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I am still suffering from the withdrawal of last weekend. The whole trip was an adventure. It was my first time travelling solo to States and within the first couple of hours of my journey, I already had the experience of my life. My ride out of London was a small plane, almost looking like my own private jet!

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The ride was a quick one to Toronto and it was one of the most pleasant plane rides I have had. A Grandpa sat beside me and he struck up a conversation when he noticed my Singaporean passport. It is how it is here, everyone here is so friendly. A total stranger can just come talking to you while waiting for the bus at the bus stop or even while walking on the street, commenting on the weather, wishing you a good day…anything! That’s one thing I like about Canadians. The Grandpa and I talked through the journey and I found out that he was heading to Arizona – his winter escapade – and that he was semi-working at a company building bridges around the world! Somehow this little conversation made my almost-perfect day better. Talking to a stranger on a plane – checked!

Why ‘almost-perfect’ you might think. Here comes the epic part. I missed my connecting flight to Denver from Toronto! It didnt occur to me that crossing the US borders would take that long! (should have known and learnt when I went to Buffalo that Americans are inefficient dang) I arrived at Toronto thinking I had more than enough time to grab a bite for lunch and I even fiddled with the new Blackberry Z10 on display at the airport. I should have just headed straight to the customs after eating, what in the world was I thinking. It took me 40 mins to clear the customs and the bag check. By the time I was over to the US side, the plane had already left for 10 mins. I almost died of panic attack waiting to clear the borders. Every possible question just ran through my mind, “What if I have to buy another flight?” “What if there is no more flight today!?” ” What if I have to sleep at airport? I dont want to spend my night at the airport, tried once, it was horrible” “What if I cant make it in time for the tournament?!” I was probably wearing a perpetual frown on my face throughout that 40 mins of waiting and the people around me must have thought that I just had the worst day of my life. THANKFULLY, the airline staff got me transferred to another flight 3 hours later to my destination via SanFran, which meant that I would arrive at Palm Springs close to midnight. It was really a blessing (in disguise). I could make it in time for the tournament! And because of the flight to San Fran, I flew past Vegas and managed to catch a glimpse of the beautiful city at night. It was amazing and it truly lives up to being the brightest city in the world.

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I would never get an aerial view of it if I had flown to Denver. So missing a flight – checked!

Arriving at Palm Springs was too surreal. I was so tired after spending my whole day flying to places and making sure I didnt miss any flight again that I was just sleep walking around the airport. But the fatigue immediately went away when I saw a familiar shadow walking toward my direction, it was D! It was indeed so good to see familiar faces. I could imagine myself running up to the friends and hugging them. Happiness level just rose to sky high when I met them at the airport where they came to pick me up. So the western Americanized SSMers brought me to try the all-time famous In-N-Out hamburgers with grilled onions which W strongly recommended and stood by. “Best burgers in town” said he. In-N-Out – checked!

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We spent the weekend mainly at the tennis garden and it was the best sporting experience yet, despite the crazily hot days and cold nights (Indian Wells is a desert)! I managed to catch pro tennis action LIVE and although I didnt get to see my man Fed play, the splendid company made it up for everything else. It was great cheering together for Nadal while D had his own mind on Delpo. It was satisfying to be enjoying our In-N-Out burgers and fries together after a long day without a proper lunch. It was fun teasing if A or D snored the loudest at night. It was hilarious sneaking slices of bread from the hotel buffet to the tennis garden illegally because our whole Singaporean kiasu-ism just showed that it hadnt left us even though we may be thousands of miles away. It was funny when all of us tiptoed away when A dozed off, to the other side of the stadium and found him looking lost and confused upon waking up. It was wonderful catching up on our exchange experiences and having a mini SSM gathering in States. It was comforting having something/someone familiar nearby when all else seemed so foreign. It was definitely more than amazing that this whole experience actually happened when A, D and I started talking about it since Sept last year! Time really flew. Pro tennis live – checked!

It felt refreshing to spend time away, though short, from the snow and cold and immerse myself in a whole new environment – a desert (drastic change of environments I must say and the mountains were breathtaking!). Goodbyes were definitely difficult at the airport, but I am sure we would all agree that this unique SSM experience is one of the highlights in exchange and will be remembered in the years to come.

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From that weekend, I got a lot tanner and happier. Sunglasses tan FTW.

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It is exactly one month from now til the end of school. I am stoked for the adventures to come but also wonder how I would feel when I actually pack up and leave this place. The day of moving into 910 is still fresh in my head when everything felt so alien then – the weather, the people, the food, school, the way of living. Now that I am getting used to the environment, the pace of life, the housiez…I actually like how it is now and I think I will miss all of these when all come to an end.

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