Tuesday, November 28, 2006

koide class trip

One of our well-respected professors brought us out for a field trip last week. For all his accomplishments and qualifications, he still cares for his students. I was consulting him on my thesis topic when he found out that I was on the IM Council*. He was lamenting on the fact that our batch of Ebiz students weren't as tight as the previous batches.

So he gathered some volunteers from the class and organised 2 class trips this semester. But at the same time, we needed to go out and explore the area for our final project. We were going to collaborate with the Niigata Prefecture in creating websites to promote travel and tourism. In return for our hard work and assistance, the prefecture sponsored our trip and lunch boxes.

After being briefed by the officer at the Koide tourist information centre, we were taken to the Okutadami Dam, apparently the largest man-made lake in Japan. It was such a good weather, even in the cold. Previously we were just classmates who were pressed for time as we had assignments and cases back to back.

But the trip allowed us to mingle and get to know each other better. Sadly it was held this late. We were 2 weeks from our finals, and from next semester each of us would branch out into our respective concentrations and have separate elective subjects. So we tried to prolong the trip coz we enjoyed each other's company so much.

Instead of finishing at 2pm after the dam, we took up Prof Jay's offer to visit The Meguro House, the house of the village headman who supposedly owned the first car and telephone in the prefecture. Initially we didn't want to enter coz we were already feeling quite cold, but we managed to get group discounts after some negotiation. For those who were still new to Japan, it was quite an eye-opener stepping into a preserved village house, with most of its infrastructure and landscape intact.

That was probably my last trip for the semester. Did I mention that I bought my tickets to Korea already? Will be flying there after Christmas and spend the New Year's with Cindy. With 1 out of every 3 Koreans being a Christian, and the largest church in Seoul, it would definitely have a different atmosphere compared to its neighbours. Looking forward to ending the year in a reflective mood.

*IM Council = student board for the Graduate School of International Management

Sunday, November 19, 2006

iuj's open day

When they first announced that we were going to have the IUJ Open Day after our midterms, I was not really looking forward to it. But as preparations went under way, the hype built up. We thought about what food to cook (something which was typically Malaysian and easy to cook at the same time), and what kind of performances we could present (since most of us had no former cultural training of any sort!).

We teamed up with Indonesia and Singapore as there were only 3 Malaysians in our batch. Given the limited time to cook (since there were also other country groups putting up their stalls), we managed to come up with Soto chicken soup, Opor chicken curry, prawn crackers and red bean soup.

We also did the poco-poco dance, with much help and guidance from our Indonesian counterparts. It was quite fun practicing with them as I had never done anything so cultural before. Most of the people I know do not have this kind of education before, especially if they live in the cities. So much so that I wonder if I'm losing my heritage. But then again, there is no opportunity/need to do anything cultural of this sort so only those who have a genuine interest would pursue them.

During the 2nd part of the song, we managed to cajole the audience to join us in the dance. It was quite a simple 4-direction dance with variations in each round and could be mastered within a day. The Indonesians even got an invitation to perform this dance in some of the local schools.

As I began to myself in the activities surrounding the Open Day, I started to appreciate the diversity of the student body that we have here. As many as 80% are international students from various countries, mostly from Asia.

It was just a pity that I did not have much time to go around the stalls and try the many delicious delicacy that were on offer. Our neighbours, the Mongols had obviously cooked up really good fried stuff, as seen from the reviews from others. Curry from the Bangladesh and Thai tomyam soup were also clear favourites, since it was pretty chilly outside. Most of us had to wear double layer coz silk can be quite "cold"!

It really was a colourful affair, with flags of different nations hung across the gym, babes in vibrant costumes and guys looking dashing in their smart suits. Even the variety of performances was an eye-opener - sizzling Latin American dance, Spanish candle dance from the Filipinos, slapstick comedy by our Thai neighbours, mini drama by the host country, kungfu-like performance by the Chinese, Charlie Chaplin impersonation from the Europeans, solo song by Bangladesh, among many others.

Very tiring at the end of it, but really fruitful and immensely enjoyable. I even got compliments on my baju kebaya and shawl ensemble :) The irony is that I was wearing it for the first time in Japan!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

first snow sighting

It snowed this morning!

Was at church when we heard rumblings from outside. Some said it was an earthquake, some said it was snowing.

I didn't believe it at first coz when church ended, it was raining. Maybe it was just the thunder.

When I came back, I saw bits of snow outside our dorms. Very little, but whoa! It has begun snowing already! And exactly 1 week ago, it was such a bright sunny day.

To psyche myself up for winter, I told myself this would probably be my only winter so I'd better enjoy it while I can. Gonna learn skiing and snowboarding. And make snowmen!

See, it ain't that bad. I'm looking forward to the winter holidays already. Wheeee!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

autumn colours

Autumn is coming to an end. I check the weather forecasts more often than before, just so that I know when it's gonna be sunny and take advantage of it while I still can. Sun's setting earlier nowadays and like today, while I was out doing some grocery shopping at about 4:30pm, it was so dark it felt like it was 8 in the evening already.

Just a few weeks ago, we went out to Yuzawa, a popular resort town with spectacular mountains and natural beauty. We wanted to take a boat ride at the lake because it looked so calm and peaceful. And I bet the pictures taken from the lake would be awesome too.

But it started to rain and we had to walk back from the lakeside trail back to the parking lot. So we decided to have lunch near the Echigo Yuzawa station instead. Since it was still a good day, we decided to go for a little onsen. The other nicer looking hotsprings were undergoing some maintenance at that time, and this one was quite affordable. But it turned out to be a manmade sento and the water wasn't as hot as it was supposed to be.

It was a little disappointing, but at least I got a soak in the hot bath. I really need to bring back the hot bath technology back to Malaysia! Most Japanese homes have these temperature controls to maintain the hot water in the bathtub. Getting into the bath is a routine after a shower and rinse. Put in some aromatherapeutic bath salts and imagine what wonders it can do for your stress-ridden body!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

not so bad after all

During the course of the week, many things happened. For good, and for bad. Like my car, for example, it was supposed to be fixed and ready to be collected last Monday. But the lady from Shell station called Yuichi and informed her that they couldn't repair the car. Apparently, it must've been quite bad because she suggested that we take it back to the manufacturer.

Since I'm living in the middle of nowhere, doing that was next to impossible. Whatmore, for an old car such as mine! So I updated my senior, and asked her for her opinion since I bought the car from her. She suggested that we take it to her mechanic to have a look first.

So on Thursday, when both of us were done with our mid-terms, we went back to the Shell station to collect my car. As I drove it to the mechanic down the road, I was praying that nothing would happen. I did not wish to die in an inflamed car in the middle of nowhere. Not while I'm living my dreams still so young and still have lots to achieve!

And it turned out that the mechanic was the one who originally sold the car to my senior's senior! So he would have been more familiar with it. He said we were lucky coz it could've been so much worse, the whole engine could've caught fire too. After accessing the damages, he told us that the battery installed was not of the right serial number.

Since it was the start of a long weekend, he told us to come back on Monday. He called over the weekend and told me the costs. Replacing the battery and cables/wires plus tax, altogether it came up to about Y13,000. Not too bad! I'm just so glad it could be fixed, and it wasn't terribly expensive either. Our other option was to discard the car, but doing that in Japan would cost Y30,000!