Thursday, December 20, 2007

im flying home!

When I first went back home in April, I thought that would be the only time I'd go back. But it was because I managed to get a transit ticket via Hong Kong and I thought if I got a job then I might have to start straightaway from graduation and wouldn't have a chance to come back after that. Plus I heard that Japanese companies only give 10 days of leaves.

When I went back home again in September, I also thought I wouldn't go back again after that. But it was because my boss allowed me to start work later and I felt I needed the break before going back to work coz once I start work I wouldn't have a chance to come back after that. Plus, my own company only give 10 days of leaves.

When I decided to go home this winter, I thought I must be krazy to fly back so often! But it was because I felt that Christmas is the most meaningful time to go home for, Christmas is so commercialised in Japan and because I'm spending so much for a peak season ticket, I don't think I will go back for a lonnnnnng time to come. Plus, my company gave us winter holidays.

But what I'm trying to say is, I will be going home for Christmas! *yay*

Saturday, December 15, 2007

not so fast!

I remembered that I was supposed to have another housewarming party when last night, while talking to the landlord, he asked "Are you going to have another party this weekend?"

He must either have liked the food so much, or enjoyed the company of my friends, or have nothing else to look forward but parties like these :p

I wished I could make parties after parties and invite friends over but the last one left me quite tired already! And also, I have to think of new menus so that my housemates won't think I only know how to cook 3 dishes (make that 2 since the 3rd was salad).

But I'm also reminded that housewarming parties are not to show off cooking skills, but to invite people to share in the joy and warmth of your new place. So I guess he will have to wait till next year :D

Friday, December 14, 2007

now i remember why i hated working!

Did I tell you guys that I've started work at the new office? Our spanking new place is at the top floor of a newly-built block in Nakameguro. I've suggested to the boss to add "The Penthouse" to our corporate address. Our space is a little smaller compared to the lower floors because we have a balcony surrounding it, and we have tall ceilings wrapping 2 sides of the block so it's a pretty good view. Plus plenty of sunlight during the day.

I love the new place, coz everything is brand new and we're the first people to begin working there. The first week was great because I've been working at home almost the whole of November and it was good being out, mingling with people and just having a different view while working. We get to see furniture coming in, wirings being rerouted, homely things filling up the kitchen and toilet, and many visitors dropping by.

But come 2nd week, I was beginning to feel like it was slowly turning bad. The commute took about 40 minutes, not including walking time. I have to lug my laptop to the office, and it feels like I'm on a daily backpacking trip since I have to sometimes stand all the way to the office and back during rush hours. All these made me rather tired halfway through the day, and I wished I was working at home again.

With all the changes and investment, my boss was beginning to act "weird" too. Maybe he was stressed, but he had some expectations over us and we were beginning to feel rather uncomfortable. It felt like he was watching us and wasn't happy at certain things we did. Before things got worse, we decided to talk to him about it. Thank God I have a really understanding boss, who didn't get the wrong impression that we were complaining, but rather admitted what was happening.

I was really quite hungry, but since he decided to have that talk after office hours, I decided to stay back a little too. It was all in all a good talk, we managed to clear things up and I even got his approval to sometimes work from home too. He understood that for certain tasks like writing, it was quite impossible to have concentration in the office. I assured him that I would only do it when necessary, as the office was there for the reason for better collaboration amongst everyone here.

And today, we had our opening-cum-Christmas party at the office. Friends & former staff joined us as we toasted to the end of a busy year and to a more exciting 2008. I was supposed to join some friends for a Christmas Jazz Concert at the Chuo Seishou Church, but the party started late, and I thought I should actually spend some time with some of these people.

So I remained back at the party and had quite a good time getting to know some of the people whom I've only chatted with or met only once. Plus practiced my deteriorating Japanese too! I initially wanted to get some gifts, but I didn't know how many were coming and I was only close to certain people. I guessed maybe spending time would have been more meaningful. Especially at a time like this.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

the little housewarming that happened

Just survived my 1st (did I mean to say there are more to come?! I'm already tired from this!) housewarming party here. Was a little hesitant to do it coz I've never had any experience even back in Malaysia, but I was quite excited about my new place. Besides, some friends who had only heard about it were curious to see my room. And they asked when I would be having my housewarming.

I've only lived here slightly over a month, so there were some things which could have been arranged better, since I still have not decided how I would like my room to look like. There are some cupboards and shelves, but they're quite different from what I used to have in the dorm, so I needed to see how I could put them properly and still be able to retrieve them in the best way possible.

But anyways, I was choosing between this Saturday and the next since I would be going home for Christmas after that (yay for me!). And it would be good to meet up before the year ends, so I started messaging my friends asking them when they would be available. Since most people would be around on the 8th, I decided quite last minute to have it this weekend instead.

I was already quite tired this week because we started work in the new office, so there was the daily commute and longer hours put in. So I thought the 15th would be a better choice. But since I've already decided that 8th would be it, I made sporadic plans in between commutes and made a mental list of what to cook and who to invite. I would have wanted to invite more people but space is so limited so maybe I will spread out and do a few groups over different weekends.

To maximise the number of people I could invite but still maintain sizeable portions of food to feed them, I decided tea-time would be the best since people would have eaten lunch, and they wouldn't be expecting an 8-course meal a feast from me. So I made butter rice, curry chicken, black pepper chicken wings and salad. Doesn't sound like teatime fare but the portions were!

All in all, we were 9 including the landlord and my Chinese housemate. The food was kindly sponsored by Watanabe-san, who seemed to enjoy the company of my friends. My darling guests brought snacks, drinks and dessert and we thoroughly had fun catching up and I was just glad everything went so well. The effort was well worth it, and I hope we can chill out more at my place next time. They also liked my room a lot! BTW, I was too busy having fun to take pictures, but these are the ones taken earlier.

Monday, December 03, 2007

a new appreciation for autumn

I never had a particular liking for autumn as it gives an impression that something is coming to an end. The falling leaves, cold weather and the whole brownness of it just seems so sad. That is, until last weekend when I was out enjoying the brilliant bursts of colours. It's as if nature is wearing its brightest coat of hues just before everything goes into hibernation mode and is blanketed by the snow.

Speaking of endings, December is dreaded by some, as it's a closure to the past 12 months. Some people look forward to the year-end holidays beginning from Christmas till the New Year. For me this year, it's a bittersweet mixture of both. I prematurely did a pre-reflection (ya, there's more to come) in my own journal, perhaps maybe I will be too busy to do a proper one during the last few days of the year.

Besides, I don't think there will be anything significant happening in the coming weeks that will change what I would be writing anyways. Furthermore, I've got much to thank God for, much to reflect on and prayers that I wish could be answered in the coming new year. So, I might as well start early.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

momiji at yoyogi

Today marks the first day of the last month of the year. Can't believe this whole year was spent in Japan (minus some in Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia). December is always a time for reflection. But I shan't go into that just yet. Definitely lots have happened, far more than many many years combined, things I would have never experienced if I had stayed back in Malaysia. But I digress...

We were supposed to go hiking this weekend. The main organiser, Lam, had plans to go to Takao-san while another friend, Shokwan, also friend of said organiser, wanted to make it an all-grrls hike up Jimba (plus hot springs after), both of which were relatively near to each other. Some people in Lam's list suddenly pulled out last minute, so he had to cancel Takao due to poor response. Some people in Shokwan's list also had other commitments, so she had to cancel Jimba due to poor response.

As I heard the news from the two of them over drinks last night, I wondered if these 2 groups had combined together, maybe at least one trip would have materialised! But I guess what happened in the end turned out to be unexpectedly fantabulous too. Since I was already committed to the all-grrls trip which promised a dip in the onsen after the hike, I decided that we should still do something, and it should preferably involve momiji*!

So we discussed and decided to do a picnic in Yoyogi Park instead. Plus, there was a flea market nearby, some shopping options in nearby Harajuku (yes, where you see Jap teens dressed in their favourite anime character), and bicycles to rent. Sounded like a good idea, so we started planning what to bring - sandwiches, onigiri*, chips, white wine, dessert & fruits. And a mat for sitting too!

We were quite worried the night before coz the weather forecast predicted a cloudy day but followed by sun. But when we arrived at the park, it was bright and shiny. We walked a bit while figuring out where to have our picnic. We spotted a bright red tree near an open area with lots of people taking pictures and decided that we should hog the limelight and be in their pictures camp somewhere nearby and enjoy the crimson leaves.

From where we sat, we could see families playing frisbee in the open area, couples with well-bred dogs wearing cute apparels, children posing with maple leaves and elderly people enjoying a walk in the park. It was a beautiful day indeed, and we basked in the sunlight and heat while enjoying our lunch. Thank God for the good weather!

Once done with food, we left our things at the mat and went around posing like models finding good spots to take pictures. The crimson of the maple leaves really stood out amongst the rest of the trees, while the golden leaves gave it an overall glow, as if some parts of the park were on fire. We wished we had a DSLR to really capture the beauty of the autumn colours.

While eating, we noticed that some children were playing with some "falling" leaves. But after staring for a bit more, we realised the leaves weren't falling from the trees above, but rather, floating into the sky instead! We wondered if someone had brought a fan to blow the leaves upward like that. So on our rounds, we went closer and discovered that that particular area where they were standing on was actually some ventilator from the subway below (heard it was the Chiyoda line).

When the train passed, the gush of wind would be pushed upward through the vents, blowing the fallen gingko leaves into the air, giving the children such thrill. After the train had passed, they would collect the leaves from the surrounding area again and lay them on the vents and wait for the next train to pass by. This sight attracted passersby who even waited for the next action so that they could also take pictures of the children enjoying themselves.

It was quite a huge park, and there were more people on the other side from where we had sat. Later only did we realise that "our" red tree wasn't the only one, there were many more ranging from reddish to yellow, making it such a perfect day for walking and appreciating nature. We saw a group of people playing percussion music near the fountain, some funkily-dressed Japanese youth in various hairstyle looking serious as if discussing life's more pressing issues, a few guys practicing tap dance and another group trying out stunts on their skateboards.

When the sun occasionally hid behind the clouds, we could really feel the temperature drop, and when the sun appeared again, we were thankful for its life-giving heat. We wanted to do many things like trying out somersault and cycling around the park, but for some reason had forgotten about it until we reached home. We were both glad that even though we didn't do some serious hiking and exercised our lungs (and given ourselves some pampering at the hot springs), the momiji picnic was well worth it.

*momiji - 紅葉(P); 黄葉 【こうよう(P); もみじ(P)】 (n,vs) (1) (こうよう only) autumn colours; fall colors; leaves changing color (colour);(n)
onigiri - お握り(P); 御握り 【おにぎり】 (n) rice ball (often triangular, sometimes with a filling and wrapped in nori); (P)

Monday, November 26, 2007

my labour day weekend

Had such an excellent weekend, not just because Friday was Labour Day making it a long weekend, but because I was in the company of friends again. We celebrated Kedar's birthday and were basically chilling out, eating, watching movies, catching up with one another again. It would have been better if the rest of the Ebiz grads could make it, but I guess they had family commitments to attend to. Unexpectedly, the birthday celebration spilled over from Friday to Saturday until each of us had to leave for our respective appointments.

Even did a little bit of shopping, not for frivolous luxuries but for something far more important. One that I would need everyday for the next few months and something that I would now call it my best purchase so far - a humidifier! Ya, I was looking around at classified sites, saw one really good one offered by this Australian family who were moving out of Japan and they were giving it away for free, with another purchase. But I decided to just get a brand new one, and Bic Camera was selling it at 53% discount too! This has really made a difference to the air in my room, and I no longer wake up feeling like I'm gonna have a sore throat or cold later.

Then on Saturday night, EeWei and I went through our maiden cross-cultural Bible Study together. It was just a spontaneous idea that she thought about some days back, and I thought why not? It would be a first for the both of us and good for the soul. It just made sense that since both of us had been through similar experiences and have been encouraging each other while being away from home, and should continue doing so that this did not come as a surprise. In fact, I readily agreed to it as I was not really belonging to any church or cell group and a Bible Study is nourishment no matter what one's circumstances is.

But when Bible study came to mind, the first thought that came along it was the last Bible study I tried to do with Irene some years back. We were also having some similar issues and thought something like a Bible study would help, and so decided to start off with something simple like the book of Esther. Maybe because it was so easy or we just weren't motivated, but we didn't continue long after that. To our credit, we made effort to match schedules and worked to get materials and did much substantial study and actually finished the book. But somehow we didn't continue on with another book!

I don't know why I agreed so easily to have this, doing it across the oceans might have been more difficult (and we had to choose a suitable time frame since we're like 9 hours apart!), and furthermore EeWei had to choose one of the hardest, if not hardest book in the Bible - Job. That also I didn't have objections - perhaps because both of us could relate to Job's struggles. I thought it would be a good challenge - doing it virtually and on such a book as Job.

She had some initial problems getting online and Skype up on her friend's laptop, but once that was solved, we immediately started off with prayers and went on to discussing about our thoughts and impressions. It was rough because this was new to us, and we lacked some sense of structure, but the whole thing lasted about 2 hours in all and we felt really good at what we have achieved. Much questions arose from our discussions and many thoughts to ponder till the next study. Speaking of which, next's my turn to lead! Need to look for materials and structure :p

Friday, November 23, 2007

still chilling, but better a bit

Thanks for the concern, I'm feeling better. I think!

Actually I think I was getting better on Tuesday, coz I was taking Hor Yan Hor tea, this bitter Chinese herbal drink. But problem was I forgot it was so strong and I drank it at night, so ended up being awake almost the whole night. Needless to say, felt quite miserable the next day.

Was feeling worst this morning and was contemplating on going to see the doctor. Then I realised, I'm on another insurance plan and not the national scheme like most other people. The national insurance scheme is actually compulsory for all residents, including foreigners, but somehow my company got away with that.

Heard it was because it's more expensive as both the employer and employee need to contribute to that. And patient has to pay 30% of doctor's fees and prescription. The one I'm on is catered solely for foreigners residing in Japan. And they reimburse 100% of expenses. But dental and maternity if not covered, amongst others.

But anyways, Japan does not have a "clinic system" like in Malaysia where there's at least 2-3 GP's in your neighbourhood. One has to go to the government hospital to get normal treatment, whereas for us, going to the hospital meant a big deal - like if you had heart attack or were going for surgery. So I had no idea where was the nearest hospital, even though there's a pharmacy and "doctor" on the same street here. And I wasn't sure if my insurance covered these or the T&C involved.

So I decided to stay at home (I was working from home anyways), cancelled the meeting with my boss and his partner and decided to drink the bitter tea again, added lemon to it and tried not to use the air-cond/heater so much, and took a Panadol too. Drank a whole lot more water this time, and didn't go out at all. And I think I am getting better. Now I should head off to bed and see if this works for me!

And yes, I hate taking medicine and seeing the doctor, only have to go if necessary. Furthermore, from past experiences, I didn't have good impressions of Japanese doctors and medicine. No offense, but either the system or the Japanese body is just wired differently!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

chills in tokyo

Being sick is no fun. I think I have yet to fully adapt to this place, or this city. Or maybe I'm working too much from home.

It's been getting cold lately, and the only thing that can help increase the temperature is the air-conditioning unit which doubles up as a heater. But problem is, it's so dehydrating I have to switch it off every few hours, and put it on timer for 1 hour just before I sleep.

I was contemplating about getting a carpet so that my feet can walk around in comfort. I'm really thankful I have such a big room with so much walking space, but that means I have to go through more cold wooden floor to reach my things, as compared to back in my tiny dorm room where everything is within an arm+leg's reach.

So anyways, I was just having a chat with the landlord, and he was asking how I was settling down. I told him everything was fine, and I enjoy having such a beautiful room. He asked me further, and I just casually mentioned that I was thinking of getting a carpet or maybe heater so that it won't feel so cold.

Because my room faces the road, that side of the wall is almost fully windows. There's a lace curtain and a thicker one, but I think the large windows are partially why my room doesn't stay warm. Add to that, the poor insulation in old Japanese homes. And I have no choice but to bundle myself up or switch the air-cond on the whole time. But I try not to, because I work from home a lot, the bill will go up and I will end up being dehydrated.

So anyways, he said he will get a carpet for me. I had to politely ask him not to, to which he said, not to worry, and he will buy one for me and he even asked me what colour I would like! I regretted telling him about the carpet idea, and told him that the carpet wasn't decided yet, since it's not winter per se. So for the meantime, he loaned me his electric carpet instead. After being assured that he doesn't need it, I accepted it, but still not keen on using so much electricity especially since I won't be using the carpet much (other than to walk on).

Now I'm thinking, perhaps I'll just use that carpet at the moment, don't have to plug it in, but add a humidifier to my room. Which would you prefer - to die of dehydration or cold?? If I use the air-cond too much, I will be warm but my skin will dry up and that's how I got sick this week - dehydration. But if I don't use it, then it's too cold and I hate the cold.

Anyways, from the cold that I caught last weekend, it has upgraded itself to cough with phlegm today! Feeling quite miserable already. My only consolation is I get to stay and work at home. Need to keep gulping down water! If I'm already like this now, I wonder how I'm gonna survive winter here. -_-'

Friday, November 16, 2007

headaches passwords create

Just last week, I was trying to log into my to pay the last of my mobile phone bills. Since I have not used it for some time, I forgot the password. I typed all the variations I could remember but they all didn't work. After the 3rd try, I got blocked.

This also happened sometime early this year and I even forgot the pin number to activate it then. I had to wait until I went back home to Malaysia to unblock myself through the ATM machine. Such hassle, what if I didn't have the chance to go back home for another 5 years and needed to make online payments/transfers?

Then I read HL's post and it got me thinking about all the passwords that I have. Now that almost everything is online, there are more passwords to remember :

Emails - I think I have like 10 accounts for various reasons and phases in my life, but regularly use 5 at the moment
Instant messengers (YM, MSN, Skype, VOIPstunt, hardly-used ICQ)
Online banking (Malaysian bank & Japanese bank) - the latter is more complicated, requiring 3 different sets of passwords
Social networking system (Friendster, Facebook, etc)
Blogs (my own and access to other private ones)
Market buzz games, online subscriptions, image banks, etc

Each of these have their own set of rules (only numerals, or combination of alphanumerals, some only with 8 characters or less, some up till 12, and so on) which makes it even more confusing. Some that is more secured require you to change your password every now and then, and you get even more confused coz when you don't log in so often, you make the mistake of typing your previous password (like what happened to me).

I wish there was an easier way of doing this. I do know that biometrics is one good(?) alternative like our Malaysian passport which only requires us to place our thumb on the scanner to verify instead of standing in line like others. But I also heard of one scary story of a guy whose thumb was chopped off so that the thieves could use it to unlock his Merz! Then there's this movie, the name I've forgotten (some futuristic sci-fi flick?) where the guy's eyeballs got scooped out so that the bad guys could gain access through the retina scan.

Anyways, while thinking about all these in bed the other day, I dozed off to sleep. No conclusion, just another pre-sleep wonderings...

But seriously, isn't there any other way??

Monday, November 12, 2007

therapeutic weekend

Just came back from Urasa, IUJ to be more specific. It has been a therapeutic weekend for me. Was my first time going back campus since graduating. They were having their annual Open Day, with this year being the 25th anniversary, so it was sorta grander.

Frankly, I think last year's Open Day was better since we had the booths and performance both in the gym. This year, because of local participation, they had to put the booths outside so some people had to miss part of the performances while some didn't manage to enjoy as much food as they wanted to.

But my reason for going back was to catch up with friends, and that I did. I even dressed up in traditional Laotian costume and helped out at their booth. And my Malaysian friends called me traitor. But I got a kick out of seeing people passing by, making 2nd glances and then only realising it's actually me.

The Associate Dean was surprised to see me there, and so were many other people. I think it wasn't just the costume or the hairstyle, but also the fact that I looked a bit different. Many commented that I lost weight. Most said I looked better and happier. How can I not be happier when I was back "home"? As soon as I stepped out of the station, I could immediately feel the difference - the fresh air and open spaces. Oh how much I missed those!

To see the colours of autumn was a welcome sight from the blaring lights of Tokyo. To feel the refreshing wind blowing against the face was respite from the cramped spaces and dullness of the city life. And I even managed to go to the hot springs too. Even though it was kinda impromptu, but we managed to round up 2 cars and head off to Koide for the nearest onsen. How I missed the hotsprings! Unfortunately, the effects of it wore off as soon as I came back to Tokyo.

A few thought I must've gotten richer to go back to campus. I say, it's the exact opposite. I still haven't gotten my salary, am living on my savings but it's because I don't mind spending for opportunities such as these. To ride on Mastercard's famous "priceless" ad : Bullet train + normal train tickets to & fro Urasa : Y6570 x 2, Cathing up with friends and being "home" again : Priceless!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

beginning my 3rd phase in japan

Went to the Bunkyo-ku Ward Office this afternoon to get my Alien Registration Card (ARC) amended. I figured I would be staying at this place for quite some time, so decided to have the address registered. Everytime we need to move, we have to register our new address with the nearest city office. The original address will be on the front side of the card, while the new address will be written/typed at the back.

It's kinda strange coz in Malaysia, we just change the whole card and get a new one with the latest address. But here in Japan, maybe because it's more environmentally friendly, they just list down your latest address and the date of move. So the more you more, the more addresses you accumulate at the back of your ARC.

If you notice on the date there, it says "19.11.3". Allow me to explain another reason why Japan is different from the rest of the world. 19 is the Heisei Japanese year, which is named according to the Emperor. Of course his name is not Heisei, but it's like the Dynasty concept in China. Before Heisei, it was Showa, Taisho, Meiji (these 3 being the previous Emperors' names) and many many others with Taika beginning in the Gregorian year 645.

The other is the order in which dates are written. I was so used to writing DDMMYY that I always had to switch back when filling dates the Japanese way. I also had to remember my birth year which was Showa xx and count my way front to the Heisei to get the current year correct. Sometimes I have to look back at my alien registration card to fill up the right year.

For those who can read kanji, you would have noticed that the order of the address is also the reverse of what we usually write. It starts with Tokyo-to (prefecture), Bunkyo-ku (district), Suido 2-10-18 (Block, but no road names!), and then the name. And when sending letters or parcels, the postcode will be the first before the prefecture.

And then this evening, the remaining 4 of my 7 boxes came in from Niigata. They're finally here, my books and kitchen stuff. I was about to have them shipped to my previous accomodation but that place was too small and I realised I should wait until I get a better place, which is where I'm living right now. Watanabe-san was kind enough to help me bring it up (our rooms are on the 2nd floor - 2nd floor is what 1st floor is to the Japanese) despite these 4 being the heaviest of them all!

With the above done, it's like an official stamp saying I'm officially a resident of Tokyo, no longer tied to Niigata nor having any belongings there. The only things remaining are memories and friends. Which reminds me, I have to get ready for this weekend. My uni is having its annual Open Day and this year is the biggest since they're celebrating its 25th anniversary. It would be good to catch up with friends again, I still miss campus a lot.

Monday, November 05, 2007

settling down, yet again

I just moved to the new house! It's not my house, but it's Watanabe-san's house. He was so nice that he actually drove his van to Yoyogi, my previous place, to help me move my boxes and luggages. Then after settling down a bit, he took me around the neighbourhood to help me get acquainted with important places like where to get groceries and other necessities. And he even treated me to Indian lunch at the end of it! Where to find this kind of landlord?

Anyways, I already fell in love with the room when I first saw it, but after staying for a few days, I'm beginning to like it more even though it's missing one very important feature. It's got more things than I expected like own toilet+sink, fridge, TV, video player, stereo player, rocking chair, chandelier, 2 cupboards, and he even bought a computer table for me coz he thought I would be bringing a desktop. Now, if only I had my own bathroom, this would have been the perfect room! I already have the biggest room in the house, and apparently this room was professionally renovated, so it's really comfortable.

I started dreaming further. Now if only that extra cupboard would have been renovated into a bathtub attached to the toilet, and that space for the dressing table for kitchen, then I would have my own "apartment" already. In fact, I wouldn't need to get out of the room unless I need to go out. Everything would be within reach, just like my 1st residence in Niigata. But when I think back about the conveniences and the cheapness of what I used to have, I became sad coz this is Tokyo and I can only dream. So I told myself to cut it out, coz daydreaming like that wasn't getting me anywhere.

So instead, I thanked God for giving me such a wonderful place with all the things I need and more that I didn't expect. The only downside is I'm not on the convenient train lines, so would need at least 1 transfer to go to most places. BUT, I heard this place has a river running through it, which transforms into a magical place during spring because of the cherry blossoms planted along it. And there's a garden nearby, with the Four Seasons Hotel in it. Apparently, their garden is so beautiful that Japanese couples have their wedding shots there. Now, must think of a way to walk in like a hotel guest...

Oh, pics will come later. It's too messy now! :D

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

more reachable? less privacy is more like it!

I got a new toy today! :D

Guess which colour I chose? Hint : This is for company use only!

And I was just telling my colleague that now I feel like those very important people who carry more than 1 mobile phone with them!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

where can i get authentic nasi lemak in tokyo?

I was just commenting to my Singaporean colleague in Singapore* that I was craving for Malaysian food. Nasi lemak, which used to be a staple for breakfast at my previous workplace tops the list of food that I wish I could get here in Tokyo.

So he sent me some links. I don't know whether he thought he could satisfy my cravings this way, but I almost cried because I can only see the pictures, watch the video and listen to the podcast, but not have the real deal!

* Lest there be confusion over whether he's a Japanese based in Singapore or Singaporean colleague working here in Japan

Monday, October 29, 2007

a thanksgiving to God

I thought of writing this last weekend, to commemorate my 1 month here since I came back from Malaysia. Then I thought, sounds a bit weird, maybe I should write about my 1 month at work, but that should be on the 31st. But being in the middle of the week and having an important meeting with a major toy supplier might disrupt that plan altogether. So I thought, I'll just write it now since I'm in the mood to.

I've been having many thoughts about staying back in Japan after my graduation. There were so many issues to sort, things to consider and more reasons for me to go home instead. It would have just been so much easier to pack everything and send them all home. But because I had indefinite plans and no permanent place in Tokyo then, I had to sort out my boxes according to which I'd need immediately, which I might need but could always afford to give away in case I don't stay on in Japan, and which I don't really need but can always send home anytime after. Altogether I had 7 boxes and 2 luggage bags.

And then there was the housing thing which I mentioned before. Getting a nice accomodation in Tokyo is one of the biggest worry for a foreigner. Not necessarily because of the rent - if you choose to save on rent, you can always live further from the central metropolitan area and commute longer. But because of the multiple fees that go into renting a place of your own. A regular "package" could typically consist of 2 months deposit (maybe 0.5-1 refundable), 1-2 months key money (this is not refundable as it's considered a gift to the landlord) and commission to housing agent, which could add up to half a million yen in upfront payment.

Well, some landlords are nice and don't require so much, but a friend who graduated at the same time as me had to pay that much. He didn't have a guarantor (for new foreigners it would be difficult to get a Japanese who is willing to stand in for you) so he had to pay a company for insurance to be his guarantor instead. And then the apartment doesn't come with anything most of the time. So on top of that half a million yen, you will have to shell out more for furniture, electrical appliances, Internet and not forgetting the utilities as well.

For me, I don't even know whether I'll be staying here long term. If it was like say, 3 years, then maybe that would have been an investment. But for shorter term stays like 1 year and less, it's better to stay in a guest house. But the one I'm staying at, many of us have no doubt they rip foreigners off just because they're the most famous one around. Even though everything is included and you just pay monthly rental (plus a partially refundable deposit) it's still not worth it. But being a foreigner and with little choice, you just have to spend.

Of course these and many other things were a constant worry playing around in my head then. There were times when I just wish I could pack up and fly home - that would have caused all these to vanish immediately. No more scratching my head and getting frustrated at the complexity of my life at that point of time. And also, I was living on my savings and was trying to save as much as possible. Unfortunately some people I regarded as friends turned out to be otherwise. But, the amazing thing is, the people I hardly knew, turned out to be the most generous of all - like the French couple I was staying with.

Many of you who have been following my blog especially since I came to Japan would think life was a bed of roses. Lots of stories about the fun I had travelling and trying out new stuff in Japan. Well, yes, I did enjoy myself, and that was while I was a student on a scholarship, and in Niigata. Tokyo is quite a different world altogether. I have to admit, it's like I just came to Japan for the first time, that's how different it is. Niigata is considered by Japanese as the backwater, and it's like studying in UUM for those in Malaysia. Ulu and in the middle of nowhere.

So when I came to Tokyo, I had to get adapted to the bright lights, flashing neon, constant whirl of activity, rush and push everywhere, bustling crowds and packed spaces. I missed having a car and the ability to just go anywhere anytime. I missed the open spaces of the rice fields surrounding our campus. I missed seeing the mountains and breathing fresh air every morning. I missed the little community I called home for the past year. It was just so different in the metropolitan. I felt so tiny, and for the first time in my life, never felt so poor as I did then. I saw many things I wish I could buy and enjoy but know that they were not just too expensive, but not worth the money anyways.

So the trip home was a breather, a much welcomed one. I had plenty of good rest, plenty of time with God, plenty of time to think. Truth be told, even though I was trapped in the madness of Tokyo, at least I was forced to really talk to God admist that craziness. Because I had limited funds, I didn't allow myself to go out so much or hung out with friends. I literally had no one, and nothing. So it was in a sense, easier to have to depend on God for everything. Despite the initial plan to be away from that madness at home, I had many people calling to meet up with me. Again, I didn't tell everyone as I intended to spend as much time with my family as possible. I did, this time and am glad that I also managed to cook for them too.

However, because of the constant whirl of activity and everyone wanting to catch up and get a piece of me, I was distracted. From what I had come back for. I did manage to do a lot of meditating and journaling in the beginning but as news spread that I was in town, I had to say no to many invitations. During the last 2 days I was booked from breakfast to supper. I am not complaining about having many friends who care about me, missed me and want to see me again. On the contrary! The whole thing was just so ironic! :)

As I boarded the plane after 10 days at home, I was still unsure of whether it was the right choice. I wondered if this would be an expensive mistake and everything would have been in vain. Even when the plane was already moving, I had a last minute call from Ps Adam whom I wanted to meet up but couldn't. There was just too much to catch up in that precious little 10 minutes, as I tried to squeeze as much words as possible, all the time with the air stewardess warning me about using my handphone while it was about to take off!

I arrived Tokyo that evening feeling weary. Feeling that I had come back to the madness with no sure destination. With no certainty that I was supposed to be here. But as the days went by, I got occupied with work with its crazy hours and feeling my way around, it didn't feel so bad. Not merely because adapting to a new place takes time, but because I'm more sure that perhaps this is where I will be for at least a bit more. I can't say for how long, but Bro Ong advised me to take stock every quarter and evaluate on the situation. Speaking of which, I was glad too for the appointment I made with him. The one Eewei described as an ah pek with big nose and glasses. But Bro Ong is another story for another day.

But I guess after the long story above, I just want to thank God for all that He has brought me through. I may have an idea how I ended up here, and why God allowed me to go through certain things. But what I am looking now is from here where do I go? I'm beginning to accept that certain things cannot be explained in the now, and I will just have to trust in His guiding light. But what I can say for sure is because of the "suffering" I went through last month, I am better at appreciating His goodness and grace this month.

If I can't understand the why's of the past, at least I've gained certain things. Because I've stayed in so many different places back then, I'm quite familiar with certain spots within Tokyo. Because I've lived out of my suitcase for that period, I've learned to live with what is necessary and appreciate the little blessings that come my way. Because I was in trouble, I know who my true friends are. Because I tasted bitterness, God's goodness has never tasted sweeter.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

pwetty papers

I found a paper and stationery shop near where I stay. It's in fact opposite the co-op where I do my groceries. I only bumped into it recently when I was bored of working at home and realised that they only opened from 10am-6pm. No wonder when I do my groceries I've never noticed it before!

I was naturally pleasantly delighted. Since I've just moved in and started to get to know Tokyo, and everything's expensive, this little shop was like a dream. They were trying to get rid of old stock and were selling some items at a discount. So the stuff that I usually use back home, like wrapping paper, special recycled paper, those with nice texture, coloured papers, cards and notebooks, origami paper and stamping pads - they were all sold here!

Since I stepped out of the house with the intention of just taking a walk, I hadn't brought my purse with me. And I had just seen a stack of Christmas cards going for cheap! These were from Hallmark and were sold at 10 pieces for only Y1000! So I told myself I'd have to come back the next day.

Unfortunately, when I came back, the cards had a different pricing already. It was sold per piece at a discount. I think they realised there was more value to it than what they thought initially. But anyways, I picked a few which looked really good, and felt really pleased coz now I had good cards to send back home. The year before, I was stuck in Niigata and they didn't have such a good selection, most were either with Santa Claus or some Japanised version of a Christmas card.

Just a few days ago, I went back there again. I didn't want to buy so much at one go so that I'll always have something to look forward to. This time I spent most of my time near the entrance where they were selling Hallmark writing stationery. I've never seen so many choices of cute Japanese writing paper, postcards, envelopes and cards before!

So one of the ones that I bought was this postcard set with stickers where you can DIY according to the instructions included. It ain't that difficult actually, but it was quite fun figuring out which sticker had to be stuck first. In the end I get this 3D effect which is quite cool, considering it wasn't normal sticker, but those like Japanese textured ones.

When I first saw that I had to buy 12 of any to entitle myself to the discount, I thought no way, maybe I'll just get 6, and even that was quite a lot. People hardly write letters or postcards anymore. These might just go to waste. But after trying out and seeing how pretty these stuff really were, I'm now thinking of going back there to get more! I still have a few days more before I shift to Edogawabashi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the housemates i have

When staying in a guesthouse together with about 9 others, you are bound to have to share the kitchen and dining table together with the rest at some point or another. The one that I'm staying at, well, most of them cook, some of them buy off food from the convenience store. So there are times where I will be sharing cooking/eating space with them.

I've realised there were many times when the person who's already sitting at the table leaves without wiping off the crumbs that his/her mouth didn't quite catch. Or the person who cooked just never bothered to wash the pot but leaves the remaining food in there with the spatula and all. So when the next person comes to the kitchen, wanting to either cook his/her food or sit down at the table while I am there, he/she will see the mess and leftover. And think I did it.

Example : During my 1st week here, I tried to cook my 1st meal. The grrl before me had just finished eating and was washing her utensils. As she tried to do so, she complained that the previous person had clogged up the sink and did not bother to throw away the leftover into the rubbish bin. So in her upset mode, she took a knife and started digging out the food which was the source of the problem to allow the water to run.

I was already eating when she was doing this, and did not bother to see what treasure she had dug up since I did not want it to spoil my appetite. After mumbling to herself (and probably to me) about how dirty some people where, she left and went back to her room.

So while I was happily savouring my 1st meal, some other grrls from my floor came and wanted to cook as well. They took one look at the sink and the first question they asked me was if someone had puked in the kitchen sink. Maybe out of politeness, but I'm not surprised if they thought I had something to do with it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

3 meetings? bring it on :p

I survived 3 meetings today, 3 clients at 3 different places. What a day it has been - my poor feet had to suffer so much!

The first was probably one of our worst clients because they had so many demands and changes, and still blamed us for the delay. I had to make a long list of changes to be done to their site, and it doesn't seem likely that we'll be able to launch their site by the end of this week. The only good thing was at the end, they gave us a bag of muffins as a token of appreciation.

The second was a pleasant change compared to the earlier one as the client was quite amicable. I had a brilliant idea which the boss liked and concurred, and we brought it up to the client who seemed to be really excited at it. He said he would definitely bring it up to the management and we had quite a bit of fun expanding on our idea and hopefully, they buy it.

The last one was a potential client which needed some help in branding and image. The first 15 minutes was a blur to me, especially after such a long day of walking and being out. However, once we started discussing about what we cold potentially do for them, my brains started whirring and I managed to speak up and give some constructive ideas for them.

Despite the long day, I felt rather pleased at myself as I took a slow walk from the station back home. I thank God again for the opportunity to be here. It's days like these that make all the efforts worth it. Even if I'm dead tired and all I want is a good body massage and a visit to the hot springs!

Monday, October 22, 2007

wasn't that bad

I survived my 1st meeting with one of our clients this morning! I've had email contacts with them since my 1st week here, and I could only imagine how they looked. They sounded quite nice in emails, and true enough they were the same real life. The Manager, as most real managers, looked busy but stayed enough to make sure most of the important things were settled. He left halfway through the meeting and left his staff to deal with us.

Compared to emails, more things were brought up at the meeting. More than 1 week worth of emails I suppose. I'm quite happy with that, even though that meant I end up having to follow up on them. That means they're trying to make the most out of our time there, and ensure that whatever that cannot be communicated through emails get conveyed properly.

I was about done with getting our tech guys to handle the issues they brought up until my boss called me up and updated me about what to do for tomorrow's meetings. All 3 of them! 1 hour just before I officially stop working :p How exciting. And I also realised that all of these clients come from different industries - finance, food, real estate and software.

On the phone, my boss was encouraging me to come up with ideas to sell to the clients. He has all these fantastic things that he wants to be able to do for the client, and he shares them with me. It's amazing how easy it rubs off on me, and I start dreaming about those ideas as well. Even while talking, my head was forming flash animations and the possibilities that we can go with the client.

So even though it's been quite a tough journey so far, and it's a steep learning curve, but I'm learning lots.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

dying to scratch

I'm not sure if it's just me, but I think the change in season has something to do with it. I remember when I first came to Japan last year, I felt the itch growing between spring and summer. And now, when the temperature's going down, my scalp's itching again. Naturally I start scratching and bits of skin fall off. Is it dandruff itself or because I scratched it?

So irritating to have bits of snowflakes on the hair and having to suppress the urge not to scratch. I understand when I used to have longer hair it was because my scalp wasn't healthy enough. But I've just cut off half the length of my hair and even done treatment which cost me a Prada bag a lot, and I still have scalp problem.

Could it be the stress then? Or maybe working from home and having to be stuck in the room the whole day while looking at the four walls of the tiny room has increased the otherwise normal levels of stress? I feel like tearing my scalp off, it's that annoying. Funny, I haven't seen any shampoo for dandruff here in Japan. Or maybe I'm blinded by the many brands they have for damaged hair, coloured hair and permed hair.

Monday, October 15, 2007

selamat hari raya aidilfitri!

Was at the Malaysian Embassy on Saturday for the Raya celebrations. I thought I was late becoz Zad said prayers at 8am and makan at 9am. I was a bit lost at first so ended up reaching there about 930. Saw a few guys hanging out near the entrance and some ladies waiting at the foyer. I thought the whole thing had ended and that I was too late to join in the celebrations.

While I was asking the ladies about Niigata students, out of the lower floor came the guys. A few, a few more, many more, soon they all began to fill up the whole foyer. So many Malaysians! This must be the biggest gathering of Malaysians I've ever been in. Later I found out as many as 700 of my compatriots from all over Japan had gathered at the embassy that morning. More so this year because it was over the weekend.

Made some friends while we were eating nasi briani with lemang, peanut sauce, rendang chicken and daal. Somehow, the many individuals I met apparently knew each other for about a year back already. What a small world. Some had already been there for almost 10 years and I can only imagine how good their Japanese must be. This group was further invited to the residences of the embassy's staff for more makan.

About 20 minutes walk away from the embassy is an apartment block designated for the employees, with a proud signage at the front stating the residences of the Kedutaan Malaysia. 3 of the apartments were having open houses, and we chose the top-most since Iqbal remembered the guy's name. We excitedly made our way to Encik Zakri's abode.

We were greeted by his family and friends who were already there eating. More food awaited us. The sight of laksa made me heady for awhile there, and while the others went for more rendang, I helped myself to a large bowl of the spicy noodle dish. How could I have forgotten to eat laksa during my last trip home??

While trying out the food provided by the generous host, we were also taking in the luxury of his home. Here in Tokyo, expats were given such big apartments to live in. I'm not sure whether it's because his is the top floor, but he has a balcony which sorta circles his apartment from end to end. So his guests were not only in the living room, dining area, but many more were found enjoying the autumn breeze at the balcony!

It was quite amazing that the kids had already adapted themselves to this foreign land and speaking the language so fluently. Some are sent to international school, and with 3 languages intact in their impressionable brains at this age, that even if they returned to Malaysia, it wouldn't be difficult for them to pick up Japanese should they decide to come back here.

Surrounded by Malaysians speaking Malay and Manglish, it felt like home again. Even though we could see the skyline of west Tokyo from where we were (I almost called it a penthouse relative to the cramp spaces I am used to!), everything inside was decidedly Malaysian. From the furniture to the cutleries, from the traditional costumes to the hospitality, from the smile of the hosts to the ease in which we talked among ourselves.

I'm sure for many of us, this Raya was more meaningful because of friends like these, things we hold dear to us which remind us of home while we are away from Malaysia. I'm not surprised if this scene was one of the many around the world as Malaysian Muslims gather to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

sunsilk hairapy

This is one of the latest ads for Sunsilk's hair care products. It just goes to show that we are never happy with our hair. My friend who had beautiful long straight hair hated the boringness and permed it instead. While I, blessed with natural waves and curls, decided to straighten mine in order to tame it.

to move or not to move (again)

I'm in the middle of my 2nd week at work, and things have been going on quite well, I must say. Work is still challenging, and the boss is picking on my brains. But at least, I'm being productive and I like what I'm doing. So no complains there. The only thing is getting used to the working hours and working from home thingy.

I just visited this place an acquaintance told me about yesterday. He lived there for about a year before moving out because he just got married. He was really pushing the place to me, so much so I'm beginning to suspect he gets commission for it. But it really is a nicer place than where I am staying now.

The guest house here has too many people and they all go in and out so much because it's only for short-term stay. I've heard of stories and I myself have heard of *ahem* things going on, and needless to say, it's better to move out. True that this place is really convenient because of its location and there's many places to eat within walking distance, I even tried out the Tokyo Gymnasium the other day and they have a swimming pool, and it's on the Yamanote line.

The place I saw last night is a house owned by a shy but helpful retired Japanese guy who rents out his place only to foreigners. He only wants to speak English, and he's even renovated his place to accommodate us; like the Y2,000,000 to lower his ground floor so that tall angmoh's don't have to hit their head! The room that I will be renting (should I take it up) is more than twice of this current place, is cheaper and has its own toilet, sink, fridge and TV.

It's so comfy that I got a warm feeling when I first stepped into the room because it's the biggest room in the house and my friend says I can be the queen of the house! But queen or not, this place is about slightly further compared to my current place, to the office. It's not on the Yamanote loop, but more central Tokyo and suburb at the same time.

Plus since the landlord is living in the house, he makes sure everything is clean and in order. Meaning the bathroom will always be clean, the laundry is free and toiletries will be refilled. Whereas, this guest house is dodgy, dirty and potentially dangerous. I have to share the bathroom with like 10 other people, some don't bother to wipe the table after eating, and the dryer doesn't even dry properly even though I've put in Y300. And he also kindly offered to shift my things over with his truck.

When I first told my colleague about my checking out Edogawabashi, he told me there's nothing there. Which is true, coz it's suburb. But later we found out that one of the tenants is his friend. And he changed his stand and encouraged me to go for it! Apparently his friend is a really nice guy and is superb in Japanese and I would enjoy staying there. For a moment there, it sounded like he was promoting the guy, and not the house. -_-

I still have a few days to think about this, since I have to stay in this guest house for at least 1 month, and give notice at least 3 weeks should I decide to move out. Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

i survived my 1st week!

I take back what I wrote on Thursday. Whatever lovely images I had about working just disappeared when my boss called me late Friday afternoon and requested for a meeting! He wanted to hand over some projects because he was flying to Australia the next day for a week-long vacation. -_-

My only consolation was that he ordered pizza with one of my favourite toppings.

The meeting lasted almost till midnight. But only because I had to catch the last train back. This better be the only time I have to do this!

So the long weekend was a much needed break. After 1 week of work, I get to have a 3-day weekend! Some plans got cancelled, some new ones popped up unexpectedly. But a good breather in all.

I've started cooking a bit as well. Found the nearby coop grocery with enough choices to sustain me. Even the walk around the neighbourhood was quite pleasant. It reminded me of my 6-mth stay back in Niigata. However, this residential area has some offices built within it, some looked like fashion boutiques with un-Japanese architecture and display windows.

I even saw a quaint little sign with a cross, signifying a church. Most likely a Japanese one, since there weren't any other language on the notice boards.

My Bulgarian neighbour even said we can walk to Harajuku and Shinjuku. Yes, I'm that central. That's why the rent is relatively more expensive here. It's just minutes away by the Yamanote line to the more hip/happening/hot places in Tokyo. We also have satellite TV (Read : CNN, MTV, etc). Say goodbye to boring/silly Japanese shows. :p

Thursday, October 04, 2007

it's thursday already!

Friday is almost here! Yup, I'm almost done with my 1st week at work. It's been quite good actually, despite the fact that I finish so late. We've been going back at 8 or 9pm on average. But that's because we start late too. The boss says it's because most clients call up around 6-ish and maybe it's to avoid the rush hour too.

I'm still trying to grasp how things work in the company. I've been in a few meetings already and feel quite useful that my ideas are being implemented. Whereas in the past company it was quite routine and it's not uncommon for the boss to steal your idea and claim it as hers!

Anyways, I get to work from home tomorrow! Going to try and see if I have the discipline to do just work within the time given and have something delivered by the weekend. And next week, I want to try with working in an earlier time frame and see whether I prefer starting work like most people or come in around 11-ish. Coming in late feels like luxury for a night-owl like me but going back late feels like you've got little time left to yourself at the end of the day.

Oh, by the way I just got my passport back today. And the visa change states that I am an "Engineer"! So far working here has been good, mainly due to my boss and colleagues. I was right when I told you guys that a pure Japanese company wouldn't work for me.

The view from my room window. The guest house borders to some offices built near the residential area. On the left is one of these, taken at 12 midnight! I bet it's a Japanese company.

And also, I just shifted in to my temporary accommodation yesterday. It's a Sakura House guest house, which means I have my own room but share the kitchen, toilet and shower with other residents in the house. It feels like a dorm and you get to meet people from everywhere coz they cater only to foreigners who are looking for short-term stays. BUT I am still looking for a better place with more privacy - please pray along with me especially if you're planning to come to Tokyo!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

what's there to love?

I think I can get used to living in Tokyo. What is there not to love?

The commuting enables you to jostle with urbanites during rush hour and see who can get the prime spot (read : proper seat/stand next to entrance) in the train. There is actually a way to do this - once you're familiar with which escalator/stair/train no/train line you take.

The walking from home to station, and then station to work allows you to keep fit and maintain firm calves and tight bums. That's why you don't see fat Japanese on the street. Everyone is either skinny or slim, except for the sumo wrestler, but he's hardly to be seen anyways.

The rush hour at stations and intersections give you the opportunity to spot metrosexual guys with trimmed eyebrows up close. Some of them shame me by how neat they do this, even those burly looking or macholy-dressed ones. I'm not surprised if they put on light makeup coz they go to lengths to do their hair already.

The long ride on the train provides you free make-up lessons from the many young teens who frequent Harajuku dressed in their favourite anime costume or the trendy working lady with her handbag full of cosmetic and accessories. Fake eyelashes, mascara and mirror are standard items!

If you're not into dressing up, you can finish a book within days, or weeks, depending on the duration of your ride and the thickness/complexity/no. of words of your book. I just found The Da Vinci Code in this temp office and loaned it to read since there's so much hype about it. It's been intriguing so far, to say the least.

Yes, there's certainly much to love about Tokyo.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

i survived my 1st day working in tokyo!

I survived my first day at work! The boss said we moved into the new place because I came into the team... Hmmm.

Anyways, it's a temporary place before we start working in the brand new office at Nakameguro in December. The current office still has about 3 months of lease left from the previous company, so there are still some furniture and equipment in the place. Heck, there are even pantry stuff like coffee maker, oven, microwave and even 2 and half bags of rice. I can cook rice for lunch! ;p

Not everyone was asked to work here, as they have been working from home previously. I've just met the Swedish designer, and he's been pretty helpful so far. I hope to learn more neat tricks on Photoshop from him.

The boss has already briefed me about ongoing projects and upcoming responsibilities last week! Looks like I'll have my hands full even the 1st week itself. Well, so far so good, so I'm not complaining :) Thank you Lord for a good 1st day!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

graduation pics :)

I know I graduated almost a month back, and I was in the midst of so many things that time, but here are some pics :)

With 2 of the Ebiz grrls in my class, Bee from Thailand and Akiko, while waiting outside the MLIC 3rd Floor before marching in.

At the podium, with a special certificate for my contribution to the peace of mankind school.

At the graduation ceremony, a small cozy affair as the ceremony was just for our class. The rest, whose course are 2 years, have theirs in June in the local hall.

Doing the ceremonial throw-your-graduation-hat-into-the-air thingy. We got to keep the hat, tassel and all. But we paid a bomb to rent the gown!

With the President of the school, Yasuma Sugihara-san. As grandfatherly as he looks, he really is an approachable and caring leader.

The girls forming the IUJ logo at the SD2 dormitory block.

Unfortunately, the guys don't look as graceful doing it.

Taking it off after a long and hot day of posing for the cameras. We graduated in the middle of summer, and almost drowned in our own sweat if not for the need to immortalise the moments.

The long walk back. Was about only 5 minutes to the office where we returned our gowns, but that feeling of closure felt like forever because we didn't feel like saying goodbye yet.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

malaysian therapy

This trip back was decidedly more meaningful and productive. I'm sorry I couldn't meet up with all of you, but family comes first :) I've even managed to cook for the family twice! Anyways, the list of stuff that I managed to do this time include :

- Doctor's visit
- Dental appointment
- Facial
- Thai foot reflexology
- Hair treatment
- New pair of shoes
- New silky dress

Needless to say, all of the above cost me almost half of my last drawn salary!! But, I'm glad for the pampering sessions. And imagine how much all these would have cost in Tokyo! This has really been a good break indeed.

Which also means, I'm too lazy to go back to Japan! :( Bummer, flight leaves in few hours, me gotta sleep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

no wonder the hongkies couldn't get my cantonese!

Proofs that my Cantonese skills have deteriorated :

Last week while trying to tapau some chee cheong fun for lunch, the lady spoke back to me in English as she tried to clarify that I really did want the 3 rolls of chee cheong fun with the stuffed brinjal and fried thingys.

This week while buying back some Hakka mee for lunch, also at the same USJ2 Chinese hawker restaurant, the guy asked me if I was from Johor Bahru, and if I was studying here at the local college.

tapau : take away
chee cheong fun : Chinese flat noodles, white & made of rice (?)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

surrounded by the familiar

The thing about Gmail having bought over Blogger means that when you accidentally log out of the mail service, whatever you have typed in your blog will not be saved! I have just finished typing one nice post when I realise I had already switched accounts on Gmail and I've lost everything! Anyways...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I woke up late today because I was up till about 3am+ trying to get my phone reactivated. I had already emailed Maxis before I left Japan but there was no reply. So when I got back home, I immediately called them up and asked them to reactivate for me. I even waited for 2 hours, as requested. But at 2am, and still not connection, I thought maybe I would have to go to the nearest Maxis center to check my SIM card. Being car-less would mean that I might not even get my phone reactivated for some time.

But I tried calling Maxis Customer Service again, and the guy on the other line said the lady I talked to earlier apparently did not do what she said she would. So he tried to reactivate for me, and by 3+ I was on Maxis again. And just before then, I also managed to get myself connected to the Internet. Even though it's not broadband or superspeed like Japan's, I'm not complaining!

My coming back this time feels quite different from the last. Being surrounded by familiar smells and sights give me the assurance that a lot of things remain the same. But knowing what has happened in this country of late saddens me, because it has the potential to become a lot better but is not.

I don't know why, but suddenly I realise the spaciousness in the house. It's as if for the first time I'm looking at how high the ceiling is, how roomy the rooms are and how big everything is. For those who've been to my house, you know it is no palace. But comparing to Tokyo's little huts, this is something I'm appreciating.

The spaces between houses in Tokyo, I think I would have to call it alleys, they're as small as 1 inch. Why don't they just stick to houses next to each other like terrace houses? What's the 1 inch when you can't even walk through it? But there's a 1 foot wall separating one house from the other, just to give it that little privacy.

I think I'm going to clean up my room a bit. Realise I have a lot of things that aren't worth keeping anymore. Maybe because I've been a nomad for the past week or so, living out of my luggage and having only the necessary by my side. That has taught me to prioritise and keep clutter out. In any case, being back feels really good. "Home sweet home" has never felt truer!

back again, but not for long!

I'm home! Was trying so hard to get Internet connection and my phone reactivated. Felt like I was transported back into time when there was no technology! Internet's so sloooowwwwww :D But I shouldn't complain even though I'm on dial up here, as long as I'm connected! The lady who was supposed to reactivate my phone didn't do it earlier, and I had to call Maxis Customer Service again, I'm still waiting. My apologies to those who tried to SMS me, I still hope I get your messages!

But I just wanted to say, it really feels good to be home, you have no idea!

My kitchen family at SD1 - we used to cook and share recipes, tasting each other's food and giving comments.

The last dinner I had at IUJ, courtesy of the SD1 male chefs! The head chef, whom I nicknamed the "Boss" can cook so well I told him he should open a restaurant, and people would stop eating at the school cafeteria :p