Monday, February 19, 2018

Same festivity, different year, different place

Seeing that it has been a long while since I properly celebrated Chinese New Year (the reunion dinners and the red packets included), I was more than prepared to spend the first day on campus to do my own thing. It was also advantageous that the Adelaide Fringe started on the same day, which meant that I could ditch my backpack in the locker and tour the Adelaide Night Market and Parade of Lights if I wanted to.

That certainly didn’t happen.

About a week before the actual event, my sister decided to step in because she didn’t want me to feel all alone and homesick during the festivity. (In all honesty, I’d have been okay either way. Unfortunately, Christmas might just be the time that I’ll feel all alone.) She arranged for the good friend to celebrate Chinese Year with me. Contrary to what you think, we didn’t have a big meal. We only had a simple dinner that consisted of πουργούρι and Japanese potato salad. Now, πουργούρι (romanized as pourgourri but pronounced as borgori) is a traditional Cypriot wheat made from durum wheat. Based on what I gathered from his explanation of the dish, it hinged towards fried rice - except that we use loads of soy sauce and they use Greek yoghurt. The potato salad was a recipe taught by an acquaintance in Petaling Jaya almost a decade ago.

First day of the Adelaide Fringe's Parade of Lights. The building in the background is the Art Gallery of South Australia

The Northern Lights at the South Australian Museum

Northern Lights - up close

M1 on North Terrace being illuminated

Elder Hall

Elder Hall

Oddly enough, the hours slipped through the crack of my fingers as we chatted about everything - ranging from uni-related matters all the way to our hopes for the future and relationships. You can probably imagine that it was an open-ended conversation in a half-private matter. The campus usually buzzes with life on a Friday evening, but because university hadn’t officially started, there were less students than normal. Kind of a slow pace, you could say, but it gave us just the right amount of privacy to speak. I guess the nature of our conversation allowed us to understand each other from a different perspective - something that may not occur in the ordinary circumstances, i.e. catching up after class or even a group hangout.

Soon after sunset, we figured that it would be better to breathe the fresh air and check out the architectural projections instead of gluing ourselves to the seats. There were so many people who turned up that it was easy to lose your companion - unless you have a way to contact them. Not to mention, it was tough to get a good angle for photography without a monopod/tripod and without accidentally capturing other people’s faces too. I figured that since I might have to stay back on campus until dusk after the semester started, it’d be easier to take the pictures there and then.

At the old location of the Royal Adelaide Hospital

As it approached towards 10pm when we arrived, the crowd dwindled. They either made their way to the Adelaide Night Market or onward to the Garden of Unearthly Delights

Live acoustics

It was also a surprise to have met his sister, their cousin, and their mutual friend too! I became an observer instead as small talk is not my forte and I couldn’t contribute to their conversation, which, I think, he felt it too. Yet we made our way closer towards East Terrace - and closer towards the location of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital. I kind of liked the atmosphere that greeted me: it was away from street party yet it had its own celebration. There were five sheds dedicated to food trucks, but since we went late, only two were open. There was access to food and drinks with good, relaxing music. Other diners were more than welcome to engage in their own conversation or listen to the acoustics. I don’t remember what time it was when we called it a night and went our separate ways, but we were yawning - one after another. A surefire sign that we were exhausted.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Slipping through my fingers, I must face the consequences

After all these years, I’m still amazed at how I’m capable to separate my emotions when I’m alone and around friends. Whenever I’m with people - regardless of whether they are friends or acquaintances, I’ve learnt to maintain a smiling face. It is when I’m alone that the true feelings emerge. I bang doors. I smash things. I curse at the walls like an unrefined lady. I prefer to feel anger even though it kills my cells. I don’t like to feel sadness because it makes me feel … off - like there’s no longer any hope for me. It sends me down the wrong path and forces me to relive the moments of shock and heartbreak.

I’m rather surprised that I’m not sad about my departure - when most of my friends are. Sure, there are resignations and regrets about my stay here, but that is part and parcel of studying abroad. There is always that slight edge that we international students lack. Although I’m looking forward to graduating in absentia, I am finding it hard to do so. The reason lies with those two chubby sweethearts. I have referred to them on the blog multiple times before but with a different term. I love them enough to actually consider staying back at a shot for a legal career (in fact, one of them has pleaded with me not to leave).

I can foresee the things that will happen if I choose to start afresh in a new environment with the chubby sweethearts. There will be the frequent hangouts or the dinners in a restaurant/cafe. There might be a small group travel to the mutual countries that we want to visit. (On that note, we are all holding passports of different countries. The visa exemptions that apply to one may not be extended for the other and vice versa.) There may even be a shared accommodation. I might be the one who ends up with the toughest task: researching the available properties for shortlisting. One - the planner - will be in charge of furniture shopping. One - the one with a creative eye - will be in charge of purchasing the decorative items. One - most likely be me - will be in charge of the kitchenware. When we finalize on a property (be it a house or a condo/apartment unit that we love), we may taken turns to cook and whip up our best dishes for the fellow housemates to sample.

With the way circumstances have shifted my emotions, I have no idea if I want to remain here. The last flight home made me question myself whether I’m able to be in a foreign country without family to fall back on. There is nothing like home. As they say, a home is where the heart is. A house is just a house if your heart isn’t in there. If your heart is in sync with the aura of the house, then it magically turns into a home. And there’s love. In a hypothetical situation, if I do find myself married to a local, the matters that I have to deal with will be more, ranging from the visa application to assimilating with the life and culture here. For me to remain here, my heart has to be here. As of now, I feel that it has taken its own leave of absence and went somewhere for a holiday.

There are a bunch of reasons why I desire to graduate in absence. It does not necessarily mean that I will skip the convocation. The right reasons have to justify me spending the extra money to be back for a short time. I just don’t see any reason how my folks would agree to it. I understand that most parents would give anything in the world to attend their children’s graduation because it is worth their financial sacrifices. For my case, I’m not comfortable with the idea of having my folks flying all the way here to watch me have my five minutes of fame onstage. Mama Carrie has already hinted at it. If the entire Carrie family were to attend the convocation in person, she will take pictures of me in the graduation gown on campus…

Sigh, we’ll see how it plans out in this final year. If God wants me to stay back for reasons that only He knows, then I guess I have no choice but to do so.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

(My) Tips on Surviving a Long-Haul Flight

Now that I’m fresh from the time spent abroad, I reckon that it’ll be best for me to kickstart 2018 with a proper post. And what better topic to write than tips on surviving a long haul flight. Trust me, travelling on a plane for almost eight hours is never fun, not when you’re in the economy class where your comfort is restricted. So restricted to the point that you have to make do with your sleeping position.

And off we go!

Tip #1: I know that the in-flight entertainment (IFE) is not something that passengers would like because of the close proximity to the face and the blinding brightness in the dimly lit cabin. But do take it for me. It is your saviour. My first trip abroad involved me sitting in economy class for 10 straight hours, which leaves me wondering how I’d survive if it hadn’t been for the IFE. This is one of the many reasons why I avoid flying on a budget airline, unless the flight’s short: say two or three hours the maximum.

Tip #2: You might also want to consider bringing an e-book or physical book, but remember that the latter will be handy during the take-off and landing. As for me, I don’t bring a physical copy of the book that I want to read. I find that it’s troublesome, especially if I’m already having the tablet and laptop with me. I prefer to save the weight for something too fragile for my checked luggage, i.e. glass.

Reading the electronic version of 'After You' by Jojo Moyes on the plane. It killed at least an hour off the plane ride. 
Kobo eReader is the one that I'm using, partly because it has the electronic versions of the books that I want to read.  As you can see from the picture, this is my dashboard on Kobo. It's a relatively new account, but I don't think I'll be purchasing any more e-books until my next flight adventure. (The beauty about Kobo is that you earn points, which can be then used for rewards redemption.)

Since I’ve just mentioned that I sometimes carry my laptop on-board with me, I’ll continue elaborating on this. There are two reasons why I do this: firstly, I don’t want to gamble with my chances by leaving it in the checked luggage. A wide array of consequences could occur. It might be stolen or damaged to the point where I’ve to change a new laptop instead. Secondly, I’m able to draft my emails and send off later when I land. On top of that, I can watch the videos and movies that my iPad cannot store.

Tip #3: I understand that it is a hassle when you pass through Customs because you have to declare it separately from your carry on. And if you’re flying internationally, you might have to do it twice. But having the laptop with you is convenient, especially when you want to kill time on something useful rather than watching the movies on the IFE. Just don’t forget to bring the AC power adapter with you onboard. There is a plug with enough current to maintain your laptop’s power life. If you’re taking the seats on either side of the plane and peek below you, you’ll notice that the plug is installed in between the aisle and window seats.

It is only when I’m going somewhere remote or on a long, long flight that I don’t bring the laptop with me. Unlike my Mom’s MacBook Air, my Sony Vaio doesn’t allow me to do much although I have the removable battery pack with me.

Tip #4: When I’m not travelling with a laptop, I’ve usually have one A5 notebook and my iPad. My iPad has the e-books and videos for at least ⅔ of the flight and is lighter. The A5 is just for me to scribble my notes or draw doodles out of boredom. I’ve drafted blog posts this way a couple of times before. Don’t forget to bring an extra pen or two. Not only are you able to use for your notebook, you’re able to fill in the incoming passenger card without needing to borrow one from the cabin crew.

Tip #5: While I’m on the subject of technology, bringing your USB cable that fits into your phone’s charging port is also good. It enables you to also kill time on your phone and charge it hours before your arrival so that you don’t arrive with a flat battery.

Tip #6: And sleep. God knows how important this is, especially when you’re on an overnight flight. As I’ve inferred earlier in the post, this is difficult when you want to recline your chair to the maximum but don’t want to make the person behind you exasperated at the lack of space. Trust me, most of my flights depart at night and I’m not one who easily sleeps during the flight- unless the seat is spacious enough.

If you read my previous post, you'll know that although the turbulence worsened the flight experience, it was the symptoms of jet lag that left me on a zombie mode.

Additional Tip: This one was recommended by Monica of The Yum List. If you are bringing electronic devices to keep yourself entertained, please don't forget a pair of headphones. I don't think your fellow passengers would want to disturbed by the music/sound from your device.

The same applies to children as well.

Hustle and hustle

Surprise, surprise.

Now that I have convinced my heart to follow my brain back here, I guess I can slowly pull myself back to focus on blogging. I’ve one scheduled post about long-haul flights, so keep an open eye for it. I’m not sure if I’m able to continue balancing the blog with my studies and the volunteering activities. The academic workload for my final year is pretty hectic. There’s a mock trial that is marked as an interim assessment. I won’t know how that is structured until the first lecture. There’s also another advocacy that I have to go through - and, unlike IHL, this one is part of the course.

Oh, my luck.

After spending almost two months away from Adelaide, I noticed that I’m forgetting certain places in my mind. Take my campus as an example. It’s relatively medium-sized, yet I found myself going in circles to find a particular building. It’s okay if I’m a freshman, but I’m now a final year student, for Pete’s sake. Final year students are expected to know their way around the area, especially me as some of the volunteering events deal with commencing students.

Oh well.

I just hope I don’t forget where I keep my things. That’d be a havoc for me and my parents because we’re at least 6k miles away from each other and I don’t want them to pace the floor in worry.

But yeah, I never knew that I have been experiencing the symptoms of jet lag for most of my flights back to Adelaide. I always thought that the heavy head and dizziness from the flights were a result of not having enough sleep on the eve of the departures. I guess it’s not just that. Caffeine or no caffeine, this always occurs. Alcohol or no alcohol, the first thing to greet me when I’m back is not my friends or the residence, but the symptoms instead.

The symptoms this time were pretty bad, to be honest. Although I had the heavy head with dizziness, my head furiously pounded to the point where I almost fell asleep in the shower. When I woke up, I didn’t have the appetite to take my lunch and went back to sleep. I drifted in and out of consciousness. I know that sentence sounds weird, but that’s the only way I can use as a description. I thought that if I woke up in time for dinner, I could pop around the grocery store to catch a quick meal. Nope, it didn’t work out as planned.

I would’ve also skipped dinner as well, but I knew that it wouldn’t be healthy to leave my stomach hungry for the rest of the night. Even though I wasn’t having much of an appetite, I needed something light and nutritious to fill the space. That way, I won’t collapse from hunger or land in the path of gastric. UberEATS to the rescue. I ordered a takeaway in the form of a salad bowl from Poke Bar and waited for the delivery. I noticed that the lethargy and the heavy, dizzy feeling dissipated afer I ate the meal, but the fatigue still remained.

I find this extremely odd. I drank alcohol and caffeine during the last trip and didn’t suffer much from the jet lag. Heavy and dizzy head, yes, but it improved after I had a nap. Not like this time. I stayed away from the alcohol and caffeine yet it worsened. I’m starting to wonder if it’s because my emotions got the best of me in the plane? If so, then I was more dehydrated than I thought because I didn’t drink much water on the aircraft.

The irony of all this is that I only recovered two days after my arrival. It was only then that I could run all of the errands.

The flight experience was a tad bit different this time for a couple of reasons, too.

I arrived at the airport much earlier to avoid the queue at the bag drop counter. I’m not going to reveal much about the process since you and I are rather familiar with it and I don’t want anyone to know where I went for the last seven weeks. Since I didn’t eat before leaving and had hours to kill, I decided to eat a late lunch at the airport.

As I had enough Enrich points for redemption, I decided to treat myself to a Golden Lounge voucher. I just wasn’t counting on the actual Golden Lounge to remain closed on the day of my flight departure, which led me to choose the one closest to my boarding gate (CIP Lounge). I wasn’t about to waste more time finding the one recommended by the staff in charge, albeit it was larger and had more facilities (including toilets and shower facilties).

Although the CIP Lounge didn’t have a lavatory, the place was alright. At least it had plugs for the passengers to charge their laptops and cellphones, if necessary. Towards the back of the lounge were catered food and desserts. Next to that was a refrigerator with all of the chilled drinks, save for alcohol. There were options for coffee, tea, orange/apple juices, or water.

I also flew alone this time around. It wasn’t by choice, let me tell you that. I’m not a fan of flying alone because I don’t like to sit next to strangers for night flights. You wouldn’t know what could happen to your carry on when you are in the toilet and most of the passengers have fallen asleep. I guess I was lucky in the sense that the seat next to me was vacant, which allayed my fears and proved advantageous. While other passengers had to sleep in their seat, I was able to curl up and rest.

In actual fact, I stretched my legs wide enough to prevent the blood clots but made sure that I spared the lady behind me from my smelly socks. It was in their position that I managed to catch forty winks - and found myself waking up as the cabin crew prepared to serve the light breakfast some fifteen minutes later. Don’t worry, it wasn’t the lights that woke me up.
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