check in : my experience studying at an Austrian uni

Hey everyone! how’s it going?

Just thought I’d share with you what it’s been like at an Austrian University having now made it unscathed to the Easter Holidays!

So for those of you who don’t know, I am currently study at the University of Vienna (Universität Wien for those German speakers among you) and I’m not going to lie, it’s been very different to university back home in England, and incredibly different from my first semester in Russia!

I’ll be honest with you, the first week was pretty rocky. Actually even from the first day it was pretty rough. I came out of my first seminar, and literally cried to my sister on the phone – it had been that bad!!! I won’t go into the details of that particular seminar, but because I had signed up for extra credits that I needed (not a bad idea to do that) I knew that if a seminar or lecture turned out to be unsuitable, I could simply choose not to do that course. That evening I had a lecture of Austrian History, which again, I was completely at a loss in and I went home that first Monday incredibly discouraged and kind of scared of what the coming weeks had in store for me. But that was just one day in amongst many other to come, and in the following days I had lectures that went so much better, lectures and classes that I found intriguing and interesting, and others where I was completely lost, and couldn’t understand the lecturer’s accent or tone, but I feel like that happens sometimes back in the UK anyway.

By the time I’d completed week two I had a pretty clear idea of which modules were my favourites and which ones I’d really have to work at to make them make sense. I’ll give you a little taste of some of the courses that I picked:

Introduction to German as a Foreign Language/German as a Second Language (DaF/DaZ) ; German in the Migration Society ; DaF/DaZ from the Background of Language Policy

  • so these three classes (two of which are a lecture and one is a seminar) are all under the same branch of German as a Foreign/Second language. I was initially a little apprehensive about this module, because the website stated that a particular language competence in German was a prerequisite, but it has actually turned out to be my most enjoyable and accessible of all my classes. Admittedly the fortnightly three hour long seminar is pretty intense, and the reading for these lectures is also equally as intense, but it is definitely made up for in the fact that the content is nothing like what is taught or given as an option back home, and the lecturers and tutors for this department are honestly the nicest people
  • I also love that you’re able to take classes on a more pedagogy related theme, without actually needing to be on a course specific for teaching – unlike the UK. So that has given me a really interesting insight into the thought and theory behind teaching and learning foreign languages.

Population Sociology (or Demography)

  • I’ll be honest, I’m not so keen on this one. The lecturer mumbles eighty-five percent of the time, which is not helpful for me as a non-native speaker, and to stay at full concentration for two hours is pretty intense, especially when you’ve just finished a ninety minute lecture just fifteen minutes earlier. I guess that’s a lesson to me in timetable compiling – I never learn!

Austrian History

  • Again, it’s a lecture that I’m sure it would be really interesting, if I knew what was going on, and had a basic knowledge of Austrian History, which all my peers (being Austrian) seems to have and obviously I don’t because if you study German at school or university, you tend to learn German history and nothing about Austrian History unless your department has a speciality in Austrian culture and history, nonetheless I’ll get there. As the classes go on, they start to make more sense, so that’s a good sign.

Introduction to Phonetics & Phonology ; Text Linguistics

  • Initially I thought that I was being sneaky, by taking a phonetics module because I have done phonetics modules back home, but this phonetics module has been so much more applicable, relevant and useful. I have learnt so much already about forming different sounds, and how the symbols correlate to sounds in different languages. love it.
  • the Text Linguistics module is a interesting one. I understand what’s going on, and I kind of understand the general concept of it so far, but what I’m not quite grasping yet is the point of this module. Perhaps that is why it’s such a “young” discipline in the world of linguistics, but hopefully I’ll find out or work out what the whole point of this module is soon and why we are learning about the criteria for defining a “text”

So there you go, a little summary on my classes. It’s quite a mix. I will admit that timetabling so that I would have a three day weekend played a bigger role than it should’ve in my module choosing, but your priorities have to lie somewhere, and that’s where mine were. I have found that it does take an awful lot more work, and further reading to fully grasp and retain what is happening in the lectures.

To the students among you, hope your studies are going well!

Have a lovely Easter break! x

 

It’s spring already

Hey there!

So a month after my last post, and I’m finally back at the keyboard, quickly typing away. I know I said I’d try and post more frequently, but I guess uni and exploring and life caught up with me, and there’s only so many things that I can prioritise, and I guess blogging isn’t so high up on the list at the moment.

Anyhow, today was a most gorgeous day, and after a pretty rough week and some pretty gloomy weather during the week too, it was super nice to get out and discover yet another part of the city.

If you follow me on Instagram then you will have seen a lot of the places and amazing buildings that I have been discovering in the past few weeks, but today was particularly special for me, because it was the first day that I saw cherry blossom properly blooming for this spring!

So I got off the metro at Volktheater, remembering to exit the station at the Burgring end rather than up at Museum’s Quartier, because that’s a mess and a half if you make that mistake. I walked knowing that eventually I wanted to end up at Stadtpark, but not really knowing how I was going to get there other than it’s near to Wien Mitte.

There is something so special about exploring a city in this way, especially Vienna. There’s just so much to see down every street and park here, that if I had made a set route and stuck to it religiously then I’d miss out on the old bookstores, quirky museums and Russian monuments. (yep.. I stumbled across a Russian monument today, it seems that I just can’t escape that influence, no matter how hard I try!)

Once I’d stumbled across this Russian monument, found my way into the gardens of Schloss Belvedere and back out again, I did at last make it to Stadtpark.

The first view was of this building just to one side of the park that has a huge flowering magnolia tree in front of it, then as you walk past this building you come to a relatively obscure entrance. I later realised that this is because there are many entrances to the park, and I happened to go in by an obscure one!

I don’t really know what to say other than that it is a really lovely park. Its paths interwind over and around lakes of water, cherry trees blossom in different parts of the park, and the sound of birds singing peacefully fills the air.

In a nutshell, today was a beautifully positive day. The sun shone, the birds sang, getting lost on purpose was a success again, the cherry blossoms are starting to bloom and I felt so content walking and exploring with no schedule to follow.

I hope you all have had a lovely Saturday where you are and I wish you well for the week to come! ❤

Grüß Gott!

Hello there!

I have not written a blog post in actual months! So I thought that it was time to dust off the cobwebs, and start this back up again but this time from Vienna!

Having completed my first week here, I can confirm that I have already low-key fallen in love with this city. For starters the weather is so much better than in the UK. In the past week, it may have started off cloudy or drizzly in the morning but by the afternoon, the clouds have dispersed and the sun comes out. I will happily take that any day over four weeks of continuous cloud cover *cough* Russia *cough*. So before this become a really long post of me waxing lyrical about how much a love this city already, I’ll give you a shot run down of the things that I’ve noticed in my first week here:

  1. Everyone really does say “Grüß Gott” or “Servus” to greet you, in the shops, in the corridor of the building, in the cafes, everywhere! I just hadn’t thought or believed that it really was a thing. But I guess it’s just another way of greeting one another.
  2. They talk REALLY FAST! Such that it takes me a couple of seconds to process what someone has just said to me, before I can respond, and I’m there momentarily confused and assistant is looking at me like, “she is not ok” but then I respond, and then dialogue continues.
  3. Contrary to what I was warned would happen. They don’t all instantly speak English to you if you’re super confused or slightly hesitant. So that’s a huge relief and I hope that continues because I want to speak as much German as possible. I think the only place where they spoke English to me was in the phone shop, when I wanted sim card, and that was probably a good thing because I have not a clue how to ask for a sim-card in German.
  4. Also contrary to what I was told, all the people I’ve met are really really helpful! When I first arrived, I was understandably confused, and bewildered and half-asleep – getting up at 4am for a flight does that to you. So the first person I asked for help was very lovely, and reassured me that yes, my ticket was valid. The next person, was also really lovely and said bye to me when she got off at her stop of the U-Bahn. When I was in Starbucks and didn’t know where to go, the staff in there were also really helpful. When I couldn’t find something in the supermarket, someone pointed that it was over in that direction, when I ended looking in the wrong place, they came over and pointed at the item I needed. Maybe I have just been really fortunate in my first week, but it made a good impression on me.
  5. Vienna isn’t as busy as I anticipated it to be. Perhaps because I know how busy London is, and for some reason I thought that Vienna, being a capital city and also incredibly beautiful, would also be rather busy. But I have been pleasantly surprised. Also there are shops everywhere, which is great, because it means you don’t have to go to a specific place in order to buy something.
  6. However, being a capital city and being Vienna, things are that bit more expensive, especially when I compare it with what I was paying for my food in the markets and restaurants in Russia.
  7. I’ll end on a positive note. The architecture is STUNNING! The buildings are so unbelievably beautiful. And I also cannot get over just how tall some of the buildings are, it makes you feel so small because some of the buildings are just so grand.

 

I hope you have all had a lovely week! I better not make any promises, but I’ll try to post again in a week or so, we’ll see how it goes!

 

Also if anyone of you has been to Vienna or Austria and would like to give me some suggestions on good places to visit, or cafés to try out than let me know!

The shorter the day, the longer the night – Чем короче день, тем дольше ночь – Je kürzer der Tag, desto länger die Nacht

As you may have guessed from the title, the days are getting ever shorter here in St. Petersburg. So this post is going to delve a little into the reality of living in a city where the sun hasn’t shone in many weeks. It’s not all greyness and it does get better, so stick with me.

So these shorter days are not helped by the constant blanket of cloud which covers the city. If anyone has ever lived in a country or city which doesn’t get sunlight for long periods of time, then you’ll know that living like this is actually pretty tiring and challenging. It can be pretty hard to pull together the motivation to keep on with the everyday task, because all you see when you look outside is grey cloud, grey pigeons, grey buildings and bare grey tree. Hence it has actually been quite a challenging few weeks.

What, you might ask, have I done to try to deal with it? well that’s what I can share with you. The things that have helped me to cope a little better with so much greyness.

  1. skyping and messaging my best friends

    I have some amazing friends, if they’re reading this then I hope that they know how amazing they are. I don’t think there has been a skype session where I haven’t felt better having talked even about random things.

  2. drawing and being a little creative

    this one is a big stress reliever. I brought a notebook with me to Russia, in which I draw and write all sort of creativity and being able to do that is a huge help. There is just something about taking a break from the hustle of the day and all the tasks that weighing down on me and taking a moment to just draw something and completely focus on that instead.

  3. meeting up people

    obviously if you are in a strange city and you don’t know anyone, then this one can be difficult. But I have been so fortunate to make some great friends here, and on difficult days it’s been great to meet them up and to just get work done together. Sometimes we don’t even talk that much because we’ve got homework to be doing and vocab to be learning, but to know that you have people that you can agree to meet up helps with forcing you to get out and about despite the grey weather.

  4. finding your comfort zone

    okay, this one has been tricky here in Russia, because I am almost always outside of my comfort zone, in that you always have to be ready for someone to speak to you in Russian, or that you might have to do something at short notice, or the thought that something might crop up is constantly there. However, if you can find places in whichever city you are in, where you know that if you go there, you’ll feel relaxed and you can have a clear head, whether that’s a cafe which is closer to home, or a space where you feel productive, or even just walking about the city and the metro with music in. Whatever works to make you relaxed and can then wonders for dealing with the gloominess of a grey day.

Wishing you all the best wherever you are, and I hope that the sun shines for you tomorrow, because when the sun shines and the sky is blue, everything just looks that little bit better.

Loft Project Etagi – Husky Festival

Loft Project Etagi (Лофт Проект ЭТАЖИ) is an art space in the centre of St. Petersburg. There are a few eateries, every so often there are different exhibitions on the various floors, and it’s one of the few places here where you are able to legally able to walk around the roof top and view the skyline of the city.

Фестиваль Хаски – Saturday 12th November

Over the weekend there has been a “Husky Festival” happening at the Loft Project, and when I found out about this, I couldn’t resist going. It was a lot more crowded than I anticipated, but what do you expect when they have real huskies available for petting  ❤

For an entrance fee of 100 rubles you were given access to the exhibition, a postcard of a husky and little pieces of paper so that you could vote for your favourite husky picture.

picture of the white husky was my favourite
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I’m not you lapdog
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so fluffyyyy
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just majestic
such beautiful eyes!

I am so glad that I went to this event. What struck me was how the huskies were simultaneously so chill and calm, and so alert. Also, their fur is unbelievably soft and their eyes are just gorgeous!

My only suggestion for improvement. More huskies and less people.

Reading Week – Helsinki

Having had our hopes of travelling abroad during reading week diminished by the lack of returned passports, we were pleasantly surprised when they came back just in time for us to book a semi-spontaneous trip to Helsinki and then on to Tallinn.

Day 1 – St. Petersburg to Helsinki

I got up super duper early on Wednesday morning in order to make the 6.40am train to Helsinki.

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It meant getting on one of the first metros of the day, which was kind of strange. We arrived in Helsinki at around 9am Finnish time with the whole day ahead of us, but also with heavy rucksacks on our backs. And so obviously the first thing we did was get coffee and croissants. They’re just not the same in Russia. And it was a no brainer for me to order a chai latte at the first opportunity (my ultimate weakness).

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When we left the main station it had begun to snow pretty heavily so we walked around in the hope of finding somewhere warm and dry and interesting, which is when we stumbled across the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum.

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It’s a very interesting museum/gallery and had some thought provoking exhibits, such as an exhibition titled “After the Turmoil” http://www.kiasma.fi/en/exhibitions-events/meeri-koutaniemi-arman-alizad/ which brings to question how one moves on and carries on living a normal life after a traumatic upbringing or traumatic event occurs in their lives.

 

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Then, in an attempt to find the bus station to go to the hostel, we were blown around in the snow and sent around and around in circles by the signs, until we finally figured out that we needed to walk a distance from the actual central bus station, in order to find our bus stop. We were so glad to be able to collapse onto our beds in the hostel after such a chilly, snowy and busy day!

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And what would be more suited than finding the local Chinese cuisine and enjoying the authentic dishes for dinner. I went to bed content with tofu, satay sauce and jasmine tea in my stomach.

 

Day 2 – Helsinki

When we woke up on Thursday morning, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and we’d bought croissants the previous day so we were sorted for breakfast. It had snowed even more that night, and everything was coated in this layer of icing-like snow.

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After taking the bus a little way into town, we got off and upon seeing a cute stationary shop, we felt obliged to go in and pay them a visit.

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We then found our way to the Sibelius monument. We felt like children in the snow, because it was just so unbelievably beautiful.

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After admiring the monument for a suitable amount of time, we made our way towards the city centre, where we stumbled across the Finnish Museum of Natural History, not before pausing at another cute cafe for a delicious pecan and caramel cookie and of course, a chai latte again.

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If you’re ever in Helsinki, the museum is well worth a visit. Admittedly all of the information is in Finnish and Swedish, so we didn’t really understand anything, but it is still impressive! And I did learn one thing because someone kindly translated what was written about the now extinct “sea cow”.

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fancy staircase
Sea Cow
Furuhjelm’s Sea Cow – One of the most complete skeletons of the extinct Stellar’s sea cow

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After that museum we took a walk around the city, and looked at the various points of interest, and after much walking and walking we found a delicious sushi restaurant. Safe to say that day two was a good day.

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Day 3 – Helsinki…

As it was our last day in Helsinki, we had to be checked out by eleven, meaning that we carried around our luggage for the whole day, but it was nonetheless a good day. We spent the time we had left in Helsinki walking around, looking at buildings that we hadn’t seen before, and then we made our way to the ferry terminal, not before finding some cool graffiti!!!

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So that’s all for Helsinki, my top five suggestions or tips if you’re going to be visiting Helsinki are:

  1. Figure out how the public transport system works either before you go or as soon as you get there – there is a transport office in the basement of the main station with lots of information leaflets.
  2. The Finnish Museum of Natural History – you won’t be disappointed.
  3. Walking around the city is great for orientating yourself, and you see so much more than getting the bus everywhere
  4. When you’re in a cafe with WiFi, check your route to your next destination and make all of the screenshots, because the WiFi in a lot of the shopping malls doesn’t work.
  5. If you’re a student, ask if they have a student discount for items, because we were told a bit too late that a lot of places do really good discounts for students, so it’s worth an ask.

The next installment will be about Tallinn! It is so beautiful there and I can’t wait to share with you the pictures from the Old Town.

October

A lot has happened this month: the weather changed, ice-hockey happened twice, theatres and musical concerts have been attended a lot, new coffee shops have been discovered, no blog post has been written.

So to sum up October and keep this blog alive, let’s see what I’ve been up to here in Saint Petersburg for the past four weeks!

Also apologies for the photo quality, or rather the lack of it, my phone was accidentally set on a really low setting and I only realised really recently when I was looking through my settings.

 

Week One 01/10/16 – 08/10/16

Sun 1st – The Mariinsky Theatre – The Fire Bird – Шопениана/Жар-птица/Шехерaзада

This ballet performance consisted of three ballets, Chopiniana (Chopin), the Fire Bird (Stravinsky) and Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov). All three were stunning in their own way, but by far my favourite was the Fire Bird. The theatre itself is stunning, and I was so glad that we were able to see the performance in Mariinsky I, as opposed to the other two parts of the Mariinsky.

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Wed 5th – Stationary Shops and Street Art Tour

Okay, so that sub-heading makes it sound so much more official than it actually was. After uni classes I met up with Masha because she was going to show me where to get sheet music (if I wanted to get some), and then she took me on a small tour of the street art in some of the courtyards interspersed with stationary shops that she knew of which she thought would appeal to me. It was a really lovely afternoon, and I now know of three really cool stationary shops and that makes me quite happy ^_^

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Fri 7th – The Great Hall (Philharmonic) – Hollywood on the Neva – Голливуд на Неве

Preceded by my first visit to Укроп for dinner, which is a completely vegetarian restaurant, and although the food was really good and the atmosphere was super chilled, I was just really upset by the fact that their name meant “dill”.

Anyhow, getting back to the philharmonic. We bought tickets for all of CultureClub in the morning, but there weren’t a huge number of tickets remaining, so we bought “free seats”, which actually means we were sat around the edge of the hall, on these fancy benches, but didn’t have designated seats so could’ve changed bench if we decided we didn’t like the view.

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the view from our seats wasn’t the greatest, so you get a selfie instead

The music and repertoire of pieces chosen from various Hollywood movies starting from the 20th Century was interesting to say the least. It gave you an insight into which films are obviously slightly more popular or well known here, as I had never heard of some of the films mentioned. My favourite was of course their rendition of Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

 

Week Two 09/10/16 – 15/10/16

Mon 10th – Canadian Thanksgiving

I have a friend here, who is originally from Canada but has been living in Russia for a long time, and I was really touched when she invited me to come over for a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. I was initially really worried about going, because I assumed that, like a previous dinner, we would all be speaking Russian, it would be very exhausting but of course still really fun. But to my relief we all spoke in English with the odd Russian phrase dotted in here and there, and it was so nice to have food that was more Western and didn’t contain dill. I know that the point of being here is to speak Russian, but at the same time, there comes a point where you brain needs a break, and needs to be able to relax a little bit.

As part of the thanksgiving tradition (for her family anyhow) before dinner they go around the table and say what they are thankful for, and then before dessert they go around again and share a verse that has meant a lot to them in the past year.

Thur 13th –  Salmon and Stir-Fry Vegetable Noodles / Ice-Hockey

I was informed of a Chinese shop in Saint Petersburg, as I have been hunting for one for a while. So Kelly and I went to it. It’s called красный дракон or Red Dragon. They had all the specific ingredients that we needed to marinate the salmon, then we went to this grocery store called Лэнд or Land, and yes it was maybe a little pricey, but they had peanut butter and large tubs of hummus and a lot of fresh vegetables, whilst still being a lot cheaper than Stockmann. So we can back and made the Salmon & Veg Noodles and it was really good!

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proposal at a hockey match!!!!

 

We then set off to the ice-hockey. СКА vs Динамо Рига! It was a good match. Saint Petersburg won! And it was pretty chilled.

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Week Three 16/10/16 – 22/10/16

Fri 21st – Masha’s school visit

I didn’t get up to much in this week, but on the Friday I went to Masha’s school to talk to her English class about the UK, University and studying. It was interesting to see what her school is like, and how the different ages are all in one school, unlike the UK. On the way home Masha showed me a cool art installation in one of the courtyard on Vasilyevsky Ostrov and then a really cool Old Books shop.

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Today was also the day when the oven which had appeared the week before started to be moved around the kitchen and the worktop shrunk in the meantime.

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Week Four 23/10/16 – 31/10/16

Mon 24th – French Club

It was a gorgeous Monday, so I will insert an irrelevant picture of the cathedral next to which I am studying.

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So, French Club! It was a lot less stressful than I was anticipating, perhaps because I already know someone who goes too, but also because the guy who runs the club – whose name I’ve forgotten :L – was really nice and wasn’t one of those people who makes you feel bad for not knowing much French. Admittedly I should’ve done a quite grammar and vocab revision blast before going just to make it that little bit easier and less awkward. But I can think of no reason why I wouldn’t go again. And fear not guy-who-runs-french-club I will brush up on my vocab and how to form the past tense, so I won’t be soooo painfully terrible next time.

Thur 27th – Ice Hockey

Round 2 of the ice-hockey! This time it was СКА vs KHL Medveščak Zagreb. It was an impressive game. Saint Petersburg won 6-0!!!! And in one of the breaks, some people dressed up as pucks and did some competition, it was weird, and kind of funny.

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Fri 28th – Bake Off Level Russia

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll already know that Kelly and I christened the oven by making brownies, and we proved that you don’t need to have all of the correct equipment in order to make good food. We were lacking weighing scales, proper cups as alternative, a brownie tray, decent oven gloves, measuring jug or spoons, mixing bowl, smaller bowls for separate mixing and baking paper. But a saucepan is just as good a mixing bowl, and a jug with grams written up the side works just as well as a weighing scale, and guessing the amount of liquid couldn’t have been any better than using spoons, right?

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But in all seriousness, it worked. Possibly because the recipe comes from How Sweet Eats’ blog, and all of her recipes are amazing (just fangirling a little because she comes up with ThE aBsOlUtE bEsT fOoD!), and possibly because there were two of us, and teamwork almost one hundred percent makes things work better.

And there you have it, the month of October in blog post form, and I didn’t even mention the weather… so here we go for a….

Summary of the important & notable weather occurrences in St. Petersburg this month

First day when you could see your breath when you breathed out – can’t really add a picture for that one.

First day of snow

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Day when I got excited to see blue sky and the sunrising because it had been cloudy in over a week. The excitement was premature because I came out of the metro station at the other end and it had clouded over and remained that way for the following three days.

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That was a long one! Hopefully I’ll stay a little more on top of this blogging thing in November. One can hope.