Sunset at the Big C, Berkeley.

A favourite spot in Berkeley that I only got to visit once.

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Sometimes, I think it is up to us to make the days count.

When I first arrived in Berkeley, I had too much time at hand. I practically had no friends. I only had classes for a few hours each day, 3 days a week. There were not many assignments and no academic paper to read. My ‘commute’ involved a mere 10-minute walk to my (very lovely) house.

This was not something I was used to. I started feeling uneasy, not knowing what to do with all this luxury. I could use it to acquire some new skills, but the irony of life is, the more time you have, the fewer the things you will get done.

So one day I decided I needed to get my lazy ass out of the house. Instead of lying around on the couch, I put on my sporty outfit, my colourful crocs and decided to go for a little hike to the Big C.

The Big C, I had read, was a giant concrete block of the letter ‘C’ built on the Berkeley Hills. It offered a stunning view over the UC Berkeley campus, where I was studying at the time. Definitely a perfect incentive for a rookie hiker. I decided to go during sunset because I wanted to witness the transition from the golden soft lighting of the sun to the dark expanse being studded by the city lights.

The starting point was from the North Gate Hall, Berkeley’s journalism school.

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From then on, I just needed to follow some paths that led me to the top of the hill. For example, these stairs that greeted me right in the beginning of the journey.

Continue reading “Sunset at the Big C, Berkeley.”

A crazy long year that was 2016.

I used to measure my year by the number of countries I visited. Travelling has been such an integral part of my life – it is largely how I spent growing up into almost-adulthood since I was 20. The swift movement of packing, catching the planes and trains (or missing them) and exploring new sights while getting helplessly lost have in themselves been valuable lessons and shaped very much who I am today.

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I figure out life just like how I travel: looking perpetually lost.

This time round, however, counting the number of countries I visited seems to be somewhat… superficial.

I get a severe writer’s block every time I try summing up what last year has been for me. Often times, 2016 felt like a giant piece of blanket, made of patches of different cloths randomly sewn together, each piece as distinct as it is colourful. Way too often, the parts felt like it would give way any time, the thread holding them coming loose, but somehow it worked out, the fabric all stitched up somewhat nicely in the end.

(And you can tell that I am excellent at analogies. Not.)

Last year was my craziest so far, and by far. I lived in three different countries within a year, and did some extensive travelling in between. Most of my friends never quite knew where I was, and to be honest, sometimes I didn’t really know either.

I know that people say the older you get, the faster time flies. But I think I have found the recipe to slow down the time. You just need to have things keeping you constantly on your toes, so much so that it keeps you awake at night sometimes.

For me, trying to keep half-watch on what I own has been keeping me on my toes. I needed to make sure that by the end of every few months, I could still cram everything into my suitcases, ready to hurl them to the other side of the world. Being the hoarder and over-packing person that I am, it was a challenge in its own right.

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I have had 100% success rate so far packing all these into suitcases.

Not to mention that it was the first full year that I was jobless in a long time – the fact that I didn’t have a steady stream of income was hitting me hard. I had to think hard for a lot of purchases that I used to take for granted, although on hindsight, it did keep my possessions in check, hence helping me to be less of a hoarder.

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The streets and flowers of North Berkeley.

During my last week in Berkeley, one of my favourite things to do was to wander aimlessly through the streets of North Berkeley.

Although the city is famous for the UC Berkeley campus and hipster street of Telegraph Avenue, my first impression of Berkeley would always be this.

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The quiet street.

Not to mention how fiery it turned one magical sunset in March.

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So it was only appropriate that I said goodbye to the city by taking my time to admire everything about the neighbourhood.

I admit though, that there isn’t much to write about the day. I roamed around for hours, just lost in my thoughts, mostly wondering how did time fly so fast. And taking  pictures of flowers. A great part of admiring North Berkeley is the flowers, along with the Victorian houses that come with them.

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There is something about Berkeley.

There is something about this little city.

I remember feeling slightly dreadful when I arrived here late at night a few months ago, jet lagged from my long plane ride from Denmark. In the dark, the place did not look like much – the sparsely-lit streets looked depressing and unfamiliar; the shadows of the houses looked rather creepy and I wonder if I had just moved from a small Danish city to an even smaller town. I started questioning, as I always do, what in the world I had gotten myself into.

The next day, however, draped in the famous Californian sunshine, Berkeley became beautiful. The Victorian houses turned charming, the campus buzzing with life, the streets outside quiet and peaceful, the green trees a nice change from the leafless ones that I got used to during the Danish winter.

I fell in love with the place from the very first fiery sunset.

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And then one day I walked past an Indonesian restaurant. I did not realise it until then, but I was missing home and felt a surge of relief and excitement at the sight of the place. When I finally went there with a friend that I was (and still am in many ways) very fond of, and spoke a few words of Indonesian to the waiter, I immediately felt at home.

Sunshine, a trusted friend, and excellent food – life could not have been better.

If only I had found a place to live. I came here only equipped with two days of Airbnb room booking. On the second night, I woke up at 4 AM (partly because of jet lag but mostly because of the panic of not having a roof for the next few months yet), and started firing emails to every single Craigslist listing that I saw (that I could afford). By some stroke of luck, I found a place in a beautiful house, for a reasonable price, and with the most wonderful, fun-loving and caring roommates I could ask for.

Life in Berkeley was finally in order.

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Then the heavy rain came, something that apparently California had not seen in many years. I was never one affected by the weather, but I was alone, away from my friend (who had been excellent in showing me directions) for the first time after days, and I was stuck in the middle of the campus, lost, my umbrella barely keeping me dry. I suddenly felt miserable and realised for the first time that I was in this all by myself and did not have the luxury of my friends in Denmark who wouldn’t let me out of their sight when something bad happened to me. I started questioning, again, what in the world had I gotten myself into in this miserable city.

Continue reading “There is something about Berkeley.”

Visiting the ‘rival’, Stanford.

One of my favourite songs of all time is “I’m not that girl” from the hit musical Wicked. It is probably the most depressing song of the whole play, but one that I could definitely relate to during one period in my life, when I did not like myself for being this awkward person and not the conventional pretty girly girl that guys like.

One line of the song particularly hits home with me.

Don’t wish, don’t start
Wishing only wounds the heart
I wasn’t born for the rose and pearls

But don’t worry, I am not about to launch into a sappy story about my love life. The reason why I’m telling you this is because I was reminded of the very line of this song when I visited Stanford a few weeks back.

Before coming to Berkeley, Stanford was just the name that I had heard being thrown around by very smart people around me. My super smart junior high school crush graduated from Stanford a couple of years back, my colleague-turned-friend went there after quitting his job. I didn’t have any idea where Stanford was, nor did I care to find out – the elite air around the name suggested that the place was somewhere too remote and had long ago been filed in my brain under the category of “unreachable places I will never go” (said the girl who had travelled all the way to the Arctic to see the Northern Lights).

Life, though, has a funny way of working itself. I somehow ended up visiting Stanford not because I was particularly eager to see the place, but because my friend, who lives in South Bay, and I were trying to find a hiking trail that would be accessible for both of us. Stanford Satellite Dish Trail seemed to be the best place for us to go that weekend, and my friend then of course very kindly requested her friend to bring us around to see the campus.

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On being constantly on the move.

Almost exactly a year ago, I made the decision to uproot myself from Singapore and move all the way up north to Denmark. I remember it was during the Easter holidays that I had a long conversation with my parents about quitting my somewhat decent-paying job and pursue something completely different (and one that is potentially not going to pay me very well).

It has definitely been one of the best decisions in my life.

I have learned a lot of new things, become a little street-wiser (although I know someone who thinks I still have a looong way to go, to the extent that I need to live on the streets in Nairobi before I can even be somewhat decent. Yep, he is brutally honest, but we are also still friends, which probably means that I agree with him), travelled to some amazing places in Europe, seen the Northern Lights and lived in two new cities (so far).

But it has also been one of the most confusing situations that I have got myself into.

I have been having a lot of difficulty in updating what’s been happening in my life on this blog. Whenever I sit in front of my computer, I simply do not know what to write. Not because nothing has been happening and that I have very few things to update. In fact, I have a whole Airbus-sized-cabin to update, but I just can’t find a way to do so.

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The A380 that brought me here.

At first I couldn’t quite place why this is the case, but these days I have come to realise that the reason I have been having some writer’s block about my own life is because things have been happening so fast that nothing has properly sunk in on me yet. I left Singapore, my home for nine years, last September, tried to settle into my new home Aarhus, only to find out a month later that my supposedly one-year stay would be cut short to mere 6 months because I got this incredible opportunity to finish my first year of Master’s at UC Berkeley. So within a span of half a year, I have had to move across three different countries in three different continents.

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Hello, from Berkeley.

 

Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these weeks you’d like to hear
What I’m up to in USA
They say Cal’s supposed to be sunny
But all I see is rain here

Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California studying at UC Berkeley
But don’t you worry ‘bout me
I’m still moving to London before I graduate next year

There’s a time difference between us
And a million miles

Hello from the other side
I must have moved a thousand times
From Indo to SG and then to Denmark
For a whole year I never seem to be home

Hello from the outside
At least I can still send Whatsapp
To tell you my dear friends that I’m missing you
And you still matter to me though I don’t see you often anymore

Hello, how are you?
It’s so typical of me to talk about myself I’m sorry
I hope that you’re well
I did at last make it out of Aarhus where nothing ever happened

It’s no secret that the both of us
Can’t wait to leave the place

Continue reading “Hello, from Berkeley.”