After those few days readjusting to Europe following my summer in Cameroon, I stopped for two nights in Paris at Mike’s place then headed eastward for Bochum, Germany to begin my Master’s program in International Humanitarian Action. But Germany is not Sweden, you say, and you are right. I told you all I was going to Sweden, not Germany!

The thing is, there are 7 partner universities across Europe offering this degree with various specializations in the second semester, and we all go to one place for the first two weeks: an Intensive Programme or IP.

Bochum is a rather lacklustre and depressing town, with drunks sitting around all day at the train station just boozin it up, and the second most depressing university campus I have seen in my entire life (first place remains SFU Burnaby Mountain campus, which is eerily similar to this one and built in 1965, around the same time that Ruhr University Bochum was built).

The best day out of the IP in my opinion was our day trip out to the THW training grounds. THW is a volunteer-based organisation run by the German Government. They do rescue stuff with really cool machines and dogs and stuff. Here are some pics from our demo day:

Super organized for mission departure within just hours of receiving a call. All these THW cases of equipment are designed to be taken in the same manner as normal passengers take their luggage on a 737 airplane, which makes it very easy to get the cases processed at the airport and loaded onto the plane in minutes:

Training area for collapsed building / rubble rescues:

This is a camera with a ring of LED lights around the edge. It can be dropped down fairly small holes and has a speaker and microphone on it to communicate with a person trapped under rubble. It allows the rescuers to see in there as well as figure out the condition of the victim and best approach, if they can get the camera to fit and not get obstructed.

This dog has just been let loose to find a person trapped in the rubble. The dog was really fast and accurate!

This is not a gun, it’s another camera! This one telescopes even longer than shown, and the tip with the camera lens on it can move from side to side!

Close-up showing maximum right angle bend of the camera tip:

They also do water and sanitation, and this huge tub is an important component of their portable water purification facility. They just need a source of non-salt water and fuel (they have enough fuel for a day or two usually, then need to find local sources) to process thousands upon thousands of litres of clean, crazily-filtered and chlorinated drinking water which has extremely high health standards.

This is the head of the water purification team. He LOVES his technology, and I don’t blame him! Any Engineer would be happy to have a look at the neat filtering technology they’re using and the interesting way they’ve set it all up for ultimate portability and durability. Like their cases above, this filtering equipment all stores in containers specifically designed to fit in standard airplane holds:

That night, my old flatmate Marcus managed to catch a train from his home in Munster to my hotel in Bochum. Marcus and I were two of five people living in a house together in Dunedin, New Zealand for a year in 2005 and he and I spent a month backpacking Australia together. We had a great time talking about all sorts of random stuff and catching up on old times.

On the 13th, we had a huge Karaoke Night at a local bar, organized by one of the students, Ruslan. Almost everyone was there, which means >100 out of the 140 program participants. It was a tonne of fun and very memorable.

September 14th was the last day of our program in Bochum, and I was not sad to take this photo as Danielle, Greg, and Tanaji left Ruhr University Bochum campus for the last time:

Next stop: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeden!