Exploration Beyond the Bubble

My situation is much more relaxed now, especially regarding food. I have a stronger idea of what foods to eat everyday. Since my time is much more limited than if I had lived at home, I have focused on eating these three daily meals. First, I eat bread with marmalade, and tea in the morning for breakfast. Then, I eat food from Mensa, Ruhr’s dining hall after class in the morning (Monday-Thursday classes run from 0900-1200 for me). The food available at the dining hall consists of German cultural food like schnitzel, sausages, rice, potatoes, and pasta. Despite being cheap (a meal costs less than 5 euros), their food does not taste good. Finally, I eat food that I cook on the weekends for dinner. I thought that this would be the best strategy for me since I may not have time during the week to cook food or I may feel tired after coming home from school to make anything. Since I am also a beginner cook, I have followed a simple Indian curry chicken recipe listed here. It involves cooking Indian style curry chicken without using coconut oil which is what my mother does at home. I had cooked curry chicken for the first time last week using that link but I added too many cardamoms (elaichi, the Bengali word we use to describe them at home) which added a bitter taste to my chicken. Nevertheless, I enjoyed eating my chicken for dinner throughout this week.

I also forgot to mention my two roommates, Ethan and Mouhamed, in previous blog posts. Ethan is a drama major from Ireland and Mouhamed is a language major from Italy. I get along well with both individuals and enjoy hearing about their experiences from their respective nations. Last week, Mouhamed also made vegan dinner (he’s a vegan) for me before he left to Italy which I greatly enjoyed and now I am hoping to make some vegan Bengali food for him before I leave. That will be quite challenging since I am so used to eating meat.

During my second attempt at making Bengali chicken curry (as seen in Figure 1) on Saturday, 21APR18, I added significant variations to the recipe listed on this website. I added four potatoes, five tomatoes, three carrots, three medium sized onions, four garlic cloves, three handfuls of cilantro, and a rich mixture of different spices: cardamoms, bay leaves, garlic powder, garam masala, curry powder, and turmeric powder. I also tried learning to cut cabbage so I could add it to this giant mixture of food. As I added them to the cooking pot, I realized there were too many ingredients in the pot especially after more than 1 kg of chicken was added (I’m on that metric system now!) so I excluded the majority of the cabbage from the pot. Unfortunately, I didn’t have ginger garlic paste, which is what South Asians generally add to their cooking. I ignored this issue and I considered these ingredients because they are some of what my mom uses at home to cook Bengali food. I added my interesting variations because I love eating thick curries with a bunch of different vegetables that make me feel great eating them. Additionally, I wanted to prepare enough food for a week since I will be traveling to Zurich, Switzerland this weekend. Despite my initial issues, the final batch of food was much more improved than my first attempt at making curry chicken a week earlier. During the next time I cook this food, I will make sure to add a larger amount of spices and see if there is space available in the pot to add more vegetables.


Figure 1: A much more improved curry chicken than last week. However, I need someone else’s opinion because although I think it tastes good, someone else might not.

Besides cooking, my German class was cancelled on Wednesday, 18APR18, so I went with my Italian roommate to the Botanical Garden of Ruhr University Bochum. At the Botanical Garden, we saw plants from regions across the world like bamboos and even exotic animals like frogs. There was also a cool Chinese temple (Figure 2 shows a photo of the Chinese temple at Ruhr) with Koi (one seen in Figure 3), and Asian plants and wildlife. It was fascinating to see that a university had its own biological area that hosted such wildlife for the public to view nature. I wish something like this area existed at Drexel but since it is in a city, it would likely be impossible for it to have an area solely for biological plants and wildlife.


Figure 2: China in Bochum. This was an interesting temple to navigate through and I would love to examine other sites in Germany with wildlife.


Figure 3: Koi! There were a bunch of them at this temple.

During the week, I realized one major characteristic of myself. I spent my entire life primarily focused on my education so I have neglected improving other important skills like cooking or social networking. That means that I haven’t really been exploring Bochum or other areas during my time here because I am mostly focused on completing my work. I had an insightful conversation with another Bochum study abroad participant in which I tried explaining this issue. In response, she said that it was important for me to travel outside my bubble or else I would risk not understanding that life extends beyond school and also risk weak social connections. Her advice to me definitely helped me consider the importance of doing other activities other than school and homework. This discussion encouraged me to seek these activities during my third week and beyond, and prevent myself from feeling left out of different activities.

Hours after the conversation, I decided that it was time to climb a little bit outside of my bubble. I ate at another restaurant called Mississippi with a few other Bochum study abroad program participants on Thursday, 26APR18. This bar was located in a section of Bochum Hauptbanhof called the Bermuda Triangle, which has a collection of shops and restaurants ranging from doner shops to traditional bar and grills. Unfortunately, we waited nearly two hours for our food to arrive and another forty minutes for us to consume our food. My friend thought this may have been because we were Americans but I completely disagreed because there was no evidence to prove that assumption. Furthermore, this place was also extremely busy and busy restaurants don’t tend to have the fastest service. Additionally, I have also heard from other Europeans and friends that Europeans tend to spend more than two hours eating and talking at restaurants so people tend to stay long after they have eaten. This may delay waiters from cleaning tables and responding to the next patrons. Although the food was good despite the delay, it was not worth the two hour wait and I will likely not return to the bar next time.

On Friday, 20APR18, we had our first chemical engineering lab. I came in thinking that it would be exciting to complete but we were met with a thirty minute interrogation from my lab TA that questioned us on the items we read in the protocol the day before for the lab. Embarrassingly, I did not remember what I read for the first part of the questions but I remembered answers to the second part of the questions. The lab was also challenging because the TA gave us verbal instructions rather than written ones so I was not sure what to do sometimes. Finally, I concluded my Friday at a party in Mensa, a dining hall at Ruhr, since I decided that would help me relieve the stress of a long week. Interestingly, Ruhr seems very accepting of parties hosted on their campus and provides security for these events. I left around 1500 with some other friends and decided that I was done for the week. I hope to spend the remainder of my time in Bochum studying hard but also enjoying my time once in a while because school should not consume my life.



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