Wednesday, August 10, 2016

moving across continents p2

The last few hours as they disassembled the bed had an almost slo-mo effect. It was quite surreal watching Daniel dismantle the bed. This was the very first furniture in the apartment, and fittingly the last to go too. For some months I lived with this bed as I went around searching for other furniture.

I didn't realise so much dust could accumulate beneath those wood panels! I've moved the bed few times to clean behind it, but the area under the mattress was impossible. I was already not feeling well for weeks, so the dust didn't help!

Daniel worked quietly and diligently while I just sat there trying to take everything in. Now as I recall such memories, I feel so grateful for their help.

Finally (almost) everything was gone. Still can't believe such a tiny compact space could hold so much things.

I was surprised to get this from Nittsu when they first came to pack. It's to hold valuable items when the packing is done. Makes so much sense - especially when things get chaotic and things aren't in their original locations anymore. So I put my mobile phones, keys, passport and commuter pass in here.

I didn't get to capture the truck when they came on the first day, but on the 2nd day when it was mostly furniture. They're going to the storage, in the event that I should return to Japan after my assignment is done.

I've already waved goodbye and said my thanks to the movers but I stood by the apartment entrance as they locked the truck.

There goes my things, in a truck to a warehouse, then to a ship or plane or storage, as they relocate to their new accommodation. I think I was half-dazed by then. Not sure if it was me trying to recover from my cold, or the stress of relocating, or the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and reluctance of uprooting again.

I guess this time it was different. When I moved from Malaysia to Japan the first time, I was amongst many who wished me well and I was super excited. When I moved from Tokyo back to Malaysia, I had housemates and church friends who came to help. When I moved from Malaysia to Japan for the 2nd time, there was still family like always.

This move, my family offered to help too. My mum, who had just visited me in April, said she didn't mind flying to Kobe again to help me pack. She even offered my dad to go with me to Amsterdam, so that I didn't have to carry everything by myself. I was really touched by their gestures, but I had to tell them the multiple flight tickets wouldn't justify it all.

I needed to grow up (more), (continue to) be independent and really trust in Him. If this was a life lesson, and a phase that would draw me closer to Him, I'd have to go through it this way.

Monday, June 20, 2016

moving across continents p1

It's been such a surreal moving experience. The little cosy apartment I've come to call my 2nd home, was the first I've had to choose and live by myself (previous stays were either in student dormitory or shared houses).

It was quite time consuming measuring the apartment and going to furniture shops, since I had to be creative in fitting furniture, making do with as little as possible while maximising functions. Having said that, it was also fun seeing them all come together. I only got the table and TV rack after more than a year being in Kobe, realising I can't keep eating on a box while sitting on the floor watching the TV!

In the beginning, I hesitated in getting some stuff since I thought I'd only be there 1 year. In the end, all these stuff I had accumulated became an integral part of the apartment. So much so that it was difficult to have to pack them, give some away, and return the apartment to its original state.

Thank God for professional movers though the organising and planning took the most time - especially when I had to decide between air cargo, ship cargo and storage. Each had its own weight limit and restrictions (eg : can't bring natural plants, milk products, wine/alcohol, etc). Had to give away the wreath I made last December, passed the Milo stuff through my colleagues, and decided others could drink the home-made umeshu faster than I did!

There was only 2 of them (with the driver downstairs to make sure the police weren't fussed) but they worked quickly and quietly. It reminded me of when the Ikea people came over to assemble the furniture.

I had already packed some of them in advance, but since they had to inspect and list down everything, I had no choice but to allow them to unpack them! All my things got jumbled up, and weren't exactly in the order I had placed them. I had already made many lists while planning, eg: x box for important documents, y box for toiletries, z box for gadgets and devices, so that I could find my things easily when unpacking.

The first day was mainly for the air and ship cargo. Because it wasn't a straightforward process, the whole packing took 2 days. If I could just pack everything as if moving domestically, that might have taken just half a day. I only discovered some things weren't packable during the first day, so had to quickly revise my plans.

After weeks of planning while also working, I was really exhausted by the time I was left with my bed. By this time, it had been half a day on the 2nd day with the movers. They had gone off for lunch, while I tried to have my final nap on the bed that I had found rest the past 3.5 years.

Thank God I found an affordable hotel just around the corner. So thankful I could move some luggages there while my 2nd home became empty bit by bit. Even though I was occupied with the packing and dis-assembling, I tried to document this process as much as I could.

Heartwrenching might be an overstatement, but I was quite reluctant to move, whatmore to go through the whole process. Just very thankful that it was from Japan and the movers made it as painless as possible.

Friday, May 13, 2016

another birthday gift?

I had meant to post this on my birthday, or at least on a memorable date but oh well, better late than never. March itself is usually a busy month, which I try to enjoy the celebrations with dear ones. In Japan it's also extra special because its the arrival of spring, and sometimes you get to see cherry blossoms peeping out thanks to unusually warm weather for that particular week.

8 March is not just my birthday, but I also share this special date with other momentous events. It used to be the Sultan Selangor's birthday, though I never lived in the state then to enjoy the state holiday. Now it's marked as the International Womens Day; I remember getting roses when working at companies which were more inclusive and diversified.

On this date in 2008, Malaysia experienced the political tsunami when the ruling government almost lost their grip. In 2014, one of our Malaysian Airlines plane disappeared into the seeming unknown and ended up being the largest aviation history in the world to date.

10 years ago, I received the much awaited letter from the Japanese Embassy, which gave me the unbelievably good news of getting a full scholarship to study my Masters. It was the bestest birthday gift ever from above. It was the ticket to and fulfilment of many dreams at once, many of which I never imagined possible before.

To be honest, I thought that was it. I've done my graduate studies, traveled to many countries, lived studied and worked in a foreign country, made many friends from all over the world, and experienced many things which would never have been possible had I stayed behind.

This year on my birthday, I received confirmation from the company that my relocation was approved by the Board. I wasn't around (I usually am out of office on my special day!) to receive the news directly, but it's okay.

It's really a long story, which I would span more than a year. After much pondering and praying, I decided to take it up. I still have my concerns and reservations though. But I told God, He'd better take care of me if He's sending me there. Well, this is what I prayed when I went to Tokyo and Kobe. He's answered my prayers more than I expected, so I knew it was meant to be.

Oh well, maybe I'm just too tired from all the packing and preparation to feel excited.

Monday, April 25, 2016

waktu tuhan

When Erike introduced some Indonesian traditional music some time back, my Youtube random songlist led to some other worship music. Maybe the dondang/keroncong song she sent was actually a Christian song?

Ever since then I've been quite delighted to find some familiar songs (sometimes we used to sing Bahasa Malaysia worship songs in church), and some newer but catchy ones by up and coming artists.

I added these to one of my songlists, together with other worship songs in various languages. I didn't keep count but I think there is at least 7 languages in there already, I can't wait to add more if anyone has good ones to introduce :)

The flavour of the day has been Indonesian again, so I thought of putting it here because the theme was a good reminder :

Sunday, April 24, 2016

kit kats for travel

While I was wrapping up a line of Kit Kats I had indulged for the past year, I realised there were some that got left out.

This is also part of the "adult sweetness" range (I wish there was a better way to describe this collection!), orange peel. It's not the wafer kind, but little balls of crisp wafer coated in chocolate.

I had this while on the way to the airport to catch my flight to Sendai. It was late summer and for some reason traffic was so bad that it took almost twice the usual time to get there. I had never been late for flights before, and this was supposed to be my emergency stash. Since I was hungry, I had to eat this.

These 2 above are some unique ones I found at the airport, so I didn't really taste them. I bought them for Swedish colleagues when I was there for business trip last August. This is of sakura matcha and Hokkaido red bean flavour.

You'd be forgiven if you thought green tea and red bean are the only flavours available in Japanese dessert!

I found these 3 at the Kansai airport while I was going to Taiwan to meet up with my ex-housemates. It was quite a spontaneous trip (I think I only confirmed a few weeks before), so this purchase was also quite spontaneous and I wanted to bring them for Imm.

Imm - If you're reading this, you were supposed to get these : Japanese strawberry, sakura matcha, and Uji matcha flavoured Kit Kats. Too bad you were not feeling well, hope we get to meet again one day!

I wonder if I have the most comprehensive list of Kit Kats ever? I think I've read some others, but I think it's quite impossible to get everything since each prefecture might have its specialty and each season will have different modification to a favourite flavour too.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

kit kat galore, over the past year!

Even though I've lived here so many years, I can't believe there's still new Kit Kat flavours to be savoured.

I got this from Sute-chan during the summer of last year and I did open them up to try at first. Then I realised I was supposed to "bake" them for better enjoyment.

So I decided to keep it for a bit later when the weather got chilly, I was imagining some hot puffy pie coming out of the oven in a winter day would be something to look forward to.

It said I should place it in an oven, with a tray. What a cute illustration on the cover to teach me how to eat this Kit Kat.

It didn't get crispy brown like it was supposed to, it just melted and became a bit crunchy. But, still interesting enough this variety.

I got some more other new flavours from colleagues at work. The above one is quite a famous variety - Uji matcha flavour from Kyoto, while the bottom is the Kobe pudding flavour.

This series "オトナの甘さ", literally translated as "adult sweetness", I think is a less sweeter version of the usual Kit Kat. To be honest, I don't quite like sweet stuff too much, but happen to receive lots of candies and chocolates perhaps because people think grrls like such confectionery. There is another flavour under this, which is the dark/bitter chocolate.

I feel with its emphasis on the featured flavour and not so much of sugar, it highlights the actual taste. This one with seasonal raspberry had the right tinge of sour sweetness.

When the team I was working with left for Tokyo, they were given these special message Kit Kats. It seems you can personalise your own Kit Kats with photo and text, perhaps a nice gesture for special events. The flavour is the standard chocolate wafer in chocolate coating.

This following one is also similar to the above, where there is some special messages embossed into the wafers.

I think this was made as encouragement notes for those who were going to sit for their university entrance examinations.

There are about 15 different type of messages in these Kit Kats, and consumers are encouraged to find all of them as part of the fun. I didn't realise it until I almost finished the last pack! I managed to capture "強い気持ちで" and "自信を持って:)", which translated to "Strong will power" and "Have confidence".

I think the last time I had an alcoholic Kit Kat was many years ago - the rum & raisin variety. I was quite delighted to find another one - Japanese sake (日本酒).

Everytime I get one of these special edition Kit Kats, I can't seem to get enough of it! This one even has a special packaging inside. The alcohol content is really low (only 0.8%), and it states to keep away from kids!

To be honest, it tasted a little like white chocolate, but with a slight sake flavour. Not my favourite drink, but I guess I gotta take a bit of liking while I'm here!

I think I have one more special one in the fridge... that will be a special treat :)

For other Kit Kat flavours found only in the land of the rising sun :
1) Plum soda, mango pudding, sports drink
2) Easter-themed bunny printed
3) Pineapple, orange, banana, fruit parfait
4) Halloween-themed pumpkin pudding
5) Roasted soy bean flour on rice ball, complete vege, ginger ale, English afternoon tea, cookie and roasted sweet potato
6) Wasabi, raspberry & passion fruit, thick soybean flour, strawberry cheese cake, strawberry, banana
7) Niigata special pear
8) White chocolate, vanilla ice-cream, sport-related, Japanese green tea

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

has it been a decade already?

4 April is both a memorable date and a reminder of His goodness. It was on this date 10 years ago that I arrived in Japan. Just a month before that, I received the Monbusho scholarship letter from the Japanese embassy, making it then the greatest birthday gift I ever had. (8 March is also very special because of that, but that will be another story!)

I thought I was going to be in Japan for my Masters then return to Malaysia to continue the rest of my life. Little did I know that I would experience some of the highest and lowest points in my life while here, living in different prefectures (Niigata, Tokyo and Kobe), experiencing new cultures (Japan may be Asia but it's so different from most things I know!) and did all sorts of things for the first time (tasting snow, enjoying hanami, dancing in a matsuri, cooking by myself, wearing a yukata, trying natto, learnt skiing, did snow-boarding, harvesting vege, onsen and enjoyed it thoroughly, etc), and meeting all sorts of people that I would never come across otherwise.

Throughout it all, I can only say that He has been a constant Friend and gracious Father.

It doesn't do justice to write a few paragraphs about a decade of living and working in Japan (minus a few while I was back in Malaysia), all the emotions I've had to go through while journeying on the mountains and valleys of life, and His abundant blessings that I sometimes took for granted.

I wish I could have the time to look through all the old posts and photos and make a collage to somehow to summarise that and make a little momento, but maybe the best for now is to thank Him for a journey that's beyond my wildest dreams so far...

Monday, April 04, 2016

what an easter this year

It's been quite a memorable Easter Sunday. I've been trying to get a hold of Masami-san since before my birthday, but found out that she was not in Japan then. She had just arrived few weeks ago and would only be around for 2 weeks before flying back to Singapore. 

I thought, if she couldn't make it for church, we could spend some time at my place. So I made some kurma chicken (I still have lots of the powder left!), hoping she would have missed some Malaysian food. Alas, in my haste I had forgotten to add one of the most important ingredient - fortunately it wasn't too late to add the salt even after it had been cooked :D 

Was glad that I was able to see her, since she was not permitted to visit Malaysia for awhile due to her accidental previous overstay. Cindy has left for Chicago, and I was a little worried she might still be depressed

It was very nice of her to bring many gifts - which she shouldn't have! I've always admired her for having such strength and vitality despite being a grandmother, able to go around starting Yosakoi groups and teaching traditional Japanese dance lessons. (Good reminder to take the stairs more often!)

She enjoyed the hula dance at the beginning of the church service, though I was amused to find her nodding during the sermon. Maybe the message was more for me, and I couldn't help but be reminded (just a little) about the "log in my eye". 

I was glad that Dora was able to join for dinner after that, at a chain restaurant that I used to frequent back in Tokyo. So it was quite nostalgic to be able to savour some healthy Japanese food while catching up with old friends.  

I came home to a lovely package of premium potato chips, an elegantly wrapped box of pineapple tarts, and the remainder of the freshest fruit cakes - how can I not be reminded that He would provide? 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

in love with You

Trying to reflect on His love even as Easter draws near... and in light of recent circumstances. It's been long overdue anyways, and a keen reminder of His patience and mercy.

There's nothing like a shake-up of the things that you thought would be there forever, to get you out of your comfort zone and cling on to the One who is constant.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


I received this last year on my birthday, and was both amused and flattered. Thinking it was more for my personal perusal, I kept it to myself. However, having a deeper appreciation later I felt it was due for sharing...

The extremely rare Sarah (hypothesized pronunciation: Śærãh), initially from the tropical regions of Malaysia.

The Sarah is not yet fully understood by most humans, but is said to have a wide span of interest in many things and impressive set of capabilities comparing to other homo sapiens, having supreme features and traits.

The Sarah is said to be of such uniqueness and extreme rarity that there is only one on Earth, with no more than one recorded sighting ever.

The Sarah is definitely a nocturnal creature, often feeling hunger and wanders around at night. It is suggested that the Sarah has traversed many continents and corners of the world, but is most likely currently residing somewhere in the southeast region of Asia according to recent reports.

With a keen interest in variants of Cocoa drinks, Milo seem to in many cases be Her prime source of food intake, although having a preferred approach for as much variety as possible and careful considerations in order to have “a balanced meal”.

Furthermore, the Sarah seem to often be prepared with other various kinds of snacks at arms distance, should a situation in Her daily habitat not allow for a proper and well cooked dish.

Should you find yourself to be in any kind proximity (virtual, physical or any other imaginary form) to the Sarah, great caution must be taken. For as soon as She shows but one minuscule part of Her individuality you will be lost forever, captured by Her unparalleled charisma, sharp intellect, otherworldly presence and enchanting beauty on multiple levels.

The Sarah may “capture” any mind it so desires, consciously or passively (by simply being in proximity one way or another), but has the most kind soul and wishes good upon the world.


*Photo credit to Wiki (which I later found out!)

Sunday, March 06, 2016

of birds, butterflies and the gallant horse

Not knowing how I'd cope after sending Sute-chan off, I invited Dora over for dinner. It's been some time since I met up with her, and I thought a little catching up would be good.

I made some simple kurma chicken served with rice, she brought over pasta salad and choc crackers. I decided to let her try Oyundari's leftover Mozart Chocolate Cream and the remainder Sawanotsuru umeshu from Sute-chan.

It was quite fun trying to learn each other's recipes and pairing liquor with food. I tell people here that alcohol is usually reserved for special occasions, and that we don't have a drinking culture in Malaysia. While I think I've grown more adventurous with trying out various cocktails, I don't think I'll ever match the levels of the Japanese and Koreans, or even Brits and Aussies!

Thankfully the highlight of the evening was our exchanging stories and prayers for each other. Her gift of revelation and warm touch while laying hand on me was something I noted down in my journal. I was glad my struggles past year had given her some encouragement for her current situation. If it was any help to her, I'd be so grateful to have learnt some lessons through my own trials.

Friday, March 04, 2016

respite from whirlpool

The past few weeks have been quite a mix bag of emotions. The whole team whom I'm seated and working with, have left for Tokyo one by one.

It was quite a relief on one hand because I would get a little break from the continuous high-stress level and how it affected some team members. On the other hand, this was the team that ate and played together; being the pioneer member I felt a little sad I wouldn't be able to join them on more adventures.

I was glad though that Sute-chan was the last to leave. We managed to sneak in some krazy but fun things in the remaining days, and I tried my best to busy myself with helping out so that I wouldn't feel it. However, it really hit me on the last day. The sending off was especially difficult.

All the whirling activities came to a stop, and it felt so surreal being alone. It's like everyone resigned leaving me with the whole table to myself now.

Not sure if it's because of the farewell note from Sute-chan (to the division to "please take care of Sarah :)"), but some colleagues were nice enough to ask if I was okay. Tomomi asked if I'd like to move over to her table, Waka suggested we have a meal together, and Seb invited me to go up to their department to chill.

I just need to appreciate this new-found peace and quiet. Who knows I may be sucked into another whirpool and then I'd wish I took advantage of this momentary pause.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

make-up less

It has been influenza season lately in the office, so it's not uncommon to see people in masks. I asked Oka-san if she was having the flu when I bumped into her near the toilet. She replied with a Japanese word, " ".

I knew what it meant, but didn't realise that having no make-up was the reason for her putting on the mask. I was a bit surprised at first, so didn't respond immediately. I left a note on chat when I went back to my desk, trying to tell her that she still looked great without make-up.

SL : おかーさん!
HO : ほーい
SL : メークなしでもまだ美ままよ~
HO : www
SL : 時々メークはめんどくださいですね~
HO : そうよね!会社に来るだけなのに・・って思ってしまう~
SL : それは面白いですgね
HO : そう思う!外人はあんまり化粧してないよね
SL : wwww
HO : そうなんやー
SL : TVはテレビ?
HO : そうそうw
SL : あ~なるほご!
HO : でも普段会う人はほとんどメークしてないね
SL : 顔よくみえるように
HO : 私はメークする時間も10分もかからないけど
SL : 2時間???
HO : どこをどうしたら、そんなにかかるんかなー?
SL : シャワー含む時間?
HO : 含まないよwww
SL : 髪の毛のは?
HO : 含まないよw
SL : だからすごく他人に見えるね
HO : www
SL : www
HO : みんな毎月化粧品に2万円とか使うみたいよ!多かったらもっと使うらしい
SL : あ~そうなの
HO : www
SL : www
HO : 別人になるメイクもあるよw
SL : そんなメークは多分た~~~くさん商品必要ね
HO : あーなるほど