Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sheffield: First week(s)


Well today marks my being here for a week, and if I don't start blogging about it, I don't think I ever will. That's actually how lazy I've become about keeping up with my life. I mean, things like starting a budget, filing things, keeping on top of my notes...I was never too adept at it, but now I'm just downright lazy.

The journey here was a long and not-too-exciting one...from KLIA to Singapore Changi International I got stuck next to a Chinese man with smelly, stinky, smelly smelly breath, and a 4-hour layover. I went online, then mucked around a little before bumping into a small group of Malaysian students headed to Manchester on the same flight. The flight wasn't too eventful, and thankfully the centre of our 3-seater row was empty so I had some space to throw myself about. Arrived in Manchester on a gloomy morning where we were gracefully ushered into the Heath Services for what I thought is demmit-health-check-but-my-x-ray-is-in-my-check-in but all the lady did was take down our passport number and details and which university we're headed to. I know. Wtf?

We were greeted by some Sheffield students who were part of the meet-and-greet scheme of the student union, and with a pair of siblings from Cyprus and their mom, we were unceremoniously dumped at Central Quay. The first flatmate I had was Doni, from Suzhou. After settling in, I talked with him, and then he happily took me around to buy my first necessities. We went...everywhere. Castlemarket, TJ Hughes, Sainsbury, 99p store, £1 store, frozen food store, The Moor, Tai Sun, London Road and the Chinese supermarket in The Forge...I think we even dropped by Primark and John Lewis. I was shown where Primark, Argos, banks, phone companies and Boots are, and in truth, his help was immeasurable. In the span of one single afternoon, I was introduced to most of Sheffield city centre.

I even stopped to see the tram stations, St Paul and St John Cathedral, City Hall and the Peace Gardens.

The next day, I was given directions to the University, and I trekked 45 minutes uphill to see Elmfield, which is a beautiful old building where the Politics Department is. I was exhausted by the time I reached the roundabout at the centre of the city campus. My first thought was, no fkin way I am going to walk like this on a daily basis, I wouldn't be able to make it. I trekked back to the city via West Street, and its a lot easier going downhill, and I think I shopped some before coming home to make dinner. It was after dinner that I went and explore parts of where I live in a little, and the back of Central Quay faces River Don, and there were ducks in the river. There's also a small pub/restaurant across the river, and it's quite a quiet place to reflect and walk in. And then I smelled Bak Kut Teh. I remember I grinned. It was 7ish, dinnertime for most of the residents and the smell of cooking was extremely homely and ...I don't know, gives me comfort.

The weather is crazy in this place, sunny two days, then gloomy and windy and cold the next couple, and then sunny again. In Malaysia, no one checks the weather, ever, but I learnt my lesson here. From hereon, before I head out every morning, I'm going to check the weather, even if only to see if it's going to rain a little. Because rain+wind=BAD.

My room faces the city centre, or what I can see of it since it faces uphill, and I can see the cathedrals from here. When the church bells toll, the sound is just absolutely beautiful and soothing. If anything, I'm just slightly unhappy (now coming to terms with it) with the fact that ALL my flatmates are from China. It feels like I flew to the wrong continent, sometimes. There's also some funny things I've noticed here, just small things like the lack of soybean milk (and how much I missed it), how the traffic is just as horrible as Malaysia and that pedestrians are given very little respect (so those chivalrous expat drivers must NOT be English, then!) , jaywalking is perfectly acceptable, how dirty and stinky with pee the city is on Friday and Saturday mornings, how noisy weekend evenings are with the crazy partying, and some jarring drunk racist shoutings from a Brit girl. Queues in this place are horrible, it feels like they're helpful, but ultimately inefficient and slow. I got long queues everywhere, from paying the bus driver to supermarkets to banks to the horrible reception in Central Quay and at the city. Its something I definitely need to get used to. But shopping is great here, I needed a coat so I walked to H&M and saw all these colourful hoodies and I already started to finger them before I halted myself. I was definitely losing the plot and I had to remind myself I don't have that much to spend.

I've had some department introduction meetings, and have met quite a few of my future classmates, and some had been great. A Chilean woman named Marcia and another from Beijing and I went bank shopping (for us), phone shopping (for Marcia) and coat shopping (for me). Yesterday we were at a graduates intro meeting and I met Joe, a Spanish who learnt to speak basic Chinese right here in Europe and Eva, a molecular medicine grad student from Kunming, and we spent the rest of the day chatting in English and Chinese about politics and England and China until dinnertime, where a huge group of graduate students met and went for dinner in 3 different pubs (because not a single place here can fit all of us).

I can see already this isn't going to be an easy year, even before my first class we've got a huge load of reading for the various modules we're interested in, but well...I hope I'm ready to take it all on. Sometimes, I've got my doubts, it feels like maybe I've bitten off more than I could chew.

I'm going to make the most out of the year though. It'll be amazing, for better or worst. I hope.

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