I’ve been a busy boy

What up, guys.

So yeah… I did really intend for this blog to be something I update regularly, but then I went like five weeks without posting anything, so basically I’m a lazy scrub. In my defense, I have been extremely busy in the last month. You see, I am lucky enough to be taking five classes yet only have one final exam. So my December is looking very relaxing indeed. The flipside of this is that the majority of my courses are done by continuous assessment; weekly lab reports, assignments, projects, quizzes and so on. Unfortunately, these have all peaked from late October all the way to the end of November. Yikes.

There are so many things I want to write about, but I feel like if I’m going to do it, I want to do it properly. This takes time, something I haven’t really had. So the blog has kind of been ignored for a while. Sorry. I promise I will make it up to you with lots of interesting posts about this semester in December and January when I have a lot more time on my hands. Also, as I plan to take only four classes next semester instead of five, all of which have final exams, I should have much more time during the term to write about my experiences here. I really want to.

So this post is firstly an apology to all my loyal readers (i.e. my parents and like 2 friends) for being a complete scrub. Secondly, in case you’re interested, I’m going to write about what I’ve been up to since my last post on October 10th. So strap yourself in, it’s gonna be a fun one!

So a few days before Halloween, I was able to experience an amazing UST tradition which is completely unlike anything I’ve seen back home. Every year, for one night only, many of the halls of residences put on a spooky haunted house. We saw these advertised on posters around campus and heard some things from local students, but we weren’t expecting very much at all. My roommate and hallmates and I decided to go to our hall’s haunted house because hey, even if it’s awful, we know some people in the organising committee so it should be funny. We were the second group in, and we were not anticipating what happened next.

The haunted house was incredible. The amount of effort put in by the organising committee to plan, design and decorate the room was staggering. A multi-function room on the ground floor was divided by these large, black tarps hanging from the ceiling into a maze-like dungeon of narrow paths, dark corners, and spooky decorations. It was legitimately unnerving. The extremely dark lighting, atmospheric sound effects and well-placed actors grabbing your limbs or jumping out to scare you made for a very effective haunted house. There must have been around twenty people in there trying to scare us. It took us almost ten minutes to make it out, our hearts racing and spines tingling. Wow. We immediately decided to go check out the other ones.

Hall IV had converted their main entrance into a giant scary clown face. The queue snaked all the way up the road, not surprising considering their reputation for putting on the best one every year. We went to Hall II next, where we were promised “five floors of scares“. They did not disappoint. They had actually converted five of the regular floors of the hall, where people live, into spooky scary nightmare mazes just like the one in our hall’s multi-function room. We found out later that each floor had a WhatsApp group where they communicated. So if you lived on the floor, you had to post there before you left your room to go to the toilet unless you wanted a series of people in scary costumes to grab your ankles and scream at you. Hall II’s haunted house was also very impressive.

Seriously, the amount of work that had been put into these was insane. Using just some tarp, cheap costumes and whatever else they had lying around, along with a crazy amount of creativity, these students had created experiences similar in quality to the horror mazes at Alton Tower’s Scarefest. In some ways better, as this was just an amateur production so there was a lot more grabbing, screaming and generally messed-up stuff than a professional affair plagued by ‘health and safety’ concerns. We ended up visiting two more hall’s haunted houses: Hall III and Hall V. Halls I and IV were rumoured to be some of the best, but the queues were too long for us. I went in not expecting much, but this was honestly one of the most unique and unforgettable experiences of my time here. Such an amazing tradition, organised and carried out entirely by students, for students.

As I have been attending basically every single event I am invited to (Free or heavily subsidised trips? Count me in!), I attracted some attention from the people involved in organising them. They invited me to help run this dinner event, called “Nights To Meet You“, which was supposed to be a night of cultural exchange and so on. They offered me a free dinner so naturally, I accepted. It was held at the Conference Lodge, the fanciest place on campus. A buffet dinner with some talks and presentations and stuff. I and another helper had to lead the table in some cringy ice-breaker games and then help to stimulate the conversation throughout the evening. I also ended up being interviewed on stage about my experience as an exchange student. It was a pretty fun evening! I had one plate of regular food and then 3 plates of dessert. No shame.

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Here I am being a charismatic and totally-not-awkward table leader. Photo by HKUST.

From 3rd November to 9th November, a few friends and I went on a trip to Japan! I was very excited for this trip as I love the country. Unfortunately, while traveling on the plane I noticed a cold starting to appear. Sure enough, the first night I awoke coughing, dehydrated, my head ringing and my throat on fire. Super. I ended up infecting everyone else eventually, but at least they had a few days of good health. We spent three days in Tokyo, one day in Osaka and one day in Kyoto. My favourite moments included meeting up with some old friends at an izakaya in Kabukicho, sailing through Dotonbori on a jazz boat, and walking through the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama on an absolutely gorgeous day. Despite being ill, it was a lovely trip, and I was blessed to be able to spend it with such cool people.

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A very fun evening of dinner and drinks with some very cool people.

The day I got back, I took a short nap, then bought an obscenely large Christmas beverage from Starbucks and boarded a bus to take me to an airsoft shooting event, put on by the university. We weren’t shooting other people, though; we were shooting targets. The airsoft pistols were heavy, powerful and very realistic. Everything from the safety, slide and reload functionality resembled that of a real handgun. The main difference is the reduced recoil from using air instead of gunpowder. We completed a series of time-trial shooting courses, which ended up being a lot more fun than I expected. I took it super seriously and consistently got the best time of my group, leading to others referring to me as ‘Liam Neeson’ and making Taken jokes all night. It was honestly really fun. I felt like a SWAT officer or an FBI agent or something. I definitely recommend it.

What else have I been up to? Um… not much. Mostly spending all day in the library doing Matlab projects or wondering why my stupid CUDA C code isn’t running as fast as my friend’s even though we’re practically doing the same thing. I’ve been going out to have dinner at some interesting places with my group from this Chinese Language Buddy Program thing. That’s been fun. The other night I went to this British Food Festival in Tamar Park, for their special Bacon and Guinness day. Unfortunately, the Guinness was like £7 so we just got some overpriced fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding and enjoyed the admittedly nice atmosphere. I managed to find return flights to take me from London to HK in January and back to London in June for only £280. Much better than the £450 I paid for my first set of return flights. Not much planned for November now as I will continue being very busy until the end of the month. I think we’re going for sushi on Wednesday. That should be good.

Hoping everyone is doing well. I’m definitely starting to miss home a lot, and my friends in Bristol. Looking forward to seeing you guys when I’m back in January.

More posts coming in December.

Keep it real,
Danny

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