A Moment Here

I have an overwhelming desire to take people to Jaipur and give them my eyes to see it through. At first, any city in India can seem overwhelming. There are a lot of people and there is a long line of smells and noises to digest in each direction one turns. Whenever I try to explain my view of a street or a road to someone not here, I run into roadblocks because they often get attached to one of the images I am describing and they run with it. “There is a camel! How do you say camel in Hindi?” It is “oot” by the way!

However, part of the beauty of India is the fact that it all hits you at once. There is no room to process the elephant moving past you because you are about to get hit by a motor bike with four people on it and there is a symphony of car horns orchestrating your road crossing as well as sweet smelling stalls to greet you when you finally make it to the other side. There is no way to describe that in a conversation because the other person, understandably so, often cannot comprehend all that is happening in one instance because each detail is worth exclaiming about on its own.

I thought that maybe, this blog would be a platform to share a glimpse into the bazaar of old city Jaipur as the single entity and moment that it deserves. I feel like everyday here is a year and a second rolled into one and I am always left feeling simultaneously exhausted and energized. Doesn’t a place with so much packed in deserve full attention and imagination?

So here we go: Imagine standing with two feet planted firmly on slightly sandy and uneven cement ground. The wind may blow, but the blazing sun will always take precedence. The buildings are covered in pink, orange, and salmon covered paint which grants Jaipur the royal nickname of “Pink City.” The smells will swirl through the traffic of camels, cows, cars, and auto rickshaws to fill you with such a mix of diversity you may feel a little dizzy. There is the smell of sweet chai, an unknown combinations of vibrant spices, smoke from a nearby street stand, and unfortunately, a sprinkle of cow poop. The hollering vendors have stores overflowing with everything from colorful saris to mobile phone repairs to fried combinations of spicy and sweet Indian street food. If you sample some spicy daal from a new buy restaurant, the leftover spice in your mouth and the beating sun on your face creates a combination so amazing and unique I know words can’t do it justice. There is too much to say but I certainly tried. This city is overflowing with life and booming with growth. The new meets the old and the two dance creating a wonderful world of color, spice, and everything bright. The only way to pay this place true respect, is to one day find yourself standing on the street of the old city bazaar in Jaipur.

Self-Care

I wake with a foot planted on me. I am immediately angry. So is the owner of the foot. Who’s to blame: me for sleeping on a trail or them for stepping on a sleeping body?

 

I narrowly avoided the above situation. We had just come back from caves filled with tragic stories of indigenous exploitation and deep darkness. I was tired, so I dipped out, dodging camp prep to hideaway in my sleeping bag.

 

You see, for the 3 nights before our camping trip near Lava Beds National Monument, I had stayed up far too late talking. Talking is good and I’m often conflicted about bedtime as the best conversation seems to happen late at night, under the blessing of the stars. This week I’d thrown caution to the wind and now it had caught up to me.

 

So I slipped away and settled down on a trail. I’d figured there’d be less bugs around there and that no one would use said trail.

 

What I didn’t see then, and I see now, is the irony of my chosen spot. In my lack of care for myself, I had blocked the trail for them..

 

In my time here at the Oregon Extension and our reading about mushrooms, I’ve realized our inter-connectedness. We are not, and have never been islands.

 

In our modern lives we can delude ourselves into thinking this is not the case. Two summers ago I had convinced myself it was. Selfishly suicidal, I figured my life had little impact on anyone else. If I took my life or continued to live as if my life did not matter to others, I felt there could be no impact.

 

Here I see clearly the fallacy. With chores spread across us all to keep the place running, any absence or laziness must be made up for by another.

 

If I decide I don’t want to wash dishes today, my roommates bear the burden. If I neglect my farm chore, someone else must move the giant compost pile.

 

Here, I cannot skate by under the impression that I am independent of any other.

 

In modern life, it seems we can. A book we read, Nature’s Metropolis, broke down the fallacy that is the separation between the city of Chicago and the surrounding country. Often, they are viewed as entirely separate.

 

But a catastrophic crop failure in the country or paltry demand for food in the city will quickly expose this faulty premise. In fact, we see a parallel here. If the country is treated poorly and fails, then so too does the city.

 

So we come to a paradox. In order to care for others, you must first care for yourself. After all, a sick Jimmy can hardly move a giant compost. Nor can a sick Jimmy do without lots of tea and hot herbals and naps, none of which are very productive (though they are all enjoyable).

Market Days

No matter where you go in Cape Town, you can always count on being able to find a good market. There are lots scattered throughout the city, whether they are food markets, craft markets, or markets with both! Each weekend in Cape Town, I try to make it to one in order to scope out some new souvenirs or try some new tasty food. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve made it to so far:

Old Biscuit Mill

This market is one of the most popular in Cape Town and has the largest variety of foods compared to any other market I’ve been to. They are only open on Saturdays, so it is usually pretty crowded, but it is definitely worth squeezing through the crowds to get some delicious food. There are so many food stands, it’s almost overwhelming. Each stand has something completely different than the last. Each time I go, I try a few different things because there is so much to choose from. Some things I have tried at Old Biscuit Mill include mac and cheese balls, crepes, a bacon & egg hash, and apple & honey tea.

On the opposite end of the market there are various stands, storefronts, and shops to browse through. Most of the stands are higher end, designer products or art workshops that you can peak into. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, browsing through the stands while eating something new each time!

Hout Bay Market

Hout Bay is a fishing area in Cape Town right on the ocean. The market is on the harbor and is similar to Old Biscuit Mill in the sense that there is plenty of food and lots of stands and stores. At this market there is more of a mix of traditional African arts and crafts along with some trendy clothing and jewelry stands. It’s fun to walk around and see such a wide variety of products and art. Once you reach the far side of the market, there is a good selection of food stands to chose from, as well. They have everything from dim sum to waffles to veggie paninis. Everything smells so good its hard to choose what stand to visit! Also, on Friday nights they have live music which makes for a very lively vibe and a fun night at the market!

download

Greenmarket Square

Greenmarket Square is the largest craft market in Cape Town located right in the city center. There are over a hundred stands here with art, crafts, jewelry, and more. It is mainly a market for tourists to buy souvenirs, but there are some locals that come as well. Because it is mainly for tourists, the vendors overprice their products to be much more than it should be, but you are able to bargain with them until you come up with a more reasonable price for whatever you would like to buy. During orientation, our RAs gave us some bargaining pointers to prepare us for the vendors at places like Greenmarket Square, which have come in handy so far! One tip they gave us to help lower a price is to show interest in what you want and then start to walk away and say you’re going to look around some more and then decide. They will then insist you come back and pay a reasonable price because they don’t want your business to go to someone else’s stand. Bargaining can be a bit overwhelming, but it is still fun to walk around this market and see all the beautiful things everyone is selling.

gms

Market on the Wharf & The Watershed 

Along the V&A Waterfront (an area in the city similar to Navy Pier in Chicago) there is the old Watershed building that has been converted into a market with little shops and vendors selling clothes, jewelry, and artwork. Similar to Old Biscuit Mill the items are mostly higher end, but there are still some unique African crafts throughout. Right next to the Watershed, there is the Market on the Wharf, which is a nice food market with lots of selections to choose from! There is an amazing bakery there where we tried some donuts and pastries. We probably exceeded our sugar intake for the week, but it was definitely worth it. These markets are right at the Waterfront, so it is nice to be able to walk around and see the rest of what the V&A has to offer, especially the great view of Table Mountain.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekends here in Cape Town so I can discover more good eats and fun art at these markets!

Daily Life in Freiburg

Week two in Freiburg provided me with the opportunity to finally immerse myself in the daily life of this city. Though we did have two hours of German per day, our only other class was an “Integrative Seminar” course, which has mainly been giving us informative background on the EU and its current state. This has given us plenty of time to get lost exploring the city and helped us to get a sense of what the rest of our semester will be like while we are in Freiburg.

Franziska, my German teacher, gave our class an assignment to walk around and ask questions about the Münstermarkt, which is essentially a large open-air market held in the main town square of Freiburg. And these shop owners are dedicated. Münstermarkt runs every day of the year except for Sundays, including throughout the winter months. It also isn’t your typical farmer’s market – Münstermarkt has souvenirs, flowers, ‘Holzkunst’ (or wood art), wine, and various other items.

The market surrounds the church in the town center, pictured on the right. Here is one of the many stands selling various flowers and plants.
The famous “Lange Rote.” Many Euros will be spent at this stand in the coming months…

Both locals and tourists frequent the market, and many of the stands are quite well-known. From the cheesecake stand ‘Stephans Käsekuchen’ who are famous for their secret recipe to the hot dogs on steroids called ‘Lange Rote,’ the options provided at Münstermarkt are delicious and relatively affordable for a college student like myself.

Only locally produced fruits can be found here, so you won’t see any bananas or pineapples, but the quality and relatively cheap prices of what they do have certainly makes up for it.
Lunch from the Münstermarkt.

After completing our assignment, my classmate Medina and I managed to make it all the way through the market with only four purchases. We then walked through the city center and sat down at a little park to eat away at our delicious lunch pictured above. All of the food sold at Münstermarkt is produced locally, and the produce we bought there was some of the best I’ve had. When in Europe, one finds it incredibly easy to get past minor speed bumps like seeds in your grapes.

A slide some of us stumbled upon about 10 minutes from the city center. I’m not ashamed to say I went down it 3 times.
Need a place to socialize and get a good German beer? The Biergartens are the place for you.

Another great thing about Freiburg are the Biergartens, the best of which is located at the top of a hill right next to the city center. Though we got there slightly too late for it a couple of nights ago, you can catch an incredible view of the sun setting behind the city. Combine that with the delicious local beer and you’re in for a treat.

Speaking of hills, Freiburg is in the region of Germany which produces the best wine, and there are vineyards draped along many of the hills that surround Freiburg. The vineyard pictured above is one I see every day on my tram ride to class. As I discovered a few days ago on a run through a large vineyard by my apartment, they are also a common place to find students gathering for picnics in the evenings. One of my roommates says there are castle ruins somewhere around these vineyards, and on future runs I hope to find their whereabouts, so I will keep you posted…

Coming Home?

To fully understand where you are going, I think you have to understand where you are coming from. Study abroad for many of my peers is a new and exciting experience unlike anything they have ever done before. For me? Not so much. See, I lived in Prague, Czech Republic, from when I was 8 until I was 16. Coming to Freiburg for the semester is not necessarily diving into the unknown for me. I went swimming a while ago and I’ve just been drying off for a while, anxiously preparing for the next jump and anticipating whether it will still feel the same.

The first few days were a blur. Between jet lag, meeting the 74 other students in the program, and finally moving into our apartments, it was a whirlwind. As part of the European Union Program here in Freiburg, we focus heavily on the European political scene. Our first class two days ago was our Integrative Seminar, which will primarily be a study of how the EU functions, how it is structured, and what purposes it serves. Actually, the only classes we take until the first of our three week long trips throughout Europe are this Seminar and two hours of German each day.

Downtown Freiburg

The city itself is wonderful. Though it has mostly rained on us so far, Freiburg is just big enough to be a lively city and just small enough to learn how to get around quickly. If you come to Freiburg expecting stereotypical German culture, you may be surprised. Though everything is still very pünktlich (punctual), this southern German town is very easy-going, eco-friendly, and quite welcoming.

Along the lines of experiencing this new culture, I had my first dinner with my new housemates. There is something about sitting around a table for an hour engaged (or at least trying to be engaged) in conversation that truly makes living abroad finally seem real. Because I am only living with German students who attend the local university here, I am looking forward to interacting with the people I will be living with not only to experience the lifestyle of Freiburg, but also to hear and speak as much German as possible. So far, I have been able to get recommendations on where to go for runs and which bakery is the best bakery in the area. Accomplishing simple things like these are essential to the experience from what I have seen, because they give you confidence and comfort moving forward.

After the craziness of the first week, we got our first chance to get out into the countryside today. A short train ride followed by a brief bus trip left us in the small town of Sankt Peter, where we had the opportunity to explore the Abbey of Saint Peter.

Abbey of St. Peter
This church was built in the baroque style which was much more colorful and bright than most cathedrals you will find in Europe.
The beautifully painted ceilings of the Abbey.

I could have probably spent another half hour in the Abbey, but naturally our German trip leader Karin ran a tight ship in order for us to get our hike started on time. The hike was about 3 hours long and provided us with a great opportunity to take in the rolling hills and beautiful woodlands, while also getting to get to know the other students in our program. Also on the trip was Jona (the German version of ‘Jonah’), a student studying at the University of Freiburg who basically functions as one of our RAs. He shared with us that he grew up in one of the small villages like Sankt Peter in Germany and explained how he got into american football on accident while trying to help his aunt find the right channel to watch the lottery. His goal is to teach German and coach football in America once he finishes his studies. One career path I am interested in pursuing is working for a European soccer club, so it was fascinating to see how we each have such a similar passion for each other’s culture. It is also a reminder of how connected we truly are despite growing up in completely different environments.

Cow sightings along our 8 km hike.
This area of Germany in particular heavily focuses on sustainability, and even outside the cities you will often find solar panels draped across roofs.
Our final stop was Himmelreich, which literally translates to ‘heaven kingdom.’ I certainly wasn’t going to disagree.
On the left is Schwartzwald Kuchen, or Black Forest cake, which combined nicely with hot chocolate and delicious strawberry ice cream.

Our hike finally ended in another small town, where we stopped for some traditional German Kaffee und Kuchen, or “coffee and cake,” at a building that used to be a farm, and has now been renovated into a hotel/restaurant that helps employ adults with mental disorders. I myself am not a coffee drinker, but the hot chocolate and other items pictured above were the perfect treat to finish off our hike.

I still can’t decide if this week has seemed to take forever or if it has gone by in a flash, but I am finally starting to feel somewhat settled. The initial anxiety has mostly worn off and I am ready to finally get into a rhythm this first week of classes. There is a lot to look forward to, but for now I’m off to bed…

A Typical Week in Singapore

Whenever someone asks me, “What do you think of Singapore so far?”, I’m never quite sure what to answer. Even though I’ve been here almost a month, the experience so far was basically a surface-level, touristy view of Singapore (hence the Singaporientation blog) and settling into the daily cycle of classes, eating, and studying.

Sorry, doesn’t sound so exciting for future study abroad students, right? But after the honeymoon period of studying abroad ends, that crosswalk is no longer a crosswalk in Singapore but a normal crosswalk, not the famous hawker center, but just another place to eat. It’s kind of sad, but after this liminal period, I do feel like I’ve moved onto a new stage: reality. Many people have this idea that reality is dull, but to be fair, reality is as interesting as it gets.

The following are my day-to-day adventures:

 

Wes

Today a close friend of mine died.

 

He seemed to be ever present, ever entertaining.

 

He was a calming presence and knew just when you needed a lift up.

 

In a word, he was consistent.

 

He will be dearly missed.

 

He was a wasp named Wesley.

 

My wasp friend, though we never really spoke, did bring a sense of meaning to my life (and of all the lives who came to his funeral). I think it was his consistency that did it. Every morning, sitting down to breakfast, Wesley greeted us with a buzz. Now I’ve seen plenty of wasps in my time here and none have meant anything to me.

 

I think the difference is consistency and I think this consistency gives meaning. I’m going to talk a bit about why I think this is based on my summer experience and then dive into how consistency is a huge part of the Oregon Extension (which we call the OE).

 

This summer, I lived at the base of Rockies in Boulder, CO. Coming from the flat farmland of Indiana, the landscape was breathtaking.

 

Every day, as I drove home from work; I was in awe of towering figures crowding the sky.

 

Why?

 

Was it the fact the landscape was so unusual?

 

Coming home to Indiana after a long summer away, I cherished seeing the red bricks, red porch, and red car I associate with home.

 

Why?

Was it the fact the landscape was so familiar?

 

In either case, I think consistency is the bedrock fo our source of meaning and wonder.

 

Without my lifetime of exposure to the flat farmlands of the midwest, I would not be shocked and awed by towering mountains.

 

Likewise, without my consistent exposure to and then absence from, home, I would not give meaning to silly things like bricks and deck paint and car color.

 

Here in Oregon, this sense of consistency is deeply present. You stay with the same 25 people for a whole semester. You are in a new, breathtaking place.

 

You are consistently challenged in your thinking (yes even in the first week).

 

You are consistently cared for by professors and peers alike.

 

There’s a stability here. A calm.

 

I hear the same gravel crunch on my way to class every morning, hear the same rooster interrupt lecture an hour later, see my favorite dog (her name is Kuma) shortly thereafter during discussion at a Prof’s house and I make a killer meal with my cabin mates to end every day.

 

Our days are full of good books, good food, and good thinking. It’s odd because I worry if I will be able to bring these consistencies home.

 

But maybe I shouldn’t worry so.

 

Wesley, a wasp I only knew for days, imparted enough meaning for me to write about and remember him. I think the chances are good I will remember the consistent thought and care I give and am given here.

 

Singaporientation

Sunday, Aug 12: Settling In and Familiarization Tour

  • Touchdown at Changi Airport.
  • Met up with my Resident Director, Andrea, and one of the other visiting students, and took a taxi to my new apartment, Sunshine Plaza.
  • Familiarization Tour – Andrea showed us the surrounding area, places where we could grab some quick food, some general stores, and the MRT.
  • Took the MRT to Clarke Quay – The train stretches across almost all of the city and goes several stories down; it took us seven escalators to get to the blue line.
  • At Clarke Quay – Treated out to McGettigans for fish n’ chips by RD (thank you :D).
  • Time to chill at the apartment – We activated our SIM cards, discussed tomorrow’s schedule, and got to know one another. The rest of the time was spent unpacking.

Monday, Aug 13: Suntec City Mall, Haji Lane, and a short stop at SMU

  • Woke up at 6 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep so I watched some Youtube videos. The night before I was sneezing like crazy because we haven’t figured out how to control the room’s AC yet. Needless to say, I was tired.
  • We had the morning to ourselves, so I called with my parents. It was about 10 a.m. in SG but 10 p.m. in CA.
  • Breakfast (toast spread with a Singaporean coconut jam called Nonya Kaya and cereal).
  • Enter Andrea who brought us to Suntec City Mall.
    • In-door Hawker Center (tried chicken rice for the first time and iced calamansi tea).
    • Post Office/School Supplies.
    • Giant Mall (I appreciate how literal some of the names are. For instance, we saw a bag of chips that was called “Bag of Chips”).
    • The Fountain of Wealth.
  • Haji Lane.
    • Narrow walkways, street art, charming mom n pop shops selling a wide array of textiles and food.
  • Andrea dropped us off at SMU to get our Student Pass slips.
  • Self-tour around SMU (one of us had some trouble with the ID picture, so we missed the free official campus tour).
    • Because we haven’t gotten our student cards yet, we had to get into buildings using our passports. Even then, most buildings said no, so we were only able to get into the library.
    • At one of the vending machines, we tried a can of grass jelly which two of us hadn’t tried yet.
  • Hung out at the apartment and got to know one another some more before heading back to Suntec City Mall (with much confusion and discussion, we finally figured out the MRT system).
    • Bought some avocados, an extension cord, bread, onions, and a rice cooker.

Tuesday, Aug 14: SMU Orientation

  • Showed a friend from Hope who was visiting for a few days around the school and the apartment (s/o to my roomie, Yeji).
  • Met up with the other three at the SMU Admin building for SMU Orientation.
  • After signing in, we got goodie bags filled with SMU swag and were served delicious Singaporean food including laksa, a spicy noodle soup.
  • We had to sit on the floor because of the lack of tables, but as a result we were able to meet a few kind Canadian transfer students.
  • The actual SMU Orientation.
    • Ice breakers (What’s an orientation without ice breakers?).
    • Introduction to the different student organizations, tips on how to get around SMU and what to do when traveling abroad.
  • Naptime (I’m an introvert, I needed to recover).
  • Meeting with Yeji and her family at Makansutra Gluttons by the Bay: chili crab, carrot cake (it’s not actually made of carrot or cake; it tastes more like pork belly), cereal prawn, and iced barley.

Wednesday, Aug 15: Botanical Gardens and Riverboat Tour

  • Morning at the pool.
  • Orientation presentation by Andrea: Cultural lessons.
    • Don’t clean up after yourself when eating out, because the workers will see it as rude. Leave your leftovers neatly on the tray and let the workers do their thing.
    • For some elder Chinese vendors, use both hands to give and accept money.
    • The same thing goes when handing out/receiving business cards.
  • Trip to the Botanical Gardens.
    • Lunch at the Bee’s Knees at the heart of the Gardens.
    • Trails through the Learning Forest.
      • Saw some wild chickens and monitor lizards.
  • Suntec Mall again (I know, we go a lot).
  • Recharge at home.
  • Riverboat tour at Clarke Quay.
  • Back on boardwalk for dinner at Ras, a stellar Indian restaurant: paneer, chicken tikka, daal mahkni, rice and naan, and iced tea.
  • Music and chill at home.

Thursday, Aug 16: Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands

  • Morning at the pool.
  • Meomi Cat Cafe on Haji Lane.
    • They take stray cats from the streets and those who are fit for cafe life spend time around doting visitors.
  • Quick stop by Suntec Mall.
  • Gardens by the Bay.
    • Took a self-driving car to…
    • Satay by the Bay: Prawn, pork, beef, fish, and a lot of different meats with a peanut dip.
    • The Cloud Forest/Flower Dome.
    • The Supertree Grove.
    • Marina Bay Sands Observation deck.
  • Andrea treated us to Din Tai Fung: Xialongbao (Chinese steamed buns) and other side dishes.

Friday, Aug 17: Free Day

  • Morning at the pool.
  • Suntec Mall with roommate, ate at McDonald’s and had a Durian McFlurry and a breakfast curry burger, shopping at H&M and Cotton On.
  • A short stop by SMU Vivace, the university’s student organizations fair.
  • Chilling out at the house, bonding with housemates.
  • Got Dominos delivered to the apartment and watched The Italian Job with an HDMI cable.

 

Bondi Beach

Recently I started spending some time at the beach which showed me an entirely new side to Sydney. With Sydney being so close to the water, it should come as no surprise that they have plenty of beaches, the most famous of which is Bondi. Bondi beach and even just Bondi in general just feels different from the rest of Sydney. Similar to the Opera House or Darling Harbour, Bondi is clearly a tourist destination but it has a personality distinct from the CBD. Bondi is more relaxed and slowed down. The people are almost all tan and in great shape. If you walk in from the beach you are greeted by an array of restaurants and bars, along with the sound of live music as musicians busk between cafes.

Naturally I had to explore the rocks around Bondi a little bit

I had the opportunity my first visit to Bondi to attempt surfing in a group with an instructor. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the waves were coming in perfectly and because it is still winter the beach wasn’t all that crowded. Coming from Michigan, Bondi beach surprised me a lot at first because it was just so much smaller than I had imagined! It certainly couldn’t have been much bigger than Holland State Park and this was to serve as the main beach for all of Sydney! And unlike the beaches of Lake Michigan, the sand doesn’t extend down the shoreline connecting one beach to another, rather, on either side of Bondi there are large rock outcroppings between each beach. Admittedly, the sand is extremely soft, and perhaps even softer than the beaches on Lake Michigan to those in Florida the sand on Bondi. And for those of you wondering how my surfing went…I was absolutely terrible. It was incredibly fun nevertheless and I will be coming back to try again.

Another question and concern I heard a lot prior to leaving was people nervous about the sharks while surfing. This actually isn’t much of a concern for beaches like Bondi because the beach is at the bottom of a small inlet and shark nets are set up across the rock outcroppings I mentioned to ensure that sharks don’t get through. This isn’t to say that shark attacks never happen, but they certainly aren’t too much of a concern for the Aussies. There also are apps that can be downloaded to one’s phone where you can see where sharks are at a given time because many of them have been tagged over the years.

This is inside a tiny burger place called Bonditony’s Burger Joint. I had easily one of the best burgers I’ve ever had
All around the beach there is a lot of colorful graffiti like this

Some of the other fun things to do in Bondi, other than checking out the various surf shops or eating at some amazing restaurants is to swim in the Bondi Iceberg pools or to enjoy the coastal walk. I had a chance to visit the Iceberg pools recently, and they lived up to their name! A group of friends and I opted to try to swim there, which is a swimming club with an above group swimming pool that is right on the rocks over the ocean, and it is so close that on windy days, waves can go into the pools. My friends and I had wanted to swim there instead of the ocean because it was just so cold, little did we realize that the Iceberg pools aren’t heated and are still saltwater! So, we hopped in, hopped out and dried off and called it a day but the location of the pools makes it a popular attraction as well. The coastal walk actually goes just above the Iceberg Swimming Club and connects Bondi to Coogee beach, Sydney’s second most popular beach. The walk is about six kilometers and along the way you go past various smaller beaches and see more rocks outcroppings over the ocean which is beautiful as well. I can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough so I can spend more time over in Bondi.

The Iceberg pools

Cribs: Sunshine Plaza Residence Edition

Hello HopeTV, and welcome to my crib

*cue slow motion shots*

Many of my fellow international students were forced to find affordable hostels in sketchy parts of Chinatown. Meanwhile the TEAN program ensured its programees a three-bed, three-bath in the illustrious multi-purpose complex that is Sunshine Plaza. The moment I entered the room, I knew I had scored the jackpot.

My three other housemates and I were situated on the seventh floor with a patio window facing a large wave pool, complete with a waterfall design and a jacuzzi (although it didn’t actually heat up; it just made bubbles). All utilities, electricity, water, and AC, were paid for by TEAN – we only had to concern ourselves if the AC usage went over budget. Otherwise, we also had our own washer and dryer. The living area was sort of separated into three spaces: a desk area near the door, the dining table, and the area with a TV, two modern-style couches and a coffee table. Considering the beautiful view, which effectively opened up the room, I’m not one to complain about the not-so-spacious living arrangement. Besides, it was the perfect amount of space for four residents.

When they told us not to overpack, I should’ve listened.

TEAN uses this apartment for every group of visiting students so either past students or our beloved RD have left kitchen appliances like a toaster, a coffee maker, and a water kettle as well as bowls, plates, utensils, knives, pots and pans, measuring cups, a water filter pitcher, a dish rack, and whatever else a kitchen could have. We later went out and bought a rice cooker to add to the growing generosity of kitchenware. There were already two cartons of milk in the fridge and some snacks including laksa-flavored ramen, green tea Kit Kats, and Oreo straws in the cupboards and on top of the microwave.

Out in the living area, a closet was filled with other miscellaneous items like an ironing board, an iron, a vacuum cleaner, another lamp, and even spare cabinets (although some were broken). A desk against the wall at the entrance also had spare notebooks, adaptors, pencils, pens, paper clips, and so on.

Our rooms were also decorated and maxed out with supplies. On our beds, they had lain out a body towel, a face towel, more Singaporean snacks and treats, hand wipes and tissues, and a welcome note from the RD and RD’s Assistant. In our wardrobes, they gave us each our own clothing hampers and hangers as well as extra pillow covers. In our bathrooms and underneath the sinks, we were given cleaning supplies, sponges, and soap, and we have both a tub and a shower area. Just had a nice hot tub session, and I can say it does wonders for neck pain.

In addition to the supplies, appliances and fully furnished rooms, TEAN also invested in some minimal interior design; fake plants, paintings, fancy lamps, and even an Asian conical hat decorated the walls and tabletops.

The building itself, as I said before, is multipurpose, which means while it is an apartment, it also has office space, and at the ground floor, Sunshine Plaza boasts its own mall. If you walk around the block, you’ll find restaurants and general stores in close proximity. It’s also about a two- to three-minute walk to the blue line, which goes almost everywhere, and the yellow line, which will take you to some tourist destinations but more importantly Suntec Mall where you’ll buy groceries and school supplies, visit the post office, and attend to other daily needs. From Sunshine Plaza to SMU, it’s about a five- to ten-minute walk depending on which building you’re heading to and how long you have to wait at each crosswalk.

Now these are the good aspects about the apartment, which I believe greatly outweigh the negatives, but I feel like the negatives should be made known for future students’ benefit.

I share a room with a wonderful roommate, but I did come second and got second pick when it came to beds and wardrobes. One bed is slightly raised and has a backboard and some cabinet space attached to the side. The bed I ended up with, on the other hand, was more like a glorified cot. I could feel and sometimes even see the coils and springs. A few days into my first week, I had to borrow a mattress pad from one of the other rooms due to the morning back and neck pains (hence the hot tub sessions).

Moreover, don’t bring or buy a lot of clothes. We do have wardrobes, but while one of the wardrobes does have a little bit of storage space, the other only has hanger space (guess which one I ended up with). I had to fashion my own storage space using plastic bags and a hanger. The rooms are pretty small, so they recommend bringing only one luggage bag. As for the other two rooms, one room is possibly larger than the master bedroom that I was in, while the other is more akin to a closet with two beds jammed inside. Harry Potter wouldn’t envy it. In other words, first come, first serve. We do get the option to switch rooms halfway through the semester, but that’s up to the residents.

The kitchen area and the bathrooms open up to Singapore, so we always have to close the doors to these areas in fear of wasting precious AC. This isn’t so bad, but it’s staying in these places for a long time that will leave you panting and sweating, especially when the steam from cooking or showering adds to the hot, humid air. There’s limited kitchen cupboard and refrigerator/freezer space (don’t buy too many groceries) and not a lot of counter space for cutting vegetables or other cooking needs. The washer and dryer, which are adjacent to the kitchen, are also tiny. They can only wash about a half-week’s worth at a time and both squeal like tortured squirrels if you try shoving in more than they can handle.

And while the open window to the pool area is nice, you might accidentally make eye contact with a neighbor from across the way who also happens to have a patio facing the pool. In fact, you might make eye contact with several neighbors… The first few days are uncomfortable and awkward but you get used to it the more you live there because the residents mostly mind their business and don’t care if you’re watching National Treasure at twilight hours.

With exception to the few nuisances, the first few weeks living in Sunshine Plaza has been something of a resort vacation. I only remembered I was studying abroad, and not just abroad, when the first week of classes hit.