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...

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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

Saturday, September 15, 2007

the cloud's clearing a little now

Things are getting better, a little by little. The French couple I'm staying with are amazing. Even though they're quite young, still studying but here on summer break, they are quite an interesting bunch to talk to. Only got to know them some months back when I was staying with Au while job hunting in Tokyo, but they've already welcomed me and made me feel at home.

Am journalling quite a bit as well. Was encouraged by Alex to start it again since I lost touch with it back in IUJ. It helps to keep the threads of thoughts from floating aimlessly in my head, and I'm sure many years down the read, make good reading when I look back at all the insanity that has been going on.

Was talking to Eewei and didn't realise that we have a lot more in common than I thought. It always helps to have someone gone down similar paths but have come out of it wiser and humbled. I think perhaps that will be the result of my miseries this phase in my life.

I've also gotten a temporary accomodation with Sakura House, a popular housing agency serving the foreign population here. I took up their guest house, but am planning only for while as it is quite expensive, even though utilities and internet are included. Will be taking over Bryan's room when he goes back to Canada. The ones I saw earlier that day were ok, but didn't seem as appealing as the one at Sendagaya since it was quite convenient and had many restaurants around the area.

That same evening, I was asked to join a meeting with the company. Managed to meet the Asst Manager, and was updated on some of the projects they were working on. Was also given some tasks to start familiarising myself with what's going on. At least I have something to keep me busy, now that I've gotten a temp aprt and my flight ticket's confirmed too.

Yes, I will be coming home this coming Monday. Flight transits through KB for 2 hours, but I should be touching down KLIA 2200 hours if all goes well. I am really looking forward for a break before I start work proper. I hope to be able to meet up with those I missed the last trip. And oh, my number's still the same if you wanna drop me a line ya :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

little hopes

The colleague and I were supposed to look at the 2nd guest house yesterday, but it was already taken up. The 1st one we saw last week was not quite my taste; location wasn't convenient, there were unwashed pots and pans in the shared kitchen, and worse still, the toilet was unflushed!

I've been scouring over the Internet looking at gaijin houses, guest houses, and apartments which are catered for foreigners. Many have had bad experiences with landlords who prefer not to rent out to foreigners as they do not speak the language. Many a times, the payment upfront is outrageous and some need to pay as much as 6 months' of rent initially, not including furniture and appliances later on.

While getting busy with this, I was also trying to get flight tickets back home. Japanese travel agents, well at least the ones I know, require you to transfer money from the bank to their account. With much technology and all that, I still cannot understand why credit card usage is so low in this country!

Anyways, a lot of emails to and fro with the No 1 Travel agency finally brought me to an itinerary which I hope will allow me to go back for awhile before starting work proper, attend one of my friend's wedding and still have a place to stay when I come back here. The agent only got back to me yesterday and he told me the deadline was today.

By the time I got his email, the bank had already closed. Even though Japan is known to be a safe country overall, their banks, ATM machines all close early! Some don't even open on weekends and holidays, so you got to have their opening hours memorised somewhere.

So after brunch, I walked out trying to find the nearest Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, of which the travel co had an account. I was worried if I could make the transfer as I did not have an account there. So I approached the security guard asking for help. A Japanese lady behind me overheard us and offered to help me. I explained to her my situation, and she assured me it was not a problem.

So we walked to the ATM machine and she helped me make the transfer. While we were talking, I found out that she herself works for a travel agency. Hmm, perhaps I could get her to make flights for me next time. So there, blessing no. 1 today, after many days of disappointment and seeming bleakness.

On the way back, I decided to get myself an umbrella coz the forecast said that there would be rain today and tomorrow. Since I was out, I decided to check if there were any cheap shops around, like the Y100 shop. I saw a big sign across the street and quickly walked towards it, but only to find that it was some old office of the shop which had already closed down.

By the time I came out, it was already raining. There was no place to take cover so I got wet. I managed to get to the Shibuya station half drenched, hoping the rain would subside. The skies didn't look like it would anytime soon. So I got myself to the nearest information center, but they told me there was no Y100 shop in the area. They pointed me to the 3rd Flr of the departmental store instead.

Not surprisingly, they only had designer umbrellas, averaging Y10,000 each. The ones on sale were selling for Y3,000. I would be crazy to spend so much on an umbrella, especially in my situation. So I hung around the departmental store trying to see if the rain would subside. About half an hour later, a little voice prompted me to go. I said, "Where? It's still raining, isn't it?"

So I walked out, not knowing where I should go since I was not familiar with the area, and it still raining. After awhile, I stopped to see where I was. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw people hogging around a shop just outside the station. I didn't give it much thought since Shibuya station is always packed with humans anyways. But then through the many people in front of me, I managed to see, umbrellas! This was a film and camera shop selling umbrellas in front of their counter, of all things.

No wonder business was brisk. Many umbrellas, from compact, foldable to the long ones, all selling for only Y500. I decided to choose a small one which could fit into my bag, somewhat like the one my mum gave me. Without thinking much, I took the yellow one, symbolising bright days ahead.

Blessing no.2, just like the earlier one, may not seem like something to shout about. But to me, these little gifts were what gave me hope. That there will be better days ahead. That when we listen close enough, God speaks and guides us to where we should go.

The clouds are still hanging low even as I write this. It doesn't look like the rain will go away anytime soon. I have to move out again this evening. But this time I have my umbrella, and most importantly I have Him by my side.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

an email from dad

I got a pretty long email from my dad today. He read about my latest post and was quite concerned about what I just went through. The last time we talked was the night my parents landed back in Malaysia. But even during our holiday together, I didn't tell them about some of the issues that I had coz I didn't want them to worry. I just wanted them to enjoy themselves in Japan.

He said he had a good time with my mum and I, and really appreciate the effort I took to plan the trip and bring them around. For me, even though it was quite a tight period having to settle things back in campus, graduate and say goodbye and take care of my parents, I didn't regret it one bit.

I hated to say goodbye, and wished I could spend more time in campus with my friends. I was trying to balance both at the same time while my parents were there. But actually, their being there was like a cushion. I had to concentrate on my parents, making sure that the travel plans and accomodation were in place. That took my mind off the sadness of leaving. If I had to just go straight down to Tokyo from IUJ, it might have been worse.

So on hindsight, even though I feel sad and wished my parents were here longer, it was a good time that I'll always remember. He told me that he wished he could express himself better, especially about the Kobe beef! Haha, my dad can be so funny sometimes. He must've read my post and thought I thought he didn't like the food.

My mum always says my dad's the typical Chinaman type who doesn't express himself with hugs and kisses, but we know that he loves us a lot. I wouldn't have minded a bit that he didn't say anything about the trip, coz spending time together like this was something so precious money can't buy.

Here are some pictures that we took when I brought them to Disneyland.

My mum was wondering why so many girls were wearing these Minnie headbands and decided to put one on herself.

My dad,the machoman, trying to lift the 10,000kg dumbell.

Friday, September 07, 2007

a new phase begins?

I wonder if God's trying to tell me something.

It was with a heavy heart that I took the train back to Tokyo after sending my parents off at the Kansai International on Wednesday. I was busy making sure my parents enjoyed themselves in Japan and that everything was in place that I somehow took for granted I had a place to stay in Tokyo. So on the way back, I was still trying to get a place to bunk in, but most either were staying with someone else, or had friends staying with them. I had some other choices but I wasn't comfortable because of personal reasons.

Finally I had to ask the company for help. The Prez was really kind enough to find me one, an apartment they rented for their partner in S'pore. I was really grateful because I was already so tired from all the travelling and had been in the Tokyo station for hours contacting everyone I knew. Internet here was expensive, Y100 for 10minutes! I also had to buy a phone card coz I think I blew the budget on my mobile bill. The partner was away, so I was allowed to stay for the night.

But I had to travel to Nerima to get my other luggage from a friend, and on the way back, it rained. I didn't have an umbrella with me, so luggage and I got wet. I was hoping the next day would be better. I finally got a place to stay with another friend, but because the apartment the company found for my 2nd lodging would cost Y7000 per day!

Because my friend would only be back after work, I decided to stay on till evening and cleaned up the company's apartment. Then I got a call from Yoko, Lenice's Jap friend telling me that a typhoon would hit Tokyo. I had to pack up quick, but the linen and towels were still in the washing machine.

Even though I talked to the Prez about staying for another night, I felt I shouldn't overstay as he was already nice enough to find me something so last minute. So I decided to bring all my luggage, brave through the rain and wind and shifted out, leaving the laundry still tumbling in the machine. I could come back the next day to check it out.

When I left the place, it was drizzling, but it began to get worse, and soon enough, strong gusts of wind swept through the area. It came in all directions, so having an umbrella only helped a little, if not made it even worse. I didn't have an umbrella the previous night, so I got really wet. I dreaded catching a cold at a time like this, so I took out the umbrella my mum gave me which I'd never used before.

As I was nearing the station, I got excited. I told myself, only a few 100m more to go. Suddenly out of nowhere winds blew from various directions, my umbrella flew away, the cap on my head flew along with it. I was all drenched, my umbrella broke and my cap got wet. Needless to say, all my luggage got wet too.

The umbrella I got from my mum just before I left for Japan, now rendered useless.

I quickly dragged everything to the station, envying the people who didn't get caught in the gust of wind that struck me where I walked. When I reached the station, almost everyone looked dry. Or at least, dryer than me! I looked as if I had just dragged my luggage through the shower room. I never felt so miserable before.

I had already said goodbye to the closest people to me, I had no home to come back to, and knowing that I will be moving at least 3 times before I find something permanent made me feel like a nomad. Yes, it will be at least that many times before we find someplace where I will stay for the longer term. Apparently, it takes weeks before a suitable place is found, according to my new colleague (whom I've never met before, btw!)

Anyways, a lot of other things are on my mind as well. Changes to be made to the alien registration card, opening a new bank account, insurance, trying to get a flight ticket back home, looking out for alternative accomodation and most importantly, finding a right church where I can belong.

But I have something more urgent to talk to God about. Those who knows about this, please pray along with me, I can't do this alone. I want to do the right thing, and do it right.

Monday, September 03, 2007

transition period again

Am typing this from Kyoto's Toyoko Inn. We've just come back from a day trip to Kobe. My parents tasted Kobe Beef for the first time. Funny how they didn't have the same reaction as I did when I had my first bite.

Just one month ago I was in the Kansai area too, and went to almost the same places I'm bringing my parents. Many memories came back, especially of the fun times I had there. Same place, different people, surreal feeling.

So far so good, they liked where I've brought them. Tokyo was Odaiba, Disneyland, the Imperial Palace, Ginza and Roppongi. I told them that I will show the most glam and glittery and the traditional sides of Japan. So it was supposed to be the opposite in Kansai, and therefore, temples in Kyoto. But since they were not into temples and pagodas, I brought them down to Kobe instead. We took the City Loop Bus and had a ride to the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park, Meriken Park, and Mosaic. Tomorrow will be Osaka, most likely the Osaka-jo.

I will be sending them off the day after. So many goodbyes these few days. When I left IUJ, my closest buddies in SD1 were there to send me off. We had a good dinner together with my parents the night before and played UNO till 3 and I still didn't want to leave if not for the fact that I still had not finished packing.

Then I had to say goodbye to Au when she left for HK for her exchange programme, and tomorrow Al will be leaving for Switzerland for his as well. And the day after that, I will be sending my parents off at the Kansai International and my new life here will begin.

The transition between IUJ and Tokyo has been a mixed bag of emotions. I still want to go back to campus as if I never graduated, but my nametags on the door and mailbox will not be there anymore. I also wish I can just go home and not think about working! In between, I still talk to my SD1 buddies, it really eases the pain somewhat.

Gosh, why is this turning to be a sad post. You know I hardly do that, I post up happy stuff to remind me of the good memories and keep the painful ones somewhere else. So I will stop here and go do my laundry :p Who knows when I'll have the chance to post again - I still have not gotten a place to stay!!