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English

Working from home

It has been a month since I began working from home.

Work. At home.

Rewind to mid April 2020. It was a week before the Golden Week holidays. I was finally given a work laptop by the company to allow myself to work at home.

Boy, was I excited. To be able to wake up slightly late than usual, dressing freely yet getting work done and do not need to go out? That was really a sweet deal. Unlike Malaysia where mandatory lockdown (known as movement control order, MCO) was in effect and everyone was forced to work from home (where necessary), Japan did not enforce a lockdown.

Japan’s own version of MCO was “state of emergency”, where people were advised not to go out if not necessary. Business nationwide were somewhat forced to close or to change ways to conduct their business — off the premises. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to work from home. Despite that, I needed to go back to the office at least once a week to ensure my desktop was in proper order, etc.

A new normal

Back to present day, May 21, 2020.

Except Hokkaido, Tokyo and its neighboring prefectures, people are allowed to go out and businesses are allowed to resume operations (gradually). People are still advised not to move across prefectures, let alone going overseas.

A new lifestyle, a new “normal” has begun taking place.

Whenever I go out, wearing a mask has become a must. The sensitivity of the whole COVID-19 situation has not subsided, despite the decreasing numbers of confirmed cases and deaths nationwide.

I have been busy working on work, and catching up with the project deadline — at home. It was fun – not having to go to work and able to continue work with the comfort at home. Truly blessed.

My development laptop was really a modest one — an Intel Celeron processor (really?) equipped with a SSD (thank goodness), as well as a standard 8GB of RAM. For the past month, it ran well, despite a few hiccups. It’s probably like that because of my main IDE — Visual Studio 2010 SP1. Imagine if this PC ran the latest version of Visual Studio 2019. Phew.

The real work

Last week, I went back to my company to update my PC. Since it ran on a HDD, it took a while to complete the entire update, as well as a couple of virus scans. In between, I began typing away on my work laptop.

The office was very quiet. Apart from managers, most staffs were at home. The “Work at Home from <start date> to <end date>” note filled the entire attendance board for almost every department (including mine). Except for staffs at essential departments (where they have to make sure the company infrastructure stays smooth and alive), the overhead light at most of the desks were turned off.

Quietly, I turned on my PC and began working away, with minor chatter and ambient noises accompanied me throughout the day. My senior manager, who happened to came to work that day, asked if I was OK with my work (all my colleagues were working at home). Smiling with my face masks on, I answered with a “OK, no problem”.

The atmosphere at home, workplace filled with people, and workplace where people were scarce were totally different. It was as if I came in in the weekends. However, with the COVID-19 situation, I imagine that this atmosphere will last for sometime, until it gradually recovers to its former state.

Weekday office with a weekend atmosphere. We do live in strange moments now. I wish I can continue work from home for the many months to come until COVID-19 subsides to a level where travels are acceptable, and mandatory quarantines are no longer necessary. Maybe next year.

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English

Good job!

Student: Bakku-gurowndo?

Teacher: Oh, you mean, background. Good!

I was using my laptop in a local coffee shop recently when I heard an audible conversation that naturally caught my attention. It was an English speaking practice session between, presumably, an English teacher with her student. I found it unusual as it took place at a public area, however it wasn’t loud until it could interfere the others. Or maybe it is because I sat a few tables away from them.

The English teacher went on explaining what “cover of a book” meant as the student continuously explaining something about a book — presumably explaining about a book that he recently read, or a story that he stumbled upon recently.

As the conversation progressed, the teacher switched back to Japanese to explain further about the topic that the student was learning. This evoked the times of intensive speech training that I underwent many years ago.

Without a clear guidance, it seemed that I was in a collision course. Indeed, when I first arrived, I stumbled upon walls and dead ends before I finally steered away from them. Learning something new is not easy; when a guru guides you, you will sure can avoid stumbling upon the said course.

Categories
English

Readjusting routine

After coming back from a week of holiday (the year end holiday) at Taiwan, I am struggling to calibrate the lifestyle here in Japan. It seemed that I was getting too cozy there. As I arrived Narita International Airport, the immense cold instantly reminded me of the current winter season. (It was cool in Taipei, resembling the climate when autumn began.)

As I cleared immigration and customs, the reality began to sink in.

Feeling tired, I brought my luggage back home and felt asleep not far from midnight after settling all down to prepare for work the next day. Perhaps it was the fatigue after a long travel, especially the previous day when I went to Chiayi.

Fast forwarding to this weekend, I felt that several weeks had passed when the fact was only a few days had passed. Planning ahead for trips to Taipei again this year, I wished I could visit there again soon.

I had a quick chat with the friend I had met while en route to Taipei, and she complimented that I was quite suitable being in Taipei. In fact, my girlfriend and I had some talks about moving to Taipei so we can meet each other often. I applauded the idea, but both of us knew the reality of such idea.

Today is Coming of Age Day in Japan, as well as a public holiday. Time to adequately recharge for the week…

Categories
English

Happy New Year 2020!

Hello, 2020

It is now the year 2020. Apart from saying goodbye to the 2010s, this year also marked the last year before the end of the decade. I’ve been happily enough to count down with my girlfriend here in Taipei.

Rainy end

It was rainy for the past few days here in Taipei at a relatively cool temperature averaging at 16 C. Currently it is winter in Taiwan, but it does feel like early autumn in Japan. I had the opportunity to ride on the Taiwanese shinkansen, or the High Speed Rail, to Kaohsiung with my girlfriend too.

Alas, not all things went as planned, and one of it deserved its own post. I will write one someday when it is fully resolved.

The New Year eve was a cloudy day and it slightly rained as well. However, it did not deterred the determined ones to gather at hot spots, such as the Taipei 101 and Taipei City Hall to witness the countdown events and the fireworks. One of my friend spent her countdown with her boyfriend in Tainan, southern part of Taiwan. I spent mine with my significant other in Taipei. Truly, it was remarkable, witnessing the change of date and time into the new year.

Comes the sunshine

The weather forecast in my phone’s app showed partial sunshine in these few days. Indeed it is. Perhaps it was due to the winter season, the sunshine in the noon shone over the city like it was in the afternoon. However, the temperature had risen over 20 C, providing warmth to people across the street. As I rode the YouBike rental bicycle and walked through the streets of Taipei, I felt relaxed and warm as I casually breezed through.

My girlfriend and I casually talked and teased about our targets for this year. I said to her, “I wanted to cut down inappropriate talks in daily conversation.”. However, to sum what we’ve said, it was basically continuing the targets set in the previous year(s). Getting fit and reducing weights are our common targets, but with the non-stop new discovery of street foods in Taiwan, that would prove a difficult one to realize…

The year of the Rat

2020 is the year of the Rat, and I was born in the year of the Rat two cycles ago. Coincidentally, I bought a Mouse branded laptop last year.

Appendix: knowing a new friend

On the flight to Taipei via China Airlines, I got to know a fellow Taiwanese who was on her way to the United States, transiting via Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport. From our 3-hour conversation, she planned to take a brief break by going back to her home in Taipei before continuing her journey to the US the following day.

I was amazed by this planning. Not only she was able to stroll around Taipei/Taoyuan area in the process, she could also go back to her home, then continue to be on her way to her final destination. I was reminded of the case where I had a half day layover in Hong Kong in November 2018 when I was heading home for my graduation.

This Taiwanese girl is currently working in Tokyo area, and was on her way to the US to join her roommates in exploring the area. She also expressed concern on the upcoming 2020 Taiwanese presidential election, where we discussed in length about the political situation in Taiwan (I was not Taiwanese!). We were thrilled to talk about various issues and memes circulating a certain presidential candidate, yet cautiously talked as we do not want to spark and ignite any flames over differences in political ideas with other passengers.

As we left the plane, we parted for our ways and even exchanged social media accounts. As of current writing, she is having fun in the US. I also learned that Taiwanese do not require a tourist visa while travelling in the US, while Malaysians still require one (so envy of her!).

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English

Pray and wishes

What do you pray for? What do you wish for?

In these few weeks, I have visited various places surrounding natures, particularly shrines and temples in the prefecture where I stay. As one of the places where Buddhism got widespread in Japan, I naturally got attracted to its history, places of worship, and the architecture.

I am not a religious person, but showing respect to a religious place is an absolute minimum that I do. Following the locals’ way of showing respect, I bowed in front of the statue (of both shrines’ and temples’), and offered prayers.

Many kinds of things ran through my mind in that brief period of time of praying. The things that I wished for were mainly peace among world and society, family and friends, and the ones that I cherished. Albeit sounded cheesy, with the current situation happening worldwide, I hoped my wishes could at least ease some of the pain certain people is facing right now.

If you were in front of a shrine, temple, or a religious place of your choice, what would you wish for? How would you realize it?

Some of my friends are atheist, and hence do not conform to the idea of religion. However, we shared the same idea of “wishes” — thoughts that something can happen. Removing the aspect of religion, isn’t that pray synonymous with wish?

Behind these abstract concepts lie a core idea – a desire that something be realized. One of my wishes is to fix a broken rope. This rope might already been broken, yet it only takes two hands to fix it. One hand offered the rope, but it is up to the other hand to accept the offered rope, and combined two hands to fix the broken rope — to become, once again, a normal rope.

I recalled a conversation between two siblings at a shrine where the older sibling scolded the younger sibling for throwing a coin with a low denomination of the Japanese yen into the box. “Why are you so stingy [for throwing a low denomination coin]? Aren’t you afraid that the god [of the shrine] gets mad at you!?” Unless the higher entity is a materialistic one (which I highly doubt), I believe that what one offered in heart matters the most.

So, now, what do you wish for? What do you pray for?

Categories
English

Japanese-influenced Chinese

When I met my girlfriend a while ago, she noted that my Chinese had been steadily deteriorating. On top of that, she also mentioned that the vocabulary I used was influenced by Japanese’s kanji. Baffled by this, I recollected the words that I used when I attempted to communicate with the locals (and her).

The use of wasei-kango (Japanese-made Chinese characters) in Taiwan is prominent in some ways, as Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan is influenced by Japanese in some way.

I have only been in Taiwan (specifically Taipei) for a short period of time, however I have observed the use and influence of Japanese’s kanji in the daily use of Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan. Take some of the examples below:

Trad. ChineseMeaning
歐吉桑uncle (Japanese: ojiisan)
歐巴桑auntie (Japanese: obaasan)
通勤commute (Japanese: tsuukin)

Learners of Chinese and/or had knowledge of Japanese might notice that the Chinese words are identical to its Japanese counterpart (except for uncle and auntie).

Not only that, some place names in Taiwan had also pronunciation in Japanese! (Taiwan was ruled by Japan previously.)

Place Name Chinese Japanese
板橋 Banqiao*1 Itabashi
高雄 Kaohsiung Takao*2

*1 A district located in New Taipei City

*2 I was made known of this pronunciation by my girlfriend’s great teacher, Mr. Young (楊), in his history class.

On top of it, certain stations in the Taipei MRT have their own Japanese pronunciation too, presumably to make the Japanese tourists feel comfortable, in my opinion. Oh, I love too much about these aspects.

With regards to the observation made by her, I also noticed the steady decline of proficiency in Chinese myself. It’s time to polish it for the upcoming Taipei trip!

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Randoms

Moment of hesitation

When I was walking down a road while contemplating where to go next yesterday on a trip, I stumbled upon an older brother and his younger brother who were running from an alley towards my direction.

“C’mon, run faster!” The older brother shouted towards his younger brother as the younger brother struggled to catch up while not losing his balance. While holding tightly onto his bag, he rushed along the alley, presumably not wanting to miss the coming train.

Two cars, with a white one leading the way, were driving at a normal speed (the said area was near to the train station and a primary school). With no zebra crossing in sight, the older brother dashed through the street towards the train station’s direction. As a bystander and I stopped a while, the younger brother attempted to dash through the street without checking the road.

I thought to grab the kid’s hand, or at least jump in front of him to avoid any accidents from happening. However, the car leading the way managed to sound the horn at the younger brother, which caught his attention. He later then safely crossed the road.

One’s hesitation can definitely change other one’s fate… and life. Ashamed and regretful, I left the spot with various kinds of thoughts in mind. “What if the younger brother did suffered from injuries as a result from my hesitation?”

Bearing that thought in mind, I continued my journey… with efforts to remove the hesitation should an emergency situation arose.

Categories
English

Plan for the next journey

My girlfriend struck me with a huge topic – plan for the next few years when we were casually chatting a while ago. She talked about getting married at a certain year, then she asked if I wanted to draft a mid-term plan for 5 years.

I responded, why not 10 years?

Indeed, a person’s definition of long time is subjective. Depending on the context and situation, it could be 1 hour. 3 days. 1 week. Or even longer. In the context of being able to meet only a handful of times a year, a few months consecutively is a long time.

We didn’t set an arbitrary year to get married, but we picked a concrete year where it served as a potential milestone for both of us. Just the sweet spot to mark a new beginning, I guess. However, I think of more than just the time where we mark a new beginning, but the road ahead when the new journey begins.

That is why I set a 10 year, long term period.

Instead of fooling around, I planned to set serious targets and devise ways to achieve them. Some people thought it was “too early”, as in “you should enjoy this and that before fully committing in!”. However, being targets that were designed to achieve together, achieving them alone will be a hard one, hence, only the efforts of two people combined will make the journey a worthwhile one.

Setting a new plan isn’t hard — open a new Word window, or your favorite word processing software/platform (Google Docs, Microsoft Word Online, Apple Pages, etc), create a table consisting of two columns — year on the left, target(s) on the right, and plan away!

One of my plans for 2020 looks something like below:

Year Targets
Summer 2020 Explore western Japan

What are your short/mid/long term plans for the next decade?

Categories
English

Typhoon comes in threes… and more

Continuing from the devastating Typhoon Faxai last month, Typhoon Hagibis (No. 19) struck Japan at Saturday, October 12, that had created a new record in the Japanese history. Rivaled the Typhoon Kanogawa that wrecked the island nation and caused at least 1000 people dead, Typhoon Hagibis left some parts of Japan paralyzed and disruption for short to medium amount of time in various areas, notably transportation and residential areas. Although Japan is well prepared for natural disasters like these, Typhoon Hagibis’ wrath had definitely cause miserable amount of inconveniences in daily life.

At that Saturday, I was in a friend’s house in western Tokyo. My friends and I were caught off guard when we had a look at the typhoon’s projected path — we were extremely close to it! The typhoon landed Tokyo and continue upwards during the midnight, where it continued to cause havoc, including floods in areas near rivers, and landslides at hilly areas. Lucky for us, my friend’s house was left unharmed (so did mine, a property which was built in the 1970s!). We couldn’t go outside — the wind was so strong that it could take you down, or worse, causing an object to fly at high speed and possibly hit us.

The next Sunday morning, it was like a dream — the sun in western Tokyo shone so bright, and the temperature had quickly risen to the normal autumn temperature — chilly yet warm. However, it was nightmare to people who had evacuated and people who had their homes and properties destroyed. It was only less than a month apart from Faxai.

Yet, two more typhoons, No. 20 and No. 21, are headed to Japan this week. Luckily, typhoon No. 20 brought only strong winds and rains with no devastating consequences. Its arrival also coincided with the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito at Tuesday, October 22. Perhaps it was symbolic — when the emperor proclaimed his accession to the throne, it turned sunny that Tuesday afternoon.

As of now, Typhoon No. 21 (Bualoi) is looming on the horizon as weather alerts and warnings were issued for the weekend — strong winds accompanied by huge rainfalls.

Living here for less than 2 years, I can sense how volatile this nation is due to its geographical location — one would never expect what will happen next. Maybe due to this volatility, many things were put into perspective and priorities reshuffled, I think.

I sincerely hope and wish for the best for the victims — time to brace for another unsettling weekend.

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English

Natural switch

A few years ago, I joined a competition where I had to temporarily leave my college hostel for a few days. As a solo participant, naturally I travelled alone down to Kuala Lumpur, and checked in to the hotel where I was arranged to stay.

Being somewhat familiar with the hotel surroundings, I roamed around aimlessly to seek out for new spots, or spots that I didn’t managed to discover in the past. A glaring difference compared with the previous visit, there was no guardian.

The day of the competition – early morning. I went to the hotel’s restaurant to enjoy my breakfast. I grabbed a plate of mixed foods – Western and Chinese, and a good cup of coffee, and sat at a table not far from the entrance.

The next thing I noticed, was a person (who I shall name as S) who was busy grabbing the plate of breakfast. My first instinct was that S might be a participant in the contest. S sat not far from me (probably a few tables away).

S dressed casually, and at a glance, S might be just another hotel guest who had business to tend to in the capital. The contest was scheduled to be held in the afternoon, but I joined the contest’s discussion/exchange session, which would eventually lead to the afternoon’s contest.

My instinct was right. S was a contestant as well. After the few hours’ contest, I retreated to a public hall where refreshments were served. To kill of some time, I went to a used items corner where it was full of books. S also went to the corner, and we engaged in a simple conversation. It was all simple yet fulfilling, in a way.

I forgot who took the initiative to start engaging the small talk, but I was grateful. We exchanged contact details and left the contest place back to our places (in different location). S, for me, is a unique person that is indescribable. S would probably the person one would like to be with when you want to explore a new experience, travel to a new, unknown place, or even be partners in various occasions.

Fast forward to today, I still maintained contact with S, and managed to meet in special occasions (and still engaging in small talks). Otherwise, we lived on our own ways, just as how life is like. S, for me, is a good friend to have and to learn from.

To wrap up, I include a piece from Lost In Translation, dedicating this to the moment.