Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: In Retrospect

The finish line of 2009 is just slightly visible over the horizon as we all hover towards it in slow motion, nanosecond by nanosecond. And as the particular second that marks the transition from 2009 to 2010 looms nearer, most of us reach a point where we need to take a minute or two, gather our thoughts and reflect upon the year gone by, and form a sort of closure with the year, like a final handshake or a goodbye hug of sorts.

And so we begin the Unfinished Business' traditional journey of analysing and scrutinising the year that was, 2009. It has been an amusing year to say the least (and once again for the lack of a better word - I should probably invest in a thesaurus for 2010 if I ever want to move forward in writing, hahaha) although in last minute desperation last year I had written a letter to 2009 asking her to be nice (why was 2009 female? - I have no idea) and amusing is not too far off. Reflection upon the year the last few days made me realise that despite the numerous complaints scattered among these pages, 2009 itself wasn't that bad at all.

Among the awesomeness of 2009 in no particular order:
1. Went for a mini vacation in Sarawak which brightened up the first quarter, and made a few fantastic buddies in the process. Forgot to invite my sister to join us though because of her then workaholic tendencies (she taught tuition during weekends, and  I figured she'd not want to reschedule her classes) and she still holds it against me. Big mistake. Never assume

2. Had an awesome 29th birthday celebration. It was a hard day's work in the kitchen, but well worth it.

3. Went forward and purchased the 'achievable' dream car (the old dream car has run out of fashion now, and probably out of production too!) which is formally known as Ketsbaia and jokingly known as Fatty.

4. Played "RISK" (the most intriguing game involving strategy - which I suck at, but still...) and bought a set (which unfortunately remains untouched till now)

5. Met in person someone whom I only previously "knew" and corresponded with for two years via the internet. As this is the very first time I did this, I suppose it deserves a mention... and in true TerraShield fashion, I had embarrassed myself by saying "So, we finally meet" as I shook hands with him outside the bookshop where we met. I don't think he noticed though... Two years prior to that I had unintentionally insulted him via e-mail- something to do with Dexter's laboratory vs Dexter the blood splatter analyst.

6. Read, read and read... went a bit book crazy during the Penguin sales that we have about 2 boxes worth of books I haven't read.I should admit though, that it has reached a point where I can't seem to read books anymore due to 'over reading' towards the end of November, early December (except for kids stuff, like Roald Dahl)

7. The trip to Japan - although it consisted mostly of training, but I still got the opportunity to visit places I couldn't visit otherwise. And in the process, I got to know my colleague better, and found another kindred spirit in the process engineer from the next door company. What was awful though was that after my return from Japan, I had fallen into some great disarray due to having to catch up with stuff I missed over the 3 weeks...

8. Bonded with the cousins a fair bit

9. The road trip to Tanjung Tuan... could have done more but hey, at least one road trip is better than none.

10. Managed to almost consistently stick with the exercise regime in the gym. Never felt better, except when I was sick, of course.

And the not so awesome things include:
1. Mom's operation - although it was a simple procedure technically, it made everyone at home very, very depressed and lonely. This year alone, about three family members had gone under the knife... mom, an aunt and an uncle. But even this has a silver lining because I got to see some long lost cousins (1st cousins, no less) after many years. My ten year old cousin has the most adorable laugh in the world.

2. November - pain.

3. Didn't do the few things I set out to do to 'get my life back' like going to a concert (didn't get the chance, I guess), the postponed Cambodia trip...

4. 10 year project is still there... :(

5. Missed both my primary and secondary school reunions because I was feeling anti-social. And no, I do not regret not going for those events.

2009 was another one of those years that sped by... I don't know, could it be that years speed by once you get older? Movie watching was erratic as usual, I managed to quit coffee for about three weeks before I sunk deeper into it's clutches, I have no idea how the current music scene was, watched a fair bit of TV, still am awed by explosions on mythbusters, lost interest in politics, gained interest in the economy, etc.

So, as you can see, the awesomeness seems to have overtaken the not-so-awesome, which makes 2009 mildly pleasant that I'd give it a 7/10 in the "How the year went" scale... one of the better years, despite the sad beginning (the blog tells me - and clearly shows how miserable I was in January) and the occasional bouts of depression spread throughout the year (my drafts section tells me this) Besides, I've decided to be a bit optimistic (me being away from work at the moment could probably have something to do with this)

What's your take on 2009?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spotted in Kuala Lumpur

I'm currently plotting a plan to conquer the world, so I can't say much.. but I figured this picture might be able to say the thousand words pictures are supposedly supposed to say...


Click to enlarge

Note: Picture was taken while walking along the streets of KL.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Of Intellectually Stimulating Exhibitions and Bad Photographs

You could say it all started with an advertisement they put on TV somewhere around after 7pm every day without fail which used to make me and my sister look at each other and exclaim... "we should go!" which we will then forget about until the next day. It was also probably the fact that that particular weekend (along with a few others this month) was a long one and the fact that our cousins (also sisters) were on a short break from the crazy and exciting world of being educated so that they can someday join in the bandwagon of disgruntled working adults.

And that is how we ended up at the Leonardo da Vinci: The Genius exhibition at the National Science Centre that Sunday.

The exhibition displayed aspects of Leonardo's life and achievements, from reproductions of his notes in 'mirror handwriting', his inventions - some which we were allowed to touch, his drawings of the human anatomy, his works of art (including the much talked about Mona Lisa which has more mysteries than the average life span of a dog), some engineering feats and even music. He even created the prototype of diving gear. Imagine that!  And to think he did all that without the kind of information we are exposed to in this time and age. He IS the epitome of an all-rounder, something most of us can only dream of achieving.

Also included in the exhibition was a documentary about him, which was rather informative except for the fact that it ended very abruptly, stating that Michaelangelo had come into the picture to give Leonardo a run for his money?? You get to know that one of his flying machine designs was tested and could successfully work, and why his "Last Supper" painting has been deteriorating ever since it's completion, and also the fact that he was a slight bit of a procrastinator... which I assume would be good news to every other procrastinator out there. There's still hope!

As we were looking at the final part of the exhibition, one of my cousins was approached by one of the people who were in charge of the exhibition (they were quite annoying, actually, nosing around your private thoughts on how a certain device works, etc) who told her that if she could build a bridge using just the few sticks with grooves provided, she could take a photo with that bridge... (no photos were allowed in the other parts of the exhibition for some stupid reason)

We did so as a team, and managed to get our photos taken by the personnel who apparently is a very bad photographer (see how grainy the picture is?) :(

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fighting the Apocalypse

Note: This is a very delayed post.

Twenty years after the rest of the world hogged the cineplex, enjoyed and expressed amusement/bemusement over the movie 2012, my sister, mom and I finally made our way through, and even then had to endure the crowds, smelly feet (or was it the carpeting?) and the general irritation associated with huge crowds. Now, I had heard too many negative remarks about the movie from friends and tried my best to remain objective about it, (which was really difficult as I had watched way too many documentaries about supervolcanoes as well and couldn't help wondering about certain things) which is why I will refrain from doing a review (I must stress once again that my reviews, if ever reviewed by someone else, will probably get a D and then I will be just sad. I know they're lousy, but I'd rather not have anyone tell me that)

Instead I will attempt a point form commentary on anything that strikes my fancy.

1. John Cusack looks exactly like his sister, Joan Cusack. But she's funnier.
2. The earth splits, everyone else dies, but because his name is probably right at the top of the cast list, he escapes unscathed after the earth practically swallows him.
3. Massive destruction makes you feel excited. Woo Hoo!
4. Don't be a scientist. Ever.
5. Does this mean that anyone can fly a plane? I want!
6. Sasha. Yum.
7. The race against a plane and volcanic ash (pyroclastic). Who will win?
8. Why fight? Seriously... If the world ends, everything as you know it ends... why bother building the 'arks' and saving some people. The Earth should be allowed to start over without us interfering.
9. Animals and helicopters. Cute. Looks like an imagined scene from Big Friendly Giant
10. Is it possible to still stand while massive eruptions are going on?
11. Accelerate and your once ordinary car will do wonders in a life or death situation
12. They touch our sentimental bones with the human aspect of the story-  family ties and tying up loose ends and the like. Sob.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Maybe Another Day...

Ideas there were some,
Words spill, but not in order,
A haiku is born

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Late Lunches and Telephone Numbers

Before she left, he gave her what she thought was an awkward peace sign which turned out to be him holding a small neatly folded note with his phone number on it.

It took a few phone calls for us to decide to check out an intellectually stimulating exhibition in the National Science Centre that Sunday (which I will elaborate on another post - if and only if my blogging mojo remains long enough for that), but for now, the key event is what happened after that.

We had foolishly not eaten before heading to the exhibition - circa 11:30 am and as a result were a bunch of famished souls by the time we headed out looking for something to eat. This was already nearing 4 pm (I could be mistaken since I used my watch on my left wrist, and did not look much at it - it's usually on the right wrist... that is when I choose to wear a watch) and we decided to brave the cruel weekend crowds for an extremely late lunch in a restaurant in one of the major shopping malls.

So there we were, seated at the table when one of the waiters sauntered by with our food/drinks? (I can't really remember because I wasn't fully paying attention then) and we said thanks to which he replied in an extremely polite and pleasant manner "(My) pleasure". I suppose that there was just something about him that made my 19 year old cousin very, very excited that you could practically hear her hormones racing through her bloodstream. She kept on looking at him (when she could without being noticed), and tried getting his attention. One incredibly funny incident I remember is that another waiter had passed by our table a few times but no one called him, instead, she waited for this particular waiter (who had his hands full) to ask for the menu - to which he replied "Awesome" (now, really???) and she also made her orders (this was for cake which we decided to get for our respective mothers) with him although just a few seconds before that another waiter had passed by our table.

It reached a point where we discussed the possibilities of leaving her phone number on the table (I offered her a pen, and her sister offered her lipstick (all the more enthralling to write your number down, me thinks) but we discussed against it because
a) The number might accidentally get thrown away when they're cleaning our table
b) It might fall into someone else's hands
c) No one's gonna know who's number it is, so it beats the purpose

In the end, after the meal, we all trooped downstairs... with my 19 year old cousin probably conjuring up several different images of 'what-if's' as we walked. The moment we reached outside, she let out a whoop and showed us the note he put in her hand.

It's hard to put my finger on why we were all so excited about this turn of events. It makes you happy and want to smile all the time (and I'm smiling as I'm typing this)... I mean, what ARE the odds, right? Mostly, when you like someone it's almost always unrequited, so this was just so (fill in the blanks yourself) No doubt she had been obvious in showing her interest and all that, but it's still amazing that he took the sign and made the move of giving her his number (but not his name, though... just some initials). Now it all made sense as to why he was distractedly tearing some paper while we were sneaking glances at him.



Note: I've been putting up videos of late because I figured it would add variety... The songs are basically stuff I like, have been recently listening to or just some random pick from somewhere and most of the time have no connection with the post. Apologies for the long post...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What's the story, morning glory...

At first there was a dream, and in the dream there were flowers...

I've never been one of those people who were really big on flowers... mainly because I always thought they belonged on their respective stalks, swaying in the wind, while butterflies and bees dropped by for a spot of tea. In fact, in my 29 and 3/4 years of being alive, I've been given flowers exactly five times and all five of those happened to be crammed into about a span of five years from the time I was a first year student right up till graduation day. My final two flowers (2 red roses) were in fact the ones I received during graduation from the few friends whom I consider to be the closest to me... and as shallow and whiny as this may sound, that was the very first time I had felt somewhat downcast at the fact that I was the only person without a bouquet of flowers to take pictures with and couldn't help wondering why my parents didn't think of getting me one.

I kind of remember my first flower too, a turquoise coloured rose. I was a first year student then, and my residential college had an event which also included flower dedications, and I had received this particular rose from one of the second year guys whom I might have spoken to once or twice before. I found it odd that he had included the message "nice knowing ya!".

But I digress... sort of

It was somewhere in the afternoon, and I was sitting on a chair at the end of a table for six - the ones with heavy wooden chairs opposite a man who was eating. It's obvious that this was a restaurant, and surprisingly (even for a dream) the restaurant belonged to my parents (in real life, if my parents ever opened a restaurant, I'd have to eat my gym shoes - well not really eat the shoes, but I'd boil it in water, and add some salt and onions and drink that like soup. My parents never have been and can never be business people) For some reason, I was watching him eat, but I can't remember his face.

A little while later, another guy enters the restaurant and heads straight to where I was sitting. He quietly requested me to scoot over so that he could sit opposite the guy who was eating, and declined my offer of a fresh chair. (Yeah, even in my dream I figured that giving a person a warm chair you have sat on is not a very nice thing to do) Surprised, I scooted over while he bent across the table to put the plastic bag he was carrying on the seat opposite me. (He was tall) All this while, the man who was eating kept silent without even giving a glance at either of us.

We walked out of the shop only to visit a place I had visited once in another dream, a stairwell that was all metal, walked around a bit, including on a bridge and finally went back to the restaurant. He then picks the plastic bag and hands it to me, saying that it was for me. I open it and see all these flowers (type unknown, ranging from yellow, orange and pink and everything in between) arranged neatly in the plastic bag. It was something I didn't expect (probably the guy was not the flower giving kind of guy, or perhaps I was surprised at the fact that I had received a plastic bag of flowers - I'm not exactly sure), but I thanked him and he flashed me the most beautiful smile ever. If I had not woken up at that very instant, I assure you I would have swooned... ;)



Saturday, December 05, 2009

What Would You Do?

Say you think you've got your life sort of figured out, with a tad bit of normalcy (depending on your definition of normal, of course) and all of a sudden one day, while you're back in your usually placid and very normal hometown, you meet a few people, some family members, some strange strangers and realise in a shocking instant that you're suddenly shouldered with the sole responsibility of saving your family and yourself from the evil clutches of a *disgruntled evil spirit. Seriously, what would you do?

This movie, titled Arundhati intrigued me from the very beginning for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on. All I knew is that the snippets on TV were exciting enough and I wanted to know what happens, which I did, a few months later courtesy of my colleague who actually took the trouble to borrow it from someone else (another colleague, which actually makes it very embarrassing, but that's another story) on my behalf.

I loved how the movie was set, first in the present where we see the family all gathered to celebrate the wedding of our protagonist, Arundhati while some strange things happened in an old house. These strange happenings leads to a man turning mad after he and his wife - who goes missing (I think) are led into the dilapidated old house where the evil spirit lies, begging to be released from his entombment which was protected by holy inscriptions, seeking revenge on our clueless protagonist.

We are then brought back to the past, where we are introduced to Arundhati's grandmother who is also Arundhati or otherwise known as Jajamma. Their names are alike because they are supposedly the same person - reincarnated. Jajamma kicks major ass, what with her abilities to sword fight and all. I find her incredibly courageous, and there's just something about her, and oh, that intense look in her eyes - see the picture attached. We learn the history of the family and how the evil spirit comes to exist, and suddenly Arundhati (the modern one) finds herself as the one and only person who can actually end it all. Despite being in denial at the initial stage (she probably has never touched a sword before, after all we live in modern times and could possibly be jailed for possessing weapons regardless if they cause mass destruction or not), she took to the sword like a guitarist takes to the guitar. By this time, the evil spirit had managed to break free from his tomb with the help of the man who turned mad, and he sets to haunt her, taunting her with threats to kill her family which leaves her with no choice but to fight, which she does.

I thought the movie was amazing in terms of story line (you just want to know how it all happened) and strong characters (well, the modern Arundhati was a wee bit silly thinking that her fiance wants to meet her at a dilapidated old house, of all places... and doesn't even call him back to reconfirm, but you forget that with all the action and mystery and the way the story unfolds and how she faces the evil spirit towards the end) Unlike most movies, it didn't have annoying 7 minute songs every half an hour which have no connection with the story which makes it much more awesomer. And as I have said time and again, I'm quite a lousy reviewer, but this movie is awesome... seriously. Watch it if you can... (I somehow have the suspicion that I'm probably the last person to have watched this movie)

So, I repeat my question... what would you do?

*That's putting it mildly

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Songs after midnight

Sometimes there are just so many things that you want to write about, but when you actually sit down on it (or in my case, lie on a cushion) to sort out your thoughts, everything gets in the way and you're lost for words. Bummer.

Anyway, I'll just keep this simple... with the simplest topic ever, music. I've been hearing a few good songs on the way to work, but could never get hold of the titles. Besides, remembering the lyrics at that time does not necessarily mean you can remember it later when you happen to have an internet connection. My sister went to the extent of recording the song on her mobile phone... we figured the words Romeo and Juliet out but couldn't get the song by searching those words. Nevertheless, I just managed to find that one song by searching for songs which had been featured on Scrubs (not exactly the easiest thing to do because I have a bad memory, bad attention span and am not exactly a big Scrubs fan - I just watch it if it's on and I have nothing else to do) which I think is pretty awesome (the riffs) and figured I'd just put it up here before I forget it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We don't see dead people

The card almost gave me an almost imperceptible naughty wink as the word Saturday flashed in front of my eyes after two weeks of me seeing the word Sunday emblazoned on it. The good news is I wasn't alone.

Sally and I had planned to take a trip down to Seremban this weekend (we both figured it would be a nice drive on a Sunday evening) for Remy's wedding reception dinner after cancelling our plans to Ipoh at the 11th hour last week. I cannot explain how both our eyes fooled us into thinking of Sunday when it was clearly written that the dinner was supposed to be on Saturday. Nevertheless, we both missed it (I took a nap at 8:30 pm last night with the intention of finishing up my report when I got up at 11, but slept all the way through till 8 am and only found this amusing piece of news later in the day today, while Sally was online informing me about it on my FB status update)

Ah, well... another tale to add for the amusement of future grandkids, but what on earth do we tell Remy?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh, Coraline!

When it comes to awesome plots, my favourite author is undeniably Neil Gaiman with his unique blend of fantasy and horror, laden with interesting twists, ideas and disturbing characters that may sometimes leave you gaping in awe. Plus, he's wickedly good-looking. I first 'discovered' him while reading Good Omens which I have read three times so far and have been hunting down his books one by one since then, not an incredibly successful task I'm afraid as his graphic novels seem to be missing hereabouts. Can't seem to figure out which of his other books I like best, though...

I suppose it must be one of those 'firsts' for me to have read and watched a movie based on the book within one month of each other and this makes it much more fun. Coraline is a story about a little girl who is bored after she moves into her new house with her parents who somehow seem a bit absorbed in their work, leaving her to seek entertainment on her own. She finds a door in her house which apparently leads to nowhere as it is walled up but eventually leads her to adventure, good food, little black buttons and an incredible rescue mission when it opens up - much, much more than she ever bargained for.

A curious fact is that although both the book and the movie were slightly different in terms of the inclusion of extra characters (understandably needed for the movie to give it a respectable length) and a slight diversion in the story line, I enjoyed both the book and the movie immensely for the entertainment value they offered. The book because of the plot and the general storyline which is disturbing enough although it was written for children/young readers and the movie because of similar reasons, and the fact that it is stop motion, although both my sister and I find the Coraline in the movie slightly loud and almost annoying at times. Not what you'd picture the Coraline from the book to be. I did think the little "extra" information regarding the two ladies who happen to be her neighbours made the movie a tad bit more interesting. I suppose we could say that the book (and the movie) has a hidden message for parents to pay attention to their kids, which may otherwise lead them to paths no one really likes.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Japan - In a Nutshell

I have finally loaded up the whole Japan diary entry. The last count on Word was 78xx words altogether and yet I feel that it cannot describe fully all the new sights, sounds and tastes I experienced, not to mention the insanity that struck the whole lot of us. It could be that being a process engineer in the paint manufacturing sector can lead to serious damage of brain cells what with the smell of solvents wafting around and all.

A few things I forgot to mention in the previous posts includes how open minded the Japanese are... coming from a country where everything is censored (this includes the cleavage you see in pictures of actresses - some of our newspapers blur the cleavage - as if people don't know what it is), and I was incredibly intrigued by the so called dirty magazines on display (despite being a woman myself), and wanted to get one, but didn't. But I do think they underestimate women... JC and I had to put up with several rather sexist remarks, which seemed to carry undertones of them not being particularly pleased at the fact that we do not open up the pumps as a leisurely activity. For that, I'm very glad to be Malaysian. Other than a small majority of people who are idiots to begin with (some politicians, unfortunately), women are treated rather well... especially at my workplace.

Mount Fuji was an experience on it's own. We literally walked into clouds.

Another interesting thing of note I noticed was of people smoking. There are tonnes of smokers around, and yet they are not allowed to smoke anywhere they wish to (this includes open areas like the road and such) and are instead forced to stand in melancholic mood along back alleys while they get their fix.

Food was interesting (especially those outside the dorm ;)), but lacked a certain quality which I adore, that is spiciness, but otherwise it's an experience worth having.

The weather was pretty good (except for the typhoon) but that in itself was another new experience... We were too early for fall colours and balding trees, but I got to see some Japanese flora (sunflowers seem to be a favourite) and fruit trees.

Anyway, for easier reference, I have compiled the whole list of posts related to this particular Japan trip. Otherwise, you can refer to the category labelled Japan on the sidebar. Or scroll below

The Journey Begins
Final Week

Note:  Apologies about the massive quantity of blogging in a day, but I had to do it while I had the opportunity to do so. Blogging has been erratic of late due to various reasons that I may or may not explain on a later date, but I figured that I might as well load the whole thing here while it was still relevant. And I also apologise if I have not been visiting your blogs and commenting as usual... things should be able to get back into their normal groove by mid November. Or so I hope... 

Edit: Stuff I forgot to add...
1. Miso soup, the soup served with almost every meal differs in taste from region to region (or from cook to cook)
2. The younger generation seem to be doing jobs most older people in M'sia do. I wonder where do the older people work?
3. While sitting in a shinkansen (300km/hr), the view outside is almost synonymous with those old movies that seem to move frame by frame when you pass by electric poles
4. The shinkansen apparently shrinks in width when it passes by another shinkansen in the next track. I was unfortunate enough to not be able to experience the shrinking.

The Final Week

October 19, 2009
Training resumes

Had a long and tiresome lecture about a (banyak songeh – nearest translation I can come up with is very annoying) customer’s audit form. Their English can be incredibly confusing.

Miyoshi is cold, cold and cold. The room is freezing. Went shopping at the supermarket (a 15 minute walk only, this time. We must have been exhausted yesterday) for some sweets. (I’m falling asleep in class) and ended up a while later in CK’s and Kenny’s for some Alaskan crab which CK cooked (steamed over boiling water) on one of those electric stoves they borrowed from our apartment.

Why the hell is their place so warm?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We have a new trainer in today, and a new training lesson, one of particular importance. Just realized that quite a lot of current practice needs to be revised.

Now, due to a certain food restriction of mine, the chef at the dormitory has been attempting to turn me into a vegetarian. He served me a fried egg this morning instead of what the others got. (I consider egg to be vegetarian – long story) It’s a sad, sad day :(

The whole group went out for dinner with a former adviser who’s now based in this plant and his friend who used to be an adviser in Indonesia and was conversing with Dewey in Bahasa Indonesia ( a slight variation from the Malaysian language) We had Chinese food. When we asked him (the adviser who used to be in Malaysia) if he preferred Malaysian Chinese food or Japanese Chinese food, he answered without hesitation… Malaysian. Malaysia 1, Japan 0 :p

Anyway, JC discovered why our apartment was always freezing cold even with the heater on before dinner. Apparently, our windows were slightly open which allowed the cold air to creep in and freeze us every day. After closing it just now, it does indeed seem so much warmer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Breakfast was sad today. The crazy dorm chef served me raw fish roe. I don’t even like cooked fish roe, and here there was a piece of raw fish roe staring at me, all pink and probably waiting to grow into little fishies to swim in the ocean if they weren’t already dead. Anyway, I left it back in the freezer area of the kitchen. Why oh why did the first trainer have to mention my bloody food restriction? I could have done selective eating like I usually do 

I suppose I forgot to mention that besides a new trainer, we also have a new interpreter who speaks excellent English and Malay (he was based in Malaysia for sometime and picked up the language here (or is it there? I’m confused… LOL) and refers to himself as Orang Paling Kacak (Most handsome person) He is most amicable and made the training pretty fun. Our trainer on the other hand (who was given the nickname “Shinkansen” by Orang Paling Kacak due to his speed while walking, which even Orang Paling Kacak had difficulty keeping up with – he keeps reminding us that he is after all 63 years old) was a bit disorganized. He made us run between the GC and the IR machines which were located in two different buildings from 1:00 pm right up to almost 5 pm. I bet it would have been hilarious for people to see us in our pale green uniforms and white safety helmets walking at high speeds back and forth in a single file.

Tonight we had dinner on our own as a group. It was a farewell dinner we had for ourselves with the usual point and order method. I wasn’t up to translating and I noticed phrasebooks don’t serve so well when you really need them to. I can’t seem to remember what I was looking for, but I couldn’t find it then. I ordered “Udon Kare” (literally translated to Wheat Noodle in Curry) which tasted different from any of the curries I’ve ever had before. It was creamy in consistency and got creamier as it cooled (I eat pretty slowly), and was kind of sweetish. We also bought a big ass sushi dish for our ‘farewell party’ later tonight which is supposed to be held at Chu’s and PY’s place. As of today, I have officially eaten all of the Japanese dishes I’ve heard of. That is an accomplishment indeed!

Thursday, October 22, 2009
I am officially too tired to write anything due to all the laughing at our second farewell party. Yes, we’re that crazy. We had another dinner earlier today with the trainer and the interpreter. It was fun. I know I am gonna miss this lot.

Friday, October 23, 2009
The final day

Gosh, here I am, sitting alone in this hotel room after a 6 hour journey across the island again. My flight tomorrow is in the morning, and CK, Kenny, JC and myself were chaperoned by our disorganized trainer (who by now is slightly tipsy) through bus rides, subways, the shinkansen and finally the Narita Express (this ride is awesome, baby) Had to say farewell to JC at the Tokyo station where she’d be meeting her friend. It was then I realized how lonely I’d be tonight without a partner in crime to discuss the conspiracy theory of Kenny having a thing for CK.


So back to the farewell parties of Wednesday and Thursday….

As we walked back from the Jusco shopping mall (that’s where we’d be able to have a better option in picking a venue), there was a discussion to have a party at Chu’s and PY’s place, since most of us had actually nothing better to do (unless if we wanted to write our reports, or in my case document each day before sleeping) Actually JC and I were a bit reluctant at first, and decided to go and just show our faces (there was some issue about the sushi which I can’t really recall well right now), hang around a bit and then get out. However, once when we got there, we stayed there for a long, long time playing this really strange game called 007 Pang!

It goes like this… (in case any of us ever need a game idea for a party in the future) One person starts the game by pointing at another person and says 0, that person points to another and says 0, the person who gets the second 0 points to another and says 7, the person who gets 7 points again at another and says Pang. The person who gets Pang should keep quiet whilst the two people on their left and right should raise their hands and say “waaah”. In the event that the sequence is not followed properly, the wrongdoer is required to be punished, and in this case, it was to either eat sushi or drink.

This activity got Kenny very, very drunk at some point and he began to get very friendly (a bit too friendly, I’d say) with CK as the rest of us looked on, amused. It was hilarious watching CK trying to get away from the clutches of Kenny. Actually, it was partly CK’s fault that Kenny got drunk, because when it was his turn to call someone “Pang!” he’d point to someone else but scream in Kenny’s ear (they were sitting next to each other) and this causes Kenny to raise his hands (although he shouldn’t, according to the games rules) and hence he was punished.Yours truly, with a focus that has almost psychopathic tendencies managed to avoid getting into any trouble. Besides, I usually refrain from taking alcohol. Sighs with relief.

On Thursday night, we had another farewell dinner with OPK and our disorganized trainer. The food was really good and the restaurant looked lovely. Among the dishes we had included gingko nuts, cheese and rice okonomiyaki (very interesting!), some salad, mussels in soup, chicken and sweet potato ice cream and even a dish of raw fish roe with rice and green tea all mixed up. I took one chopstick helping of that just for the sake of trying it. It had an acceptable taste, and was spicy (zOMG) just my knowledge of there being raw fish roe in it (and potential worms) deterred me from enjoying it thoroughly

After dinner, the guys wanted to hang out again in Chu’s and PY’s place for a so-called final farewell party. And since it was technically our last night together, all of us sat in their hall and watched a silent movie on their TV while chatting about the training and ourselves until Kenny wanted to play 007 Pang again. And so we did, and this time his condition got even worse than the day before, especially because after we got bored of 007, he suggested we play his version of spin the bottle, whereby the person who gets the bottle pointing at them gets punished. (Personally, I have a feeling that he really did want to get drunk)

He actually collapsed on the floor after going to the loo, but not before grabbing CK by the waist again in a very strange kind of way. I wonder if I’m being mean to suspect him having a thing for CK.

The ‘party’ ended at about 10:00 pm, and we had training for half the day the next day before heading out halfway across the island to get back.

THE END.

Halfway Across the Island

October 18, 2009
The journey across *half of Honshu

I woke up early to pack my remaining stuff and clean up the room I had seeked shelter in for the past two weeks. There was enough hair on the ground to give a doll a head full of hair. It is indeed very difficult cleaning up a room without a broom!

My luggage had been couriered on Friday night, so I only had my backpack and a hand carry. This was the time I regretted my decision for lugging my laptop around. We switched trains so many times I have some difficulty remembering them. The best part though was I got to ride the Shinkansen, the ever famous bullet train (shaped like a bullet, interestingly) Somewhere in the middle of the journey, our trainer who was with us beckoned us to a back window, and pointed out Mt Fuji to us, a little speck that disappeared within a minute. I can’t say how incredibly glad I am that we actually went up Mt Fuji instead of relying on getting a peek at it from the train.

Upon reaching Nagoya, we took the subway, changed trains twice until we finally reached our stop where we were picked up by the company car and a cab. One thing I have to say is that despite being on the same island, Nagoya seems worlds apart from Hiratsuka. Firstly, the people in Hiratsuka were much better looking (sharp noses, larger eyes, animated faces) whereas the people of Nagoya were rather ordinary looking. Secondly is the climate, while Hiratsuka was cool, it was not as cold as Nagoya is. Of course the most obvious difference is that Hiratsuka was a somewhat bustling place whereas Nagoya is somewhat country-ish and not as clean. Amagasaki – near Osaka (the place I visited in 2007 was the cleanest and crispest of the lot)

After putting up our heavy bags in our rooms (JC and I share an apartment unit this time) we were shown around the dorm and taken out for a group dinner. It was a Japanese-Western fusion restaurant where the food was just OK. Personally, I think the combo of JC, CK and myself have found much better food by ourselves in this country where we don’t really speak the language (we mostly order food by pointing our finger on the dish that looks nice)


Anyway, we’re not in Nagoya city as I thought but in a small town called Miyoshi. The nearest supermarket (which also housed the restaurant we went to) is about a 25 minute walk away, that is after a whole day of traveling while lugging a couple of heavy bags around!

This room is freezing. I’m gonna go and sit in the hall where the radiator is.

*Naturally, this is an exaggeration

Standing on Top of the World (Almost)

Saturday, 17 October, 2009
Over 2000 metres on top of the world.

So, it’s supposedly Diwali/Deepavali today, aside from the few texts I received from a few friends (too few indeed, not even from some of the usual suspects - nobody likes me! :(, but then again, I didn't send out any either) and my sister (my parents have yet to learn the fine art of texting) as well as a few of my training buddies (in person), the day was spent in the most unconventional way for what is well known as a traditional holiday with supposedly traditional activities – in my case eating and sleeping (because you would be lacking sleep the few days before as you stay awake to bake cookies and clean the house, etc) We went all the way to Mt Fuji!!

As I might have mentioned earlier, the idea of going to Mt Fuji was not very well received by our trainer. He tried to talk us out of it by saying that you could die there, falling off the cliff, and how cold it would be, etc, but we would not budge. He finally relented (albeit reluctantly) while stating that he’d get us some influenza medicine in case we fell sick!

The journey to Mt Fuji started early as we trooped out of our dorms by 6:45 to be at Hiratsuka station by 7:30 the latest. It was an hour long train ride followed by an almost 3 hour ride by bus to the fifth station of Mt Fuji, the highest the buses would take us before you trekked up the mountain in your own with your backpack and your own two feet. Going up along the way, I tried to recall the geography lessons from the school days about the different types of flora (and here it was in autumn colours which were lovely – the rest of Japan is still green with sunshiny days, although the wind can be quite chilly) you’d see with elevation as you climbed a mountain, but alas! My memory failed me big time.

Finally at around 12:05 pm after a scenic journey (and tons of noise from an American family in the bus with us), we reached the fifth station only to be greeted with teeth chattering cold. Nevertheless, I did manage to catch a glimpse of the mountain peak before it got covered in clouds again.

The Fifth station was filled with souvenir shops which we skipped as we headed straight towards the path which would eventually lead the more adventurous to the peak. After donning on our winter wear (they said the temperatures were about 10C there, but the cold winds made it feel much cooler), we trekked up the pathway, walking into clouds and seeing volcanic ash along the way (Mt. Fuji, or Fuji-san as it is known locally is an extinct volcano which last erupted in the 18th century ) and it’s interesting to make a speculation as to how old a certain particular piece of volcanic rock was. I took one piece as a souvenir.

Overall, it was a one of a kind experience. Later, after our descent (we may have walked about a kilometer one way, mostly on a straight path) we checked out the souvenir shops. I went a bit crazy on the mochis for the familia. Hopefully, it stays fresh until it reaches Malaysia. Ate a delicious sausage with mustard (the Japanese kind which had the same effect that wasabi has)

And then it rained.

The journey down took longer than expected as there was a massive jam. I just realized that we didn’t have lunch and I wasn’t feeling hungry as well then. As we parted with our trainers at the train station, we were told to gather at the same place at eleven-ish the next day for our journey to Nagoya, where the second phase of our training begins.

On the way back, we split into two groups again. Five of us, the 3 Malaysians, Kenny and Dewey (the Indonesian) went back to the dorm because we had plans to go to the barbeque restaurant seeing that it was Deepavali and all. Chu and PY went to Toys’r’us for toys for their kids.

After chucking our heavy bags (winter coats are bloody heavy!), all of us except for Dewey (because he has certain severe food restrictions) headed out to the barbeque place for dinner. They turned us out. So we trooped next door where they served teppanyaki style cooking. It was a bit of an issue as none of us can really read Japanese that well, and we had to ask the waitress to explain what each dish was. With a mixture of my incredibly rusty Japanese and some body language, we managed to order some Okonomiyaki, something I can’t recall the name (edit: Monjayaki) of and some Yaki-soba (mee goreng, if you will – seasoned with what tasted like barbeque sauce) It was a delicious meal in an equally cosy restaurant. The teppanyaki stove gave us tropical people some much needed heat.

It was a lovely day.

PS: I can't seem to get a good flow between the pictures and my words, sadly. From the top left: 1. The view as we walked towards the peak. 2. The peak seen from the 2000 meter level before the clouds ganged in on the mountain. 3. Volcanic rock - probably from the previous eruption 4. The flora along the ride up the mountain 5.  Indicator

Week Two - Hiratsuka

Monday, 12 October 2009.
Back to training

The skin is still awful, and I found a whole bunch of hair fall off my comb while combing my hair. Is it the MSG, or the water, or my shampoo?
Anyway, training today was pretty dreary because the whole lot was conducted in the classroom. Turns out, the PEs in Japan too are sometimes faced with unsolved mysteries in terms of product problems, so we are not alone.

After training, we headed out together for dinner, all the 7 of us because the cafeteria was closed (It was apparently a holiday in Japan which we and the trainers were not involved in!) As CK, JC and I had travelled the streets of Hiratsuka on practically a daily basis, we seemed to lead the way to the place we were supposed to go for dinner. It was hilarious seeing CK being all tour guide-ish, informing our other 4 friends what restaurants there are and what they serve and the price range. Finally, we ended up at a very cozy looking place which served ramen noodles, but the variety of soup bases were much more interesting. I was incredibly glad to have found that chilli does indeed exist here and requested for the spicy soup base. It tasted like a fragrant version of curry mee. Chu paid for the meal stating that it was on the Thailand company’s account. I have also officially stopped eating rice for lunch and dinner. It takes up way too much space and time.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Fully into the groove of the second week of training. Nevertheless, we had changed venues, and the PE office is right next door. I was incredibly distracted by the sounds of the paper shredder. Do they have that many confidential documents? Honestly, I’d rather not use the paper shredder… I use the recycle bin after I’ve used both sides of the paper!

I took 5 cups of Japanese green tea today. The chocolate milk carton I bought turns out to be a cocoa drink and lacks real milk. I worry to think of the fate of my bones these three weeks. Osteoporosis, please stay away. Unlike the last time, I noticed that I could at least drink plain water this time. Another bunch of hair came off the right side of my head today. And yet another thing to worry about.

JC, CK, Chu, PY and I headed to the Hiratsuka Station by bus after dinner to prepare for our Mt Fuji ‘expedition’ on Saturday. The temperature up there would be about 10 C. Naturally getting to the peak (0 C) would be out of the question, but no one wants to have news sent back home that they’re up on Mt Fuji, frozen or worse, dead due to hypothermia, either.  I wanted to get a beanie and a scarf and a small hand carry. Long story… but the beanies there were ugly as hell, so I only ended up with a scarf and the hand carry.

Anyway, CK mysteriously carried his backpack to town, something he’s never done before. And he went off shopping by himself stating that he’d meet us at stop no 6 (our stop) after 15 minutes or so. Also, we usually exchange news on items we found/bought, and this time, he pointedly refused to reveal what he got, stating that it’s a *guy thing…  and I thought it was women who usually played the mysterious card! Finished Lost Diaries tonight after a marathon reading session, regrettably. Now I’m out of books to read!

A few things I noticed this past one and a half weeks… living without the internet is possible, although you may miss certain things you usually do, like finding out what’s on people’s mind, or sharing what’s on yours, or communicating with certain people whom you occasionally communicate with via the internet, or even blogging, but it doesn’t kill you. The quiet life is not too bad, as long as you’ve got some good music (still loads available), good reads (I’m dead now), and something to pass the time with. I currently find that doing the laundry and reorganizing my music files makes time move. I kind of miss Malaysia, though…

* Naturally JC and I played a little game among ourselves trying to guess what CK could be so secretive about. Edit: Turns out we guessed correctly. Back in M'sia sort of admitted to getting some Japanese porn for himself and the guys... can't see why is that such a big secret!

14 October, 2009
Still in Hiratsuka

JC and I can’t seem to wait for Saturday where Mt Fuji beckons. Training was as usual… more discussion and we find out that all PEs have very similar problems. Slept late last night because of Lost Diaries, and paid dearly for it today as I was incredibly drowsy during training.

Attempted to make myself a cup of coffee from the Blendy coffee packet and gave up. Even with two sticks of sugar the coffee was bitter and made my hair rise on its ends. Pouring some milk from the mini milk containers didn’t help either. I think I will just stick with green tea after this.

Stayed in today as we have apparently seen all we needed to see in Hiratsuka. Had to do some packing as well as we shall be sending our big ass luggage by courier to Nagoya on Friday evening, our next point of training. I tried to do my report but seemed to have lost my gusto for it, instead I sat next to the laptop and listened to some new stuff a friend gave me over a month ago. Good stuff.

My plans to sleep early was thwarted by a sudden obsession to play solitaire, of all things!

Thursday, 15 October, 2009

I am planning to sleep early today. Training was ok, but we seem to keep repeating the grinding process, which should be good for me as it is the hardest part as well as that I happen to be in charge of it at my place. Still am moodless to do the reports. Went out with JC for a walk for chocolates for the people at the office. I got some free chopsticks today when I asked for a pair from the salesperson.

Spent the rest of the night doing laundry and listened to more music.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Last day of training in the Hiratsuka plant
I can’t believe that two weeks are over. This second week seems to have moved on pretty fast. It’s only 7:15 pm here as I type this and I’m incredibly sleepy. Managed to haul my big ass luggage down the stairs, and it’s now there awaiting the courier man who will arrive anytime between now and 9 pm.

Training was pretty good today, although I was still feeling drowsy (my sleep was disrupted by a pretty disturbing dream about me organizing a contest between a lion and a tiger to see who was better at catching a single prey, in this case a white fluffy rabbit in an open field as throngs of people who think gore is good looked on from elevated platforms. I even shook hands with the tiger! Nevertheless it was a sick sight as the rabbit turned from white to a pink hue and everyone knows what that pink colouring is. For some reason, I had to leave the place and drive home, leaving behind my jacket and bag, only it wasn’t home although my family lived there. I had to use the gps to find the venue again, and as I entered the elevated platform I was on earlier, it was blocked because there was a Chinese calligraphy competition for kids going on. I retrieved my stuff and woke up.) We ended the training session with a small photography session.

I shall attempt report writing in a bit.

Old Meets New

Sunday, 11 October 2009
Kamakura

I looked at my face in the mirror today in shock, not that I don’t look in the mirror every day, but I had on my contact lenses and could clearly see my skin peeling around the left side of my nose. I blame it all on the cool wind (despite the sun shining at your face)

Today we visited Kamakura, an ancient place with shrines and temples aplenty. We checked out Engaku Ji, a shrine that houses Buddha. Unlike the last time where we did an Amazing Race type visit, this one was very relaxed and laid back. Personally, I preferred the Amazing Race type. At least I managed to get some background info on all the places I visited, but I shall refrain from complaining. These people sacrificed their weekend to take us around.

After the shrine, we took a train to the town, where we had lunch at McDonalds. As weird as it may seem, I welcomed the idea because
a)    Their menu is different from ours
b)    Change is good
c)    See above

Apparently, Kamakura is another tourist destination because there seemed to be streets dedicated to shopping, filled with brick brats famous in local culture and loads of people walking along those streets. Some of us did some souvenir shopping here. I refrained from getting too many things this time… I saw a toy katana and the sidekick sword, but wasn’t too sure if the airport authorities would be pleased by it, so I didn’t get it. After all, it was only a toy, so it beats the purpose.

At the end of the street was another shrine. It was a pity that I never got its name. The trainer tried explaining the religious beliefs of the people of Japan, which would best be summarized by saying that it is a blend of Buddhism and God (Shinto-ism) I caught a glimpse of a Japanese traditional wedding ceremony (although I think I saw two separate brides and ceremonies, JC says there were three brides and three ceremonies, one after the other), little kids dressed in traditional costumes for the 3,5 7 ceremony. This one involves girls aged 3 and 7 and boys aged 5. 

We climbed up the stairs to the building above and our Japanese trainers were worried about the stairs. They are apparently unaware of the existence of Batu Caves and it’s 272 steps. Once again, it’s not as though any of us visit Batu Caves on a frequent basis. The last time I was there was maybe around the late 90’s or early 00’s. Anyway, the steps were not daunting to say the least, I climb more flights of stairs at work daily.

After this particular shrine, we walked back along the shopping street and went back to the train station to head back to Hiratsuka. It was still early when we reached there, and we wanted to hang out a bit more to make the weekend more worthwhile. Our invitation to the rest of the group was once again declined with excuses of wanting to rest/wash clothes, etc. So CK, JC and I hung out again to look for Monday’s lunch (we were asked to get a bento box because the cafeteria would be closed), and do some window shopping and exploring that particular part of Hiratsuka. We then had dinner at a place that specialized in soba, buckwheat noodles in cold soup and lots of wasabi. Then it was back to the room.

I started reading Adrian Mole’s - The Lost Diaries tonight after finishing 1984, which took me about a week. I strongly believe that I am going to run out of books to read before my three weeks here are up.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

(Don't) be my Yoko Ono, (Yokohama) !

Saturday, 10 October 2009
Yokohama!

From the very beginning of our visit, our trainers had been asking us where we’d want to go for the weekend. Even while back in Malaysia, while busy compiling stuff (work related) to take CK and I had planned that we should check out Mt Fuji and Disneyland (this was CK’s idea. For some unknown reason, Disneyland wasn’t part of my itinerary, me being more interested in the cultural or historical aspect of things but I was cool with it. After all, chances are I might never be able to get to Florida to go to the real one) However, we were soon to find out that Disneyland needs at least two days, and that everything would be in Japanese. And somehow, the Japanese were not too keen on Mt Fuji, stating that we could see it from the Shinkansen when we travel from Hiratsuka to Nagoya. Why would we want to just see Mt Fuji? Going to it would be a better bet, aight?

Anyway, we met with the trainers at the train station at 10 am to go to Yokohama. I absolutely love the train system here. Now, Yokohama is well known as a tourist’s place as we saw a huge number of tourists (mostly Western in origin) We walked around the outside of the stadium, across Yamashita Park where I tried snapping a picture of a tortoise, met a crazy person (seriously, the dude was shouting at no one in particular while I blurly tried to get a shot of the fountain), and we finally headed to walk along ChinaTown (See, it IS a tourist spot) We saw the Hikawa Maru, a ship that travelled between Yokohama and Seattle around the 1930’s right up till 1961. Somewhere within those years she was made into what they called a Hospital Ship during the war. There seemed to be an international carnival of sorts going on as well, where cuisine and brick brats from certain countries were displayed for sale. It was interesting to see, but I thought it was odd getting cool stuff from the African or Peruvian stall whilst in Japan. Don’t ask.

Lunch was Chinese (but I’ve had better)  and we then just kept on walking and walking. I thought it was a waste that we just walked instead of stopping at places that could have been interesting (we passed by a silk museum, and the Soka Gakkai Building among others). Coincidentally, half of our group was stuck at a red traffic light and I had the chance to take a picture of Nihon –O Dori, the first modern street in Japan. I am now interested to find out more about the slightly more modern history of Japan. Enough of reading on emperors and the war in school.

We saw another ship after that, this one a training ship followed by a performance by a street performer and some jazz music near the Communication Tower (name?) A request to check out the aquarium (which houses a killer whale, I kid you not) was rejected for some reason. We then took the train back to Hiratsuka. The trainers took us to a 100 yen shop near the station as we related our almost sad tale of not being able to find the one near our dorm on Friday. Dinner was ramen this time. Not fully up to our expectations but it was alright seeing that we lacked variety in our daily food intake. Once again it was only the three of us, CK, JC and myself, with one of the trainers. The other trainees had decided to get bento boxes (lit translated: lunch box) for their dinner.



Monday, November 02, 2009

The First Week is the Longest

Thursday, 8 October 2009
The Typhoon

I was awoken at 5 am by a loud sound, but refused to get up until after 6. The sun rises early here, and you tend to wake up with it regardless if your curtains are drawn or not. Looking out of the window, I could see the effect of the ‘tempias’ (can’t find the perfect translation for this in English, sorry) of the typhoon that hit Tokyo. The wind was so strong that you could see trees swaying like crazy. There’s a motorbike parked right beneath my window, and the sheet that supposedly protects it was blowing with the strong winds and looked as though it was about to fly. The walk to the training place was challenging compared to the other days as the wind threatened to blow us away. Surprisingly by noon, the sky was clear once again and we saw the sun. According to our trainer/translator, the sun comes out when the typhoon ends.



Later that evening, we headed out to town. ***We took the bus to the train station, which is like the most happening place there. We tried some shopping. JC needed a coat, I just wanted to look around and so we split into several groups and headed our own way until we met again at 9 pm. The saddest part is that everything closes by 8 pm and it gets dead boring. I kind of like the walkways in Japan, though. The streets have some interesting signage at certain areas.

Did laundry tonight. I love the warmth of the clothes after it comes out of the dryer!

*** This time we went out in a group, all 7 of us. JC and I have this feeling that the Singaporean dude somehow does not like us at all. I think I’ll call him Kenny. This is because, on Wednesday, when CK, JC and I went out, we called Kenny along as well after finding out that he was actually a Malaysian working in Singapore, but he declined. Turns out he likes hanging out with CK (he apparently went over to CK’s room to call him out for a walk on Tuesday night) and not JC and I. Maybe we talk too much – at least to each other. Conspiracy and orientation theories aside, it’s Kenny’s loss.


Friday, 9 October 2009
We live for weekends.

Training continued as usual today, a bit of classroom session and a bit of a lab session. They have very high tech equipment here, especially for testing and the process engineers actually have their own department with their own mini machines (one looks like those old fashioned urns people use for storing dead relatives ashes, hehehe) , a few labs and a pilot plant. It looks like a great place to work in. It would be lovely if we could expand the PE team in my workplace, get a couple of machines and have our own lab instead of having that one pathetic bench in the QA lab.

The guys from Thailand wanted to check out the *100 yen shop, and the trainers said that it was near our place. Just walk for 30 minutes and you can see it. So, we decided to go and check it out. The group from 7 reduced to just 3 of us (CK, JC and me) as one by one of the others backed out. The worst was when Chu refused to go stating that ‘no one else’ was going. Then who are we? Ghosts??? Anyway, we walked and walked, at top speed. One awesome thing about Japan is that you can walk and walk and not feel tired because the weather is such. Alas! We did not find the 100 yen shop and backtracked. I took the walking as some form of exercise, hehehe.

Walking back, we decided to stop by at one posh looking restaurant that was at the side of the street. This one had the proper tatami concept, where you’d sit on a cushion on the floor. The food was lovely compared to what we usually have at the **cafeteria. I took a noodle dish (Udon, if I’m not mistaken) with some tempura and tamago toji (egg with a meat and vegetable base that has custardlike consistency)

*The 100 yen shop is the Japanese concept where everything in the shop is sold at 100 yen, (actually it’s now 105 yen for some reason that I haven’t found out yet) which can be quite good if you’re sort of looking for something cheap. My beloved scientific calculator refuses to work here, so I bought a 100 yen basic calculator in a different shop of the same concept (about RM4 or USD 1.x)

**The cafeteria food thing was planned by our respective companies, and they’re the basic fare of rice, miso soup, a main dish (in our case mostly fish or chicken because I don’t take beef and the Indonesian guy doesn’t take pork), and a side dish and Japanese green tea. Like any other institutionalized food, you get bored after some time. For me, it was 4 days. The cafeteria at the workplace serves similar dishes as well, but you have a choice from 4 menus, and they serve everything there. I don’t usually take much meat, maybe twice a week or so, but over here, I’ve been having some sort of meat (or fish) almost every day, and a bit too much pork. I’m worried about my belly.

From the top: The little boxes where we can place our shoes safely while enjoying a meal, the meal I ordered, Udon, the fish that remained after it was sliced ever so delicately for the sashimi - the dish my colleague ordered.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Getting Acquainted Under the Company Umbrella ;)

Monday, 5 October 2009
Hiratsuka Dorm and Factory

Our trainer, M-san who is also co-incidentally the person in charge of us showed us the dorm cafeteria and informed us about breakfast and dinner, which we will be having there throughout our stay. I opted for the bread for breakfast with the side dishes that comes along with every Japanese meal. Realised with horror that even among this bunch, I am indeed the slowest eater. Why do people have to eat so quickly? Doesn’t that take the joy out of eating???

The work place/training centre is about a 7 minute walk away. Anyway, training proceeded after we took our uniforms. Thank goodness the M size fitted me well, although I found the pants a wee bit short when I sit. I could see that space between where my socks end and the pants begin. Hehehe…  A question that remains unanswered is why do they not make women’s pants straight cut? Why does it have to be that horrible A cut which gives the impression of skinny ankles? Is there a conspiracy to save cloth that I don’t know about?

The training was pretty alright. Had a bit of a surprise finding out that the training materials are top secret confidential stuff and will be couriered to our respective Japanese correspondents in our own countries after the training… so I believe that we will have a lot of writing to do on our own. I’m glad I brought ** half a test pad! Turns out that PY (one of the trainees from the Thailand factory) is a super PE. The amount of knowledge he has surpasses the knowledge the rest of us have put together, but then again, he’s 44 and has perhaps been working for the past 20 years or so. Thailand apparently has their own PE group.

So much for the sunny weather we had the day before. Rain greeted us as we left our training building at 5:00 pm. With umbrellas borrowed from the company, we trudged back to the dorm. CK, JC and I agreed to meet up at 6:30 pm for dinner, which we had and then headed out in the rain with our umbrellas and jackets to the convenience store to stock up on water, especially.
**Light packing to the core

Tuesday, 6 October 2009
It rains again, the slow, rain all through the day kind of rain. Training was like how trainings are, although it has turned hardcore to the max. I feel like I’m doing my third year chemical engineering subjects all over again, only this time I know what I’m doing. Had an epiphany about what I could possibly opt to do in the future regarding my postgrad, but it means that I will be stuck in this field forever, and will therefore have to remain with short nails, ugly, unfashionable pants and safety boots until at least the age of 55.

We decided to brave the rain after dinner today. Once again it was CK, JC and me. The others seem to not like the idea of walking around in the rain looking for spots to hang out as much as we do. It must be a Malaysian thing… They, on the other hand were planning to do reports about the training to submit to their companies upon their return. The guy from Singapore wanted to ‘discuss’ the day’s lessons, much to my horror. Along the journey we encountered a few non-Japanese (another group of people who probably work there) who rode bicycles. One of them (a man) kept saying ‘bye’ to CK for some strange reason, especially since we encountered them at least twice while walking as they seemed headed to the same destination.
The rain hindered venturing further as it was a bit cold and although only kind of drizzly unlike the downpours in Malaysia, the rain had the tendency to hit your face from under the umbrella.

Anyway, after loitering around in the cold, drizzly streets of Hiratsuka, we went back, and decided that we might as well do our reports seeing that it will make life when we get back easier (It’s anybody’s guess the amount of work that could be waiting for us when we get back)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Rain and more rain. Training and more training. Will this never end, I wonder (I meant the rain – I find the training rather interesting and feel that it will indeed make doing my job better, if I’m given the chance to do certain things) … the company umbrellas have semi-officially become ours. I carry umbrella #13. It took me awhile to recollect that the food helpings here are just too big. They serve noodles and rice in one meal. From half a bowl of rice (I’m glad that I at least remember the word ‘sukoshi’ which means little), I have reduced it to about 2/5th of a bowl. Still can’t finish it though. Anyway, we heard some news of a typhoon coming over to hit downtown Tokyo. I wonder if we will be affected. To avoid being stuck in and hungry, we ventured out in the rain and incredibly strong winds to get some supplies, because no one seemed to know how serious it could be. Nothing’s worse than being stuck in your room without food! We walked and walked with our umbrellas which threatened to make us into modern day Mary Poppins, although I doubt anyone would trust any of us with their kids. Well, they could trust CK though, seeing that he is actually the father of a 6 month old baby.

I didn’t expect to find a kindred spirit in Japan, but I have… the funniest thing is she actually works in the company next door in M’sia, and neither of us would have spoken to each other if we hadn’t been thrown together for this training in Japan!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Journey Begins

If we are meant to learn our lessons from history, it is without question that after every journey I take, be it a holiday or a work related item, my muse stays behind to enjoy itself while I wonder why ideas don't stay with me long enough to transform them into readable posts. I suppose then it was a good idea on my part to become a temporary electronic diarist while I was there so that I could relate the things I saw and did - live.

Sunday, 4 Oct 2009
From Narita Airport to Hiratsuka, Japan

The touchdown was smooth, and despite the lack of sleep for two days running, I was still pretty upbeat. CK and I hung around the big A waiting area as we were requested to do, wondering where the hell the others were when we saw the other Malaysian from our sister company. We wanted to check out the airport while waiting for the Singaporean and the Indonesian, which we did while the girl from our sister company (who will after this be referred to as JC) offered to keep an eye on our luggage.

A few hours later and there is still no sign of the others who were supposed to be there. We were wondering where they were (rather worriedly) when the person who was supposed to meet us at the airport arrived and told us to go to the other end of the airport. After what seemed like forever, we were all gathered only to find out that the bus to take us to our dorm would only be available about 11:30 am. Some of us were there since 7 am. We finally arrived at the dorm after the long bus ride, heavy bags and all at about 2:30 pm, starving.

Anyway, the room is awesome, and thankfully I have a bathroom all to myself. I shudder at the thought of the *communal bathroom we had to use two years ago, where you had to keep an eye and a ear open for the sounds of someone walking in on you!

We were then gathered and walked together to where the convenience store was, a small place called K Mart where the starving ones bought sandwiches… it was about 3:30 pm then, and we were told to meet again for dinner at about 5:30.

The dinner was pretty good, a Japanese sit down dinner on the tatami, but we could dangle our legs down because they made it in such a way. Naturally I had forgotten what we ate, except for Kimchi, which is not even Japanese (It’s Korean), and some seaweed appetizer which was sour and can supposedly keep you in good health. That was pretty awesome, actually. The rest were the typical Japanese fare of sashimi, yakitori, and like I said, some stuff I can’t remember the names of.

After dinner some of us (unfortunately it was only us Malaysians as we hadn’t been able to fully break the ice with the rest as yet) hung out for a bit in my room, watching one of the not so new James Bond movies in Japanese. It was surreal seeing Pierce Brosnan all fluent in Japanese and all that. But we were nodding off in that half hour or so and the others proceeded to head over to their own rooms to finally catch up on our zzzz’s.

*I am truly opposed to this concept. The bathroom and the activities performed in there are supposed to private (or perhaps shared with one other person if so desired), for goodness sake!

Edit: I know I promised pictures, but the blogger picture uploader is being a major pain in the ass...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Booting the Boot-cut

Of all the fashion fads of the past that came tumbling into the current era (about 10 years ago till now), nothing was embraced with more love from me than the boot cut jeans and pants. Besides giving the illusion of longer gems, the boot cut balanced certain proportion issues faced by certain women. It was loved by everyone, except perhaps some of the young people of the 70's who remembered the bell bottomed pants from their past with a certain degree of horror as it came in psychedelic colours.

For reasons that will be explained in a few days time, I went shopping yesterday. A dreary chore if I may say so myself. It took me about 5 hours to get a few necessary things after scouring practically every other tenant in the mall. Among the stuff I was looking for was a new pair of Levi's seeing that my current pair seems to be hanging at an awkward angle on my hip bone due to all the stretching after almost 3 years of usage and washing. It is still a nice pair, but a new pair wouldn't be too bad either.

So, I enter Levi's and head straight to the women's section to browse for a pair that was attractive enough (for me it should be: dark coloured, and either straight or boot cut) Unfortunately for me, there were no really straight, straight jeans... they came in the scary option of slim straight. Finally I found one boot cut pair hanging quietly among the slims, skinnys and whatnots. I tried it on, but needed a different size, which they did not have. To be honest, I wasn't surprised at all... A lot of items were either too big or too small. The mediums had probably gone on a shopping frenzy these last few days and grabbed everything off the shelves. Sigh.

However, what worries me the most is the fact that among the varieties they had displayed there (there could have been easily 40, but I'm not sure if there were any repetitions or not) there was only one boot cut design. Is it running out of fashion only to be brought back in another 30 years? (Gosh, I will be about 60 then, and if all plans work out, will probably be not alive) That will indeed be a nightmare. I can just imagine myself being the only boot cut wearer in 2016 ( using my very last pair from 2009, no less) and having younger people secretly laughing at me!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OF STRANGELY HUED SEAS AND ARCHITECTURE OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Growing up, I spent about two thirds of the first 12 years of my life in a somewhat quiet coastal town called Port Dickson, then famous for it's pretty much undeveloped but still rather dirty stretch of beaches. It was so close to the sea that according to an old student the primary school that I had studied in was once under attack by a school of swordfish during high tide one day, long before they had reclaimed the land behind the school.

Over the past two weeks, my sister and I had discussed the options on going for short one day road trips locally because we have never had the opportunity to travel much in our own country, or anywhere else for that matter when younger (long story), and now with a gps unit at our disposal, getting lost will be a non-issue. Taking advantage of the extended weekend the public holiday in conjunction with Eid provided us, we decided to head over to Tanjung Tuan, a seaside point of interest near the place we once called home on Monday.


The journey: Clouds hovering low over the mountain range

It takes about an hour and a half of driving at reasonable speeds on a not so busy road through half of two states to reach the destination from where we started. We were in a small group of 4 half excited *'city kids' with backpacks and food for a picnic which we imagined having on a mat on white sands as the waves rolled in peacefully. Finally with the assistance of the gps lady (who now speaks with a so-called British accent - but I beg to differ), we reached the spot where everywhere you turned, you'd see the words "Tanjung Tuan" or "Cape Rachado" - it's original name. A little walk down a dirt road led us to a beach and slight disappointment as the whole area was swarming with other people who wanted a piece of white sanded beach and waves rolling. And they were terribly noisy as well. We walked along the shore (on grass no less, as the area had a very small sand area and some parts were actually walled) looking for a nice spot for our picnic. After crossing a precarious 'bridge' and walking for a few minutes, we finally found a spot secluded enough for our picnic as we gazed into the sea.

The Quickest Picnic in the Short History of The World

As we set our picnic mat and started preparing our sandwiches, my sister exclaimed that she had felt a drop of water. A glance at the sky proved that at some point, rain would be inevitable, but we somehow managed to convince ourselves that it wouldn't happen then. Barely two or three bites into the healthy pita sandwich (the number of bites actually depends on if you were the first or the last to prepare your sandwich) rain pelted down on us as we hurriedly packed our stuff into their bags and made a run for the nearest shade, where in the process we almost threw a carton of chips away and lost the wooden handle of my aunt's food bag. The shelter was full of people, but we managed to find some standing place there and burst out laughing at how ridiculous the whole situation was. Here we were, after driving over more than a hundred kilometres with a clear blue sky overhead, and within minutes we have dark clouds gather overhead and pour over us for a good half hour.


The Lighthouse Chronicles

Now, Cape Rachado is steeped in history. According to certain sources, the lighthouse that stands there was built somewhere in the 16th century after the Portuguese set foot in what was then known as Malacca and still remains to date with certain changes along the way, of course (definitely a few coats of paint over the years and a Measat radar of all things. It kills me that M had somehow disappeared and only "easat" can be seen revolving)

The lighthouse

People who had been standing up on the hill/lighthouse would have witnessed the Battle of Cape Rachado when it happened. To go up there, we had to enter what was once a gazetted reserve forest (degazetted since it was opened to public - well, you lose some and win some, I guess) The hike was pretty alright as the road was paved (but kind of steep, nevertheless) We saw some cars going up despite the fact that it was stated at the entrance that vehicles are not allowed in, but I suppose people are just like that... idiots at best, and since there were no enforcement people around they took advantage of the situation and drove up. It's their loss, though... they missed the opportunity to walk and admire the sounds and surroundings, especially on the way down as the sun had come out from behind the clouds at that point and we could witness the process of water evaporation right in front of our eyes!


The view from one of the windows of the lighthouse. 

Standing against the afternoon sun, it's rather new coat of paint gleaming white was the lighthouse. It wasn't as huge as I thought it would be (I kind of imagined lighthouses to be extremely tall buildings) As we were walking up the flight of stairs leading up to the lighthouse compound, a man (with his family) who were coming down told us that we could enter the lighthouse if we called the guy who was taking care of it and asked him if we could get in. After all it seems like such a waste to go all the way and not see the inside of a lighthouse. So after taking a walk around the lighthouse and admiring the beautiful green sea in that area (this part is probably - and hopefully - less polluted) we went back to the lighthouse to see if we could get the attention of the person in charge.

After a bit of drama (after all, paranoia runs in the family and we assured ourselves that we had long umbrellas as weapons if anything not so nice should happen) the gates finally opened and we were let in. A spiral stairway led us right up to the tower, but there was a bit of a step ladder to climb on to reach the very top, which for some reason we never climbed. Regretting it incredibly now. However, as we were walking up the spiral stairway quietly, it occured to me that I was actually ascending steps to a building that was full of history and I was immensely glad to have been there at that very moment. Getting out of the lighthouse compound was another drama altogether which I do not wish to recount at the moment. Another regret we had was not taking another hike down from the lighthouse to the beach below where apparently Hang Tuah stepped on, which of course was not mentioned on the information board there, they only had some information about migratory birds of prey that could be seen there around March. Hang Tuah is a very important person in the long and interesting history of Malacca.

According to my dad who visited the place over 50 years ago when he was a kid, they had to reach the lighthouse from the beach, wading during the low tide. So much more adventurous and interesting, I'd say - but a bit creepy too. If you got down during high tide, you'd have to wait till low tide or take a boat to the mainland.


Beachcombing

Besides paranoia, another thing that might run in some members of the family is the inability to swim. After lunch and an unfortunate need to find a place to pee (where the hell are the public facilities?????) we headed down to the Blue Lagoon beach, once famed for it's beauty as a beach. We were there during low tide, so there was a lot of beach area for beachcombing. The water was around ankle high and warm - the sun had pretty much gone behind the clouds again, but did not show any indication of rain. There were rocks, mud and according to one excited lady who ran holding a cup, a jellyfish which she showed to her daughter. There was also what looked very much like mangrove plants. The sand was brown in colour, but as you dug your toes in, it looked very grey. We, as a group probably creeped out a single clawed crab which hid under the sand as we tried to take it's video. I wonder how the poor thing lost it (the claw)in the first place... Overall, the beach was much nicer than the first one we went too, but was sadly littered with snack food plastic wrappers that would suddenly come and cling against your ankle and give you a slight shock. Nevertheless, despite the crowd and the noise, being at the beach was pretty calming on it's own.

Revisiting Old Spots

The trouble with visiting the old place you lived in with your parents means only one thing... You'd be obliged to go with them to all your relatives houses that you can visit in that one short visit, which sadly means that you will not be able to go and see whom or where you want to see. As this plan was a last minute, impromptu one, I had not been able to plan whom I could catch up with, but we did try to visit one of our old houses, which had pretty good childhood memories, and also our old primary school which looks completely different now before we embarked on our journey back home. We also passed by another old Chinese school which is now a row of shops, and my dad's old working place.

*We're not exactly dwellers of a big city like Kuala Lumpur, but live near enough to be on the receiving end of some of the influence and currently live in a fast paced competitive environment, besides, my sister and I started our life's journey in a small town which did not even have a single traffic light right until 1993. And despite all of us being legal adults, I had made use of the word kids because it sounds so much nicer than 'city adults'