wishing for the UFOs to whisk me away

I wished it was so simple, that this is just a post-holiday syndrome as described by my friend. But maybe I am just not wont to escape the 2-year curse, who knows? In any case, I am still trying to be patient.

Many years ago when I was in Tokyo for a business trip that spanned almost a month, a colleague and I spent an astronomical sum of money in the amusement arcades with those UFO machines. I think they are named thus because of the claw-like apparatus that is suspended from the top of the machine, which you navigate using a joy-stick to try to grab the plushies (usually that is the case) contained in the machine, that resembles a hovering UFO? Back then, since we went out together each weekend, we would pass by some of the shops and go in to deposit our 100-yen coins with these machines. Of course we didn’t leave empty-handed; such is the beauty and perhaps lure of the UFO machines. Although the plushies that we chose to try our luck for are the ones that we would want to have, it isn’t so much as owning them and adding them to our stash of soft-toys at home than the thrill and accomplishment at successfully getting a toy. Sometimes it was exciting enough to watch others do it but nothing beats personally winning a toy from the machine, and the thing is in Tokyo these machines actually yield results, not like the ones I’ve seen in Singapore where it is virtually impossible to get anything out of it.

In December when I passed by one such shop in Shinjuku I thought I’d just give it a go, but I do limit myself to say 500 yen; if I don’t get anything after spending 500 yen, I’d give up and walk out. So I got the pink striped thing, I don’t know what it is supposed to be, a rabbit? I don’t display my soft toys at home due to space constrains and also because they are huge dust magnets. This pink plushie, being small, could fit comfortably in a pouch that remains indefinitely in my luggage. I thought it’s cute and its smiley face could perhaps brighten up my day a little when I’m overseas and need some cheer.

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Last week when I walked past the same shop in Shinjuku, I popped in again to browse the machines and what they had. There wasn’t much that I was interested in but one of the machines contained some plushies similar to the pink one, so I tried my luck, and 300 yen later I got this yellow/pink-striped one that I think should be a bear. It looks a little sad though, but at least now they have company. 🙂

It is also strawberry season in Japan now, or at least based on what I have seen, strawberries and strawberry-flavoured items seem to be ubiquitous. While I was at the food hall of Takashimaya (oh how I loved these places), I got myself a box of giant strawberries that were not exactly sweet or too sour. I liked the way they tasted and also they were all similar-sized to facilitate easy packing I suppose.20130425-090502.jpg

I think if I were to live in Japan, I would be a regular at food halls and combinis. There are lots of great food all over and it isn’t hard to find affordable food that still taste really great, but I think I can already survive with the abundance of fruits and other groceries available in the food halls and combinis. 20130425-090512.jpg

I have always contemplated taking a break from work (yes again) and using that time more productively, to go to Tokyo to study Japanese, hopefully through the immersion in the language on a daily basis I would be able to improve. Studying the language in Singapore once a week for 2.5 hours without practising and using it hardly helps in improving but that is also partly my own undoing because I am hesitant to use it in class. Even when I am in Japan I don’t use it much because English is understood (to a certain extent) in Tokyo and I am not confident at all in myself and my grasp of the language. The Japanese speak too fast for me to catch what they are saying, and I can’t think on my feet fast enough to respond even if I were to comprehend. Sigh… decisions.

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wavering concentration

Do you ever feel like you couldn’t really focus and concentrate on things that you ought to, while you mind wanders off unconsciously to other things?

I feel like that all the time. I don’t know if it is because I just do not have an interest in some things, but somehow most of the waking hours of my life, my mind is on all other things except what I should really be focusing my thoughts on. Sigh. I know it isn’t what I should be doing, or even saying, but not focusing doesn’t mean I am not doing it, I can still do it while my mind isn’t fully on it, just that I feel so tired mentally because my mind is too active on all other matters, and it is a major effort to expend energy of the mind on several different wavelengths.

Didn’t feel very good today. No, I am not feeling upset but I just don’t feel great, because I attended a class where there were some asanas that I just could not get around to doing at all. I have been in practice for so many years yet I can’t do some of the balancing and inversion poses in class. One of the yoga masters would tell me that is due to me being weak in the core, or whatever other areas of muscles those poses would require.

As I was chatting with a friend about some life issues (yes, over whatsapp), I started to ponder about some other things too. At one stage, I started worrying about the future, about how I may soon find myself without a roof over my head, and a variety of other what-ifs in the years to come. I don’t have a concrete plan when it comes to my future, even if in my religion I need to put my faith in Him, yet I am just but made of flesh and blood and it is so simple to fall and be weak.

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Days when I really wish I could seek employment in a city that I love and where I could probably start afresh on a clean slate, yet in such economic conditions the prospects are nothing short of bleak.

Moments when I am so tempted to give up on my learning process, to let go of the classes that I have been attending all this while, because it feels like I am not getting anywhere and I see no improvements or progress. Times when I am so tired from everything I try to pack into my life that I want to just let go of every single thing. When I want to just go away some place and not come back for a long time, yet when I consider the financial needs of such an impetus, I can only sigh and think of how silly such a thought is.

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After the bout of intense postings about food, it is finally time to take a break as 2013 begins, with life sliding back into a routine that translates to a lack of gastronomical jaunts. I just wanted to get these thoughts out of my mind tonight, in the hope that my mind doesn’t continue to allow these to swirl in my tired brain when I close my eyes for slumber. It is so tiring to go to sleep each night with my mind still on overdrive, with all the dreams, logical or bizarre, flooding my senses and robbing me of quality rest.

I know it is a new year, with lots of promises of new hope and cheer, and I will strive to be happy this year too. Sometimes the spurts of contentment do not last as long as I would like them to, and the intervals between the highs and lows seem to be getting shorter, but it’s the ability to rein myself back, knowing I have this pillar of support, that really matters, isn’t it?

reflecting on 2012

Have I already done that? Somewhere at the back of my mind, I seem to recall that I have done it, but while scrolling through the past few entries that are mainly food and more food, I don’t think I have dedicated a whole entry to reflecting on 2012. Actually, I don’t think there is that much to reflect on, considering that I update this space rather often and am reflecting frequently while I write about other things.

Anyway, let me use this post to give thanks for 2012.

I can’t exactly say that 2012 has been a blast, but still some good things have come to pass and I am thankful for some events that have occurred, for some people that I have met, places that I have been…

This year, I finally got to see South Korean boy band, Big Bang, in concert, and not just once, twice but thrice! When I was in Tokyo this January for the CNY break, as well as to attend a one-week ‘exchange’ programme in Japanese at Aoyama School of Japanese, I had the good fortune of meeting a really nice Japanese girl through Twitter who helped me buy a pair of tickets to the YG Family Concert at the Saitama Arena, at no additional cost! Then, in September when Big Bang came to Singapore as part of the Alive World Tour, I managed to get a pair of standing tickets at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and had one of the best concert experiences in my life! Finally, through my friends in Japan, I had the opportunity to catch Big Bang again for their special Alive concert at the Tokyo Dome in early December. Even if it is the same group three times within a year, I really enjoyed each of the experiences and would do it again if I had to choose again.

In 2012, I think I did good with my continued pursuit of languages and hung on to my weekly Japanese and Korean classes. Despite that I am still lacking in confidence where use of the languages is concerned, I believe I will improve my proficiency in 2013! Maybe I could even sit for the JLPT N3 exam this year, finally after a couple years of procrastination.

Made some new friends this year through various avenues that I found amazing, such as getting to know some of my Japanese classmates better, getting to know some fellow Big Bang fans from Japan, and meeting up with friends I haven’t met in a while when I went on business trips abroad.

Some of you may know that I became a Christian last year, but due to work commitments and perhaps just a bout of laziness, I had not been very regular in attending service on Sundays. Sometime towards the last quarter of the year, I started going back to church and am so glad that I make it now a regular Sunday activity because of all the grace that I have received. Although December had somehow been a rather trying month, we are already into the last day of it and 2013 is fast approaching, which can only be a better year for me!

Of course, 2012 has really been the bumper year where travelling is concerned. Looking back on my life, this is the year where I had travelled far and wide. In the span of 12 months, I have made 15 trips abroad that have taken me to 15 different cities that covered North America, Europe and Asia! I missed out South America because Sao Paolo was a little too far for me as deemed by my boss for which I was openly grateful because I didn’t think I could have survived the 30-odd hours of travel time if I had to go there. We don’t really do business in Africa and Australia isn’t somewhere we need to travel to, so these two continents were left out as well. It has been tiring to travel for work, as I have found out after 1.5 years in this job but these are still experiences with some fond memories that I will look back on in future and not regret taking up such a job at least for a while.

Finally, yoga. I have been making it a bigger part of my life and returning to the hot studio, and I am happy about it. Besides travelling, learning languages and writing, this is something else which I really enjoy, and in 2013 I hope I can further deepen my practice, not to take it to any professional level but at least on a personal level I hope to better myself in this aspect.

on the edge

 

t for class and felt a sense of familiarity that had been missing for a while. It has been… maybe 4 years or so since I started studying Japanese. Honestly, I cannot recall when I first picked it up but it was owing to a previous job that had sent me to Japan several times in my short stay with them. Even though I didn’t remain in the services of that company for long, I stuck on to pursuing the language, and have been attending classes regularly, once a week, at the same school, with the same class of people. Of course, over the years, some of my fellow classmates have dropped out due to various reasons such as school and work commitments, or simply because they felt that they didn’t want to continue anymore because it just wasn’t serving any purpose or it got too hard.

I have also come close to giving up at some point. I have thought of giving up a lot of things, and Japanese, being one of the things that take up a lot of time, money and effort, is one of those things. However, when I think of the amount of effort and everything else that I have invested over these years, I become reluctant to let go because it would be such a big waste to write it all off. I know that being in Singapore and having a job now that does not require the use of Japanese, not practising at all whether in terms of speech, hearing, writing or otherwise, not conversing with my classmates in Japanese in class, not watching any Japanese-language dramas or anime, not listening to Japanese-language songs, and only travelling perhaps once a year or once every two years to Japan for vacation and even then not utilising whatever little Japanese I can remember off my mind, it is just not helping or making things better. I know that as time passes, and with all these factors I have listed above, I will lose whatever knowledge I have of this language if I give up the weekly classes. So that is why I have persevered, and hung on to it even though attending lessons every Monday evening until 10pm, attempting the weekly sheets of exercises, and feeling extremely demotivated in class when I fail to understand a single thing during the listening comprehension part of the lesson, is a huge obstacle in my learning process.

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It is really tough. But I shall try to hang in there, as much as I can. As I learnt one day, 日本語よく使えば、使うほど、上手になる。

Or at least I think that is what I remembered, from my hazy memories of the lessons. I think my teacher would probably be ashamed of some of us, because at our supposed level, sometimes we are little better than beginners of Japanese. Oh well.

There was a time this year when someone mentioned to me about planning a trip together, and honestly, I was rather happy about it because I think maybe I have travelled alone too often, so occasionally I crave for company too. Humans are contradictory and we are never really satisfied with status quo, and I belong to one such type of humans. I want to have the flexibility and freedom to travel solo some times but yet there are situations where I wish that I had some company with me. But then I got my hopes up high for nothing because the so-called plans came to nought, and I am now stuck with myself again. I guess life is like that, we can’t really depend on what someone says at some point in time because everything is always subject to changes. My words too probably don’t always carry the weight that someone else may attach to them, but at least I think I am relatively truthful and honest when it comes to conversations with people, where I tend to over-divulge too much information about myself. Funnily, this was what came up during a recent chat with a friend. :p

And said friend then went on to send me a picture that made me hungry even though breakfast wasn’t too long ago. OMG. I once said french fries are my kryptonite, but I haven’t finished my sentence then, because I have more than one. Pastries are another of my downfalls, along with breads, chocolates, and then there are the beverage varieties like beer, lattes, and so on. Oh gosh.

Have a happy Tuesday everyone! I hope this week passes faster because it is going to be a long weekend! Had this sudden impulse to jet off to Hong Kong for the weekend, but everyone already shared the same sentiments, and they were not acting on impulse so there are no more tickets for redemption. It is pricey to buy an air ticket to fly to Hong Kong for the weekend, not to mention extravagant, but I really felt like having a break away from Singapore.

was there any difference?

I know I said “tomorrow” in the previous post and it’s already a couple days after tomorrow.

I still haven’t recovered from my bout of illness, which should be somewhat a flu bug that hasn’t yet left and instead got worse over the days since it was cold in Tokyo and didn’t serve to make me feel any better. Back in humid Singapore, it also isn’t doing any good for me and the bug but at least I’ve gone to the doctor today and gotten some medication, lots of it in fact. I suspect what I really need badly is lots of rest, since I didn’t get any proper long rest ever since landing in Tokyo a week ago, with the rushing about for the concert and then after that having class every morning of the week. Even on the red-eye last night back from Tokyo I got some sleep but it was barely sufficient to repair any damage that has been already done with the short spans of time that I am doing where slumber is concerned.

Today was an odd day to put in sleep because of the need to pay a visit to the doctor and then resume my local Japanese class in the evening. I will go to bed soon since I have to get back to the office tomorrow to make the best of the 4 days of this week that I have. The doctor offered me another days of medical leave that I rejected because I think 3 days is really not enough time for prep work.

I am already missing that short one week that I spent in Tokyo. I think the course was a great idea although it took up a lot of my energy while I was there, that each day I will always have the feeling that I will need to get back earlier to the hotel to rest (which never really panned out that way anyhow), so I couldn’t really enjoy per se to the max, except perhaps on Friday and Saturday, by which time I was already exhausting my immune system to the point where the viruses were attacking me left right centre.

Last February and this January, I was in Tokyo, and I wonder if there was any major difference caused by the catastrophic incident that has changed Japan dramatically. My friend told me her Japanese office are cutting energy consumption in winter by setting the heater thermostat to 22, making it uncomfortably cold in the office rendering a coat necessary. I think maybe that is what happened in the school that I attended too, although maybe for them it always has been this case since it isn’t a large establishment to begin with. Most days I just sit through the entire morning in the classroom with my coat and various layers on because it was just too cold.

Besides that, I think most Japanese are still going about their lives pretty much the same way. But that is just Tokyo I saw, I think the folks nearer to where the incident took place would have changed where lifestyles were concerned. This year, it seemed to feel colder than last year even if somehow I think the temperatures should not be differing too much. I blame it on the flu bug.

While we slept on Saturday morning, an earthquake shook us awake. There was already daylight outside but it was still early, when I felt the bed and the room shaking. It was deja vu, reminding me of 2008 when I was in Tokyo and sleeping in a hotel room when a huge earthquake shook Tokyo and jolted me awake with the noises of things banging one another. This time, the duration was shorter and the shaking less violent but nonetheless it made me feel how vulnerable we are in the forces of nature, where we would have been rendered entirely powerless in the face of an earthquake that could consume us while we were still heavy with slumber.

Has that made me feel any different? Maybe yes maybe no. I will probably still gripe about everything there is to gripe about like a typical Singaporean and a typical me, and not be outwardly appreciative of all that I have now. But on and off, as I add these encounters and experiences to the pages of my life’s history I may be able to adopt a slightly different way of viewing this world. Who knows?

一週間

So almost a week has passed. Time just slips by so fast when you are enjoying it. Although it wasn’t really easy with the course that I was attending here and most of the times I wished it was already over, I’m still quite unwilling to close the chapter.

There’s still about 2 days to go before flying home but I’m feeling all sorts of unwilling.

It seemed just like yesterday when I was still rushing about after getting home from Manila, heading back to the office for a day and then making a mad rush for prepping for the trip. All these will trying to spend some time with family and friends.

Sunday. Arrived in Tokyo feeling utterly tired and instead of getting rested, I dragged my friend to a concert that lasted 4 hours! Spending that kind of time in an arena without much heating is a challenge but the adrenaline helped to keep us warm. Although the aftermath of it, travelling back to the hotel, was when the cold started to bite. And the next morning was when my class started.

I’m glad I came on this trip though, despite if I’d made any progress with the course. I caught a great concert, got to spend some time in one of my favourite cities (which could be a little warmer and better), and got to know 2 new friends!

Right now, I’m actually a little burnt out. Tired, but happy. I fell ill along the way and am still not well, but everything is ok. I shall try to go get some rest for today and continue tomorrow. Goodnight world!

taking the plunge

Still no pictures here. It is not a difficult thing to do yet I am just that lazy to connect my phone to the laptop to transfer whatever little pictures I have taken so far.

It really isn’t much anyway because the past 5 days I have just been shuttling back and forth the hotel and office. We would leave at about 8 in the morning and reach the office latest by 815 since it is essentially just a short drive of maybe 5 minutes that cost less than 50 pesos. Then we would take a quick lunch at the nearby RCBC Plaza near the office, continue to work till after the sun sets (which is considerably early here at around 6pm). The past days we have decided to just walk back to the hotel from the office since by the time we leave it’s already dark so it isn’t that hot anymore, and a 15-minute walk still has not made me break out in sweat yet though I do feel warm by the time I get back to the room. It’s rather much of a toil to have to keep up with the pace of my colleagues who take really big strides, especially when I am in heels on most days and lugging a laptop.

Anyhow that was my story for this week. The only pictures I took were a couple of lunches that did not taste too bad. We are very random when it comes to food, because of differing preferences in tastes and budgets, it’s really hit-and-miss. I could be totally unadventurous and just have sandwiches everyday like I did back in Brisbane couple years ago on my own, but one of my colleagues likes to check out local stuff.

Working about 10 or so hours a day is also proving to be a little taxing on me because by the time I get back to the hotel I’m already exhausted and almost brain dead. That explains all that lethargy in doing anything; blogging is something I do like clockwork, doesn’t take too much effort to ramble I realise. But it’s just ramblings I noticed.

Today I learnt from a local partner we have here that on Fridays most people start work earlier so that they can leave the office earlier either to return to the provinces or to hit the pubs for drinks in the evenings. I was commenting to him about how the roads seemed emptier this morning when we took the cab to the office, if there are companies that do not work on Fridays or something. It was really true what he said though because when we left at our usual time at night, the roads were also significantly emptier. That is a rare sight in Makati City I’d think.

So what plunge are we talking about? Nothing much actually. I just thought there are always some things that we think of doing and we spend too much time deliberating and procrastinating that we never get round to doing it. Sometimes we shouldn’t waste all that time ruminating the possibilities but should just go out to do it; whether or not we like the results at least we did it and did ourselves justice by taking that plunge. It isn’t like I have made any groundbreaking decision lately but it was just a random thought that popped up in my mind. Just before I started writing this, I spent almost half an hour composing an email, half of it written in Japanese, to an ex-colleague who is Japanese. I have been thinking of writing that email for the longest time since I thought that would be a great opportunity for me to practise too but never got around to doing it. It was a fairly short email but yes it still took me that long. And this post… it only took me about 10 minutes to write.