The many faces of San Francisco.

San Francisco is one of those cities that is very hard for me to define. No matter how many times I visited the place (thanks to my stint in Berkeley, I had the privilege of living 45-minute BART ride away from THE San Francisco), I never felt like I got to know the city well. Perhaps it was my fault that I hardly spent a full day there just to explore – I normally visited San Francisco when I was meeting a friend or if I had to go there for a reporting assignment. But maybe it was the city’s ‘fault’, that it just had so many different things to offer.

In the end, I gave up that internal battle in my head and came to accept that it was just the way things were. Perhaps, San Francisco is just like that intriguing friend of yours who always shows a different side every time you see her. She’s not someone you are meant to figure out and fit into a box. She is just that, San Francisco, with its many facades.

She is as much the Victorian buildings that form the Seven Sisters…

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As the skyscrapers at Market Street.

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Continue reading “The many faces of San Francisco.”

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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.”