Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 IN A NUTSHELL

. yThe curtain pullers of 2007 are standing by the sides, holding onto the ropes just waiting for the year to end so that they can move on with their lives after the curtain falls, while many of us are still wondering where did all the time go. Wasn't it just the other day when we ushered in 2007 amidst fireworks, auld lang syne and a crazy countdown?

So, what did 2007 do for us?

It was a strange year, as it moved at an abnormal pace. Way too fast to do anyone much good, way too fast to be remembered as one of those good years by people who look at each year as a passing phase. So fast that I can't even remember if a certain incident happened in this year or the year before!

Things I learnt in 2007:
1. Adrenaline can be your best friend
2. Fingers are not heat proof
3. Coffee is addictive (after many years!)
4. Previous year's claims of insomnia were exaggerated. 2007 was the real deal
5. Vista can be a pain, but you get used to it. In fact you can get used to anything
6. My watch dislikes our southern neighbour
7. I'm still ridiculously unlucky in many aspects
8. But I'm not so unlucky in others
9. My funny bone has gone mad.
10. You can pick yourself up even after facing unimaginable adversaries
11. Reading an e-book is not as fun as the real thing
12. Assholes will forever remain assholes
13. Contact lenses behave better in cold weather
14. Those so called durable water bottles only have a lifespan of 1 year

2007 was the busiest year ever in my life, because the busy days were stretched out throughout the year, unlike other times when the busy conditions escalated to unimaginable heights for short durations and then retreated into oblivion. This was also the year when I found 2 strands of grey hair (within a few months of each other, but nevertheless alarming enough for it to find its way into this post as I personally know someone who had all his hair turn grey overnight, and this person was in his early 30s!) And for the second time (first attempt was in 2005), attempts to change my hair colour (this time, it was Power Ruby Red) failed miserably, the end result being one ruined t-shirt and hair almost as black as it was before.

This was the year of reunions... I met a few old school friends whom I've not seen for about 10 years, and got reunited in person with 2 childhood friends after about 15 years of not seeing each other. This was also the year for weddings... I've been to so many that I actually may have to count them with my fingers before knowing the exact number.

Bad year for music, not so bad year for movies, and a pretty ok year for tv - cable, not local! Interesting political developments (almost!), strange year for haircuts (bangs?) - the one and only year I didn't go and cut it really short because it was too hot or because I was bored. Started on the treadmill as opposed to the track at the stadium, went out of the country twice for work purposes. A great year for number of books read. Got a rejection letter from a story writing competition and they couldn't even tell me what they didn't like about my story due to overwhelming response (from contestants, not my story).

Lousy year for migraines and I realised that my wisdom tooth's erratic growth spurt is bothersome.

Worst part of the year: 2nd and 3rd quarter, whereas the 1st quarter and 4th quarter were pretty allright. I guess in the end (and this is like really the end...) I'd give the year 2007 a 6 out of 10 which makes it a pretty good year seeing that my once formerly optimistic demenour has been replaced by cynicism.

What's your take on 2007?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

JAPAN - PART 3

Monday, the first day of training was pretty uneventful… here we found out what damage literal translation can do – make you laugh till you can’t laugh anymore!
Anyway, after 5 pm, we found ourselves activity-less, so after dinner which we had at 6:30 pm, we decided to head out to the local area to check out their version of Carrefour and visit the 100 yen shop.
Tuesday night dinner –
The training division decided to have a dinner together for all the trainers and trainees that night. We had a chance to dine the proper Japanese way on the low table. The food was amazing. We had steamboat, salmon, octopus (this is a must try!) and a variety of mushrooms.
The low table where we had our dinner
After eating we were ‘forced’ to participate in some games like to use 3 matchsticks to make 4 triangles, or try to ‘push’ off a 1000 yen note of the table without actually touching it, and the local version of rock, paper, scissors. Next, each country had to go out and sing a song. Why????
The trainers rocked the house by singing Sukiyaki. Those from Thailand sang a song by the name Rayong and did a some very graceful traditional dance moves. The solo Singaporean sang a Mandarin song beautifully. The Indonesians sang a traditional children’s Indonesian song, and we from Malaysia sang Rasa Sayang… it’s something we learned in pre-school too :)
Wednesday
More training –
At night we checked out Midori, the electrical appliance store. Playstations are way cheaper over there than in Malaysia, but we couldn’t get anyone to tell us if it could be played in other countries. I got myself a cool ipod protector and a pair of Sony earphones for my sister.
Thursday
More training and news that the participants from China and Taiwan who attended this same training a week ago had 5 out of 12 people fail the test. So of course Thursday night was spent revising the notes and trying to figure out the type of questions that may be asked. Most of us were particularly worried about the fact that we may not understand what the questions actually want because of the translation issues.
Friday
Turns out that the translation of the questions was unimaginably incomprehensible (It was done using software that couldn’t seem to do its job) so the test was cancelled halfway since all of us kept asking what this or that word meant one after another :) Instead, we had a discussion on the questions.

That day, after the training we had dinner at one of the restaurants that served teppanyaki style food. Teppanyaki is basically a grill/hot pan where you kind of cook the food yourself. Dinner ended pretty early, and we ended up at the dormitory hall for another small (unofficial) party where lots of craziness occurred.
Cooking on the grill

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JAPAN PART 2

Day 1 – touchdown and some adventures in Osaka
We touched down at Kansai International at 7 am Japanese time on Sunday morning after having a ridiculous attempt at sleeping in the plane.
“Would you like to have Malaysian fried rice with chicken satay or the omelette with potatoes for breakfast?” asks a very chirpy flight attendant at 4 am. Groggily I say I would prefer the fried rice. Anyway, who on earth (besides people who really have to) has breakfast at 4 am?
We waited a bit for other trainees from other countries, got to know each other and took a long ride in an airport limo bus to the train station nearest to where we were supposed to stay throughout our training… a boarding house also known as a dormitory. The rooms were really nice and spacious, and at that moment the *sun was actually shining into the room and the effect was just lovely!
The room without the sun... The floor is lined with Katami - (something like a mat that helps keep off the cold)
While some of them slept (catching up on lost sleep from the night before) my colleague (Hud) and **another trainee (Lor) from the company next door and I took an ½ hour walk to the train station. We split ways at the train station where Hud and I went on towards Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and Lor went to meet his brother.
USJ was a place full of sights that needed to be photographed – seeing that we don’t have one in Malaysia. We skipped We saw this tiny monkey right outside Universal Studios
the rides as we lacked time (it was 3 pm by the time we went in, and it gets dark by around 5 pm) and walked into every street that we could and stopped by to check out several places. I felt as though I was transported into many different movie scenes along those roads.
One of the streets in USJ
Later that night we had dinner with our advisor at a sushi bar where he recommended the good stuff to us. Eel (or Unagi) is simply excellent!
On a totally different note, all forms of communication were unavailable as non-Japanese phone models (as well as non-3G phones and SIM cards) were not able to perform roaming services as they do in other countries. Just my luck… even the international call card that I purchased was unusable because no one knew how to use it to make calls!
As for internet access, that’s a whole different story!
*sun – you see the sun shining brightly and you’re glad, alas, it’s all for show. Even when there is no wind blowing at you, you still feel the cold creeping in.
** this other trainee (Lor) is also from Malaysia – but from our sister company and would end up being labeled as one of the funniest guys we have ever met (despite him insisting that he’s actually a very serious person…. Ha! Ha!)
To be continued….

Saturday, December 08, 2007

JAPAN - PART 1

It’s been almost a week since I touched down in Malaysia after a about a week of living in and a 6 hour flight from Japan. What’s really funny was I thought I found back my muse in Japan, especially when we were on the limousine bus from the airport to the nearest train station. There was this really long bridge, and the view from the bus was simply magnificent… the streets unbelievably clean and sea birds perched at the sides of the bridge as though they were waiting for an unseen sign to fly away together. Alas, I lost it again on the flight back when I forced myself to watch 3 in-flight movies back to back (slept through ¾ of 1 of them, though… hehehe)
Our cups of coffee
The Training….
Anyway, the main reason I went there was to train about static electricity, which seems to be one of the major causes of workplace related accidents, and we were there to be trained on proper prevention methods. Despite the serious tone of the training, we had coffee breaks every hour or so. In those five days, I had turned into a black coffee junkie (back home, I must have it with creamer)
None of the trainees speak fluent Japanese… most of us can handle simple conversations regarding directions, or ordering food, or maybe even describing ourselves, but when it comes to technical matters, we completely lack the language skills to comprehend whatever’s being said… which led to many hilarious situations. What my colleague and I thought would be the most boring thing that could happen to us ended up being one of the most exciting ever!
This is the route we took everyday for training

Getting around…
We walk. A lot….
Every morning after breakfast, we gather round at 7:45 to walk to the training centre together… In the cold crisp mornings, and with the company of so many different people from all the different countries, it’s quite a bit of fun. With the temperature being pretty cool and all, you don’t tire easily (unlike here in Malaysia, where the smog will most probably kill you first) And at 5 pm, we walk back to the dorm together…. Pretty much like school kids :)
The streets are safe, and the cars and vans give way to pedestrians (wherever there are no special crossing places such as small streets)… If such a thing happened over here, we’d probably have pigs flying around. And there are special walkways for people who walk (which are shared by cyclists who are equally as polite on the road)
Other than that, there are busses and trains and when you get the hang of the train loops, intercity travelling is a breeze. Even when you don’t know how to read Japanese :D
To be continued….