IT’S COMING TO AN END

This feels unreal! Not only my time in Ghana is nearly over – after having successfully worked on all six inhabited continents, my entire Walz is facing its end. For the first time, this farewell does not mean taking off towards another new place with another unknown path ahead. Instead I will return home – back to the known, back to routine, back to university. Back to boring? However, this post shall not focus on what will come – it shall tell the story of what happened so far.

Inside Accra

First of all, let’s talk about work. I was put in charge of my office’s main architectural project – a large, almost extravagant, residence. When I started, nothing more than drawings existed. Now they are erecting the first columns and slabs. It is an incredible feeling, seeing what you envisioned coming to reality! I might have not had an influence on the architectural concept anymore, yet I was involved in the coordination and harmonization between the different parties and fine tuning of the design. Turns out, even while being constructed, people still come up with new changes. This large responsibility combined with such close collaboration with the engineers was and continues to be a challenging and at the same time very instructive experience.IMG_20190925_090259-big

Free evenings and weekends left me a lot of time to make friends and explore the place. Unintendedly, my friend group ended up consisting mostly of other “obrunis” (= “the ones who came over the horizon” = foreigners/ white men). Guess it’s simply easier to make friends with people who are also new to a place… Anyway, we got quite a hand on the popular ways to spend evenings like a regular salsa night with free lessons, a bar to participate in a pub quiz where we placed first last week, or where the best beaches are for the weekends. A few highlights were the “Africa by Design” exhibition at Ghana club organized by a friend of my boss or “Chale Wote”, a massive, busy, colorful, noisy, creative, crazy street art festival, or just last weekend a huge Afrobeats music festival called “As Promised” with lots of songs we knew from the radio performed live.IMG_20190824_201948

Outside Accra

Some weekends I also left Accra and explored the surroundings. A very early trip took me east to “Wli” – the tallest waterfall in western Africa, where we hiked from the bottom all the way to the summit and enjoyed the view over the mountains and across the border to Togo. On the way there we stopped twice and fed two different kinds of monkeys from our hands. Oh and also our car broke down and had to get it fixed – just don’t ask…DSCF4334

Shortly after that I visited Cape Coast and with it two of the most prominent slave castles (Cape Coast Castle, Elmina Castle) from which the European colonizers organized the slave trade. Standing in the dark dungeons and imagining the cruelty that has taken place here centuries ago, is a powerful experience.DSCF4504

I am glad I also made it into another country: For one weekend I travelled to Togo. I had forgotten my yellow fever vaccination certificate, but luckily my argument “If I didn’t have the vaccination, I wouldn’t even be allowed into Ghana.” seems to have been quite convincing at the border. Either that or it was the bank notes handed over… All in all, it was a lovely weekend! Togolese people seem to be even nicer and friendlier to me than Ghanaians, but that’s maybe just the perception of someone who doesn’t understand the language (note to self: improve your French skills). Lomé is also a very beautiful city: laid out along the beach and quite humble – with simple houses, sand roads and kids playing football everywhere. I was also beyond surprised, considering the fact Germany was a former colonizer, to be shown two big monuments (erected post-independence) honoring the German-Togolese friendship.

[NO PHOTOS TAKEN IN TOGO]

Just recently I flew to the north of Ghana (with a plane so tiny, it only had 2+aisle+1 seats in each row) where I visited a friend in a smaller town called Tamale and we continued together to “Mole National Park”. On the safaris through the park – famously known for elephants – we saw monkeys, warthogs, antelopes, termite hills, huge lizards, a crocodile and… no elephants (During raining season they are harder to find for the tourists, as they find water everywhere). However, it was a great weekend. Not to forget that on the way I could also visit the oldest mosque in all Ghana (possibly West Africa?) built some 500 years ago.DSCF4923

Leaving Accra

Undoubtedly, even compared to the different places that I have lived at, Ghana has confronted me with the biggest unfamiliarities. Yet as I already mentioned in mylast blog post, I have gotten used to it surprisingly quickly. Over the past months I have become even more accustomed. I will miss shopping whatever I need conveniently at a red light. Buying snacks that haven’t been carried on someone’s head will simply feel wrong. I hope I can take some of the openness, helpfulness and friendliness with me when I get back.

Unfortunately there are also some habits or customs that I hope I did not adapt. First and foremost there would probably be the extensive use of plastic and especially its careless disposal into nature.

Yet overall, I will miss Ghana and the Ghanaian way of life a lot! I will carry the Black Star in my heart with me…

DSCF4633-2-doctored

Done.

Due to all these exciting adventures, I completely missed the 9th of August! “What is so special about this day?” you may ask. Well, when I began my journey, I did not only set six continents as my target, I also had another guideline:  Following the traditional rules of a Walz, I prescribed myself a minimum duration of 3 years and one day (another idea was earning enough to be able to live off my own skills, but let’s not talk about that…) and you guessed it: I started my first job of this journey on August 8th, 2016 in Finland, so on August 9th, three years later, I officially completed my Walz in Ghana and can successfully return home. And with me I bring so many emotions, thoughts and memories…

Indescribable feeling.

Simple_world_map_einmal rund

AND FINALLY…

I do confess, during my time in Melbourne, I sometimes contemplated whether I really wanted to continuing my Walz or whether I should go back home and continue studying. I guess 10 months almost uninterruptedly spent in the “model den” have left its marks in my mind. Yet I decided not to give up so close to fulfilling my goal to work as an architect on every single continent (except for Antarctica).

So in the last week of May I packed my bags, left Australia and headed straight to… *drumroll* Berlin! No, not to work there, just to pick up my visa as I would only get it in my home country. After only three days in the German capital, I moved on to: ACCRA, GHANA, which is where I will spend the upcoming months working with Mustard Architecture – a young office founded by a former architect with David Adjaye (arguably Ghana’s most famous architect (who himself works from London)). I am looking forward to experiencing an African approach to architecture, curiously balancing imported, western construction techniques on one hand and climatic challenges as well as perhaps vernacular building methods on the other.

I started working in the beginning of June and was welcomed properly by Ghana with a power outage lasting for hours on my first day. When there was nothing left to do without power I was told “Let’s forget today – your first day is tomorrow.” In the following days I quickly integrated into the team and finally picked up proper architectural work again. Currently I am working on construction plans for a residential building in Accra and soon we will start working on the Ghanaian submission for an architecture exhibition in London.

 

Besides work

I can’t believe it’s already been four weeks since I got here! Yet I do feel like I already got quite used to Accra. When admittedly I was a little overwhelmed at the beginning, I did get a grip on the city relatively quickly. I now know where things are and how to move around and have already tried many of the local dishes (Two words: Jollof rice!) – so at least I won’t starve or get lost! I used my first weekend to do “sightseeing” consisting of some colonial leftovers (Ussher Fort, Christiansburg Castle) and some newer landmarks celebrating national pride (Independence Arch, Black Star Square). I’ve also already been petting lions in an animal sanctuary, did a high rope course in a botanical garden, almost drowned on the beach, listened to a speech on “afri-esthetics” in architecture, got drunk at a funeral of a person I didn’t know, went sailing on a lake and watched the first Ghanaian football match in the Africa Cup of Nations. Sure enough I made some new friends on the way and I’m looking forward to more adventures to come…

HELLO WORLD – I AM STILL ALIVE!

I admit, lately it has been a little quiet here on my blog again. When in Tokyo I could easily blame this on the heavy workload, in Melbourne I certainly did not have that excuse. Work consisted of a 38 hour week and overtime was rare – my life finally found its way back into an organized pattern. I enjoyed having free time again and quickly found great friends to spend it with. And Melbourne is a great city to live in: It’s big, but not too busy; it’s got a great mix of historic buildings and hideously beautiful mid-century or postmodern architecture; it’s got a great culture of small, local stores to balance the commercial CBD; most of it is covered in beautiful graffiti; not to forget it’s got the largest tram-network in the world. I biked to work; I went to trivia and board game nights regularly with my friends, went to the beach in summer, explored Melbourne’s museums and nightlife. All these factors contributed to the fact that from day one I didn’t feel like I was in a new place – I felt like I had returned home.

 

A word about travels

Cradle Mountain Shortly after I arrived to Melbourne, Christmas holidays were around the corner. After weeks of uncertainty about what to do, I planned a trip to Tasmania together with a fellow intern. So we spent two days together containing a lot of hiking (Cradle Mountain National Park), feeding kangaroos (Trowunna Wildlife Park) and some relaxing on the beach (Freycinet National Park). When he returned to Melbourne I was left with exploring Hobart and its surroundings (MONA museum, Port Arthur, Mount Wellington, Taste festival, finish of the Sydney Hobart Yacht race) and spend Christmas day on a beach for the first time of my life (acquiring a nice sunburn).

Happy 2019After Tasmania I flew to Sydney. It took me quite a few days to figure the city out. When originally I expected a vibrant metropolis, I had to understand that Sydney consists of nothing more than the opera house and lots of beaches – both of which are of great quality though! So naturally the highlights of this visit were: New Year’s Eve with a magnificent view of the opera house and harbor bridge (which landed me a clip in local TV) and celebrating my birthday on the beach eating a kangaroo burger (two more “firsts” in my life).

Tourists taking PicturesTogether with a friend I made in Sydney, I then planned a trip to the Outback. We booked a 4 day organized trip and were able to see the magnificent heart of the continent including Uluru, Olgas, King’s Canyon and Alice Springs. In the middle of summer we had temperatures high up in the 40s °C during the day and “cool” nights of just below 30°C. The benefit though: No flies (Whoever has been to the outback will understand what a great benefit this is).

Parliament HouseAfter this extended Christmas trip I mostly stuck to living the Melbourne life. Only one more time I travelled to Canberra to see the other “heart of the continent” (politically). Yes, I went there “even though I didn’t have to”, as surprising as it sounds to many Australians. It was certainly a nice experience to see the planned capital city and Parliament House, but two days were definitely long enough.

 

A word about work

This is a difficult chapter for me to write. As much as I adored the office both for their projects and the people, I did struggle with the fact that the majority of my tasks consisted of building models. This has to do with the fact that the definition of an “intern” in Australia is different to how I experienced it in other places. By Australian law, an intern is only allowed to do supporting work and his role is mainly observant of the office procedure. (If the intern does essential work that would otherwise be carried out by an employee, rights, duties and salary of a regular employee must apply) So after Tokyo, again I felt like I was not developing my skills – and frankly bored sometimes.

Modeling with wine

There were two notable exceptions though:

NMBW submitted two projects in three categories to the Victorian Architecture Awards. For that purpose, I was given the task to prepare architectural drawings (plans, sections, elevations) for the submission and later again for the presentation to the jury. Also I went to the event where all participating architects presented their projects to the juries. Highly interesting!

The University of Melbourne is developing a “new student precinct” – a huge reorganization of a part of its campus including the erection of several new buildings and altering many existing. NMBW is in charge of four buildings at the same time which arguably constitutes the biggest project of the office’s existence. When a deadline was getting closer I was asked to help and became a member of the project team for about two months. The great benefit of this intense time was that I was able to thoroughly learn how to use Revit – a “new” software that is currently taking over architecture world. (It’s not that new after all, but NMBW has been the first office I worked with, that uses it).

 

So Melbourne did have its ups and downs for me but after all I enjoyed it a lot! I guess I can be glad I wasn’t the happiest with my work because otherwise, what would have stopped me from simply staying forever?

 

In the meantime I have moved on and am writing this article from another continent. I will go into greater detail about this in another post soon…

GOODBYE TOKYO – HELLO MELBOURNE

In the end it was faster than expected: My time in Tokyo has already come to a close. It was a period of little freetime and a lot of work that wasn’t always fullfilling me – or that I felt wouldn’t bring me forward professionally. More than once was I questioning whether it made sense to continue and considered leaving early. Finally I decided to pull through and make the best out of it. After all I started this world trip to gain different experiences and not several times the same one.

Dont get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad! I did get to know some new approaches to architecture and I certainly enjoyed my company. Looking back at it, I think I can actually take a lot more with me than I might have noticed when I was right in the middle (That was meant figuratively, but my suitcase also gained some weight…).

Maybe due to this emotional rollercoaster, but certainly also due to the lack of freetime, I never found time to update this blog. I don’t think I will go back and write about my experiences in greater detail, but I will upload some pictures. I have taken a lot – stay tuned.

– interlude –

This past weekend I moved on. After a more than 24h long trip I set foot on the last continent (being permanently inhabited by humans) I had never visited before: Australia. I arrived in Melbourne and started my internship with NMBW today – an architecture and urban planning studio whose design starts off from the perspective of the user and therefore sometimes appears unconventional. I am looking forward to taking part in this thoughtful process and maybe to experiencing their university research.

The first days of the week I used to stroll around the area and visited some sites of the office’s current projects. Immediately I felt comfortable with the city. Life seems a lot more relaxed here than in Tokyo and the weather is nice (There are just a little too many Germans here for my taste…). On top of that there lays an entire continent ahead of me ready to get explored!

DAIJOBU

My two weeks of leisure and first week of the internship have now officially passed. In the beginning my intense jetlag actually stuck with me for a couple of days, probably intensified by the fact that I didn’t have any schedule that I had to cope with and was able to sleep in and got to bed late every day. Still I was able to venture some exciting things and to meet new people.

The highlights were probably visiting teamlab, a crazy experience exhibition  for all senses, met up with a japanese former colleague from PEZO VON ELLRICHSHAUSEN and attended a students’ projects presentation at his uni, went to a disco in an aquarium – yes, you heard right! Something like that probably only exists in Japan – tasted some crazy food (I’ll elaborate if you ask me, but please brace yourselves), took a look over this mega-city from an observation deck, educated myself about japanese culture and history in the Nationa Museum and enjoyed homemade food at my house’s summer party. Sounds like much, but there is still so much more to do! Including visiting the fish market and trying out ALL the food.

 

 

This Monday was my first day at work. So far I can tell that the office works on some interesting projects, people and the office space are very nice and the myth of the restless office hours in Japan seems to be true, but at least we interns are supposedly asked rarely to work the weekends. But don’t worry, all “daijobou”. This (most important) japanese word apparently originally meant noble man, but is nowadays used in almost every situation, meaning “It’s alright”, “I’m fine”, “No, thanks” and “Yes, please” (yes, both of them), “Everything is gonna be good” and so much more.

Tomorrow three colleagues and I will travel first to Osaka and then on Monday to Yoshino, where our office built a beautiful timber house that we have the chance to spend a night in. I will upload some pictures of my first time here afterwards.

BIG IN JAPAN

After having spent 2 months back home in Germany, I now moved on to the next stop on my world trip: Japan!

In August I’m gonna start working with Go Hasegawa, whose studio regularly finds extraordinary answers to everyday problems. Without the necessity for an architectural style or expression, their projects seek fulfilling the people’s true needs and desires.

I decided to get here a little earlier to explore my new home before being busy with work. My trip was a rollercoaster ride between good and bad luck. It started on Monday evening while preparing my suitcase when I couldn’t find my passport. After 5 hours of searching I had already given up emotionally when I finally found it. Turns out, when tidying up my room before, I had confused my expired passport with my current one and had put it away (luckily not thrown out!). Having to leave my house at 5am, there wasn’t a minute left to sleep. The bus driver obviously didn’t realize I was in a hurry when he closed the doors right in front of me. Being a little behind schedule, I decided to walk to the train station carrying my 20kgs luggage in my hands cause its wheel is broken. At this point I really questioned the use of having showered before. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the train either and had to wait 15 min for the next. Luckily I made it quickly through baggage drop off (being told by the agent to better hurry up) and security and managed to be one of the first at the gate.

Then my three flights to Brussels, Hong Kong and finally Tokyo went by without incidents. Thanks to my host here I knew beforehand exactly how to get to my new home. Additionally I had free WiFi at airport and train stations – all easy! Then I arrived at the final stop where my host’s explanation ended with only the words “8 min walk” – no directions whatsoever. Additionally the final subway stop was the first one I’ve been to without WiFi and on top my phone was about to die. Of course it would be too easy if everything went by smoothly. After more than 24 hours of traveling, I found myself in front of a physical map in the entrance to the subway station (yes, these still exist nowadays) trying to find myself a way.

After a couple of minutes a lady approached me offering “Can I help you?”. I showed her my address and she laughed “That’s my house!”. What a coincidence is that? There are 36 Mio people living in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area – and the one I meet is one of my 7 housemates! She walked me to my new home where I met my host and other housemates. I am really looking forward to living in this cute, traditional japanese house for the next months and can’t wait to explore the city.

Today, I woke up at 8am, got ready, got myself some breakfast and felt a little tired. I decided to close my eyes for a couple more minutes and BOOM – it was the late afternoon. I never had a jetlag this crazy. I will go out for dinner soon and will try again tomorrow.

Side note: After having banged my head heavily into doors twice already within the first 24 hours, I suddenly get a totally new interpretation to Alphaville’s song “Big in Japan” – ouch!

HOW TIME HAS PASSED!

Before moving to New York City, I planned to write shorter articles for this blog and instead to post more frequently. Well… I kinda failed in doing so. My last upload has already been more than two months ago!

But don’t worry – I didn’t get lost. My problem is that my job here consumes so much of my time (have I mentioned the unpaid and unbalanced overtime yet? :/ ) that I want to make the best out of the little free time I have. And boy, have I enjoyed my time here! Whereas at the time of my last article I was in a little blues due to a lack of friends and enjoyable activities, now I can’t – and don’t – want to believe that my time here is about to come to a close. I have less than one month left and there still is sooo much more to see, do and experience in this city!

Also there is a lot I still have to figure out for the continuation of this adventure. As always, I am way behind schedule. But before talking about that, I’ll give you a brief recap of what happened:

 

I’ve started to regularly go to a BOARD GAME NIGHT. This probably brought the biggest change for my life here as it has brought me many great friends.

I don't have any pictures taken at board game night - this is as close as it gets...
I don’t have any pictures taken at board game night – this is as close as it gets…

 

I went to the INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY FURNITURE FAIR with my boss and colleague. It was fun. Could have included more free food though.

Weird lighting in even weirder presentation!
Weird lighting in even weirder presentation!

 

On MEMORIAL DAY, war veterans are being celebrated. And in this country that seems to be a big thing. I was happy to be invited to a true American backyard BBQ.

That's also where the first photo of this article happened.
This is also where the first photo of this article happened.

 

My colleagues and me had free donuts together at INTERNATIONAL DOUGHNUT DAY. Yummy!

I still can't believe we got them for free!
I still can’t believe we got them for free!

 

The office’s restaurant project “AROQA” got opened and we had dinner there. Food and space are delicious. Finally all the stress has come to a succesful end.

I didn't really take pictures here either...
I didn’t really take (good) pictures here either…

 

I went to BOSTON with “my only friend here”. Such a beautiful city – except when you get lost and walk under a highway for half an hour straight. But I guess that counts as a unique experience!

Lovely City... Though this picture is technically Cambridge!
Lovely City – though this picture technically shows Cambridge.

 

The NYC PRIDE PARADE happened. And I watched it. By far the most entertaining parade I’ve watched here (sorry, St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Cherry Blossom Parade!). Much fun – though I think I’m not a parade-person.

Seriously, why didn't I pictures at Pride?! Anyways, enjoy where I've been the night before instead - and take a look at the One World Trade Center's peak in rainbow colors.
Why didn’t I take pictures at Pride?! Anyways, enjoy where I’ve been the night before – and take a look at the One World Trade Center’s peak in rainbow colors.

 

I moved. Yes, once again. I live in BROOKLYN now which feels really calm, but honestly I miss Manhattan a little. At least apartment and roommate are so much better!

A sunny day in Prospect Park - where I live really close to right now.
A sunny day in Prospect Park – where I live really close to right now.

 

A friend took me to explore his home NEWPORT, Rhode Island. So American and sooo much seafood! Very lovely.

I swear it got sunnier later!
I swear it got sunnier later!

 

4TH OF JULY brought me 2 BBQs: The night before in the same backyard as on Memorial Day and the exact day with my office in the park. So much meat and so much fun!

4th of July party on July 3rd...
4th of July party on July 3rd…
....and at the real day: 7 people from 6 countries (none of which was the USA) on 3 continents celebrating the US' independence.
….and at the real day: 7 people from 6 countries (none of which was the USA) on 3 continents celebrating the US’ independence.

 

My game night friends organised a speakeasy-themed MURDER MYSTERY PARTY and I caught the murderer! By blind guessing though.

Call it nerdy if you want, but it was fun!
Call it nerdy if you want, but it was lots of fun!

 

I finally went to CONEY ISLAND, saw Steeplechase and Luna Park and had a Hot Dog in a Grub Tub (a cup – food tray – combination) – what a delirious city this is!

I didn't pay the $70 (sic!) fee for the rides though, but instead enjoyed the beach for free.
I didn’t pay the $70 (sic!) fee for the rides though, but instead enjoyed the beach for free.

 

I had another recreational weekend in NEW ENGLAND including kayaking in New Hampshire.

This is the only picture I took that weekend. Though it might not illustrate New England too well, but at least it got a point!
This is the only picture I took that weekend. It might not illustrate New England very well, but at least it got a point! (Seriously, when did I stop taking pictures? It must have coincided with me starting to enjoy life instead… )

 

I went on a day-long pirate-themed TREASURE HUNT in central park including solving puzzles and riddles. An awesome event put together by two of my game night friends!

Go team Shark Bait! That smirk though...
Go team Shark Bait! That smirk though…

 

I got visited by a German friend and we had a touristy NYC-WEEKEND together – It was about time for another one of these!

Even after more than 5 months there still is so much more to explore!
Even after more than 5 months, there still is so much more to explore!

 

Stay tuned to hear soon how this trip will continue!

SPONTANEOUS, YET PLANNED TRIP TO D.C.

Thursday, April 6, 9:00 PM:

After a stressful period of long hours, work has become pretty quiet in the office since we turned in a construction set for a project earlier this week. I am sitting at home having dinner, starting to think about what to do over the weekend.

 

Thursday, April 6, 9:05 PM:

I receive a text message from my boss thanking me for the hard work on said project and giving me the following day off – HOORAY!

 

Thursday, April 6, 10:30 PM:

It is clear now what to do for the weekend. A quick research for the best weekend trips from NYC resulted in the decision to go to – where I initially planned to go a couple of weekends earlier, but couldn’t, because I had to work the weekend on mentioned project – Washington D.C. An intensive research about sights, restaurants, good architecture, hostels, and bus tickets follows.

 

Friday, April 7, 2:15 AM:

I finally go to bed. Hostel and bus tieckets are booked, countless locations are saved on my phone.

 

Friday, April 7, 9:20 AM:

A morning full of oversleeping, rushing to pack my stuff and buying breakfast at a grocery store still could not stop me from arriving at the bus stopping location (there was no actual bus stop – the ticket was so cheap, the bus didn’t even have the company’s name printed on it and just stopped in front of a bank) 10 minutes before the scheduled departure.

 

Friday, April 7, 9:45 AM:

The bus leaves 15min delayed. All seats are taken. The first moments of the trip were used by staring out of the windows while being navigated through the urban canyons of NYC. The rest of the trip became a mixture of sleeping and reading – alternating and sometimes simultaneously.

 

Friday, April 7, 2:00 PM:

Punctual arrival in DC. No bus stop either. We are simply being dropped off at the side of a road. The DC exploration shall begin!

 

Friday, April 7, 4:00 PM:

Already one Smithsonian and one Mies van der Rohe crossed from the list. Stopping for lunch at a burger place when I suddenly can’t find my credit card. I empty my entire backpack – nothing. First reaction: panic! Going through the last uses. Probably I have forgotten to put it back into my wallet after purchasinf hostel and bus tickets last evening. Calming down. Luckily I have a second card (with international fees though, but that pill has to be swallowed).

 

Friday, April 7, 5:15 PM:

Heading to the hostel I am quite disappointed by DC. I always pictured it a beatiful city, when all I’ve seen so far was typical American, characterless, postmodern architecture and car-focussed urbanism. Brutalist concrete architecture from the 60s and 70s, which is usually ill-reputed in other cities, sticks out positively here being the only buildings with character. Hopefully the main sights at the national mall will turn out being prettier, which I’ve avoided today as I want to save them for the next days with better weather.

 

Friday, April 7, 5:20 PM:

I pass through a typical backyard-alleyway with lots of storage rooms and garages. This is the first part of the city, I encounter, which has a character. I enjoy strolling through the maze-like network of narrow alleys and cute, small squares. To my surprise there are some hipster stores and restaurants here – they must have gotton the same feeling of the place as I have.

 

Friday, April 7, 5:25:

Arriving at the hostel I realize that I’ve forgotten a second, very important thing: My passport. The receptionist allows me to check in sending him a digital copy. I sit down in the common area trying to charge my phone’s dead battery when I notice: I took my charger, but I forgot the adaptor! After borrowing a charger, charging my phone and eventually finding an email with my passport attached I can finally check in.

 

Friday, April 7, 9:45 PM:

With relaxing, meeting new people, dinner and chatting I’m having a fun and laid-back evening in the hostel. Someone eventually pulls out Monopoly and we start playing – using coins for tokens and poker chips as houses as we are too many players. Purest hostel-life.

 

Saturday, April 8, 9:00 AM:

Though the Monopoly-night later turned into a bar-night and we came back home late, I still managed to get up and get ready relatively early. The complimentary breakfast turned out to be freshly made chocolate pancakes with maple sirup and the sun made it possible to chill in the hammoks and couches on the rooftop terrace. A great start for a great day!

 

Saturday, April 8, 4:50 PM:

Fast-Forward. A full day of sightseeing is going to an end. After seeing the cherry blossom parade (Man, America! I really expected more from your countless parades than just a handful people walking down the road sluggishly), countless monuments and famous buildings, while strolling through the national mall in bright sunshine, I feel like I have crossed enough from the list to enjoy another museum. Unfortunately I have to find out that they all close at 5 PM! At least some of them still let you enter to have a pee…

 

Saturday, April 8, 10:00 PM:

After relaxing back at the hostel and delicious dinner in chinatown with newly made friends, we are going out again, checking out some bars in the neigborhood of our hostel.

 

Sunday, April 9, 11:00 AM:

As the evening became quite long, I slept in a little.

 

Sunday, April 9, 1:00 PM:

My plans for this day needed to be drastically shortened as my bus is leaving at 2 PM already. There is only really time for a breakfast/ lunch together with my hostel friends. After finally arriving at the recommended restaurant, there is a wait of 40min for a table – not possible for me. So we’re ending up having cheap pizza slices, when I realize: My credit card (the other one) is gone – again! I suudenly remember that, being sceptical about the procedure in the beginning, last night I had kept my card “open” in a bar for the first time… And then I must have forgotten to check out when I left – DAMMIT! There is no time for going there and catching my bus in time! Luckily you’re never alone in a hostel: My new friend offers me to get the card for me and send it to me by post – great!

 

Sunday, April 9, 9:30 PM:

We arrived in NYC with a little delay and I finally got home. It was a fun weekend! Needs to be repeated soon. I check my room, expecting my credit card there – it isn’t! Panic again. Should I block the card already? No. I’ll give it one more try. Now it’s been lost for 3 days already, one more before  blocking it won’t make a change.

 

Monday, April, 10, 9:00 PM:

On my way to work I pass by the grocery store where I had bought my breakfast on Friday morning. Thankfully, they have my card! Being so rushed, I must have forgotten it at the check out on Friday.

 

A couple of days later:

Also my other credit card arrives by mail. Now the DC-trip is formally closed – but it shall remain as a good memory!

 

Sorry that this post became way too long! I am not offended if you fell asleep during the read! Pictures will follow soon… Have a great day!

TWO MONTHS RESUME

On this exact day, two months ago, I  did……… nothing. Because it didn’t exist. But the two days before, I spent with an amazing – but far from complete – sightseeing stroll through the city, full of innocent excitement and positivity for the time to come. Now, two months into this adventure, I realized that even living in New York City has its ups and downs. But the fact that I am writing this article while relaxing on the grass of sunny Central Park (pen on paper, later typed) shows that overall it is a great oppurtunity for me.

Without further ado, let me report to you, what I learned in these 62 days:

The US (architectural) working culture differs a lot from the European

This might have been the biggest one of the “downs” on the list. Though experiencing this also was the reason why I started this journey in the first place. Working hours here are just insane. During the week I don’t have any free minute. I basically work from getting up to going to bed. And then, on the weekends, I am out of energy, so that apart from cleaning chores and grocery shopping I hardly achieve anything. But it’s getting better a bit now and I’m starting to adapt to this lifestyle. I will talk about this issue in greater detail in another article soon.

 

It is really hard to meet new people (but not impossible)

In Helsinki I was lucky to have a lot of fellow interns and colleagues with similar ages and interests like me. That’s not the case here. Which resulted in some lonely evenings. I guess many people have been in a comparable situation in a new city. But I learned that you have to get out of your comfort zone from time to time and talk to people. Starting to share NYC moments with new friends is making this experience even better!

I need to do more weekend-trips

Three weeks ago I spontaneously took a bus and travelled to Washington DC (and still didn’t manage to finish the blog article about this – sorry!). It truly is an interesting (beautiful ?!) city and it was an  amazing trip! An article about it will follow – hopefully soon.

Visitors are very welcome

Like in Helsinki, my family used my internship here as an excuse to do a New York vacation. Also two friends of mine happened to have passed by here already. Sharing time with them brightened up the little free time I’ve had besides work. Also this way I was able to cross out many points from the sightseeing to-do list together with them.

Sometimes what it needs is a “Tapetenwechsel” (change of scenery)

I had booked my room here from Germany already. It is nicely located, but over my budget. Though that wasn’t the only thing bothering me about it. Over time I just felt like that isn’t the place where I want to stay for 6 months. I hesitated, but then went back to online searching and found myself a new room, to which I will move tomorrow already as a start of a new chapter. Unfortunately I can only stay there for two months, but I’m optimistic that I will find another place after that time. It’s a chance to get to know about another part of the city.

 

All in all I am enjoying my time here. As you can see, there are more ups than down-moments. And I will continue working on turning all the new downs into ups as well. And an open-eyed walk through a new area of this urban bag of surprises makes up for everything else!

One of the biggest ups was receiving a confirmation for the next stop of this journey. Stay tuned to read soon where that will be…

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

Two weeks ago today, at this exact time, I was sitting on an airplane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, anticipating an exciting new adventure. Now I have already dived into it entirely. On Friday my boss asked me “When did you start again?”, and after telling him he replied: “Man, it feels like 2 days ago!”. I could not agree more.

As I showed you in the pictures, I have already done a lot of sightseeing, but there is so much more left! I already feel like I don’t have enough time. But this article shall not focus on sightseeing, but on the new experiences and little things that I have noticed.

They use feet and inch!

Of course I knew that, but before starting to work here, I had never reflected on how much this would affect me. As an architect, basically all you do is typing dimensions into a CAD-program. Boy, I had a hard time on the first day, and I still have! What kind of system is this, where 5’6 and 5.5 are exactly the same? And how much is actually 1/32 ?

The New York grid is clever!

As a European I am not used to numbered streets, so I never took a closer look at New York’s  system of naming streets. But after doing so, it is super easy to navigate yourself through the city without a map – brilliant! (Just sometimes when you’re deep in your thoughts, you blindly walk out of a subway station and go several blocks and maybe even do the turns you needed to do, before you realize that you started completely in the wrong direction and have to go all the way back)

US toilets are terrible!

I don’t know how to explain this without disgusting anybody. But not only that most toilets here seem to be children-sized, they’re also gross. Who’s idea was it to fill them up entirely with water? I won’t say more, just look at Bart’s and Lisa’s bathroom product race here, and imagine the rest:

 

Groceries are super expensive!

…or maybe they’re just cheap in Germany. I went to buy a loaf of bread, some bananas, one package of turkey slices and another one of cheese and I paid 18,50$! That’s double the German price and even more than it was in Finland. A package of “product of ham and water” with 35% added ingredients, basically the cheapest stuff they have, still costs 2$. For 2€ you can already find great “Schwarzwälder Schinken” in Germany – without added water at all.

The customer service isn’t as good as it’s praised!

With all the political and social problems they have, when there is one positive thing that Europeans have in mind about the US, then it is the great customer service. Well… during my short time here, I came across employees who were rude to me, rushed me or didn’t take me serious. When my SIM card wouldn’t activate I waited for over 20min in a hotline until I gave up without being attended at all. Of course, in other situations I have also been spilled with the US-stereotypic exagerated kindness. I would say, it is how it is everywhere: Some employees do great service, others don’t.

The weather here is crazy!

I am a person who just can’t be bothered to check the weather forecast. I simply dress for the weather of yesterday, it’ll do. Bad mistake here. New York City is definitely not the place to do that. One day we could go for lunch in a shirt, the next day I leave the house and it is SNOWING! I didn’t trust my eyes. The temperature dropped from over 15°C (that’s around “go google it yourself” in Fahrenheit) to under 0°C (“another random number that totally gives no sense at all” Fahrenheit).

Snow in Central Park
Snow in Central Park

This is it for today – hopefully this list of insignifant details didn’t bore anybody. I am still really enjoying my time here and I’m sure I will come back soon to report even more. Until then: Have a good one!