Monday, December 22, 2014


I was introduced to Shozo and Masami Uno last Christmas when I went back. They were a delightful Japanese couple residing in Malaysia due to the husband's work. They were so happy at being invited to our Christmas celebration that they extended invitation for me to join their family dinner that night itself.

I felt bad for not being able to attend that dinner, and for not being able to attend her Japanese dance performance the next day. I had just arrived Malaysia the day before, so was still feeling a bit tired. What a lousy excuse.

So I was really happy that they decided to visit me during the CNY hols. I had the privilege of bringing them around Kobe, and showing them my favourite places. This was the dessert we had together at a la campagne.

We did try to meet up again when they visited Japan during the summer, though our schedules didn't work out in the end. In our last communication, I told her I would definitely meet up with them when I go back home during winter break.

So I was really shocked to get this SMS few hours ago :

I had to read it a few times to make sure I understood it. In the end, I managed to get Yumiko to help me write out a proper condolence message to her, since I was not sure how such messages should be done.

I hope I get to see her when I go back...

Monday, December 15, 2014

don't think it's because of the rust

Last month, the unexpected happen. I knew it wasn't over yet, even though her husband seemed oddly amicable given the circumstances. It was as if a switch within her got triggered and she suddenly remembered the past and started spewing hurtful words.

I really wanted to run away and cry but I had to do the adult thing and put on a brave face as there were still people around. Yumiko who was welcoming visitors tried to distract me by introducing me to them. I tried to act interested but I could only be friendly for awhile.

Later as she was speaking with Naoki, she found out that I had not been introduced. I had known him for some time to be a good worship leader, so I was genuinely interested to speak with him. That conversation led to me trying out for music practice few weeks later and we had a good time going through some songs.

I was not comfortable enough to play for the regular service because of what had happened, so I had to tell him I was going to pray about it a little more.

Last Sunday, Ka'chan asked me if I could stay back a little. They were looking for pianists for the Sunday Chinese morning service, which I had never attended before. I thought why not, maybe a good opportunity to get my fingers busy again, and to brush up my rusty mother tongue. One step at a time, I wonder where this will lead to.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

should i look forward?

The previous week, each of us were called to have a meeting with the boss. No agenda was stated, so everyone (except for his "secretary") started wondering what it meant, and some even started speculating.

My slot was scheduled in the middle of lunch, so I decided I might as well grab a quick bite so that if anything happened, I would have enough blood sugar to deal with it.

As suspected, it was an internal reorganisation. I had questions but I didn't voice all of them out. Like how at first glance it seemed a little unfair and didn't quite make sense. I felt a bit comforted later that my colleague said he was surprised I was not promoted.

Come 2015, I would be reporting to a different manager, a Japanese. I would be in a completely new team, almost all who are Japanese. I have been assured by my boss that my current assignment would remain the same, and my way of working would not change, except that I have a new reporting line.

Oh well, if this is all in His plans, I gotta trust that He is still in control, and that He has His reasons. Trying to look at it positively, though still can't shake off the thought that it still doesn't quite make sense.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

still home

Only a few more weeks...

I usually don't announce my going back, but it feels like it's been a long year this 2014. I have made a list of what I want to eat when I get home. It's a working list of course, and I'm surprised that there are still many things I left out the last trip. I'd better stop typing, my stomach is gonna make some noise just imagining all the yummy food it's gonna have soon!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

colouring my autumn

Where did November go? It felt like the chilly winds just came and swept the 11th month away. Before I knew it, the golds had turned to reds and browns, and not long after, they all came falling down.

Autumn sure was short. I guess it's true what they say; some of the best moments in life are brief. I was a little sad that I didn't get to do much autumn leaf viewing as in previous years. These few months were hectic at work; and will continue to be so into at least Q1 next year.

On the bright side, I did have some time to experiment in the kitchen. I tried making this for Ako-san's birthday, though would have loved to share it with more people. I made 2 versions - one for individual treats, and a bigger one for the group.

I call it my summer jelly cause it's just full of summer colours. I had a bit of fun with the coconut milk and had them guessing the secret ingredient!

Also had some time to host a friend from Tokyo who was here for the Kobe Marathon. I can't believe it's now entering my 3rd year being in Kobe with the marathon starting line just around the corner where I live. What a pity I'm not that into running!

Still, this bouquet made for some cheer despite the colds. Am thankful for little blessings such as these.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

christmas chutney

Since I would be going home end of the year, it was a good excuse to clear the larder of anything that had expired was about to expire.

I realised I had this jar of Christmas Chutney with Cranberries that I had meant to enjoy when I had friends over. Better to try it out myself first so that I know if guests would enjoy it.

Initially I thought I had enough ingredients to last me 2 meals, so I kept the remainder aside. However, the mashed potatoes I made tasted so good I decided to go for another serving of everything.

I think I'm slowly gaining some of my appetite back, thanks to some sparks of creativity and God-sent goodies.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

muffin in my mug

Since October had been rather busy with yakiniku weekends and long hours at work resulting in me eating lots of konbini food, I thought I had lost all desire to cook. The only new thing I "created" was this mug muffin.

Just 1 egg and all you need is a microwave oven and a mug large enough to hold your muffin. As Elaine's son would say, "easy peasy lemon squeezy".

Friday, November 14, 2014

rustling already

It's officially autumn. Though the top momiji viewing spots should now be reaching their peak with visitors jostling for the best angle and spot, the temperature feels like it's moving towards winter too soon.

Too many things have happened the past 6 months; I hope I can find some breather before the year ends. I'm still trying to figure some things out, hoping that at least some lessons learnt is the least I'd get even if no answers are forthcoming.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

grilled meat no more?

I realised I've been having too much grilled stuff last month.

A rather romantic date with Dora after attending the Greg Miller Messengers' workshop in South Osaka. The samgyeopsal set looked so good we braved the outdoor chill to enjoy this.

My first time joining some of the guys from the IT department on their annual BBQ trip at Awaji Island. Though its already autumn, they still wanted to do BBQ outdoors, fishing and fireworks.

We had a surprise visitor in the form of Natthapong, a long lost Thai friend-colleague. Quite a lethal combination having the Thai, Korean and Japanese-Korean who all can drink.

October was kinda sad because I had to say goodbye to 3 friend-colleagues. It felt like I was just getting along pretty well with Kaga, Chyn and Li, and wish we could spend more time together.

Anyways, no more BBQ/yakiniku until 2015! (I wonder if my wish to detox might be overridden by the yummylicious grilled meat in the cold days to come)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

cupful of vege

My cup overflows. I have enough organic vegetables to last me for months. Plus a little reminder of the Tohoku trip.

Though it had been tough months ago, things have been looking much better recently. They will never be perfect; and though some things can never be explained nor fully resolved, maybe it's okay. There is much to be thankful for; much more to do, and certainly the journey has its ups and downs. Maybe I don't have to understand; but I guess that's why life is interesting.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

not wasted

Thanks to Lee Sin, I had the opportunity to catch John Piper's session at the Love Japan conference over the weekend.

It's always a treat to enjoy such conferences with international speakers, whatmore one whose book I had just read.

It's funny how life turns out. I received the "Don't Waste Your Life" book as a Christmas gift about a decade ago, thinking it was an insult then. I shipped that book, along with many others, with me to Japan hoping to catch up with reading.

I'm so glad I did. I had just finished that book recently, and understood fully the value of its content. 10 years ago, I wouldn't have known the events I'd go through today that would make it timely for such a message.

Friday, October 17, 2014

million-dollar nightscape view

Though I like my new toy because of the camera, it doesn't really do a good job of taking night shots.

We went up Mount Rokko for the "Million-Dollar Nightscape View", which was really spectacular; however my gadget didn't quite capture it as expected. Maybe you should go there for yourselves, or if Kobe is too far for you, the Mount Rokko website is a great alternative.

The weather had considerably cooled down after the typhoon, so we were trying our best to enjoy the view for as long as we could. Might have been okay if not for the wind.

It was quite an impromptu trip, with us renting a car and not really knowing which direction to head to. Still, it was fun being up in the mountains. Can't say I'm bored of mountains yet!

Friday, October 10, 2014

just swingin'

Just when I thought I had visited enough mountains for the season, Yuko invited us to join her at the Futatabi Park just half an hour's drive from the Kitano area. It was amazing to see a lake in the hills and to enjoy the beginning of autumn colours so near the city.

What was more amazing was to see these 2 ladies swinging around like kids in the playground near the lake. I had no choice but to join them. Later I found out Japanese kids do these all the time during sports sessions. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

plentiful indeed

I had arrived Tohoku right in the middle of the autumn harvest season. All around me were golden rice fields which looked more like comfy yellow carpets to be rolled around on.

As I wondered at the absence of humans, animals and machines at the vast fields to my left and right, I was reminded that indeed, "... the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."

Saturday, October 04, 2014

find Me

While trying to look for sword beans amongst the vines, these oft-repeated verses came to mind.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
- Matthew 7:7

"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul."
- Deuteronomy 4:29

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."
- Jeremiah 29:13

Thursday, October 02, 2014

the tohoku getaway

My last week away have been summarised by the collage of sorts below. You could say each represented the days spent with Lee Sin in Miyage prefecture, and the Prof Komiya and wife in Iwate prefecture.

Visited the area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. There is just so much natural beauty here I wish I could express through my lens. Thinking I'd do a quick day trip, turns out I have more reasons to go back again.

Happy to be able to meet up again with Lee Sin, encouraged by her OM ministry and blessed by the fact that a fellow Malaysian is here in Japan too. Though so far from Kobe, and ironically never really met though staying in Subang before, I guess when it's meant to be, you will meet up somehow.

Though I had to bid Lee Sin farewell and head up north, the main part of my break was to visit the Prof whom I've last visited at his Iwate kampung 5 years ago. I still remember when I escaped to the north when I lost my job during the 2008 recession.

They always welcome me with open arms, as if I'm their daughter! The sight of their wooden home in the hills filled me with warm memories of that winter years ago when I felt like I didn't know what to do.

I always admire the Japanese who never fail to keep going even when it gets tough. He introduced me to his daughter who moved from Tokyo to start a bakery, and a local friend who specialises in handmade wooden utensils. Though Takizawa is a rural city surrounded by greens, there's a certain charm that reminds me of Hokkaido.

The artisan goods reminded me of the online shop my previous company was involved in. I told Sato-san that though Japanese prefer foreign goods, ironically it's the foreigners who are interested in traditional Japanese crafts.

Since it was peak period at his farm, I decided to lend a helping hand. My main task was to harvest the sword beans, and remove the beans from their pods. I'd stay indoors and help whatever I could when it rained. When the sun came out in its glorious form, we harvested corn, removed the malformed ones (it was his first attempt, so not all were fully pollinated), and cleaned up to make way for fresh ones next round.

Prof Komiya was happy I was able to help him out, so he could concentrate on cutting firewood in preparation for winter. His wife would be busy with baking, carpentry and housework. Looking at them busying away made me feel very lazy indeed!

As a "reward" for the "hard work", we took a ski lift up to the mountain to enjoy autumn leaves. Prof Komiya was so delighted because it was really perfect weather, and we could see the surrounding cities clearly. He had never really been able to do this because of the farm work, and his wife was also busy.

Seeing him get so excited about the ride up helped me to forget that it was almost 10 degrees at the top. Now that I'm back in Kobe, I can't help but reminisce about the 5 layers I had to wear last week. It still feels like late summer here, but I'll cherish it while I can.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

germany is finally up!

Our Germany site finally went live this week. I was getting sceptical it would launch before autumn due to the challenges we've been facing. So when the team finally made the decision to go ahead despite the minor issues remaining, I almost couldn't believe it.

On the other hand, I've been hoping we would complete this project soon. It's been the biggest and longest ever this year. So a month ago, I started plotting for a break. Since coming to Kobe, I have not been able to visit Prof Komiya.

When he emailed his former students about the latest update from his kampung in Iwate prefecture, I dropped him a note to tell him I was keen to help him harvest his produce. Getting this reply made me reminisce about my uni days :

Dear Salah:

No problem! Whenever you have confirmed your schedule would you please let me know.
Just relax and enjoy onsen every day, reading books and having a nap etc. etc..
You can stay our guest house one week, two weeks to recover!!

All of us are looking forward to seeing you soon.


Ryoichi Komiya

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

double my yolk please

It was the Mid-Autumn Festival recently, and I've had the opportunity to indulge in some mooncakes that my mum had sent over through Chyn. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of the sweet delicacies, but I'm game for the yolk versions. 

After the home church service at Ako's mum's home, I shared with them this double-yolk lotus paste mooncake, and they all really enjoyed it.

There are mooncakes apparently sold in Japan, but really small size and does not taste anything like the original. Hence, my Japanese friends were curious about the ingredients and the taste, and seemed to be fascinated with this Chinese delicacy.

I was excited myself as I actually managed to cut this cake into almost precise 8 slices, thanks to a good knife in their kitchen.

To be honest, I have no recollection of actually cutting mooncakes back in Malaysia. Usually it's my dad who does it and we just ... eat 'em! How ironic that now I'm away from home, I learn how to do such seemingly simple things and feel a sense of achievement (^.~)"

For such a treat as the double-yolk, it definitely deserves the finest cut. With the yolks so evenly distributed, it would be a waste if any crumbles and falls out. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

steamed cod drizzled with fried garlic oil

For the longest time, I've been toying with the idea of getting a white plate. I have enough plates alright, and there's always paper plates when there are guests. But finally I decided maybe it would be a good investment.

I was trying out steamed cod fish for the first time. What a nice dish to officiate the white plate with, and now with my new toy, even better pictures!

It's kinda fusion of what I remember my mum making, and also a little tip from this recipe I found, which made me wish I got the exact cut of the fish.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

more good

There's been some changes at work recently. If you have read some of my posts, you might be inclined to think that the recent change would be for the worse. If you knew me personally, you'd understand why I was not looking forward to it.

However, I choose to believe that God is still in control, and I prayed that no matter what happens, something good would still come out of it.

It has been one week, and it has been pretty good so far. More good than not-so-good, to be honest.

To start off the week reflecting on the good, I'm thankful we finally changed our corporate Blackberry's to iPhones! Now I get a proper phone which can do a whole lot more than remind me about work alone. For example, I can indulge in better coloured photography :

oriental art

cutout butterfly

onitsuka tiger ladies

Thursday, September 04, 2014

oh the innocence of childhood

I didn't realise I had saved this picture in my Dropbox... Looking at the date, I wonder if my dad had scanned this for me before I came to Japan.

I couldn't help but smile at how cute my brother was back then. And we had almost matching cardigans, pretty cool retro when I think about it.

Some questions came to mind - Weren't we cold, me in dress and my bro in shorts? What was happening then that immortalised our expressions as such? Did we buy strawberries on the way back? Were we in Cameron Highlands because my dad had a business trip?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

selamat merdeka, malaysia tersayang

The last time I did something patriotic was joining the Jom Balik Undi FB group, and then taking a flight home to exercise my right as a voter.

I felt a sense of responsibility encouraging fellow Malaysians living abroad to go home and make a difference. I had missed voting the previous election as I was in Tokyo then, especially it being my birthday wished I could have done it anyways.

I made sure to register myself as a voter, and then when the chance came, to fly home to vote. I wish we made a difference this time around.

Even though we didn't topple the ruling party, it kinda brought us together. The voting stations were full of people, many of us had to wait in the hot sun to get into the proper queues. People from all walks of life, various ethnicities, languages and faith, all chatting to each other while waiting for our turns.

The recent tragedies of MH370 and MH17 saw the country united against unsolved mysteries, wartime atrocities and spotlight from the rest of the world.

I wish we didn't need to have big events such as these to bring us together. Even the humble nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf, mamak food in the middle of the night, and the ubiquitous chicken rice bring us together on a daily basis.

On this 57th National Day, even though I'm far from home, my heart still longs for homely comforts. I wish I could be there when they light up the fireworks; but I guess I'll keep on praying for this country which has so much potential, for more love and tolerance all around, and for His hope and light to shine.

Friday, August 29, 2014

no words for being awed

Even though I'm at the brink of strangling someone, and the project's at a risk of falling apart if not for the fact that it's being held together very gingerly and pushing ahead almost like a headless chicken, God decided to throw another ball for me to juggle.

Having not hosted anyone for some time, I was anxious that my crib might not be comfortable enough for my guest, especially one I have yet to meet! A missionary based in the Tohoku region which was hit by the 2011 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear plant meltdown triple whammy, Lee Sin was introduced by Bro Ong some time back. He grumbled that we did not want to meet when back in Malaysia. I had the pleasure of hosting her last week before she went southwards to Hiroshima.

I was really encouraged as it's been a long time since I met a fellow Malaysian! We exchanged stories about our experiences in Japan, how we came to the land of the rising sun, and laughed over how staple Milo was to our diet.

Wanting to bless her with hospitality, instead it was I who ended up being blessed by these gifts. I told her I'd pass on the blessings to those who need it more.

Yesterday, a Malaysian grrl from the vendor team came over to stay. Even though we weren't working together, I was glad there was another Malaysian in the company. We were able to share stories from our consulting background, and confided in each other the joys and pains of working in a Japanese environment. (I'll never forget her comment : you amaze me a lot - very strong, determine and independent)

Chyn had just moved to her new apartment but wasn't feeling comfortable and had trouble sleeping, so I offered her my sofa bed to bunk in. The next day she told me she felt happy because she had not been able to sleep all week.

I was really surprised she left me with a bottle of wine. I told her it would be too luxurious for me to enjoy it myself, so I invited her to come over another day for some makan session.

Sometimes I have no words to say when I think of how He amazes me amidst my feeling down and lonely. Maybe it's just PMS, but I'm awed and humbled nevertheless.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

can't take the malaysian out

The things I do when I have my cravings. Proof that I'm a typical Malaysian willing to go the extra mile for the sake of food!

September 2012, California : Kangkung belacan at Malaysian restaurant recommended by an Indian colleague working at our American subsidiary

February 2013, Amsterdam : A variety of Indonesian dishes at a restaurant called Pelangi with a Portugese friend, during a snowy business trip at our European subsidiary

July 2013, London : Vietnamese restaurant near our hotel at Islington, my last meal just had to be rice because I had missed this staple item after too much chips and sandwiches

July 2014, Taipei : Fried oyster omelette during an exploration of the night market with my ex-Tokyo housemate, now it makes me want to eat the Malaysian/Penang version!