maanantai 27. kesäkuuta 2016

Introduced to Breda

A long time coming, but here it is! Text about studying in the Netherlands. I will be splitting these to three seperate posts:
Introduced to Breda - where I'll go through first impressions and arrival.
Studies - where I'll talk about... well, studying in NHTV.
On and Off the Land - where I'll talk about how my everyday life came to be in the country, and about leaving.

As my one and a half day vacation in Finland was drawn to a close, it was time to leave for the Netherlands. Vacation in a vague sense since it was simply meeting up with family and friends and then preparing for the next stop. Printing papers, sending emails and setting up my new laptop and so forth. Managed to haggle a brand new 80 euro suitcase down to 50 euros, so that was neat.
Barely rested, I climbed in a plane brandishing the Finnair insignia. I had to pay a little extra due to my heavy luggage, but that is fine. Teemu and I took the same flight to make things easier for the both of us. We took off, landed in a few hours and everything worked out fine. The next phase was to get ourselves from Amsterdam to Breda. We took a train right from the airport and it didn't take too long to get ourselves to our destination. The landscape and architecture looks... well, European. All in all the place feels a lot like a flat version of Finland.
We made way towards Alleewonen, our landlord for the duration, to sign our contracts and get our keys. It was just a short walk away, but the heavy luggage made that journey feel longer than it was. It didn't help that some companies resided in buildings that resemble residence and we weren't sure what was a store, what was an office and what was a house. We met with a few other students going to study games while at the office, and to my surprise there were a few from Finland. Jyväskylä, to be precise. After a while of discussion, contract signing and queries we got ourselves a taxi and took off to our lodging.

The humble abode

Tired and hungry, I started to inspect my room and the house in general while greeting our two rommates for the duration of our stay. The toilet is bizarre, and appears to be almost a joke made by an engineer. It's comfortable and all, but the design is just confusing. Seems this model is quite common here.
I went to rest after putting my things in their place. The next days I would spend in starvation while trying to find a store. In the end Teemu managed to get us the most vital of lifelines: ethernet cables. Finally I could check for nearby stores without interacting with people by asking directions (which I ended up doing anyway). People in the Netherlands are no strangers to speaking English, and the dialect seems commonly fluid. The next challenge appeared after picking a large selection of goods from the very nice selection as I approached the cashier of the grocery store. I packed my things and I was told the price I would need to pay. I handed cash, and to my surprise this was not in effect that day (I found later to be able to pay with cash at this same place). I offered my debit card, and that too would prove useless. I was instructed to move to a counter near the cashier for payment after a manager was called. I humbly accepted defeat and apologized. I managed to pay in the end, succesfully avoiding starvation.
The next step would be to furnish the house and rooms further. Thus it would be time to go to a place very alien to all Nordic citizens: Ikea. From our lodging it is a five minutes' cycle away, and a good place to get all the basic goods you would need.

As the few first weeks rolled by, there were a few particular events before school started. I'll write about those below. Notes about getting a bike and going to ikea or lidl most likely aren't that intresting in the end. How ever it is worth noting that getting a bike would be highly recommended.
Now, one thing that needed to be settled was what I will actually be doing in school. There were a lot of communication errors and things needed to be made sure of. At first I was about to be placed on second year studies for half a year, which is a double whammy of wrong since I'll be here for one full year and I have no experience when it comes to 3D work. That got corrected with a meeting before the introduction days, and I got placed in the first year visual arts class for a full academic year.
Next off was the intro days where new info was given to all students, a few talks were listened to and a bit of fun was had. Onto a pub crawl to "get to know Breda." Later on there would be Camp Lost, a three day event for new students. I'll leave the details out but there was cheap beer, dancing, games and other pants-on-head grade fun stuff for three days straight. During this time my image of a flat, cheaper Finland grew stronger as sweets and foods in general seemed very similar. Although the Netherlands is a land of sandwiches. All in all I believe I will like it here.

keskiviikko 24. helmikuuta 2016

Sami - Time to Go (A Post Long Overdue)

As of this writing I am already in the Netherlands. Have been for a few months half a year, in fact. More on that later. I'll have a final word about Singapore.

We received our diplomas without much of an issue, despite there being a misspelling in the first one we received. Finnish names tend to be difficult so that's not new, and it wasn't the first or funniest instance.

We would enjoy a few more meals and other activities before getting ready to head home. The engineers would stay a few days longer than us.

I'm going to throw a short thank you to everyone I met during my time there. This includes every time any of us was taken somewhere and whenever we got to an event we wouldn't have known of otherwise. Thank you for the hospitality and friendly demeanor. Thanks for an excellent experience. And special thanks as well as apologies to my team for putting up with me and my small breakdowns.

Me and Teemu were accompanied by a few fellow flatmates as BG would take us to the airport. Had some coffee while saying goodbye. There was a minor hassle that was cleared up without any issue and we found our gate pretty quickly. The long flights back were around the same as they were when getting to Singapore, so no big complaints.

I had just enough time to say hello to family and friends, as well as shop for anything important before moving on to my next destination. I spent one and a half days in Finland after Singapore.

maanantai 31. elokuuta 2015

Sami - Towards the Last Days

It is soon time to depart from Singapore. There's about a week left, but I have already started to make preparations to be ready for my trip back to Finland. It's been an experience I am not likely to forget any time soon. Practically everything is different here when comparing to home, from traffic to architecture, nature, how you queue in line and how communication works.
Speaking of which, something rather amusing. There was quite a long span of time when we had no idea what to do with rent. Two months in we were informed of how it can work and got our bill for the first two months, but even then we needed to do some questioning with the company. And we noticed uncertainty there as well. It basically seemed like everyone knew we needed to get this rent paid, but no one knew how, including the company we needed to pay.

Anyway. The thought that I have mere two days in Finland before I move on to my next destination is very stressful, But I'm sure it'll be alright even if I don't have much time. More on that later.

A house at a beach

Social interaction with the locals lead to us being invited for food at a local student's place. That is our flat as well as the French game project students from one floor above. Her family would cook for us and we could take a look at the nearby beach and play games.
While eating out over at food courts is great, I've always thought that home made food is best, no matter where you are. And this was no exception, the dishes were really good. Something that resembled a spicy, sweet version of Karelian stew, rice, beans, chicken curry, chicken wings, among other goods and a dessert that tasted like traditional Finnish apple pie with the addition of vanilla ice cream.
I am very thankful for the cooking and hospitality, it was incredible to visit. The house was very nice too, and clear that a lot of time and funding was put into it's construction and decoration. Our host mentioned a collection of plates on one wall, and talked a bit of history about them. All in all, those thirty or so plates were most likely worth more than all my life expenses put together.
We headed for the beach. Being a person from a land with over a hundred thousand lakes, the sand and beach itself didn't interest me as much as the scenery itself. I decided to stand ground and look around, enjoying the slowly changing lighting, the clouds which act a bit differently to Finland, at least upon my observation. Watching air planes show how deceivingly close the clouds are as they flew between the giant formations. Seeing the sun slowly rest itself behind rippled clouds and the silhouette created by palm trees.
We ended the day with chatting and a few different card games. On our way back us Finns and the French students talked about our languages. Both having their subtleties that seemed peculiar to the other side.

Truckin' again

One day BG suggested we head for lunch outside school on his truck. A bunch of us agreed, even though the break ended up taking a bit long. Showed us a food court that has some very nice noodles served on banana leaves. Included prawns, squid and pork with a noodle and egg mixture, on which you would squeeze a lime to add flavour. Had some grass jelly as well. Similar to jolly in texture, mildly fruity in flavour.

Another day I and Teo would venture with BG and his girlfriend on another after-school adventure. Had more barbeque which included squid, cockles, stingray, chicken among other things. One peculiar new flavor was something they called "smelly bean" which lived up to it's name. The bizarre thing was that it didn't smell at first and it tasted like a mild bean, but once you had eaten it, a strange smell would rise up to your nose. Not bad, but not a fan either. Definitely something to experience.

After my humongous failure to pay BG back in a more fair manner, he saw through my bluff and punished my soul by walking in a bakery and buying something. He bought two green cubes that had a cold exterior, and a mushy interior. I tried to pay for these as well, but he would reject my offering. In addition, he bought a moon cake which I would split with my flatmates later on.

Non-European movie going experience

We decided to head for a cinema to watch the newly released Shingeki no Kyojin film. Or as some would know it better as, Attack on Titan. This film apparently will not see a release in Europe at all, at least a cinematic release. Not going to spoil the film, but lets say the experience wasn't much different from Finnish cinema. I guess I got lucky, as Teo and Jussi, the two engineers I went with, had experienced literally ear-shattering cinema experiences earlier. This one didn't really live up to the quality of Finn Kino, but I wouldn't say the quality was bad. Some people reacted to things happening in the film rather strongly as well, which would be unheard of in Finland.

sunnuntai 9. elokuuta 2015

Sami - Birthday

Time has passed yet again and it's time to put some text up in here. It has been a while, so there is quite a bit to write about.

As far as the project goes, some issues regarding communication have been apparent, and that has been an ongoing issue when it comes to my work. It has been demotivating, and so I tend to stick to my own things while trying to keep up with what needs to be done to the best of my ability.
A lot of my focus has been put into the UI of the game, and I've needed to inquire about changes that may have happened instead of actually being informed of changes. As for texturing, some of that has gone smoothly and the assets have been added. Some things have required reworking, but it seems the base is fine in most cases.

Free time

All in all it's been true that the free time here has been far more interesting than school. Even though I have no laptop of my own and idle time at the apartment would be wasted by sitting around thinking about things, there tend to be things that come up and keep me occupied. Whenever I am idle however, there are a few ways I spend that time. Thinking about life in general, my past experiences, fear for the future and the somewhat unreal realization that I am across the globe from my home are things that appear in my head when I take time to rest. That or I play Monster Hunter or enjoy animated shows with my flatmates.
I have also decided to spend some Saturdays at least partially in school to draw and study if it precedes some plans. To keep myself active and motivated.

I and Jussi went to a nearby arcade. Very cool experience, plenty of games available only in Asia. Mostly racing, rhythm based or light gun shooter games. King of Fighters and Metal Slug 4 appeared as a few rare gems of genre breaking pieces, as well as a single pinball machine. A few games to mention. There was a boxed in shooter with a horror theme. Sadly I can't remember the name. It had plenty of jumpscares and the seat would shake or wind would be blown to your face or sides when something happened.
Another was a mix of genres I haven't encountered before: A rhythm based light gun shooter, where you'd shoot things on screen in the rhythm of music. Everything was in Japanese so I couldn't tell you the name since I can't read those signs. Enjoyed the game plenty though.
The place was not coin operated, but instead used top-up cards. Deceiving in a way since it's much faster to use, and you tend to put more into your card's balance.

Catering pt.2

We had a repeat of the former weekend. We decided to cook more for the locals and rouse up more conversation. We made macaroni casserole this time, Since serving it was easier and it was all mixed in, this dish was a lot more popular despite being a bit too lacking in salt for a Finn. Sadly, BG could not attend, but quite a few people came by. Chatting about various things and possible plans for days to come. All in all, getting to know folks a little better.
Later on during the evening we were visited by some more students and also got gifts. There's some celebrations going on overall, so we were gifted some tidbits suitable for dessert. Flavours both familiar and new, mostly on the sweet side.

One evening an engineer asked everyone a strange question. His tone seemed akin to random bouts of madness, as is common for engineers. I needed to request him to repeat himself many times due to my confusion, something about termites and smoke. After about the twentieth attempt, I understood what he meant. A student invited anyone willing over to take care of some driftwood she found and wanted for herself. Without wondering about their motivation, I joined in.
I, Aleksi the mad engineer and Teo joined in with two students. The initial plan was to smoke any termites out. With some really lacking tools, the idea was doomed from the start, and we sought for an alternative. As we are speaking of driftwood, water is no issue. So we went to drown the piece in a fountain and stuck there for quite a while. An hour or so, I'd say. We spoke about this and that, sharing myths, legends and stories as well as talking about tv-shows among other things.

SG50, first day

We learned that Singapore's 50th birthday would be celebrated throughout a week including both weekends, with the first and last days being the busiest. BG Invited me, Teo and Teemu for a barbeque, and the selection was better than last time. We spent many hours eating and drinking, enjoying crayfish, prawn, squid, salmon, saba, mutton, chicken, beef, pork, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and noodles with a selection of soft drinks and a 70 dollar personal tap of beer. A great feast to say the least, with the intention to eat until we would be kicked out. That did not happen in the end, but we'd leave on our own terms and with a full stomach.
Might I add that Marina Bay, the area we were at, resembled Jurassic Park mixed in with a sci-fi feel. Mixture of exotic vegetation, cars going about giving tours with automated robotic voices, giant metal structures made to resemble trees, a boat-like spaceship-esque structure on top of three towers which were far larger than I imagined when I first saw them probably kilometres away, and a giant dome of glass and a network of pipes. Truly a sight to behold.
Either way, we left to lie down in an open grass field, since soon there would be fireworks. The whole thing lasted about half an hour. They gave teasers of the show to come, and finally the sky lit up in bright colours for five minutes straight.
After this unique view, we headed home. Public transport and roads were absolutely stuffed with people, and we even saw large queues for elevators. I have never been in such a busy area, navigation was difficult. In the end we entered a large mall beneath the boat spaceship, and I was struck with some vertigo. My travelmates took a few jabs at me with this, daring me to look down at what looked like a maze of platforms on different levels. In the end we got ourselves a taxi cab and got home safely.

Week of SG50, local experience

A new course was planned by a few flatmates. I, Teo and Teemu once again formed a group to head for Plaza Singapura in Dhoby Ghaut. A mall in there included stores that sparked my interest. Replica models of bladed and projectile weapons of both real and fictional origin. Lord of the Rings, God of War, ancient Japan and China, viking weapons as well as muskets, models of cannons and armour. Next to this were stores that included game merchandise and figurines. I was fooled to think that I had found the limit on lewd figurines to find, but one store included nude models as well. Censored with tape. Even still, kind of surprising to me since it seems such material is under some strict rules.
From one of these stores I found something I have been looking for a while, as well as things to bring back to my family back in Finland. I'm glad that I won't be going back completely empty-handed.

One day after school I, Teo and BG went for dinner at a nearby food court in And Mo Kio. BG said that I "hold chopsticks more Chinese than him." I guess it comes naturally to an extent. He also spoke about some plans about macaroni casserole, and that he'd want some since he had to skip last time. The agreement was done earlier, and we would now buy the missing ingredients. Ended up with some more premium things than before, including mozzarella and Danish blue cheese.
The final part of the Catering trilogy happened. The day arrived and we cooked for BG and his girlfriend, showing how we did it. I decided to write up a recipe in case he wants to try making it himself. The casserole was enjoyed by all, and right when the last plate was filled, some animation students visited. The literal words being "we are hungry and we heard a rumor that there's food here." The last plate was given to be shared by our two new guests.

Towards the end of the week aside having my Chinese name told to me by a fellow student (Secret-snake or Three-rice Company-strip-strength Book-weak-able), BG decided to take me and Teo for another adventure. This time we would be travelling in his pick up truck. One of those Mitsubishi mini pickups with a scaffolding on the back. The car sounded exactly like a beat up veteran of the roads should. We were sitting in front until BG's girlfriend joined. At this point I and Teo travelled in the back. This is what I meant by local experience on the title, as this seems fairly common in here. The windowless open view to the back and sides of the car really showed the modern beauty of the country. The planted trees and architecture, the open yards and the decorations. This illegal-in-Finland style of travel felt great.
We went to the East coast. More food. Stingray, shellfish, clams, chicken, mutton, squid and other delightful dishes. A good view and a dessert drink which I can't remember the name of was had while walking about the shore.
Later on after another trip on the back of the pickup, we went bowling and I suffered defeat each time. Good times were had, however.
At the end of the day I had to bitterly accept some more charity as I lost a battle of cancel-order against our guide. I didn't want a four-dollar ice tea but BG would have none of that.
It's bullshit.

tiistai 21. heinäkuuta 2015

Sami - Catering

It's been a while since I wrote last time. This is mostly due to laziness, but some things have happened during the last week as well.
For one, I've started to spend more of my free time (and sometimes project time) on drawing, trying to learn more since I've been procrastinating on my studies for quite a bit.
This is due to reading some posts by artists I admire, but also because I got around an art book shop with a project teammate of mine (A place called Basheer Graphic Books). Even though my wallet might not be so thankful, I must thank her for taking the time and choosing to take me there. There was a sale on some items so I didn't end up spending as much as I feared, although there was some temptation to get more books.

Futile Payback

In addition, mainly due to the generosity of a local friend of ours (one that I mentioned before. From now on referred to as Barbecue Guy or BG, in the same team as Teo the engineer.) we decided to host a party of sorts. He has bought us all kinds of things to the point of despair. Before his actions I didn't know a person can be destroyed by pure charity. Anyway, onto what we had in mind. We were thinking of cooking something Finnish for the locals. The recipe we ended up with was meatloaf with brown sauce served with potatoes and grated carrots, with a dessert of crepes with jam. The only problem was that our flat has no oven. Now, Barbecue Guy said it's no issue, that he has a smaller model oven he can borrow. We agreed.
The day of preparation arrived and tasks were shared. Three of us would go to the grocery store and two would clean up in the meantime. (One of us was away, over at Malaysia for a short period). Around 80 dollars worth of supplies were bought, slightly less than I had anticipated. Once I, Teemu and Toni returned from the shop, BG caught up to us with his car, bringing his oven. The timing was perfect, and Teemu grabbed it. To our dismay at the apartment, it turned out the oven was bought that day, under two hours ago as we found a receit on the box and the appliance was in enclosed packaging. I did not notice this since I didn't have a close look at it yet. Either way, he had one upped us by 50 dollars already, as the oven cost around 130 dollars.
Finally the day arrived (Thursday after school) and we all were anxious for one reason or the other. I was nervous due to two things: One being that we made some improvised decisions when it comes to ingredients and I hadn't cooked for a large amount of people in a long time, and the other because I had a feeling BG had something else up his sleeve.
Around ten people arrived to the flat that day. Local students, and one of the lecturers at NYP as well. We were prepared to cater for six or so. Not everyone ate though, so it wasn't an issue. There was enough food to go around, and while people waited Finnish drinks and snacks were offered. I was in charge of making the meat loaf, sauce and making sure the potatoes were cooked. Teemu prepared the grated carrots and helped me with the preparation of the meat loaf. Teo was in charge of dessert. Everything turned out fairly well despite some minor issues, as is natural for a group of people with Finnish intuition. Problems like removing a tray from the oven without oven mitts wouldn't be an issue.
People seemed pleased with the meatloaf especially. Some of the potatoes and carrot was thrown away. Our dessert seemed to please our guests as well. The reaction to Finnish drinks and sweets were mixed at best. Towards the evening BG had disappeared, apparently to have a smoke. He returned with a bunch of pizza, garlic bread and chicken wing drumsticks. Our plan to repay was wrecked in an instant, and we have given up on fighting generosity with generosity.

Friday (a day off due to Hari Raya Puasa) arrived and we decided to go to the barbecue place again. This time without BG, but with another group of locals. Chatting and sharing stories and jokes, the evening went really smoothly as we ate ourselves full. I didn't need food at all the next day, but had a small dish of noodles in the evening since we were traveling outside. During this time there was talk about planning to do something next weekend as well. Since we have an oven now and all. BG said he would grab it in the course of about a month, but I wouldn't count on that.

sunnuntai 12. heinäkuuta 2015

Sami - An Underground Guild

Over the course of the week we went through another presentation about our current situation on our project. To put it bluntly, a lot of work needs to be done. I got the task of working on the user interface, and the placeholders did not fit at all. A new version is in order and I am working on that. There's also the awaiting tasks of texturing which mean I'll need to get back to the dirt. Getting the UI to a good status is a little difficult since there's still decisions to be made about it and there's a bit of difficulty when it comes to communication.

The week's off-project time brought it's own delights. Teo, an engineer from our flat and from another project group invited me to have lunch with his team. Aleksi and Toni would also join us. A warning was shared: We'd need more than an hour for lunch. I saw no issue with this, I'd just work overtime.
I was lead to a neighboring school campus, a short stroll away. There a local friend of Teo (not the same as the person who got us to try durian) was picking a place for us to go, and seemed to have an idea after doubting his first spotted culinary sanctuary. We entered a place that upon first observation seemed strange to me. All the tables had metal plating on the middle and some sort of smoke flue hanging over them. Our local guide would do the talking and in a moment I learned what this place was about:
It was a type of all-you-can-eat restaurant, and the buffet table had all kinds of goods: Salads, vegetables, sauces, fish, prawn, squid, chicken, pork, beef... One thing though: the meat was all raw. We would go grab as much as we can and take a seat to a table, and the metal plate revealed a grill on the middle. We would cook all these marinated goods ourselves.
This was excellent all in all. This was another take back to how I'd spend some of the summer in Finland. The difference here being that we were indoors. Plus we didn't pay much for it thanks to our local friend's charitable nature. We spent a good one and a half hours there, filling ourselves up. A thought kept coming up to me: It's a shame this would never work in Finland. Would be nice to see something like this though. Maybe there is and I've been living under the rock residing under a bigger rock.

As was mentioned before by Teemu, we had something else this weeks as well. On a later day, Teemu and Toni informed me that there would be another event where wizards would test their strength: MTG Origins prerelease. We set off to the wilderness where this gathering would happen, and the trek was long. We walked endlessly in the wild forest as earlier conquerors looked down upon us from their trees of glass and metal. I was at the rear as the slowest member of the group, and I had to keep up my pace. We faced a stray canine beast, but after it realized it was outnumbered, it backed away. Might have also been the fact that I reeked of death at this point.
We walked for one and a half hours to reach our goal. We saw a large building of stone, and set off to find the entrance to the guild entrance. I was drenched and feared it would pose an issue, but we found that our goal stood under the building, in a carved cave which already smelled of past duels between wizards. Thus I would fit right in.
The event begun at midnight, and the battles seemed to be in my favor at start, but it soon dawned upon me that my provided spells would prove to be futile towards the end.
As the trek back would've been horrid at four o'clock in the morning, we decided to hail a magical carpet that would fly us home for a fee.
Sadly I was too tired to join a later adventure that weekend, but there'll certainly be another chance another day.

Teemu - Title

Guh, I guess I haven’t posted anything since Chara-expo and even that one had a really narrow scope. It’s time to get you guys dated on what has happened. Please excuse the structure of this post, I’ll just write down whatever comes to my mind. Some happened events are from time prior to my last post and not everything will be chronologically accurate, especially given that I would rather talk about matters such as the project or food as a whole. Bear with it.

The Monday after my first post we got our final team member: the French designer. He’s a decent guy, though it’s a bit of a shame that the designed could only arrive after we had finished the basic design of the game. It’s not like he has no work to do, but I can imagine it wasn't really what he was looking for. In the same week all the final year teams (including us, obviously) had a quick presentation about their projects, and once we were done with it, we could finally start working for real. It felt really good to be in a team with proper project management for once. 

Afterwards the work has been fairly simple comparing to the previous chaos, we have a certain amount of tasks every week as well as larger milestones and it is our job to see those tasks done on time. I'm struggling quite a bit to keep up with my seniors. In fact, I sometimes have to ponder whether I am more trouble than worth, there’s not really a problem with my code working, rather than in how it fits the framework. I do technically know polymorphism and state machines, but I haven’t utilized them like this before as opposed to writing big lumps of individual code that manages to get the job done. Thus I have some catching up to do and I feel like I'm gradually starting to see at least how I should do things. Resulting from my stress and failures (and the nine-hour-long days) I can’t really say I have enjoyed the project and the school days but that, to me, is secondary. The important thing is that this is definitely useful which means the trip was worth it: I tend to value gaining useful experiences more than gaining fun ones.

Aside from school, food was probably what I was most excited about when I got here. In most parts it has lived up to my (rather high) expectations but there are some quite disappointing factors. I expected the local food to be hot. I've been warned that ordering spicy food abroad is close to dangerous. Apparently I've already eaten the spiciest dish available at food courts (with some added chili and wasabi) in the country and it wasn't really hotter than what I normally cook at home. I did also complete the task of eating ghost pepper wings. Based on their taste they may have indeed been touched with one. I recently heard some locals decided to get me some ghost peppers online after I completed their weird instant noodles flavoured with something quite nasty (I admit that was hot). I'm rather scared (as well as excited) of that, I have eaten naga morich before and it was not entirely pleasant experience… OK, I can get the food spicy if I add raw chili peppers to it or throw in a large spoonful of chili powder to the sauce (which almost makes it divine), but I’d sure like a genuinely well-made food that makes me sweat and gives me the burn that echoes in my throat, nose and ear canals.

I’m also getting a bit tired of rice and noodles, and while there are dishes with neither, avoiding both rather limits your courses. I have managed to find bread (it wasn't that hard as I thought), which is rather helpful in the evenings. Too bad it’s a far cry from Finnish jaw-breaking rye bread: This one is about as dense as cotton-candy, and due to the locals’ weird customs, probably has about the same amount of sugar in it too (a mild exaggeration.) Some of my favourites here have been: anything with curry, barbecue sets, Indian and Korean food.
I'm fairly confident there is no Pepsi Max in the entire nation; I have found Coca Cola light and Zero, as well as Pepsi light and twist, but the divine liquid is ever so absent. As for coffee, there IS good coffee available, but it’s pretty much only in cafeterias: The coffee in stores often has pre-added milk or sugar, though there are black versions available. We don’t have a coffee maker in our apartment, but coffeebags (like teabags, but with coffee), seem to be fairly popular here, and I occasionally make some for myself. It’s all right, though lacking. In school we have a wide variety of different poisons labelled as coffee available. At first I didn't even notice there was a simple black coffee available and had the misfortune of drinking coffee with milk and sugar, and one with sugar. I don’t know which one was more horrible: the one with milk tasted like cocoa a five-year-old kid with a stage 2 diabetes would like, the amount of sugar was atrocious. The black one tasted more like coffee, but I'm not sure if it was a good thing or not. The horribly sweet flavor made it very difficult to swallow down. Luckily I only had to try both once before I noticed the normal coffee that seemingly interested no one. The best part was that it only costs 40 cents per cup. It tasted like poison, but at least it was honest poison, delicious sticky dough that has been sitting still for hours. The only thing better than an honest horrible coffee is an excellent one. I drink two cups every day.

It’s been a while since this happened, and Sami has already touched on the subject briefly, but we got a change to playtest some games from local start-ups. It was obviously highly confidential since they weren’t announced or released yet so I won’t be talking about the games themselves, but I can touch the experience. Basically we got three days off school to do eight-to-ten hours of testing out all sorts of games for various platforms and filling out forms. Most of the games weren’t really targeted for us but some felt genuinely exciting, one was abruptly mortifying. Aside from the atrocious two hours we spent playing the abruptly mortifying one, we had a pretty good time: the developers were cool people, one bunch even bought us drinks after the day. Aside from playing, it was a good experience to see how the startup dev-scene looks like here in Singapore. They had a pretty cool system where the startups shared a building/environment called game solution centre, which provides them with software and mentoring and is actually managed by NYP (our school here.)

My apologies to the people who couldn't care less about magic: the gathering or otherwise have no idea about the following content: feel free to skip the rest.

The week after Chara-expo we participated (not in the main event) in mtg Grand-Prix held here in Singapore. It was actually the first official magic: the gathering event I ever attended, as Kajaani and much less Pieksämäki never hosted fnm. Needless to say, the place was crowded with people. The day passed quickly as we enjoyed the event and participated in a team-sealed with Sami and Toni. We got pretty trashed in it though Sami did quite well. I might have gotten my ass kicked in the Grand-Prix team-sealed, but I regained my honor as a limited player last Friday. The three of us (Sami, Toni, myself) went to a local game-store that held Magic origins prerelease. I somehow beat everybody with a rather mediocre deck by what seemed to have been blunt willpower and some dumb luck, thus winning the event. I will probably start going there on Fridays to play some modern now that I've gotten some upgrades from the grand-prix. I’ll let you know how I do, probably.