Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some Engrish I Learnt From My Travels

Sometime, you just don't have choice but to be amused to the Engrish level of the Japanese. These are some of the Engrish I came across during my travels not very long ago.
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You don't have to be so kepoh to go and ask them if there is a trouble in the station, no?

It is fortunate that they used the word 'about', instead of 'for'. I still can take that.
But the next one happened in the lavender farm in Nakafurano. It was at a stall selling the lavender soft which was far more interesting.
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Since when the word 'cone' has turned into 'corn'?
Would you like a corn cone corn soft or cup corn soft?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Bus Out Of The Ordinary

There was one time when Michelle blogged about a double decker bus in which the Malaccan state government is using it for tourism purposes. I find that when it comes to trying something new and different with the aim of luring the tourist to a particular place, you got to be creative.
Same thing applies to the Hakodate Tourism Board.
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Looks like one of those truck from Bob the Builder cartoon to me. Or do you watch that cartoon in the first place?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Battle Robot

One of the subject I am currently taking in the 3rd Year of Mechanical Engineering course is called 総合製作 or General Manufacture. We were given two choices between Battle Robot and Miniature Steam Locomotive. I have heard and seen the famous Robocon from various sources before and indeed, the robots they built was impressive and amazed me. I did not have to think twice into deciding between the two.

There will be two person in each group and I teamed up with my tutor. It started with some brain storming on the designs, then sketching up the robot, get those materials which are needed and start working on the robot. We were only provided with two motors and that's all. The rest of the materials will be from the junkyard-like lab. Fortunately for us, the sensei allowed us to order some unavailable materials under a tight budget.

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A month ago

To be honest, the progress of the robot was not as I had expected earlier. During the whole process, we had fixed and taken off the parts; re-designed it so many times that in the end, we did not manage to make it on time for the battle which was yesterday.

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Sour grapes it might sounds, but our sensei hardly give us any advice when we were working on our robot. I know it is just a lame excuse as other teams (not all, but the majority) managed to finish up theirs in time.

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my Dancing-cum-Amok Robot

As for ours, instead of calling it a Battle Robot, I guess it will be more appropriate to name it Dancing-cum-Amok Robot. I feel sorry for my robot, but at the same time, watching at its movement is quite hilarious.

For the 1st Battle yesterday, the first thing was to hand-up every robots to be inspected. You get a ○ : circle if the robot pass every pre-underlined specifications and a × : cross if the robot fails to meet those specification. Our robot got neither of the two. Instead, we got a △ : triangle. The battle is a 2-minute battle and winner will be determined on the robot which manages to knock down its opponent; or push its opponent out of the ring for more than 5 second.

In total, out of more than 10 robots, only 10 was put into the battle. Those 10 robots include 3 robots which got a triangle. Then came the drawing of lots. We did not get to draw it as we happened to be the last on the list to pick the lot. Two team, which are considered as the best two was given a bye in the quarter-finals.

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Game ①: 2 田中・カルビン (Tanaka ・ Karubin). Karubin is me by the way.

It was the last thing we would have hoped. We were drawn into the first battle. See this video of my robot in action at your own risk.


It wasn't even a battle, no? Our robot was practically stood stationary there and just waiting for the opponent to approach it.

Soon, one after another battles continued.

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Note: The following videos will be totally in Japanese and just get prepared to get those shouts of "yabeehh" and "sugeehh" in them.

It wasn't like the battle you watch in Transformers. But nevertheless, it was fun and sometimes, funny. Some ended up losing the tires in the middle of the battle.


For some, it moves slower than any snail you can see. I call it The Snail. It was like taking its sweet time moving one step after another, even without having the controller fixed on but yet, ended up in the winning side.


Although you can come out with a cool and neat robot, but sometimes if luck is not on your side, then it will still be useless. Just like what happened to one of the robot. He later realized that he inserted the battery do ba let*. So, instead of moving forward, it moved backwards, away from the opponent and out of the ring. In other words, it was like a suicidal act of scoring an own goal for your team.

This is the battle between one of the favourite and the one which 'beat' our robot. I will call the favourite one as The Hyperactive based on its speed. As the time was up, the winner was determined based on the overall performance of both robots and nothing surprising to see the favourite advanced to the next round.

This is one of the most hilarious battle. It was against another top-two robot and it was almost impossible to beat it as it has an arm as a mechanism to tumble its opponent. It just stopped and waited there for the underdog to approach it as if it is saying "Come and get me if you can".

When its opponent was close enough, then it started its mission, chasing it and at the same time, using its arm upwards and downwards trying to tumble its opponent. Seeing that coming, first step was to shout out "Yabai! Yabai! Yabai!" (Alamak! Alamak! Alamak!). The second step was to immediately run away from it but it was little too late. The Predator won the battle.

Then came the semi-finals. First battle was between The Hyperactive and The Snail. As The Snail had yet having the controller fixed, it could not be controlled. That guy ended up breaking the rule by moving the robot's direction by pulling the wire over.

Apparently, that breaking-the-rule tactic was still not enough. How will a snail beat a cheetah in a race, no?

Semi-final 2 was between The Predator and another robot. The opponent tried putting a board in front of it to avoid it from being tumbled over by The Predator and initially, it seemed that it worked.

However, once it was hooked up, there was nothing it could do. In the end, it lost to The Predator not because it was tumbled down, but because it was pushed out of the ring.

It wasn't a surprise to see the two favourites - The Predator and The Hyperactive to be in the final.

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They allowed both teams to do some final adjustments and soon, game on!

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Here is the first battle of the final.

Not satisfied by how easily it ended, they requested for a second round and it turned out to be better. The verdict? Watch the video to find out who was the champion.

As expected, it was The Predator who had the last laugh.

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P/S: There will be another battle coming up towards the end of December. Until that day, I will be working on our robots again to improve and make some minor remodeling to make sure it will be far better than what it is at the moment.

*do ba let: a term introduced to me by Fritz which comes from the word "terbalik". Literally, it means opposite.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It Is Autumn

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Momiji at Nikko (picture courtesy of Mingrong)
And yet, I have not been to any parks to have shots on 紅葉 (Momiji).That will be in a couple of weeks.
楽しみにで~~す!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pear Hunt

OCTOBER 14, 2007
A fortnight ago, the foreign students in my kosen were treated to another trip. It has been some while since our last outing, which was the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival in August. This time, it was the 梨狩り (Nashi Gari) or literally pear hunt. The farm was in a small town called 加茂 (Kamo), about one hour drive from our place. Yes, the sensei drove all of us there. How cool is that!
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Upon reaching the farm, we were introduced to the owner and had some short introduction by him. Besides just pears, there were some other fruit trees there like apples, oranges and persimmons. No papaya or banana though. Finally, it was the time for some pear hunt.
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The pears were planted systematically in rows. The branches are widely spread across and tied to the supporting poles for each tree.
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The species of the pear in the farm is the Nashi pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) which has brownish skin. They have a high water content and a crisp, grainy texture, very different from the buttery European varieties. Also, Nashi pears are not as intensely sweet, having a more refreshing, light taste.
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When we got there, that guy gave us a brief explanation on how to pick a nice pear and the right way of plucking it to avoid from damaging the tree. Try looking for pears which has smooth skin texture was what he told us.

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Obviously, all there were just waiting for his cue to start out pear feast. All got busy straight away as soon as he said "Okay, you can go ahead and start plucking". So, I started looking for my pear.
If summer is the season for strawberries and grapes, come autumn, it will be pear season. In this farm, every single pear is wrapped with two layers of paper - one red and newspaper as the outer layer; to avoid it being over-exposed to sunlight as well as to protect it from pest.

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The first bite I got on the pear I plucked myself was just juicy and pure sweet. The water content in the pear was high and at the end of the day, I just managed to finish two pears although we were told that we can have as many pears as we could.
You just couldn't stop yourself from camwhoring, even if you are in a pear farm.
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It was not just me. The rest did the same thing as well.
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from left: Joann, Fadzli Shah and me
Of all the time, Yan Kuang only wanted to have a photo taken after he had finished his pear. Me, without any pear with me at that time, turned around and simply plucked one to balance up things.
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with Yan Kuang with my 'pang-sai' position
And finally, a group photo in the pear farm with the rest.
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We gone international as well. Malaysia, Mongolia and Bangladesh.
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from left: Fong Zyin, Yan Kuang, Hasan, Calvin and Sodo (wondering what Joann is doing behind us)
The person behind this annual trip trip was the always smiling Tada-san. She is like the person who take care the welfare of the students in the hostel, particularly the foreign students here. The reason we got to have a eat-all-you-can pear time there was also because she knows the owner of that farm.

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smile, Tada-san =D
One thing new that I learned from the trip was the way the Japanese peel fruits skin. Normally, we will move our knife away from us when we peel the skin of fruits, but the Japanese do it the opposite way. In fact, Tada-san spent most of the time peeling the pears for us and she did it without breaking the long skin. Here is a video to make it clear what am I trying to explain.
By the way, that was my voice in the video.
If you noticed all of the photos above, I was either squatting down or had to bend down a little bit. The reason is the height of the pear canopy is only like 1.6m tall. Yes, it was kinda suffering to be bending all the time there.
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But it was fun. Before we were leave, we got to know something unexpectedly. That guy took us to one area and told us that we could pluck all the pears within that area and take them back. Although those pears did not look as good as the earlier ones, but it was still in good condition. Here is a portion of our harvest.
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We spent almost one hour at the farm and it was the time to return, after a satisfying time at the pear farm.
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this just reminds me of Bollywood - is it because of the way they walked?
The were five racks of pears in total for us to take home.
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Before we leave, a group photo with of us who went there, together with the owner of the farm as well. The next outing will be experiencing the Japanese culture, which happens to be today.
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Here is the final shot of the day on a plastic toy tractor. It should be just another candid shot. But later, came some naughty 'creative' thinking from the guys and we laughed like mad each time another guy got it. I guess only those who were there will get what it means. I will give you a hint here: note the red thing.
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Now, got what it means?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another Naughty Thought

I cannot deny that since the second half of the semester started, studies had gotten tougher compared to the first. Assignments and reports have slowly made their present felt. Before this, I practically have only one report per month, the most. But now, they have already became a weekly basis.
Nevertheless, at least some of the lessons are more fun to be in nowadays. Remember the thing about elasticity in man the other day? Today, during the last lesson which was 機械要素 (Mechanical Elements), the topic was on Material Strength. By the way, this lesson is conducted by Yoshino sensei - the most crazy, siao, funny and lame sensei I have came across so far in my course. During his first lesson with us several weeks ago, I have not gotten used to his style yet and I did doze off once in a while, but since then, I could not doze off even if I want to.
It will not be once during his lesson that he does not use sound effect and body language while explaining in the class. And I tell you, his sound effect is not bad at all. For example, hammering steel will be "tong teng tang, tong teng tang" to him. One more thing that makes his lesson interesting is that he does not need to use the textbook; and will relate the topic he is explaining with our everyday life stuff.
He was explaining about how aluminium cans are shaped from aluminium plates. He then drew this on the blackboard.
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what does this drawing tell you?
The thin piece in the middle is the aluminium plate while the thing at the bottom is the mould and the test tube like thing will be used to push the plate into the mould to shape the can. The moment he finished explaining, one of us started to laughed and it spread to the whole class almost immediately. I knew exactly what they were thinking and I could not stop myself from laughing out as well.
The drawing, together with his sound effect of "Munyuu munyuu" and "Chuut chuut chuut" when the test tube is inserted into the mould just sound so wrong to me. What say you?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Best Of Ramen From Hokkaido

One of the highlight of my trip to Hokkaido was trying the famous ramen they have. Ramen is a noodle dish that was originally imported to Japan from China. However, over the last few decades, ramen has become a typical Japanese dish and gained great popularity inside and outside of Japan.

Ramen noodles are about as thin as spaghetti and are served in a soup with various toppings. My favourite ingredient in a bowl of ramen will be chashu (sliced pork), the Japanese version of char siew. Compared to our very own char siew, the one they have here is thinner and wider. Having said that, I still prefer our dark red char siew which you can see often on wantan mee (Chinese noodles with Chinese dumpling and BBQ pork).

Ramen restaurants can be found all over Japan, just like mamak stalls back home. That aside, a large variety of instant ramen and cup noodles is available in supermarkets. In other words, it is the Japanese version of our very own and all-time favourite Maggi and Cintan instant noodles.

There are many different ramen dishes differing in the soup base and the toppings. But the main three ramen in Hokkaido are Shouyu Ramen, Miso Ramen and Shio Ramen. Each of the ramen are famous at a particular place.

The first one we tried was Shouyu Ramen in Asahikawa.

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Asahikawa's Soy Sauce Ramen

Shoyu Ramen is made of soy sauce as the base of the soup with a combination of seafood, pork and chicken carcass meat as its topping, prepared in a simply style. As Asahikawa is located at the northern part of Japan and being exposed to cold climates almost throughout the year, lard is use to maintain the heat of the soup. However, using lard still make it taste bland.

It wasn't a hard thing to get into the shop that serve the best Shoyu Ramen in Asahikawa. We just enquired at the Tourist Information counter at the train station and that Chinese young lady, recommended us to this restaurant called 旭川ラーメン - 梅光軒 (Asahikawa Ramen - Baikouken). The fact is that it has a branch in Singapore at North Canal Road, which you might want to have a try on this Shoyu Ramen.

During our time in Sapporo, we did not manage to try the Miso Ramen there. However, we still wanted to make sure we had a taste on it before we leave. We had it in Noboribetsu instead, after our visit to the bear park.

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Sapporo's Soy Bean Ramen

Thick soybean paste, with garlic and a large quantity of lard are used to create the distinctive punch in Miso Ramen. The soup and stir-fried vegetables are boiled together, with soybean paste being added into them.

The third and final ramen I tried in Hokkaido was Shio Ramen from Hakodate. The main characteristic of this ramen is its salty soup. It is a bland pork bone-based transparent soup prepared under low heat with salt as the seasoning. Some prefer slices of cheese as the topping of the ramen as well.

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Hakodate's Salt Ramen

We were taken to have the Shio Ramen at a restaurant called 味彩ラーメン (Ajisai Ramen) by Chang Yuan during our one day in Hakodate. Although the ingredients of Shio Ramen is similar to the other two, i.e having chashu and menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), the aroma of the soup makes Shio Ramen stands out from the rest. As for me, after trying all those three ramens, my personal favourite will definitely be the Shio Ramen in Hakodate.

You have to try it one day to get what I mean here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Most Bizarre Souvenir

This is one of the stuff I got from Hokkaido.

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Lee Kum Kee is known as リキンキ (Rikinki) in Japanese. Very creative indeed.
You see, I have tried looking for a Lee Kum Kee's brand of oyster sauce for quite some time already. I was shopping for some breakfast in Asahikawa when I came across this bottle of oyster sauce. More importantly, its brand is Lee Kum Kee.
I will still consider it as one of my souvenir from Hokkaido though.
P/S: Kok Hong, I have finally get a bottle of this oyster sauce as you had recommended to me some time ago.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Pink Envelope

I just got this pink envelope all the way from Down Under. It was from someone. It is all PINK-ed up. And you guess it right. It was from a girl.
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the stamp also must be duck again meh?
That someone (you know who you are), you got a good memory, huh? I'd have forgotten what you owe me till today if you didn't mention it in the letter.
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typical girl's writing - bulat-bulat
One stick of chicken satay and free peanut sos sauce.
P/S: I want extra peanut in that sauce! And yes, your handwriting is damn small, neat, and cute ^.-

Monday, October 22, 2007

Elasticity In Man

だんせい【弾性】dansei: elasticity
だんせい【男性】dansei: man
Just like any language, Japanese language has it share of homophone as well. There are plenty of words, which has almost, if not exactly, the same pronunciation, but have different kanji (Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese logographic writing system) for each words. I was in the Measurement Engineering lecture this morning, when the sensei was explaining something on elasticity.
「弾性度はどのぐらいか」(Danseido wa dono guraika?)
Which means "How much is the elasticity degree?"
The topic was on elasticity measurement, so it should be just like any other normal lectures. But you see, there is not even a single girl in my class and it wasn't a surprise for my sensei to try being a little bit naughty. He used his fingers and moved them as if he was trying to test the hardness elasticity of water balloons, which was something like this;
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I put a doggy mask on my sensei's face to hide his identity =D
While doing that, he keep on repeating, "Dansei wa aruno ka... dansei wa aruno ka..." (Got dansei or not... got dansei or not...) and grinned VERY buaya-ly just like he hasn't got horny for months.
I am very sure that he kept his fingers moving and repeating the same sentence at least three times. It was so clear that he was trying to talk about 男性 (masculinity), instead of 弾性 (elasticity). I suppose the masculinity he was trying to hint us was masculinity hardness and not elasticity.
After thinking about it for a while, I realized that it makes sense as well. Even though those two words has the same pronunciation, but different meaning, both of them actually relate to each other. Here is my reasoning.
「男性度は弾性度の次第」
"Masculinity Depends On Elasticity"
Don't get it? Never mind.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A New Raya Experience

Selamat Hari Raya.

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the first photo of the day I took - an Indonesia baby
Maaf Zahir Batin because I took so long to blog on this. Initially, I did say that I am not blogging on the Raya celebration I had last weekend. I just didn't have the mood of doing so. Perhaps, after such a long break, my blogging skills had gradually declined. But I will try to regain it back from now on.
Back to the main story.

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'how-you-put-on-your-kain sampin' lesson, by Zulhelmi.
Our first Raya in Japan was at Nagaoka University of Technology, or more commonly known as Gidai (short form for Gijutsu Daigaku). Our transport there was sponsored by the senpais who own a couple of cars here.
The Muslims were performing the solat aidilfitri when we arrived there. After that was over, all gathered around and most of those people there were familiar faces. There were a few groups of Indonesians there as well.

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NNCT guys - front row (L to R): Fadzli Shah, Asraf, Calvin, Muazam, Ridzuan, Yan Kuang; back row (L to R): Ikbar, Adeli, Zamih, Idris, William, Hasan (Bangladesh), Zulhelmi.
Each and everyone of them went there with a colourful baju Melayu on, clad in kain sampin.
It wasn't long before the jamuan (party) started. Some brought their home-cooked food there. I even heard that some went there the previous night to prepare some of the food. And who say if you are in Japan, you can only find sushi.

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I had at least there types of rendang. Ketupats and lemang didn't make their appearance on that day, but there was nasi himpit (compressed rice cubes) to go with those rendang.

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By the way, satay was on the menu as well. It is during these times when the Malaysians here in Nagaoka gather, that we can have all those kinds of food. It is a university afterall, so you would expect most of them who are there to be students mainly.
But that wasn't exactly the case.

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This little kid actually stood there for more than a minute, without moving when I was taking his photo. Later, it was only one thing on everyone's mind.
Camwhoring.

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Nagaoka Kosen 2007
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from left: Ulya, Muazam, Asraf, Fadzli Shah, Calvin and Syida
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Fadzli Shah, me and Muazam

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me with Zulhelmi

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Zulhelmi (yes, again coz he loves camwhoring), Adeli and me
I find it particularly sweet when girls are clad in baju kurung. Here, I didn't mean only Malay girls, but girls in general.

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from left: Calvin, William, Joann, Fong Zyin, Ebby and Liew Ching

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from left: Yan Kuang, Ebby, Liew Ching and Calvin
The final thing on the list was a group photo for every family. There was a guy, who brought his tripod there who made sure he is inside every photo for all the groups. It came to a time, when he was dashing from his tripod, and grabbed his child just to say 'cheese' in time. The way he grab his little son was just hilarious.
"Macam nak culik anak orang" (Like want to kidnap people's child), was how my senpai described it.
I tried kidnapping one of the kid there as well. This little boy was walking around with a can of soft drink when I 'caught' him.
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just too cute to make you thinking of pinching his cheek, no?
When I tried to hold the can for him, it ended up with the remaining liquid in the can spilled on my shirt and jeans. Yes, I got wet. However, it wasn't that bad as I got to play with him for a while.
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here you go, boy
Not enough with just group photos, they came out with an idea of having photo with the same colour, or should I say tone.

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Red and Purple Family - reminds me of Barney the Dinosaur
I joined the white team.

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White Family - Clean and Clear
We thought of having a group photo of all of us from Nagaoka National of Technology, but in the end, the whole bunch joined in.

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The guy in the front row, second from the right was the 'kidnapper' I mentioned earlier.
Nevertheless, it was an exciting experience celebrating Raya with them. I could hardly feel the racial gap between the Malays and Chinese here. I was more than happy to be regarded as Malaysian. No, don't get me wrong here. Neither the 'apa-pun-boleh' Gahmen nor the JPA is paying me to say that.
To wrap up this entry, I introduce you Shah, who is currently working here.

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Yes, we were posing for that photo above. In fact, the moment after the photo was taken, I couldn't stop myself from laughing like mad. But I guess, you will be worse than me when you see this. Don't say I didn't warn you earlier.

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They call him CARTOON.