. Yvonne and Irene were excited to see me. They gave me a hug each and introduced me to another one of their friends/colleagues. Funny enough, I watched them pole-dance and they asked if I wanted to try before I left out of exhaustion.

No, thank you.

What happened after? The last 24 hours – I spent the day with Lance. He rented the same car Yvonne drove and by right, we were supposed to spend the day with the two of them going outside of Split, but the two ladies couldn’t be contacted by phone or otherwise the whole day. He laughed it off, “You know the ladies are the smart ones. They’re the ones making men throw money at them.” But he kept trying to call Irene. She didn’t pick up.

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All the way into the night, when I went to the bus station to catch my bus back to Zagreb, I thanked Lance for his hospitality and watched him disappear into that same strip club again, unsure if he would find Yvonne and Irene in there. I didn’t keep in contact with him. I’m not sure why I didn’t.

I suppose now when I think back, there are a lot of factors at play. A Western caucasian man takes it upon himself to “rescue” two Eastern European women working what he perceived as less than desirable jobs as stripper (I infer this from the impression he gave me when he kept saying “they’re taking their clothes off!” but I could be wrong). Of course, they are very nice and capable ladies, just in situations where they had to take these jobs despite having substantial academic qualifications. I question the use of the word “rescue”, I questioned him too but I forgot what he had said with regard to the word choice.

I can think of a lot of people who would avoid strip clubs, and others who would visit it, but when I think about the ladies who work there, but see it as work and sex-related labour they have to perform but is not linked to their dignity or who they are as people – I see great courage and strength in them. Discourse and people may say it’s immoral and disgusting, strippers are stupid and have no better prospects but I don’t agree. Yvonne and Irene were wonderful people in my eyes, regardless of the job they do or the skin they show.

Is it a case of two ladies taking whatever they can get from a man and bolting? I can’t say for sure. If they did, did I not do the same? Though, Lance did offer to pay for all my meals and I am a poor student but that aside. I don’t want to say women have the upper hand and are cunning enough to dupe men using their bodies and sex appeal or whatever other manipulative methods people think they possess (that is a very misogynistic view). Yes, maybe some people do use their gender characteristics to achieve certain things, but not to the extent of taking and running. That encourages distrust and promotes hate. I do not stand for that, but again, I don’t know exactly what to think of this whole experience. I thought about it for a long while, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

Wherever they are, I wish them well and hope that they are happy.

20 Days Later

Just eight days a little too soon, but it’s been 20 days since I returned back to Singapore from exchange. Whatever happened to updating this site and keeping in touch? I got lazy, for one, and other things take greater precedence. Travelling, planning, walking around, wifi hunting, updating important people back home, then going back to meeting new people, exploring cities and learning about the local culture, languages, food…

May flew by far too fast for me to catch my breath. Far too fast. In a span of 24 days briefly covered eight countries, but amounted to eleven cities. Would have been more, but after April I was tired from the exhaustive running around and decided to take a step back for May instead. Take your time, plan your destinations in advance. Sadly I didn’t do what others did, which was to take it as it comes and decide to move on and off whenever.

You never know when it would be like to fall in love with a city and you don’t want to leave. I think I said goodbye far too much sooner to stick with my schedule, but it wasn’t something I regretted. I had a wonderful time irregardless.

So May: Copenhagen, Vilnius, Milan (with a day hike to Cinque Terre), Barcelona, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Zagreb, Split. Then back to Budapest and my flight to the UK where I had a few more days to explore Exeter, Bath and London before the long ride home.

And here I am, 20 days later. Just 10-ish days shy of a month but perhaps I’m feeling a little bit of homesickness for the freedom and happiness that came with exchange? The stories we trade, the laughter, the weather – all that seems to disintegrate and fade into the background here. I’m having troubles not adapting but trying to remember how life was like before I left. Things changed a lot, yet nothing has at all. Things I used to enjoy doing, I struggle to find the pleasure in it again. Walking the whole day overseas was never a problem, but here – well, let’s just say five and a half months over in the European side of the world makes you forget how devastating humidity can be.

But you get used to it. You get back used to it. Yet it doesn’t deny the fact that I still yearn for what I left behind (the whole Brexit fiasco aside) – the freedom, the jetsetter lifestyle, the nomadic poor student/couchsurfer wandering around the streets of wherever, talking to whoever, eating whatever and treating everything like a luxury. A luxury I cannot afford right now (again, for now).

I miss exchange. I miss my flatmates (Singaporeans, Australians, Canadians, Americans). I miss the weather, the food, the independence, the lifestyle. Strangely enough I even miss the kitchen. I miss it all, and I won’t deny it’s affected my mood and in extension, my relationship with people. I’m back with whom I have missed and suddenly I don’t miss them anymore. Sheila put it into perspective for me before she left – You get used to their absence, hence you don’t miss them as much.

But cliched as it sounds and is, I am appreciative of whatever has happened. I miss it all and I think back to it everyday as I go through Singaporean life. Swimming in the usual complex I imagine I’m dunking into the pools of Santorini, sans chlorine.  Don’t cry that it’s over, smile that it happened.

I agree, but not right now. This feels like a legitimate loss to me, and for that I will grieve. Things will pick up and be better, as they normally do with time and in time. Perhaps in my disillusionment and confusion I start to see things that I’ve never really seen before, and I don’t like where this is going. Chin up, keep pushing still. Had worse – imagine running for your bus with blistered feet in boots.

That one will kill.

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Copenhagen.

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Lyngby in Denmark, going canoeing, getting high, laughing out loud.

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Three Crosses, Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Cinque Terre. Hiking in the rain makes the experience all the more wondrous, albeit cold and miserable at times.

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Chocolate and churros in Barcelona, Spain. Truly, they do taste like sugared crunchy youtiaos.

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In a Hungarian taxi in Budapest, no idea what was happening or going to happen. I’ve only fond memories here.

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Vienna, where everything was kind and full of love.

May this be the closure I need. Allez.

April.

Europe in April

12(+) places in 32 days: Fontainebleau + Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam + Nijmegen, Stuttgart + Tubingen, Munich, Prague, Krakow, Santorini + Athens, Rome + Venice. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Greece and Italy.

What happened after updating about Paris while in Prague? Found myself almost disconnecting completely whilst travelling from place to place – the routine was simple: depending on the transport I used (day/night/overnight), haul bags to hostel or CS host’s place, dump stuff and explore. Doesn’t matter how little or how much sleep I got – time was limited and I was eager to get out and see what new cities/towns/places had to offer.

And the whole experience was amazing, to say in the least. Sights, sounds, scenery, people, languages, histories, cultures, food, laughter, smiles, conversations – all too much to take in and remember without information or sensory overload but every step of the way there was always something to behold. Found myself travelling solo in some places, with people met in hostels/CS hosts/family members in others but feeling excited almost all the time. This is the world outside of Singapore, albeit a touristy facade I got caught up in at times, but still privileged to have the chance to experience, to immense myself in and learn, understand, appreciate.

Of course, everything wasn’t painted gold – larger social factors come into play. People have the troubles everywhere in the world – Is there enough money? What about the migrant crisis? Are welfare benefits being reduced? Will local businesses sustain in light of mass tourism and favouritism towards globalised commodities, entities? Excuse the sociological and cynical perspectives, I didn’t embark on this journey to just see a new side of the world but to understand it too. Same-same at times, but so unique and different.

More into each city and experience soon (once I get over myself and actually concentrate on finals coming up), but for now I find myself disoriented and confused at being back in the UK, in my dorm room in little but quaint Exeter (you remind me of the family home I stayed in Stuttgart, away from city centre but charming in its own ways), staring at my laptop and typing away when just days, weeks, a month ago I would be hunting around cities for TripAdvisor-recommended local eats – or just indulging in whatever local markets offered. English weather still perplexes me as ever – sun, hail, rain, wind. Europe seems more stable in comparison.

Reverse culture shock and post-trip depression are real, and I find myself feeling it now, trying to cling onto whatever memories I have had of each place, the faces and voices of people I have met, living in the not-too distant past and refusing to acknowledge that I am still here. The perils of travelling – it spoils you and makes you, perhaps, ungratefully satisfied with what you have, but this will pass. I am still thankful for everything that has happened, and is still happening (but I find myself desperately hungry for my next adventure – Dublin? Eastern Europe? Romania beckons still).

If there’s two things I’ve come to appreciate about myself is that my gut instincts are strong and rarely wrong, and I’m able to adapt quickly to new environments (how else do you move from place to place without freaking out). Some friends I knew returned to Exeter and established it as base, but I chose not to and decided to chiong (hokkien for rush/power through) instead. No regrets, just exhaustion and happiness.

But for now, try to get my bearings again.