Thursday, 26 June 2008
Saturday, 21 June 2008
I'm back... well, at least it's nice and warm here in Toledo... but ahh... what should I do with myself... on a nice day like today... on a Friday...
I keep thinking.. hey I can get a gelato! grab a bottle of beer and satisfy my growling stomach with a kebab (yummyyy) and have a lil picnic at the park!
wait a minute...! I forgot:
-there's no gelato in Toledo
-I'm not "old" enough to drink in this country (blody hell)
-it's against the law to drink in public (rolls eyes)
-there's no kebab in Toledo
... and yeah...
oh and! I was just told that next week is AVI's (UT's food service company I've been working for) last week! I'll have to apply a job with the new company... and they might not even hire so soon! Arghh!
Thursday, 19 June 2008
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
The Treaty at a glance
On 13 December 2007, EU leaders signed the Treaty of Lisbon, thus bringing to an end several years of negotiation about institutional issues.
The Treaty of Lisbon amends the current EU and EC treaties, without replacing them. It will provide the Union with the legal framework and tools necessary to meet future challenges and to respond to citizens' demands.
- A more democratic and transparent Europe, with a strengthened role for the European Parliament and national parliaments, more opportunities for citizens to have their voices heard and a clearer sense of who does what at European and national level.
- A strengthened role for the European Parliament: the European Parliament, directly elected by EU citizens, will see important new powers emerge over the EU legislation, the EU budget and international agreements. In particular, the increase of co-decision procedure in policy-making will ensure the European Parliament is placed on an equal footing with the Council, representing Member States, for the vast bulk of EU legislation.
- A greater involvement of national parliaments: national parliaments will have greater opportunities to be involved in the work of the EU, in particular thanks to a new mechanism to monitor that the Union only acts where results can be better attained at EU level (subsidiarity). Together with the strengthened role for the European Parliament, it will enhance democracy and increase legitimacy in the functioning of the Union.
- A stronger voice for citizens: thanks to the Citizens' Initiative, one million citizens from a number of Member States will have the possibility to call on the Commission to bring forward new policy proposals.
- Who does what: the relationship between the Member States and the European Union will become clearer with the categorisation of competences.
- Withdrawal from the Union: the Treaty of Lisbon explicitly recognises for the first time the possibility for a Member State to withdraw from the Union.
- A more efficient Europe, with simplified working methods and voting rules, streamlined and modern institutions for a EU of 27 members and an improved ability to act in areas of major priority for today's Union.
- Effective and efficient decision-making: qualified majority voting in the Council will be extended to new policy areas to make decision-making faster and more efficient. From 2014 on, the calculation of qualified majority will be based on the double majority of Member States and people, thus representing the dual legitimacy of the Union.A double majority will be achieved when a decision is taken by 55% of the Member States representing at least 65% of the Union’s population.
- A more stable and streamlined institutional framework: the Treaty of Lisbon creates the function of President of the European Council elected for two and a half years, introduces a direct link between the election of the Commission President and the results of the European elections, provides for new arrangements for the future composition of the European Parliament and for a smaller Commission, and includes clearer rules on enhanced cooperation and financial provisions.
- Improving the life of Europeans: the Treaty of Lisbon improves the EU's ability to act in several policy areas of major priority for today's Union and its citizens. This is the case in particular for the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, such as combating terrorism or tackling crime. It also concerns to some extent other areas including energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change, services of general interest, research, space, territorial cohesion, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism and administrative cooperation.
- A Europe of rights and values, freedom, solidarity and security, promoting the Union's values, introducing the Charter of Fundamental Rights into European primary law, providing for new solidarity mechanisms and ensuring better protection of European citizens.
- Democratic values: the Treaty of Lisbon details and reinforces the values and objectives on which the Union is built. These values aim to serve as a reference point for European citizens and to demonstrate what Europe has to offer its partners worldwide.
- Citizens' rights and Charter of Fundamental Rights: the Treaty of Lisbon preserves existing rights while introducing new ones. In particular, it guarantees the freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and gives its provisions a binding legal force. It concerns civil, political, economic and social rights.
- Freedom of European citizens: the Treaty of Lisbon preserves and reinforces the "four freedoms" and the political, economic and social freedom of European citizens.
- Solidarity between Member States: the Treaty of Lisbon provides that the Union and its Member States act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the subject of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. Solidarity in the area of energy is also emphasised.
- Increased security for all: the Union will get an extended capacity to act on freedom, security and justice, which will bring direct benefits in terms of the Union's ability to fight crime and terrorism. New provisions on civil protection, humanitarian aid and public health also aim at boosting the Union's ability to respond to threats to the security of European citizens.
- Europe as an actor on the global stage will be achieved by bringing together Europe's external policy tools, both when developing and deciding new policies. The Treaty of Lisbon will give Europe a clear voice in relations with its partners worldwide. It will harness Europe's economic, humanitarian, political and diplomatic strengths to promote European interests and values worldwide, while respecting the particular interests of the Member States in Foreign Affairs.
- A new High Representative for the Union in Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also Vice-President of the Commission, will increase the impact, the coherence and the visibility of the EU's external action.
- A new European External Action Service will provide back up and support to the High Representative.
- A single legal personality for the Union will strengthen the Union's negotiating power, making it more effective on the world stage and a more visible partner for third countries and international organisations.
- Progress in European Security and Defence Policy will preserve special decision-making arrangements but also pave the way towards reinforced cooperation amongst a smaller group of Member States.
Monday, 16 June 2008
Saturday, 14 June 2008
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I was supposed to me Chantal at 8.30 a.m. at the central train station but i just couldn't get up! Finally, I was up at about 10.30 - talked a lil with Benhard and headed out.
I got to the train station at 12.45 and just kinda hung around and waited for Jeff. I decided that it was pointless to go all the way to Chantal's house and come back again. So, I left my bags in the locker, which costs me 7 Euros. It was kind of frustrating because he doesn't have a phone and there was no way in communicating with him. Anyways, I saw him at 2.45 p.m. finally. Honestly, I was considering going to Delft on my own, without Jeff, lol. Oh well, then he told me about his "magic pen"! It's erasable ink. So, instead of spending 20 Euros on my ticket to the day trip to Delft, I wrote the date on my Eurorail pass, then erase it later! smart eh?
It was only an hour train ride. Lukas, a couchsurfer who offered his couch to me came and met us. He seems to be really cool... he's got the dreadlocks and stuff.. lol.. anyways, there was a carnival goin on in town, which was pretty cool... we met like 15 other couchsurfers too!!! we went to watch a contemporay/weird/eccentric dance performance - I've got some pictures and videos... be sure to check it out!~ Then we headed to a bar for a Palm beer. Then to get pizza!!! We got a large and a medium and shared it between myself, Jeff, Donald, Lorraine and Mustafa - 3 Euros per person and we got 3 slices! great deal!
Lukas seems really cool and I really like Delft a lot! It's like a mini amsterdam - minus the prostitutes, and the annoying tourists. But maybe next time, & hopefully soon I'll be able to meet up with him again!
At 8 p.m., Jeff and I took the train back to Chantal's house for our "plans." She came to the train station to pick us up. Oh by the way, Jeff and I picked up 2 boxes of Ecuadorian mushrooms in the city center - 12.50 Euros each
Chantal works as an au pair which is like a nanny and I was surprised that there's actually a big number of teenage girls/ in their 20s from North America who take like 6 months up to 2 years off and work in Europe to take care of kids! The pay is usually not too impressive but usually everything is paid for and the families are usually very wealthy - pretty cool way to get away from home and work/travel/have fun with kids.
Anyways, we started munching on our mushrooms at 11 p.m. It usually takes 30 mins to an hour to take effect. This type of mushroom is great for visuals and hallucination and I think they encourage deep thoughts too...
Then, we watched Eurotrip! Jeff and Chantal was hallucinating and feeling the effect a lot.. but for me.. i just felt the room turning a lil the the pattern on the curtain looks like it was breathing.. and trying to talk to me... but that was it... I was tired too... which isn't normal. Oh well, it was an experience.
Come 5 am, right before Chantal sent Jeff and I to the train station, I went on the trampoline... for the first time in my life! it was amazing! the view around the house was amazing... morning was a lil chilly... it felt perfect - i didn't want to leave...!!
We got to the train station in Brussels, Belgium, and guess what? it was delayed for an hour. In the end, I missed my 10 a.m. Eurostar train. It's okay though - we've got 2 hours to kill. So we went to a cafe and got a glass of cherry beer and strawberry flavored hoegarden... and chocolate!!! So, good! perfect breakfast/brunch!
I'm now on the train back to London. It will only take an hour to get to London. Once there, I gotta figure out how to get back to Uncle Gary's house, rest a lil and head out to catch a bus to see Rebecca in Coventry! I'm ecstatic!
I left the house at about 1 p.m. - I went to Dam square and just kinda walked around... I was thinking of getting "brownies" but I really didn't wanna eat it alone.. So I bought a bottle of Stella Artois 0.69 Euros and a bottle of Leffe 0.97 Euros and a bag of chips 0.81 Euros.... and sat under the sun... on one of the benches and just enjoy the afternoon...then I head home, just to freshen up, before goin to a couchsurfing meeting in Harlemstraat, near the train station.
The CS meeting was at a bar, Du Lac - we had our own private room upstairs - I think about 20+ people showed up.. and I met Emily, from Canada, who's now working as an Au Pair(nanny) in Netherlands, Jeff, from Quebec, who's a fellow traveler like myself, Chantal, an Au Pair too, from Florida and a French guy but is currently studyin in Amsterdam...
LAter that night, I decided to get some space brownies with Jeff - it was 5 Euros but was really good!!! Then Benhard, my host came to join us. At 1 a.m. I was reallly tired.. so we started walking home... guess what? we saw 2 people "doing it" in the streets next to a car... caught pants down! lol.. interesting sight in Amsterdam!
In the morning, there were only 2 guys in my room. They're both from Johannesburg, South Africa but are working in London at the moment. Kent and (forgotten his name) - they were really cool... we talked while I pack - I don't remember the conversation but it was pleasant and one of them is really hot.. anyways - they are one of those people who are just living in a country and getting a job, just to get more to move to another country... they're thinking about leaving London after being there for about 5 years now... cool eh?
I checked out of the hostel, still hoping to get a host, in the end, I found Benhard! He said he was having exams but he still offered his couch...I was really glad coz I wasn't about to spend another 21 Euros to stay in a hostel, no matter how great they were. I took a taxi to his house 7.50 Euros
It's pretty cool - it has a really narrow front door but it's really long. Apparently, in the old days, residents had to pay taxes according to the width of their front door!
Outside his apartment, there's this cool market which I'm gonna check out tomorrow. But it's time to do the touristy stuff. I went to the Van Gough Museum 10 Euros, which was nice.. but I don't really know how to appreciate art - so it wasn't like a mind-blowing experience...then, I went to the Anne Frank house... the original house where she and her family hid - and that was very worth it for me. 7.50 Euros - I was really tempted to buy her diary...it wasn't too expensive.. but I just can't afford to buy anything unnecessary now =( I wasn't allowed to photograph anything so I can't show you what it's like but if you happen to be in Amsterdam, GO TO IT!!!
- I started heading back at 9.30 but was stuck in the bus for an hour - I kept missing the stop coz I thought it was called something else! Then at 10.30, when I finally got off the right stop, this lady directed me to the opposite direction... So, I was walking in the dark, in circles!!! At 11 p.m. I finally got back.... whew....
-Amazing ice-cream everywhere you go
-hot Berlin guys (the girls are attractive too)
-everybody cycles around
-most of the Germans speak English!
-there are so many lakes in the city and there's a river too!
-the history of Berlin (I'm not a big history fan but the history behind Berlin is just so fascinating to me!
Up to this point of my trip, Berlin is added to my favorite places in Europe. I took the train from Berlin to Amsterdam at 12.30 p.m. - I should be in Amsterdam at 7 p.m. At that point, I haven't found a host yet and I didn't even search for hostels. But I wasn't too worried. =)
Towards the end of the train ride, I heard some guys speaking English. Turns out 3 of them go to school in Texas but Kyle is from ? , Mike is from Massachusetts and Tate is from California
They all seem like pretty fun people. I asked them if I could tag along with them until my host gets in contact with me, and they were like sure!!! So we went to this hostel ...? The staff was great! and the dorm I got was clean, there were towels, and bed sheets and it wasn't too stuffy. There was 3 double deckers and there's a bathroom in the room too! So, I like that.
After taking a shower, I went out with the guys to get dinner. Before that, we went to a "coffee shop" to get some weed. Mike was like a kid getting christmas present form Santa... rolling a joint and his eyes was wide opened , filled with excitement.. and he said, "I've been dreaming about this moment since I was 13!" It was pretty hilarious - Everyone was starving at that point, so -
Medium pizza for 5 Euros! btu we saw unlimited spare ribs for 10 Euros - SO TEMPTING! After that, we met up with 2 other girls whom they met in Prague. ? and ? one is form Illinois and the other from Michigan. They both have graduated a year ago but were taking the year off.
They were fun but the whole night - we've been walking around in circles - trying to find cheap beer- trying to find a club - trying to find french fries etc.
In the end, we randomly stumbled into a club - it was pretty small but the music was good and there was a good crowd- pub crawl was there.. anyways for some reason - we got a free shot of something each... pretty awesome - maybe coz it was 1.20 a.m. by the time we got there and we still had to pay a cover charge of 5 Euros.
Back in the hostel, my room was full and I think I woke a couple people up when I got back at 3.30 a.m.
Monday, 9 June 2008
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Thies, my host had to work today and he's got a long and stressful day ahead - so we decided it would be better if I stayed at another couchsurfer's place
Host #6 would be Julia Marx - she had surfed a lot but never hosted. This is her first - again, I pressured to behave nicely as a guest - which can be hard sometimes.. but I try =)
I met up with her boyfriend, Alex to leave my stuff at his apartment. Julia had to go to college and won't be able to meet me till 8.30 at night. On the way there, I lost my subway ticket. And of course, the the men who checks ticket came - and I don't have my bloody ticket!
There were 3 of them and they weren't in uniforms. Anyways, I had to get out at the next station, thinking I could get away with just buying another ticket. No, it was a 40 Euro fine. Great!
When I told Julia about it, she was like you could have just pretended you don't speak English and get away with it!!
Could've, would've, should've
At night, I met up with Julia, her friend, also another couchsurfer, Connie, Alex and his friend, also Alex. It was a good time. I had a pint of Berliner, then we went to a Spanish bar and had some snack and another drink. The subway stops running at 1 a.m. in the weekdays... so we had to hurry back to Alex's apartment and get my things, then rush to Julia's aparment.
I was tired at the end of the day.
Anyways, at first the subway map was a little confusing - but thanks to the help of my first hot-German-guy encounter, I found my way to Sudstern metro stop.
I don't remember his name but that encounter was the first of many hot Germans. Honestly I've never heard that German guys are hot... I was really surprised... pleasantly surprised... lol
It was Thies' first couchsurfing experience - I was a little pressured because I didn't want to scare him away from hosting more.. but anyways - he's a journalist for Spiegal online and he did a story on Couchsurfing last year! What a cool way to find out about it!
His apartment is just around the corner from the subway station in Kreusberg - which is really convenient. It's a cute little apartment and he has cool artwork and quirky stuff all over the place... that apartment definitely has character...
It was about 1.30 a.m. and we were still chatting...about life... well I don't remember really - then, he taught me how to make this amaying sandwich - with hot mustard, German cheese, ham, ketchup, corn and tomatoes. S0o0o goood!!!!! and a glass of red wine with it, of course!
By the time I was in bed, it was 3 a.m. He kept insisting that the couch was too short for everybody - I managed to prove him wrong. I fit perfectly in it - Yeah I know, I'm short!
In the morning, I went to the Burdenburg Gate - and there was a huge carnival goin on, the Holocaust Memorial, Potsdamer Plats - which is a really building with stores and the Sony Center in it - there were a lot of cool cafes in the area too! Then I went to the DDR Musuem - I think that was the best museum I've ever been to in my life! It was like being in a scene in "Blast from the Past" with actually setting of a living room during the DDR period, real stuff that people used and just really interactive ways in learning about the history ...
I was going to go to the Museum Islands but it was a lil late for that... I hung around for a little bit and head home... Oh how can I forget this? I had the most amaying ice-cream here in Berlin and it's so cheap too!!
For dinner, Thies brought me to this place and I got a Schwarma dish. It was so0o0 gooood!!! It's a turkish dish with chicken and vegetables - wait for the pictures!!! and a Jever beer, which was brewed in his hometown, up in the north of Germany.
Then we went to the Oberbaum bridge and met another couchsurfer, Sebastien. He seems to be a really cool guy - We went to Yaams, a beach bar by the river. It was perfect! the weather was warm, the wind was blowing and the stars were out. The only thing missing was the moon.
Then, he went on asking if I was traveling alone... and gave me this whole spiel about how dangerous it is for a girl to travel alone ... then, he took this to a racial issue... how being of a Chinese descent, it's so irresponsible of me to just set out on my own... how my parents should be devastated... blah blah blah.
What has race got to do with this????
He mentioned about some British girl who got raped and killed in Goa, India .. and that that case was only a small percentage of what really happens to young girls who travel alone... really, mister-I-know-it-all ... you're saying that even walking in the streets in Malaysia that for sure I won't get raped and killed? That if I walk in the streets in America, I won't get shot at? Be realistic now. I honestly have no idea what kind of bubble he thinks his daughters are in.
Really now? I'm sure he had the best intention but really... I thought it was really disrespectful of him to even use that intonation and say all these things to me... he added the in Greece "like in Malaysia" in families it's very patriarchal...how the father should the one most respected... I asked him "Sir, what century are you living in?"
It was rude, no doubt about it... but this man has got to WAKE UP!! anyways, he said if his daughter did something like this (traveling alone) he would have taken to first flight to whereever she was and wring her neck.
Boy am I glad I wasn't related to him!