#50 Vacuum cleaners are dreamers in France

If you’re new in France and practicing French and yoga at the same time, you’d no doubt have heard your instructor say ‘Inspirez…’ and ‘Expirer…’ When i first got here I found these curious just like other faux amis (lit. false friends: French words that are similar to English but mean different things ranging in difference in nuance to fundamental meaning). Then I got over the initial surprise and got used to my instructor telling me to inspire and to expire when holding my poses. But last night I learned that a vacuum cleaner is an ‘aspirateur’ in French. It tickles me to imagine vacuum cleaners aspiring to become something, I don’t know, maybe a Roomba? Or maybe they were previously brooms who had aspirations and ultimately evolved into vacuum cleaners.

On a related note, the word perspire doesn’t exist in French. This is a tip for those like myself to try to wing French by replacing normal sounding words like sweat to more scientific or sophisticated words like perspiration and hoping that the francophone listener would understand what we mean. But nope, perspiration doesn’t work in this case. The word you’re looking for is ‘transpiration.’ Every time you break a sweat, something transpires between your body and the world. Sounds weirdly philosophical, yeah?

Another similar story but this time it doesn’t involve translation. Just two words in English but how they are used in diff countries. In this case: the US/Malaysia to my knowledge and England. My English friend recently ‘hired’ a car to make a road trip from France to Italy. Well where I come from we say ‘rent’ a car. We hire a person, not a thing, right? But you know, in england, you hire one and it’s kinda cute because it conjures an image of these vehicles waiting in line clutching their resumes in order to be ‘hired’ for a gig. Maybe they can get career advice from their fellow machinery aka the vacuum dreamers I mean cleaners.

That’s all for my small anthromorphological (am I using this word right?) anecdote for today!

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#1: Things I Miss and Things I Surprisingly Don’t Miss About Japan

I came back to Kuala Lumpur from Tokyo last Tuesday on December 15th 2015. It’s been exactly a week now so I thought it’s about time I started my blog so I can reflect and share the experiences I’ve had in Japan and also those I had while traveling within and outside of Japan for the last five and a half years. Welcome to my pilot post!

★★★

Things I miss about life in Japan:

 

  1. Easy Access to Places

For a person who doesn’t own a valid driving license, it is really, really difficult to get around town. Since I’ve been back I’ve been relying on my siblings, friends, and mum to drive me around in their personal cars. I know there is this new and popular service called uber (https://www.uber.com) which I have yet to try and also obviously there are other public transports like buses and LRTs/monorails which I can use here in Kuala Lumpur, but they are far from being as reliable as those in Japan.

Getting around in Japan:
①Google destination name → ②take down the name of the closest train or bus station and information on which trains to get on to get there  → ③head to the nearest train or bus station near you (usually within 10-15 minutes from home) → start journey as planned in Step ②

Getting around in Kuala Lumpur for a person without a driving license:
①Google destination name → ②make appointment with family or friend to drive you there*

*If no family or friend is free, reschedule engagement

 

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Picture taken from inside a train in Japan by one of two artistic sisters. March 2014.

  1. The Safety

The crime rate has been increasing for the past few years in Kuala Lumpur. I think it was especially scary about a year ago for some reason and everyone would at least have one friend or one friend of a friend who was a victim of robbery or housebreaking. Whereas in the land of peaceful Japan, in the past five years, every single time I misplaced my iPhone I got it back within 24 hours. However, one thing I did notice is that bizarre crimes of passion occur more in Japan, eg. one family member kills the other and buries him in cement or other disturbing cases like that.

Jogging outside as a girl in Japan:
At 12:00 am in a sports bra = OK.

Jogging outside as a girl in Kuala Lumpur:
Strongly discouraged. If you absolutely have to do it, it has to be either in the morning or evening, preferably with loose clothing and bad hair to minimize your attractiveness, whilst carrying a stick or with a big German Shepherd.

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A lion painted on the road says ‘STOP’ at a junction in suburban Tokyo. I used to jog here a lot. Picture taken pobably sometime in 2011 / 2012.

  1. The Privacy and Time for Myself

Maybe I speak for myself on this one, but in Japan, I found I had lots of time just for myself and my thoughts either when commuting or in my room doing nothing. But back home in KL, as I still live with my family with so many siblings, most of my time is spent thinking about or doing household chores or interacting with someone else in the room that I hardly have had time for myself. Also, in KL, although on the increase, eating out at a restaurant alone is perceived as weird and perhaps even sad but in Japan it is so common to do that that they have tables and individual booths for people who choose to dine alone.

In addition, one thing I’ve noticed that is unique to Japanese culture is the respect of others’ privacy. There’s this very convenient word in Japanese you can use to answer someone when you get invited to something you have no interest in going, Just say ‘chotto…’ with a troubled face and you would be left alone (in most cases).

In Japan (ideally):
John: Hey Sheng, wanna go see the new Star Wars film?

Sheng: Chotto…

John: Oh ok, maybe next time then! Bye!

In Malaysia:
John: Hey Sheng, wanna go see the new Star Wars film?

Sheng: Chotto….

John: Huh, why you speaking Japanese?

HAHA, I kid.

In Malaysia, take #2:
John: Hey Sheng, wanna go see the new Star Wars film?

Sheng: Umm…

John: What? Got date ah?? (translation: Do you have a date?)

Sheng: No, but…

John: Then?? Let’s go lah!

Sheng: Ha, I don’t think I can. Think I’m busy tonight.

John: Ohh.. got other plans is it. What you doing tonight? (translation: Oh, you have other plans? What are you planning to do tonight?)

Sheng: Nola, I think I just want to rest at home.

John: Rest at home? So boring. Why you so tired until you need to rest at home? What did you do last night?

Sheng: Nothing, just went gym only. (translation: Nothing, I just went to the gym.)

John: Wah, so cool go gym. You dieting or trying to bulk up? (translation: Wow, it’s so cool that you go to the gym. Are you trying to lose weight or trying to bulk up?)

Sheng: Nola, just trying to stay healthy.

John: Ohhh, ey but seriously la, let’s go watch Star Wars. The more, the merrier!

Sheng: Don’t want la! To be honest, I just don’t like Star Wars, OK?

John: What! How can? (translation: how is that possible?)

Sheng: I never watch before la OK.

John: Haa??? Oh my God then all the more you must come!! 

 

  1. The Onsens (Hot Springs)

I don’t know if any other experience can compare with soaking in hot water completely naked with friends and strangers. I love it. Especially after a long, tiring week of traveling or working. Summer or winter, it doesn’t matter!

Of course, at first I hesitated to go to the onsen too. I mean, for a Malaysian, it’s unthinkable to be nude in front of people and I really did not feel comfortable doing that during my first few years in Japan. I still remember my memorable first experience at an onsen, I was traveling out of Tokyo with my friends from the ultimate frisbee team in my second year in uni and the little lodging facility we stayed at didn’t have a shower / bathroom. It was only after our frisbee match (naturally, we were all sweaty and in need of a shower) that I found out we were going to a sentou which means a public bathhouse in Japanese and I had no other choice to get clean so there was no way out. It was uncomfortable and I chose a shower booth really far away from all of my friends and didn’t even soak in the hot bath. But after several visits, I was hooked! Now, it is one of my favorite things in Japan.

 

  1. The Walkability

Kuala Lumpur, as are many other cities in developing countries with hot and humid weather, is a very car-centric city, whereas in Japan, the urban environments are designed with pedestrians in mind. I can think of a few reasons why it’s not fun walking in Kuala Lumpur:

  • it’s hot during the day
  • unsafe in terms of paths that are unpaved or only paved partially with cheapskate concrete
  • unsafe in terms of snatch theft and catcalls
  • too much exhaust fumes from the cars
  • ‘why should i walk? driving is much easier’ mentality.
  • not many places to actually walk to, eg, my next destination is always a car’s ride away

On the other hand, in Tokyo and other big cities in Japan, one can walk anywhere! The pedestrians are king and I can easily walk more than 10,000 steps in a day. It’s healthier and much less stressful than being stuck in a traffic jam or road rage. However, there’s a caveat, rush hour at train stations in the mornings in Tokyo feels like soldiers in suits or black office clothes marching to war, and rush hour at train stations in the evenings is smelly and sometimes full of tired, grumpy and/or drunk people.

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The famous Shibuya scramble crossing, where 3,000 people cross it at every green light making the total pedestrians crossing daily to be 500,000 people. Picture taken by Evana on my phone in October 2014.

  1. The Friends and Connections!!

Last but not least, I know this is an obvious one, but I miss all the friends I made in Japan so dearly. Friends from university, friends from the dorm, friends from my internships, friends from my job, both homestay families, and finally, friends from Peace Boat! These are the people who have directly or indirectly taught me so many things to widen my perspectives about myself and the world. It is also thanks to them that I had such a valuable and one-and-only experience in Japan.

 

Things I Surprisingly Don’t Miss about Life in Japan

  1. The Weather

When you think of Japan, one of the first things that come to mind is the cherry blossom, or the sakura tree! Fun fact: Sakura is one of the two national flowers of Japan. The other is the chrysanthemum, the motive on the front page of the Japanese passport. The cherry blossoms blooming in late March or early April in the spring marks the start of the year and paints the whole town in a pretty pink for a week. Then the weather turns warm into a humid summer, a cool and crispy autumn, then finally to a cold winter where it occasionally snows. I know a lot of people who like the four seasons for the ability to dress up for each weather and because each season brings with it the specific things to do and eat. But personally, after 5 years of living in Japan and traveling to the different countries to experience some different climates for myself, I think the good old Malaysian tropical climate is the most livable. I mean, although the afternoons may be hot, the mornings and nights are cool and we have alfresco mamaks (affordable eateries serving halal Indian food that often set up portable tables outside on the roads) all year long!! We don’t have to change our wardrobe throughout the year. And if you want to dress up, all the offices, malls and fancy restaurants in town are fully air conditioned so there’s actually nothing stopping you!

Another bonus point is that any time is suitable for going to the beach!! (except during the rainy season that happens sometime between the monsoon from November to March)

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Sakura in the rain with my mummy! March 2014.

   2. The Food

Sushi, ramen, sukiyaki, gyudon, etc.. Are you drooling yet? Actually, I’m not. Of course, I love good food but one thing that I learned on Peace Boat is that each country’s local food is the most delicious. As we sailed from one port to another on Peace Boat, even though each port had its own delicious delicacies, it’s impossible to compare and pinpoint the ‘best’ food. We also didn’t miss the food from the previous port to the point of yearning to eat it again because we were excited about the local food we can try at the next port. I also started to appreciate more the fruits that are so widely available in Southeast Asia. For example, mangoes, bananas, papayas, mangosteens, and of course durians and others are considered exotic tropical fruits sold at exorbitant prices in Japan.

So for me, right now, the most delicious food would be local Malaysian food, preferably made with ingredients grown on local soil! I might even feature my sister’s vegetable and fruit garden right in our front yard in a future post!

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My last lunch in Japan before leaving: Yasubee Tsukemen. My favourite tsukemen out there. December 2015.

  3. The Service

Japan is also well known for its impeccable service by the staff whether at convenience stores, restaurants, or every public place you can imagine, down to the facility cleaner or janitor. They bow, they recite every single thing you buy, they tell you how much your change is. They say ‘Welcome!’, ‘Thank you!’, and ‘Try it on!’ every few minutes. I remember my reverse culture shock experience back when I first came back to Malaysia over summer or spring break from university. I was at a counter ordering a donut or some kind of snack at KL International Airport and expected a polite and professional service (without tipping, of course) but what I got was just a curt ‘thank you’ when I was handed the donut. I felt stupid for feeling shocked because that was what I was used to for almost 20 years before I lived for just one year in Japan. What I’m trying to say is, after getting good service regularly for a long period of time, it’s easy to be spoiled and also, in a way forget that the staff providing the service is actually a human being with feelings. Now, in KL, I appreciate any kind of good service I get and try not to forget to say ‘Thank you!’ back to them.

★★★

Alright, that wraps up the list of things that I miss and surprisingly don’t miss about Japan. To anyone who has been in Japan before, either for a short trip or long trip, feel free to share your opinions or comments! There must be so much more things to miss about Japan that I didn’t cover. A little preview: my next post will be about – you guessed it, the opposite ie. Things I Don’t Miss and Surprisingly Miss about Japan. Hope to see you then!

Personality Test

Paraphrasing a Skype convo this morning

—–
S:
So lemme ask you a question, you have 5 travelling companions: a cow, a sheep, a horse, a monkey, and a lion. Halfway through the travel, you had to throw the animals away one by one. In what order would you throw them away?

E:
What? What sort of question is that

S:
Just a fun question! Tell me the order

E:
…. (30 seconds deep in thought)

E:
And you say these animals are my friends??

S:
Yes. Come on, it ‘s not that hard.

E:
… (another 15 seconds of thinking)

E:
Shit, I don’t like throwing away friends…

E:
I’m on a boat right?

S:
I didn’t mention a boat, but fine ok you’re on a boat.

E:
Ok, so I think I will throw away the biggest animals first because the boat is presumably sinking, so the lion, then the-

S:
No! You can’t think like that!
Ok, I’m changing it. You’re not on the boat anymore. You’re just travelling normally on land.

E:
What….? Ok, fine. Then I think I’ll throw away the chickens because they’re useless…

S:
Huh? There are no chickens, where did you get chickens

—–

The slow thinking could be partially caused by the Skype connection lag and lack of clarity in the early morning/late night. But yeah, I guess a personality test does tell you the personality of the person not just based on the answers, but you can also learn a lot through their thought process too.

By the way,
Cow: Food, Livelihood
Sheep: Significant Other
Horse: Career
Monkey: Children
Lion: Parents

Colleagues

Last Friday 7/24 marks the end of another chapter of my life. A chapter called my first full-time job in my life. It was also my first time working at a full-fledged Japanese company with Japanese corporate culture and rules, of which some I understood but some just made me scratch my head or left my mouth agape with confusion. I was lucky enough to be assigned to a team consisting of veteran gaijins (although I have wished during my whole time there to have some other young person join the team) who taught me about life; the positive and the negative, either directly or indirectly. 
To be honest I don’t have TOO many complaints about the job. If I were forced to list them up, ok fine maybe I wanted to get paid better / more incentives. Plus maybe to be given some more challenging tasks. I’m sure if I asked for more tasks I would have been given more, but I was stuck in my comfortable bubble where I was just cruising through life, AS USUAL. I wanted to take life easy. I wanted a life where my own time comes first, and my job is secondary. But I also want financial stability… lol sometimes I am quite ashamed of my own sense of entitlement. 
Hey but I guess I am ‘giving back’ by being a volunteer for the next 4 months. From mid August I will have no income and no Japanese address, GULP.
同期たち。I sincerely hope this bunch of good, kind, creative people will create a title that will rock the socks off the online gaming industry in the future.

チームメンバーたち。Nice people who have experienced too much of the dark side of the business corporate world. Hahahaha I kid. Genuinely good people each with their funny quirks. Can you see the lack of oestrogen in my team?? Also the combined average age is late 30s.

事業管理室のメンバーたち。Business Admin Team. My team ‘on paper’ only. Basically I was assigned to be in this team for my first year but never worked with them irl. Cool people who treated me really nice but I betrayed them by not telling most of them I was quitting until the last minute. Lol 社会人失格。Soray.
Some people I definitely want to keep in touch with, but I can’t deny that there will be some people in there whom I will not see again once I officially leave after next Friday (7/31, going out to clean my desk and hand in my final assignment of penterjemahan buku teaks matematik). 
Things I will miss about this job: the view of Tokyo from the 46th floor,  the cruise mode, stability, bragging rights about being affiliated with all the awesome IPs.
Things I will not miss: the lack of friends/confidants, the commute, the keigos, the cruise mode.
Farewell! It’s been an interesting and valuable experience. I think my timing of quitting is rather good because if I stayed longer I may start to resent it. Now I have nothing but grateful memories for the place and all the people there 🙂 大変お世話になりました!

Life is confusing

In the past 10 months I have learnt that:

– Love is laughter and a lot of cuddles.

– Love is unnaturally long spans of time just spent looking into each others’ eyes.

– Love is expressing yourself in the most raw form and have the other person understand then still choose to stay.

– Love is interest in the same things. Or support for the other person in pursuing his/her interests.

– Love is learning about the world through another person’s eyes.

– Love is beautiful

– Love is lots of fun.

But in the past 2 months I also learnt that:

– Love is overrated.

– It doesn’t have to be once-in-a-lifetime special like I thought.

– Trust is the most essential thing in love. If it is lost once, your love will forever be tainted.

– Love is easy. But sustaining love is hard.

– Love is preferably logistics working right for two people.

– Love goes as easily as it comes.

– Love is knowing when to let go.

– Love is being grateful for all the happy memories.

And yesterday I learnt that:

– Through love, you learn.

– Love may feel elusive, but if you opened your heart (and your eyes) there are so many opportunities out there to love and be loved.

– If you recover from the heartbreak from a previous love, there are many opportunities in the future to love again.

And I believe the next time it is possible to love just as hard.

社会人一年目を振り返って Looking back on my first year as a working adult PART 1

PART 1: April – June 2014

April 1st 2014 – 入社式 Company’s Welcome Ceremony

Out of the 101, 7 non-developers including me (those not directly involved in making video games) 

Out of the 101, 24 got posted to Tokyo. The rest stayed in the Osaka HQ. 

Out of the 101, there were 20 girls. 
Here are the 7 of us non-developers, minus one. 


Of the 7 of us, 4 were sent to Tokyo (and then 1 was sent back), 2 were sent off to work at amusement centers in the far, far suburbs. 

2/7 girls. She was a later addition too so I got a new friend and I think she may be my first close japanese friend after 5 years of living in this country lol. 

April 20 – May 9
Training at arcade plazas first in Narita for a week, then Okazaki, Nagoya in the suburbs for almost a month. 

What they intended for us to learn: 

– Deeper understanding of the company products
– To experience direct, firsthand interaction with our customers
– Spirit of customer service
– Teamwork 
– ほうれんそう (literally sounds like ‘spinach’ in japanese but is an acronym for 報告、連絡、相談、 aka to report, contact and discuss with your colleagues and seniors whenever it’s necessary) 
– Discipline 

What I learnt: 
– In fact, all of the above, wow good job, designer of this training course
– Plus alpha, Japanese honorifics and life in the suburbs 
– Played my guitar almost every night at the hotel hehe 

One of my tasks was to check all the photo booths in the arcade to check if the features were in order. By features I mean the eye enlarging, makeup slapping, skin brightening, leg lengthening effects and in my opinion, absurd things that these things do. No idea why anyone would pay to get these done, except if the reason were to meta-ly make fun of the ridiculousness of it all. Plus they are frigging tiny and the colors fade with time I think. 

My favourite place in Switzerland

Technically, my favourite place in Switzerland that I’ve visited.
Because Switzerland’s a country I would love to visit again in my lifetime, if I had the monies. Also check the note about my teenage children further down in the article.

This is a view of Lake Leman at the harbour just a few minutes’ walk from Ouchy station in Lausanne.
It looked and felt like heaven. Everything was perfect from the warm crepe that I adventurously tried to order speaking full French (tres excitement!) and hot cappuccino and cool breeze…

…and one uncle, probably a local walking his dog. I didn’t know the dog’s breed but he looked a bit like a white sheepdog. He couldn’t wait to get his fluffy fur wet by strolling into the lake.

I’m so glad Danchan’s school is here. Because I don’t think Lausanne is a popular destination for tourists relative to Geneva or Zurich or Lucerne, there were only a few locals and a small group of Asian girls (probably students studying in Switzerland or France) in the area. Lausanne also houses the International Olympic Committee and the official Olympic Museum which I got to visit for free with my Swiss Pass! I can’t recommend that place enough. It was so motivating and I came out completely convinced that Olympics is truly a very interesting and effective symbol to advocate world peace. Did you know that in the times of the ancient Olympic games held in Olympia, all wars were to cease during the time of the Games so that sportsmen (usually noble representatives from each ‘state’ in Greece) can travel safely to the competition venue? And did you know that at every Olympics, the torch actually gets (probably symbolically or electrically) lighted in Olympia and transported by famous sportsmen by various ways and modes of transportation ALL THE WAY to the host cities?? I didn’t! 
If i had the opportunity I am definitely bringing my future teenage children to Switzerland to visit this museum and the Palais de Nations (United Nations Geneva office) to inspire the sh*t out of them. 

Feet selfie!