I leave within the month to return to Australia. I have this acceptance that I have to leave. I want to go home, but I wouldn’t mind if I stayed here for another 6 months.
It’s strange for me to explain how I feel. It’s not like homesickness where I would cry and feel sorry for being in such a stupid town in stupid old Germany full of stupid people with stupid ancient buildings.
Now I just feel like, I know what it’s like to live in Bavaria. (I say Bavaria because it is the richest state in Germany) and I think I’d be happier in Australia.
Although, “happier” might mean angrier too. Here I’ve been completely devoid of notions of politics and stupid politicians. Recently I’ve been catching up on Australia and my god, is there a lot of things I’ll have to get involved in when I get home. Not the least getting a big sticker that says, “Failure O’Farrell”
But I also like the way I’ve seen how different things are here and how they should maybe be implemented back home. I have this feeling that from seeing how other people do things I can make my country better.
I don’t know, it is this strange sort of patriotism. I think that Australia is one of the best countries in the world, and I’ve seen some examples on how to make it better.
I’m afraid of that “I’m not from here anymore” response to returning. I don’t want it to be like that. I want to be able to just go back to the familiar.
Don’t get me wrong. Things aren’t strange and unfamiliar here, not anymore. It’s just that I feel I’d be happier with the stuff I’ve been familiar with for 20 years than what I’ve been familiar with for 6 months. I know,, it’s not really a fair time to compare, I also want to come back here later in life, but right now I feel like I could be accomplishing more back in Australia.
P.S. I also really miss sandwiches/salads/small lunches. Here a hot, cooked lunch is really common. Took me a while to notice that, but the “Mensa” or cafeteria has mostly only warm dishes, and everyone seems to think it is normal… I also miss our type of bread. I can live with bread here, but it’s mostly a choice of sourdough or really crappy “America bread” which is stale, preservative ridden, horrible tasting bread that looks like what you can get in Australia. I also am a bit of a food snob, so I can’t wait to walk into Woolies and have such selection of brands I know and fruit and veg from the next state not South America (not that it’s a problem, I just like buying Aussie grown) and I won’t miss the ability to know where all my food comes from (here nothing is labelled unless it’s something from Aldi that they sell in Aus). Probably only 3 foodstuffs I will miss from here are Kaiserbrotchen, Spatzle and Chocolate. Beer and it’s quality and diversity and cheapness is also a problematic farewell.
In Greece Easter holidays fall over two weeks in the end of April, which allows ample time to go traveling. I chose to spend 10 of those days on the island of Crete, south of the Greek mainland. Crete is one of the largest islands of Greece and as I was travelling with two Greek friends who grew up in Crete I was really excited to experience another side of the Greek culture. I spent the time camping with a group of 5-18 friends (depending on who joined us each night) which proved to be a lot of fun as you can imagine.
Crete is a beautiful island and we were really lucky that the country side was in full bloom at this time of year with camomile, daisy and other varieties of purple flowers forming a carpet across the landscape, interspersed off course by olive trees. I spent the time exploring ruins such as Knossos, relaxing on the beach and eating too much local food in tavernas.
The Cretan Easter celebrations differed slightly from the mainland, there was the traditional midnight mass on Saturday night followed by the lighting of a bonfire outside the church, except that fireworks were also part of the celebrations. Fireworks are legal in Greece so every second person was throwing and letting off fireworks left, right and centre, which gave the celebrations a slightly strange edge. No one I spoke to could answer as to why it was traditional in Crete to throw fireworks as part of the Easter celebration, but I am glad that fireworks are not legal in Australia after that night. Easter Sunday was spent eating a traditional lunch of roasted lamb along with salads, potatoes and breads with my friend and his family where far too much food was consumed. We slept every night on a different beach and even spent two nights sleeping in caves which was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed my Easter in Greece which was really different to the one I would have had back in Australia (not a single chocolate easter egg in sight) and celebrating it with friends and their families was really special as well.
Hej hej! Greetings from Sweden!
Well this post was written in February, but for some reason I could not post a blog until last week.. So this post is kind of overdue but still, since it’s my first attempt to write here, i’ll just post it up 😀 Things have changed and so as some of my feelings, and I’ll write more about it pretty soon. Spring is (finally) here but the winter photos are still memorable. So enjoy!
First of all, I must say that this website makes me homesick by only spotting the words “Australia” and “kangaroos”. Lol I know this is silly, and Australia is in fact not my home country. However as a student who has studied in Perth for two and half years, I must admit that I miss Perth and my friends there a lot more than I expected myself to be. And of course I miss Malaysia where I was born and grown, but believe it or not, there have been so many things happening since I came to Uppsala a month ago, until I don’t even have much time to get homesick as seriously as I did when I first came to Perth!
Ok let’s go back to the beginning. It’s been a month to stay in a freezing cold country where normal temperature is ranged from 0 to -16 (just in the city!). Being the only student in my campus to exchange to Uppsala for this semester, I took a 16 hours flight alone and I know there’s no one that I can rely on in the far far country up north. I am not a very adventurous person – and my mom was actually so worried about me 😦 – but I know I will be fine. It was a very complicated feeling, mixed with excitement, curiosity, and anxiety.
I stayed in the hostel nearby the city for two days before checking into the housing. There is no housing area specially offered for students, but exchange students are guaranteed with accommodation when they applied studies. I didn’t know accommodation was such a big issue here until I heard some experiences from some friends. Perhaps more houses have to be built in order to cope with the rapid increasing number of students in recent years.
Talking about my feeling and impression to this city, no doubt, I felt like a stranger. In fact I felt the same when I went to Perth, because my English was not very well that time, and living in an English-speaking country was just different from where I came from. However, the strangeness that I had in Uppsala is much more intense. Even though English is very common in Sweden and most of the locals can speak very good English, it’s still very strange because you can’t understand a word from the signboard to the menu. Walking in the middle of the street, I just felt like a total outsider, having lost in the city where everyone speaks the language I couldn’t understand… But the people are quite nice and friendly. I met some Singaporean students, and they said if you stand in the roadside long enough with your maps, someone will probably come and ask if you need help.
Days have become better when I get to know more international students. I went for some activities prepared for the international students in the first week (just like the O-Week in Murdoch). I tried snow-sledging, tasted some traditional Swedish food, and I even attended a Chinese New Year celebration organized by the Chinese Students Associations here. And I’ve also been to Helsinki last weekend! It’s been a wonderful experience taking on a cruise that moves on the frozen sea.
And I think I shall write about my study (which is supposed to be the first priority? Hmm :p) next time, or I’ll never finish this post. I am actually (ahem) still in the honeymoon period, but so far I’ve done two presentations, coming up with a literature review and group project. Soon it will be time to be serious, but not now. lol
Well I’m really missing the green green grass, blue blue sea and the big big sun in Perth and Malaysia. I kinda feel myself becoming colour blind by looking at the pure whiteness all the time.. But before I can see the colourful nature again when in spring and summer (finally) come to town, I will (and I am) enjoy the feeling of not feeling my fingers and toes all the time, as I know this would possibly be the longest period in my life to stay in Northern Europe for study purpose. So, jackets on, time to explore more! Hej Då!
A little compilation of Uppsala, Sweden from January to March~
“Is everyone alright? Pls get in contact asap!” That was the first moment I knew something was wrong. A message from one of my close friends in Tokyo at 15:23 on Friday 11th March. I was on a train bound for Osaka to meet up with two friends to see the fabulous Mr Jack Johnson in concert; a tour appropriately called ‘By The Sea’. Unbeknownst to us Japan’s most powerful earthquake measuring 9.0 magnitude had struck the north-east coast, which subsequently triggering a massive 10 metre tsunami that caused catastrophic damage. While we sat eating an early dinner before the show my New Zealand friend received a call from her family asking if she was ok. While she was on the phone I received a message from my family in Australia concerned for my safety asking me to reply if I could. Slowly over the next five minutes we collected a vague outline that an earthquake had struck Japan and had cause significant impact and there was a tsunami warning for all the east coast. Australian and New Zealand news broadcasters knew more about what was happening than we did. That was what concerned us the most; fear of the unknown. Every piece of subsequent information we collected was worse than the one before. I was living in Shibuya and went to Uni in Tokyo, which meant all my friends lived mainly in area surrounding Tokyo. I was highly concerned for their safety but only had limited phone service and could only email them, anxiously waiting for replies. We felt so helpless as there was nothing we could do. As we boarded the train to go to the concert we questioned if we were doing the right thing; I was going to enjoy a Jack Johnson concert while Tokyo, my home, was in chaos. I felt so guilty for being there, travelling during my Spring Break rather than being where I ‘should’ have been.
The concert was absolutely amazing. Jack Johnson and his band are unbelievably talented and draw you into their music. I couldn’t fully enjoy every moment though as my phone was constantly vibrating as I received replies confirming my friends were at least alive and asking if I was alright. Once the concert had ended my friends and I were anxious to find out the full story as to what had happened. We returned to the business hotel we had booked for the night and turned on the television. For four hours we sat in front of the screen, mesmerised by the footage that we saw. Words could not describe what I was feeling; especially when I saw people stranded in the dark at the station that was only 50 metres from my house. The sheer power of nature fascinated me and the destruction that was left in its wake was immense. I felt so removed from the situation even though geographically it was occurring so close. My friends were stranded at train stations, on campus and even at Disneyland, separated from their families and not knowing what they would go home to the following day. It was also challenging because I could not understand all the content of the news bulletins as they were broadcast in Japanese; however, I could clearly understood the numbers of missing and dead that was being reported.
Two days later I arrived back in Tokyo after travelling eight hours on a night bus. Having no idea what to expect I was a little nervous. When I walked into my room my bookshelf was dishevelled but overall Tokyo seemed to be regrouping. Aftershocks continued to occur at regular intervals, differing in intensity and length. Rolling scheduled power outages affected businesses and shops and disrupted train lines, which made travel very difficult. All club activities, and graduation and orientation ceremonies were cancelled at University. Grocery stores were also affected not receiving new stock and dealing with an influx of people buying abnormal amounts of food in case of another emergency. The signs on shelving in the picture have limited customers’ purchases, for example there is a maximum of one instant noodle packet and one bread item per customer. The only grocery items that were in ample supply were alcohol and ice cream! It was good to know that Starbuck was also on hand for all your coffee needs 🙂
During the week following the earthquake friends on exchange from American Universities were being recalled to America due to the ongoing health concerns and the risk of radiation. Despite sending an email to UOW I waited everyday anxiously checking my email and wondering if I would be the next person to be requested home. I kept receiving emails from friends and family telling me to come home but I wanted to stay. I had created a life in Japan that I was not ready to leave. However, the morning of February 18th I received the email I had been dreading; UOW was withdrawing us from the exchange program and requesting our return to Australia. That same morning I also received an email from the Australian Embassy directing that all non-essential Australian nationals were to return home. 36 hours after receiving these emails I was booked on a flight and 15 hours later I arrived at Sydney airport. It felt so surreal that I was home. I had changed so much but everything else was so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. Less than 24 hours after landing in Australia I was back at Uni organising my late enrolment, beginning classes in Week 4.
I know that I can’t be over there but I don’t know how to be here yet. I know that over time I will adjust to my new reality in Australia and I thank all my family and friends for their support. My time abroad was a life changing experience that I will always keep close to my heart. 本当にありがとうございました。