English, Life, Photography

October 2020 Photo Challenge: Seascapes

Photo Challenge

The sea is a large body of water. Water is vital for life: it covers 71% of Earth’s surface, and around 60% of the human body is made up of water. Without water, there is no life. It’s important.

To some, water is a form of baptisation, a symbol of purification and renewal of the soul. To others, water can be terrifying: a phobia, a nightmare, a symbol of change.

For me, water is more than that. These pictures here, they represent something close to my heart. They are – were – all my homes. The sight of a sea or any other water body glistening under the sun is one I can’t resist. I have to take a photo.

It is before a sea that I had the most romantic moment in my life, and before a sea, where I sat and chatted with my friends for hours. The sea is so much more than just a body of water to me. These are pictures from my previous homes: Singapore, China, USA, France.

In each photo, I am at a different phase in life. And the intangible memories I have in each of those phases, I will never forget, even if the waters were to dry up one day.

College Life, English, Life

High school friends vs. College friends

Every year during summer, I return home. I meet up with my middle school friends, my high school friends, and maybe my college friends, if they’re from the same place. I see most of these people only once a year, or more, if you count the virtual Skype sessions. Yet, when together, we never fail to have a blast. It’s a great feeling, you know? High school friendships, they’re like diamond rings. They’re precious, they’re strong, and they’re markers of your commitment to one another. If they have lasted all the way through college, graduation, and adulthood, then those friendships are certainly something. On the other hand, there are also the more mature friendships you form when you’re going through the “best 4 years of your life” (which I disagree with, but anyway). These are some of the similarities and differences I’ve noticed between my own high school friendships and college friendships:

FREQUENCY OF MEETINGS

Although I may have sat next to my high school besties 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, it’s the opposite for college friends. In my high school, where everyone knew everyone at least by name – there were only 200 people in the grade – it would actually have been hard not to see them daily. At college, with over thousands of students per year over multiple disciplines, I wouldn’t worry too much about pleasing everyone. Start a rumour, throw shade at me, I don’t care. There are so many people who don’t know me anyway. That being said, even something as simple as grabbing lunch together or just hanging out may take some effort. Everyone has a different schedule and a different place to be at at any one time, so if you’d like to see someone again after your first meeting, better get their number! And if you’re hanging out with this one friend frequently, that can only mean one thing: this friendship is real. You’re both there because you want to be there. (Unless, of course, your college friend happens to be your roommate)

PROXIMITY AND DISTANCE

Unless you have an internship lined up elsewhere for the summer, you’re probably going to be spending 9 months in the year at college, and 3 at home. That means, 9 months together with your college friends, and 3 months to catch up with your high school ones. Your high school friends have to get used to video-calling you for the 9 months, while your college friends? Not really. Maybe a text here and there, but you’ll see each other soon enough anyway. Upon graduation, you’ll probably have a harder time adjusting to long-distance friendships with college friends than high school friends, assuming that one of you moves out of town after graduation. Besides, you’ve known your high school friends for a longer time, and deep down, you just know that absence makes the heart fonder. However, is that the case with your college friends? Or is it “out of sight, out of mind”?

HOW WELL THEY KNOW YOU

The truth about high school friends is that they’ve probably seen all sides of you, except the roomie side. You’ve been to parties together, prom, class gatherings, gym classes, gone through heartbreaks, firsts, drama, broken friendships together. You’ve all survived the most hellish days of high school and made it out together, as more matured human beings. They know all about you and your dark past, save your living style. Yes, they’ve been to your place for sleepovers, but that’s hardly what it’s going to be like when you live with them. In college, you live with friends. Sometimes you share an apartment, but often, you’ve also shared a room. I can tell you right now, it’s not easy. It’s not easy having your own privacy, especially if, like me, you’ve never had to share a room with anybody at home. But you learn to make it work (or not), despite having different living styles. My college friend/roomie has seen sides of me that my high school friend never has to deal with, e.g. the infinite duration of my alarms in the morning, my 2am sleep schedules, my habit of blasting music aloud, etc. A good roomie can sometimes feel more like a family member than a friend. In any case, I wouldn’t confidently say that my high school best friend and I could room together, but with college friends? Not a doubt.

ACTIVITIES YOU DO TOGETHER

Back in high school, hanging out meant grabbing lunch, girls’ nights (is boys’ night a thing too?), going to the mall, and movie nights, right? At college, going to the mall is replaced by grocery shopping at the supermarket, movie nights by university talks and events. Sometimes, friends cook meals together too. That never happens with my high school friends. With college friends, priorities have changed. Of course, having fun and partying is still important, but at college, we learn that one, the body is capable of breaking down, and two, our metabolism just isn’t as efficient as it used to be. Hangovers last longer than they used to, and every party you go to instead of a career talk, that meant a missed networking opportunity for both you and your friend. One night vs. the future.

QUARTER LIFE CRISIS

Oh, don’t we all hate our early 20s. Filled with ups and downs and a shit ton more of uncertainty. By junior year, we’ve all probably already fretted about the imminent future: adulthood. Will we get a job? Will our lives become boring? Will we still have fun? Will we still remain friends? What do I want to do in life? By now, we’ll also have realised that making close friends is a difficult feat: networking isn’t the same as real friendship, last-minute job meetings soon takes the priority over reunions. We’ve all had that depressed, late night conversation about the pointlessness of life, after 12 hours of scrolling through LinkedIn. We’ve all proof-read one another’s CVs a million times. We’ve all sucked up to our career counsellors. Your college friends will remember these times, and it’s probably going to be one of the most important experiences you ever will go through together. On the other hand, high school friends, they’re not going to be there to hold your hand through the job searching process. They can’t. They’re not physically there. Yes, they can provide valuable advice and moral support, but they’re not there, experiencing every step of the process with you. In short, your high school friends have witnessed the ups and downs of your teenage drama, but your college friends will have been by your side during the ups and downs as you transition into adulthood.

Having different friends who play different roles in various stages of your life is a normal part of growing up. Whether it’s a high school friend, a college friend, or someone else, everyone is significant in contributing to our growths. Treasure all your friendships, because every friendship is unique in their own way.

Challenges, Français, Late Night Thoughts

La lueur d’espoir reste ici toujours

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Parfois on s’est perdu. On ne voit pas du tout la fin du temps malheureux actuel. On croit qu’on a tout perdu et on ne peut pas sortir de ce malheur. Qu’est-ce qu’on peut faire ? Comment faire pour qu’on puisse nous rendre plus heureux, comme avant, quand on était petit ?

La première étape, c’est de ne perdez pas l’espoir. Cette lueur d’espoir. Tant qu’elle existe, il y a toujours une solution. Toujours, parce que cette lueur ne disparaîtra jamais. C’est toujours devant nos yeux, si seulement on la cherche.

Six Word Saturday Challenge

 

 

 

 

English, Late Night Thoughts, Life

Throwback Thursdays: 13 Aug 2020

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Thanksgiving 2019

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Sophomore year has started. My second Thanksgiving.

As usual, being an international student with family literally on the other end of the globe, Thanksgivings are spent away from my home. This year, my friend and I decided to do something different.


13.08.20

Throwback Thursday.

I’m scrolling through my laptop. I stumble across pictures from late November last year. Wow, how much the world has changed since! It’s only been 9 months.

A lot has happened in the past year. If I’d asked 2019-me where I saw myself in 2020, my answer would’ve been: a rising Junior who goes to university in the States studying film. The current reality exposes me as an incoming Freshman who will go to university in England next fall. Studying a totally different degree: Law. Currently I’m back home, quarantined due to the coronavirus. Friends whom I thought I’d have stayed in contact with for the past few years… some of them I’m closer to more than ever. We’ve been calling every week since the global pandemic. But others? We haven’t spoken in forever, and neither of us seem to be making the effort to maintain the long-distance friendship that we knew would eventually take its toll on us.

Lots of regrets, but also lots of isolation, time, and reflection. Lots of lessons learnt.

But the memories stay. We’ll always remember the good and bad times we’ve had together. Thanksgiving that year was one of the most adventurous and unique trips in my life. I’ve always enjoyed travelling with you. You’re one of my closest friends, even though you’re miles away. I’ve known you for a third of my life, and I’m really grateful for that. I can’t wait for our next trip. Until then, FaceTime will have to suffice.

 

 

English, Reviews

Movie Review: Tall Girl

I just watched Tall Girl last night, and the ending was the sweetest thing ever!!

***************SPOILER ALERT****************

For those of you who don’t know, Tall Girl is a Netflix original released in 2019. This rom-com tells the tale of Jodi, a 6-feet tall girl, who struggles to be popular in high school due to her height.

“How’s the weather up there?” (Tall Girl, 2019)

Initially writing off this film as a classic Mean Girls style movie, I had no intention to watch it, until a friend of mine recommended it to me, for its amusement factor. And, to be honest, I have no regrets. While I understand that Tall Girl has received much backlash (see below), I think it’s still a fun feel-good film to watch.

Synopsis

Like any other day, Jodi starts off her high school Junior year being mocked by her schoolmates. Jack Dunkleman, her friend since childhood, who always carries a milk crate around with him and who has had a crush on her for the longest time, tries to ask her out again – and like always, Jodi turns him down. As Jack convinces Jodi to consider otherwise, a new Swedish exchange student enters the class. Tall, blond, long hair, blue eyes, intelligent, exotic, Jodi is immediately attracted to this student, Stig Mohlin. The problem is, so is every other girl in the school, including Kimmy, the popular mean girl of the grade who constantly puts Jodi down and mocks her for her height. Kimmy starts dating Stig. Things get complicated when Jodi befriends Stig, and this friendship ends up with them kissing each other. Later that night, both Jodi and Stig question themselves if they were bad people for kissing someone they shouldn’t have, because Stig was in a relationship. Stig goes to Jack, who happens to be his host family in America, for advice. Jack, jealous of Stig, urges him to stay committed to Kimmy and cut off all ties with Jodi. The next day, Jodi is hurt when Stig ignores her completely. She realises what Jack has done and their friendship starts to weaken. She then tries to make Stig jealous by getting together with Schnipper, Kimmy’s friend, but they didn’t last long. After, Stig tells Jodi that he intends to break up with Kimmy so that he can be with her, on condition that she goes to Homecoming with him. She invites him to be her +1 at her sister’s beauty pageant, to which he never shows up. Later on, she meets him at a party and finds out that he has still yet to break up with Kimmy. He apologises for his actions, but is sidetracked by his popularity, with people constantly coming up to him and interrupting his private conversation with Jodi. Seeing this, Jodi decides that he only cared about his popularity and is not worth her time. She leaves, furious and hurt. The next morning, she awakes to Jack sitting on her bed. She sees a black eye on his face. Jack apologises for not being a great friend, and gives her a present: a pair of shiny high heels. Later that day, she receives a text of Liz, a girl who likes Jack and who was also present at the party. The video showed Stig making fun of Jodi at the party. Jack, upon hearing it, got so angry that he had attacked Stig, explaining the black eye on his face. Jodi is shocked. She later goes to Homecoming with the heels Jack gave, impressing everyone with her confidence for the first time in forever. She gives a Homecoming speech and leaves. As she leaves, Stig, crowned Homecoming King alongside with Kimmy as Homecoming Queen, breaks up with Kimmy and chases after Jodi. He apologises to her once again and asks for a second chance to start over, to which Jodi replies, “I’d love to start over… but just not with you”. She then leaves, and upon reaching home, she finds Jack waiting for her on her porch. Jodi talks to him, and the scene ends with them kissing – with Jack standing on the milk crate to match Jodi’s height.

Why I like it 

It’s such a feel-good film, with the occasional cheesy moments (like Stig and Jodi’s first encounter). It’s filled with comedy, and unique characters like Harper (Jodi’s sister) add to the comic relief. Plot twists (perhaps predictable for some, but not for me!) are sometimes so unexpected that they incite laughter – since the start of the film, Jodi describes Jack as the boy who carries a milk crate around. It’s not only until the end of the film that we find out why. Who would’ve thought? It’s such a simple thing to do, yet so unique and original, and I think that’s what makes it so sweet.

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Besides, it’s a pretty satisfying ending, isn’t it? A strong female protagonist who walks away from her former dream crush, even when given the chance to be together. While it is true that Jack isn’t entirely 100% in the right, and maybe was a jerk for convincing Stig to stay away from Jodi for a personal agenda, I think he makes up for it by standing up for Jodi when Stig mocked her. His constant loyalty to her is something that needs to be commended and is hard to come by in friendships.

Another thing I really enjoyed about Tall Girl was the relatability of the characters and relationships. Unlike many other romcoms or chick flicks that deal with high school social hierarchies and the mean girls at the top of the social ladder, the characters in Tall Girl were generally more down-to-earth and realistic. Although her sister is slightly quirky, she’s funny and such a genuinely sweet and supportive sister. Think about it – yes, Kimmy can be a b*tch, but among so many movies about teenage life, she’s one of the better ones. She’s mean, alright, but portrayed very realistically. The film focused less on the downfall of the mean girl, but rather, the growth of the “underdog”. Maybe it’s the way Jodi’s character is portrayed, but there certainly doesn’t seem to be a excessive amount of drama incited due to people’s overreactions. For example, the way Jodi handled the forbidden kiss between Stig and her was very mature. Her “fight” with Jack was subtle, and the apology was meaningful. Jodi is such a sincere and kind protagonist – this is something I’ve yet to see in movies of the same genre. The quirkiness of her family members also add to the dynamic relationships that Jodi has.

But this though…?

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“Now, wouldn’t it be great, if we could meet and exceed guest expectations, in the ongoing Middle East Conflict?” (Harper)

What does that have to do with anything?

Am I the only one a bit lost?

Backlash

“There are people literally getting killed for their skin colour, sexual orientation, gender and the list goes on and Netflix creates a film about a girl who’s too tall, f***s my mind, The Amazon’s on fire – get better priorities.” (Metro UK)

A white privileged problem?

Obviously, being a white, slim, heterosexual, pretty protagonist, her race and gender are the least of Jodi’s worries. Her only insecurity is her height… and, well, especially with what’s going on in the world right now, there are other more important issues that should be discussed other than the height of a white cis-woman. This is what critics are saying.

Some of you will agree with this, but some of you won’t. That’s okay. The way I see it, I don’t think we should belittle Jodi’s problems just because she is white and doesn’t face the same obstacles that the minority ethnic groups in America do. Think about it this way: if one is privileged, should she not be allowed to profit from a privileged life? I think yes – if one is born privileged, there is no reason for one not to use it. I’m not saying that we should exercise our privileges at the expense of the under-privileged, or to ignore the fact that we’re privileged. What I’m saying is, that one should acknowledge that she’s privileged, and be allowed to use it. She shouldn’t have to live as though she were under-privileged just for the sake of it. It doesn’t change anything.

The same applies with Jodi and her height. As a Caucasian female, being too tall makes her feel different, just like how the race of an Asian-American or African-American may make him or her feel out of place. Of course, consequences of being a tall blonde are less severe than being African-American, but in both cases, a sense of estrangement and exclusion is experienced, and I feel that it is really this idea that matters in the film.

“But the movie’s not really a movie about being bullied for being tall. It’s about having an insecurity and having to get over it and learn that the thing you’re ashamed of is the thing that makes you special” (Nzingha Stewart, Refinery 29)

Additionally, this film seems to have incorporated several actors of different races. Although the main character is white, her friends and co-stars are of different backgrounds. Look at Kimmy, Schnipper, Fareeda and Dunkleman. While it’s true that none of them are the protagonist, diversity is found in this film without any explicit mentions, which is what makes it even better. Think about those films directly centred around racial issues – aren’t they just making a big deal out of the diversity? Isn’t it better to incorporate diversity naturally without having to purposely point it out? It’s important to recognise the differences, but when you have to explicitly make a film about issues like that, it suggests that diversity is not a norm, hence my belief in making films that naturally includes diverse racial aspects.

Same goes for gender. It’s true that this film is very straight. At the same time, why should we be obliged to have both heterosexual and homosexual characters in every movie? Is it so wrong to have, say, an entire film with homosexuals, or another with only heterosexuals (or trans-genders, for that matter)? Again, feel free to disagree, but this is what I think: the day where we can truly accept people regardless of their gender or race, is the day where we start to see them as one of us, and we don’t feel the need too single them out to show our support (e.g. “I have a Black friend, therefore I’m not racist” –> how about just “I have a friend, period”?).

Long story short, I think this film is a light film. I don’t think that it’s necessarily centred on social issues, but rather, it’s more focused on the internal struggle a teen faces when trying to fit in in high school. Let’s also not forget that the director herself is a woman of colour; this means that she was involved in the casting. The sole focus of this film is not to empower people of colour; it is a film centred on comedy and teenage hardships. If anything, the fact that a film was produced by a Black director in itself, to me, has more significance than the protagonist being a coloured person. Again, that’s just my opinion.

The Swedish Stereotype

Despite having the looks, read any YouTube comment section or reiew about Luke Eisner in Tall Girl and you’re bound to see this remark: “atrocious Swedish accent” (KLM, Everything Movie Reviews). No comment – I have no idea what the Swedish accent sounds like, but regardless, why couldn’t they have found a real Swedish actor, instead of playing into the stereotypes?

Conclusion

Other than critiques about Luke Eisner and height being a problem, this movie has not received much other backlash. Some might find that the characters are under-developed and plot clichéd, but I personally really enjoyed it. If you’re up working hard into the wee hours in the morning and need a feel-good film to cheer you up, I’d say give Tall Girl a try. It’s funny and has such an adorable ending!

 

*All pictures are from the Netflix original Tall Girl. None of them belong to me.

 

 

English, Late Night Thoughts

Getting frustrated with COVID

When confinement leads to loneliness, loneliness leads to boredom, boredom leads to excessive phone usage, excessive phone usage leads to constant browsing on social media, constant browsing on social media leads to feelings of meaninglessness, leads to self-doubt and questioning the point in living, our mind can wander into a dark place, especially if you’ve been severely impacted by the coronavirus situation.

COVID-19 left most of us with a lot of time in our hands. Some of us find ways to busy ourselves, while others struggle to pass each day. I know many people are having it way harder than me – sole breadwinners losing their jobs, fresh university graduates unable to find jobs – so I can’t complain. However, it doesn’t eliminate this feeling of isolation I feel in the pit of my stomach, or my anxious mind from questioning my worthiness.

I feel alone, worried, stressed, angry, frustrated, worthless, guilty. I thought that I’d already passed this stage during my quarter-life existential crisis last year. Apparently not. Now that I have so much time on my hands, I’m at a loss of what to do. I no longer have a functioning 11pm-9am body clock. I’ve lost all motivation to go to bed at a certain hour; let’s not even talk about getting up early. I’ve lost all motivation to exercise, because when all you can do is exercise and stay indoors, you start to hate it. You start to yearn what you had in the past and realise your past privileges… which you no longer have. And it’s frustrating.

I start thinking, questioning, asking myself what I could’ve been doing now. My diet is in shambles and I snack all the time, giving in to temptations. If only I could be out right now, studying in a café or reading in the library…

English, travel

Itinerary: 4 Days Solo in The Windy City

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Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Chicago can be awfully windy, especially by the lakeside, that’s not how it got its nickname: The Windy City. It’s got more to do with politics than meteorology. Nonetheless, it’s an amazing city to visit, with a chockful of culture, limitless deep dish pizza and modernist architecture.

Having both travelled to Chicago as a tourist and lived there as a student for a year, here is a proposed itinerary for you to explore our beloved “Chi-Town”.

ITINERARY

Day 1

First thing’s first, get into the Loop, where many of the tourist attractions are located. This is also the city’s main financial district. Here, you will find the Buckingham Fountain (Grant Park), the famous Cloud Gate (or “The Bean”, if you will), located within the Millennium Park, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, all within walking distance from one another.

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Taken from Grant Park

Spend some time strolling around the area – it’s beautiful, though mighty touristy. The Willis Tower (formerly “Sears Tower”) is located just around the corner. This is Chicago’s tallest building, since the 1970s. The Skydeck, located on the 103rd floor, allows you to have a bird’s eye view of the happening city. It’s been said that on a clear day, you can even see some of Illinois’s neighbouring states! That being said, some prefer the view from the John Hancock Building (note that it’s at another location!), which provides a view that includes the Willis Tower. It’s called the 360 Chicago observation deck. Click here for an article that compares the two options.

If you make it to the Willis Tower, there’s a pizzeria named Giordano’s. There, you’ll find Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza. It’s really heavy and not for everyone, but I highly recommend giving it at least a try during your trip to Chicago!

After, if the weather is good, go for a stroll along the lakeside. The sea is simply gorgeous under the radiant sun on a crisp summer afternoon. Enjoy the view of Navy Pier, which is just north of here. If you walk south, you’ll end up at the Shedd Aquarium, which is an attraction I personally find overpriced.

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You can see the Shedd Aquarium in the distance

For the theatre geeks, you can choose to finish the day by catching a performance of the world-famous Hamilton musical. If not, Chicago has many theatres and many (Broadway) musicals make their way here, so make sure you take advantage of that, especially if you, like me, come from a city where not many musicals find heir way to!

 

Day 2

Chicago is also known for its shopping district, Magnificent Mile. There are many big international and local brands that can be found on this street, such as Uniqlo, Old Navy and Canadian Goose. Also conveniently located along this street, is the world’s largest Starbucks.

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Inside the world’s largest Starbucks

Just a mile east of the Magnificent Mile, you will find Navy Pier, where there is seafood, an indoor garden, and a handful of park attractions. Lake Michigan is beautiful and you can see its vastness from here. Have a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as you sit along the pier and enjoy the view.

Later, head to the CTA Red Line stop Cermak-Chinatown, where you will find Chicago’s main Chinatown. Walk around and marvel at the architecture featuring traditional Chinese designs. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry. There are tons of food here, so do try those out. They’re pretty authentic! Don’t forget to stop by the candy stores to buy some sweets to bring back with you too!

When the sun sets, catch a ride on the Water Taxi, which will take you from Chinatown back into downtown Chicago. Enjoy the city lights and the night scene that unfolds before you (and also keep an eye out for  Trump Tower)… because you’re already halfway through your stay!

 

Day 3

Of course, Chicago isn’t just downtown Chicago (or “The Loop”, if you will). It’s more than that. Lincoln ParkBoystown, Hyde Park and Wicker Park are examples of some popular yet less touristy neighbourhoods to explore.

At Hyde Park, you will find beautiful parks (Jackson Park), pockets of knowledge sprinkled here and there (Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago), as well as see Obama’s former home!

At Boystown, be ready to immerse yourself in a pot of rainbow culture. This is a must-visit if you’re not homophobic, and especially if you’re gay. Gay pride gets very real here if you visit in June. If not, do drop by this gay neighbourhood for some good vibes and bars!

At Wicker Park, be prepared to return home armed with bags of vintage clothing. There are many thrift stores to be found in this – what I like to call – hippie, contemporary part of Chicago. There are many cozy cafés here, and I highly recommend Mindy’s Hot Chocolate – it is mind-blowingly DELICIOUS. There’s also a secondhand bookstore if you’re into that (Myopic Books).

Similar to Hyde Park, Lincoln Park offers an array of attractions, ranging from the Lincoln Park Zoo (it’s free too!), where you’ll find animals ranging from rhinoes to birds with spoon-shaped beaks (yes, there is a scientific name for these birds that I do not remember). The Second City, an improvisational comedy club is also located here in this neighbourhood. If you’re a pizza lover and thoroughly enjoyed deep-dish pizza, I encourage you to try Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company‘s famous upside down pizza.

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View of Downtown Chicago from Lincoln Park

 

Day 4

What’s a trip to Chicago without a taste of its Mexican neighbourhood, Pilsen, known for its art murals and annual Día de los Muertos celebrations (end October/ early November). One can easily spend half a day indulging in Latina culture, gazing at works in the National Museum of Mexican Art and stuffing their faces with carnitas from Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant, one of my favourites.

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Just keep an eye out for the street art – they are everywhere. At the end of the street, you’ll find a street mural that spans the entire length of the wall of a highway. It’s incredibly long and goes in multiple directions.

If you haven’t gotten enough of the arts yet, head to Thalia Hall for a final fix of performance to end your trip on!

SOME OTHER ATTRACTIONS

  • Sports stadiums (Wrigley Field, etc.)
  •  Argyle (Vietnamese Town; mini Chinatown)
  • Cultural towns (Little India, Ukrainian Village, etc.)
  • Evanston (Northwestern University, Bahá’í House of Worship)
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
  • wndr museum

 

TRANSPORT

The public transport system is very good in Chicago, with CTA buses and trains that will get you everywhere you need to as a tourist. You can buy a Ventra card at a train station. Each ride costs US$2.50, no matter the destination or transport.

Other transport options include the Metra, which is slightly more expensive than the CTA trains. I’ve honestly only taken the Metra twice during my year in Chicago, and it was only just a slightly quicker alternative to the CTA. So I’d say, don’t worry about the Metra – you probably won’t need to use it. Also, yes. Chicago’s a big city with impatient drivers. Ditch the car. You’re not going to get anywhere when you’re stuck in a jam with 200 other drivers honking crazily.

WEATHER

Chicago gets very chilly in the winter. Especially in 2018, when the polar vortex hit. That was something. It normally starts snowing in November and lightens up around March/April. It gets pretty windy, so do layer up and bring lots of windproof outer coats. It can get awfully dry too sometimes, so it’s advisable to bring some lip balm and lotion.

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The entire place was already covered with a thick layer of snow by December

FOOD

  • Lou Malnati’s – more deep dish pizzas for those who prefer a buttery crust.
  • Garrett Popcorn – popcorn chainstore originally from Chicago
  • Nutella Café – who doesn’t love a good Nutella-filled breakfast?
  • Portillo’s – try the Italian beef sandwich
  • Andy’s Frozen Custard – with Midwestern origins, this is a must-go for the sweet-toothed
  • Gene & Jude’s – Chicagoan hotdog

 

TIPS & ADVICE

As the capital city of gun crime, Chicago has a terrible reputation for safety. However, there’s nothing to worry about, as long as you stick to the touristic sites. A general rule of thumb is to avoid going to the South Side (anything beyond Cermak-Chinatown on the CTA train map). While you’ll find many students living around the Hyde Park area, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not one of the safest parts of Chicago, especially during the night. Downtown Chicago (The Loop), on the other hand, is fine, at night.

With regards to transport, do avoid the CTA Green Line. It’s known as “the shady one”. Personally, I have not taken it so cannot attest. But from what I’ve heard from the local Chicagoans, people have been robbed on the green line in broad daylight. It travels between the West and South of Chicago, which are incidentally, the two sides of Chicago with higher crime rates.

Generally, just stick to the tourist attractions and you’ll be fine. There’s no reason for you to be all the way down south or far west anyway.

English, Late Night Thoughts, Life

Nostalgia & Friendsickness: The 2 Emotions You’ll Probably Never Ever Get Over

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Have you ever been hit by a wave of nostalgia so strong and sudden… that you can’t do anything but think about the past?

It’s already 5am, and I still can’t fall asleep. I was supposed to sleep at 11pm sharp so that I could get up at 7am for a morning run tomorrow. I guess that’s not happening. There’s been so much going on lately, and amidst the pandemic, the global protests and quarter-life crisis I’m dealing with, my goals for the year have just been completely thrown out the window.

2020 hasn’t been a smooth year for me. Not just because of everything that’s going on in the world, but also things that have been happening in my life. In these times, a surge of nostalgia rises, pulling me back to a time filled with naivety and free-spiritedness. I think of all the selfies that we took during sleepovers back in middle school, all the boys we crushed over, all the whack-ass Drama classes we’ve had together… and I dwell. I dwell in these memories of pure happiness and carefreeness, feelings that I haven’t had the chance to experience in a while. Way back when.

“I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday.” (Kris Kristofferson)

It’s been 6 years since my best friends and I last lived in the same country. Not only are we now living in 4 different countries, we’re in 4 different continents. It sucks. Despite Skype and WhatsApp, it’s not the same. It’s not the same as going to class and seeing these people on a daily basis. It’s not the same as being able to call them up to have a coffee when you miss them. These are loved ones whom you’ve shared some of your best memories with…. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with a surge of friendsickness, and I can’t help it.

I think back to how we’re all turning 21 this year and graduating. How things will never be the same. We won’t be as young or active as we used to be, ever again. We won’t see one another as much. There won’t be as many crushes to talk about and parties to look forward to. Growing up is a phase of human life, and we must learn to embrace that.

I still look at my old photos from time to time, reflecting upon past regrets and reminiscing about the memorable times. I miss it all, you know? Shanghai, college, the weather, the life abroad, my friends… But, regardless of all that’s said and done, the past is the past. We grow older and we get wiser. We aren’t as active, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. We learn to cherish what we have and what we had. Time goes on, and we need to take full advantage of the tomorrows.

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