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11 Mar

Just before I entered the staff room this morning, I was stopped by a “Joy-chan~~”, from one of the English teachers.

Then ensued a 3-minute fumbling of words where I was being asked for the proper English expression for a Japanese expression which she was trying to express >.

Living and working in Japan for over a year and a half now has undoubtedly increased my skills in the game ‘Charades’. While waiting patiently for a teacher to tell me something in English, I am painfully aware of their every gesture, every eye movement, every word… for hints as to what they’re trying to tell me.

In this particular instance, the teacher was making glances to her right, where one could behold a beautiful view, filled with hills, and dotted by roofs depicting the triangle-style that is reflective of traditional Japanese houses.

There was also a flagpole in her direct line of vision.

Charades – Start – GO!

“What is the term for when the flag is not fully raised, representing the country’s mourning for a particular event?” – My rephrasing of the 3 minutes of word fumbling and gesturing.

In my ignorance, I said that I didn’t think there was an official word, because maybe it’s only a Japanese custom? Thankfully, I’m not ignorant of my ignorance. Instead of leaving it as that, I told her that I would do some research and get back to her.

“Half-mast” or “Half-staff”.

That’s the official term. To think that I thought it was a Japan-only custom, when in-fact it happens all over the world, in Singapore too.

 Well, I see it as an added benefit that on top of being immersed in the Japanese language and culture, teaching English, and interacting with students on a weekly basis, I also get to learn lots of new general knowledge thing-a-ma-bobs, because my teachers are always asking me these interesting questions that I’ve never thought about.

I guess, in all its entirety, I simply enjoy working in an educational environment. Even while working in a non-academic capacity as a Student Coordinator for one of the programmes in UBC, it was a job filled with all the good things that come with being a learner. Things like openness to new ideas and concepts, a mind to accept change, and most importantly, an attitude of learning; that of wanting to learn.

I’m sure this is not something that can be found in the education sector, but I do think it’s more pronounced, simply because education = learning. And when you’re learning, you can’t help but adopt a ‘learner’s attitude’.

Coming back to the issue about the flag, it was also further explained to me that today, March 11, makes it 5 years since that devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear power plant leak. I also identify it as an event that people, friends and family, brought up frequently when I mentioned that I was going to Japan to study (which didn’t happen due to a series of events, partly chronicled here), and thereafter when I announced that I was going to teach in Japan.

Thankfully, I myself, did not feel immobilized by emotions like fear (and some may argue, logic), instead going for the plunge, and now find myself grateful and happy, living and teaching in Japan.

Granted, I only have about 4 and a half months to go (sighs heavily), and hopefully I will be able to write a post about the ‘epic bittersweetness’ of it all, but I’m looking forward to a great last few months here as an employed civil servant of the Japanese government.

Today, at 2:46pm…

…we all stood, closed our eyes and as the siren signifying a tsunami warning sounded, we directed our thoughts to that event in 2011, remembering.


Met my first PUG..

7 Jan

…in my little town today.

Was taking a little walk before a Skype session with Moomy, and as I neared the traditionally-triangle-shaped-roofed-house I currently called home, I spotted a cute figure with its indisputably super-duper-cute curled-up tail walking its human towards me. Here’s a mini break-down of our but less than a minute exchange:

“Pug-chan! Pug ga suki (I like pugs)!” I manage to voice as I turn to proudly showoff my pug backpack.

Making gestures to under her chin, Pug-chan’s owner tells me that he likes to be stroked under his neck and to give it a try.

Ii desu ka (Can I really)???” I excitedly ask.

Upon the signal, an affirmative nod, I reach my hand out. Barely a second after I scratch his chin, noticeably unimpressed, Pug-chan turns his majestic head away and pulls his human onwards to continue with his walk.

So, with that ends Joy’s, probably not very exciting but definitely memorable, encounter with her first pug in her little town.

Just the way I like to start the New Year, being blown off by a pug 😉

Seriously though, I started the New Year with quite a few firsts. First New Year in Japan, first “osechi”, first “fukubukuro shopping”, first time getting an ear infection in Japan (I probably got it when I was a kid too, since it tends to happens to children)…

And there will be many more firsts to come! Yay 2016!


Take 2

18 Oct

Today is the first of a yearly two-day conference for JETs (that’s me!) and JTEs (this is my supervisor!).

Last year, I had slightly very different feelings towards this conference. Largely due to the fact that I’m doing this/ going through this a second time. My expectations have been set from last year’s experience. That said, I’m sure it’s still exciting depending on who you meet and what you choose to take away.

On that note, I’m happy that I made the decision to stay a second year. Despite going through motions that appear at first glance to be similar to the first, they are and continue to have the potential to be radically different. The big events, like sports day, culture festival, marathon day, and common events like classes, remain the same but the people I work and interact with differ. Not only that, but the people themselves have changed, if only a little in the past over a year I’ve been around.

With regards to work, it’s nice to feel like I’m slowly developing my style and technique of teaching. Excelling in my strengths and identifying my weaknesses. The teachers I currently work with are open to my suggestions for special classes (like having special guests come in to expose students to English from other sources), and have basically given me free rein in lesson planning for all classes. Most importantly, I’ve been taking a breath and moving on when I feel like I didn’t do as great of a job in the classroom as I would have liked to, and seeing it all as part of my learning journey.

With regards to living in Japan, I’m glad that I’m having  different and less stressful experience than last year!

Firstly, no hives. YAY! Last year, three weeks into my stay, I broke out in really bad hives. Itchy, swollen, and red spots everywhere. My back, my neck, my ears, my legs, my hands, my foot, and even my toes. You get the picture. Oh, but in case you don’t, here’s a few literal pictures.




Wow did those photos make me feel itchy and uncomfortable. I’m sorry I had to put you through that experience. Lol.

Well, I went to the doctor a couple of times. The school nurse told me it was stress. I didn’t feel stressed and I was so excited to be in Japan.

Finally, we did a blood test. Lo and behold, I’m highly allergic to dust and dustmites (specifically the kind that lives in tatami mats). My request to hire a cleaning company was turned down. I have a massive two-storey house, and I was paranoid by the dust and depressed by my hives. I had been having them for about 2 mths by this point. Thankfully, a friend coincidentally turned out to be an awesome ‘Cleaning Queen’ and to cut the long story short. We spent a good chunk of hours unearthing huge balls of dust from all kinds of undiscovered areas (it’s a really old and huge house that’s been thoroughly lived in).



I moved my bedroom to a room that had hardwood floor, away from all the tatami. The hives still stuck around for another 4 months, but they’ve stayed away since some time this year!

I guess this post sort of turned into a post about my hives. However, that was not my intention! I’m just so, so glad the hives are gone!

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m truly grateful for the ‘Take 2’ that I have to live in Japan. The events may remain the same, but I have more realistic expectations, solid friends, and I’m going to give the next 10 months my best before I embark on a journey that will guide my life in a completely different direction! (hopefully one with the absence of hives, forever – oops the hive talk reappears, sorry can’t help it!!)

She and Read – an online novel endeavour

10 Nov


I’m starting a new project that I’ve so far named as ‘Project Read’ (edit:// now transformed to She and Read :p).

For those of you who know me, you know that I’ve always loved reading. You also may or may not know that one of my dreams is to write a book sometime before I die. I eventually hope to write non-fiction, but to start, and to keep my brain nimble, She and Read will be a collection of short chapters about fictional characters in a fictional world telling stories inspired by real-life experiences.

I do not claim that this is by any means a venture equivalent to that of a book, but I am a perfectionist and I will never reach anywhere if I don’t start, at least, somewhere. Though an amateurish effort, I hope that if you join me as readers, it will be as enjoyable and entertaining to you as it will be to me.

To that measure, I shall shamelessly request, if it so suits your fancy, that you might share this on your blogs/walls/word of mouth and spread the word for ‘Project She and Read’.

More details soon! Keep your eyes peeled for the first chapter at or ^_^

(disclaimer: Though inspired by my own experiences, all characters and events are purely fictional and are not in anyway a portrayal of real relationships!)

Colour in Grey

2 May

The sun’s rays lit up the vast greenery of the park by the water that we were following. We now found ourselves walking across a bridge, as we reoriented ourselves, trying to find our way to the university campuses (MIT and Harvard).

 “Do you think Boston will have job opportunities for writers?”  I ask.

 “Oh, definitely. You go on the sub and every bloody person has a book.”

 Excuse the expletive, but that sentence is an embodiment of the friend whom I had that short conversation with. (*cough* Elliot *cough*)

Before the memories become stale, I’d like to remind myself of why Boston had and will continue to have a lasting impression on me.

Character; such a seemingly pretentious way to describe a city. After all, character belongs to animate objects like humans and animals, not concrete, immovable objects like buildings and pavements. Yet, I think that the word perfectly describes my impression of Boston.

It’s ironic to me that a city full of concrete and bricks can be so pretty. You would that that all the grey would eventually cause a depressing onset of grey feelings. On the first day, I was simply amazed at how different Boston was from Vancouver. On the second day, I started to notice little things that gave Boston its ‘character’.

On the whole, buildings and streets in Boston would be a solid colour of grey or brick etc. However, in the midst of all that, there would be a little surprise of colour where you’d least expect it.

On fire hydrants, in parkades, on the walls, at random spots on the street…



The people were incredibly conversational. Of course, this a generalization based on the limited interaction we had with the locals.

There was the store manager in the U.S.S Constitution museum who in a short span of 10 minutes told as about the history behind a certain kind of native art, the architecture of the building and the museum, as well as the writers’ club in Boston where Lewis Carroll first read his ‘Christmas Carol’ out aloud to his fellow writers over punch.

There was the lady who stopped to help us as we ventured into the city on the first night. Despite the rain, she put her bag down and took out her reading glasses to point out the route we should take, on our pathetic thing of a map. She commented on how the easiest way to get there would not take us through the scenic route.

There were the nameless, faceless people, who I will never recognize if I saw them again, who helped us when we didn’t know how to buy the transit tickets to board the train, or when we weren’t sure where we were walking toward.

These splashes of unexpected colour, through buildings and monuments, as well as people and animals, leave me feeling bittersweet about my time in Boston.