Monday, 23 November 2020

To the end of the world & back [because we always go back]

Seeing that blogger changed some of its interface I thought I better post the thing I wrote a while ago before my computer breaks down as it is probably coming to the end of the western world as we know it


As much as I complain about travelling being overhyped, I still spend quite some time on it. Well, don’t get me wrong, tourism is overhyped. The way we approach it as spiritual journeys when all we do is laze around in some hotel and forget we have to go to work or make a living at all is just boasting. But it does not mean that there is not some trips, or some encounters that do give our life meaning or a different perspective.

There is two trips I remember as changing my view on life, what’s interesting is both were in 2018: one was in April 2018 when hitch-hiked from Tokyo to Nagoya with a newly-made friend and another was May 2018 to Malaysia.

The reason why Malaysia in 2018 was a special trip for me, was, well, for once, it was Borneo. I had thought a long time about going there. I remember hearing about Borneo during my studies and being incredibly fascinated by it. The whole trip felt a bit off to me.


First of all, when I was going to Kota Kinabalu from Bangkok, my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur was severely delayed and I had to wait more than 6 hours from what I remember. The next flight I could catch was packed (pretty sure the prior one was cancelled because almost not one was on the plane) - and I immediately fell asleep and couldn’t even get a decent view from the outside.


Tiga Island (I think), a day trip from Kota Kinabalu

As you see this is the proof that you can sell dirt to tourists, you just need to know how.

Flying to Sandakan was also strange, we were not allowed to have our phone on during the flight, which is why I could not take pictures of the beautiful view outside. I remember it as the most beautiful rain forest I have ever seen - but I can’t remember it in detail to be honest. This is why we take pictures and why they are so important to us, I suppose. We want to be reminded of that feeling we had.


Sandakan/Sepilok had a very strange vibe on its own. I could almost not get home at night from the Rainforest Conservation Centre - somehow it had gotten too late. But I was lucky and could catch a Grab (Asian Uber/Lyft). Walking through the forest itself was strange, I felt like I was mostly alone, though there were some people, at night there was almost no one.


Rainforest Conservation Centre

Walking through the streets felt weird, by chance I met two girls who were on the Jungle Photo-Safari Trip with me (I don’t even remember what it was called: we were in a jungle lodge and then on a boat in the river from which we took pictures of animals - also weird. First almost no one talked to me and then when I gave up on make up, they were all greeting me from the morning).

Either way the two girls said why don’t we check out the rooftop bar? It was in a hotel and quite nice but the hotel was also spookily empty. I had to call my hostel for them to let me inside at night because they would lock an iron gate in front of the regular door, and I had to ask them to let me inside later when I rang the bell.


We went „home“ each to their place shorty after midnight. The vibe was extremely strange, everything was closed early and the people who watched you were somehow not giving off a very friendly vibe - maybe curious, but not exactly friendly.

Later I found out tourists in this area had been abducted. Ah yes, typically me, I wouldn’t even that kind of thing unless someone in particular told me about it. I thought the double-locking (the iron gate) was just how things work here and it was somewhat interesting to me.


The constant possibility of „danger“ actually gave me a thrill on its own. But, the empty cities at night were also not very exciting in a way (of course on the other hand, they were). I got to know a Brazilian girl in the hostel and we watched a movie; one with Keanu Reeves (I swear his movies follow me on my travels for some reason) which was quite explicit and she did not seem to like it. The other one was fantasy which I did not like very much.


We had our flight to Kuala Lumpur the same day and the same time, that’s for some coincidence (no, probably just not a whole lot of flights). When I trying to get up from the seat on the plane, something was pulling me back down and I had a strange feeling in my stomach at that. It was the strap of my backpack that had slung under the seat’s arm rest. As I realized it, I undid the entanglement and went on.


In the hostel I was immediately greeted by a Philipino guy who said he was working there (which was a lie), and then I met two of the people again that I knew from the one day visit to Kuala Lumpur I made before: the hostel manager and a guy from Johor who had been staying in the hostel for quite some time. It was such a relaxed atmosphere, I still miss it.

These were both taken the night my phone got stolen


So, what made the trip special was that. And, the fact that I got my backpack stolen at night. Me being me I went out really late at night (11?) through the markets, to some bar, then around in the streets with someone, then back to the market close to the hostel, then back to the hostel - where they ripped my backpack off my shoulders on the motorcycle. The hostel manager was so kind - she heard me scream and ran out of the hostel and around the corner: she knew the motorcycle would take a longer turn around the road so she could possibly catch him running in the backstreet to cut him off, but it was too late. She later said that wanted to throw the broom she was carrying in front of the motorcycle haha. Also, that she knew the instant I screamed that something important was taken from me. She went so far as to ask me to get in the car with her and go after them to maybe see if they had thrown out my backpack somewhere and only taken the things of monetary value. And all the aftermath of that, she and the other guy that was staying at the hostel helped me so much that I was honestly do not even know how to ever repay that karma-wise. But I suppose I will get enough chances.


The interesting part was that I couldn’t sleep and eat much during that time but as I finally fell asleep, and then woke up after a few hours in the afternoon, I noticed a sudden downpour and the rain looked so.... amazing. Watching the rain outside through my hostel bed was such a ... humbling experience. I cannot explain in words how beautiful and real and refreshing it felt just to be in the moment and watch and feel what was happening. It put me back to earth. And I could not even take a picture of it but I remember I felt truly, really free. Free from most technology, free from money, free from worries. I started to wonder if that is what homeless people feel like. Is that why so many of them seem so happy?


My parents scoff at me when I say it was a truly freeing and good experience to have my things stolen - probably everyone would, if they had to send me money and take care of things for me. But it was. I am also very lucky and happy to have my dear friends Susi and Tina who helped me as I contacted them in this difficult time, and Susi even came to meet me at the Frankfurt airport so that I, in case I could not get any money through exchanging it, was able to borrow some from her and get back home by train with it.

Overall it was a very special experience I am thankful for, and I am most thankful for all the kind people that inhabit this earth and make it a better place for everyone.

By the way the hostel that I stayed at in Kuala Lumpur is called Paper Plane hostel. I remember it because they also had a restaurant/cafe called VCR next to it which had the best turkish eggs and a great view outside. Gosh I miss this! I am in no way paid for this review, I am mentioning it because this is all a true story.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Revelations, the invisible wall & the Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (Light Type) Review

In all the midst of the government induced "crisis", what are you doing, dear readers, besides the popular activities of toilet paper buying and netflixing?
Right, this is what I thought. Time to do what you love, time to get back your inner peace. Lazing around is also not so bad and you get the chance to explore awesome blogs and even read an academic paper here or there (although what I read was not related to my studies directly, I still felt... alive? Not productive, productiveness is such a pre-crisis thought hahah).

I was lucky to also stumble upon f.c.’s blog Simple Skincare Science and was absolutely in awe (someone give him a medical degree or at least an award please). There is so much info for people with troubled skin, it’s insane. So many theories and findings of medical papers are explained there that you will surely and easily learn a thing or two about skin care.

It starts like every other story: skin-deep

Truth is, at times I do happen to have terrible skin in winter, or generally in cold climates. Warm weather seems to do my skin good though. I have been to the dermatologist but since I mostly suffer minor outbreaks and, even though I still haven’t figured it out completely, some things break me out and some don’t, the dermatologist knows as little as me mostly when it comes to my skin. I got medication and that did not help me and I’ve had my fair share of other treatments and just got tired.
For some very strange reason, I bought a german toner (from Alverde, in dm) that someday almost completely cleared my face. Though I have to say I lived in a very "dry" apartment during that time and it was always very warm in it (lol, I know it sounds ridiculous but I swear a warm environment helps my skin).

When I moved to Japan to live for longer, I suffered from break outs that I only remember having in my younger years. That was mostly when I ran out of my cheap german toner and also tried new products for skin care, thinking I had "normal" clear skin, haha, yeah... no. I found out the hard way that I don’t and that the toner was my holy grail.
Still the winter weather in Japan outside of Hokkaido is the worst you can imagine because they do not have central heating (here is why I most strongly believe cold enviroment means big trouble for my skin - yes I do know how ridiculous that sounds given the fact I was born in Siberia but mind you, they have very good heating there).

It’s like searching for the one until you know what you want: a phase of trial and error

Yeah, come on, we’ve all been there in our early twenties. You don’t really know what you want. And even less so what you need. You might like that fancy products that everyone is raving about and it looks so shiny and popular but believe me: he, oh, I meant it is not the right for you.

We know so little about ourselves and in our daily life we get more and more out of touch with it. Only when we have time to rest, think, try to get to know ourselves without rushing, we give ourselves the love and time we deserve. Everyone talks about having a fulfilled life, but how can you be fulfilled if you do not know thyself? (Remember how Neo in The Matrix went to the Oracle and she hinted at the sign that says "Know thyself" in Latin? Yeah. That, first. And also the movies are awesome in general. Some genius ghostwriter must have been behind that.)

But back to the topic. I only found out a while ago that the oil cleanser I was using in Japan broke me out, though it was supposed to be one for sensitive skin with non-irritant ingredients only (the brand is called Arouge). The soap of that same brand wasn’t for me either, it just never felt right on my skin. It was very gentle, but maybe too gentle? Either that or there was just something that my skin was not okay with (I still have to go to the ingredients of the cleansers - though I do currently still use one of the gels and it doesn’t seem to give me outbreaks on its own).

In Japan I mostly just gave up after a while. I thought it was also my diet (partly true), but there was so many things that seemed to influence it that I lost track.

Since I came back to Germany, it was on and off but mostly the same until I tried looking more into it and I recently started using the Alverde toner again.
Before that I even tried Paula’s Choice a while ago (the liquid BHA exfoliants mostly), and it did not work for me, Simple Skincare Science also had a post about this. My breakouts got worse! It felt my skin got more inflammed where there was spots and at times itchy.

Please don’t try this at home. Or at least be extra careful.

Once you know what you need, you will keep looking for it and trying to make it work

Let’s be real here, all love is like that. And self-love comes first in our world of individualism. What worked for me was switching to Clinique (Take the Day off Cleansing Balm), though Clinique’s Moisture Surge is NIGHTMARE for me.
Mind you though, I can’t use most "fatty creams": it’s either a gel-like moisturizer or something like pure vaseline I can use, but not the mix that would be like most Nivea-type creams. Which means, most sunscreens break me out, too.
Ironically Moisture Surge has a gel-like texture. I don’t even want to go through all the ingredients to find out what it is, but sooner or later I will have to.

What’s funny is that even the overhyped Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar water gave me troubles: my skin became red on the cheeks after a while of using it (isn’t that funny? I usually did not have redness and it gave me that - though it was supposed to take it away when you have it!).
Eye make-up remover worked better for me when I used it on the whole face, but yet, here again, all Japanese branded eye make-up removers I tried gave me bumps on the skin! Now I make sure to stock up on the German/European make-up remover products when going there.

Long story short, if I learned one thing from Simple Skincare Science and all my trial and error the like, then it is that I should simplfy my skin care and limit products and ingredients. And as I saw a review of Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion on that blog, I checked the ingredients and saw that there is a light version that I then ordered.

Showdown: Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (Light)

Isn’t it ironic that I wanted to try this while I was in Japan but back then I thought it’s Methylparaben that breaks me out (only thing in Japanese eye make-up removers that I thought could break me out)? I thought it would just  end in one more failed trial. Well, that’s how life goes.

What’s inside? I want to start here by listing the ingredients which are only slightly different from the regular version. During my time in Japan I hated looking through the ingredients lists but after some time I just got used to googling the English name (though it does take some time to find the name of certain ingredients).

Ingredients (in the same order as they appear on the Japanese package, so you can guess the percentage):
DPG (Dipropylene Glycol)
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid (Nanoized Hyaluronic Acid)
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate (Super Hyaluronic Acid [yes, it really says that])
Sodium Hyaluronate
Disodium Succinate
PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether Distearate
Succinic Acid

From what I can tell so far it did not give me breakouts and it does seem to give a bit of moisture, even though not much. It is probably the amount you are looking for if you are looking to layer products. I put it on the part of my skin that had a healed off breakout and it was fine, maybe gave it a bit more moisture but no dramatic change. But that’s all I was expecting and I put a layer of the Arouge gel on top for additional moisture.

Actually, that was my review already. Simple ingredients, simple review, no scent (only an "ingredient"-scent) and I like it that way. Isn’t it just so nice when everything is clear?

Did you have experiences with Hada Labo or other Japanese brands? I find it really hard to find "the good products" so I would love to hear your experiences.
I also bought the Hyaluronic Acid Foam Facewash, which seemed also a bit harsh for me so I will try to limit the use. I still have to find a soap that does not turn my cheeks red, give me breakouts, and is affordable (I have found one in Japan but it’s a bit pricey to order from Germany).
Until we find our skin care holy grails, let’s support each other and our skin as best as we can.

Info: I was not paid for this review, and I did the translation of the product ingredients myself. I will also try to update this review if the effect changes for me.

EDIT: This did break me out as I feared before :/

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

I have always asked for this - and no one really got me [until they made Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (mostly spoiler-free)]

Yes. Yes, you got that right. I am going to talk about my favourite game of all time because I think this title gets way too little credit - because most people perhaps just don’t get it. But I don’t blame them. They probably also don’t eat sea urchin because they don’t get how exquisite that is.
A long time ago, there was once a game-changing game (Original Deus Ex)
Well, first things first: a long long time ago (I think I was 10 years old back then), there was the original Deus Ex. Apparently people loved it and it was a game changer back in 2000, probably much like The Matrix, with that upcoming heavy sci-fi/conspiracy theme that got popular back then. Oh, let’s not forget another of my favourite movies back then: Ghost in the Shell.
Watch the game on youtube now and it is not really spectacular. Means it did not age as well as let’s say Mass Effect 1 (though the latter is much more recent).
Still, the topics in the game are huge and the freedom you are given when fulfilling your tasks make you feel like you are an actual agent of a huge organization.
There was a sequel called Deus Ex: Invisible War, which was not very popular among fans of the original Deus Ex. However, like very few others, I find the story and the whole theme of the game got a step deeper and more detailed with the sequel (actually currently watching it - damn, female Alex D. is quite cute).  
You can’t kill progress (not really, but let's just keep that)
Fast forward many years (and a little pre-prequel? named Deus Ex: The Fall) later, Deus Ex is reborn with the prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution and following years later, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
I cannot explain in words how advanced Deus Ex: Mankind Divded is. Literally there is only one tiny thing (or maybe two) that annoyed me with the game, which really do no impact its greatness. I do encourage everyone to play this game just for the superior experience created and want to give several praises to the makers of this supreme masterpiece (no, I am not paid for this. I wish I was, I could be paid in Deus Ex goodies).
Gunplay is amazing, fun and there is nothing quite like it
Now let me get this straight: Deus Ex is mostly a stealth game, and I suppose it is recommended to play it this way. However, there is a mission where you have a bit of gun training and let me tell you - I was in awe at this. Never have I felt that cool shooting a gun and seeing it run through enemies like butter (Armour Piercing Ammo), and it never felt as smooth in any other game - but hey, here I have to say that is probably also due to the cybernetic weapon handling (augmentation).

Make sure to try all the delicious ice cream flavours, or in this case, augs
Brings me to the next reason why this game is amazing. Augs (augmentations) are your best friend. While augmentations give you the opportunity to enhance your body functions (like, jumping higher or carrying a little gun in your underarm that fires shots of blades or EMPs), your options are limited because you can only activate these enhancements with experience. So you have to choose wisely.
And believe me, it’s as hard as choosing an ice cream flavour when most of them look good. While you are feeling unsure which enhancements to try, you try one by one - and, as in my metaphor, you keep coming back for the other ice cream flavours to try them all out.
In my first playthrough, I was unsure which augs to choose. It took a long time for me to try the augs out with following playthroughs. I can tell you, I felt a lot like a child in an ice cream store. I kept coming back for more. And that is the genius part of this game - only during my second or third playthrough I understood that certain augs activated during the early chapters of the game give you a different game experience (not going to spoiler here, but ask me about this if you are curious).
A world of consequences and mistakes - just like the real world (but better, the real world 2.0)
Brings me right to my next point: this game is so much and so huge. In every corner lurks information about some citizen or character in the game. Or about the world of the Augmented/Non-Augmented people. About the whole political and social situation. Talk about world-building!
Best thing of it, you influence this world with your decision. And whole scenes play out differently depending on how you treat people! It’s about „embracing who you became“, as Adam Jensen, the protagonist would say - or in this case, accepting the decisions you have made. (Don’t get me wrong, some decisions you make will suck if you play it first without any prior warning but you can still do some things to turn them around.)

You live and breathe augmented Agent Adam Jensen
You are Agent Jensen, from the very beginning and, Jensen, you better get your shit together and do your job and don’t go crazy and don’t complain too much.
Yeah, yeah, such worn-out dialogues and these little speeches could be better - but honestly, it’s just how people would talk and react being in a team with him. You could still choose to ignore side missions and just be like: „none of my business“ (aka "I didn't ask for this"). But you are Agent Jensen, and you want to make things done wrong right. And this is the action RPG I was always waiting for, and I am sure a lot of (or at least some) others were waiting for it, too. You are this more than human-person and you finally have the powers and authority to change things in the world. Who the hell wouldn’t want to be in this role for once?
Forget about all those Red Dead Redemption/GTA-like „questionable choices“, where you can play out your vices. You can do something good for once. You can make it right.
Amazing characters, details and OST
On top of that, you have a whole set of main characters, which stories you can look into during your play (discover their lives). It has a detective kind of aspect in it, which you can choose to ignore if you want, but you will miss out on the details of the awesome characters which gives the story a whole lot of depth.
What touched me deeply about this game is just the amazing details: the OST gives you all the feels. It got me from kind of depressed in the beginning to further and further excited. It really ignited a fire in my heart as I progressed but it took me a long time to get into it. Never played anything as immersive.
Apart from the OST, there was more and more things I discovered on my following playthroughs that I did not discover before - and I also saw how the stories of minor characters in the games connected. It showed itself to me in my head as a giant interrelated community web (check the e-mails on hackable computers!), as if there was some sort of destiny and control in all of it. This is what the NSA workers must feel like (haha).

A gem like no other
Really, if you love the depth of games, this game is for you. I cannot recommend it enough. The game is short, but the more you explore on your following playthroughs, the deeper it gets. And it can't get much deeper than this. It’s like a small but deep crystal lake, just waiting for you to dive into it and become absorbed in the crystal clear and calm water.
I can only give it a rating of 99/100. Months, and probably years after this game, the bitter-sweet aftertaste will still linger with me and I wonder if I will ever find a gem like that again. Though this is not a love story, this is the story of the love of my life (of all video games).
Did you enjoy my paragraphing style here? I tried to adapt it to what I found easy to read when I read articles online, so I wanted to try this out. Always happy to hear feedback - and even more so your own Deus Ex or other game experiences :)
And check out this amazing announcement trailer if you don’t mind a few minor spoilers (and careful, some damn near perfect voice acting ahead).

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

"always" chasing your dreams - what is life about?

Let me tell you one thing, readers. One life advice if you are like me and think „ain’t no shame in looking for a better world“ (as said Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2; incredibly dark game by the way, and it’s hard to set the lightness to something brighter and easier on the eyes).

Life is and will always be greener on the other side.

Oh, you know that already, is what you say. Yeah, I know. But few people actually realize what that means (I am one of those who did not get it until just recently). It means: you will always be looking for something better somewhere else. Always. It’s a mindset. You will think of that time you spent during your travels and how you want to go back to it. You will think of a long left home or lover. You will think of a former work place even. Raise your hand if you are not guilty, will you?

And you will think of a life that you have never lived. Why do we crave new experiences so much that we think they are worth leaving everything we have? It’s like chasing the American dream over and over. Grazing, grazing and then leaving for a new place to graze more. Then maybe realizing there is nothing to graze. Are we all nomads maybe?

But don’t go. Don’t go if you are not ready to encounter disappointment and having much less than you have now - and being ready to crave what you have right now in this moment. Because you will, you will crave what you had. You will crave the security that you have right now later, or you will crave the sense of adventure later if you have it now. Can we ever free ourselves from these cravings of destroying our own lives?

The real question is maybe: when will we live the lives that Eckhart Tolle tells about?