Hello there. I am Terry and I am a full-time undergraduate based in Singapore. I take photos, write a blog and design websites.

And no, I'm not a teddy bear.

Back and writing again

After a long absence from my site, I’m finally back again. Let me give you a brief update of what happened in my life.

For the sake of continuity and consistency, all entires about my life in Denmark will be found in my other blog, Adventures in Solitude.

Hej, Danmark!

That’s “Hello, Denmark!” in Danish. Yes, as you might have guessed from my tweets and Facebook updates that I have been in Denmark since mid-January. I apologize for the blatant lack of updates on this blog – after I have arrived in Denmark, I’m preoccupied with coping with the cultural shock and appreciating the different way of life over here.

Leaving home

I left home in the morning. My parents drove me to the airport, we had a cup of tea. Lex called, we chatted for a little while, traded niceties and bade each other goodbye. Don’t worry, we’ll meet on Skype when I’m in Denmark, I assured her. As the seconds ticked by, I realized that the time I could spend with my parents was fleeting – every second started to disappear into the sterile, clinical airport air.

My flight was ready for boarding. Holding on to two carry-ons, I walked with my parents to the departure gate. We traded hugs, and I left for the custom checks. The corridor was long, but was brightly lit by the sun. I turned back, and saw my parents waving. Mom has one hand over her mouth – she was crying.

Holding back my tears, I smiled at the custom officers. Terry Mun? The man asked. Yes, I replied. So, you’re going to Singapore? What will you be doing there? I didn’t feel like starting a conversation right now and then. I mumbled an inaudible answer, plopped myself on the chair, and stared at the ceiling.

What am I doing? I asked myself.

Will I miss this?

In Singapore, the true goodbye began. I arrived at the airport, deposited my luggage at a storage shop, and quickly left for the city. I traveled all the way to Orchard Road, taking in the sight, sound and smell of the bustling tropical city.

Will I miss this? I asked myself. I couldn’t find an answer to that.

At Ion Orchard, I exchange a torn tee for a new one. I snipped off the price tag but the shop manager was nice enough to let it slip and gave me a new tee. It made my day. On my way back to the airport, I grabbed a cup of bubble tea, gratefully and carefully drinking from the cup. Usually I would gobble the drink in a minute or two, owing to the humid tropical weather, but this time round I took my time to appreciate the sugary, syrupy taste swirling in my mouth.

Will I miss this, too? I combed through my brain for an answer. I couldn’t find any.

Evening came, and my classmates – Ming, Cheryl, Cho Yee, Marianne and Michelle met me at the airport. We had a picnic in one of the quiet corners in the basement of Terminal 3. We laughed and we talked. We played silly games that we did when we were kids. It was a great evening when we let ourselves go free and silly.

Night fell. We bade goodbye at the airport. I met up with Jaslyn, Wanlin and Stella. All four of us will be travelling to Copenhagen together. At the departure hall, I looked back and I saw my friends.

Will I miss this? There’s only one answer. I will.

Arriving at Copenhagen Airport

At Copenhagen Airport

At Copenhagen Airport

On January 18th, 2011, my three friends and I touched down at Copenhagen Airport, around 7.00 in the morning and looking dazed and tired. The 13-hour direct from Singapore to Copenhagen was too tiring – because of the seven hour time difference, we effectively had a 31 hour day. Despite my repeated attempts to get some decent sleep on the plane – believe me, there’s nothing inherently wrong with Singapore Airlines and I personally think their services are top notch – I couldn’t get any. The in-flight entertainment system kept me fully awake. I watched Inception and The Town, and even had some time to play Super Mario Brothers.

The flight was the first thing that prepared me from Denmark – an endless sea of blue seats with blonde hairs, with a few Asians peppered among the rest of the Caucasian majority. Despite spending most of my adolescent years in Singapore, a globalized country that is never short of seeing Caucasians around, and making friends with many exchange students the previous semester, I was bracing myself from a cultural impact.

More importantly, there was an issue with my residence permit. To the death of me I could never understand why is there a “communication breakdown” (I’m quoting right here) between the Royal Danish Embassy in Singapore and the immigration department in Copenhagen. The latter thought the former had issued a residence permit for me while the truth is that I never got it – and is still waiting desperate for permission.

Up to a fortnight prior to my departure, my parents and I had a few skirmishes and they mainly revolve around the whole residence permit issue. Of course I was sick worried – I called and called the embassy to check on the progress, only to be told that they were yet to receive “explicit instruction” from their Copenhagen counterpart to issue me the permit.

So I ended up travelling to Denmark with a jittery heart and without a residence permit. If I stay in Denmark for more than 90 days, I will be deported. Now I sound like an immigrant.


Terminal 2, Copenhagen Airport

Terminal 2, Copenhagen Airport

Jaslyn, Wanlin and I waited for our flight from Copenhagen to Aarhus. Stella took the train instead.

We arrived at Aarhus Airport, took the bus to Aarhus Train Station. We talked a little more on the bus. Peeking outside the window, my eyes were too busy absorbing the views that I have never seen in my life before – from the endless rolling hills that stretch into the horizon to the quiet and tall windmills along the expressway. More importantly, there was not a single person in sight.

I have never been to a place where there are actually no people in your visual field. In Singapore, we have 6 million people (Denmark has a population of around 5.5 million) squeezed into an island the area that is 10% that of Zealand – there’s people everywhere.

Jaslyn’s mentor, Karen, picked us up at the airport. A chatty girl doing her masters in the molecular biology department of Aarhus University, she is the first Dane that Jaslyn and I truly had a conversation with (the Royal Danish Embassy staff doesn’t really count, since our talk is all about paperwork). We travelled to Jaslyn’s place before going to mine.

Børglum Kollegiet

Børglum Kollegiet

Børglum Kollegiet

I have to say that the dorm I was assigned to is one of the coolest ones around. Jaslyn was a little disappointed when the one she got was pricier than mine, and was further away from the university, but I told her she could always come and visit me if she wanted to.

We have fourteen people living on the floor. Each person has his own bath, wardrobe and bedroom. I really appreciate the degree of privacy that students are given. When I was told that it is impossible to find a two-bedder room in Denmark, I was completely and hopelessly puzzled – in my university dorm, single rooms are a luxury, and most of us live in twin-sharing rooms. So it’s either you get lucky and be assigned the best roommate you can ever have (and yours truly is one of the lucky ones around), or you play by Murphy’s Laws and get the most disgusting, repulsive, abhorrent roommate ever.

I was told that the Danes are private people. I would not want to dwell into this issue right now, but I would say it’s so far one of the truest thing about Denmark I have ever heard. However, I would plead you not to associate privacy with a selfish, self-centered, egoistic culture. The Danish culture is open and accepting, but people draw a fine line between their private lives and their public ones.

Our huge kitchen!

Our huge kitchen!

The reason why I really adore my dorm is that we get the best of both worlds – while each of us are entitled to our own private space on the floor, we have a common kitchen where people cook, dine and hangout together. It’s obscenely huge, and could easily accommodate five to six people cooking simultaneously – although fighting over pots and pans, the oven and the cooking area is sometimes an issue *laughs* We are never short of utensils, though.

Phuong, the Danish-born Vietnamese girl on the floor, was quick to receive me and gave me a tour of the kitchen. I also finally get to meet my mentor, Ane (pronounced as “Ann-uh”  – Danish names are hard to pronounce, believe me), who also brought me around the other parts of the dorm and explained how the laundry works – a total life saver!

My life so far

I have finished the first quarter of my exchange semester, and will be starting my second quarter today. I did really well for my exams, so I’m not complaining! I will write about the academic culture in Denmark soon, but I’m not going to do it now because that will be tantamount to shoving a ten-foot sandwich down your throat.

I have travelled to Copenhagen and Stockholm so far – Jaslyn, Wanlin and I will be travelling to Germany, France and Switzerland during the Easter break. I’m totally looking forward to that!

Talk to you soon, see you guys around!

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