Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Message For All During Exams

I was having a MSN conversation with Kevin Tan the other night, when he asked me whether I am having exams at the moment. Yes, this is the time of the year when mid-term exams are held, although there is a change of how it is being held this time. Basically, we do not have a week-long exam anymore like previously, as there are only exams for a certain number of subjects. So far, it is two down with another four more to go in the next three weeks. In some ways, it is a good thing for the papers to be spread in several weeks because it gives us that extra time to study and get ourselves prepared, although I must admit that I have the tendency to waste it procrastinating around more often than not, only to regret it later. Later, which refers to the time when my rice has turned black and chau ta. I replaced the latter with baby's porridge because we still can eat the porridge even if it's too watery and have your stomach full, unlike the super hard and black rice, which you are more likely to suffer from constipation for the next whole week. True arh? You don't have to believe me on this though.
Haha, enough of my lame crappings. Back to my conversation with Kevin Tan, so I told him that I am currently having my mid-term exams. The next reply I got from him was this.
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I didn't get what he was trying to tell me at first, until when I was told what it means and I thought it was quite a cheeky response. So, here is a question. Can you figure out what does that drawing mean? It is quite simply actually.

P/S to KH: I know you know what it means already, so don't spill the beans until the others have the chance to have a guess first ;)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Twenty Things I Like About You

"What do you like about me?"
Michelle

I know you have thrown me with this question some time ago, so here is my response.

  1. I love the way when you give me that kind of big wet eyes look when you are asking for something from me.
  2. I love that little black dog which has a rare but cute hairstyle that you got me last time.
  3. I love it when you stare at me out of a sudden when we are walking together which will make me doing the same in return to you.
  4. I love it when I am travelling with you 'coz the travelling time is hardly felt and I will long for it to last like there is no tomorrow. That two hours' bus ride felt like just two minutes to me.
  5. I love the way you put your hands in between my palms when we are walking together, and showing that you feel secured by my side.
  6. I love your immediate expression of "Of course!" when you tell me proudly that you can take spicy food, when I am the opposite.
  7. I love it when we will be telling each other what we had for every meal in the day and sharing recipes together.
  8. I love the excitement like a kid who just got a stick of lolipop, when I receive every postcard or stuff that you send to me each time.
  9. I love it when we will say the same thing at almost the same fraction of a second, and we ended up smiling to each other.
  10. I love it when you always hope for my football team to lose, only for them to prove you wrong in the end and I get to boast about it in front of you.
  11. I love it when you attend to my lame tricks and jokes, even though they sound stupid and silly most of the time.
  12. I love the fact that we will put away all our tiredness, and the way you give me that kind of smile when we see each other after we just finished our classes.
  13. I love it that we both agreed to name our daughter Kahlen Ong Sue Ann, and although it is still KIV if it happens to be a baby boy.
  14. I love it when you give me that "Okay lu" and "Hmppphh" response whenever I tried to ignore you, because you know I mean the opposite and you were just waiting for me to get back to you back afterwards.
  15. I love it when we are watching movies together, and you will take a peek at me at times and give me that sweet smile.
  16. I love the natural way we talk to each other, although we are not there physically for each other at the moment.
  17. I love the way we will race to see who wakes up first in the morning and the loser, most of the time being me, will be punished. Speaking of which, I owe you a box of home-baked chocolate cookies for losing the bet last weekend =P
  18. I love the kind of face you make when I laugh at your weird way of pronouncing some Hokkien words, but you will still insist that you Hokkien is the original version and mine is the cimplak-ed one.
  19. I love those short one-line SMS-es that you used to send me almost every night and in the next morning because they just make me smile when I finished reading them.
  20. I love you not because you are beautiful, but you are beautiful because I love you.

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This cute black dog has been keeping me company every night.

This is just a short and simple post to mark our tenth month together, specially dedicated to you. "Kio aroha kue."

P/S: Yes, I took this idea from k0k, but yet again, there aren't any limitations for us to express our feelings for our other half, are there?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Farmers Of The New Age

Do you ever imagine a group of future engineers going to vegetable farms to plant sweet potatoes? That was exactly what we the international students in my kosen did a couple of weeks ago in a vegetable farm situated just behind my kosen. It was jointly organised by 地球ラボ (Chikyu Laboratory) and the Nagaoka City Council. Chikyu Lab is a centre established with the foundation from the Ministry of Education, Science and Application of Japan to assist the social needs of the student and it is mainly targeted at international students. Nagaoka Kosen became the first technical college in Japan to set up its first centre and received a huge amount of cash to carry out various programmes for its students.
Back to our sweet potato, it was thought that not many of us were interested in joining the trip, just like what happened during the tulip's trip before that. However, it was amazing that how one incident during the Japanese lesson, where one of us tried gave a slanderous hint to the rest managed to get the rest to take part in this trip.
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Honestly, I was a bit lazy having to wake up earlier than usual during the weekends, but I sacrifice my sleep that morning to join the rest to plant the sweet potatoes. Tokyo people, I know you guys are living in a big city surrounded by high-rised buildings and modern facilities, but you will never get this kind of activity in such environment surrounded by paddy fields and fresh air in your place. The closest you will get will only be catching lala (pun unintended). Haha ;)
Anyway, it started with a brief introduction by the representative from the city council and we got to work straight away after that. First was to loosen up the soil and create several rows of whatever they call batas in English.
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One thing that I find it rather difficult is that the hoe in Japan is not user-friendly at all. Not only that they are blunt, but the shape just doesn't make it easy for us to hold it, yet to break up the soil. Lucky thing the soil there was not that hard. So, I practically just pushed the soil to form the batas, although I was holding the hoe by its sideway, while recalling my experiences I gained by helping my grandma at her vege farms when I was still a small kid.
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The guy later showed us called us over.
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"Come here boys and girls, let gor gor teach you all how to plant the sweet potatoes the correct way. First you have to hold it slanted and placed it into the hole you have dug. Then cover it up with some soil and you shall get you sweet potatoes in thirty minutes."
Very funny hor? He thinks we are still small kindergarten kids isit? How can the sweet potatoes grow so fast? Dei, we all passed our Biology lah. But in the end, all of us the obedient kids just followed his instructions and did what he had shown to us earlier.
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I was among the last to get my potatoes' leaves because I was going around disturbing people when they were planting theirs. When they were finished planting their leaves, I pulled them out. They plant again, I pulled out again. Again they plant it, again I pulled it out. In the end, they got so pissed off with me and they pulled my hair =.= So, I left them alone with their leaves and I plant mine at another corner.
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Potato leaves also can camwhore with wtf.
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"May you grow into a big, fat healthy sweet potato so that I can eat you"
This time however, I didn't see anyone who came and take revenge by pulling out my leaves. So, I felt guilty for my mischievous act. Haha, now acting like so innocent. Anyway, when I was almost done, I spotted something which I thought I could make it as a side dish to our soba which we were making later that day. I called it brown Japanese udon. And it also gave me the chance to get into my second mischief of the day as I present the fresh udons to someone. I just wished my acting was a bit more real because just when I was to hand over it onto her hands, she already knew my evil intention.
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My new-found pet.
We will be eagerly waiting for autumn when we get to harvest the sweet potatoes ourselves. Before we headed to the building to make our soba, we had a group shot first at the farm. One of use suggested that we shall renamed our kosen from 長岡工業高等専門学校 (Nagaoka National College of Technology) into 長岡農業高等専門学校 (Nagaoka National College of Algriculture). Instead of becoming engineers, we will be turning into farmers when we return to Malaysia upon our graduation.
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We waited outside before everything got prepared, and some mini models of traditional Japanese wooden house caught the attention of some of us.
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We take a closer look at those houses, shall we?
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I should have taken one back as souvenir.

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A model of a performance stage, not a house.
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They used it for decorating the garden as well.
When everything was ready, we entered inside the building and started making our soba, a type of Japanese noodle which is made of wheat flour and soba flour. It is rather simple to make it but the tricky part would be the working on the dough because we need to make sure that there is no air trapped inside the dough. Even me who had tried on this before could not master the right technique which in the end, it made our dough the worst of the five groups. However, when we cut them, it didn't look as worse as it was.
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How the pro do it.
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But our soba came out quite okay.
Unlike during the cultural exchange programme in Mito last year, we got to boil our own soba this time. This part was quite simple as it doesn't require any skills. We just had to wait for the water to boil, and then dump the noodles into the boiling water and wait for about ten to fifteen minutes for the soba to turn soft and tender.
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The lady showed up the way first before we tried it ourselves.
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I know our soba was so damn super the fat. Technical error.
We had our cooked soba with light soy sauce and thin slices of seaweed, also known as nori.
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Some didn't really fancy the almost tasteless soba, that they asked for salt and sugar, of so many things. One even came out with a brilliant idea that he might as well asked for cili padi too. As for the rest who had worked so hard in the vegetable farm earlier that morning, our hungry stomach just didn't bother about how the soba tasted like and we just wallop them straight away. Finally, a group shot before we headed home;
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With autumn already in our minds.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sasadango & Akasakayama Park

It was during the time when we were walking though the walking path in Echigo Hillside Park that one of our lecturers mentioned about a kind of confection made by filling mochi (glutinous rice cakes) containing yomogi (mugwort) with bean paste and wrapping them in sasa or bamboo leaves. It is more commonly known as sasadango among the locals here and is a popular souvenir of Niigata prefecture. We left the tulip park and on our way to the next destination, we stopped by a factory which specialise in making sasadango.
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We were greeted with a traditional tool they used to pound the rice cake and some fake mochis upon our arrival to the factory.
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This is how the stove used to look like in the olden days.
We got to see how sasadango is made by the workers in their late sixties, who sat on the wooden floor inside an enclosed room wrapping the sasadango. Their movements were so symmetry that it almost made them looked like some mannequins who are good in folding arts. They however, were real human beings as they smiled at my direction when I was looking at them making the sasadango. Haha, not only does these auntys know the art of folding, they know the art of camwhoring as well ;)
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Look at that aunty on the right. She's posing for the camera weh!
Sasadango usually come in one bundle of ten sticks and our lecturers bought us one bundle for us to have a taste on the sasadango. It looked almost similar to bak zhang, the only difference being the shape, size and the content inside the wrapped leaves as sasadango contain mochi filled with red bean paste, instead of glutinous rice with pork and some other ingredients like chestnuts and dried shrimps.
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Instead of having a pyramidal shape, sasadango come in cylinders.
What makes sasadango taste good is the aroma coming from the leaves used to wrap it, as the rest are almost similar to the normal mochi we normally have in Japan. Besides, looking at the sasadango from the outer layer makes it looks like our kuih kochi.
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Yes, sasadango is quite sticky as you can see here.
We left the factory feeling satisfied and were later taken to another park located about thirty-minutes' drive from Nagaoka. On our way there, we had to walk through another trail surrounded with trees once again. This is what you will get when you are taken to a trip by several retired elderly. Even when we were at the walking pathway earlier that day, they stopped so many times to tell us the names of the plants they came across. Of course we have no idea whatsoever about the plants, but we just gave our nod of acknowledgement most of the time. Halfway through our walk, we stopped a while to have a group shot.
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Four Malaysians and three Japanese who got lost in the trail.
Akasakayama Park is one of the main spot during the autumn as it offers a beautiful sight of autumn foliage during that period of the year. It was certainly a wrong timing for us to visit that park then, nevertheless the park still offered an atmosphere of a Japanese garden when we were walking inside the park.

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The entrance to the maple garden.
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Miraculously, there were still some tress with red maple leaves spotted in the park.
From what I was told by one of my lecturers, this park was a brainchild of one of the rich man in this district many decades ago, and he used to be a person who loves maple trees very much. Hence, he used his rich fortune to buy over most of the maple trees around that area and assembled them in this park for his own satisfaction, which in the end transformed it into a beautiful park.
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I am not sure about this, but I reckon this statue is related to the founder of this park.

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Same goes to this statue as well.

However after his death, none of his descendants were interested in continuing to maintain this park and it was left abandoned for a while. It was some time later that the park was handed over to the city council to manage the park. Looking at the conditions of the park, it is still very-well preserved and taken care of, even until today.
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There is even a wooden well, which is not usable anymore.
It was getting late that evening and we decided to call it a day. Before we head back to our kosen, we dropped by one of the beaches along Kashiwazaki and it was one of my rare time when I get to go to a beach in Japan. The last time I have been to any beach was during the last summer holiday, when I was in Oshamanbu. The water was much cleaner than our beach and it had light blue tone to complement with the cloudless blue sky that day.
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That was the end of our one-day trip and thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Here In My Home

This is one of the reasons I am proud to call myself a Malaysian.
What is all this about?
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It is about LOVE.
The LOVE we all have for Malaysia.
Though I cannot deny the fact that there are many shortcomings within the nation back home, but I am quite sure that it will be hard for many to disagree with the fact that there is no other place that is better than Malaysia. Where will you find another place which is blessed with such a great diversity in cultures, religions, beliefs and of course, the food. For more than a year living in oversea, I have gone through quite a number of experiences and encounters, which sometimes make me comparing what they have in their countries with our country. However at the end of the day, I will realise that no matter where I was, my heart will always be at one place, my homeland.
I won't go any further discussing about the unity among the races in the country in this entry, because I believe that the lyrics in the music video above has already given a true reflection how we should live together happily in a harmonious atmosphere under one roof. That prompted 52 people, all coming from different backgrounds that included filmmakers, dancers, singers, producers, musicians, actors, entrepreneurs, designers, footballers, activists, celebrities, students and a florist to gather and record the song above. They did it without being paid and this is a budget free non-profit effort by Malaysian Artistes For Unity. Read here for more details.
I honestly think that this song is not bad at all and I hope you can help the project team to spread this around. Terima kasih ;)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Who Has The Biggest Brain?

I am never a Facebook freak unlike someone, who will spend hours and hours of my free time playing with the applications available there. Okay lah, I admit there was one time when I was so addicted into playing on my Fluffy friend for a few months, that I will make sure I feed my pet and race him to get more munnys daily without fail. But since then, I have never visited my Calbit anymore and only God knows what had happened to my poor little virtual pet. Haha, I know I am such an irresponsible owner of a bunny.
Anyway, apart from that and a few other common applications like Super Poke! and Compare People, which I play occasionally, I will usually just ignore the others I got. In fact, the tons of invitations I got have nearly reach 600 invitations. On my last check, it was 581. However, while I was just about to start to make myself study a little bit last night, Amalina MSN-ed me with a message, "sapa nak cabar aku". Just like any other guy which has that certain level of egoistic, of course I felt I was challenged and I decided to take a short break from my study and give a shot on this game.
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Basically, this game is more to an IQ test which test on your ability in four different categories. It will test your analytical ability (they put two things together, say a rabbit and two carrots, then ask you which one is heavier), how your brain can calculate (2+3=?), how good your memory is (they put one row containing a few types of things and ask you to rearrange them again in the same order after some time), and lastly it tests your visual process ability (spotting missing pieces from a jigsaw puzzle). For every categories, there will be a time limit of sixty seconds and you will have to try to answer as many answer correctly as possible and in the end, your score will be calculated.
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So, I gave my first attempt to see how big my brain measure up. The questions asked were not as tough as you thought and it depends more on how fast your impulsive reactions to every questions given. So, in other words, the faster you do the test, the more questions you will get to answer, and the higher points you will score. I am not sure whether there is a penalty for wrong answers though. Anyway, I managed to answer every question correctly in all four parts. I must have taken too long doing too much of thinking during the test because in the end, the score I got looked nothing like convincing enough.
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Apparently, I got the best score at the calculation part. Can become taukeh kopitiam liao.
They will later calculate your score and it will be translated into the size of your brain. During that time, you will see your brain grow from a tiny little nut-sized brain and the size will increase gradually, overtaking brains of snakes, elephants, hippos, goats, birds, chimpanzee and many other animals. I hope you made it pass all those animal, otherwise I will know that you possess a smaller brain than those animals. And I will have every reasons to call you a person with a bird brain next time ;)
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My brain is so big that it won't fit a 1.5 litre water bottle. Actually that's very small 'coz somepeople got more than 4 litre!
In the next stage, they will compare you with your other friends in Facebook who had played this game and compare you with them to see where you stand among the rest. As for me, I didn't make it to the Top 3 in my first attempt, but at least I didn't got the last place and even managed to overtake one person. I know. This is so damn pathetic, right?
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Haha, just look at Joyce's tulan and heartbreak face.
Anyway, I gave a second try on this game and the score I got didn't give me a significant increase. Haiz, you all just wait lah. When I have found the time, I will make sure I will overtake all of you one day. Anyway, when I went to my Profile page in Facebook afterwards, at least I know I am getting smarter already.
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There goes my time that I should have spend on doing my revision for my mid-term exam. I am so gonna kill you Amalina. You will be held responsible for my result this time, be it a good one or a bad one. If you think you can do better than me, give it a try and tell me your score ;)
*edited*: My best score at the moment is 1903cm^3, which means I have a scientist's brain.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tulips From This Spring

Before I proceed any further, I would like to wish:
A Happy Wesak Day
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu.
By this time of the year, the tulips' season is already over but if you were to notice, there aren't any entries related to tulips so far. Hence, this will be the one. More than a fortnight ago, there was a trip organised for us the international students to Echigo Hillside Park as the day happened to be Showa Day, a public holiday in Japan. It didn't start as nice as it should have been, mainly due to some irresponsible acts by some, which I shall not talk about it in this entry. Anyway, it was the same location that I went to last year.
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The main section of Echigo Hillside Park.
Echigo Hillside Park park was opened in July 1998 on the Japan Sea coast. The basic theme of the park is "Learn from heaven, play on earth and meet people at Koshino-sato sanctuary". The park was built so people could pursue outdoor recreation or cultural activities. It is located on the West side of Nagaoka in Niigata prefecture on hills ranging from 80-260 meters above sea level. As a result, various land formations, snowy hills and many kinds of animals and plants can be seen in this park.
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The spot where most of the children can be spotted - the playground.
Having been to the park previously, the only thing that made me going there for a second time was the tulips in the park.
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This year however, there was a slight change on the location of the tulips as there were placed on slopes and it certainly gave a different effect as it really enhanced the beauty of the tulips. I reckon the numbers of tulips this year were much more compared to last year and the sunny day with cool spring breeze blowing through our body once in a while made it a perfect day for us.
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That building is where some restaurants and resting area are located.
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Colourful tulips decorating the park.
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Some crossed-breed tulips I suppose.
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I somehow heart the subtle colours combination of these tulips.
The view of the tulips is nothing less beautiful than the carpet of lavenders I witnessed in Hokkaido last summer. The tulips there came in a variety of colours and the view is just too nice for me to find any fitting words to describe them.

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Rows of red and yellow tulips.
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Orange and yellow tulips, with a cute pumpkin-shaped statue on the top right.
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How could I leave without having a picture in the middle of the tulips =P
By the way, like I have mentioned previously, there were only four of us who went to the park.
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From left: Aniza, Atikah, Kubota sensei, me and Hafiz.
Not only does the park offer the common type of tulips we usually see elsewhere, but there are some rare species of tulips which have unusual pattern of petals and colours in this park as well. Here are a few examples of the tulips which I guess we do not come across them very often.

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Of all the tulips I saw there, this has to be the cutest one.
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Looking at the shape and striking color, it appears that it is just like any other tulips.

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However, they have a special name for it - Mickey Mouse.
We later went for a walk along the walking path through the deciduous trees which stretches for about three kilometres, and eventually came to an observatory deck in the middle of the walk. The observatory stretches to three floors and we decided to take a rest there before we continued our walk. The greenery of the forest beneath was quite some sight as we could see the different layers of trees and tones through the dynamic mountain range.
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Here are the four people who took us to the park. Two of them have retired, after having taught in my kosen for more than thirty years, another one is currently still teaching in the same kosen, while the woman is the person who is in charge of the kosen's library.
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From left: Yamaguchi sensei, Hafiz, Iwata sensei, Kubota sensei, me and Sato sensei.
Before we leave the park for the next destination, I spotted some kolam on the floor along the flower promenade along the way out from the park, which were made of dried petals of tulips. What was written there was ありがとう (arigatou) and it was to commemorate the 10th anniversary since the park was opened to the public.

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Allow me to camwhore for one last time.
The mascot of the park was among the designs for the kolam and it was too cute that it attracted some attention from a little kid.
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You would not want to know what happened after that to the flowers.