The Stuart Highway

It was a rainy Saturday morning in Adelaide. Two men were waiting in a car in the CBD of Adelaide outside the University Accommodation on Grote Street. I was one of them, the other one was my housemate, Richard. We were waiting for Maddy, a girl from Newcastle, UK. My housemate did us a favor and gave us a lift to the airport on that sad-looking Saturday. The airport was the meeting point on that Saturday for a group of 5 people (Lin, Maddy, Orion, Jamie and I). We had one goal that brought us together: see as much of Australia as we can in the short 2 weeks that we had for our mid-semester break. We were all grateful for that break from the dull work at Uni and an opportunity to break free from every-day life. Where were we heading? Our Aim that Saturday morning was Darwin, NT. A city on the northern tip of Australia, the capital of Northern Territory. The reason we were heading that way was our joined goal: start in the north, get to the south – by land. In the upcoming post I will describe and relive the 2 weeks that I spent seeing some of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen. It was filled with joy, anger, fatigue, activity, boredom and excitement. I learned a lot for the future and had enlightening discussions with people I met.

Day 1: Darwin – Tasting Crocodile

Day 2: Darwin – Mindil Beach

Day 3: To Litchfield – The Wicked Experience

Day 4: In Litchfield – Of Waterfalls and basking

Day 5: Mataranka – Swimming with crocodiles

Day 6: Devil’s Marbles – A day in the car to see the sunset

Day 7: Alice Springs – Refreshing, getting back on track

Day 8: King’s Canyon – A thunderstorm in the evening

Day 9: Uluru – A rock that still impresses

Day 10: Coober Pedy – Precious stones that rule the world

Day 11: Adelaide – A break, some sleep, repacking

Day 12: Kangaroo Island – A rough sea, a majestic view

Day 13: Kangaroo Island – Waking up in paradise

Day 14: Kangaroo Island – Kangaroo, Koala, Lighthouse, Seal & Rocks

Day 15: Adelaide – Time to relax



What am I doing?

Why I’m Australia is probably not a big secret and you came up with your very own idea based on my previous blog posts. However, I did not mention in any way what I’m doing here and what courses I took at the University.

Cognitive Science
It is part of our curriculum at UCM to take 2 courses out of every concentration. That means for me that I have to take 2 courses in philosophy and art although I my main concentration is science. The three concentrations at UCM are humanities, social science and science. Until now I had a happy mix of (Computer) Science and Psychology/Social Science and I have to say that I really like my mix but that brought up the problem that I had to find 2 humanities courses that I want to include into my repertoire. For that Cognitive Science was like a savior. It is a philosophic course about artificial and netural intelligence. How do people think? How do we organize knowledge? What methods do we use for computation?


Systems Programming in C/C++
At UCm I had several programming classes, however, all of them where in Java a relatively young language that is gaining more and more popularity in recent years. Since I started learning Java 6 years ago I always wanted to learn a new language to add to my skills. I tried in the Philippines to teach myself C++ but I was missing the right motivation and a good teacher I could bug with stupid questions. Here we started with an introduction into UNIX-Systems, the foundation for many modern computers and the core concept of Linux and Mac OSX(Apple). The remaining time we are focusing on C, one of the oldest remaining languages. C is a remarkably complex language with many pitfalls without the safeguards of modern programming languages to be more efficient. It is a bit like rock climbing without a rope. You safe time that you’d spent on securing yourself but might die if you make a wrong step. For a computer a wrong step means a system crash á la BSOD(Blue screen of Death). You all know that from your beloved Windows Computer.


Event Driven Computing
Another Computer Science Course. Event Driven Computing is one of the most important concepts in Computer Science. I already had several courses in Maastricht that incorporated that concept and talked about it but I never had a dedicated course that only focuses on this concept. Nowadays Event Driven Computing is the founding block of many programs from TVs to elevators and breaking systems in cars.


What is happening beyond our atmosphere? What can we achieve if we understand what’s happening beyond our limited horizon? Those questions were always what caught my attention. People who know me knows my enthusiasm for natural sciences. I breath articles about scientific research like other breath air. However, it never was enough for me to actually pursue a career in that field.  IMG_5564It’s breath taking when new galaxies are discovered and researches find out what’s happening inside the many suns in the universe, that we use to call stars. In my opinion this should be general knowledge that should be taught at school instead of religion and other conservative teachings. We live in a world in which the existence of a god is getting less probable with every second. Why do we waste our time in ancient teachings that do not help our degrading planet at all instead of focusing on scientific research and harvesting energy sources that are out there? Therefore, a small dream came true when I found out that I was able to enroll in an Astronomy course here in Australia. The course is focusing on fundamental knowledge for astronomy. What is nuclear fusion? How do new elements are created? What conditions are on other planets? What do organisms need to survive? What techniques do we use to explore the stars? How are Galaxies and Solar Systems formed? All this and much more is what I absorb every week and I love it to just sit back in a lecture and listen to the wonders of the Universe.


Most of the pictures are completely unrelated and just happen to be in the article by accident.

And the Shock came – But it wasn’t cultural


You know everyone tells you that you will experience a culture shock once you move, travel or temporarily happen to be in a different culture than you are used to. I can safely say that I was prepared for it since I already had the pleasure of experiencing it back in 2010 when I spent some time in the Philippines. However, I wasn’t prepared. How can you be prepared for something if you never experienced it? All the great stories and advices by friends, families and strangers couldn’t explain your own feelings.

Until July I spent my entire academic career (if you can call it career) at UCM. A very unique place as I now found out. Well, I always kind of assumed that but you can never tell for sure until you get to actual experience yourself. Again, the same problem as above. So for simplicity, let’s say that I am used to a different kind of culture.

The UCM culture has basically two pillars. The first one being the students and the second one being the staff. For the first pillar it is important to mention that we are all in our very individual way ambitious. We want to finish UCM (Those who don’t usually leave after the first or second semester). And anyone who has been at a graduation ceremony feels intimidated by the incredible distinction the students achieved. Nevertheless, we are all happy when we get some distraction from the highly competitive and demanding surrounding (*ough*Alla*cough*). In junction with that very dynamic and vibrant part is the staff. I have to admit, I often thought about how irrational and closed the “other” side of UCM is. Sometimes I felt as if it was just a black box that I was learning from and it didn’t feel as open as I had hoped for.

That world view got just torn apart. Being now part of a clockwork that rattles in its housing I got to say that I am shocked. The culture shock that I was waiting for came. As I was guarding myself social expectations I got stabbed in the back, so to say. Studying at a university with several thousands (just looked it up on Wikipedia: 25,000) means being in a lecture hall with at least a hundred while I only experienced it only in two courses at UCM that our 100-seat-lecture hall at was actually too small. I almost feel like a homeopathic cure for headache. Dropped into the water, firmly shaken, filtered, more water, filtered again and repeated until there is nothing left but water. There is nothing that connects the lecturer or course coordinator with the student base in anyway. Additionally, the tutorials are a joke. It isn’t mandatory to go to and thus also not really helpful. If UCM is a black box than this is a black hole.

And don’t get my started on the students… Right now, I just want my cozy common room and a few hundred pages about John Stuart Mill.

Finally, enjoy some picture that are totally unrelated. My house and a few pictures of the beach in Glenelg (Try reading it backwards!).


South Australian Animal 101


The introductory period at the Uni is over. That means I spent the last week going to semi-important lectures and meeting the other international students.

Last Friday marked the final day and the University organized a day-trip. For only $10 we got the opportunity to go to a wildlife park that is approx. 70km south in the hills. The park was a perfect opportunity to get a crash course in local fauna of Sotuh Australia. Next to the Kangaroos and Koalas the park is housing Emus, Wombats, local birds and reptiles. The most memorable feature of the park is the huge outdoor pen for the Kangaroos, who spent their time chilling in the sun. Koala petting was also part of the activity. However, those little marsupials felt a little overwhelmed by the 200 students.


After the wildlife park we went to a close town at the sea called Victor Harbour. It is historically important as well as candy for every photographer. In the 19th century British and French explorers met to finish the world map by exchanging their maps of Australia. Another nice thing about Victor Harbour is the view from Granite Island towards south. The next landmass in that direction happens to be the most southern point: Antarctica.


Adelaide’s Hinterland

Green hills around Adelaide

It’s two weeks since I arrived in Adelaide and a lot of stuff has happened. The most memorable of all is probably last weekend’s trip into the Adelaide Hills. A little teaser: I saw wild kangaroos.

I got to say that I am super lucky with my housemate. I already mentioned that Richard is a local from Adelaide and traveled arround the world. He knows many people in and around Adelaide as well as stuff about other countries and the life in Germany. He is just nice to have around and talk to.

Last weekend he took me to a friend’s birthday in the hills surrounding Adelaid. I was happy from the beginning to see some more from the area but I never thought that it will be so memorable. We took of on early Saturday afternoon and arrived around 4 at the party. The closer we got to the mountains the greener it got. The hills were populated with some smaller and bigger eucalyptus forests.

It was really nice and refreshing to get out of town and see the wonderful nature. Fortunately, it is winter right now which means a lot of rain and green grass and trees. The birthday itself was very pleasant and I met a lot of Richard’s oldest friends that were all nice and extremely welcoming.

Two kangaroos in an eucalyptus forest

The next morning was relaxed because most guests left already. We had breakfast and enjoyed a slow Sunday morning. The original plan was to take a walk in the hills as Tony, the birthday boy, had a lot of land that he used for his forestry. However, the bad weather kept us inside and we ultimately took the car to another forest because Richard and a friend wanted to get fresh eucalyptus wood. As they started to prepare the tree I actually had my first encounter with one of Australia’s most iconic animals. I found a group of kangaroos and took some pictures.

Afterwards we made our way home. In the car I had to fight against my tiredness. As soon as we arrived I went to sleep and slept from 9pm to 9am.

The fast way to move in.

Wow. I moved faster into a new house than I expected and even for a relatively reasonable price (Price are much more variable than in Maastricht ranging from 300€ to unlimited, whereas prices in the upper price segment are much more frequent)

The House
It was build in the late 19th century and is a heritage of the urban landscape. It sits in a smaller street in the south-east of the city approximately 1.5km from the campus. There are shops and restaurants right around the corner and free parking in front of the door. Although I do not own a car (yet?!) I got fancy of the idea to have the opportunity of free parking in front of the house. My room is relatively small and around 2m x 3m. I got a window towards south, a huge loft bed, a desk and a couch.The kitchen, living room and dining room are on the ground floor while bath and bed rooms are upstairs.

The Room Mates
I got two new room mates in my new house. Richard, an artist and currently teacher, is the oldest. He used to live in Hamburg for a couple of years and does speak a little German as well. Eiligh (pron. Eyli), interrupted her study and is currently bar manager, is about my age and comes originally from a Scotish/Swedish family. Both of them are nice and welcoming people and we used last night to socialise a bit and talk about Australia.

24h Down Under

24 hours have passed since I put feet on Australian ground. The country of kangaroos and koalas. I arrived yesterday at around 8pm and in this short post I will describe what I did and what happened.

Flight to Dubai
Actually I will start a bit earlier than 24h ago. To be precise Sunday around 11pm (Central European Time). It was the time my family and me drove to Hamburg to catch my flight. We were lucky enough to not end up in a traffic jam but circumvent it. A friend of mine was not so lucky and got stuck in there for an extra 2hours. The arrival at the airport was nothing special. A last snack with the family, check-in and boarding. As we arrived in Dubai we were taken to the terminal by a bus in which I met the friend I mentioned earlier. Although we were both heading to Australia she was about to go to Perth whereas I was going further east to Adelaide. I had two hours to kill but we talked a lot and checked out the airport before I had to board the next plane which made the wait short enough to bear. However, my friend had to wait an extra hour.

Flight to Adelaide
The second flight was as boring as the first but 3 times longer and I spent it the most time asleep. However, turing take-off I was able to shoot some nice picture of Dubai and the coast of Australia. In total I spent almost 21 hours traveling and flew 15.000km.

After the landing
As I arrived in Adelaide I took the next taxi going to the city centre and asked for a hostel. He dropped me of at one that turned out to be quite cheap but also low standard and not the nicest place to be. However, looking back it was a good decision. It saved me money and I only need it as a base station to check out the city and find a room to stay. I am now in a 10-bed room with a few other guys. It is smelly and dirty but I will survive! Today I spend my time going to the University, looking for a room and walking around town. I have to say that Adelaide is a nice place to be. It is quite and a bit laid back for a city of that size but it is big enough to explore it. My evening was occupied by my quest for a room and I checked out 2 places that I both like. Which one I’ll end up with is a story of the future.

A new endeavour – Adelaide, Australia

I already told some of you that I will spend my upcoming semester in Asutralia. However, until now it all was kind of unclear and not yet completely sure but all that changed today with my visa. I got granted a 6 month student visa and can stay for the entirety of my semester abroad. I came a long way and it included several steps to finally be sure that I will leave Europe. I had to

  • Hand in an approval sheet for my preferred courses.
  • Transmit my personal details to the University in Australia
  • Book the flight
  • Get an Australian health insurrance
  • Apply for a student visa
  • Get a medical check

The list still continues and only includes the major steps but now I am ready to leave and nothing can hold me from doing so. I will leave Europe on the 7th of July and will fly directly to Adelaide where I will spend most of my time. I am not yet entirely sure what to do from the moment of my arrival but I will probably try to find a hostel to use as my headquarter for the first days, check out some houses for permanent residence and take a look at the University. I am sure it all will sort itself out. Next up is my first report from Australia.

Talk to you soon, mate.

Of radiation and other miseries.

Here I am. Against all expectations I am not writing from the Philippines. Right now, I am flying towards Abu Dahbi and write the finale of my year. I was waiting until now because the last days were just packed with too many decisions and I don’t want to write something that I have to revoke afterwards.

However, to explain the current situation I will try to tell the story in chronological order. After the seminar in Manila in February we returned to Lucena with loads of ideas on how to plan the summer for for the school kids. The original plan was to have 2 months of summer activities with a different one every day. We distributed the tasks amongst each other and developed an 8 week plan with the others. However, due to reasons that we were not told the plan was rejected and we were told that the new program will only be 4 weeks. This, however, is just a small update and has nothing to do with the reason why I am flying back.

On the 11th of March (2013) happened something that no one ever had imagined would happen. A catastrophe that is unpredictable. I couldn’t believe it at first. I woke up at around 3am and couldn’t fall asleep again so I spent some time talking to friends in Germany who were just enjoying their evenings. I wouldn’t have given this much thought if Malte didn’t come to me the next morning telling me that the entire Ring of Fire was on quake the previous night. The closest earthquake was only a couple kilometers away and was a 5.0.  That explained why I woke up during the night. The strongest quake was in Japan with a 9.0 on the Richter Scale. I quickly went online and checked all the news sources I could find.

A disaster that people will learn in school about in the coming years. A bloody piece of history was written that night with the blood of almost 26.000 people who died or went missing. Until today, I cannot believe what was happening in a country so close, and the pictures are still triggering shivers and a surreal feeling of a Hollywood movie. The wave of the tsunami was 22m high and it was like a miracle that we didn’t have any effects of the Tsunami in Lucena. In the beginning the quake and the destructive power of the tsunami was still the biggest problem. It was only slowly that the news started covering the effects on the nuclear power plant Fukushima Daiichi. We were all shocked.

So far so good, and it is all part of the story why I am 34,000 feet above the ground as of this writing. Everything that is still part of the story happened in the last week.

I had a lot of time to think about everything and decide what this all means for me. On the one hand there were no warnings for the Philippines by the German government and there is no acute danger like there was when Chernobyl blew up. In our situation the wind was blowing in another direction (However, news from yesterday proof that the wind is unpredictable as a Xenon-133 cloud arrived in Manila). However, there is still the risk that contaminated food, rain and radioactive clouds will bring radiation to the Philippines. In the beginning I wasn’t sure how to treat the situation. As I said, it was a situation that no one could have predicted in the beginning and it is still a situation that know one knows how it will end. I came to the conclusion for myself that I don’t want to be diagnosed with cancer in 30 or 40 years from now and reproach myself for not taking correct measures to see my possible nephews and grandchildren grow up, instead lying in bed and fighting against cancer. After almost a week I decided on the 19th of March that I will book a flight home and don’t take the risk. I am regretting this choice in a way that I cannot describe. But I am also glad and I can arrange it with my conscience that I am sitting in an airplane right now.

It might be a rather strange reason to come back early but it is only strange because such a situation is something that should have never happened. Again, we underestimated the destructive power of nature. It is different from political unrest or a pure earthquake/tsunami in which the consequences are visible, predictable and with foreseeable outcomes.

Therefore, my journey on the Philippines ends like this. I hope to see all the great people again. I wish Malte all the best with the summer program and hope it will turn out like we imagined and planned it. After the quake we were able to get a good and stable plan for the program and it should work out fine. He was my first brother and I was his first sibling. We had a great time together although we weren’t always of the same opinion.

With this I end the story,
yours Jan