Tuesday, August 26, 2008

blue-eyed boy cannot be quashed

Blue-eyed boy feels helpless.

He can't say a thing to the people who needs to hear from him.

He can't do a thing to the people who is taking advantage of him.

Blue-eyed boy is just lying there with his hands and feet tied while an anvil falls from the sky.

Yes, blue-eyed boy grew up with a healthy dose of Wild E. Coyote and the Road Runner.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

raving & ranting with raya

As I stood at the ticket counter of the station waving goodbye to Raya, I realised how she became the symbol of my 1 year here in Tokyo. She was the first friend I made at the guest house in Yoyogi. That was after a stressful September last year moving around in various friends' places as I was still quite unsure if Tokyo was where I wanted to live. I was about to start my job in October and I still had not secured a better accommodation. So in the meantime, the guesthouse in Yoyogi was the best option available.

She had welcomed me with open arms exclaiming how relieved she was that I was the first grrl to live on that floor, especially since all her previous housemates were guys. She was this tall lanky Bulgarian with a short bob, whom I (had to) look up to like a big sister. For all I know, she could even be younger!

Our rooms were tiny, roughly 6m square, furnished with bare essentials. Just as the previous month, I was living out of my suitcase, only using whatever that was necessary to survive from one day to another as my first salary were to come in the month after. We would catch up after work whenever we could to unwind and share about each other's day. Occassionally we cooked for each other as well.

A few weeks after that I got to know Philip, a fellow Malaysian who told me about Watanabe-san's house. I practically fell in love with the room as soon as I stepped into it. I knew I had to move out of the cramped guest house. I told him I would move out as soon as my contract was up in Yoyogi. It was difficult for me to break the news to Raya. She was sad to see me go, and I could see she tried to persuade me to stay longer. And I tried to persuade her to move in with me to the new place.

We only met a couple of times after I moved out, but we still kept in touch through Skype & sms'. Right after work last Friday she gave me a call and asked if we could meet up. I was still upset over what had happened at work and so was relieved to get a call from her. Then she explained that this was her last weekend in Japan and she would like to meet up before she left. Shocked at that sudden news, I told her I would definitely make time for her, and so this weekend was spent with Raya.

As we caught up on past happenings, it was apparent our struggles were similar - language, culture, food, the people. She seemed really depressed at how difficult it was to continue living here after 3 years despite her efforts to learn all she could. I told her, she's a survivor for going through all that. She would have many stories to tell her family & friends when she returned home. She would come out stronger and more confident that she was able to experience so much on her own. Her perspective would be much different compared to her peers and this would give her an edge when she returned to Bulgaria.

It's been almost a year now. I met Raya when I first started my job in Tokyo. I remember raving about how I could work flexi-hours from home. Now she's leaving and I'm ranting about how my boss has turned into a slave driver. Indeed, one year has flown by so fast and so much has happened. Some people stay the same, while some show their true colours in a way I didn't expect. But we're both survivors and our experiences here is something no one can take away from us.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

kuak kupu-kupu

I did something I am not supposed to when the following takes place:

1) It was raining, and
2) I was having my period.

It was not stupid. Neither was it careless. In fact, you may call it krazy but I took my chances (with the necessary protection!).
And I re-learnt something which was taught to me 20 years ago.

The butterfly.

To think that I had forgotten that stroke because I hadn't bothered to practice it ever since. It only goes to show that what you learn during your childhood sticks with you for life ;)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

sketched by a spanish

My Spanish housemate is hosting her 2nd guest this time. She did tell me beforehand that Damián Molla is quite famous in Spain and is apparently multi-talented. This must be true, because there are videos of him in Youtube. This looks like it was made by one of his fans. Embedding was disabled, but click and you get the idea.

He's also a talk host for a Spanish entertainment show, El Hormiguero. Translated as "The Anthill", this programme is broadcasted with a live audience touching on topics such as comedy, science and politics. This is taken from one of their segments, "El Kiosco", in which they show parodies of other media (He's the one in maroon vest). So popular has this show become that their weekly 120-minute show has now expanded into daily 40-minute shows.

Apparently, he's also a singer in his own band. Even though he seems to be gifted in the arts, I was still quite surprised he could also draw. Not just any drawing, but caricature. So while the housemates and I were catching up in the dining room the last weekend, he suddenly had this inspiration to draw.

A caricature.

Of me.

He admitted that it was difficult for him because I was the first Asian he had to draw. He was used to sketching European faces so it was easy for him to pick out an outstanding feature and have one done in just 5 minutes. To him, our eyes, our nose, our mouth, even our hair are all so different from what he's familiar with!

Nevertheless, he still managed to accomplish the task in a relatively short period of time. I've never had a caricature of myself drawn, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I must say it was impressive. At first glance, I thought it looked more like an angel against a sunny background rather than a kimono grrl with the old Japanese flag behind. To give a finishing touch, I got him to autograph the drawing so that I can sell it when he becomes more famous! as a keepsake.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

for what is summer in tokyo without hanabi

The fireworks tonight was said to be the last biggest one held in Tokyo, featuring over 12,000 bursts of sparkles & dazzles over the skyline from Tokyo Bay. I was actually quite hesitant to go, knowing full well that it would be packed, right from the train to the station to the assembly area. What was supposed to be a 15-minute walk turned out to be a half-an-hour shuffle. Thank God it wasn't as humid as usual!

I had a really good time 2 years ago catching the hanabi in Nagaoka with Alden, Konan & Farhana when we were still doing our Intensive Japanese course. I doubt anything in Tokyo can beat that unless they start having big-shot sponsors and music accompaniment with the fireworks. Which was what I experienced back then. Anyways, I decided to give this a shot since some uni friends were so gung-ho about it. They even wore the yukata, complete with the obi and geta!

In fact, 1 out of every 2 Japanese grrls were seen looking cute & pretty in the summer-style kimono. Having donned one of these 2 summers ago and joining in the Niigata festivities, I know how hot it can be underneath! But for some of them, the hanabi is a once-in-a-year event that warrants a reason to wear the yukata. In fact, some of the men join in too. A good reason to keep the traditional costume alive.

Along the way to the area where we would get a place to sit and enjoy the show, many roadside stalls were on hand to make money off desparate make sure we were well-fed and nourished. Most were selling soft drinks, bottled water and local food such as takoyaki, yakisoba, edamame and yakiniku.

Since the queue was too long, we decided to hold our hunger as long as we could and try to get a proper dinner after the show. Good thing our Thai friends brought a plastic mat along, and we managed to find a good area to catch the hanabi. And so, we oooh-ed and aaah-ed along with the Japanese as the fireworks shot up into the cloudy sky and brought cheer on a balmy summer evening.















(The last one was almost deleted, if not for the fact that the left ones looked very much like white daisies against the dark backdrop)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

so who's drooling?

Yuri asked me if I thought he was cute. In fact, Masami asked me the same question too on a separate occasion. When asked these kinda questions, I deftly avoid answering in the affirmative even if I'm secretly drooling and stealing glances at the guy. Sometimes I throw the question back, hoping that would put them in a spot and turn the attention away from me! To that, they did say he was a bit too "serious". That was my first impression as well, so I wasn't exactly drooling!

So I continued in this nonchalant attitude when we were invited to his place for coffee. The rest had already met him in his earlier trips, so I was considered the new friend. That gave me plenty of reasons to talk to him and get to know him. But again, due to my ego it wasn't as if I was all over him trying to find every little opportunity to ask questions and show I was genuinely interested in being his friend.

The evening went on pretty well. Three really deliciously baked thin-crust pizzas followed by home-brewed coffee. He was showing his newly-delved passion in making good coffee and unfortunately since I'm not such a coffee fan, I couldn't pretend I was into it. Being courteous, I said I would take just a sip. So he offered to share with me his cup instead. After a few sips, I still couldn't understand why the rest had proclaimed it as one of the best coffee they had drunk!

And so, after saying goodbyes, I wasn't really expecting to see him again. He was just a visitor and would be returning back to his home country. But one thing I got inspired from him, which was to have a passion in something and really learn all you can about it and be good in it. He invested in that coffee grinder and brewer and could tell me all about the beans and their various acidity level, aroma and whatnots.

Somehow, an opportunity struck not too long ago and he accepted my invitation for an evening of festivities. It was his last weekend in Tokyo and so I thought it would be good to bring him around town to experience a local matsuri* and the fireworks display that marked the peak of summer and meet up with some of my friends.

I guess I had unconsciously taken up the challenge of getting to know him, especially when more than 1 person commented that he was too "serious". I was not really surprised as the Brits are known for their dry humour. So perhaps the Japanese are more used to Caucausians being loud, outspoken and friendly.

In any case, we did have lots of fun watching the local procession in the streets of Nakameguro, (him) having beer on a humid evening, and then proceeding to stuff ourselves with izakaya** food. I must say that on the outside, he may seem aloof and humourless, but once you get him to talk about his hobbies and passion, he can get real chatty and funny.

My goal was not to see if he had a sense of humour, but rather, quash the commonly-agreed notion of him being too serious, and reiterate the fact that if you take the time and effort and charms, you will find a person more interesting than he or she appears to be. My reward was a cute friend who's not only a Cambridge law graduate who speaks fluent Japanese but darn good in B-boy breakdancing too! Yes, you have my permission to drool.

*matsuri (祭り)- local festival, feast, usually with dancing, singing & music
**izakaya (居酒屋)- local Japanese-style bar, tavern serving all sorts of food & drinks

Monday, August 04, 2008

sauna in summer

I knew it, I was gonna wake up all sore and walking like an obaachan* today. Nevermind that I did my stretches and warm up before the game. Nevermind that I went for skiing and snowboarding during winter. Nevermind that I started doing some cycling during weekends and even after work.

But having NOT played badminton for a year has rendered my muscles useless stiff. It's a good reminder to exercise regularly even if it's just doing weights in my room or jogging around the neighbourhood.

So Eric picked me up at the station and we took quite a long walk under the late morning sun to his campus. Now being midsummer, I had conveniently forgot to bring a hat as I didn't expect it to be a long walk. But I did remember to slap on lots of sunblock on my arms & face before leaving. By the time we reached RIKEN, I was already sweating buckets. Summer in Japan is characterised by its heat and humidity.

Now, the Japanese will invariably make this statement :

You're from Malaysia. A tropical country. Surely you must be used to this kind of weather!

To which, I explain :

Ya, but from where I come from, there's this thing called the car. And it comes equipped with air-conditioning. We don't walk everywhere like the Japanese do (for better or worse!) Plus, it's more humid over here.

And that usually shuts them up clears whatever question they have about us not being able to stand the heat.

So anyways, we reached the lab-converted-into-badminton-court in Riken and found it to be as stuffy as a sauna. The only thing I wanted to do then was to jump into a swimming pool! Or get someone to pour a bucket of ice water over me. But since I had taken the trouble to visit them there, I joined Eric, Nicole, Loh, Eugene & Carol in some friendlies.

Sweating felt good. Sweating because you played sports felt even better. Sweating because you had fun while playing sports is much betterer!

Nicole pitied me because I had to go so far just to play badminton with them. But I told her to invite me for the next games. Nevermind that I'm sore like an obaachan now. I just need to get myself on the massage chair and I'll be up in no time for the next match!

* obaachan (お婆ちゃん, お祖母ちゃん) - granny, grandmother, old lady, female senior citizen

Sunday, August 03, 2008

even though...

Even though it was just a stolen glance,
I knew you were trying to get my attention.

Even though it was just a tight squeeze,
I knew your hug was more than just being friends.

Even though it was just a soft pat on the head,
I knew you wanted to distract without being annoying.

Even though it was just a double-layered macha cake,
I knew your sharing with me was something out of the ordinary.

Even though it was just a hinted email,
I knew you really wanted to share more without being explicit.

Even though it was just a simple call to say hi,
I knew you actually found joy in hearing my voice.

Even though you were not one,
Know that you made my day.

Even though You have always tried to tell me,
I just needed to know that You were there all along.
And maybe some glimpses and sparkles that feel like magic,
So, I thank You for being You.