Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Once upon a time, this girl called Nicole loved to eat Fish & Chips. But she was afraid of trying it at this particular place, A Star restaurant. In her mind, it was a little over rated, she heard bad reviews before, she was afraid it will be pricey and she didn't know what other type of food will be served there. But her friends tried to convince her to try it and sort of dragged her there.

She loved the taste of the food, the ambience, the friends she went with, the memories and it turned out that the Fish & Chips was delicious. A Star restaurant became her favourite destination.She can't stop talking about it now, recommending it to her friends and wants to try the other varieties there. Only problem is that A Star is situated too far away from her home and she can't make it there on her own. The cost of the dishes there is also way too expensive.

So the only thing Nicole can do is to think about it. She held the memory about it as the best, tastiest, freshest and the dish that gave her the happiest smile. She never had Fish & Chips again after that as she didn't want another Fish & Chip to replace that of A Star's. In her mind, she is always imagining the crispyness of the fish.

She kept the name card of the restaurant for she has the hopes of returning. But once, her mother accidently threw the card away. She was dissapointed as it seemed to have broken the link of her and of A Star.

Time passed but she still held on to her wish of re visiting A Star. She still held on to not eating Fish & Chips. But now, she was invited to her friend's party in A Moon Restaurant to have Fish & Chips. And its an invite she can't refuse.

New taste perhaps? New ambience, new friends, new adventure ..... but a lot closer to home. She is afriad of going to A Moon. Not sure if the first bite of the Fish & Chips there will ruin the memory of A Star's. Not sure if the memory of A Star will slowly fade away. She is not sure if she will enjoy the party. While getting ready for the party, she didn't feel excited (like she normally will .... she felt it was a chore), instead she felt scared.

I have tried advicing her to think otherwise. I have told her that what remains in your memory will be there forever. But now I am lost for words. Nicole is actually on her way to A Moon now. What else can I say to her except 'Good Luck'.

What would you do?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

MA/FL 2007 Reunion

Its been a whole year since I left the bank but the one thing that I did not leave was the other 18 people that I met in the group. I still remember during one of the meetings when we were asked 'What is the best thing you have gained from this Management Associate/Future Leader program?' I answered .....'knowing the other 18'. haha, I know I should have answered the knowledge gained or the experiences in a financial org. Perhaps that would score me a bigger bonus but what I said really came from my heart.

We went through the vigorous interview process together, sat through hours and days of trainings together, explored and drew up projects together, had fun and food together, our numerous crazy nights and gossips together .... all would not be forgotten. I still remember my last day when you guys made me cry ... EVIL. But now you guys keep making me smile ... ANGELS!!

Though a few of us have parted ways, we are all just a call away. And its really lovely to see all 19 of us back together again. Well, it might not be in a UOB meeting room but Italiannies seems like a good meeting place as well. The group was big, yup, it was difficult to talk to everyone. But yet we managed to share so much, update each other and laugh at each other.

Looking back, it was a good experience. A lesson to be learnt and a good story to be told. What impact it had on me .... I don't know. All I can say is .. NO REGRETS! Everything happens for a reason. And I am proud to have you guys as friends!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reality of routines

Post vacation, post Chinese New Year, post non- stop eating adventures and post house hoppings ..
. now its time to get back to our daily routine ... wake up, go through the traffic, get to work, lunch in front of the PC, get off work when its dark, go through traffic again, eat dinner in front of the TV, read a book, go to sleep and it repeats itself again.

I even get bored by typing it. But I guess thats the sad reality of life. Work life gets routined. And like it or not, we have to work for survival. True .... some may say that you can make your work your hobby and enjoy it. That is the way you perceive it ... I really enjoy my job, no doubt ... but its just so time consuming. Week nights are taken up, weekends are gone for classes ....and in other words, there goes my life ....

And sometimes, the work just squeezes all the juices out of your mind. It just becomes a shrivelled up piece of dried prune .... its only purpose of existance is to keep you alive so you can go through the same old routine the next day. Perhaps working 8am to 9pm is normal for some .. but to do it non stop and to be the only one in the office holding the fort???? It can kill ......

So its really up to us how we want our lives to be like. Go out for a nice dinner with friends, go watch a movie or just laugh at someone .... it feels good. And once in a blue moon, when your long lost cousin comes to town ... go for a drink and gossip till midnight! You'll never know what your friends have to share .... you will learn a thing or two or even get enlightenment. hmm .... it seriously makes me ponder ...

But yes, work may be tiring, and after a long day at work, you just want to go home, take a shower and play with your dog. Just remember that it is up to you to put some life back in your life. Pick up that phone and make that date ..... its just amazing how friends can put the energy back into you poor limp and drained out body. My korean kim chi I come!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Japan day 9

Sob sob! Its the last day in Japan. So many pleasant memories and I am not prepared to leave. If only I had no responsibilities back home and I am blessed with a wallet that replenishes itself. I guess thats the wonder of vacations .... a short excape.

But the whole day was spent packing, saying goodbyes and of course traveling. Time was short so we kind of rushed everything till we reached the airport. It was then when we finally had our late lunch, last minute shopping and lounge lazing (the stoopid plane was delayed). We should have taken a last group picture .... too bad I didn't think of it ... but here's a bright happy one!

Back to my sweet Malaysia that is forever hot yet cosy and where the people I love are back home.

Reflections of the trip? Good weather, good friends, good conversations, good memories, good experiences and it was a spark plug. Igniting me for more adventures to come. I must say that the day I agreed to come on this treip is a day I made a very right decision. A desicion I did not regret at all! Cheers to Japan and the company I had on the trip!

Japan day 8

Another lazy day for me to sleep in while the rest went for practice. Didn't join the girls for breakfast but instead, armed with a hot bottle of coffee and a red bean bun, I did what I have been wanting to do for so long!! Read a book n the park. And it feels great, crossing your legs while swinging on the kiddy swing and reading the Da Vincci code. But after a while, my ass hurt from the little swing so I took a walk around the village .........ooh so peaceful !! Back to the tea cup in the park for more reading!! Ahh .... the little pleasures of life.

See? You don't need to buy fancy cars or dine in 5 star restaurants to get a kick out of life. Its already the last day in Japan and my shopping mood has not kicked in yet. But anyway, the few of us went down to town for last minute souvenior shopping. A short trip but all our purposes were met. Back to Machida for dinner .... a quick one and back to the rooms ...... though the night was still young.

Sake night!!!!

5 of us cramped in the room ...... taking shots of sake and having fun just chatting away. Well it was a little serious talking in the begining and things just got a little crazier after that. The sake was so smooth and it didn't have the usual burnt musky taste and it just didn't seem to have any effects while shooting them down. But the power just came suddenly. hehe, lesson to be learnt, don't take shots with alcohol you are not familiar with. Its weird how we could let go on one hand but not let go on another? It just an expression that I can't express ... Perhaps metaphorically, its like singing a song without words.

Well, more could be said about our Sake night but its best to be kept in Japan. wuahaha ...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Japan day 7

An exciting day for all of us as Sugawara Sensei was bringing us to the Katori shrine. To the place where the art all began. So more than 30 of us packed into cars for a road trip that cannot be forgotten. Delegates from around the world all became tourists and were brought around by our lovely hosts. And a big thank you for all their effort.

Katori shrine was about 2 hours drive away and to get there, we had to drive in this underwater tunnel, come out onto an island and then back into another tunnel. See the wonders of transportation? Now I know why they say that tolls in Japan can cut your throat. But on this 'island' the feeling was just superb. It was windy, everyone was happy and in high moods and it just seemed like a perfect sunny afternoon! A short lunch after that and we were back on the road ...

The shrine is just like any other shrine... its true ... a pebbly path, lots of steps and almost the same kind of architecture. But its beautiful, the black wood, the gold paintings and the wonderful carvings on the walls.... so intrincally designed. But one magical property of that spot .... its wonderful ages trees. They stood so majestically, giving you the feel of a collosial imperial Japan. Superb!! Then we went a little more into the alleys to the orignal shrine and a tablet of respect ... But you need to know its history for you to really understand the wonders of the shrine. Originals are always the best.

After waiting for the whole group to gather,(pretty long too ... thats the trouble with big groups) we made our way to another shrine ... the Kashima shrine. It was already dark when we got there. Couldn't see much but I know that it was FREEZING!! At night, in the woods with not much lighting?I thought it would be freaky, but we are in a sacred place after all. So yea ,,,, shrines may be the same everywhere but it really depends on the company you are with. Everywhere is beautiful if you know how to appreaciate it. I guess it is really me. .. I am the type that enjoy the company around me, not so much of where I go or what I do. hehe in other words, I am easily happy (but still freezing my ass off)

Back we go to Machida. And its the first day of the lunar new year. A very important day for us Chines, so we wanted to have a nice dinner!! At first, we thought it would be the few of us, but surprise surprise!!! Everyone joined us!! It was a happy big family dinner ... Went for an excellent syabu syabu dinner!! Totally satisfying .... hot pot on a cold winter day!!! I think I am falling in love with Japan!

Japan day 6

Its a big day! The day of the festival that all have been working hard for ... well, I could see the excitement in some faces and the stress in others .... but seeing the practice of the day before, everyone is so well equipped and will definitely pull on a great show. It was an impressive event. Set in the city hall ... auditorium style and the place just filled up with audience.

First up was the aikido demonstrations. Groups from around the world demonstrated various techniques. And finally, it was the Malaysian's turn. Lyn Lyn and Alfred put on a great show. I must say that it is one of the best, if not THE best performance. They were young, impressive, their moves were fast and they seems so gentle yet nimble. And what made it more interesting was the 'impromptu attack'. They staged a real life attack and how aikido could be used ... brilliant!

Then of course there were tai chi demonstrations. It too was a beautiful art. So graceful and I always see it as one of China's most prized possesion. Many a great personality is built from the philosophy of tai chi.

Then came the musical performances. Something that kept me waiting for so long. There was Japanese singings, latin American performances, guitars playing etc. And finally, I get to witness the performance that they have all been talking about. A duet, piano by Juliette and flute by Adam. Though I heard them at practice before, this time is so much difference. There is the stage presence and for once, both of them didn't break out laughing in between the piece. Music is just so magical. Then Adam did a solo piece on the piano ... it was beautiful. Again, there was the difference of listening to it right beside the piano and the sounds of it in a big auditorium. hmm , first time I've seen a 'performance' as such and I'm impressed! Congrats guys!! So many people (including me) loved the performance.

Then there was the certificate presentation ceremony. I felt so proud for Adam, Lyn Lyn and Alfred. All the hard work that was put in is now being recognized. And what is most important is the mark that you have made within yourself. Congrats for achieving thus far!!

The Katori demonstrations were up next. And it is really amazing. I love taking videos at the front row, thus getting the perfect view. I loved the sword performance .... action at its best. And perhaps with a little bit of imagination and music in the back ground, you can help but be amazed at the performance. The Malaysian team put up yet another spectacular performance. It was fast and kept you at the edge of your seats.

A good event I would say. We had demonstrations of karate, taekwondo, and many more ........ and what better way to end the festival with a party of food, fun and fellowship? Though everyone was tired, the hall was full of happy people ... all chatting away, snapping photos and exchanging numbers. I must say that I made some pretty good friends too. Thats the fun part about international festivals like this.

It was CNY reunion dinner back home. The night was still young as we bade our farewells. Went for a short drinks, more chat and laughs ....... and you can see hat though everyone was worn out, there was a sense of satisfaction in the air. All stresses gone, we had another 2 fun filled days to look forward for.

Japan day 5

Did I mention that this trip is also an educational trip/ performance for some of my friends? 4 of them were to either perform some aikido/ katori technique or play a musical piece. So today is rehearsal day for them and I am their photographer. So off we went to thisnearby school hall for practice. And its pretty amazing how martial arts can pull everyone together. There were delegates from Malaysia of course, Sweden, Spain, USA, Russia, Korea, Finland, how could I forget Japan, China and many more.

Its really an eye opener to see so many people practicing the art in front of me, all in one place. I am not very exposed to Japanese arts but its wonderful to see it being demonstrated right in its country of origin. And it seems to me like a very peaceful art. And I am sure that if I were to study it philosophy, it would mean so much more. A friend shared with me that its a teaching, a way of thinking ....... and that is what sets us Asians as uniques collective cultures. So much to be learnt.

But my 3 hours watching them practice was well spent. It really provokes you to want to do something with your own life. Well, of course there was the side rack of chatting, socializing, laughing, photo taking and all .... but it was a good day.

And the best thing that ever happened to me in Japan happened then!! It snowed!! At least for a minute .... its magical. So beautiful ... just watching the gentle while flakes falling from the sky ... so peaceful and so smooth. Its like watching the free floting of paradise. I went outdoors and tried to catch the snow .... with my bare hands .... ok, its a little dissapointing, like ice shavings in ice kacang ...... but its snow!! And it melts i n your hand! And for a minute or two, I was like a mad woman, sitting by a pond trying to catch snow flakes. Words cannot describe how beautiful it was. And the image of snow falling a midst a fake sakura tree (which I discovered to be a plum flower) is just worth the whole trip.

And I can say that I am truly happy. I saw what I wanted to see but I expected not to see. It did not snow in Tokyo for a long time. And it snowed this time round. 3 times in the day. I'm so lucky, so privileged! And its wonderful to have seen it together with your friends, together with other happy people. Seeing such a happy work of nature together with other happy people makes this THE moment of the entire trip! And yes, it is etched in my heart .... the picture that paints a thousand words.

More food and lazing around later, we took another trip to Shinjuku to visit the Honbu Dojo, head quarters of Aikido for the whole world. Worth the ride right? It was settled in some small town, pretty difficult to locate but who's complaining? Its always nice to walk in the cool weather.

It was a good night ... exploring the streets of Shinjuku, busy hunting for good cheap food, laughing all the way with your company, watching the Saturday night crowd hit the streets andhaving your feet hurt like hell. But another good way to end the night ............... it Snowed again on our bus ride home!! A truly magical day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Japan day 4

Its a lazy day for me. After all the shopping and walking and eating, I need to let my self time to digest and to enjoy the warm comfy cushions of my bed, erm ..... I mean mattress. Well ....... its time to sleep in while the rest of my room mates went for their martial arts practice. So it was just me with loads of cushions and a nice heater in the room ....... I wish time would stop.

Went for a quick bite with the girls and back to the room for more slumber ...... sheesh, I felt like a pig on vacation! But isn't that what vacations are for? Just wasting your time and relaxing ....... chilling out and doing whatever you want to do? hmmm ...... I really did enjoy this alone time.

It was laundry day! hehe, never experienced those lifestyles where you bring your laundry to the shop, but in your coin and wait till its done. I only see it on TV but now ...... I got to experience it! haha ........ the joys of domestic work. But I guess its a good time to chat away about nothing at all. And thus, it makes me even lazier .... so the group decided to split up. One group went shopping, another went for more food! And a drink buffet. And what do you get when there is unlimited drinks and snacks on the table? We chat even more ....

Can you believe it? We sat there chatting and drinking for 3 hours only to move our asses and go for dinner in another place where we had another drink buffet ... and chatted away till midnight .... I've got a serious feeling that I will evolve to become a pig the next day.

Japan day 3

Is Tokyo really that big? As we took possibly forever to make our way to our destination of the day. Asakusa! The place of the giant red lantern. It was already lunch time when we reached Asakusa, so we settled for food in this cute little cosy homestyle cooking restaurant. The place in there is a little crammed and the menu was a little limited. But who cares? The food was good ... I had Zosui, or porridge, its so simple but so tasty. In fact, the little shops are the places where you can really find good food. And good food had to be accompanied by Sake. thus ......... we had happy tourists!

So off we went to Asakusa temple. With many roadside stalls selling snacks, souveniors and traditional ware ....... this walk was not a boring one. It was so crowded and so colorful. It really reflects the ultimate sight seeing experience. The smells of fresh rice cakes filled the air and even though I just had my lunch, I just had to snack. The temple was beautiful. The colors was majestic and the building works .... so intricately designed. I don't know why but I love wooden buildings. Just a short tour of the temple and off we went for more shopping.

There were streets and streets of it. Whatever you wanted you could find it. Budget shopping or the classy ones, the stalls there cater to your every need. I even bought a winter jacket there for 1500 yens ... about RM 60. wahaha good deal eh? With a fluffy cape too ....... thats why I love bargain shopping. But the rest of the day was just spent walking and waiting, snacking and people watching (I can taste the sweetness of the red bean bun right now ........ughhh!!!!! hungry)!!

As if Asakusa was not enought, we went shopping in Ueno. Another area with streets and streets of stalls. If you like leather stuff, this is the place to be, but I must admit that I didn't quite enjoy myself there as the leather smell was choking me alive. But anyway ......... its an experience to be there! One of the shopping recommendations.

Shopping can be tiring so back we went to Machida for dinner. And we chose this Jap restaurant that served real Jap food. I had udon with fresh mushrooms and some hill side veggies. Slurpingly delicious. Not to mention some tempura too! And everyone else had selections that looked so delicious. Syabu- syabu, shioyaki, unagi ... yummy! The true taste of Japan.

The rest of the night was a slow stroll along the streets. A short stop to the supermarket and a nice cup of hot chocolate at MOS burger. Nothing better to end your day with the cool air and a nice cup of warm drink wrapped around your palm (it would have been better if there was outdoor seats)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A reflection of life

I've been back for at least 3 days and I am still not over the euphoria of the trip yet. Help!! Even though I get distracted by the CNY visits and loads of food, I still can't get my mind of Japan. What to do? Seriously ....... I mean literaly, what am I to do?

For the past two months I've been busy organizing this event for work ..... and now its over. For the past few months I've been knitting my shawl for the trip ... so much so that its become a past time and my hands are itching now that I've stopped. And looking back at the pictures, the shawl did serve me well hehe.... so how am I going to fill my time now?

Before I went on the trip, a friend was introducing me to the theory of concentration. Just focus on what you want and it will come true .... so I started small. I wanted snow, and it snowed, I wanted to eat teriyaki, and it was served, I wanted to see geishas ....... well, there was something like that in 1 of the performances. So now I know it works, time to move on to something greater ... I want more vacations.

Its true, now is the best time to travel if you can. I am young, independant, unattached, not much responsibilities and still happy!! There is no use being a hermit in my own circle and not exploring. Not being able to explore and to let my hair down. There is no use stinging on all my savings for a future that will be dull and boring. I won't be able to enjoy traveling so much when I am middle aged with a big bank account or with pesky kids back at home. I won't be able to find a travel buddy when all my friends are married or CEO's of some companies. Now is the time to see the world, to open my heart and to give it space to expand and grow.

My new philosophy ......... live life to the fullest and dance as if no one is watching you.