Sunday, December 31, 2017

Hamburg

Hello again! So, while waiting for New Year's Eve, which is just 3 hours away, I want to make use of my time now to write some more here. Bawi bawi rin pag may time! =)

The day after Christmas, me and my friend went to Hamburg. It was my first time and it's nice to be able to see a new city in Germany. It's vibe is a lot different from Cologne. The buildings are bigger and taller and the roads, wider. But then again, each city has its own charm.

What I love here in Europe are the architectural designs of old buildings and how well-preserved they are. Just look at the building pictured below, the Hamburg Rathaus (City Hall). It looks so good from afar but the details are especially captivating when you're nearer.









We joined a two-hour walking tour discussing the history of Hamburg. Even though it was a bit rainy and the wind was blowing strong (since Hamburg is a port city, its location is near the open waters), it was all worth it listening and learning some historical events that happened in Hamburg.




The inside of St. Michael's church is stunning! The white and gold colors brightens the surroundings. It's not very big and I think the size is perfect for an intimate wedding. There's even a big organ opposite the altar.

After the tour, me and my friend met up with a fellow Filipino scholar. The three of us came from the same university. The two of them were batchmates and I'm a year older than them. We had lunch in a cafe and talked about our experiences. And it's really nice to hear something new or a different way of dealing with things because it widens your perspective in life.


First Christmas in Germany

I hope you had a wonderful time spending the holidays with your loved ones. As for me, I know this is late, but let me share how my first Christmas here in Germany went.

On the 24th, I traveled to Oldenburg, a quaint city in the northern part of Germany, where I'd be spending the next coming days visiting a friend and nearby places. The travel time from Cologne to Oldenburg is approximately 4 and a half hours by train (including a 37-minute waiting and change of train in Bremen). I arrived at 4:30 pm but it's already starting to get dark. Since the time in Philippines is several hours ahead of Germany, we spent time chatting with our own families online before having dinner. For our Christmas dinner, she prepared spaghetti and lumpiang shanghai. It's just a simple celebration. We also had an exchange gift and I got some comfy/warm socks and a candle, which is perfect because it gets really cold in my apartment.

Christmas day was spent just eating and staying in the apartment. But late in the afternoon, we decided to get out and breathe some fresh air. We just walked from her apartment to the city center. On the way, we passed by a cemetery and decided to have a look at it. How ironic that it's Christmas and we're in a cemetery but my heart melted when I saw people visiting the graves of their loved ones. I also noticed that there were candles and fresh flowers in many of the graves, which just shows that the love for our departed family members and friends never ends, even after they are long gone.

We, then, passed by several houses and apartments. What I like about Oldenburg is that the buildings are separate from one another. The houses have big lawns and gardens. It's refreshing to see a sight like that because Cologne can be a bit crowded and rarely do you see apartments with gardens. Upon arriving in the city center, we're lucky to find an open cafe. Yes, it is open on Christmas day! It's cozy and warm and it's just nice to sit there with a cup of macchiato. After keeping warm, we had our energy back and walked around the shops and, snapped some photos.













At the end of the day, I realized that nothing beats spending Christmas with family but I'm also thankful that even though I'm in a foreign country, I was still able to spend it with someone.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Moments in 2017: A Reflection

Again, I have to say this, "Time flies!" I guess when one gets older, time suddenly passes by fast compared to when one was still a child. And look where we are now! Hello December! It's only a month before the year ends and I just want to take this moment to reflect on what my 2017 was/is all about.

This year has brought me to the happiest and saddest moments of my life.

I'll start with the saddest first. Saddest, because my grandmother passed away. I still remember that faithful day of  the 18th of April. It was about 5:30 am and I was preparing for the day when my phone rang. At first, I thought it was my alarm but then it was a call from my mom. She told me what happened and right at that moment, tears started flooding my eyes. We know my Lola is in a bad condition, we know that she's dying but you still cannot be prepared when that moment, death, actually happens. Up to this day, I still have thoughts of What if I traveled a day before instead of planning to go home on Friday, then maybe I will be by my Lola's side during her last breath? There is still guilt in me that I haven't done the right thing. When my brother told me the details of Lola's last moments, it's as if it's happening in front of me. He's a nurse so he knows what's happening and what's coming next. And now that I think of it, if I was there, I wouldn't be able to handle the situation in a calm way. I'm a very emotional person (though I rarely let others see what I truly feel) so I can just imagine the panic and drastic feelings I'll be having if I was there. But then again, I still wish I was there. I was hoping that my Lola would still get through it, that she'll be healed and get back to normal because I don't want her to die with a frail body. I don't want her to die suffering. I want her to die happy and in peace. But God has better plans than mine. In the end, what's important is that she's now with the Lord. I just hope she's looking at me now from the heavens. On a lighter note, I also hope that she's whispering to God my heart's desires.
Taken last February at the wedding of one of her grandchildren.
I really love the way she looks here. She seems very happy.

Happiest, because my dream of pursuing a PhD has finally become a reality. And I just couldn't ask for a better place than where God has put me now. I will always, always be grateful for this opportunity. Getting here was never easy but it's all worth it. I applied to a lot, and I mean really a lot, of graduate programs back in 2016. Then, I saw a scholarship announcement in January this year. I sent my application and, fortunately, I was one of the candidates who get into the interview stage, then another interview, and finally I get the acceptance letter. It was fast getting my visa but acquiring the exit clearance was a different kind of level. It was a nightmare, with all the bureaucratic and very slow processing of papers. I've never been so stressed and angry in my life than that. Two days before my flight, that's the only time I got my exit clearance. Anyway, as they say, all's well that ends well.

















So, that probably sums up my 2017. We still have a month so let's see if there are still some surprises.

P.S. Oh, speaking of surprises, the other day I got a [bad] surprise. I got into my first bike accident here in Germany. I was in a hurry that morning and was supposed to transfer from the road to the sidewalk/bike lane but I haven't noticed the level was a bit high and the road was wet, my tire didn't get through and then, everything was a mess. I fell face down on the cement. Got some wounds and bruises in my face, a bleeding mouth, a loosened front tooth, and a big wound in my right knee. And a day before that, I got bitten by a mouse while in training. Life is certainly full of surprises! Huhu!

New haircut, Aztec Healing Clay, and Empties

Hi everyone! Just a little update. I've never gotten a haircut since I left the Philippines last July. It's been 7 months alrea...