Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Malaysia

It has been 51-long-years, but we are still far from achieving something we call Bangsa Malaysia.
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Or will we ever achieve that in the first place?
Happy 51st Merdeka, Malaysia.

One Main Reason I Am Back

I can bet that there is surely no other better place to find a place which offers such a variety of food but Malaysia. I have seen enough of sushi, ramen, udon, yakisoba, yakiniku in Japan, that the only thing that came to my mind since I landed here roughly two weeks ago is to fill my stomach with as much local delicacies as possible. I feel guilty as I say tis, but who cares. Going for a thirty-minute jog daily should balance up everything. So here are what I have feasted on so far since I came back, and I bet this is just the tip of the iceberg of what I am going to have.
You guys who are still in Japan, sorry lah. You will get all this when you are back the next time, okay?
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Curry wantan mee.
I had this when I went down to KL last week and it was actually my first time trying this type of wantan mee. Previously, I only have the common one, which is mixed with dark soy sauce and char siew. Basically, they just replace the dark soy sauce and pour curry and a few piece of chicken on top of the noodle. It is not the best food I have tasted so far, but it is not bad either. Thank you Kae Vin for this meal.
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Tosai and roti canai.
I seriously cannot comprehend why they have to increase the price of tosai, roti canai and chapati so drastically nowadays. One piece of tosai or roti canai in Taiping cost RM1. When I was back eight months ago, it was 80 cents. Ain't that too much? I will not do the calculations here, but common sense tells you that you don't use as much flour for a single piece of roti canai, right? I wonder how much a piece of roti canai will cost the next time I am back.
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Nasi lemak.
Who can separate nasi lemak with we Malaysians? The one I had was not wrapped in banana leaves, because it is quite rare to find nasi lemak which is sold in banana leaves nowadays. This one only cost 70 cents, and that is why you don't see any groundnuts or boiled eggs coming together. The mak cik and pak cik selling nasi lemak are actually, smarter than the roti canai mamak. They do not increase the price of their nasi lemak, but they cut down the ingredients in every packet of nasi lemak.
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Cendol.
To be honest, the cendol you can get here in Taiping will never match the one I had tasted in Penang Road. Although it cost slightly more, I think it is worth it because I love the green strips of cendol, which is not too soft nor hard, just alright. Speaking of cendol, the famous Malaccan durian cendol is the only other one which I think can match Penang's cendol.
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Pasembor.
Well, to those Malaccans out there, I know you guys refer this as rojak, but as far as I know, the correct name for this delicacy would be pasembor. Quite a number of my friends who are not from Taiping often ask me what the fish pasembor is before this. Well, it is a mixture of flour fritters, bean sprout, fried tofu, cucumber, turnips, boiled eggs, all cut into small pieces and later, a type of gravy made of groundnuts, called kuah kacang is poured on top of it.
Whenever I am back, my mum will be the busiest person in the kitchen. I am second busiest.
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Bak kien.
Will this make my blog a non-halal blog?
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Ikan keli (catfish) asam pedas.
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Ikan merah (red fish? haha!)
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Pajeri nanas.
It may no longer the fruit season anymore, nevertheless I managed to tried on some of the local fruits which I have longed for so much.
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Cempedak - be it raw or fried ones, I just love them a lot.
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Even if there are extra worms to add more flavour to it.
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Custard-apples, but I call it nona more often than not.
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Rambutan. Japanese give it a special name; they call rambutan the hairiest fruit ever.
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Duku. Recently, I managed to differentiate duku, langsat and rambai, although all three of them look similar.
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Shorty banana, planted by my grandma. Me of course, didn't eat these as they are still green.


But this tree is so cute, no?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PPKTJ Senior-Junior Get-To-Know-Each-Other Session 2008

The name of the event itself might sound lame, but it was not the case about how the event unfolded. The idea of organising this event came around from Ben senpai, a senior who also graduated from PPKTJ several years ago. Considering the fact that he would not be coming back this summer, I volunteered to take charge of this event, though I am not paid a single cent by the JPA nor the Malaysian embassy for organising this event. The purpose of this event among others are to help the juniors in their further studies by providing information about National Colleges (Kosen) in Japan, to help students understand the life in Japan and to strengthen the relationship between the seniors and juniors.

Initially, I asked and looked around for seniors who are back for their summer holiday and interested to voluntarily help out on this event. The response was bad at first, but in the end I got no less than ten seniors who confirmed their attendance with me. The number was just alright, not too many, not too little. But on the day itself, guess how many turned out.
T-H-R-E-E. Yes, three.
Typical Malaysian, eh? The lecturers of course, didn't say anything much about it, just smiling away with the figure. But they are Japanese, and Japanese will never express their true feelings directly in front of you. However, I know and quite sure that they were disappointed with it. The current coordinator of PPKTJ, a Japanese lecturer later emailed me and from that email, I could roughly guess what he was trying to say, although the message was not expressed directly.
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Kolej Kedua Universiti Teknology Malaysia at Sri Rampai - the venue of the event.
A few seniors who are in Japan later asked me about the event and they were shocked with that as well. Somehow, I just don't feel like ranting too much about it. This thing is all about integrity and how you make sure you walk the talk. If you feel that you cannot make it, then don't confirm your attendance. Worst come to worst, even if you have confirmed it, and you have something more important on which need to be done urgently, giving a call or sending a short message to inform that you will not be able to make it is not be the hardest thing to do, ain't it? Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I am mentioning this because the lecturers have already prepared the lunch for the seniors who were supposed to attend the event, and since only three of us went, there were leftovers and that is just a waste. For those of you who thinks that I am referring to you guys, no hard feelings, please. I mean, this is just one small and minor thing, something which we all will be facing in the future and now is the time for us to learn and get used to these situations. Imagine what would happen when we finished our studies and get into the working world. Can you afford to skip a meeting or an appointed just like that? Think about that.
This entry is not supposed to be so tensed up and I will move to a lighter note. There were three of us there - Filzah Zainal Arif (Kumamoto Denpa Kosen, Electrical Engineering 3rd Year), one senior  (Kisarazu Kosen, Electronic Control Engineering 4th Year) and me, (Nagaoka Kosen, Mechanical Engineering, 4th Year). The event supposed to start at 10 a.m. but we decided to wait for a while if there would be any more seniors who might arrive a little bit later. We waited for thirty minutes but still, no one turned up and we decided to carry on with only two seniors. Kisarazu's senior actually arrived in the afternoon, although it was still pouring heavily outside. But I have to thank him for making it there, despite the bad weather. Otherwise we would have to conduct the event with only two seniors. Pathetic, isn't it?
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Eikawa sensei giving a briefing before the session commenced.
Basically, we gave talks to the juniors about the courses offered at the technical colleges, or kosen in Japan, what are the criteria and how to choose the kosen - 55 of them in total, scattered all over Japan. Talking about those stuff alone would surely make the session boring and we talk about the daily life in kosen, how is it like to adapt yourself in a new country, surrounded with new environment, new cultures and different lifestyle. In between the talk, we allowed them to ask any questions which they need clarification and we tried to answer them as much as possible.
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Filzah sharing her stories being the only Malaysian at her kosen with the juniors.
Initially, I planned to conduct the session in a mixture of three languages, Malay, English and Japanese. But somehow, it ended up with me speaking in Japanese after I finished introducing myself. However, the more I talked, the hall became more quiet. Something must be not right, somewhere, isn't it? There are two possibilities which I could think of, it is either my Japanese is too bad, or they could hardly understand Japanese. When my friend Filzah gave her talk in Malay next, the response was much better and I got the hint already. From then onwards, I tried not to use much Japanese with the juniors, because the main purpose of this session is to provide them with informations. If I speak Japanese throughout the session and my message don't get across, it would be useless either.
We also break them into smaller groups because I know some juniors prefer to ask questions personally because they were afraid that their question might sound silly to others. In fact, I used to be like that too last time. The session was attended by the 2nd year juniors and only a few of the 1st year juniors joined in. Perhaps the 1st year juniors were tired after returning from their motivation camp a day earlier, or they were just not interested looking at the number of seniors who were there. Anyway, I guess the juniors who were there have gained something and I hope that the information that we have gave will give them a better idea about taking their next step. It is just a first time an event like this were organised for the juniors, and it is not the best and I am sure it can be done much better than this in the coming years.
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I was too worn out already, that I asked the juniors to join the other groups while I went around taking pictures.
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Filzah with juniors who are planning to take up Electrical Engineering.
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Juniors planning to take up Control Engineering went to Kisarazu's senior.
I did not manage to catch-up much with the lecturers there, mainly because I was too busy answering the juniors throughout the day. In fact, at the end of the day, I had a sore throat. Quite a bad one. Nevertheless, I hope I would be able to do that next month when I pay a visit to the new place of PPKTJ - Yayasan Selangor. From what I heard, this would be a temporary site, as PPKTJ will move to INTEC in Shah Alam from next year onwards. Most of the lecturers will not be moing though, as they prefer to stay and teach at UTM. In a few more years, I guess all of the lecturers in PPKTJ will be new ones. Even when I was at the event with the juniors, there were only five familar faces - Eikawa sensei, Atsuko sensei, Sato sensei, Itou sensei and Kodama sensei. The rest are new ones but they were as friendly as ever, especially the ladies. They were quite cool as they even crapped with me when we were chatting together.
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The two of us with the Japanese lecturers having a group shot together. Toa-khun, Sato sensei's son were there too.
When we were chatting with the juniors who remained with us later that evening before we leave, I felt as if I am so old already. Or should I better put it as more mature? Personally, their behaviour were still of those teenagers and it was evident from the way they speak and bring themselves. It was more obvious among the guys and I guess that just tells you that guys generally mature later compared to girls. Nevertheless, they were great companies to have a chat with, and a few of them actually can crap just about anything with us. Never get deceived by their faces. One hint, the one in white standing next to me, and also the one in green stripes shirt are by far, two of the most crappy one among all of them.
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With the 2nd Year juniors, who are scheduled to further their studies to Japan early next year.
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Provided that they passed the examinations by the Japanese Education Ministry at the end of this year.
There was a 1st Year junior, who joined our conversation and when my friend asked him if he had anything to ask, his first question just made me laughing my ass off.
日本的女子美吗? (ri ben de nü zi mei ma?)
Translation: Are Japanese girls pretty?

And he was asking that with a hamsap face. I wanted to laughed out straight away and I was thinking, should I reveal the truth to this boy or what? However, that question was not meant for me and I didn't answer him. Ask Kisarazu's senior if you want to know what he replied that junior. Anyway, I took some time out and wander around the block where we used to live there for almost two years. Nothing much had changed. But something new was set up in one of the rooms. Take a closer look at it and you will see this.
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B-1-24. I wonder whose room this used to be?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Birthday Present Not Too Late

This is something which came totally out of my expectations. I never thought that I would be getting any birthday present anymore, as my birthday was more than four months ago. However, when I stepped into my room, I saw something placed on top of my laptop cooler and when I took a closer look at them, this is what I saw.
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See how systematic she placed my gifts.
My birthday gift, from my youngest sister and she is just 11 years old. They consist of one huge blue card with a birthday wish and some messages written on it, one cute little handmade bookmark, and a gift wrapped in pink paper.
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"HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY KOKO"
Be Happy always, Don't always sad. Ooo u can khawin d hor. Haha just tipu. I hope your relationship wit mg can ma hor... This card is my very special to u k. Please keep it nicely k... I wanted to give a penanda buku pun... But later oni I do k... Thats all... Tata for now and "HAPPY 21st BIRTHDAY" agin.
Haha, so damn cute can.
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I was smiling when I saw what is written on the bookmark. It came just at the exact time when the two of us have not been on a good terms for the past few days. Somehow, that short little message just gave me that extra strength and I know we will go through this. Finally, it will be a gift she got for me when she went for her school trip earlier this year to Kedah and I suppose she got this at the Paddy Museum.
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How some simple gifts managed to make my day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nagaoka Fireworks Festival 2008 - Part 2

This will be the second installment of Nagaoka Fireworks Festival this year. Each year, it is held for two straight nights and this time, I borrowed a tripod from the Chikyu Lab and brought it along with me that night, hoping to get better shots. Despite so, I reckon my fireworks pictures look better when I took it without a tripod on the first night. I have no idea why is that so, but anyway these are some better shots I got on the second night.
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Phoenix - the finale.
The crowd there didn't seem to get any lesser compared to the night before, and since I was there alone and would only need a small area for myself, I went to there just a couple of hours before the show began. However, I opted for something different this time. I picked a different spot, opposite of the river where I sat on the first night, just to get a different experience from a different location. Certainly there were some difference; one being the sharpness and the clarity I managed to capture when I was using a tripod. Another one would be during the Niagara Falls fireworks from the Choseibashi Bridge, as I managed to see the whole line of colourful flames flowing down from the bridge much clearer this time.
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Niagara Falls.
Every explosions and burst of fire lit up the sky, which was greeted with cheers from the people there. They burst into applause whenever flares sizzled and exploded into bouquets of fire which lit up the Shinano River in sudden flashes of red, green, yellow, and blue. It was almost the perfect romantic scene for someone to propose to their loved ones.
Okay, as usual it will be pictures' time.
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#1 Niagara Falls from Oteohashi Bridge.
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#2 Two huge fireworks also from the same bridge.
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Personally, I feel that the pictures above are just below average. The shots I had the night before were better, but on the other hand, I reckon the video on the second night are much more interesting. Here are a couple of videos which I have compiled together. The first one has Hello Kitty fireworks towards the ending part of the video. Take a look at it.
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People were rushing home after the show ended. Hence, it was a total havoc throughout the road leading to the train station. Sea of people was crowding the whole stretch of several kilometers long road, while the police tried hard to control the traffic. It is never an easy task to manage such a huge number of people at one time; there were easily more than a few hundreds of thousands of people there that night. As for me, I didn't have to follow the flow of people all the way to the station. Instead, I just had to walk a few hundred meters to the spot I placed my bike earlier that evening and cycle all the way back to my college's hostel.
It will most probably be my last time watching the fireworks festival in Nagaoka next year.