Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: university

June 2019

We’re gonna start our monthly summary post with a brief but obligatory weather update: IT’S NOT SUPER HOT IN WUHAN THIS SUMMER. Last year it was 35+ every day by the end of June, and now it’s almost mid-July and the highest temperature we’ve seen was around 33. Perhaps my prayers of a bearable summer have been heard!!??? And 33 is still hot, especially when it’s humid and sticky and yucky, but it’s so far been so much better than what we had to deal with at this time last year. I do have a feeling, though, that the worst is yet to come, or the entire summer is being shifted back so it’ll still be ridiculously hot in October.

As a result of the not-so-horrendous weather, I went out more than anticipated in June. One Thursday, the Internet was down at our company, so we had a spontaneous day off (which was made up on the Saturday that week because there is NEVER a free day off in China). Anyway, on this unexpected day off, my colleague and I made a short trip to East Lake – I do that often enough already – and wandered around the Moshan scenic area. We stumbled upon a place where we could climb up to get a panoramic view of East Lake – and THIS! In the far distance is the skyline of the commercial district of Wuhan, and closer to us, at the center of the lake is an elevated greenway that traverses the lake from north to south. On a nice day, a lot of people like to take walks or cycle through the greenway and enjoy the beautiful scenery, but don’t underestimate the distance! This is definitely the highlight of East Lake and what makes it well known as one of the best places to relax, for both locals and tourists.

This photo was taken as the high-speed train I was on was pulling into Wuhan Railway Station, and the name of the station here is in mirror image. I’ve been to Wuhan Railway Station many times but have never taken a photos from this angle…or any angle, in fact.

A lot of young people nowadays like places that are quaint and artistic. There are often at least one of two of these streets or areas in a big city, lined with small shops selling hand-made art, trinkets, and random accessories. I used to like them too but they’ve become all the same and too commercialized, like anything in China that gains popularity. I’ve read about “Da Li Cun” (“Big Lee Village”), which was apparently not so far from my place, so one spontaneous day I went to look for it. There are supposed to be these cozy hostels and unique art shops and cafes but…the surrounding area was being dug up and reconstructed! I felt like I actually stepped into a worn down village and not an artistic world as advertised (though I knew better now than to trust embellished advertisements). The hostels and art shops were there, alright, but how should I put this…there was an indescribably eerie feeling in the air. Definitely not a place I recommend going to…at least not before the constructions are complete.

I think these are characters from Kung Fu Panda…well I only watched Kung Fu Panda 2 many years ago and remember the panda itself, so I don’t know who the other guys are.

For my wedding in October, I am giving out custom postcards as favours. They are all of photos that I personally took of Bordeaux, Wuhan, Canada, or other places to which I’ve travelled with the specific recipient. The company that I found that prints postcards does it quite well, and I’m satisfied with the quality, given the price. Here is a sneak peak of the ones that I got as samples to test the quality – not revealing the ones I’m actually giving out!

There is a place at the Optics Valley commercial area called “Fountain Square”, but I didn’t think there was a REAL fountain there. One night after dining with J, we were walking around and stumbled upon a musical fountain show at the Fountain Square! Pretty cool, especially because it wasn’t planned at all.

We saw a large “I ❤ HUST” sign at the grand entrance of HUST one day and I insisted taking a photo of J with it – because I know and he knows that he loves his university. In the background is a statue of Chairman Mao, which is the landmark of HUST. I would say I love HUST too, but I have to add…HUST’s food! I don’t work there so I don’t spend >50% of my life there, but I do eat at the canteens there at least four times a week so I’d day…yes to HUST food!

We found out later that the “I ❤ HUST" sign was only there temporarily for the graduation season so that people could take photos with it. At another building, there was a sign that says "Graduation time!" with a large banner in the back that says "Degree conferral ceremony of the graduating class of 2019 at the HUST". I of course was neither a student at the HUST nor was I graduating (my last graduation was more than five years ago…ha!) but I liked to pretend that I was still a youthful student with hopes and dreams. Just look at that big smile with aspirations for a bright future!

We end with the only group photos of this post, which is a family photo taken at the famous Yellow Crane Tower. A lot of people thought that the lady behind me is my mom, but it’s actually my aunt. She and my dad visited Wuhan at the beginning of the month and of course we had to take them to some tourist attractions, Yellow Crane Tower being one of them. My dad still has that typical “what, a photo is being taken now?” look on his face which I find funny and adorable at the same time 😛

As opposed to most previous posts where I complain about life in Wuhan, I will actually say that life has been rather fine lately mostly because of the delayed onset of bad summer heat. I will take a cool rainy day over a 33+ degree day any time, thank you very much, though I KNOW that the heat is still yet to come. Wedding planning is also stressful, especially because everything is done over long distance, but it is more enjoyable than stressful. Less than three months to go…

Finally visiting my dream school???

For some reason, Oxford became my dream university in highschool. I think one day I just woke up and decided that it would be super cool to go to Oxford, and for a period of time I actually looked into the undergrad programs that were offered and the admission requirements. Of course that “dream” never materialized for many reasons, but I still thought that one day I would like to visit this prestigious Oxford University. That day came more than ten years later, after I’d finished my undergrad AND PhD degrees. I’m working in the UK – there’s almost no excuse to NOT go and see what Oxford is all about especially since I’ve already been to its biggest rival, Cambridge.

When I arrived in Oxford, I was forced to make a detour from the main area because it had become some sort of crime scene with a lot of police presence. Huh. No details on what happened, but it was a few hours before the area was open to the public again. At least the entire university wasn’t off-limits, phew!

The first place I headed to was the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, where I was able to climb to the top of the tower to get a panoramic view of Oxford. From there I was able to get a first impression of Oxford and compare it to Cambridge – Cambridge was a lot brighter and more “golden”, while Oxford gave me a grim and grey feeling. Neither very colourful though…

…and the most recognized landmark of Oxford would probably be the Radcliffe camera, pictured above. It’s only accessible to students so I wasn’t able to view its interior, but it was certainly a rather lovely piece of architecture.

Next I went to the Bodleian university library, and just being on the outside made me feel like I was surrounded by an air of scholarship and academia. Again, the library was off-limits to the general public unless it was via a paid, guided tour, which I opted to skip. One part of the library that was accessible, however, was the School of Divinity, which was just one chamber/hall behind closed doors beyond the main gate of the library.

While in Oxford I joined a free walking tour of the city with Footprints Tours, where our enthusiastic guide Tom took the group around Oxford and enlightened us with many historical facts and stories. One of the sites that we passed by was Christ Church, a massive college that has apparently produced the most prime ministers out of any college in Oxford and Cambridge.

One of the most interesting things I remember Tom telling us was the story behind the emblem of Christ Church. Well, there wasn’t much of a story, but when he told us that the emblem initially made him think of a UFO sucking up humans on either side, that image got stuck in my head. YOU CANNOT UNSEE IT. Rather hilarious, if you ask me!

We even met Russian Spider Man, who stealthily followed Tom until he was noticed. And it seemed like Russian Spider Man was a buddy of Tom, giving him a big high-five before he disappeared in a flash again!

Along the way I saw three houses in a public square that were adorned by long winding branches, which actually gave it an aesthetic effect.

On the High Street of Oxford, Tom pointed out a building on the corner that now houses a currency exchange office, but he asked the group to guess what the purpose of the building used to be. Maybe one of the gentlemen did his history homework, but he immediately answered, “Brothel”, which was the correct answer! Well done, sir…?

Finally it was time for the obligatory group photo. Tom asked all of us to jump while he attempted to take the photo, and jump I did, though I doubt everyone in the group did the same! Heh, it had been a fun and informative tour, giving me some insights to what life might have been like had I had the (mis)fortune to attend Oxford like I wanted to. But I’m glad I went to Oxford, only as a tourist, and not as a student, thank you very much 😛

St John’s College, University of Cambridge

In highschool, my dream university was Oxford, without good reason other than its prestige. I had seriously contemplated applying to Oxford before nanotechnology at Waterloo won me over…whaaaa? Perhaps the whole “going to Oxford” thought was just a constant mindset in a clueless highschool student (who was doing relatively well academically and regarded as “smart”) who thought she’d aim for the best of the best. Why I chose Waterloo (with no regrets)…is a long story for a sunnier day.

Having been in the UK for almost 3/4 of a year, I still haven’t paid a visit to my ex-dream school. Instead I visited its biggest rival – yep, Cambridge. Perhaps I really should have considered Cambridge in the first place since it’s much more renowned for science and engineering while Oxford is for the politically and humanities-oriented minds. Anyway, the reason why I went to Cambridge was simple – it was convenient. From Stansted airport, at least, which was where I arrived from Glasgow. If I wanted to get to Oxford, I’d first have to head to central London and take a train from there, which would take way longer than if I just went to Cambridge from Stansted in a less-than-one-hour train ride. Oxford, I’ll get to you eventually.

Cambridge felt more like a tourist attraction than an academic institution, but let’s be fair – I was only there for a day and a half. To visit the various famous colleges, there’s an entrance fee to be paid – £8 for King’s College, £7.50 for St John’s College, £3 for Queens College, £2 for Trinity College, etc. I understand the high entrance fee for King’s College as it is the most well-known landmark of Cambridge, but apparently the entrance fee for St John spiked because some scenes from the movie “The Theory of Everything” were filmed there. Great. And that was the one I wanted to see. So let’s go inside for a quick look.

The entire reason why I wanted to visit St John’s College and chose it out of the many college with entrance fees was to see the “Bridge of Sighs”, which I’ll get to later. Only the name itself got me curious and costed me £7.50. Oh well. Here’s a frontal view of the New Court at St. John’s College, a photo made possible by my handy-dandy phone which has a panoramic mode (I still suck at taking panoramic photos though). Sorry, Mr.Nikon, you lose this time.

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A tour of my office

I was poking around my office and noticed some strange and amusing things scattered around. Apparently the previous occupants of my shared office had an interesting sense of humour. As we are located in the “basement” of a building (our window is situated at ground level…relative to the campus, not the office), and the Glaswegian skies are almost always some shade of gray (no references intended what-so-ever), I guess my colleagues decided to brighten up the place a little. Here are some of the funny/weird/absurd/WTF things that I found around my workspace.

Meet Mr. Lego Rabbit, or 3D pixelated rabbit, or whatever you wish to call him. Not sure if he actually belongs to anyone, but he was just sitting on a shelf, probably observing us as we work…or pretending to work in our office. He isn’t Bunnicula…right?

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Settling down in Glasgow

I survived week 2 in Scotland, yay! I am still temporarily renting a room, but accommodation has been (mostly) taken care of and I will be moving into my new place in December. Work has sort of commenced as I had begun working at the lab – or mostly at the office for now, haven’t done any lab work yet. Other than that, life is good…I think?

Well, not everything went as smoothly as it sounds, truth be told. The search for housing has been disastrous and painful and I will probably write about it after I actually move into my new flat. Moving to a new city is difficult, and whichever city it is, it takes quite a bit of time to become familiar with the ways of the city and blend in with the people who live there. I had done it before when I first arrived in Bordeaux, and whenever I am suffering from fear or panic here in Glasgow, I always tell myself, “I did it in Bordeaux, so I can do it again.”

And alas I am doing well, after two weeks in Glasgow. Better than I had anticipated, actually, mostly because of the help and support I’ve received from the overwhelmingly friendly people in the city. That’s gotta be a good sign! However, there were just a few things that I needed to get used to upon first settling down in Glasgow. Some were more expected than others, but each of them gotta be confronted with head-on, one way or the other. Here goes.

The Glaswegian accent

I don’t know how this managed to be the single most difficult obstacle to overcome, and it is ironic because they speak ENGLISH here. I thought, if I could get through three years in France and Belgium, then I will have NO PROBLEMO in Glasgow! 😀 WRONG. I had been “warned” about the Glaswegian accent before I came, being told that the Scottish accent is more difficult to understand than the British accent, and the Glaswegian accent is even MORE difficult than the common Scottish accent. Uh. How is that possible? I dismissed that claim and happily hopped onto a taxi on my first day in Glasgow and realized that I didn’t understand a single word the taxi driver said. I am not exaggerating.

Then all hell broke loose. The cashier at the grocery store. The HR guy. The agent that opened my bank account for me. The waitress at the burger restaurant. I felt so ashamed that 50% of the time (maybe more) I couldn’t catch what they were saying. And you see, if this happened in any country where the main language is not English, I would not hesitate asking them to repeat. But this is English here (it is…right???) and I feel really rude for asking them to repeat when I should be able to speak English perfectly. Come to think of it, I am the foreigner with the funny Canadian/American accent. How dare I ask them to repeat! Hah, that was and still is my mindset when speaking with Glaswegians with that thick accent that I cannot comprehend. I am sorry, I truly am. Please be patient with me and I promise I will try my hardest to get accustomed to it!

On a side note, it has been exponentially easier to communicate with my colleagues as we are a very international group. One of my supervisor is Spanish and the other is English (so much more comprehensible than Scottish… 😛 ), and my colleagues come from places like Italy, Nigeria, Czech Republic, Finland, and Chile. They’ve reassured me that I am not losing my English language abilities. Phew!

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