Friday, February 27, 2009

東京での珍しい雪だ!rare sno in tokyo

Oh my Oh my Oh my! It's snowing!!! In Tokyo!!!

This is so beautiful. No doubt it's teeny weeny bits of snow which melts to the ground. It's. still. snow!

February has always been a bitterly cold month with nothing much to look forward to. Usually people have something to hope for in March - spring in April. But February? Maybe my birthday :D

But anyways. I got a call this morning by a long-lost-friend-reunited-again who knew I had missed the snow in Niigata. Jumping out of bed, I slid open the window next to my bed and started squealing in delight looking at the bits of snow falling from the sky.

I tried to capture them on camera, but there were too teeny weeny. :/ They don't even stay as snow, turning into water immediately. Maybe I'd have to wait a bit more.

Coming from a tropical country, and having experienced a very snowless winter in Tokyo for the past 2 years, seeing (and feeling) snow is just magical. The only reason why winter is bearable is the snow (Skiing and snowboarding too). Even if it dips below zero, SNOW what? :)

I will never forget the time when my senpai* called me one night in my first winter in Niigata, telling me to look out the window. The next morning there was already a pile of snow on the ground, as high as 5cm.

I was told that the year before, the snowfall was so much it reached at least 3m high! You had to literally drive through a tunnel of snow to go places. At night, lights bouncing off carlights would lit up the surrounding, making it seem almost like day instead. How magical is that?

This is so exciting I feel like going outdoors and dancing in my PJs under the falling snow!

* senpai 先輩 【せんぱい】 (n) senior (at work or school); superior; elder; older graduate; progenitor; old-timer;

Monday, February 23, 2009

what issit about adversity that...

there's something about adversity
that reveals the deepest of intentions
shows us why people do certain things even though they don't want to
just because they have to

there's something about adversity
that binds people together in ways unexpected
so that mere strangers separated through lack of common causes
can still rally to help those they barely know

there's something about adversity
that brings out the best in people
so even though i want to draw a clear line between business and personal
they have shown that work people can be friends too

there's something about adversity
that makes you stop and ponder
about all that you've gone through and makes you look above
and thank Him for all the blessings
one by one

Friday, February 20, 2009

dealing with a laid off friend

To those who has a friend who's just got laid off, please put yourself in that person's shoes and imagine how that would feel. To some, losing a job may be like losing a loved one. Different people deal with losses differently, but it's not unusual that people who are laid off go through a similar grieving process.

They may go through the initial shock and denial stages, followed later by acceptance of the fact even though it may have been anticipated. Doubts and worry may creep in especially when the job is the only means of income and there are other commitments that need to be financed. Being in a foreign country and having a limited visa further compounds the situation.

Therefore, don't say stupid things such as "It's just a job. Just get another one!" If your friend were to lose his granma, even though it's true, you don't say to him "People die everyday. Just move on with your life!". Obviously if your friend is still feeling depressed after weeks and months and not doing anything about it, then that advice may be apt.

It's even more difficult with today's economic situation when supposedly established institutions are crumbling one after another. Very talented and skilled people are even being laid off even though this has nothing to do with their performance. Potential companies may place a stigma on those who have been laid off, and their esteem may take a battering.

If you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything. The least you can do is to pray for them and wish them all the best. One of the more useful things you can do to help your friend, if you can, is to make use of your connections to suggest jobs or openings that you come across.

That said, I'm thankful for great support and love! <3
Will share more tips on weathering the storm...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

my bittersweet valentine

Some friends had unwittingly sent Valentine's Day greetings over the weekend, not knowing what I had just gone through.

But that made it even more meaningful. Bittersweet, in fact.

Nevertheless, it's the thoughts that count. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

surreal : the first 5 days

Surreal Day 1, Friday

The news came swift and quick. The President himself delivered the news first thing in the morning. It was a combination of personal and corporate reasons that resulted in the decision. None of us had an inkling of what was to come as we were assured that business was as usual even though there seemed to be no incoming projects for the new year.

The Singapore office had to be shut down while the Tokyo HQ would go into hibernation mode, so to speak. Half of us had to leave. The rest who remained agreed to take a pay cut while working part time. I doubt they will be working less if we were to maintain the same no. of clients.

My sidekick and I decided to leave the office as it was becoming awkward. We headed to Yoyogi Park. It was my first time there on a winter day, quite apt as the trees were all skinny and bare while the lake had almost dried up, almost reflecting how we felt that time.

Even while talking a leisurely walk in the park, I had already formulated in my mind next steps for the coming weeks. Sidekick was visibly more upset than I was, while I was more teary. At that point, I did not care if people were looking at us as if we were a couple who just had a fight.

We could've stayed out longer if not for the chilly weather. As I began to text close friends about my status, I started getting messages and calls from them. When I reached home, I was overwhelmed at all the love and concern. That I cried again. I decided I was too puffy to meet anyone, so I had to decline kind suggestions to meet up.

Surreal Day 2, Saturday

Feeling much better after the night's sleep, I woke up thanking God I still had a place to stay and many caring people around me.

In my unsociable state, I made myself go downstairs to welcome my new housemate. She had just moved in that morning itself.

It was a beautiful sunny weather, felt almost spring-like. Went for a walk near the Four Season's Hotel garden. I had already decided that I would take it easy that weekend. Stepping back from the shock of the previous day's event and immersing in beautiful things turned out to be the right decision.

Surreal Day 3, Sunday

Contrary to how I felt, I decided to join the gang at Goto's residence since they had already planned something earlier. Stephen was leaving for overseas assignment and they wanted to accompany Masami. It was good getting out of Tokyo.

Shared about my experience and the dream I had at church. Turned out that Sree was also asked to leave her company. But at least there was a job waiting for her back in India. By this time I was no more teary, and so did not look as pathetic.

Finally managed to talk to my parents. Had emailed them a long essay on Friday about what had happened as I did not want to choke on emotions if I had to say it over the phone. They were really understanding and supportive. Mama, as always, would like me to return home.

Surreal Day 4, Monday

Today was the last day I was to see the boss. He was leaving for UK the next morning, so there were a flurry of activites; handovers, status updates, final talks and goodbyes. I don't know if I'll ever see him again.

Everyone was pretty positive at the office despite it all. Those who remained were sympathetic and wondered how we would cope. They asked if we had enough $ to survive the coming weeks.

Surreal Day 5, Tuesday

Today felt quite different. For the following weeks, I would not have to be at the office all the time, which makes me miss going to the office. Ironic.

Was very productive with my time. Felt as if my time unemployed is busier than when I was employed. While still working, I also managed to tidy up my resume, update personal details on recruitment sites where I have accounts in, sending out CV's to recruiters, contacts and friends, communicated with referees and even planned for a probable weekend getaway before the snow melts.

Even got my recommendation letter from the boss before he left, and already thinking of alternative streams of income. Also need to file my taxes and attend the upcoming career fairs.

And to think I would have the break I needed to do things I couldn't do when I was working!

Friday, February 13, 2009

that surreal friday

You always thought it only happens in other countries. The Japanese Yen is strong, we're doing well. People are shopping and enjoying themselves.

You always thought it only happens in other companies. We're still doing work for current clients, there are still meetings to be had with prospective clients.

You always thought it only happens to people you hardly know, or friends of friends. No one in your closest circle are hit, though the people they know are affected.

Not until it happens to you.

And today, it happened to me. It's official, and we have 1 month. I'm still in shock. It's too sudden, though we were half-anticipating it.

Can't write more than this, I may share more when the time is right.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Happy Chap Goh Mei! It's the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and even though I'm celebrating my 3rd CNY in Japan, I think this year is the best so far.

We had a gathering at my favourite Malaysian restaurant at Ginza, the very same place my parents found while I was bringing them around Tokyo. Who would've thought we'd accidentally find a Malaysian restaurant while randomly walking around and even spending JPY1260 for a plate of fragrant char kuey teow served on banana leaf.

The Malaysian owners of this restaurant had an open house and our MalaysiansInJapan group gate-crashed were invited to be part of the festivities. By this time I had known more Malaysians and felt more excited getting to know fellow countrymen who are studying and working in Tokyo.

The waitress in her uniform. Looks very much like the MAS air stewardess outfit, doesn't it?

Loads and loads of good yummy sedap oishii Malaysian food. Can't remember all, but I had crispy fried popiah, satay in peanut sauce, sweet and sour fish, spicy chicken wings, and bubur chachar!

The size of the restaurant is probably the same as my room, but there were more than 30 people at least in there at any one time. It was a bit hard to move around, but I heard it was even more packed last year.

With the nice "Datin" Ang who owns the restaurant and hosted the CNY open house luncheon. Hospitality like these always make staying in foreign land more bearable!

(This is based on the accumulative experience of having tried food there both times)
Food : 9/10
Service : 8/10
Ambience : 7/10

As I reflected on my experience so far, I find that being in Japan has actually made me appreciate my roots more. Since Japan and China are closely related in many ways, I have no choice but to be more Chinese in a way. There is nothing like being thrown out of your comfort zone and being forced to learn and discover yourself in a foreign land.

For a banana* like me, two of the best things that have happened as a result of that are :

1) Using the chopstick
I've always been a fork-and-spoon person, grew up with them, be it when eating rice, noodles or even western food. Seriously, with a fork and a spoon, you can eat almost anything with them. They may not be the best equipment to eat steak with, but it still works.

However, after coming to Japan, I had no choice but to eat everything with chopsticks. Rice, noodles and even western food. I can't say I'm using chopsticks the right way, and those of you who do will know that there is a right and wrong way to hold them. Maybe because I've been using them the wrong way since I was young and never bothered to correct myself!

2) Reading kanji
The Japanese kanji characters are derived from ancient Chinese characters. My parents' generation grew up learning the traditional characters, but my generation were taught the simplified form. Even China is using the simplified version even though, if I'm not mistaken, Taiwan is still sticking to the older one.

Still, there are many characters which are very similar in both the traditional and simplified. And in a way, that has helped me appreciate my Chinese background more.

It was to my surprise that for the first time I noticed the Chinese kanji on signboards when I went back home for Christmas. Being a multiracial country, most of the signs and notices are in at least 3 languages; Malay, English and Chinese and/or Indian.

I've never quite realised that I only read the first two and somehow the Chinese characters seem invisible to me all these while. However, after learning lots of kanji here, it feels like my eyes have been peeled open and I find myself startled as if those characters had somehow magically appeared when they have been there all along!

*banana - colloquial term referring to Malaysian Chinese who are not well-versed in the Chinese language (and in a broader term, culture). Banana meaning yellow-skinned, but white on the inside. Usually applies to descendants of migrant Chinese who are English-educated.

Friday, February 06, 2009

wellington the bear

Meet another addition to the room, his name is Wellington. He came in this box.

Apparently he was found lying abandoned in the attic of a large tambling house. Dusty and in need of repair, but nevertheless very lovable.

Wellington looked squashed inside the brown cardboard box.

So he peeked out a little, glad to have some breath of fresh air at last. Wonder how long he's been kept in that box.

And he came with a certificate of ownership too. Ya, it was supposed to be for my Christmas gift, nevermind that I came back to Tokyo a little after.

So I'm doing what I'm supposed to - take care of Wellington. He now sits on top of the telly, I'm sure that's much better than being abandoned in the attic.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

prickly additions

Living in claustrophobic Tokyo means space is at a premium. Having a garden is a luxury, having a plot of land to tend plants is even rarer.

Coming from suburban Subang Jaya, I kinda missed the little garden we have in front of our house. I must admit I never gave much care to those plants that were there, but have come to appreciate greenery much more when I came to Tokyo.

So when I saw some pots of cacti at sale at the Ikea here, I did not hesitate to get a trio for myself. I thought the combination was varied enough in terms of shape, colour and texture.

I have something which looks like a balcony just outside my window. It only looks like a balcony because it is a set of metal railings curved to look like one, and is attached directly to the window. If I could put those cacti outside there, I would. But I feared that it would be too precarious a position.

So I put my new plants in the toilet in my room instead, that was the other window that had sunlight coming through. I think they go really well with the interior decor and gives the place a refreshing look.

Is is true that looking at green objects such as plants help with tired eyes and frazzled nerves.

For someone as lazy as me, having cactus as plants is the best ever - I don't have to worry about not watering them when I'm busy, entertaining my fans hanging out with friends or away on holidays. And they don't bite!