I look up. In the distant height above me I see the stone pillars disappear in darkness. Closer down to where I stand I can make out markings all around the columns, ancient runes covered in ferns and moss. In front of me, a path is leading straight towards a throne, a huge throne carved out of a single piece of giant rock. I decide I must be both standing in an abandoned dwarven kingdom and also in the middle of a pretty decent dream.
Just yesterday, we were talking about lucid dreams and how to manage having one. We discussed a few techniques but apparently, just having this discussion in my subconscious was enough to be aware of my dream state last night. And so I tried making up something else.
Short of ideas, I think of the first thing that comes to mind: home. And surely enough, the grey-green stone pillars around me fade and shrink, giving way to the white walls that mean the comfort of my own bedroom. Suddenly, I fall and realise I’m in my bed, neatly tucked into the blankets. “Oh shit, I woke up”, is the first thing I think. And so I tell the group of strangers that is sitting in a weird circle around me. Not weird enough to make me notice I am in fact still dreaming.
Rule number 1 for lucid dreaming: Always make up stuff too absurd to be true or you fall victim to the illusion of reality.
I feel like my writing has a higher quality than last year, but I’m definitely a lot worse with regards to quantity. What keeps me going is the fact that I like my story and the general joy of writing itself. Also I’ve got writing buddies whose word count motivates me.
While last year I went for 90-minute writing sessions, putting down my daily goal in one run, I had to switch to shorter bursts of word production this time. There’s this ugly tool online that helps me write 500+ words in 15 minutes without a stop. If only I could get myself to sit down three times a day…
I’ve done it last year and I intend to do so this November: Sit down and write a novel of 50,000 words. I’ve already got a few friends on board doing the same so we can motivate each other. If you haven’t heard of it but are keen to write as well – just join NaNoWriMo.
Looking back, last year’s situation with me working full-time and writing the novel on the side was actually better than expected. Of course I had long days, but at least my life was following a regular schedule. At the moment, with university, work and AIESEC filling up pretty much 7 days of my week, it will be tough to find 2 hours a day to write. So if I escape my obligations a bit more often these next 30 days – bear with me.
Sadly, last year’s work is still not in a state to be shown around. That is why now, I’ll start fresh with another story. Let’s see where it takes me.
Good morning, Dubai! For a while, every day for me started at 5:30am thanks to the Mosque right next doors. Dubai wasn’t the place to go out at night anyway, so I always made for an early start which was quite nice.
Having left Melbourne after about a week, my next stop this year was a place I’ve only known from media coverage – I didn’t really know what to expect. And now that I’ve had a few days there, I’m still not sure what to make of the country and whether I like it or not. But let’s start with the obvious: Downtown Dubai.
As I’ve mentioned in my last post, climbing tall buildings has become kind of a hobby recently. So of course I had to check out the Burj Khalifa, that giant beast dwarfing all the other skyscrapers around. A brief lift ride took me up to the viewing platform for an amazing look around. Right next to the biggest mall in the world (including the biggest aquarium in the world) the tallest building in the world is an awesome 830 meters of steel and glass. Quite breathtaking.
To state the obvious, Dubai is a place of extremes and enormous contrasts. The population seems to be divided in 3 groups of people: The rich people from the region, the internationals (also rich) and the workforce (mostly Indian and Pakistani like it seemed to me). None of these groups seem to mix, different parts of the city seem almost isolated from each other, diversity is apparent only when you look at the whole. So walking through the streets was quite an experience.
Once you leave the air conditioned world of glass and polished steel, you realise that everything is indeed built in the middle of the desert including everything that comes with it: dust, heat and nasty smells. Very interesting but quite exhausting as a tourist was the traditional fish market. I didn’t stay long because at that time I was more or less the only visitor (it was early in the morning) so all these hundreds of traders tried to sell me nuts, figs, dates (delicious!) and dried sharks. And apparently, sleeping in public is a thing in Dubai.
Having seen the modern and not so modern bits of central Dubai, I took the chance to see more of the outskirts by going on a desert safari. This “safari” was one of the worst tourist things I’ve done so far but everyone except me seemed to enjoy it a lot. I ignored most of the things everyone was freaking out about (it’s not allowed to hold hands in public but as soon as a belly dancer appears everyone takes out their cameras) and just enjoyed being in the middle of the desert – which at the time of the sunset is an amazing thing to do.
What else? I went to a /r/dubai reddit meetup in one of the hotel bars (in general, you’re not allowed to drink in Dubai except for these few licensed places where you feel like you’re in the middle of Europe). Yes, I’ve had my good share of fun.
After these five days I don’t feel like I understand the local culture in any way. The mismatch between religiously influenced ways and actual behaviour thanks to Dubai’s openness in the Arabic world were confusing to me. Still, I’m glad I had this last stop after a year abroad. Again, I’ve met nice people, had great food, and valuable experiences I wouldn’t want to miss. With these pictures I’ve taken home, it was a nice wind up before setting foot on German ground the very next day.
So let’s start at the beginning and talk about my first stop after New Zealand, a one week stay in Melbourne. I’ve booked myself into one of the many hostels and really enjoyed the time there, even though Australia in February and a dorm without air conditioning is a pretty… heated experience.
Activities during those days included a visit at the aquarium (penguins are awesome), the purchase of a SIM card (first time I had LTE on my phone) and the nerve wrecking experience of buying drinks (AUS$18 for the cheapest six pack, that’s like €12.50, seriously OZ?). One of the less cost-intensive things to do was a stop at the parliament where they offer free tours. Stories about politics and a pretty building to look at.
As a therapy for my vertigo I’ve already started going on tall buildings in Auckland (Sky Tower, viewing platform 182 meters). The next step was Melbourne’s sky deck, offering the Southern hemisphere’s highest viewing platform at 285 meters. Pretty spectacular, eh? Well, to be honest I didn’t notice the difference in height and basically you just pay for an elevator ride. Still, a nice view of the CBD.
Sunny Australia is always good for some casual exploration of the city’s shops, beaches, street art and nightlife.
Apparently this is Australia’s oldest building. Cook’s cottage was actually built in North Yorkshire before Australia’s discovery and later shipped and rebuilt down there, brick by brick. For some reason.
The highlight of my stay in Melbourne however, was a day trip on the famous Great Ocean Road. Beautiful scenery, nice beaches, Koalas and the Twelve Apostles, that famous rock formation – with 7 of the 12 rocks still standing. If ever you do such a day trip, bring your swimming trunks and a large towel (comes in handy for a nap on the bus as well).
On that 14(?) hours trip I got to know Laurence from the Philippines – one of the great people I hope to see again in the future. He sent me those next two pictures.
And of course, signs like this everywhere. Didn’t spot a snake, spider or shark and actually survived the whole trip. Success!
By the way, I’ve sneaked some shots from my iPhone in here (best travel buddy!) – did anyone notice?
So in February you return from an amazing year abroad, go to bed a few times, do things like university, go to work and meet friends. One day you wake up and it’s September already. Oops! So let’s have a quick look back.
First of all I’m back at university. Having finished my first degree before going to New Zealand I am now doing my Master studies in Computer Science back in Hamburg. But since coming back wasn’t supposed to be going back in all manners I decided I needed some change in my life. So just a few weeks ago I’ve moved to my very own apartment and I’m already feeling very much at home here. Still, I haven’t had a good idea for a foursquare location. Anyone?
If anyone remembers, one of my goals in the beginning of the year was to travel more. Therefore, I took the chance to go to France just after my exams. First stop was Toulouse where I’ve visited the European Juggling Convention, the biggest juggling festival in the world which took about a week and was simply amazing. Next up was Bordeaux, a beautiful city where I could stay at Jérémy’s place who I’ve met back in New Zealand. The crazy nights there were followed by even crazier nights in Paris where I’ve stayed at a Hostel – one of the best places to meet new people. I hope I can meet some of them again when I go to England in early October.
And finally I’ve returned to doing more photography, in particular in my favourite place, the circus. Just 2 weeks ago I had the chance to go to the SOLyCIRCO festival (was just as good as 2 years ago).
So now that the dust has been wiped of this blog, some of the stuff that has been lined up for a while can follow.