Saturday, October 12, 2019

Thank you, Chetta

“Pass it through the window.”

Lina’s outstretched hand was trying to grab the pencil pouch bag Akshara was extending to her. Our classroom was visible through the window on the wall perpendicular to the balcony we were standing upon. If you reached out, you could just barely high-five someone in class. But right now, we were on a different mission.

Lina grabbed the pouch, but it was only when its contents fell out that that we realized it hadn’t been zipped close.

We screamed for no reason from the first floor, watching the pens that had fallen out bounce onto the ground. 

Eva’s face was the physical definition of oh no, especially since it had been her bag passed through the window. It was safe, but half empty. 

“I can’t find my ID!” Eva rummaged through it, and came up empty-handed. She took off back to class to check if she’d left her ID there.

The rest of us peered down below, and watched a couple of boys walk briskly into the building. We hissed to get their attention, and one of them looked up.

“There’s a pen there.” Lina pointed in its general direction. The boy grabbed the pen, pocketed it, and continued walking nonchalantly, leaving us with our jaws on the floor. 

Everyone slightly panicked. It was basically our fault- we had encouraged Akshara to take the risky move of passing us Eva’s bag through the window, and now we’d screwed up. It was especially embarrassing since the only purpose of the bag was as a prop for an impromptu tik tok video.

We were berating the thief and looking down helplessly when he turned the corner on our floor and walked towards us. “Chechi, your pen,” he said, offering it to Lina. She was at a loss of words, since we’d just been cursing him a few minutes ago, and also because he’d called her chechi, a term used to address our female seniors. 

To us, it seemed like he was our peer. But no one rectified his mistake. Lina took the pen gratefully, and he was on his way back when he ran into Eva. Eva, who hadn’t been present for the events that had taken place but had seen him walk to us and return her belongings, ran up to him and said “Thank you, Chetta”, chetta being a term used to address male seniors.

All in all, we were thankful. Eva had her ID and bag back, and we resumed our video. But it was still funny to think of how surprised he must have been if he realized we were in the same year as him.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Save the Earth

Let’s face it- concern about global warming was laughable until a few years ago. It was an obligatory subject in textbooks, and appeared occasionally in newspapers. The general assumption was humanity still had several years to implement measures before it was too late. 

The time is ticking, and somehow, the needles have picked up pace. The consequences of our actions are now catching up with us, and taking their toll on other inhabitants of the Earth as well. 

The most fascinating part of our thinking is the one that allows us to believe that we have authority over every other species on Earth. It is the one that will subsequently lead to our downfall, lest we start being more pragmatic than selfish. 

It is unfortunate that millennials and Generation X will have to start taking global warming into account while thinking about building families. Overpopulation is a grave issue with far-reaching effects. Eventually, our descendents will face a despondent future alone- that is, if we do not face it first instead. 

Research has shown that the best ways to reduce a carbon footprint would be to turn over a new leaf and have a vegan diet, reduce air travel, and start walking more. Already, a revolution has begun- statistics show that more people than ever have altered their diets and started consuming less meat, and more greens. Veganism is on the rise. 

While veganism is moving up the graphs, something else is dropping- birth rates. Some women do not want to have kids, others are sacrificing chances at motherhood for a better planet. To give birth in an unstable world seems like injustice against someone who did not have a choice to be put here, and many do not want to carry that guilt. 

Religious and social customs, however, will disagree- having a child is more of an obligation than a choice. However, religion will not save the earth. Only action will. 

If we truly want a healthier planet, we need to stop exhausting and degrading our resources. Overpopulation means bulldozing more forests for land, and larger consumption of existing natural supplies. It means higher crime rates, and growing demands for employment. 

The futures of more than 150 million orphans are already set in stone, and perhaps by giving up having our own children, we can give them homes instead. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Vienna Diary

Vienna is popular for many reasons: it's been ranked as the world’s most liveable city several times, it’s home to the oldest zoo (Schönbrunn) and ferris wheel, plus it’s Austria’s capital.

But what really got me enthused was that it’s also known for its cafes. Coffee in Vienna definitely lived up to its reputation, and it ticked another box from my invisible list. 

The train station was five minutes on foot from Haus Wasserzeile. Our landlady had two adorable dogs, and I got to meet both, which made my stay all the more wonderful. 

A specialty of Haus Wasserzeile was that residents had their breakfast together at a large table. Chatting with fellow guests, who also happened to be from outside Austria, made mornings more animated. 

Vienna was more lively compared to Salzburg and Innsbruck, with restaurant hunting becoming a lot easier, and street performers adorning pathways. The four days we spent there went by quickly, and soon enough we were back in Riyadh.

We also had a very memorable visit to the Schönbrunn zoo. The aquarium was fascinating, and I got to see polar bears for the first time. The zoo’s history, however, is blemished with tragedy; the world wars took their toll, and its inhabitants suffered greatly.

The Schönbrunn palace on its own was huge. There were several tiny craft shops selling a wide variety of stuff, and we got an elegant owl made of wood, along with a ring and necklace for me. I liked the ring so much I took multiple photos of my hand. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Innsbruck Diary

After our Salzburg tour, it was time for our next journey,

The dazzling photos I had seen online of the picturesque little city made me eager to visit Innsbruck. Snow capped mountains were prominent in every snap, and towered above.

Our ride from Salzburg to our destination was heavenly. Views of meadows, farmhouses and towns outside the train windows made the time fly by. Soon enough, we were at our stop.

From the Innsbruck railway station, we caught our bus. Like in Salzburg, our hotel here was also away from the city. What made it more interesting was that it was located 2000 metres above sea level.

We were to get off at Kühtai, and the bus ride there gave us a glimpse of dreamy, serene Innsbruck. My feet were itching to get off and take in the riveting scenery myself, instead of how I had been doing for too long- through a computer screen.

Bus travel between Kühtai and Innsbruck had a benefit-  guests had free access to the bus pass.

The next morning, we visited a skiing resort, 2020 metres above sea level. It was a popular skiing destination, and was packed with visitors. We stood by and watched skiers fly effortlessly down the slopes enviously.

The rest of the day was spent visiting popular tourist attractions within the city like The Golden Roof and Triumphal Arch, and meandering through Maria-Theresian street. The Golden Roof was made of more than 2,000 gilded copper tiles, and shone like fire in the sunlight. 

Eventually, it was time to go back to our residence, and get ready for our trip to Vienna the next day. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Salzburg Diary

After a five hour train journey with a train change in Munich, we arrived in Salzburg.

We had our eyes glued to the window through the entire bus ride, taking in the sights of the quaint city and the tall, rocky Alps. Mom was especially ecstatic about the the tiny shops selling a variety of things.

Our lodging was a little far from the hubbub of Salzburg. We got off at our stop, and then it was a short walk to the Boutique-Hotel, Essigmanngut.

The view that met our eyes was incredible. It was the kind of thing I had only gotten to see in movies; large green, rolling meadows framed by the ranges, old-fashioned houses with sloping roofs, and no one around for miles. It was a windy day, and the trees were swaying with sunlight filtering through their branches. We had never seen a place so serene.

We did face one issue however- it was difficult to locate restaurants nearby. It took us a while before we finally identified a group of them, hidden away from the main street.

This problem resurfaced even when we were in the city the next day. Eateries had no sign boards outside and no distinguishing features from other buildings, which was rather puzzling.
This had never been an issue in any of our previous travels, so Google Maps was absolutely imperative here.

Having a wiener schnitzel (Austria’s national food) was high on my to-do list, so I made sure to order one. It was a toothsome dish, and it was great to eat and relax after our busy morning of visiting Mozart’s Birthplace.

Mozart’s Birthplace offered an intimate look into the life of one of the greatest music composers in history. Original handwritten letters, musical instruments and models of household objects contemporary of his time were all on display, giving us a glimpse of his era more than two hundred years ago. It was a truly informative visit.

We also saw the Hohensalzburg fortress, mounted intimidatingly on a hill. Sphaera and Petersfriedhof were in the vicinity as well, Sphaera being a sculpture representing modern art and Petersfriedhof being a cemetery where some scenes from the movie Sound of Music were shot.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Bye Bye, School

Phew! Class 12 exams are finally over, and I'm done with my schooling.

The past few months have been nothing but hectic. Now, I can release that breath I've been holding.

The day after the last exam, we arrived in Heidelberg, Germany. We had lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant we’re extremely fond of, but discovered that the previous chef had left, so the food wasn't as tasteful as it used to be.

Later, Dad left to attend an SAP event where he was to receive an award, while Mom and I went for a walk and made sure to visit the bridge monkey. We aren't the superstitious type, but that doesn't mean we're ready to take a risk.

It was a cold, windy day and we ended up shuffling back to our hotel after a while, thinking about going out later. Despite the weather, I bought a gelato because nothing was going to stop me from getting one.

The rest of the day was rainy, which left us disappointed. We watched raindrops hit the wet cobblestones mournfully from our hotel room window. The streets were mostly empty and illuminated, and the skies were grey.

Bedtime was early since we had to catch our train in Mannheim to Salzburg, Austria.