Tuesday, January 29, 2013

influenza type a

I think Japanese doctors in Kobe can be quite scary. Or at least those I have visited so far.

The ones in Niigata and Tokyo seemed to be okay, even the dentists (even though I had quite a traumatic experience), and I have no recollection of them being scary.

I'll write about what happened today, as later you will find out why I have to keep this short (or later I realised not so short after all).

I had been feeling a little funny over the weekend but didn't give much thought to it other than the fact that it was getting really cold and perhaps my body was trying to adjust to it. Or perhaps it could have been the fact that over the past week I had business trips to Tokyo, few days later to Osaka, followed by a last minute presentation, and that evening, a department-wide New Year's Party which ended very late.

I woke up Monday morning feeling a little awful, but thinking perhaps I just needed to get some more rest, messaged my colleagues telling them I should be in that afternoon.

It quickly got worse, and it felt like a full-blown common cold. Fever, muscle aches, dry cough, headache, cold and a little flu. Trying to be macho, and I try to self-prescribe to avoid taking medicine, I tried all sorts of ways to keep myself warm and hydrated.

Thank God for Mum's parcels which came with loads of love - supplements, herbal tea, instant soup, Panadol and other quick-fix, birds nest soup, essence of chicken, and loads of other yummy stuff that you can't get here.

I made myself some carrot porridge, sprinkled with meat floss and sesame seaweed for flavour. Downed lots of water, made with a combination of the above in all sorts of cocktail. Tried to soak myself in lavender bath to sooth the aching muscle. As you can imagine, all those drinking and washing used up so much water, that the water tank in my room almost got empty!

My colleague had advised me to visit the hospital if I still had fever. I actually felt a little better this morning but just to take her advise, I went to the nearest "clinic" which is just a block away.

I had earlier mentioned I had the symptoms of influenza, so just wanted to confirm. So when I went into the doctor's room, he asked me if I'd really like to take the test. Not knowing what it really meant, and just wanted to take it (more to confirm I did NOT have influenza), I just nodded.

He came back with a long tubular tool, slim and transparent. It didn't look like a syringe, so that's fine. But when he started explaining in Japanese what he was about to do, and then went to my side I started to wonder what he was talking about.

He gave me some tissues, and I caught some words about sneezing. Then with one hand slightly behind me, his other hand holding the long stick, slowly pushed it into my right nostril. I started getting worried. So okay maybe if it tickles my nostril, I will sneeze so hard, that his other hand would hold me so that the force would not be too much for me!

As soon as I jerked back, to avoid it going deeper, he seemed to get a little irritated. I was getting confused, I thought he wanted to just touch the nostril. This happened a few times and in his Japanese he kept explaining that other people are able to do this (so I should be able to too!). Then I realised I should not jerk away, but to let him push the nostril swab to collect samples of my mucus.

It felt realllllyyy uncomfortable! Almost like my nostrils got violated. Imagine a tube going through your nostrils all the way into the back of the throat. Maybe that's how people on tubes feel.

When I tried to clean my nose after that, I notice some spots of blood. Well, at least I didn't sneeze.

After waiting a while, the doctor came back with the test results, and it was confirmed Influenza Type A. Well, at least it's not H1N1! I was ordered to rest for 2 days, and to take the medicine prescribed. Even with the health insurance covering 70% of the bill, JPY2,840 is still a lot of money!

Later when I got back to my house, I realised my nose was dripping! Every half an hour or so, it would just drip uncontrollably. I didn't want to blow it too hard but at the same time I didn't know what to do with it. Once in awhile I'd get into sneezing fits too.

I can only write what I knew what happened during the nostril swab, and the effects of the swab AFTER the visit, thanks to the Internet!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to stop the dripping... again!

Friday, January 25, 2013

onitsuka tiger

This might be a little embarrassing to admit, but I wasn't aware that Onitsuka Tiger was such a big brand until I came here!

The nearest store in Kobe is near the posh Daimaru shopping area in Sannomiya. I had first visited in the summer to check out the collection. Almost got myself a traffic-light-stopper yellow Sakurada which would have worked well in this funkadelic country, but would be hard to match with most clothes! Unless I work in the creative line.

My 2nd time was to look for some warmer shoes since I had only brought with me summer shoes. They have pretty comfy ones which could be worn to the office. The price was still too high for me, but since there was a family sales coming up, I thought it would be a good idea to try some out so that I knew what I could buy later.

But actually, I went back there also coz I really love their service! I think the last time someone helped me wear my shoes was when I was a kid. These sales assistant patiently untie each shoe, help you wear them and then carefully tie the shoelaces back and make sure the shoes are snug and comfortable.

I would have gone on trying more shoes but felt bad I couldn't afford any. Well, I guess I'll just have a look again in another season just to see what are the new collections like. After all, this is part of work :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

2012 kitkats

Some of the recent KitKat that were sold during summer and autumn.

The above may seem quite normal since green tea is such a popular ingredient in a lot of Japanese sweets and desserts. This is coated in macha powder, so it may taste slightly bitter for some. Hence, it's in the オトナの甘さ collection. Translated directly it means adult sweetness.

The bottom is the Halloween edition featuring pumpkin flavoured confectionary and coated with dark chocolate. Didn't get to taste this myself coz I gave them all away :p

This wasn't in any special wrapping but looking at the packaging, it seems like some sport-related KitKat.

First saw this during my first few weeks here. It's the vanilla ice flavoured KitKat! Best eaten when frozen apparently. Coated with vanilla flavoured chocolate, this can get quite sweet, but otherwise it's like a normal KitKat.

This is also from the オトナの甘さ collection. The packaging says it's white chocolate flavoured, and features the famous Hokkaido milk. If you notice closely, the inner chocolate has dark chocolate stripes in between. Seems like オトナの甘さ means the KitKat does not taste as sweet as ordinary KitKats!

Friday, January 18, 2013

winter collage

I was elated when the remaining boxes from home arrived. The first batch had some winter clothes, but not enough as it was getting cold very fast back in November. The second batch had all the thicker jackets and coats that I had been waiting. I had to give myself a pat on the back for enduring the cold for so long!

In the meantime I did try to go to Uniqlo for some sweaters and thermal wear, but I decided to stop after awhile to have enough space to store the ones being shipped in.

I was glad I could still fit into my clothes from a few years back! Doesn't matter if these are not the latest fashion, as long as they keep me warm and I have enough variety to not look like I can't afford winter clothes. Maybe I hadn't share this, but back in November when I had only one fleece jacket which I'd wear to the office, my colleague asked if it was the only warm clothing I had with me!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

christmas in kobe

When I realised the company had winter break, I decided to book a flight back for Christmas and New Year's. I wasn't sure when I'd get to go back next as 2013 would be even busier with 4 projects running concurrently. I have other mini projects on the side, but that's another story.

I was in a dilemma as to which date I should fly back. It would have been impossible to attend Christmas celebrations at KBF and GTPJ even though both are on different dates. 25 December is not a holiday here, so we had 2 celebrations before. The big one which was open to public was held at the Kitano Meister, a popular tourist spot with a multi-purpose hall which we rented for the event.

It was really very encouraging to see so many people joining. Some tourists who were downstairs visiting the shops and galleries also made their way up upon hearing the songs from the hall.

This particular group of singers look like a scene from Sister Act with their gospel gowns. I later found out they're not Christians. A group of Christian musicians had conducted a music workshop in Nara, and had taught them gospel songs. They were invited to our church to present Christmas songs.

For some reason, the Japanese have a fascination with the Hawaiian culture. Well, for one, its a popular tourism spot especially for families and honeymooners. Also, there's a big community of Japanese there, so you'd be forgiven if you thought you were still in Japan.

Anyways, KBF have their own hula grrls. They perform at special occasions like this, and it's really beautiful. I first saw them at the Malaysian Night event and was so touched when they danced to the song "Just Let Me Say". When I expressed this to Ka'Chan, one of the lead dancers, she gave me a copy of the CD which they practice to. I first got it when I still didn't have Internet, so it brought some cheer to my little home then.

The Christmas celebration ended with the song Silent Night. The visitors were given an illumination stick as part of the welcome pack.

Some realising they might not be able to stay to the end to use it (maybe their tour bus was waiting downstairs!) actually went up to us to return it. How honest ya! I was really surprised as no one would have faulted them should they just keep it and decide to use it at home.

It was full house that evening. I had offered to help Yuko with the welcome team, and didn't realise how tiring it would be. Ideally I would have preferred to do something which I'm more familiar with, but seeing how much help they needed I thought it was a good experience.

The Japanese Christians might be a minority in this country, but they serve humbly and joyfully despite not being very outward about it. It's like a simmering pot of warm food that needs to be heated up to release the taste.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Thought of sharing some illumination that this country is famous for, especially during the winter months.

Christmas officially started in November right after Halloween, another big hype in Japan especially with costume party and pumpkin-flavoured goodies.

The ones in Kobe are more to remember those who perished and suffered during the Great Hanshin Earthquake that hit this region in 1995.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

why i love korean airlines

This time when I went back Malaysia for Christmas and New Year's, I decided on KE. Would have wanted to go with MH, but it was just too expensive considering the peak period.

The alternatives were transit flights with Korean Airlines or Cathay Pacific. Somehow for the latter, the timing and transit hours weren't as nice as the former. Plus I had a pretty good experience with KE so far. So no-brainer there.

The other plus point with transiting at the Incheon Airport is you get to stop by their Cultural Experience Zone at the West Wing. The first time I found out about this was when I was travelling with Imm for our Euro backpack trip. We had quite a bit of fun creating Korean decorative items and learning about their traditional crafts.

I managed to make a leather keychain on my trip to the US Sep last year, and was pleasantly surprised to find a different set of craft for Dec.

It was a accessory container in the shape of a Korean shirt. The kit comes with pre-cut coloured Mulberry paper. Just have to use the brush given and glue provided to stick the pieces at the right places. This took some time as even after the individual pieces are glued, we're supposed to brush through the whole item with glue once again. The staff would usually check for transit duration to ensure we are "eligible" to participate.

While I was busy making my craft, one of the staff dropped by to see if I was doing alright. He asked if I had been there before. I grinned and said I had just been there a few months before. No wonder, he said, I looked familiar!

Hmm, do I really look that familiar? Or is that why they didn't come over to help me as much as the other group? Or perhaps I look like I know I can do it on my own and don't need much guidance! Perhaps, I go there often enough the staff has begun to notice me :D

Anyways, I was glad to have a little souvenir to bring back. Would have loved to have it in my humble abode, but my brother took a liking to it so decided to let him have it instead.