Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Week at Home

Been home for a week now and it's been great. My brother still had school so I had the mornings and afternoons to myself. Borrowed some books from Berkeley through my cousin and started studying. Sigh... wish I can just read fiction and relax. I haven't seen my cousin for a long and it was fun to talk to her and her mom. She just got done with her finals and her mom was going to pick her up to bring her home so I tagged along to get some books from the engineering library. Her mom told me how she got robbed at gunpoint right outside her house! She works nights so she gets home at around 3am. She said it happened twice this year... So scary.

Anyway, we went to this Mexican place for lunch and got some burritos. Her mom said she had something really good last time and wanted it again. But my cousin couldn't remember what it was so she tried to describe it to the guy "it had chicken and lots of cheese, very hot..." lol. no success. We ended up ordering twice and it turned out that what she had before were enchiladas. The burritos were really good and we ordered a couple more burritos to bring back for her sisters.

That was Tuesday. I spent Wednesday and Thursday plowing through some notes. Didn't get very far but... yeah.... On Friday, I went to visit my high school again. Didn't see many teachers this time since they're teaching. I saw the counselors, dropped off some books for my history teacher, and then went to my calculus teacher's room where I met up with Willy. Haven't seen Willy for 2, 3 years. We talked for a long time and there were some calculus students hanging about as well. Willy walked me to E18 and then went home since I was meeting up with some friends from middle school. I saw Benison the other day and it would be nice to get together for lunch sometime with some more people from ohigh. Especially since a bunch of us live so close by. I think Benison lives only a couple of blocks away.

I met up with two of my friends from middle school at the BART station. They both live in San Leandro and goes to UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. So they're not used to the "cold" weather. I had a fleece on and they both had big jackets and scarfs. I don't understand how people can wear scarfs all the time... My neck needs to breath too!

Anyway, I introduced them to the Bookmark Bookstore in Old Oakland. Neither of them had ever gone into the area. It's past Chinatown and they had never been on the other side of Broadway. It's a nice area that's very busy during the lunch hours. The Bookmark Bookstore is a store that sells second hand books and gives all the proceeds to the Oakland libraries. The books are all very cheap. We had fun and one of my friends got a William Hung CD as a potential gag gift.

Then we went to the D&A Cafe where we got cheap food. My family used to order out from there a lot and I had been there a few times. They moved to a bigger place just around the corner. Good thing I noticed it. They had happy hour from 3-6pm and we got huge plates of food for around $3 each. I also got a red bean ice thing. Yup. Food was greasy and the waiters just plop food down in front of you and rush about. But it was great. My brother got mad at me for not taking him and leaving him at home though...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Home again

After 7+ hours of flying, I'm back home again. Mike and Yalu drove me to the airport which was really nice since Boston had just gotten nearly a foot of snow the day before. The flight took longer than usual because of strong headwinds. They even thought we might have to make a landing in Salt Lake City to refuel. Luckily we didn't have to do that.

For some odd reason, I chose a window seat in the back of the plane. I usually like to take an aisle seat up front. But I think it was because there was no aisle seats left and I wanted to sleep. But I offered to trade seats with this couple who had a baby. I didn't want to sit next to the wife who was carrying the baby so I swamp with her husband and took the middle seat across the aisle. The guy in front of me said that he was supposed to be on the same flight the day before and that that flight had actually took off on time! He didn't make it because he was stuck in traffic going a mile an hour and missed the plane.

I was really tired by the time I got back. My parents and brother came to pick me up. But they were really worried about our cat, who had gone missing. When they decided to leave for the airport, they wanted to make sure he was back inside his "room" but couldn't find him. We keep him inside but he runs off sometimes. By the time we all went to sleep, he still hasn't come back. My mom left a window open for him and he finally came back in the morning. My mom thought for sure that he wouldn't be able to find his way back and we'd lose him forever. She said she spent the whole night thinking about whether or not to get another cat and whether or not she would settle for a spotted cat. Anyhow, we're all glad he's back.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vacation To Do List

Right now I'm taking advantage of free printing at MIT and printing out some past exams. But finals here are next week so it's been hard to find a free printer or printer with ink. I've forgotten how much of a hassle printing is.

Anyhow, thought I should make a to do list. I've been studying but I'm on "vacation mode" and the vacation seems really long.

Academic Stuff
- Borrow books from Berkeley
- Finish examples papers for: 3D1, 3D3, 3C7, 3E3
- Go over notes for: all classes
- Past exams for the past 3 years
- Go over all Chinese vocabulary

Fun stuff:
- Food
- Visit high school
- Enjoy Christmas with family
- Clothes shopping?
- Exercise -- if I don't feel too lazy
- Read manga, watch anime, =P

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Back at MIT...again

So after 7.5 hours of flying, I finally arrived in Boston and was picked up by Yalu and Mike. It would've been a bit painful to drag my stuff all over Boston and Cambridge had they not been there to pick me up so that was great.

Within a couple of hours of being back, Yalu decided to put me to work. I helped her do some surveys for her class, picked stuff up at the Galleria, and... well, I've also went food shopping and have been cooking. I miss cooking.

I miss a lot of things. Especially the people at MIT. I don't fit in at Cambridge. I really don't. When I first got to MIT, I really felt like I fit into the place. Not so at Cambridge. These people party and drink too much. And study too little. When we (the CME students) held a study break, we had to explain what a study break was, and we started the explanation by "well, at MIT, we do this thing called studying..."

And I'm still studying even though the term ended. (Can't believe this) but I borrowed some books from the library and actually did a couple of hours of studying earlier tonight. I even went to class today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chinese Orchestra

2 more days and I'll be back at MIT! Just turned in my Full Technical Report today. That thing was supposed to take 10 hours but I went past 10 hours sometime last week. Also had 2 supervisions today one of which started at 9am. Grad students, gosh. I was total unprepared for the other supervision but it couldn't have been helped...

Anyway, the past Sunday, I went to a Chinese Orchestra Concert. This is their first performance as a group so they were really excited about it and played a lot of "traditional and popular" songs. Songs that every Chinese person would've heard before. There was a western instrument department as well as a Chinese instrument department. They're not a very big group but managed to put together 2 hours of performance. I knew quite a few people from Caius, most of whom are Singaporean.

Sitting at the concert, listening to the music was an interesting experience. I don't know anything about music so I can't tell you how well they actually performed. But it felt very special for me because it was the first time in a long time that I heard most of the songs. I don't think I've ever actually attended any live Chinese orchestra. Between taking Chinese here, hanging out with people from China, Singapore, and Malaysia, and attending this concert, I feel like I've been avoiding anything Chinese for the past few years. I don't think I did it consciously but I feel very American compared to the Chinese international students here.

Going to Germany made me realize what "my culture" actually is. I never realized that so many things I took to be "right" was actually part of American culture and that the rest of the world doesn't have the same values. And then coming here to Cambridge, where 50% of the international students are Chinese, I feel... (how do I explain?...) Okay so here, there's not a lot of Chinese British people. I've met a few but nothing like what you see at MIT, New York, San Francisco, etc. If you don't look British, people assume you're an international student. I guess I am an international student here but I'm from America, not China like everyone seems to think. People are just confused once I start speaking because I don't have a Chinese or British accent. (What's this? American?) I've also found that Chinese people don't understand Asian American culture. Things that people in America say are "Asian" are considered "Americanized" by uh, real Asian people.

So while I can safely say I have a good insight to German and British culture, the real culture shock was finding out more about my own culture, why I do things the way I do, the things that I value most and where they come from, etc. etc.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I went gliding!!!

I still don't quite believe I did this but yeah, I went gliding today. It's basically like getting into a small airplane and flying but the airplane has NO engines. The controls are all the same. We were pulled into the air by a winch at the end of a long field. There was a rope that pulled really, really fast and the plane lifts up into the air through aerodynamics!

One of the other MIT students did this and told us all about it. There is a Cambridge University Gliding Club and with a term membership, you get to take lessons and go flying for pretty cheaply. They also do trial flights (which is what I did) so that people get a feel for gliding. It costed £18 but well worth it. I don't think you can go gliding for that price anywhere else.

They picked us up in a van and drove about 30 minutes to an airfield. I think this was also my first time in a car in Britain! Driving on the left is so weird... Anyway, the flight only lasted for about 5 minutes. But I got to play around with the controls and made the plane turn left and right and dive and such! It is so amazing. There really isn't much to do. Just one joystick and a couple of other things. The dials were easy to read and were in feet and knots. The landing was not bumpy at all, very smooth.

The other people doing the trial flight were quite interesting as well. There was the president of the Cambridge Union. They put on debates that are supposed to be pretty interesting, sometimes controversial. I also met an Irish grad student. She and I didn't know our weight in kg... We were like, "uh, pounds?" And I also met an Amerian grad student who did her undergrad at Stanford and some grad school at Johns Hopkins. All in all, it was a very interesting afternoon. Well worth braving the cold. It was freezing outside!

Don't think I will join the club though. 5 minutes is enough for me. I felt a little airsick at the end. Would've been fine if the instructor hadn't turn so suddenly that one time... But yeah, Go Fluid Dynamics!!
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Brussels - the trip

Brussels, Beligum, French, Dutch, chocolate, waffles...

Going there - Friday: trains, planes, and buses
I walked to the train station, which is about a 40 minute walk from where I live. I thought about biking but didn't want to bike when I came back on Sunday night (which turned out to be a good decision since it was raining when we got back on Sunday). I got a Young Persons Railcard which gives me 1/3 off of all train tickets as well as tickets for the train to Stansted airport. The guy was really nice and gave me all the discounts possible and explained everything. London has about 3 airports. I flew into Heathrow from Boston which handles most of the planes that come from out of Europe. For this trip, I went to Stansted which handles most of the within Europe stuff. And then there's Gatwick, which I think, handles smaller planes and within UK things.

I thought Stansted was a pretty nice, medium sized airport. There were lots of shops and food places but not too much. Mahalia and I were admiring the trusses that our structures professor talked about. Everything went pretty smoothly except Sarah had to buy some small bottles to hold her contact solution and the Border Control didn't know what to do with Poting's Hong Kong passport. Apparently a Hong Kong passport allows you to travel to many countries without a visa but most people don't know that since it does say China on it. But it's blue instead of red so I really don't understand...

Anyhow, we had to take a bus for about 45 minutes to get to the center of the city. It was freezing cold and we got to the train station where the Eurostar comes into Brussels at around 12:15am. The metro closes at midnight so we ended up taking two taxis (there were 9 of us) and the taxi that I was on took the long way and he charged us twice as much as the other taxi.

Day 1 - Saturday: waffles, chocolates, and more food
6 of us were in the same hostel room. It was small and cramped. The bunk beds weren't too staple but all we wanted was a place to sleep. I didn't too much. The next day we got up for breakfast. This hostel came with free linens and breakfast. Ross was very disappointed at the toast and corn flakes. I was actually very pleased since there were 4 different spreads for the toast and we got a choice of tea, hot chocolate, coffee, and orange juice. The hostel in Munich had gave us bread and water.

And then we started wandering in the freezing cold. We saw the EU buildings (head of the EU is in Brussels). There was no one around since it was Saturday. We decided to skip the NATO buildings. Some people wanted to go to the Art Museum so we headed that way. On the way, we passed by a waffle truck and got some waffles. They were sooo amazing. Not like the stuff you get from the fridge section. They make it right there and it has a lot of suger in it so no need for syrup. We just ate it as is. I really appreciated the warm part since it was so cold out.

Part of the group (including me) had not interest in art. So we went to the Grand Place (big huge, town hall) and walked around for a bit. Then we all realized we were hungry so we went to a cafe that was recommended by Ross' Brussels book. Their menu was in both French and Dutch. So between a few people who had about a semester of French and Mahalia's German, we were able to figure out most of the menu. We all ended up ordering either chicken or mozzarella paninis that were hot and drenched in butter. It also came with a side salad so it was a good meal for 5 Euros. After this we went to a grocery store and got lots of really good chocolate for cheap prices and separated into groups. My group consisted of Chaitra, Poting, and myself. Most of the other people went to the art museum but we didn't want to look at art so we wandered the city instead.

We had dinner at restaurant that only had French menus. So it was a bit more difficult this time but we managed. None of us really knew what it was that we ordered but they turned out to be really good wraps that came with very interesting and tasty sauces.

After dinner, a few of us went to a bar that was recommended by Ross' guide book. Took us a while to find but it turned out to be an old man's bar with lots of interesting pictures. The guy got mad at us since only two people ordered drinks. But whatever, I didn't want to get drunk. Ross and Yaoyao played chess. After their game, we decided to try out some French fries at Fritland. They were freshly made, really hot, and pretty good. We came out smelling like fries. Yaoyao had to go back to Cambridge for a rowing race on Sunday so she took an overnight bus back.

Day 2 - Sunday: Beligium Unity
The next day, we really didn't do too much. The highlight of the day was the Manifestation of Beligum Unity march. So Chaitra and I were strolling through a botanic garden near our hostel and were heading to pick up Sarah from church. And then we noticed that there were lots of people heading the opposite way, many of whom were had Beligum flags or wearing Beligum colors. We thought it might've been a football game or some sort of sports event and we stopped a guy on a bike and asked him.

Me: What is happening? Game? Football? (points down the road)
Guy: No, uh, convention.
Me: Convention?
Guy: Convention, eh, Beligum pride.

We were intrigued by this so we went on asking several other people and we got bits and pieces of information like: Beligum unity, manifestation, Beligum pride, and that it's at the train station.

We were really confused about what this "manifestation" was supposed to be. After we picked up Sarah though, we saw a huge stream of people walking on the street. At first it looked like some Independence/National Day parade but there was not much noise coming from the group. "A silent celebration?" how strange. Sarah left something at the hostel so we went back there and asked the person at reception about this. He was more helpful since he spoke English. It turns out that some politicians want to split the country up into 3 parts: French, Flemish, and Dutch. But the people doesn't want this to happen so this march is supposed to be a show of Beligum unity - thus a manifestation of Beligium unity and pride.

If we were staying longer, we would've joined the parade which goes on until 6pm where there will be concerts and such. Such a shame we couldn't but it was cool to see it.

After much debating, we went to the cafe that Mahalia and Ross were in that morning and ate sandwiches there. The sandwiches were cheap but the bread was hard and wasn't very good. But it was a nice place to hang out for a while and defrost. We walked to the Eurostar train station and after running about for a while, found the bus that goes to the airport. Wish we were taking the Eurostar instead. It would've been so much nicer. One of these days...

Brussels

Trip to Brussels went well. But I didn't get any work done so I don't have time to write. Will write about the trip later. In the meantime, here's a link to the pictures:

http://picasaweb.google.com/quotidian39/Brussels

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekend!

Going to Brussels this weekend! Somehow I'm not too excited about the trip. Keep thinking about what's going to have to happen Sunday night when I come back...

Stella and I spend about 6, 7 hours yesterday working on one examples paper. We had both started on it and worked together to try to get all of it done. But sadly, we weren't able to finish it. Sigh, I thought I would get more sleep over here in the other Cambridge...


Two more weeks and I'll be back in the States!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Resume

Woah, I just rebooted a university computer to Linux. It's not bad. Lets me use printing commands. But there's no Microsoft Office in Linux. OpenOffice just doesn't cut it when you're doing things like resumes.

I just finished updating my resume to using A4 size paper and UK style. We can have 2 pages for resumes here! At first I didn't know what to do with all the extra space. I went to the Career Office and had a quick session with a career counselor. She said that I had to have either 1 or 2 pages. Not 1.5. It just looks bad with too much empty space, I guess. I sat in front of a computer for a while not knowing how to stretch out my resume. And then I remembered Women's Initiative and UPOP and stuck those in there. Now I have a really balanced work experience and activities sections. I think I like this better than trying to jam everything in one page. Although I think having 2 pages lets people put a lot of junk on their resumes. I looked at some of the sample resumes published by the career center and I think, "Man, what a waste of space." They could've used the space they used for their A-level scores for more work experience. But I think students here generally work less than American students so maybe they need to fill up the space.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Classes, Chinese, CCTV

Just thought I should write something. There hasn't been anything exciting going on lately.

I invited some MIT people over to Caius on Tuesday for dinner and 11 people showed up. It was great since they helped me use up a lot of my tickets. Somehow I still have quite a few and will still have to keep going to dinner diligently or else I'll need to invite people again. The good thing about eating there is that I can keep a dinner roll and/or yogurt and eat those the next day for either breakfast or lunch.

I've discovered that my Chinese has improved significantly! Yay! I can speak Mandarin so much easier now. And it's only been a month. If I manage to get an internship in China this summer... I need to put more effort into German though. That class is only once a week and the teacher is not so great so I'm not motivated at all.

Stella and I managed to keep one of our supervisors for an extra half an hour again. He must think we're really dumb because we can't do any of the problems. We haven't been working together at all this week so we're really behind. But he's a really nice guy and seems to care a lot about us so I guess we should try not to fail...

I went to a structures seminar today and the presenter works for Arup. He's working on the CCTV tower in Beijing and explained the engineering challenges behind the building. The building is an engineering nightmare but would be such an awesome project to work on. Arup is a really large international company and they had people all over the world working on bits and pieces of this tower. He said that some of the offices got together for dinner once and one of his slides had a picture of a dinner napkin that had doodles all over it. Apparently, at one of the tables, no one was bilingual and the doodles were supposed to be a history of England along with some stuff that looked like design calculations. That dinner consisted of engineers from London, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong so there were 3-4 languages clashing and no one could understand each other. All the while I was thinking how much I could've contributed by knowing English, Mandarin, and Cantonese, as well as being an engineer (I mean, they must've had translators but how many translators can you find with engineering backgrounds?). It would be amazing to work on a project like that....

Yup, Brussels next weekend so I need to make some major headway on these example papers. At MIT, you finish a pset, turn it in, and then don't have to worry about the thing until you study for finals. But here, you work on the paper for hours and hours, go to supervision and ask questions, find out you've done things completely wrong, and then have to redo the questions again. Sometimes, you've only done part of the paper by the time supervision happens so you ask questions about stuff that you really haven't work on in supervision to get some clues. Then you go back, hammer at it, get stuck, and have to ask about it again at the next supervision. So it just never ends... You get to the point where the question sheet is wrinkled, dirty, and starting to fall apart and you feel sick at the thought of looking through the thing again. Ack!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dian came to visit!

Dian's at Oxford this semester with 3 other MIT students (2 in material science and 2 in econ). The bus took 3.5 hours and she came on Thursday night.

That night, we met up with Elaine (Dian's friend from course 3), and went out to dinner. We went to Dojo's which is a noodle place featuring mostly Japanese and Thai food. You cannot believe how happy I was to be eating East Asian food. I had no idea how much I miss Asian food. All they serve at our dining hall is British food which consists of a piece of meat, potatoes, boiled vegetables, and salad. And remember, I have to eat there everyday for dinner since they've already charged me for the tickets. I don't really mind the food but I really miss eating Asian stuff so I was really happy. And the amount of food for the price that we paid was great. My friends claim that it's one of the cheapest places to eat. It costs about 5-7 pounds to eat there (which is not cheap by American standards but you really can't go any lower than this unless you want to eat sandwiches here). And they give you giant portions, not like Indian places.

So, after filling myself with seafood udon, we called up some more friends, namely Eddie and Olay. Eddie was really hungry so we went out to eat again. This time to a pizza place. I only ordered a coffee and chatted with the other people. The pizza place was more expensive. I think the guys spent about 8 or 9 pounds on their pizzas and these weren't big either.

The next day, I showed Dian around some of the colleges and she took some pictures on my camera. Which was great since I haven't really taken too many pictures of the colleges. We ended up eating at Dojo's again and went to see fireworks at Downing. Fireworks were really cool but short. We met up with MaryAnn and then a bunch of other CME people. At some point we decided to crash Mahalia's room, chilled there for a while, and then watched a movie in her room. She has a really nice room.

On Saturday we wandered around the shopping area and she left at around 2pm for Oxford. I need to go visit her sometime. I did some pseting with Mahalia, Stella, and Yiling (3rd year, Cambridge student) and then we realized that the upcoming week is absolutely horrible for us. Sad realization since we had just spent 4 hours working on 2 problems, one of which we didn't finish. So yeah, don't expect to hear from me the next week or so.

Only 3.5 weeks of classes left!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Bed and Psets

I got a new bed! When I moved to the new room, my bedroom came with this really old bed which had springs that were really uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I couldn't sleep. That night that I came back from London, I was really tired and "slept" at 11pm and woke up on Sunday really tired and exhausted. At 11am, I went over to Mahalia's to pset and kept yawning the whole time. When Stella left for badminton, I slept on Mahalia's bed while she got lunch and went grocery shopping.

So on Monday, I promptly stopped by the Housekeeping office and asked for a new bed. On Tuesday, I got back and found a brand new one. Amazing what happens when you ask.

But back to Sunday. I basically spent the whole day at Mahalia's place. After she got back from grocery shopping and Stella from badminton, we worked on a pset a little more and then went downstairs to a really nice kitchen with actual stove tops and cooked. We made a noodle soup that had meat balls, tomato, and lettuce. It was really good. We were very happy afterwards. We tackled the pset once more and gave up eventually.

On Monday, we met with the professor who is supervising for 2 of our classes. We found out that we really need to do some catch up work. This week has been very busy and hectic for me. No more going back to my room and napping in the middle of the day anymore. =( I've been spending the past few days mainly in engineering department and Mahalia's room, working like crazy. Haven't even had time to fully unpack yet.

I can keep writing more but this has been a really random article. So uh, I'll stop here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

London!

Haven't written in a while. Mainly because I wanted to do it right and have pictures and such. But I didn't take any pictures in London (it's okay, Yalu, I'll explain) today so yeah.

So I decided to finally go to London because 1) I haven't been there and 2) there's an exhibition of Chinese books at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University College of London. So I had a valid excuse of other than sightseeing.

I got up at 7am and got on the 7:45am bus. We got there at 10am. The bus driver wasn't very nice and neither was the bus ride. I think I'm going to take the train next time. It's so much nicer. I'm willing to shell out a few extra pounds just because the train is faster, more comfortable, and once you buy a ticket, you can get on any train.

Once we got to Victoria station, I found out that I have this giant headache which really ruined the rest of the day for me. I wanted to go see the Big Ben and peek around Westminster but some of the underground lines were closed so it was a hassle to get there. I found the Chinese book exhibition place after searching for a long time and was disappointed because they were doing a whole lot of talking and not enough exhibiting.

I met up with Dian and 2 of her friends from Oxford at the Science Museum. There are a bunch of museums near by and they are all free (at least they were today). The Science Museum was pretty cool. We wandered around for a while but it mostly consisted of Dian and I chatting about England and stuff that's been happening back at MIT (this girl really needs to start reading the Tech).

After that, we went to Chinatown and had dim sum. Unfortunately, I only had a few things before I had to leave to catch the bus back. It was a shame since I really wanted to explore Chinatown. It's right next to the theater district, just like Boston's Chinatown! Oh wells, next time.

So I rushed to the bus station to find that I missed the 3:30pm bus. There was a CME formal at Downing College which was why I needed to rush back. So I ended up taking the train. It only went part of the way because there some repairs going on and we all had to get on a bus. But it was still really fast since neither the train nor the bus stopped anywhere and just kept going. The train station is actually not that far away. It's probably about the same distance as Tesco and Asda (okay, maybe a little farther but you just go along one road and you get there). So I got back with plenty of time to spare. Will blog about the formal later.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Updates!

I got a bank account today! Yay! It's with HSBC. They gave me the UK Student Account because I already have an US account with them. Otherwise, they would just give me a cash account which they would charge me a monthly fee and I get no checkbook or debit card so it would really suck. But with the UK student account, I get both and it's free. Amazing! And the lady was really nice so I hope it all works out well and I get my account number and stuff soon. So if anyone's going to a country where there's HSBC and you want to get a local bank account, it might be worth it to open up a US account.

Didn't want to stay inside and do homework all day while the sky is blue so I walked to Mill Road where I got a helmet and some more ramen. I feel safer with a helmet. And food with MSG tastes so good.

England lost the Rugby World Cup. I didn't watch it but that's kinda sad.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Matriculation Dinner

Since the last entry with lots of pictures was popular, here's another one with lots of pictures. I wrote about our Matriculation Dinner on the MIT blog. So go there for more description. Here's a bunch of pictures of the amazing food.


Here's the starter - salad, bread, and hummus. I really liked the hummus. And oh, there was a starter wine too.

Soup came next. It was the best soup I've had at this dining hall. Looked just like all the other soup that we've had but the taste was just amaz
Main course. Everyone item was really delicious. Chicken wasn't dry, potatoes weren't overcooked, beans weren't mushy... I think somewhere between the soup and the main course, they pour the second (red) wine.

I forgot to take a picture of the next 2 courses. The 4th course was a ice cream thing that had real cream on top. I think there was alcohol in that as well, just a little. And that wasn't the dessert. After that, they passed around fruit platters that had all sorts of fruit on it including figs, dates, and other fruits. After this, the dessert wines were also passed around.

See the small glass with red wine in it? That was really, really good wine. I mean, I hardly drink any alcohol usually (see the other glass? I didn't finish them) but even I can tell it's something special. It's called Taylors Quinta de Terra Feita 1986. We also got coffee, in a vain effort to sober up some of the people, I think.

The Master of Gonville and Caius made a speech after this.
There was also pre-dinner drinks which started at 7:15pm. I got there a little later than that. Dinner started at 7:45pm. I'm not sure when it ended because we milled around for a while afterwards and then walked back in the rain. I got back at 11:30pm.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pictures!

Not much has been going on so here's a bunch of pictures, mostly from yesterday.

This is K Block, the house in which I live with 19 other people. Apparently 15 of last year's residents were international students but there's only 2 this year.
A view of the Cam from Clare College's bridge.

Market Square is an open air market where they sell everything from bread to shirts. It's really nice to walk through. There is a small fountain in the middle.

Part of the Caius library. The library is actually really big. This is just a small part of it.

Here I am on Matriculation Day. Tomorrow we're having our matriculation dinner. It's supposed to be one of the best dinners of the year. So I guess I can't miss that one! Will take pictures of the food.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chinese and other classes

These past few days have been going by really slowly. The pace of life here is definitely slower than MIT. There's not much assigned work, just a lot of things that you know you should be doing. I've been meaning to read textbooks, go over notes, etc.

I saw Ross today. This guy is going to Amsterdam for the weekend. He said that some of his classes is stuff he's seen in 14.01 and 14.02. But he said that there's a lot of reading for one of his classes and he just spent the whole day reading. Still, I'm envious since I feel so behind. Even in my Chinese classes.

The other students are so good! I went to Oral Chinese today. There's only 6 other people in the class so it was pretty informal. But I feel like I'm intruding since they all know each other so well. Anyhow, some of them did a presentation on their trips to Taiwan and China. Most of them went to Taiwan for 2 months this summer. One girl talked about how she traveled around with her friends. Another girl talked about her visit to Yennan after her Taiwan trip. She had done a gap year there after high school (to teach English) and went back to visit friends. This gap year stuff sound really cool although I have doubts about whether I was mature enough... Back to the other students. One guy talked about his stay in Beijing with a host family and how they made him go to bed early, get up early, and would not let him travel around because it's unsafe. After his presentation, the teacher and the other students remarked on how much his Chinese improved.

All these presentations were nearly 15 minutes (that's 4 pages of writing!). Very impressive. They occasionally use wrong adjectives and their pronunciation isn't very good. But they know more vocabulary than I do. They can make a lot more sophisticated sentences. All I know is stuff that you use everyday which really isn't much.

My supervisor for Chinese asked us to listen to BBC Chinese. There's one other person in my supervision. He's also supposed to be a 2nd year student in Chinese but he switched to another department but still wants to continue with as much Chinese as he can. He also did a gap year in China and his vocabulary is really amazing. I'm not sure how he's faring with BBC China but it's really hard for me. I can hardly understand. It's mostly political stuff though so hopefully that's the reason. And they talk so fast! Once in a while I'd come across a Cantonese program and I don't have any problems understanding that.

My other classes are going okay. I really don't know about this "Geotechnical Engineering" class. I mean, we talk about soils. At least I don't have to do any review for that class since it's new stuff for everyone.

Haven't been getting 9 hours of sleep though. It's really sad. I was really looking forward to having a sink in my room and getting 9 hours of sleep every night. Sigh.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Traveling

Since it's relatively cheap to fly around Europe on discount airlines like Ryanair, a bunch of us (CME people) decided to go to Brussels the weekend before Thanksgiving. So while Yalu and other ESP people are NOT panicking over Splash, I'll be sightseeing and eating chocolate in Belgium.

And I just got in touch with Dian. She's coming to visit me or I'm going to go visit her. We haven't really figured it out yet but we're probably going to do both of these and somehow also make it to London in the next 2 weeks.

There are these bus companies where I can get a to Oxford in 2 hours for 1 pound! Amazing. Britain doesn't have a national rail company although they do have one central website where you can check schedules and fares (whew!). Still, it's not like Germany where all you have to do is to go to www.bahn.de and magic happens.

"Reviewing" Probability

I'm currently trying to teach myself probability - the stuff that my 3E3 professor went over in 2 hours that was supposed to be review. There's an example on coins and it explains the case where there are two coins to be: HH, HT, TH, TT. Simple stuff. It ends the paragraph though, with:

"This experiment is performed even more often in probability textbooks than it is in real life."

Saturday, October 6, 2007

In Search of Cheaper Food

Unlike MIT, there is a grocery store less than half a mile from where I live. Sainsburys is right in the city center and has foods for reasonable prices. But still not very cheap. So this morning, I decided to ride my bike and search for Tesco, a big Kmart-like supermarket that is supposed to have cheaper prices.

I wanted to get up early so I can avoid traffic. But that didn't happen and I got out of my dorm at around 10am. After dusting the spiderwebs off my bike, I started the trip. The trip took a lot longer than it was supposed to. Partly because I didn't know exactly where Tesco is (somewhere on Newmarket Rd, a mile and a half away) but mostly because I was too scared to actually ride the bike. So many cars everywhere! I rode the bike whenever I managed to find a quiet street. Sometimes there are bike lanes. By sometimes I mean it would exist for half a block, end and then start again 2 blocks later. I don't understand these English people. In Germany, bike lanes are everywhere and continuous. Did I mention I had to ride on the left side of the road? Weird.

Anyway, I found the place. It is indeed a huge supermarket. I think the prices are actually cheaper although I need to check. I spent a long time inside the store trying to dodge other people and finding the cheapest form of things that I needed.

I was worried that I won't be able to ride the bike since it's looks a little taller than I would like. But it's actually pretty comfortable and I have no trouble getting on and off although it would be nice it the seat was a little lower.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

First Day of Classes

We were woken up at 8am by the fire alarm. They test out the fire alarm every Thursday in our house and they decided to wake us all up nice and early. Well, some people have 9am classes so it wasn't bad for them. But my classes didn't start until 11am!! The alarm kept going off after that so more sleep was impossible. I went to the bathroom and Joe, my neighbor was about to brush his teeth.
Joe: A bit scary, wasn't it?
Lucy: (mumbles agreement)
Joe: It's the sort of thing they do in this country.
Lucy: Hm? Really? Man, I just want to go back to sleep.

Anyhow, the first day of classes was uneventful. I found all my classes without getting lost. That in itself is an amazing achievement. I sat with Stella and Mahalia (the other 2 course 1 people) for my first two classes. They both already had an earlier class. The first one is an extension of mechanics which was okay. The second class was Geotechnical Engineering and the professor droned on about soils. It took a lot of effort to concentrate.

After that, we all went to Queen's College for lunch. The food and price weren't too bad. Queen's has a nice dining hall. It's nearly twice the size of Caius' dining hall. I was too busy eating to remember to take pictures. I will next time. We're planning on visiting Downing and Caius for lunch in the near future. We (all the CME people) have plans to visit each other's formal halls. Formal halls are usually special dinners where you have to wear your gown and they serve nicer foods. Well, except for Caius where there's a formal hall everyday and the only difference is that you have to wear a gown to the 2nd one. The food's exactly the same. I think it's this way because the dining hall is way too small to fit everyone.

After lunch, Stella and I wandered around a bit. I went to another class at 4pm and met up with Cindy there. This is my only 2 hour class and it's on probability and statistics. Well, it's called Modeling Risk and the professor said that we're eventually going to go into analyzing profolios and such. We're going to use a lot of Excel. But today was a review of probability, none of which I have formally learned before. The Cambridge students took Probability in their 2nd year. I think I will keep this class though because I've heard that 1.010 (the MIT class that I'm replacing Modeling Risk with) is not very good. So I think I'm going to spend this weekend going over probability and mechanics. That is, after I learn to bike again and find Tesco (a grocery store that sells things for cheaper than Sainsburys).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

MIT Admissions Blog

I'm blogging about CME for MIT admissions as a guest blogger. I'm continuing the blog that was started by a CME student last year. Check it out at:
http://www.mitadmissions.org/Cambridge.shtml

I start classes tomorrow!!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Being a Freshman Again

Pictures to come when I get my computer working. There's just too much that I want to write about. Here's part of what happened today.

Fresher's week started today at Cambridge. These poor kids only get 3 days of orientation unlike a whole week at MIT. I'm invited to all their activities but it feels so strange to go through this process again. "Hi. I'm Lucy. What's your name?... What are you studying?.... Oh, I'm studying Engineering." I'm definitely not as hyped up about all of this as I was two years ago.

So a few more people moved into K Block (the mansion that I'm staying in). There was a Meet and Greet at 2pm. We're assigned college parents and siblings (kinda like Big Sis/Lil Sis at McCormick). I'm not sure if I have one since I'm not really a first year. Some people were able to meet theirs. There are about 100 freshers at Caius College and all of us, along with some second and third years went to eat at the Dining Hall this evening.

Dinner was pretty cool. We all sat down at these long tables in this big hall with pictures of famous people and stained glass windows. There were waiters and waitresses all lined up in the back. Once we all sat down, they swooped down on us with a fruit salad. As soon as we finished, we were served the main course which was chicken today. There were plates of broccoli, salad, and potatoes that we passed around. And as soon as we were done with that, we were given a choice of fruit or cake. I had this strawberry yogurt mousee thing. So dinner was pretty good. They were pretty efficient. Of course I could've eaten faster had I not have to wait to be served but it was nice to be able to chat with the people sitting next to me. I was sitting across from these three guys who were really funny.

After dinner, we went to the bar for a little while to wait for the dining people to clean up the tables. We went back up and had a "speed dating" session. Since we were sitting at long tables, one side of the table stayed put while the other side moved every 3 minutes or so. We wrote our names, major, and where we're staying on a sticky note and then proceeded to get to know the person across from us. I met a lot of economists. It was really fun except that it was so loud in the Hall that we had to shout. My throat still hurts.

So dinner is going to be interesting. We have to get there at either 6:20 or 7:00pm though, I think. Otherwise it won't really work right if we're late. I think the actual dinners are half an hour long and they can only be so efficient if they just go down the aisle and plop food down in front of us. I think this is a bit annoying but I'll probably just get used to it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Classes at Cambridge

Yalu said my last blog entry was lame. So instead of having things in chronological order like I was thinking about, I'll just write in categories. Here's an entry on classes.

I got talked in to taking more classes. Engineering students at Cambridge take 5 classes per term (for the first 2 terms) in their 3rd year. Since they're not allowed to take classes outside the department, these are all technical classes. Well, in the 3rd and 4th years, they can take a language class in the Engineering Language Unit as a module (class). But either way, I've never taken so many technical classes in one term before so I had planned to take only 3 per term for a total of 6 technical classes and then take 2 languages (Chinese and German). [Part of my blogspot decided to revert to German again, not sure why] Anyhow, we (Course 1 people) only need to take 4 classes at Cambridge to keep up with the MIT requirements. So we decided to take extra classes for fun. We're getting the chance to take so much more engineering classes. I mean, I guess Course 1 is designed so that you get to take electives in your senior year but with all these HASS requirements, I don't feel like we get as much engineering at all.

So I've chosen 8 technical classes that I wanted to take. Mahalia and Stella are both taking 10. We're assigned a Student Coordinator since we're exchange students and he was happy that I was taking less than 10. Whatever. I want to learn these languages and not kill myself with engineering stuff. A rough guide is 1.5 Cambridge class = 1 MIT class.

Now these classes are only 2 hours a week. So I'm taking 6 classes a term. That's only 12 hours of lecture time per week. So far I have no classes on Mondays and barely anything on Wednesdays and Fridays. But of course there's more. I will have one 1 hour supervision per class every 2 weeks. That's in comparision to 2 hours of recitation per class at MIT per week (for Course 1). And I have one 2-4 hour lab per class (so 4 classes = ~8 hours of lab total per term), compared to 4 hours of lab per week at MIT. And then there's the Engineering Area Activity which is 2 and a half days. And for 4 weeks in the Easter term, we have engineering projects where we go and build bridges or something like that. So I guess the Engineering Area Activity and the projects make up for all the lab hours at MIT?

Sorry if all of this was confusing. It certainly was for me. Long story short, I have a lot more free time during the term than I would have had at MIT. Yet I'm somehow learning more... interesting. We'll see how this goes.

Cambridge!

So it's Day 3 at Cambridge and I'm still haven't unpacked yet. Been running around the past few days trying to get stuff done. Will write more later. I won't have internet in my room until at least Monday. My room's super big by the way.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Going off to Cambridge

There was a farewell dinner earlier tonight for the MIT students going off to Cambridge. The current Cambridge students at MIT and past CME students were also invited to the dinner. Everything was really informal and they setup tables by Colleges. Our exchanges from Cambridge and past CME students kindly answered all our questions about life at the other Cambridge. It seems like for a lot of people, it was an "even" exchange, meaning if a Cambridge student studying Biology from Queens College came over, there is an MIT student studying Biology going over to Queens. That's not the case for me or any of the Course 1 people though.

I met Chris from Gonville and Caius College. He's an Econ major and is trading places with Ross. Rebecca (I met her the other day at the course 1 pizza thing) also came to the dinner. So between the two of them and eavesdropping on other people's conversations, I found out some very interesting things. Apparently at Caius, the difference between the first and second sitting at dinner is just the gowns. The food is exactly the same. In other colleges, the food is usually better at the second sitting (and costs more too, I think). The food itself is not that great but since they force you to buy dinner tickets and so many of them, most people eat at the dining hall. So it's a great place to socialize and make friends.

Chris said that he applied for CME for the American experience. There are people who came for the MIT experience but he wants to travel around and see America. A lot of these Cambridge students have already been to Cape Cod, New York, and other nearby places. The exchange rate is in their favor, I guess. They say that they really miss the weekday night life at Cambridge. MIT students tool too much and don't really DO anything during the week. Sure they'll hang out and such for a few hours but they tool during the evening whereas people in Cambridge go to bars or around town at night. The drinking age is 18 over there, not 21.

After being the last ones to leave the dinner, I came back and packed some more. I lifted one of my bags and was shocked at how heavy it was. American Airlines only allows 50lbs so I was worried. I took it down to the basement and weighted it. It turned out to be 53lbs. I switched things around and got the bag down to 48.5lbs. The other bag, however, is now hovering around 50lbs. I'm kind of worried but there's not much I can do at the moment. I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Hopefully, they have a scale before the counter and I can shift things around if I had to.

Did I mention they're getting a bus to take us to Logan? Yeah, isn't that nice? I was worried about having to lug two 50lb bags all over Boston but now there's a bus taking us to Logan and a bus picking us up from Heathrow. I don't know how I would manage otherwise.

I changed the time on this blog to GMT. And on my Google Calendar. It looks strange now because other people's schedules are now at weird times.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back at MIT

I'm back at MIT, sitting in Yalu's room, on her couch. Yalu's been trying to do work while Mike and I keep distracting her. Poor Yalu...

There was an accident inside the tunnels this morning. I was on the Silver Line and as we approached the toll plaza, there were cars on each side of us stopping and backing up. I thought I was going crazy. I had never seen cars trying to back up so far before. We ended up just sitting there for a 40 minutes idling and not being able to do anything. I made it to Yalu's room just before she had to leave for her 10am class.

I took a 2 hour nap and then went to the career fair. The fair was not very productive as far as career-seeking went. But I got a lot of cool stuff. Then I ate a whole thing of teriyaki chicken and bobba milk tea. The chicken was good but the bobba was not. The bubbles were too big for the straw and they kept getting stuck. That ruined my meal.

Then I picked up my passport (with the UK visa in it!!!) from the Study Aboard office. I met Jen Cook. Very nice person. I signed up for a UPOP exit interview and then headed to meet Professor Wilson. I convinced him that it made sense for me to take 2 languages because to take 8 technical classes would kill me.

He arranged a pizza gathering of current and past CME students. Mahalia had to go somewhere so it was me, Vicky (who went to Cambridge last year), and Ian and Rebecca who are the students from Cambridge. Apparently, Course 1 students who went over haven't been doing too well but no one really fails any classes. Phew!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stamps!

So this summer I expanded my collection of stamps by... a lot. I got 100 Greek Stamps for 10 Euros and 100 DDR stamps for 5 Euros. I was going to stop there but on the very last weekend, I came across a HUGE box of stamps for 5 Euros. Couldn't resist and got it. That was probably the best choice I made all summer.

I think the box of stamps used to belong to a stamp collector. Because there were soooo many different stamps and they are all in excellent condition. Not only did I get a variety of German stamps (DDR, Deutsche Bundespost, Deutsche Bundespost Berlin, Deutsch Post, etc.), I got stamps from all seven continents and an excellent bunch of US stamps too. The US stamps were so awesome because they're mostly from the 60s and 70s and I don't have any of those. Half of them even say "U.S. Postage" instead of "USA" on them.

I even have stamps from the "Freie Stadt Danzig". This place doesn't even exist anymore! Not as an independent city-state anyhow. It's now a part of Poland.

So I spend about 3-4 days sorting these stamps out. Now they're all in binders or nice neat bags. More than half of them are still in bags separated by country. I think I would make a lot of money if I ever have the time to sort everything out and sell them. My mom says she'll help me once she retires. =)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Elmer's White Glue

I just finished making a model of the windmill at San Souci. I got the kit when I was there the first time and had put it off until now to make it. I started the project trying all types of glues but settled on good old Elmer's white glue. It's just paper so this glue worked amazingly well. It took me about 4-5 hours today and probably 6-8 hours total. I don't know why I do these things. Before I leave home, I have to get my stamp collection in order and make a scrapbook of my summer.

I listened to an audio version of Dracula while finishing the model. I borrowed Dracula from the library but got a version with all these footnotes on the bottom. They really annoying because I always end up reading them and the writing is not as good as Bram Stoker's. Anyway, here are pictures of the windmill: unfinished, finished (2), and the real thing.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Full Serving of Vegetables

Ingredients: tomato juice from concentrate, reconstituted vegetable juice blend (water and concentrated juices of carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, spinach), salt, vitamin C, flavoring, citric acid.

Those are the ingredients of V8. It's day 5 of having no lower wisdom teeth and I still can't eat properly. All I've been eating is rice porridge, yogurt, chocolate chip cookies melted in milk, and ice cream. So I thought I'd get some veggies in me today. Anyway, I need to get better fast if I want to check off all the items on the list below.

Oh and my cat's been mad at me. I haven't been feeding him grass or playing with him like I used to ever since last Thursday. So every time he sees me, he goes crazy and attacks me. You know how people always holds their cute little dogs and are like, "It's okay, he/she doesn't bite." Well, not so with my cat. This one bites!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Foods that I want to eat before I go to Europe again

Jamba Juice
Vietnamese Sandwich
Pho
Thai and Taro Teas
KFC (it just taste different over there)
Burger King's onion rings (this too)
In & Out
Peet's Coffee
Beef and Squid Jerky
Anna's Breakfast Burrito and Orange Juice
Taco from a Taco Truck
Tomato+egg+pork gooey, soupy thing that my parents make
Alasksan salmon
A bento box

I've had some of these since I got back but can't hurt to eat them again!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wisdom Teeth

I got my two lower wisdom teeth taken out yesterday and now I'm groggy from painkillers and drinking porridge from a straw. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Took less time than a root canal.

Yesterday was a very productive day. I went to my dentist to get my teeth washed, then returned some library books, opened a HSBC bank account, ate food, bought some Peets coffee and mailed them to my coworkers at DB along with a nice card. Not so productive after the wisdom teeth extraction but whatever.

The oral surgeon recommended taking out all 4. But my upper ones aren't pushing against the molars next to them (like my lower ones are) and are still under the gums. So I was reluctant. And then we found out that my insurance doesn't have enough money since I did a couple of fillings in March. My dentist wants to help me replace all the old mercury fillings with new white ones. So we ended up taking out only the two lower ones.

I've never had so much anesthetic pumped into me before. My flesh under my fingernails turned blue and cold. My hands were shaking and my heart was beating really fast. Not that I was scared or anything. I mean, I've gotten a root canal and teeth taken out that had long roots. The actual surgery was really fast. Less than half an hour. I later found out that one of the nurse is the wife of a math teacher at Oakland High. I've never had her husband as a teacher but she's heard of me.

The anesthetic went away after 6 hours. Can't really talk and my jaw refuses to open up. Dizzy from the painkillers but otherwise, I'm fine. And as always the left side of my jaw is more swollen than the right.

UK Visa

I just got this email from the UK consulate in New York:

"Your application has been approved and the visa has been issued."

Yay! Finally. Now let's hope that FedEx can handle a delivery to the Study Aboard Office.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Gonville and Caius College

I finally found out which college I'll be in while at Cambridge! They finally decided to tell me something! Woot! Unfortunately, the helpful, informative emails stops here. The email that I've been waiting all summer long for consists of:

"This is to confirm that Lucy Wu, who will be studying in Cambridge as part of the CME, will be based at Gonville & Caius College and not at Clare College, as initially announced."

I never even got this initial announcement about being at Clare College. Sigh. I don't know how much housing or food would cost, which of the 3 Caius (pronounced Keys) dorms I'll be in, or anything of any importance. Instead I get lectures after lectures about the lecture styles at Cambridge. Thank you. As if that's more important than getting the visa that lets me pass immigrant. Right now my passport is probably floating around somewhere between California and New York.

Well on a lighter note, Ross is also going to be at Gonville & Caius. He even has a description of the college on his blog. Actually he's probably in the Bay Area right now as well. He's just not answering his emails.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Monterey Bay Aquarium

After the Mystery Spot, we continued driving south and go to Monterey about an hour later. It was around 1pm by this time and we were all hungry. We had planned to go to Bubba Gumps for dinner but decided to go for lunch instead. They made us wait nearly an hour but it was Bubba Gumps. It's a restaurant based on Forest Gump. See the "Run Forest Run" sign? There's also a "Stop Forest Stop" sign to stop the waiter. I wish I had shown my family this movie before we went. I think they would've appreciated everything more.

But it was a good meal anyway. Apparently soda is free too. But of course my brother got this icee thing that had lights on the bottom and costs more than a kids meal. We got 3 things and shared. We were all stuffed at the end and didn't even finished the mashed potatoes.

We walked over to the aquarium. We decided to go because one of my high school teachers had given me two tickets for this place. And since we had wanted to go last year and the adult tickets are $25 each, we decided to take advantage of these tickets. My brother got the kids price ($10 off) and I got the student price ($2 off -- huh? why do they even have a student price?).

I led my family straight to the jellyfish exhibit. They were really impressed. If my dad hadn't told us to keep on moving, I think we would've spent the whole time just trying to get through this one exhibit! The rest of the aquarium was really cool too. I think my family really enjoyed it. This is my 3rd time there so it's not quite as exciting for me but the jellyfish are still cool no matter how many times you see them. I mean, just look at them!

We were all really tired by the end of the day. But it was good. We haven't done a family trip in a long time. I think the last time we went somewhere as a family was when they drove me down to Caltech for a summer thing. That was 4 years ago. And I think this is the first time that my whole family went out to an American restaurant. My dad said it's only his 2nd time. I don't think my mom was very impressed by this. Somehow my dad also missed out on all my scholarship dinners and my mom got to eat at all the fancy places with me. Heh. Gotta remember to do this more often with my family.

Mystery Spot

My family went on a family trip this past weekend because of the long weekend. We decided to go to the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot and then the Monterey Bay Aquarium. So on Sunday morning, we piled into the car along with some drinks and snacks and started driving south to Santa Cruz.

The Mystery Spot is not some carnival type thing. It's an actual gravitational anomaly. No one knows what's actually going on. There's basically a spot on a hill where gravity works funny. Someone tried to built a shack on top of this hill and it slid down, stopping right in the center of the Mystery Spot. Everything about this shack looks slanted. You cannot stand straight. Here's a picture of my brother inside the house. He is not standing like this on purpose. I should've taken a picture of the whole group of people, all standing slanted at the same angle. It felt weird too. My mom got dizzy.

Our tour guide put this piece of wood near the window of the shack. It looked really slanted but the liquid level didn't think so. And when she rolled a ball "down" the piece of wood, it rolled for a while and then came back "up". It was sooo weird.

Here's a picture of a pendulum tilted at the same angle. When you push it towards the corner of the house, it swings easily. But when you try to push it the other way, it gets heavier and harder to push. AND when it swings, it gains momentum when it goes towards the corner and actually starts hitting the wall after a few swings. I don't think that's supposed to happen!!

It was worth the $5 per person and guided tour. I wish they let us stay longer but I guess it was a busy day.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Coincidences

Here are some interesting little stories that I forgot to mention on my earlier posts. In other words, here's the more interesting stuff.

My hostel room in Munich was number 309. That's the number of the room that Yalu and I stayed in sophomore year. I couldn't believe my eyes when the person at the desk handed me the key.

The first night in Bonn, my friend mentioned that she had a linear algebra book from MIT. As we were already in bed, she couldn't show me. But I was like, linear algebra+MIT=Strang? She then goes on to say that it was useless for her because her linear algebra class was much more theoretical and that book had more applied stuff. I knew it had to be Strang's book. I told her I took his class and we have two linear algebra classes at MIT, one that's more applied and the other more theory. She showed me the book the next day and it was indeed by Strang, translated into German. I showed her the introduction where he dedicated the book to his grandchildren. I also showed her OCW. She was pretty impressed and looked through the physics stuff.

My roommate in Berlin, Hua-Chen, had a Neuorscience book that looked really familiar to me. I just checked the textbooks in Course 9 and I was right. They use the same book in 9.01. Hua-Chen also has some books by Noam Chomsky. Published by MIT Press and everything. She even had a book that was a collaboration between MIT and Cambridge.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Going to the Mall

Wish I can say the past few days have been exciting but here's a few mundane snippets of my life back home.

Yesterday and today were Spare the Air Days. This means that it's so hot that driving your car makes the air pollution even worse than usual. So on some Spare the Air Days, all the public transportation in the Bay Area is free. I didn't know about this yesterday so I walked to Jack London Square and back. That's about a 45 minute walk. It wasn't bad though. I got to feel the glorious sun on my skin and read some travel books while drinking coffee.

So today I decided to take advantage of this free transportation and got myself to Emeryville. I wanted to go to that one mall with Micheals, CompUSA, and Pets Club. I decided not to follow the directions given to me by the transit website and promptly got lost. I hopped on a shuttle that was supposed to take me to where I wanted to go but I think I missed the stop. I just got off where everyone else got off and ended up in the middle of nowhere. This was when I realized that I wasn't in Deutchland anymore. Whenever I got lost over there, I would just stop by a bus stop or just walk along with the rest of the people on the street. Here however, there was absolutely no one on the street. In fact, one should be suspicious of people like me who walk instead of drive or wait at a bus stop.

When I finally found the mall, I spend some time at Michaels picking out scrapbook stuff. I want to make a scrapbook for the past summer. I've already ordered pictures. But for some reason, Winkflash decided to order only 233 of my 330 pictures that I uploaded. So I have to order again. Sigh. Anyhow, after this, I walked over to Pets Club, CompUSA, and Best Buy. Not as easy as it sounds. This is not a mall that was designed to be walked. You're supposed to drive from one store to the next. When trying to find CompUSA, I walked into an OfficeMax because you can't see store names from the sidewalk. Having lived in Berlin, I am starting to realize just how unwalkable American cities are. I have a bike but I've never ridden it in Oakland because I don't feel safe. Everything is so car-centric.

Snowball

One of the great things about being home is being able to play with my cat. I really spoil this guy. I took several buses and BART to get him is own plant today. Anyhow, here's a video of him playing with a paper bag. All the paper bags and cardboard boxes we get from Trader Joes and Costco belongs to him.

The second day that I was back, I took a nap in the evening and missed dinner with my family. Snowball usually sleeps during the day and comes out during dinner time to socialize with us. He noticed that I wasn't there and thought I left. When I came out of my bedroom at around 9pm, he was really happy and kept meowing. Cute, huh?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Can't Sleep

It's 6am, I'm sitting in bed, and can't go back to sleep. It's actually better today. At least it isn't 3am. It's been like this for the past few days. Darn this time difference. I guess this is one of the drawbacks of living in California - Europe is so far away.

I visited my high school on Friday. All my teachers were there so that was nice. I stayed there for about 3 hours and my brother got really bored so I had to leave. Lena, you really gotta email Mr. Rike once in a while. He's still haunting the school.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Last Day in Berlin

I must've been really bored those last few days. I don't know who's going to read all these new posts. I mean, now that I'm home and Yalu on vacation...


By the time I post this, I’ll be sitting at home! I’m so excited. No more being depressed about leaving since that was about work. I definitely need to send a thank you note. Anyway, I spent the morning packing. Not much else to do since it was thunderstorming outside. A huge one too. It was pouring. Packing didn’t take too long and I spent the rest of the morning playing Starcraft and other games on my computer.

The rain let up around noon and I went to the supermarket to return more bottles and got some more souvenirs. My backpack is still pretty empty although my suitcases are definitely a lot heavier than when I came. I’m pretty sure when I came the weight limit was 50 pounds. But I checked on the website and it said that flying to the US, I have a weight limit of 70 pounds. Weird. I hope it’s right because I really don’t think my suitcases are under 50 pounds. Turns out I'm completely wrong and both of my suitcases were way under 50 pounds, even the big one. The big one was only 21kg so I had nothing to worry about.

At 2pm, I went and got my deposit from the housing office. It was sunny by now and very nice out. Since I don’t have a card to the computer room, I couldn’t get in. Usually the door is open or there are people inside. But since it was in the middle of the day on a weekday, the room was empty and locked. So I decided to bring my computer to Haus 6 and stood outside checking email. Good thing I took the effort since it turns out that Jingwen couldn’t make it to the airport for her 5am flight. There’s apparently no taxis that go there so early so she decided to take the Thursday afternoon flight. Since I’ll already be home, she asked me to leave my keys with a friend. I was getting a little worried about her since she was supposed to be back in Berlin at around 8am. But I figured her flight was delayed since it was raining so hard. Poor girl. Such bad luck. I hope she manages to get to the airport for her Friday morning flight home.

While I was checking my email, both Yalu and Xiumin started chatting with me on Google Talk. My computer started burning up since I was sitting in the sun, so I stood in the shade. But it’s hard to type while standing up, I was about to give up when I walked by some bikes under the shade. I balanced my laptop on one of them and chatted with Xiumin while checking the rest of my email. Good thing not many people were around.

After sitting around some more, I decided to take the bus past the Wannsee S-Bahn station, just to see what’s on the other side of the bridge. Turns out there isn’t much so I took the bus back, walked around the lake a little, and had a doner at the S-Bahn station. Yup, the same place that we got our first meal in Berlin. I thought I should eat one more doner in case I don’t find them in England. And where else more appropriate than the place where I got my first doner!

At around 7pm, Hua-Chen and Sarah came to pick me up. They took a lot of the food that I had left over with them. I spend the night at Hua-Chen's place. We watched a movie and I slept on her floor. The next morning I got up at 4:30am and caught a bus and then another bus to the airport.

Last Days at DB

Sorry everything's out of order. This one was written on August 21st, after my last day at work.


I’ve now officially finished my internship at Deutsche Bahn. Officially as in they’ve already deactivated my account when I tried to check my Lotus Notes email one more time at 3pm today.

Let’s start with Monday. I brought my DB toaster to work since it’s the wrong voltage and probably would not fit inside my suitcase. My family already has a toaster that I won at a raffle ten years ago. So I showed Oli and the new girl and put the toaster in the kitchen. At lunch time, Maika asked Oli if he had seen the DB toaster (or something like that. I still can’t understand a whole conversation but apparently toaster in German sounds a lot like toaster in English). Oli told her it was from me. She fiddled with the old toaster that was on the lunch table. I had never noticed this before or else I would’ve put the toaster on the table instead of the kitchen. She then went and got the DB toaster and replaced the old one with it. I tried to tell her that it puts the DB logo on bread but I used the wrong words. A lot of German and English words sound alike and if you use the right ones, people can understand you. So instead of ‘picture’ and ‘bread’ I really should’ve said ‘logo’ and ‘toast’. Anyway, Oli understood what I was trying to say and explained this to Maika. Maika wouldn’t believe him at first and he’s like, “look inside!” She did and was really impressed. She wanted to toast the secretary’s bread right then but it wasn’t the right kind of bread. When the secretary came to eat her lunch, Maika told her all about the toaster.

So that was the highlight of work on Monday. I had to wait until 6pm to meet with my boss. He knew I was leaving soon but didn’t realize it was the next day. I guess people don’t usually leave on Tuesdays but my flight is leaving on Thursday so there’s not much I can do about that. Anyhow, we went over all my projects and apparently I’m the first intern he’s had. So I guess he didn’t really know what to expect either.

So today (Tuesday) was my last day at work. I thought my coworkers knew because they were definitely talking about me in the morning. And I thought they could’ve guessed when I was cleaning out my desk but I’m not sure they did. I mean, they knew I was leaving soon but probably just weren’t sure when. Anyhow, I was busy in the morning going over all my projects. After lunch though, things slowed down because you can only read something so many times before falling asleep. And no matter how many times you refreash Gmail, there’s a limit to how many emails you’re going to get, especially when half of America is still sleeping. Anyway, the secretary was really surprised when I returned my card to her. She said, “Tomorrow, no?” That took me a second or two. I proceeded to say “auf wiedersehen” to my other coworkers. They thought it was cool that I was saying goodbye in German. I told my boss that I wanted to learn German while at Cambridge and come back to Germany after. He said I’m welcomed at the office and just give him a call. Not sure if he really means that but it would be cool to work at the same office again next summer. No, this wasn’t the most interesting summer job ever, but I really didn’t do it right the first time and I want to do it again. If I can work there again but able to communicate with my coworkers, it would be so awesome.

I mean it really sucked not being able to say anything at work. I think it’s customary at DB to bring in cake and make coffee on your last day. I thought about doing this but realized that the point of it is so that you can chat with your coworkers, talk about your time there, thank people, etc. And I can’t do that. Not like “won’t” or “don’t want to” but “cannot” as in “I don’t know enough German to hold a conversation.” So it would’ve been pointless and down right awkward. Which is why I’m glad I decided to bring in the toaster. Now they can make toast with the DB logo on it instead of having cake and coffee.

It was a bit sad that the two people who I actually interacted with in that office weren’t there today. Well, Bosner was there in the morning but he left sometime before lunch, I think. So I didn’t really get to say goodbye. And Jean wasn’t there at all. She asked me when I would be leaving last week and said that we’d see each other before that. But she travels around a lot and just couldn’t make it. I’ll just write them both an email to say thank you.

I met up with Carolyn after work and we walked around aimlessly until we got to an Asian restaurant that served Thai, Vietnamese, and sushi. It was good food. We both got mango lassi which is a yogurt-like drink. I got chicken pad thai while she got a noodle dish. Great food. Neither of us had much waiting for us back at our apartments so we just basically talked about random things and killed time. It was good. I’m glad I wasn’t just sitting in my apartment all night, all alone. Gosh, I don’t know what it would be like to live by myself. Must be lonely.

Work

Typed on August 17th, Friday after work. This entry is about my second to last week at work.


So when I got to the office on Wednesday, there is a new girl at Christiane’s desk. I think she is joining the controlling department. Don’t think she speaks English either but she’s nice. I can tell she’s new since she had a guest card and she called Oli, Herr Raad. That sounded really weird. She was working with the laptop because they had a lot of trouble with the desktop. It took forever to turn on. At one point, she and Oli were both just staring at the screen for like 5 minutes.

My supervisor wasn’t here the whole week. So I didn’t really do much. Just searched the Internet some more and organized my stuff.

On Friday, I gave a presentation on the different project management styles of Germany versus the US to some Chinese and German students who were visiting Deutsche Bahn. Some people from the Strategy department came and gave a presentation. Long presentation and then the students asked a lot of questions. Some of those questions weren’t that great. Like, “why’s the Bahn Card so expensive?” Anyhow, I thought my presentation went okay. I rushed through the slides though. I have this really habit of making up a script in my head, rehearsing it, and then play it back. I don’t think that’s the best way of presenting. Really need to work on this. I think I should be more natural and just improvise more. Except that I have doubts about my ability to improvise. I just end up saying “uh” a lot, which is no good either. Sigh.

Afterwards, Lauren, the other intern who presented, and I went out to lunch. Apparently there is a restaurant at the Sony Center that has a special everyday for Deutsche Bahn employees. So the whole meal was only about 6 Euros. Which is really great. Don’t find out about stuff like this when your coworkers all eat at the office. We chatted about California and school. Lauren goes to Stanford and is from New York. Kati joined us later on and we talked about random stuff such as having siblings. Lauren’s an only child while Kati has at least one older sister. We didn’t really get to talk a whole lot since it was like 2:30pm and we all had to get back to work.

My stomach hasn’t been feeling too well lately. It was pretty bad in the afternoon. I should’ve just gone home early. But I stayed until both of my officemates left. I don’t think it’s actually that bad except that I was also really depressed about leaving Germany. I mean, I’m really glad to be going home but I’m really going to miss my coworkers. They’re such nice people. And fun to work with. I wish I can do it all over again except that I know German. I mean, they make an effort to eat lunch together everyday. You don’t find that everywhere. Not even in other departments of Deutsche Bahn. It makes people feel like they’re part of a family. And they are like a family. They know the names of each other’s family members, have each other’s cell phone numbers, and make fun of each other. I think when you can joke around with another person, poke fun at them, and laugh with them, that’s when you really get to know them. I only make fun of people that I consider friends. Because they know that I’m just joking around and not being mean.

Anyway, I came back to my dorm and took a short nap. All the FUBiS kids are leaving tomorrow. Well, except for one of the guys who is staying for the weekend. I don’t mind since that means I’ll have company. It’ll be really lonely when everyone leaves though. I just got really, really depressed thinking about leaving Germany and not working with my DB coworkers anymore. So I played some Starcraft to keep myself distracted. Didn’t help too much since I kept losing but it killed time. I feel better after writing this all down though.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Munich Part V - Last Day

Now that I'm back home, here's the rest of the Munich trip. With pictures!

We got up a little later on the last day and didn’t get out the door until nearly 10am. After I had breakfast at the hostel, I waited around the lobby for Jingwen to finish checking her email and overheard some other people talking about traveling. This one guy was trying to decide whether to go to Prague or Amsterdam and was chatting with another guy and girl about it.

Girl: Amsterdam’s more fun. Prague’s more… scenic.
Guy: I’m tired of scenic. Amsterdam’s more fun?
Girl: Yeah, I thought so.
Guy 2: Yeah, Amsterdam’s definitely a lot of fun.

All three of them looked like college kids. Definitely won’t get a conversation like this at a hotel. You meet people at youth hostels that have been everywhere, are planning to go everywhere, and people who just like traveling around. People come in and out with big backpacks, on their way across Europe. It’s so cool.

After we checked out of the hostel, we went to the English Gardens, walked around a bit, and found the Chinese Pagoda. On the way there, I asked why Jingwen wanted to see this pagoda so much, given that she had just gotten back from China.

Jingwen: Because it’s funny.
Me: Funny?
Jingwen: Yeah, I saw a picture of it and in my eyes it looks nothing like Chinese. It’s like they tried to imitate a Chinese pagoda and failed.
Me: So you want to see this because it’s funny?
Jingwen: Yeah. And it’s in the middle of Munich. If it was in Beijing, it’d be like whatever.

I was confused. I don’t think anything is worth seeing just because it’s somehow supposed to be funny. Not with swollen feet anyhow. After getting to Munich, Jingwen’s feet started swelling pretty badly. It got worse everyday. It was especially bad today but she managed to take us through the gardens, detoured to see a lake, and then walk to the pagoda. So I didn’t think much of her complaints about her feet since she seemed to be doing just fine. But after we got back to Berlin, you can actually see her feet were really swollen. The next day she said that she had a hard time putting shoes on for work.

Anyhow, we went back to the city center and ate at a restaurant that my guidebook recommended. It wasn’t cheap at all. Our dishes were like 17 Euros and 3 Euros for beer. The food and beer were really, really good. I got pork knuckles which is a Bavarian specialty along with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. I actually didn’t think sauerkraut was as bad as Jingwen made it out to be. I would’ve finished mine except that there was no way for me to finish the whole meal. The waitress gave us 0.5 liters of beer each even though we asked for 0.3 L. It was really good beer though. I felt a little dizzy afterwards.

The train going back was not fun at all. We got our stuff from the hostel and I left for the train station 10 minutes before my train was scheduled to leave. I managed to get a ticket and hop on the train with plenty of time to spare. That’s what I like about trains. No checking in, lines, etc. It was a nice ICE this time but I wish it wasn’t. Because it turned out to be one of the new ones that actually leans over when it goes around a corner. Most people didn’t notice but since I was so tired, had a headache, and gets motion sickness so easily, I noticed. Kim had told me about these trains and I wanted to avoid them. But since I only had 10 minutes before it left, I hopped on without looking at the numbers. I think these trains run only between Berlin and Munich and are the ones designated 1605 or 1604. Well, at first, I was sleeping so well that the ticket checker guy had to tap me on the shoulder. I didn’t even hear him. But after that, I felt nauseated for a lot of the trip. I managed to not throw up and slept a lot. The scenery wasn’t great either. We were taking a different route than the one I took going to Munich. Just a bunch of farm land. Didn’t go through the forest at all.

Munich Part IV - Salzburg

On Monday, we went to Salzburg. We got a Brayen pass that allowed us to travel anywhere in the state for a whole day for 27 Euros. We had to wait until 9am to use it though so we walked around the English Garden a little bit and came back to the Hauptbahnhof to catch the train the Salzburg. It was a 2 hour train ride and there were lots of other people going. People travel a lot in Germany. Well, I think the people across from us were Italian and we saw a lot of Spanish tourists around too.

The Salzburg Hauptbahnhof is really old. We ate at a nearby cafĂ© after getting off since we were both hungry. I got a pasta dish along with ice cream coffee. Both very good. We got a little guidebook with a map and started walking around the city. The old city is actually across the river from the train station. We walked around a really nice garden and saw Mozart’s birthplace before crossing over to the other side.

It wanted to rain for a while but never started pouring. We walked around some churches, an outdoor market, found the famous little street with cute street signs, and finally found another Residenz (not sure whose it is but it looked nice from the outside). There is a castle on top of a hill but it cost 10 Euros to take a lift. This included the admissions to the castle. We decided to just walk up since it wasn’t that far. But when we got there, it turns out that we had to buy a 7 Euro ticket to go inside, which included the lift to go down. We couldn’t even walk around the castle. I didn’t want to see the inside of the castle anyhow but we wanted to walk around the top and get a nice view of Salzburg.

After this we wanted to take a bus to see the Sound of Music pavilion. We got on the wrong bus so it took us like 2 hours to get there. It’s about 30 minutes away by bus. We got off at the wrong stop but the bus driver was kind enough to let us back on. So after getting lost a lot, we got there and saw the pavilion. Not very amazing given all the effort we put into finding the place. The rest of the park is very nice though. We didn’t have time to explore much since we wanted to catch the train that leaves Salzburg at 9:18pm, bringing us back to Munich at around 11pm. We got some food at a Burger King. I got a milkshake and some onion rings. People don’t eat onion rings much here. You can’t get it with a value meal and they had to fry mine especially for me. The onions weren’t very fresh, a bit mushy.