So I arrive through the domestic terminal of my destination and await my baggage. It took about an hour to realize that it really wasn’t gonna come through. I kept standing there after everyone got their luggage and left giving me pitied and concerned looks. I was a wreck. What if my luggage never made it on to the second plane?
Luckily there was a lost baggage counter right around the corner filled with about 50 identical looking hand-bags, none of which were mine. Thankfully, the woman could also understand a bit of english and tld me to sprint all the way across the airport to the international customs where my luggage most probably was. So I run across along the outside of the airport and re-enter at the international terminal, where I had to struggle with a non-English speaking guard and explain how I’d arrived through domestic but was actually an international traveler.
So there I am, with my 30kg heavy suitcase refusing to be easily dragged across the rigid airport floor. I took a deep breath, put on my coat and beanie and snapped this pic of long due for replacement Christmas
And then stepped out the doors and into the snow covered pavement. This is what freezing temperature felt like, something I’d never witnessed before. With a frozen jaw and numb ear cartilage I dragged my luggage down the path to the taxi park area.
Going down the lane one by one asking every driver if they spoke English. Almost gave up by the end of it, trying to explain to them where I was headed and struggling to use google translator on the fly, while it refused to recognize their accents or whatever they were saying.
I finally get to this one guy who says “yes yes English” good enough for me, I think to myself. Starting to explain the name of my university which I didnt know was also just the name of the area of the city the university is in. So while I’m struggling with my cab driver to be, a person overhears my struggle and asks if I’m in need of translation. A god sent professor coincidentally from the same university where I was headed, he was waiting for someone whom I assumed was his lover, because in his hands was a nice little bouquet filled with tulips and daisies ( another reminder of how I’d left Asia and was deep in the depths of Europe). He explained to the driver where I needed to go and also explained to me how much he should charge me, anything more and I was clearly being mugged (I’d been mugged by SIM salesmen already so I took this warning to heart).
BTW, I think this deserves a mention, my driver was really into Taylor Swift and Nick Jonas, kept playing them over and over.
The journey was about 40 mins long and all I could do was adore the white pure luscious imagery around me. Everything from the trees to the streets covered in glistening moisture. The towers, mosques and church bells all hailing as pillars of warmth arising from the dusk beneath.
I was finally here after a long tiresome and nerve wracking trip, my registration process went smoother than expected and in only a short freight of luggage dragging strength I was in my dorm and ready to rest.
BONUS: Too calm my nerves down a bit, I also happened to spot a little kitty at the entrance of the dorm, whom I picked up and greeted with love, she later followed me into my room and spent the whole day there. *Marvel post credit announcement* this cat will return in future posts.
I jolt awake atop unknown oceans. flight time 7am, a few more hours to go. Every other passenger casually noshing on some microwaved mushrooms and veggies as I look around in confusion. The flight attendants decided to pass by me while giving out all the amazing canned food. (I kid, airplane food is pretty okay for what it is)
I turned on the flight map and resumed my music, Green Day’s Revolution Radio really wakes me up and gets me right on track. I began picking at the newly given out tray in front of me too as we started to approach the awaiting land.
A few ours pass and here I am. A new country, a new airport and an all new domestic terminal to explore. My flight was a transit flight which meant I had to land in an international terminal and then take off again in less than an hour through a domestic terminal. This is where it got really really scary, English apparently isnt a strong suit for many in this new European country so making it all the way across the air port with only vague signs to guide me was a total night-mare.
Finally making the impossible journey through the airport to the domestic lobby I remembered that I needed to buy a new SIM so that I could update my location and let everyone at home know I had landed safely with 50% of my journey done. I got scammed really badly ( I learned this later on) but apparently the SIM and prepaid package I bought was supposed to be half the price of what I paid. The person clearly understood I spoke close to 0% of his language and used it to his advantage, yes there are surely scam artists in every part of the world but this was okay, I was prepared for things to be pricey.
So I, the nervous child make my way to the lounge area closest to the gates of my flight, being extremely anxious with loads of palpitations I spot a woman travelling with a pet kitty in a cage, I asked to pet it and she declined but just staring at a cat was a bit relaxing I suppose.
I wait anxiously for another 45 mins to pass and then boarding starts, luckily I was group B right after all the high-end snobs (and maybe some nice people who won a ticket) of first class. I was too scared to actually read my seat number thoroughly and only noticed the letter A on it, which lead me to the first “A” labelled seat on the plane. This ofcourse was not my seat and about 5 minutes later after actually winding down and getting a bit calm I was shook once more by these really angry looking men and women who apparently had booked their seats together and I, the annoying little kid had sat in one of them. So off I went to almost the back of the plane (makes me wonder why I was in the second boarding group if my seat was so far back).
I felt quite peculiar, didn’t really speak the language, couldn’t understand the first run of the in flight safety video (good thing it ran the second time in English). The pilot had also warned of some turbulence but alas! In his local tongue yet again, because pilots gotta fly a plane they clearly don’t care if someone understands them or not (good thing the seat belts light exists, and the no cigarette one because people clearly still don’t know not to smoke on planes)
My peculiar feelings were comforted a bit this time, by the in-flight entertainment which I actually watched. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children a good in-flight movie if you aren’t really a big movie buff and just want to relax on a flight.
30 minutes into the hour-long flight and a few more horrors await. Snowfall all around ready to dance about on the wings of our plane. The pilot’s announcement which I hadn’t understood earlier had actually warned of harsh snowfall and -3 degrees (celsius) temperature.
I come from a tropical coastal city, the lowest temperature we experience is around 12 degrees and that too on the coldest of winter nights and here I was, about to land in a snowy wonderland where people just casually chill in -3 degrees on a good afternoon.
So there I am, coat ready. Waiting for a long turbulent descent. Even Miss Peregrine couldn’t distract me from this. The plane goes almost into free-fall. Never having experienced this sort of turbulence I look around, almost looking for a confirmation to my panic but nope, everyone seems okay, its only me I suppose (or Europeans just don’t really give too much though about anything).
The landing, as expected, is rough. I can almost feel the gigantic tires collide with the surface as the breaks start to resist out motion. I was finally here, the land I’ll be calling my new home for the next 4 years, but we were far from done for the day. I still needed to somehow make it to the university and register. For now, I was still glad I wasn’t just another crashed plane victim in the headlines.
Okay so these days may not fully be in chronological order, by that I mean I may skip a few days in between where nothing happens. Day 4 takes place approximately 2 days after day 3.
My new roommate and I had been exploring the campus for a few days, we’d seen the ins and the outs and the huge library. BTW, the library is HUGE though I still couldn’t find the
fiction section, so there’s surely a visit left. There is however a shelf on manga and here, have a picture!
So aside from the massive departments on campus, there was this whole different world outside the walls ( AOT reference for all you manga fans) which we wanted to see, and who better to take us than a senior.
It was decided, that we ride out at dusk (on a bus) and go to the city center, after 30
minutes of anticipation and a bit of stomach grumbling, here we were, the heart of the city, lantern lighting all around and busy faces just strolling by. It was beautiful and nothing like I’d imagined, not large enough to be a concrete jungle but not too tiny to just be a village center, just the right amount of balance to give you the warm city street feel.
Our stomach’s groaned louder as the smell of delicious street food filled the air, everything from sweet corn to deep fried ice cream just sending whispers to our nostrils.
The senior however, knew just the spot for a bunch of broke newbies and there we went. I’d been deeply craving and missing all the Asian spices and he was surely aware of it.
We arrive in this small open seating shack shop with a full view kitchen and a family of humble business owners and cooks. Our hearty meal prepared right in front of our eyes in the coolest way.
Remember how I mentioned a spicy nostalgia, well as you can probably see (if the image loaded) there was this jar of chilies on our table, and I’m pretty sure we left it half full after we were done. Our first full meal in an unknown land filled with mystical deliciousness, I could finally say, I had tasted the treasures of this European land and now I was finally glad to be here.
So day 2 went by in a tired storm, I knew a few people here and was able get one to order me food for the night. None of that would happen on day 3 though, so I needed some groceries.
I discovered that there was a good grocery store around a mile away and a bus can take you half way there, to the main gate of the university, which he door was just outside. So I get up early, with my coat, muffler, beanie and everything else and get going to the closest bus stop. If it were that simple though, I wouldn’t even mention it in this post.
So I wait for the next bus, unbeknownst to me where the bus goes or how even to get on. (the in campus buses are free you just need to swipe your card) When the bus finally gets there, I proceed to get on and suddenly the bus driver stops me and starts to say something in his language that might as well be gibberish, he probably was just telling me to scan in my card but in the panic of the moment I just step off.
A mile isn’t too far, I could probably walk it,worst thought I’ve ever had, but the next bus would be in 30 mins and I didn’t wanna try and communicate with the next driver so I just started pacing in the general direction, It wasn’t too bad, got a bit of a walk in and didn’t really hurt much either.
So here I was, a massive grocery warehouse, I hadn’t seen one this big since my childhood days in Australia. I take out my list (and the calculator app on my phone) and get at it.
The real trouble wasn’t the accusation of said groceries (even though I had to budget and leave a lot behind ) It was getting these 4 huge plastic bags back to the dorm. So the bus does also come very close to this store to take kids back to mid campus, but on the second day I was still very much unaware. I’d dug my grave and I was gonna lie in it.
10 kilo grams, 1.1 miles, 10+ thousand steps and some very very sore feet later, I made it back, but boy was that a journey. At one point I was ready to just lie down in the snow and live there, I mean I had the supplies to survive, and surely my coat and beanie would keep me warm at night. Halfway through, a couple in a car did try to help me out, too bad I didn’t understand a word they said and they would probably say the same. So I walked the whole way back, getting weird looks by many strangers along the way. A few cab drivers also stopped in attempts to get me in, but I wasn’t ready to over pay just to avoid what I thought wouldn’t be too bad.
So I finally make it to the dorm room door, completely hopeless and tired, ready to pretty much call it quits, drop out and start selling popcorn from a cart back home. When I open the dorm room door, another surprise is there to greet me, a good one this time. Another individual from Asia, who spoke my language and greeted me right away. He probably couldn’t tell but I was definitely internally beaming with delight. I didn’t have to go through all this trouble alone, finally someone who could communicate with me, someone who probably felt the same barriers I did. Finally there was some remorse!
I took off late at night almost 5am, might as well call it morning. With over packed luggage filled with well-wishes and protection, its a good thing airport detectors don’t scan for those otherwise I would never be allowed in. I was still petrified of security, when you have the prospective of an individual trying to leave a country for a good 4 years, envious beings are bound to try anything to stop them and that was exactly what I feared.
Like previous posts, I will spare nothing when it comes to the spoiled treasure that is my home land, filled with venomous demons disguised in human flesh. You fear officials at every corner, people meant to help out and aid your travel will only strike you down where-ever they can in order to earn just a bit more petty cash than their salary allows. From traffic officers to airport security, they may try any foul tactic in order to make you pay a simple fee (bribe) and be on your way. Obviously I hate having to spend on bribery, but when forced into it (like them literally searching your wallet for hidden items and you losing a few bucks in the process) you really do have to comply. This rant ends here.
Thankfully I faced no such issues and I was on the plane with a few spare change I didn’t expect to make it past the terminal. Ready for takeoff now, the sun almost kissing the bottom of the horizon, I stepped on the plane, gracing the metal sides with my palms for good luck.
Got into my seat, a middle aged father on one side and a twenty something business woman on the other; Horrible Oscar winning movies on the screen in front and all I could think off was the land awaiting my arrival as I dozed off to the sweet sounds Ed Sheeran in my ears.
I have always been a caged bird, dreaming of the days when I soar free. From a very young age I’ve had a lot of alone time, ready to discover the deep depths of my mind. I used to conquer mountains made of couch cushions and leads armies through the hallways, but as time went on the adventures faded further away and popped back up only as future goals. I still dreamed of steep distant mountains and foggy morning skies but I could no longer run around the house pretending I was chasing a golden mystical dragon.
The fruition of my goals presented itself in the form of an international scholarship. I was gonna leave my country for a newer greener land filled with adventurous potential. I was set for 4 years, adrenaline rushing back into my veins. I was finally free from the metaphorical chains, diving out the nest and into the skies.
Like every young chick however there was a bit of underlying anxiety, a disbelief in your wings and an expectation to just give out and plummet into the earth. This was when I started watching the news. Tyrannic worldly elections, Destructive assassinations and plane crashes all around sprinkled with controversially heartbreaking celebrity death.
My intuition warned of ill decisions, as my heart palpitated anxious ambitions. Was the cage really where I truly belonged ? Were these chains which I dreaded so much really just supports to hold up my own weight which my own two feet could not ?
Crippled by the thoughts I shut down my ambition and retreated into exile, 4 months of isolation, silence and darkness embracing a sulking creature in the depths of a blanket. I would hide away from the sun and celebrate the coming dusk, be unresponsive to friendly calls seeking some sort of misogynistic refusal. Most of my dreams turned into nightmares as the months crept by.
Time came swooshing in and there it was, 1 month to flight time, 1 month of sorrow, 1 month of goodbyes. Being coddled by many, fake well wishers wishing the best through their envious breaths. There were those however who would re-ignite the hopes, remind me of the horizons, the roads yet to be traveled. The true comrades, friends and allies all around. Companions also crippled in cages afar. The smiles lead me back into reality, the hopes of these nested playmates leading me to push out the cage.
I needed to explore, to live on and lead through to the other side, if not for myself, than for them; the ones who truly believed. They too needed to break free, they too needed to fly and for me to curse my unbelievable opportunity seemed like betrayal towards them.
So only a few hours to flight time, I kissed my chains a final goodbye and left a hopeful message to all those still crippled by their circumstances, I broke free from a hopeless ambition crippling “developing” country, and I still wish to go back, but not as anther crippled chick adding to the dying flock but as a leading soaring eagle flying gracefully towards altitudes atop.