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