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Thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams

I won’t let go

When I was back to Rotterdam weeks ago, I felt stuck in my old routines and unable to find my joy of living again. But sometimes, something happens and Rotterdam doesn’t seem that boring anymore and laughing feels good and real again. It’s about the moment and the person. Too bad that one cannot freeze time, because I wish I could stay in this moment a little longer, deny the reality, live in a bubble, not think that in two weeks everything will seem like a beautiful, distant dream. Is this how life is supposed to be? Just beautiful moments that fade away like dreams in the dawn of the day?

But this time I fell for the moment and for the person. I was shown that I can be myself again, careless, happy, clumsy, shy, annoying, all in one. This part of me, I now realize, has been lying dormant inside myself for a long while. I thought so many times that I was that close for something beautiful, but I never were. Everytime has been just a foolish illusion. I was clinging one moments that put me down and ate me alive. I made so many good mistakes, but also so many wrong choices. But this time, it doesn’t feel like that.

This time, it feels right. But then again, the moment is wrong. Am I ready to say good-bye? Am I ready to cut the connection? This time, I just don’t want to let go. Because letting go, it doesn’t feel right anymore. I can’t find a reason for which I should let go, no matter how hard I try.

Back to R-town

It’s been two weeks since I came back to Rotterdam, though it feels like it’s been months already. I must admit I am still not fully used to the life back here – my mind is still wandering around and longing for my exchange time in Hong Kong ( thanks God with the pictures and videos that always make me smile!).

It felt generally weird to be back: from opening the door of my apartment to waiting in front of CB1 for a 300-people lecture. Not to mention the heavy rain we got in the past weeks..that made me feel really depressed. I am still used to stuff as they were in Hong Kong, so I even found it weird that people weren’t lining up get on the bus. I almost forgot to check out of the bus ( Good bye, Octopus card! Hello back, OV-card!). Probably the best thing of going back so far was seeing my closest friends from here and…normal supermarket prices. Despite the fact that I thought it will be more difficult to get back to cooking, i am actually not that bad…and I am back to healthy eating habits and going to the gym.

I must admit, I was finally feeling like I was getting back to my routines and habits but then something happened: the past hit me. It’s so annoying when you think that you are fine and some stuff cannot touch you anymore, because they happened exactly one year ago, but sometimes they do. And it’s rather anger and regret that hits. But I guess, it’s always going to be like that: people that hurt you like no one else did, will always trigger this kind of feeling inside…But oh well, life goes on, rage doesn’t change the past. It did change me, but I learnt a lot. And I will always carry these take-away lessons with me from now on…

Moving on, this weekend I finally manage to go and check out the new Markhal in the city center and it’s a really nice place – bit pricey, but still nice. It’s like a posh market place, with butcher’s, bakeries, sweet stands, delicacies, restaurants, cafes..it’s quite cool! I was happy it finally opened 🙂

And apart from that, student life got back to reality now and it’s boooring..especially when you dream of a white sand crystal clear water beach..oh, well…

Good-bye 2014, hello 2015!

It’s crazy how many things can change in one year…2014 has been a roller-coaster for me, but it has also been the one and only year that I have been faced with unique experiences and adventures. Looking back, I am grateful for every single experience that I was faced with. I have toughen up a little bit, but I have also learnt more about myself and the world I live in.

The start of 2014 was quite rough and challenging and it took me a few months to get back on track and realise nothing is the end of the world. And as the law of compensation works, few days after my birthday I found out that I was going to spend 4 months in Hong Kong. And this was by far the greatest achievement as I wanted this exchange destination so badly. I had so many hopes and dreams about this exchange; when I’ve heard the selection result I knew nothing could stop me.

2014 has been the year of self-discovery and challenges found at every corner. I have failed but I’ve also had great achievements that I am really proud of. I also got a step closer to the crossroads in my life called Bachelor Graduation. What’s next? That’s still unknown, but that’s what 2015 is for. 2014 brought new amazing people in my life that I am so happy to have met, but it has also helped me strengthen some old connections. 2014 has been the year of new beginnings, but also coming back to the roots. I’ve done things I’ve never thought I’d be capable for – and I am still alive! I’ve lived my dream and I did it my way, so to say. I’ve learnt not to have any regrets anymore about the things I’ve done – but rather regret the things I haven’t done. I also became better at living the moment and not thinking everything through a million time – took things easier, followed my heart and my intuition.

I’ve spent the last days of 2014 at home – and I couldn’t have wished for a better end of the year. After 4 adventurous months in Asia, I deserved a couple of days of silence spent with my family to recharge my batteries and be able to welcome 2015 with plenty of energy.

I wish for a 2015 at least as amazing as 2014 has been – because as of now, I am open to any surprises and any opportunities that might come up. Maybe next year I’ll be more mature and responsible, smarter and choose wisely whatever I’ll have to choose. Hopefully, I’ll find my path  next year, but if not, the road is still long and paved with many other adventures for me, I have no doubt about it!

It’s not good-bye, it’s see you soon

Today my journey through Asia comes to an end. I must say I’ve had the most amazing 4 months and I couldn’t have wished for a better exchange destination than Hong Kong. This amazing, bustling, full of contrasts city has become a real home for me in such a short time. It has never happened to me before to have such a connection with a place – Hong Kong you are definitely amazing for achieving this! I will miss double decker buses, skyscrapers, amazing views,minibuses (Yao Lork!), walking on the wrong side of the road, eating with chopsticks, crowds, the vibe of the city, LKF, Wan Chai Wednesdays, the RC Lee Hall rooftop, a gazzilion of stairs, HKU, my truly inspirational professors,  but most importantly the people that four months ago were complete strangers and now they are my friends.

We’ve shared moments of joy, happiness, hilarious-ness and moments of sadness. It has been a true pleasure to meet every single friend I’ve made here and I’ve had so much to learn from every single one. I’ve realised that this exchange has been by far the richest multicultural experience I will ever get – as in Rotterdam I’ve always have a comfort zone, but here has been different. I am so glad to have met people from all over the world and to expand my network of friends to other amazing countries that are now on my travelling bucket list.  But we’ll see each other again some time, as one never knows where the twisted paths of life will carry us in the future.

Asia has also showed me a complete different world. I got the chance to visit such amazing places and have memories that I will forever carry with me. During these four months I have experienced every method of transportation possible (buses, minibuses, boats, ferries, planes, night buses, night trains and tuk-tuks), I ate food that I’ve never had before, I saw monkeys, walked on the Great Wall of China, swam in the most amazing water possible in the Philippines, stayed on top of Marina Bay Sands, jumped off a cliff, experienced mother nature’s typhoons and many more. All these experiences have been a great opportunity for me to learn more about myself and yet to reflect on my past experiences and learn to enjoy the present more. I have learnt to not have any regrets any more and it feels good to let go of some old demons. Looking back, I will never be the same again – and even though I’ve had some battles with myself lately, I think I will miss the myself as I am right now.

But despite of these, Hong Kong will always be a part of my heart – and a tiny bit of my heart will remain here. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to go. The past few days have been a rollercoaster of emotions, from joyful moments to really emotional ‘good-bye’ moments. But I couldn’t have wished for a better end – drinks, friends, smiles, tears, love, hugs, kisses. Tomorrow everything will seem like a dream, a distant beautiful dream. And I am sad, but at the same time I am happy to go back to mother Europe, to go back to the roots and see my friends and family back home. It’s been a true adventure and I couldn’t have hoped for better. Asia you will forever be missed. But we’ll see each other soon again!

15 surprising things about Hong Kong

Brace yourselves, folks! Time for some Hong Kong – related posts now that I am getting incredibly nostalgic of my time here. When I first landed here, I was totally taken aback by the city. First off, an incredibly hot humid air hit me the moment I went out of the airport and I thought it will never be possible for me to leave here. Seriously, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was ” Can I go back… N O W ?”. But I eventually grown to love this city and its people. Hong Kong has never stopped to amaze me and surprise me at every single step and corner, so here are the first 15 surprising things about Hong Kong that came to my mind when I started writing this post.

1. People sleep everywhere. Name it, class, library, buses, and you’ll see them napping. I am really surprise how they don’t miss their bus stops. Hong Kong is a generally a city of long commutes so travelling back and forth can be quite a good chance for taking a nap. This also further reinforces that Hong Kong is a safe city as people can easily disconnect without worrying something would happen. What I’ve also noticed  is that students here generally have a very weird sleeping pattern  – so that’s none of my business to judge as I am a “I need at least 8 hours of sleep per night” in order to function properly.

2. Dorm life. Oh man, sleeping in a dorm was a hell out of an experience as my hall mates really like having middle of the night activities that consist of shouting and screaming. I do understand that the whole point of living in a hall is that you end up having a very active social life, and all these activities are part of the dorm culture. But sometimes I feel that people are doing all these things ( think about those High Table Dinners that I never attended) in order get a place to live in the next year.

3. The most unusual breakfast ever. This happened in my first days in Hong Kong as I was really hungry and I tried the canteen close to my hall. I saw on the menu board fried egg with ham. Hmm, delicious I thought! But to my surprise, the fried eggs came on top of a bowl of noodle soup. Never again! Even the airline companies gave us noodles or rice for morning flights…

4. Couples, couples everywhere! The amount of couples I see on a daily basis it’s insane, really! I guess this comes as a result that Asian cultures are collectivistic in nature so they need to share affection and define themselves through others, I must say all these couples are incredibly adorable and cute, but I will be happy to go back to a world where I will not have to see couples everywhere I go.

5. Everything fast-paced. I should be used to this by now, as I come from a country where people like to do everything fast and now. But I guess after some years in Holland, where everything is done at a time and there’s no hurry for anything, I kind of realised that I need to slow myself down a bit. That’s why I was so surprised by the fact that Hong Kong is so bustling and buzzling. There is so much dynamism and energy – this city moves at trillion kilometres per hour.  But after all, I loved this way of living because this is one of the main things that makes the city so fascinating.

6.Bamboo scaffolding. For a city made out of concrete and glass, using bamboo scaffolding is kind of interesting.Sometimes you just walk around and see these incredibly tall buildings being built or renovated through the use of bamboo. I must admit: look better than the metal one!  And it’s also quite versatile and eco-friendly!

7. Occupy Central. I wouldn’t know how I should feel about it, but I lived in Hong Kong in one of its most tumultuous times ever. But Occupy Central surprised me in a positive way, as I have never seen such a peaceful protest with nothing being teared down or vandalised. The movement also lasted for a very long time and it was very insightful to follow the whole process (also because of my Journalism class).

8. Weather. In Hong Kong you basically boil for 9 months and for the rest 3 month you feel like you are in a freezer. I did not expect temperatures to drop to 13 degrees – yes, 13 degrees can feel like -5 when you are not used to it anymore! There was also a typhoon while I was here – so I must say when mother nature lets rip, it does it with a lot of style.

9.Air-conditioning. Hong Kongers do love air-conditioning. Sometimes even now when it’s cold you can get your daily dose of air-con in some buses. What I really loved were the air-conditioned walkways – especially the area around the Central Business District. Such a great thing during hot humid busy days – only if you know your way, none wants you to get lost! But sometimes air-con is a bit too much for me…

10.Living spaces. In Hong Kong the housing situation is a bit different from what I am used to. People live in tiny spaces and most of the times they don’t even cook as there is not enough space to do so. I am used to living in 25 sqm room only by myself – but here you don’t get such a luxury.

11.Luxury brands everywhere you go. I love shopping a lot – but Hong Kong can turn out a bit of a disappointment if you want to go shopping (for a reasonable price). It is indeed the paradise for shopping if you’ve got the money as Miu Miu, Prada, LV, Armani, Burberry can be found at almost every street corner in shopping areas such as Central, Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui.

12. Freedom. There is a lot of freedom in this city. You can even walk around with a beer in your hand and it is basically legal. This also save a lot of money when going out as the convenience stores ( oh, don’t we love 7-11?) sell drink for way cheaper than the bars in Lan Kwai Fong.

13. Ladies nights. Where in this world would I ever go out and get free drinks because of ladies night? Wan Chai Wednesdays and Thursdays at LKF are definitely the best. And if you think you get only juice instead of vodka in your drink you are wrong – the amount of alcohol in the mixed drinks is insane.

14. Hygiene obsession. The handrails at MTRs are sanitized I don’t know how many times a day. Hand sanitizer is available in lots of places. In buses there is a message telling you not to forget your used tissues – hmm, interesting one. Also the buttons in the elevator are sanitized for the same amount of times.People were surgical mask to protect themselves for the bacteria. I once got sick and I went to the doctor and because  had a slightly bit of fever I was immediately handed in a mask – God forbid, I’d spread my viruses to others!  But yes, Hong Kong people care about their health.

15. It’s not all about the concrete jungle. I said it before: Hong Kong is such a bustling place to be. But the best part of it (and I didn’t expect that) is that you can get a perfect getaway in all the country park Hong Kong has or any of the surrounding islands. I did a couple of hikes and you literally forget you are in Hong Kong. You get the best of two world while here, seriously.

Stranded in the Philippines

Both Anne-Fleur and I were so excited of finally having our beach days in Boracay when our classes at HKU came to an end. We left on Wednesday from Hong Kong – we wanted to leave earlier, but we still had a class on Tuesday. The trip started with lots of adventures from the first day: we went to the wrong Terminal at the HK International airport, so we had to walk to the other terminal for the check-in counter but then the flight was departing from the Terminal where we initially went to – logic much? The funny part was that the gate was so far away that we even had to take the bus – and while in the bus, it decided not to work anymore so we had to move in a second bus. Then, we were stuck for more than 4 hours in Manila Airport as our flight got cancelled. The Manila Airport experience was incredibly funny. It was so old and vintage that a person was standing with a camera at the passport control to film the passengers coming into the airport. While waiting in line at the passport control we made friends with a guy on a business trip from Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, his mom was born in Romania and then we started talking about Ceausescu…The transit procedure was quite dodgy as we had to pick up our suitcases to afterwards hand them in to some people to put them back on the baggage belt. We were quite worried not being sure whether our luggage will make it to the final destination. We then went to another desk where people were casually having lunch and we were asked to take a sit to take a shuttle bus to another terminal. After quite a long bus ride through the airport we made the check-in for the next flight – for a different time than the one we booked the flight for. At the departure area, there were no screens with the flight information; there were some announcements that one could hardly understand. The boarding flights were announced by some signs that employees had to change manually. Our flight was cancelled and they gave us free lunch, but other than that their customer service was completely useless and barely existent. We were re-directed to Kalibo airport (even though initially we were scheduled to land in Caticlan). The plane didn’t look safe at all and Kalibo airport was merely a room without a rooftop and everything was extremely manual – I think we could have even help the staff to get the suitcases from the plane!! IMG_0110We felt so relieved when our guide from MyBoracayGuide was waiting for us there and then took a free bus to Caticlan Jetty Port. The trip took about 2 hours and it was pouring rain – so not promising. People were already talking about the coming Typhoon Hagupit, locally known as Ruby. We felt a bit scared and doomed – only in Boracay for three days with bad weather didn’t sound too promising. Quite funny though, we were not thinking that there is a freaking typhoon hitting Philippines, we only cared about our well-deserved sunny beach days…From Caticlan we took a boat, which was quite scary as the waters were already getting a bit rough – but we made it to land safely. In Asia it’s not common to tip – but here people who were “nicely and friendly” helping you out with suitcases would expect you to tip them for their services. And they even pointed at us “tip, m’am”. Seriously? We then took a kind of ARO car – something quite famous back in Romania and 15 minutes later we were at our resort. This was probably the best part of the day as the resort was incredibly nice and people there were very helpful. Ok, the “m’am” part was getting me on my nerves as I was too tired to deal with this overly-annoying word – for the record, they use “m’am” at the end of every sentence they are saying. Oh and by the way, our room was such a breath of fresh air after having lived in a dorm room for 4 months and slept mainly in hostels while travelling around Asia.

The next day we were lucky to have an incredibly good weather so we enjoyed a full day at the beach. I’ve never seen such IMG_0323beautiful clear water in my entire life. Anne-Fleur made some funny videos of me while enjoying the water. We did paddle boarding – more lying on the board than paddling but it was fun – and even had a massage. In the afternoon, we took a long stroll along the white beach to get to Diniwid Beach in order to see the sunset at SpiderHouse. During our walk there, I over-heard some Romanians – and as I would have never expected to hear Romanian in this place that seems to be at the end of the world, I casually started talking to them. At SpiderHouse, we had a drink and some snacks and witnessed probably one the most beautiful sunsets I guess life’s too good to be true sometimes. We then went for a drink at a live music bar and then headed back to the resort.

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On Friday, the weather started to worsen, but we could still go to the beach and for a swim. However, in the evening we IMG_0530realized shit got real the moment when our resort closed all the WiFi connection in the resort due to safety reasons because of the coming typhoon. This made me really dramatic as I still had to upload my take-home exam for Journalism and I caused quite a scene for the people at the reception desk. Well, at least I got my internet access and I was able to upload my assignment and let know the people at University that we might be stuck for a couple more days in here. In the evening we went to the Pub Crawl which was a lot of fun – we did the pub crawl in Hong Kong as well and to be honest I didn’t really like it. This one was more social and fun, except for the horrible hang over the next day…

Thus, Saturday we were a bit slow-motion, while people around the resort were preparing for the Typhoon. We had to book an extra night as no boats were going to Caticlan anymore and flights got cancelled. We had a swim at the pool and had a drink at the bar – right from the pool. Then we went again to the beach and had a nice walk – as the weather was IMG_0773not yet bad. However, on Sunday morning it was already raining and windy and we were forced to get another night. We contacted the airline and they informed us that the first flight we could book is on Tuesday – I was desperately hoping the flights would go on Tuesday as we were having an exam on Wednesday. I had already contacted the Exam Board and the professor to inform them about our situation but the procedure was looking kind of vague. Actually, when I woke up Monday on the news the weather conditions in Manila (where our connecting flight to Hong Kong was) appeared to worsen, so I was almost sure we will never get back to Hong Kong in time. As there was nothing better to do, and the weather in Boracay was improving we went for a walk along the beach. There were lots of waves and people were doing wind-surfing. In the evening we went for dinner with some people we met during the Pub Crawl at a very nice restaurant. I really love how along all these trips – especially Vietnam and now Philippines we met so many new people. I guess this is one of the biggest advantages when you don’t travel with too many people. We ended up not sleeping and then we had to leave the resort at 4.30 to the airport. We were going back to Hong Kong!!! I must admit this was the first trip I wasn’t entirely excited to go back to Hong Kong as Philippines was so much fun.

After another 13 hours of travelling, we made it to the halls – and after having stayed in a nice hotel with a proper bathroom it felt really depressing to be back in our tiny old room. We had to say good-bye to one of our friends as he was already leaving and this woke me up to reality.

It’s all coming to an end now…

8 lessons about myself as an HKU student

Sadly enough, today I had my last class in HKU, which means that my exchange semester has officially ended. And I must admit that when the professor ended his class today my eyes started getting watery and I really had to hold back from letting tears roll down on my cheeks.  Don’t get me wrong – I am actually starting to miss home and friends back home and I am really conflicted right now. I kinda miss Europe, but if I had the chance, after the winter break, I’d rather come back to Hong Kong than to go back to Rotterdam. I am only now feeling settled in here and it’s such a pity that I have to leave soon. But I also think that I am scared of finally facing the reality – as these past months have seemed like a fantasy. I have learnt so much here from my peers, my professors and also from myself – as I was in a continuous struggle of self-discovery and finding my path…but anyway, here is what I’ve learnt about myself as an HKU student.

1. I can be a conscious student and attend all my classes.

Actually, I had to miss one full day of classes due to being sick – and I felt so guilty that I even e-mailed my professors for excusing myself. I really loved the classes here – the setting is way more informal and interactive than in Rotterdam. You feel more connected to the class and to the teacher and it is a better way of learning. Normally, I would just read the slides by myself, but here it was a pleasure to go and listen to the professor talking. Moreover, whenever you needed help or assistance you could just drop them an e-mail and they will reply right away.

2. I can do things last minute.

I am a control freak – that’s well-known by now and most importantly, I cannot handle uncertainty. Stress gives me the creeps and makes me cranky and unbearable. But oh well, people here like to do things last minute. So, last Friday we worked from 5.30pm to 3am. Slept for three hour and a half and at 8am we were back working at Starbucks as the presentation was taking place in 2 hours. This was once in a lifetime experience – which to be honest I do not want to go through again. Too much stress and tiredness that I can’t handle. 🙂 But at least, I got to get to know my team-mates better which was really nice and fun after all.

3. I can be unconventional sometimes.

When my team-mates informed me that they have a very crazy approach to our presentation, I became a bit skeptical. Me going crazy – not wearing nice clothes, not being formal, not doing the presentation in the traditional way? That was a no-go a few months ago. But there I was: in front of the class with a box on my head playing a robot. I did it – and felt so good about it afterwards.

4. Taking things one at a time is working better for me – or it did now.

Normally, when I work I put lots of pressure on myself. But as I was really busy with my trips around Asia, everything had to be done quickly in order to not have to deal with deadlines when I was away. And I must say, taking it easier and worrying less about the outcome or the grade, worked like magic. I finally realised that giving myself the opportunity to break my old routines was a breath of fresh air. Back in my mind, I still have that self-consciousness that I should have put a lot more effort, but who cares anymore? My new approach is definitely better than my old one.

5. I am even more clue-less now about my future now.

One of my biggest goals when I went on exchange was to find my way – that path that I need to follow once I graduate. But guess what? I am even more clue-less now. I have no idea where I am heading, where I will end up and yes, it’s a bit scary. I am not disappointed that I couldn’t figure it out, but maybe I missed something along the way.

6. I have to follow my heart more.

Sometimes, I am just too rational and too stuck into the box. I am too scared to express myself. But one of the key takeaways is that I shouldn’t care that much of others might think of me if I say something wrong. I should be more honest with me and the people around me and tell them what I feel until it’s too late. Because sometimes, time is running out and it might be too late…

7. I finally took a Journalism course – and I realised it wasn’t the thing for me.

I always loved writing, and at some point I was even fancying studying Journalism. Here, I finally had the chance to take a Journalism course – which I totally loved. My professor was such an inspiring person, especially due to her personal experience as a reporter. Also, the recent events in Hong Kong made the whole course even more interesting. I got more aware of the world I live in and I will never be able to look at news the same way I used to. However, I realised that I had a completely wrong view on what Journalism means and the image in my mind didn’t fit in with reality. If I had the chance, I would take another Journalism course just because it’s so interesting and you learn so much from it, but at least now I can rest in peace that I did the right thing not choosing to study full-time Journalism.

8. I can survive 4 months without my own food.

One of the only things I really hate about Hong Kong, is that here you don’t really have the time, nor the proper conditions to cook. My friends know how health-conscious I am when it comes to food and  how working out is part of my daily routine. But here, I survived without my own food – sometimes I was making avocado wraps just because I missed it so much, but that’s it mainly. I guess I’ll be really happy to go back to a normal kitchen and cook again – if I am still good at it….

So these are my key takeaways from being an HKU student for one semester. I still have one report, one take-home exams and two exams due, but tomorrow I am heading to Boracay, which is my last trip in Asia – another reason to feel sad. But at least I can brag about my tan when I go back home.