Arriving in Pittsburgh

I still can’t believe that more than 30 people came to bid me farewell. I felt so shy, honoured and appreciated. They were my care group mates, my video department friends, my NS friends, my previous church buddies, and my NUS friends. Thanks to everyone who came! I also made a short speech and said that it is amazing how we are such a big church yet we have such kingdom friendships in a small setting. It is truly amazing and brings a sad yet happy smile to your face when you step through the immigration.

The 30-hour flight seemed never ending. Tried not to sleep on the first leg but ended up taking naps because some of the movies were too boring. It didn’t help that the screen on the 747s are the older ones and hence smaller and dimmer. But the SIA food was good, really good and huge portions. The second leg after Frankfurt was good as it was quite empty, and we could lie down on the seats and sleep. The few hours layover at JFK was boring, at an airport that has nothing much to do. Although I just discovered that the Delta terminal now has iPads for internet surfing, which is a great improvement. The 1-hour flight to PIT was interesting, felt like in a private small jet.

As expected, Pittsburgh is cold. The last time I experienced such cold winter was when I was touring NY with Josh. But Pittsburgh is colder as it goes below 0 degrees Celsius. The first few days was mild, but it began to snow and get colder, to -10 deg. I didn’t felt long johns were useful in the past, but now I think they are useful (although I still prefer not to wear them as it is too hot when indoors in school). But the weather is kinda irregular as well, there are some days it rained instead of snow, and then the next day it becomes a sunny 10-15 deg like California. Quite amazing. Snow is quite fun, haven’t seen so thick snow, but shoveling snow isn’t fun.

It took us like 3-4 days to find apartments as this is the low-key season. We had to make many calls and only managed to tour 3 different apartments and decided on the best one. Although for all of them, it is at least a 20-min walk to school. But nevertheless, it is still better to stay near school as the public transport here is horrible, unreliable, and infrequent. The one we chose has 3 bedrooms, just nice for 3 of us, and has washing machine in the house, which is very convenient. And the unit number is 3355, triple triple grace grace! Settling in took us 1-2 days, as we had to drive to IKEA and Walmart to buy our furniture and groceries, it’s like buying a whole house of stuff from the departmental store. When we finally could sleep on our own bed in our own room instead of the hotel, it was a sign of relief.

Also, I had a cold and sore eyes in the first week, probably due to my body adjusting to the weather. The sore eyes infection caused mucus to clog up my eyes every morning, and it was very uncomfortable. Thank God it is gone now. My eyes shall not grow dim nor my strength abated!

Pittsburgh is a pretty boring city compared to other cities I have visited. My relatives keep telling me that they want to visit me some day, then I always tell them there’s nothing much to do here. I was right, there is really nothing much to do here, even though this is USA most “livable” city. The downtown is pretty dead at night, although there were many theatres and they try to bring in some broadway plays. There’s supposed to be some nightlife in the Southside, but doesn’t seem to be as happening. There’s a few attractions, but most of them are not that interesting or large. The only time I saw downtown crowded was when there was an open house of art galleries. And there are no subway train systems, only a lousy “T” LRT train which doesn’t bring me to anywhere useful so far. The only cool thing about Pittsburgh is the Duquesne Incline and the wonderful views of the 3 rivers on Mount Washington. There’s also no Chinatown here, although there are still Chinese restaurants scattered around.

And about school! The Entertainment Technology Center, for some reason, is located in the middle of nowhere, although at a very scenic spot by the river. There’s like no amenities or FOOD nearby, although fortunately there’s some free dry food and snacks in our kitchen. Classes are really cool, with the legendary Randy Pausch’s Building Virtual Worlds, Visual Story (which is my favourite as it is about filmmaking), improvisational acting (like playing Who’s Line is it anyway), and fundamentals. The lecturers are very passionate, and the environment is very inspiring with many movie posters, props and all kinds of memorabilia around, from Star Wars to Harry Potter. There’s even Super Mario stickers in the toilet wall, and an irritating talking robot which greets you when you step out of the lift lobby. The only sad thing is the usual gender disproportion, and also there are too many computer science majors versus art-related majors, which sort of defeat the original purpose of putting left- and right-brain people together. However, Randy Pausch says, in the “dream-fulfillment factory”, you are not just learning how to make video games, but how to work with one another.

Thanks to BVW, looks like my weekends will always be burnt as deadlines are every Monday. I would definitely need this as my verse for the semeter:

He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

Exodus 35:31-33

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