"I love your "Malaysian Accent", can you say it again?"

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Wandering around some more, I came across an Indonesia food place which had an interesting sign.

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Babby Snacks - Halal (Babi = Pig in Bahasa Indonesia)

Piqued by the juxtaposition, I went in to have a look and the owners started chatting to me. The woman had studied for an English degree in Singapore for 3 years a decade and a half ago.

I was feeling a bit melancholic, and the sleepy Sunday didn't help, but I hooked up with 5 other guys (4 Americans, 1 Australian) at the hostel and we went to buy pasta to cook for dinner. The difference in price (compared to what we would have to pay at a restaurant) was amazing - €16.05 for 2 zucchinis, a box of cherry tomatoes, tagliatelli, carbonara sauce, a length of ciabatta and bacon pieces, compared to maybe 5 times that at a cafe I saw earlier.


When I awoke I found that the breakfast - a tomato and cheese bun which I'd bought from a supermarket for €1.50 - was gone. I was quite pissed off because the reason why I'd bought it was that I refused to pay €5.00 for a vegan breakfast at Strowis (I suspect it wasn't vegan really since I saw slices of cheese, and soya cheese would probably make the breakfast cost even more. There were also one or two eggs lying around, but they weren't for sale and I think they were for decorative purposes). In the end I had a chocolate croissant from a bakery in a supermarket.

After moving into my room and getting a huge load of my shoulders (lit), and being briefed by the exchange co-ordinators, the melancholy faded. Having a grilled bacon and cheese sandwich in my hand (albeit a €2.95 one) no doubt helped too. I also got a proper adaptor for my plugs from ANWB - I should ask my parents to bring over the battery charger that works in Europe; I don't know what I was thinking bringing the 3 pin GP one (albeit more advanced than the other one) over. They should just have standardised power plug shapes throughout the world, gah.

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My Cambridgelaan housing by day

At night, I met up with someone who a certain someone had kindly called down to meet me, and he was quite helpful. While waiting for him, I got the chance to use what must be the most expensive public toilet in the world at €0.50 a pop (I hope I'm not proved wrong).

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The most expensive public toilet in the world. I'd rather not pay for the tree.

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My Cambridgelaan housing by night

More than one person asked me if I would still be blogging in Utrecht. What a silly question!

I wonder how some women clean the furry boots that they wear.

I'm not taking very many photos since this place isn't very photogenic - parts of it look like what I'd imagine Eastern Germany was like a decade and a half ago (see, for example, the pictures of my housing complex).

Some computers for student use use linux. Wah.

Over here the bus fares go by zones rather than distance. You pay a basic fare of 1 strips plus the number of zones you'll be travelling through, so the minimum number of strips you use is 2. De Uithof, where I live, and where the bulk of the University is (though not most of my classes) is a zone away from the town centre, so I need 3 strips to travel in and out. I tried to walk into another zone to save on bus fare but miscalculated. Twice; the information at the bus stop was wrong, and consulting the brochure later I found that they'd seemed to have adjusted the zone boundaries.

The bus system here is finely calibrated - they have arrival times for the whole day listed on information panels in the bus stops and on the information brochures, and the intra-city buses at least arrive either on time or within 1-2 minutes of the stated time. Some of the bigger bus stops have LCD panels displaying when the next 3 buses are due to arrive. Each bus stop also has a clearly marked and distinctive name, so getting around is made easier (though to be fair, they have fewer bus stops per length of road than in Singapore; the law of averages also helps with calibrating arrival times due to the fewer number of stops). I would think the trains are similarly efficient, but I've only travelled on them once, from Schiphol to Utrecht.

Dutch students are such slackers - most take 2 courses a period. For the 2 courses that I have the information for, there's 3 1/2 hours of contact time a week per module. Compared to the 5 courses a semester in NUS, with 15 hours of contact time a week (assuming 5 modules and excluding labs and practicals), that's really slack. I wonder what they spend the rest of their time doing (of course, more preparatory work - on paper)

"Please keep in mind that full time study is 2 courses per period. It is not recommended to do three courses because of time slots and work load, but if you think you manage, then it is fine."


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