First week in Chiang Mai!

BLUElab Thailand

In my junior year at Michigan I decided to join an engineering project team known as BLUElab Thailand – an organization that focuses on human centered design and sustainable development. Throughout the school year project team members met on a weekly basis to prepare for our needs assessment trip by conducting background research of the specific region and understanding various components of design ethnography.

The BLUElab Thailand team was established in Spring of 2016, where a group of students traveled to Thailand and formed partnerships with Chiang Mai University’s to identify the needs of a target community. In this case Mae Chan village – a district in Chiang Rai, was selected due its proximity to Chiang Mai and the community leaders’ positive response to Dr.Paskorn’s work on flash flood detection system throughout the region.

After meeting up with Dr.Paskorn and his team of grad students at OASYS lab (Optimization Theory…

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Die Vergangenheitsbewältigung

Im Sommer 2016 arbeite ich in Deutschland als Praktikant bei ZF. Der Autoteilehersteller befindet sich in Friedrichshafen, eine stadt in der südwestdeutschen Region Baden–Württemberg und ist bekannt für die Forchung und Entwicklung in der Automobilindustrie. Tatsächlich war das die beste Sommer meines Lebens, wo mein größtes persönliches Wachstum in Bezug auf Reife und Kommunikationsfähigkeit erreicht wurde. Der atemberaubende Blick auf dem Bodensee und die verschneiten Gipfel der Schweizer Alpen gegenüber konnte nur durch etwas aus einem Märchen beschrieben werden. Unabhängig von dem Praktikum, was mich wirklich beeinflusst hat, nach Deutschland zu reisen, war auf ein wichtiges Ereignis in der Vergangenheit zurückzuführen, das mich bis heute tiefgreifend beeinflusst hat. Als Ergebnis nach dem Ende meines Praktikums kehrte ich nach Leipzig zurück, um den Friedhof zu besuchen und meinen Respekt vor einer verstorbenen Freundin zu zeigen.

Ich kann mich an die Nacht erinnern, als ich im Januar 2014 über den plötzlichen Tod meiner Freundin Johanna erfuhr. In diesem Moment erstarrte ich in eine Ewigkeit, wo ich war, in einer Art Schock, versuchte zu entscheiden, was ich sagen sollte. Tief in mir fühlte ich mich, als hätte etwas in tausend Stücke zerbrochen. Ich schwieg weiter, als das Gefühl der tiefen Trauer und Taubheit auf mich stieg.  Nichts was ich sagen könnte sie wieder zum Leben. Oftmals starrte und starrte ich an die Wand oder ausdruckslos ins Leere, während ich versuche, einen Sinn für die harte Wirklichkeit.  Für eine Weile, wusste ich nicht, wie ich im Leben weiter gehen sollte, sogar unter eine Menge fühlte ich mich mehr denn je verloren und einsam. Trotzdem fand ich bald einen Weg, meine Angst durch Ausdauersport zu kanalisieren. Ich war taub auf die körperlichen Schmerzen und deswegen würde ich lange Stunden tranieren, um mich abzulenken. Statt nach Hilfe zu fragen, lief ich weg von der Wahrheit, während ich versuche, mein Gefühl zu Unterdrücken. Aber schließlich erkenne ich, dass weglaufen nicht die Antwort ist. Um mein Leben weiter zu gehen, muss ich das Leben meiner Freundin ehren und die Errinnerungen, die ich von ihr habe, schätzen.

Es war Vorfrühling 2013, als ich Johanna durch mein Gymnasium Austauschprogramm in Leipzig, kennen lernte. Nach einer Woche des Reisens zu allen atemberaubende Orte wie Dresden, Sanssouci, und Leipzig, und Berlin wuchsen wir enger und enger zusammen. Wir verbanden über unsere Liebe für klassischen Musik und reden über unsere Hoffungen, unseren Traum, und größte Angst. Tragisch, kann ich noch deutlich erinnern, dass ihre größte Angst allein zu sterben war und meine war die Angst vor ein unerfülltes Leben. Es gab so viele magische Momente, die wir teilten, aber meine Liebslinggedächtnis an ihr war, im März als wir in den Park, der heißt Johannapark gingen. Als wir spazierten, begann es zu schneien und aus dem Impul tanzten wir über die Winterlandschaft. Es ist Moment wie diese, die ich für den Rest meines Lebens schätzen werde. Vielleicht ist der Sinn des Lebens durch die Wertschätzung der kleinen Dinge und auch durch die Handlungen der Liebe und die Ehrlichkeit abgeleitet. Ebenso lehrte Johanna mich, was es bedeutet, mitfühlend zu sein und bedingungslos zu lieben.

Johanna wollte Arzt werden und das Leben der Menschen retten. Aber dieser Tag wird nie kommen. Manchmal verstehe ich nicht warum unser Leben einen bestimmten Verlauf nimmt.  Aber so ist das Leben. Das Beste, was ich tun kann, ist, mein Leben in vollen Zügen zu leben und die wertvolle Erinnerungen festzuhalten. Meine besucht auf dem Friedhof im Jahr 2016 brachte mich zwar dem Frieden näher. Aber wie ein zerbrochenes Glas, das zusammengeklebt wird, bleibt der Sprung noch. „Manchmal sind die einsamsten Menschen die freundlichsten. Die trauigsten Menschen lächeln am schönsten. Die Menschen mit den größten Problemen sind am verständnisvollsten. All das, weil sie sich wünschen, dass niemand so leidet, wie sie selbst“ – Anonym.

 

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Ein Neuanfang des Lebens

Rhabdomyolyse, Hitzschlag, Anfall, erhöhte Troponin – konzentration, Fieber und akute Nierenschädigungen waren die Diagnose bei meiner Ankunft im Krankenhaus nach dem Unfall während einer Triathlonmeisterschaft in South Carolina. Eine mögliche Erklärung für den Anfall und meine plötzliche Bewusstlosigkeit war ein Zusammenbruch wegen der Hitze und der Intensität der Anstrengung. Einen Moment lief ich schnell und war nur ein Kilometer weg von der Ziellinie und im nächsten Moment war alles dunkel. Als ich mein Bewusstsein widergewann, war meine Umgebung wie der Film die Matrix wo alles komplett weiß ist und fühle mich surreal an. Ich hörte dann ein Echo, „Tay weißt du wo du bist?“ Aber aus irgendeinem Grund wurde meine Sprache behindert und was ich sagen wollte, erschien unsinnig  und zwar war mein Gehirn buchstäblich gebraten. Es war als ob, ich in einem Nebel stecken geblieben wäre, bewusst aber nicht in der Lage, mein Körper zu befehlen. Das Einzige in meinem Kopf war dann der Gedanke, ob ich ein gutes Rennen fuhr. Aber im Nachhinein realisierte ich wie selbstsüchtig das war, und dass es so viele Leute wie meine Familie und Freunde gibt, die sich wirklich um mich kümmern.

Während des ganzen Wettbewerbs gehe ich bis an die Grenze meiner Leistungsfähigkeit, weil ich das Gefühl hatte, dass ich mir etwas beweisen musste. Vielleicht war es die Furcht vor Inkompetenz, die ich nicht ertragen kann und hat mich bis zu diesem Punkt des Wahnsinns geführt. Während der letzten Hälfte des Rennens befand ich mich in einer Welt voller Schmerzen, so dass ich mich meine Beine nicht mehr fühle. Ferner war der Tag so heiß, dass ich der aufsteigende Dampf aus dem Asphalt sehen konnte. Als Ergebnis gehen viele Wassestelle aus Wasser, damit ich mich mit Eis abkühlen musste. Trotz des Schmerzes und der glühenden Hitze ginge ich weiter, während ich mir sagte, das ich „sterben“ kann, wenn ich nur die Ziellinie erreiche, was ich jetzt für ironich halte.

Nach einer Woche im Krankenhaus und mehr als zweihundert Injektionen von Bluttest, lebe ich noch! Wegen der Rhabdomyolyses, ein Untergang von Muskelzellen, war ich auf den Rollstuhl angewiesen und hatte mehr als 6 Kilogramm verloren. Nie zuvor war ich in solchen ständigen Schmerzen, die mit den kleinsten Bewegungen verursacht wurde. Manchmal wurde ich von den Wolken der Zweifel umgeben, ob ich den Sport, den ich liebe, wieder tun werde. Doch in der tiefsten, dunkelsten Tiefe des Schmerzens liegt auch die Hoffnung. In der Dunkelheit war ich nie allein. Nach dem Unfall hatten viele Freunde von mir und die Triathlonmannschaft mich im Krankenhaus besucht. Ohne die Unterstützung meiner Freunde hätte ich es nie zusamenhalten können – geistig oder körperlich. Dieser Unfall hat tatsächlich ein großer Einfluss auf meine Lebensperspektive. Ich bermerkte, dass ich stärker bin, als ich dachte und der menschliche Geist ist unzerbrechlich. Egal was vor mir liegt, bleibe ich immer optimistisch. Ich bin unendlich dankbar für meine Freunde und deswegen erkannte ich das Leben ein wertvolles Geschenk ist, und es darf nie vergeudet werden. Nach meinen Berechnungen habe ich über 30.36% meines Lebens gelebt (wenn ich nur bis zu 70 leben möchte). Ich plane noch, mein Leben in vollen Zügen jeden Tag zu geniessen und wie immer werde ich nie vergessen, Güte und Mitgefühl jeder zu zeigen. Wie Walt Disney sagen würde, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”- Walt Disney

A Bike Trip to Austria

“Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind dann leben sie noch heute.” In the literal sense this quote perfectly describes my most recent adventure today.

Yesterday around 8pm, after finishing my 30-page internship report and going a day and a half without sleep, I decided to bike to Austria from Germany. The bike was an old clunky steel bike from the 80s that was given to me for free. In fact, it could be heard from miles away, due to the rattling noise of the wheels and fenders. It was completely dark and all I had was a head lamp. That was also one of the scariest experience on this trip. Then, halfway through the trip it started to rain.

As soon as I arrived in Austria it was pouring and I was completely soaked and was shivering from the cold. Nevertheless, as soon as I got myself Döner (similar to kebab), I knew at that point that everything was going to be alright. For hours I wandered the streets in search of a place to sleep for the night. Luckily I found one close to a trail that leads up the mountain.

After a hearty breakfast (today), I decided to hike up one of the peaks in the area. Having little time left before I had to get back to Friedrichshafen, I made an attempt to summit to the top as fast as possible. The hike up took about an hour and from there I could see the entire Bodensee as well all the other Austrian Alps!

Realizing that I have to close my bank account in Germany by 4pm, I proceeded to RUN down the mountain, leaped onto my bike and furiously sprinted back to Germany.
On the way I  had a little bit of time to make a small detour to the beautiful island of Lindau.

It’s hard to believe that my time in Germany is about to be over. Had I known how awesome this internship was, I would’ve had done a 6 month long internship. My flight leaves Berlin tomorrow. In the meantime I still have to figure out how to get to the other side of the country. Indeed, I have ended my summer with a bang….

Puccini’s Turandot Opera in Bregenz, Austria

Nessun Dorma is a actually one of my favorite aria from Puccini. The trip to Bregenz was actually a spontaneous one, where upon arriving home from a row on the lake, a friend called and asked if I wanted to attend the Opera. I said yes right away had ten minutes to get ready. Because of this spontaneous decision to go on this trip, I grew closer to my friends and made new ones as well. The performance was of course in Italian but there were German subtitles on the side. When Nessun Dorma was performed at the end of Turandot, I was really moved by the song because this time around, I understood the meaning behind it through the context of the story and was touched by the myriads of emotion within the music. The best way to describe such feeling would be…. Vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!

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Week 1: Friedrichshafen

As mention earlier in the previous post, this summer I am currently doing a three-months internship at ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Located in the south-west part of Germany by the Bodensee, the company is known for its design and research & development in the automotive industry.

On my first day I was assigned to a top secret facility much like the ones from a James Bond movie, where personal usage of cellphones, laptops, and cameras was strictly forbidden. As soon as I entered the Forschung und Entwicklung Zentrum (Research & Development Center) I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were test cars and auto components on display everywhere! Even on office tables, there were finely-engineered auto parts sitting there begging me to touch them and explore each moving mechanisms.

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To this day I still find it difficult to describe to my friends and family exactly what I do at work. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, I decided to include a photo of my work desk (hopefully that is allowed) and some crude drawings of what Tay is up to on a normal day at work. In short, my project involves using simulations and differential equations/integration to optimize dampening system in a car such as dynamic bushings and hydromounts.

Right of the bat, I am really impress with the company’s work – life balance. As an intern, I am expected to 35 hours a week. Including lunch breaks, I am usually at work eight hours a day. Nevertheless, I am given the freedom to allocate those hours however I like as long I clock in before 9:15am. For instance, if I would like to take a long weekend off to explore other cities, I could come to work from 7am to 4pm from Monday to Thursday and leave work early on Friday.

I also find the food at the Mensa (company dining hall) to be both convenient and delicious with 5 different choices at a very reasonable price. I also find it to be a great place to meet and interaction with other colleagues.

ZF also has a wonderful program known as Students@ZF. This committee organizes trips and activities for all the interns. Some of the events include going to a Beach Party, meeting others student at a weekly stammtisch, sailing on the Bodensee, and visiting Europa Park (the largest in Germany). Of course, as someone who often “does too much in too little time,” I signed up for most of the activities and in this case, it was the best decision I’ve made.

In just a few days, I was really taken back by how welcoming my coworkers and friends are! If there’s one thing I learned this week, it would be to say YES to every single invite at work. In fact, this past weekend I’ve had the most delicious home cooked Pakistani curry with my friends, went on a run with my supervisor’s colleague, saw the UEFA Euro Cup (Germany vs Ukraine) in a small room packed with 40 people, and found great camaraderie with other interns as we dance the night away at a beach in Hagnau. Indeed, we’ve gotten quite a few stares due to our dance moves, which according to some German standard, is considered too wild.

 I have also recently join the Friedrichshafen Rowing Club as a way to practice my German and meet other members of the rowing community. I definitely had a great time getting to know my German rowing coach and felt a great improvement in my conversational skill as well as my confidence in such a short period of time.

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Lubbers Cup
Throwback to the rowing days

Last but not least, this opportunity of a life time would not be possible without the resources from the University of Michigan German department and the assistance from Cultural Vistas in pairing me up with ZF and guiding me through the bureaucratic process of obtaining my visa work authorization. I am also extremely grateful for the Sturm Scholarship provided by the Sturm family through the German department as well as the international scholarship from the College of Engineering. I am where I am today because of my family, friends, and teachers. From the heart, I thank you all. Herzlichen Dank.

Day 1/2: Berlin

I have finally arrive in Germany! Below are some of the photos I took during a boat tour in Berlin. The last time I was here was 2013 along with my German teacher and my classmates from St.Paul’s school. It is good to be back!

 

Triathlon: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Before I go off on a rant, I would first like to say that life is a gift. Life is so precious and I am so grateful that every day I get to see the blue sky and enjoy the beautiful sun radiating on my face. After losing my grandfather a year ago and someone whom I love dearly the year before that, I learned to accept death as a part of life. But I can’t leave this world now, not yet. There’s still work to be done. There’s so much I want to give to this world. I really do want to make this world a better place and I will.

Rhabdomyolysis, Heat Stroke, Seizure, Elevated Troponin I Level, Acute Kidney Injury, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Hypernatremia, Dizziness, Hypokalemia, Hypomagnesemia – these are the diagnosis upon arriving at a hospital in South Carolina. It was during the triathlon collegiate national championship race, when I suffered from a seizure and a heat stroke, along with internal organ injuries (more on this later). It’s a miracle that I am still alive.

I am writing about this mostly as a tale of caution to all the athletes out there who push themselves to the limit every day to make their dreams come true. Another reason is to show my appreciation for the overwhelming support that I received upon my return. Huge thanks to the Michigan Triathlon Team and all my wonderful teammates. I couldn’t have done it without you guys and I am forever grateful for this team.

So what happen? Basically, I push myself way too hard during the entire race. That was how bad I wanted it. It was a very hot day and unfortunately, the men’s race happens to start at noon. Before and during the race I took every step I can to make sure that I was well hydrated and well fueled. Before my swim, I had a packet of GU energy gel, and during the bike I had 24 ounces of water mixed with HEED (electrolyte), which I took consistently over the bike course. During the run, I wore a cap and had my sunglasses on. I carried another pack of GU just in case my energy level starts to drop. As I pass each aid station I would take small sips of water and cool my body with ice. However, it appeared that in the very last lap, the race organizer ran out of water, which may explain my accident.

The race went really well. In fact, I would say I had the best race of my life. During the swim, I stayed with the front pack and was the first group of guys out of the water. I also had a great bike split and reminded myself the entire time to pace well so that I don’t blow up on the run. When I got to the run, I was in a world of pain, my pace was faster than what I wanted to go but I told myself to hold onto it no matter what. Literally, in my head I was telling myself, “you can die once you cross the finish line.” I also told myself, “it’s what you do in the dark that matters” (shout out to Michael Phelps). I wanted to prove to myself and to the team that I am capable of more – that I am faster than what they presumed. During that race I channeled all my rage. That was what kept me going. I was angry about many things – not being selected to be in the relay team, not being placed in the fastest wave, and so on. All these little insignificant things add up. I know I should have talked to someone or the team president about it, but I didn’t want be seen as a whiner, and so I kept it all bottled to myself.

It was the last mile of the race when I had the seizure. I do not recall falling or experiencing any signs or symptoms. All I remembered was racing very hard and the next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital. Everything was surreal and I felt as if I was in the matrix within the blinding white room. Next, I heard a distant voice from Alex, the team president. I’d to take the time to say that Alex is the most amazing human being. I owe him my life and he was there for me every step of the way in my recovery. Of course the first thing I asked him was if I’d finish the race. I was in a lot of confusion and at that point my speech was very incoherent. To my disappoint he said that I collapsed about a mile before the finish line. Note though, that the running course turned out to be a mile longer. Had it been the standard distance, I would have finished the race.

But enough rambling for now. My story could go on forever and a lot people reading this probably gave up by now. If you’re still reading this, congrats you made it this far – more than my race.

In short, after a week at the hospital and after more than 300 needles being poked through my body, I am still alive! I suffered mainly from acute kidney injury and rhabdomyolysis, which is severe muscle breakdown. In this case, the dead muscle cell travels through the blood stream and into the kidney, which can cause kidney failure if not treated. In a week, I have lost 15lbs and still find it painful to stand up and walk. My urine is usually brown or orange. I came in with a temperature of 106. With time I will fully recover. It may take months or years to fully regain function, but that’s okay, I’ve got a whole lifetime ahead of me. If my calculations are correct, I have lived about 28.57% of my life. I still plan on living my life to the fullest every single day and maintain close bonds with my family and all my close friends. As always, I will never forget to show kindness and compassion to everyone I come across.

Lastly thank you to everyone who was there for me. You know who you are.

Michigan Triathlon team, you are guys the best thing that ever happen to me.

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney

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