Friday, December 28, 2007

My Trip: Part 3

Right, this is long overdue but I’ll try to finish it. On the fourth day we were in Vienna but (and this is a last minute thing that we did on a whim) we decided to ride a bus to Bratislava in Slovakia, which is quite near to Vienna. This is because some of us felt that one day is enough to visit Vienna, and anyway, it would be nice to add another country to the list of those that we’ve visited so why not?

Bratislava isn’t really tourist friendly and it’s hard to find people who speak English, but one thing I noticed is that stuff are really cheap here (and it says that in the guidebook as well). We found a Tesco, but there’s no sign of my favourite tea so I bought a Lipton Orange Jaipur instead, which was recommended to me by my friend. Afterwards, we visited a castle and paid a visit to the river Danube.

On the last day, we walked around Vienna. Unfortunately at the time I was freezing cold and couldn’t be bothered to figure out the names of the places that we visited so I’m afraid I won’t be able to tell you much about them. Anyway, here are some pictures:

Like Germany, Christmas markets are everywhere here too

Right, so now I've seen the river Danube in three different countries: Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. Guess it must be huge.

Guess that's all. Have a Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Trip: Part 2

Okay, so it’s Christmas day today and I’m spending it with my beloved friend Equilibrium Thermodynamics. We ate together, we surfed the net together, and we even read Harry Potter 7 together. How nice. Oh, and instead of a white Christmas, we get a drizzly Christmas in Cambridge this year. Not that I really mind.

Right, let’s continue our story about my trip. We’ll start with… tea! I might have mentioned this somewhere in the blog but my favourite tea is the rooibos vanilla tea that I first encountered in Hungary while I was visiting my friend. I bought two packs for myself at that time and I remembered being sad when I ran out of them. I tried looking for the particular tea in the UK but to no avail. It seems that they only have vanilla with camomile or vanilla with ginseng and things like that, which I’m not really fond of. So, imagine my delight when I found some tea of the flavour I’m looking for in Berlin. In fact it was the exact same brand. Yippee!

Since we’re on the subject of food I’d like to mention that due to the large Turkish population, finding something to eat for us is not a problem at all in Berlin. Kebab shops are everywhere. And not that I’m an expert but I’m pretty sure that they taste better than the ones we have here too, not to mention cheaper.

So on the third day we rented a car (a Ford Mondeo, by the way... we were sort of expecting a German car but... oh well) and drove to Stuttgart, which is basically at the other end of Germany. Going across Germany is not really a big problem though since we rode the car at around 200 km/h. Not all the time, of course, but quite a big portion of the way. I guess there’s no way in hell you can do that back in Malaysia so we might as well savour the experience.

Isn't that amazing?

We saw lots of wind turbines along the way

The reason we went to Stuttgart is to see the Mercedes Benz museum. I personally don’t know much about cars, but what I saw was pretty impressive.

There was one incident when the car sort of broke down after we left the Museum to go to the airport. It was when we were going up a slope, of all places. Smoke was coming out of the front bit. Fortunately, the car started working again after ten minutes or so, otherwise, we would have missed our flight.

Guess that’s it for now, I’ll cover the last stretch of our trip on the next part. See ya!


Monday, December 24, 2007

This Place Makes Me Sad

Day before yesterday I cooked a meal consisting of rice and chicken and I put them in tupperwares and I placed them in the kitchen fridge so that I can eat it for lunch the next day. But when I looked the day after they’re gone. As a note, to eat the meal you have to put them in a microwave for a few minutes and then serve them on a plate; it’s not something that you can take a quick bite of. So I ended up hungry and I had to cook again.

Today I went to the laundrette to get the clothes that I left there to dry (since I can’t put them in the tumble dryer) but when I checked one of them is gone. It’s something that I just bought and it costs me £25. The clothes, the food… they all cost money. They don’t just appear out of thin air.

Honestly, I thought the stealing days are over when I left boarding school. Apparently not. Right now I’m feeling depressed because there’s no one that I can get mad at, which might be a good thing for the guilty persons, coz if I can get my hands on them…


Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Trip: part 1

Hey there! Did you miss me? I arrived in Cambridge early Friday morning and it took me a bit more than a day to recuperate and blog about it. Right, where do I start? The trip was five days and we departed from Heathrow on the first day to Berlin.

The airport

Unfortunately I still haven’t got all the pictures that my friends took during the trip so I can only show you the ones I have. We arrived at the airport in Berlin, checked in to our hotel and went sightseeing afterwards. On the first day, we saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Television Tower (which we didn’t climb because most of us deemed it too expensive), the Reichstag (which is an awesome sight – modern meets historical, you’ll know what I mean when you see it), and a lot of Christmas fairs and markets.

A christmas market

The TV Tower

Brandenburg Gate

The front of the Reichstag, where the parliament meets

The inside of the Reichstag

Sony Centre

On the second day, we went to see the Berlin Wall, or whatever remains of it. We also visited Checkpoint Charlie, and entered the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It's one of the best museums I've ever been. The first bit of it was sad because they displayed the horrible fate that befell the people during the era after the war. But then the later bit shows how people came up with all kinds of clever and ingenious inventions and tactics to escape from East Berlin to West and it's really amazing seeing all the ways that they employed.

We also went to see the Charlottenburg Palace but it was closed since it was a Monday. Then we went to the Jewish Museum which is honestly the most interactive non-scientific museum I've ever been too.

A wish that was written on the Tree of Life. Awwwww...

There's an installation that I really like. When you walk on this face-shaped metal plates, your footsteps will make a really melancholic sound. Best if only one person walks on it at a time.

We went to the Sony Centre to visit the Legoland but it was closed too because we arrived too late. Oh well...

I guess that's about it for part 1. The trip chronicles will continue in part 2 (and maybe 3?) when i have some more time to write. See ya!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

I’m in the news!

Ha ha, well… not exactly the newspaper kind of news. It’s just that the people in the department have found out that Cambridge won the L’Oreal Ingenius competition, so they put the news on the departmental website, together with a picture of the team. Guess that’s sort of my fifteen minutes (or however long they put it up there) of fame. I think people from outside the department can see it too. Oh gosh!

Went to London for a day trip today. I was there last Sunday as well because I felt like shopping but there were tons of people (it being a Sunday and all) so I got a bit claustrophobic and I went out of the shop without buying anything at all. Instead, I visited some of my friends in London including the new AC students. Got to be nice to them, just in case I plan to visit Atlantic College again and needed someplace to stay. Ha ha ha.

Just kidding. I’m nice to them regardless.

Today I went to see my sponsor to give them a bad news, a neutral news and a good news. The bad news is that Trinity doesn’t want to give my college bill straight to them but it has to go through me first, which to be honest, I don’t really mind since even though this will make the payment process slower, I have overdraft facility available if I’m short on money anyway. The neutral news is that I’m changing to Gmail, which I should have done ages ago. The good news you already know. My student advisor said I really should write a short report about it so that it can be put up on the Intranet and people in the company can read it. Errr… okay. I’m going to go to Berlin on Sunday so I’ll see what I can whip up within these two days.

I sometimes go to the river Cam if I just want to chill out and relax, so in London it’s only natural that I gravitated to the larger and grander version of the Cam: the Thames. Here are some photos that I took with my phone.

There was an open stall selling books under the bridge at the Thames. Unfortunately, when I arrived, there was only one row of books. I remembered the last time I went here there were three rows and tons of books. Oh well.

Also visited the comic book store of a friend of mine in Central London. It's called Gosh! and is situated near the British Museum. Unfortunately, my friend wasn't there (I expected him to be travelling at this time of the year anyway) so I just left.

Well, that sums up my day. I'll be back in the UK and Cambridge again next Friday. Until then, happy holidays!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

This Week

Okay, so the holiday has officially started on the 1st (though I was only free from the 6th) and now Cambridge is partially devoid of students and the people who are left don’t really have anything to do, which is good. As you might know, I’ll be going to Germany & Austria next week, so now I’m dedicating this week to studying. Otherwise, I’ll feel guilty for not doing anything beneficial during the holidays and it will spoil my trip. This way, the trip will also feel more like a reward after working hard.

Holidays are also ideal to do things that you don’t have time to accomplish during term, such as this:

A friend lent it to me before he left for home. Finally! Now I’ll be able to actually understand what people are babbling about.


Friday, December 07, 2007

My Little Trip to Wales

Hi there! It’s been awhile. I came back from Wales last Wednesday night but I guess I needed to recharge my batteries and take care of some other things, so I’m only able to write about it now. The whole thing was, literally, unbelievable.

We departed from Cambridge on Monday morning by train. This was my firsthand experience on seeing how people who live in Cambridge but work in London travel. The train was packed and we had to stand for 45 minutes. I’m used to having a relaxed breakfast every morning and then ambling slowly to the department, sometimes taking the longer way just because I felt like it. Those walks really help me to look forward to the day. I guess if you have to commute in a packed train for about an hour every day to get to work, that can be very stressful. Though I suppose they’re probably used to it.

Oh yeah, I guess I haven’t told you properly. The competition that I was entering was the L’Oreal Ingenius 2008 and the UK Finals was held last Monday till Wednesday in Cardiff. The winning team will advance to the International Finals which will be held in Paris next March. There were six teams in total from universities in the UK.

I personally think the whole trip was amazing. L’Oreal paid for our transportation, they booked us on a nice hotel in Cardiff and they even took us out to dinner. On Monday it was this Spanish/Mexican restaurant and on Tuesday was an Italian one overlooking the Cardiff bay. The days were spent visiting the L’Oreal plant and thinking of ways to increase its efficiency. A sad thing is that everybody was busy doing the assigned tasks that we don’t really have time to look at Cardiff in details or even socialise much with other teams. We did talk to each other a bit during lunch, dinner, and while we’re taking a break in the hotel lounge.

There is something vitally important that I learnt from this trip. Before this, I (and probably a lot of other students I know)… we were kind of detached from our lecture materials. That is to say, sometimes, we just view them as something that you need to study to pass the exams. But in this competition, I realised that I was drawing knowledge from my lectures. Thermo, separations, even biotechnology… they weren’t just stuff you learnt, but they were actually very useful and they helped our team to come up with a solution. This really made me appreciate lectures more.

All the teams did a PowerPoint presentation in front of a panel of ten juries on the last day, all of whom are engineering staff of the plant. After they heard from all of us, they discussed it amongst themselves to decide a winner. I think our team did well in presenting our ideas, and my two team members were really nervous and anxious and I can tell that they really wanted to win. I, on the hand, don’t really mind since I’ve already gotten a precious experience and a valuable lesson but I refrained from saying anything since it’ll sound too pessimistic.

After half an hour or so, we were invited back into the presentation room. The results were announced and guess what…

… we won!

I really can’t believe it. My team members and I will be representing the UK in the International Finals in Paris in March. To be honest, I never expected myself to go this far. The whole thing didn’t really sink in… not on the taxi ride to the station, not when we wandered along the streets of Cardiff afterwards, and not on the train ride back to Cambridge. My team members were feeling the same; we caught each other’s eyes and just spontaneously laugh. It was surreal for them too.

So yeah, that’s basically it. There weren’t any grand prizes or anything, those are for the International Finals. But we did get a gift box containing a belt and a perfume.

Me? Representing the UK? Hahahhahahahahahaha!

Yup, still can’t believe it.