Wednesday, 17 September 2014

New Blogger: Introducing Teann from It Keeps Getting Better

Hey everyone! Last week, I received an email from a new blogger called Teann! She's also a university student, and recently started blogging about her life in Japan. Her blog is called It Keeps Getting Better.

Teann
This is her 自己紹介 (jikoshoukai - self introduction):

My name is Teann and I am from Guam. I’m a university student and I work in a Japanese Izakaya. I had an early exposure to the Japanese culture when I was young and ever since I’ve just been fascinated with it. I started learning the language bit by bit and was finally able to take proper classes in high school where I was given an opportunity to participate in a Japanese homestay program. I fell in love with the culture all over again after seeing and experiencing things for myself.

Since graduating high school, I’ve been studying Japanese on and off on my own when I have time. I’m not fluent in Japanese but I can get by with what I know. I’m not perfect and I still carry around a Japanese-English dictionary. I still make a lot of mistakes but a second language is always a learning process. When in doubt, I always turn to my loving boyfriend for help when he’s not busy as well as the friends I’ve made over time while traveling in Japan.

My blog, although very small right now, is going to consist of my homestay experiences in Japan, advices and culture tips, and “In Japan” segment (Coming December) (fun, culture, food, more), an “ In Guam” segment (coming soon)(fun, culture, food, more), and long distance relationship posts of advice/segments as well (would love to make feature posts of other couples consisting of a Japanese person and foreigner and talk about their strengths, their struggles, and their love); and of course some random rants/creative projects.

I love learning about new things and sharing what I’ve learned and experienced and I’m always open for my readers to share their experiences with me directly or in the comment sections. I hope that my blog can one day become something special for everyone to enjoy : )
Her blog is a mix of topics, and though it's new, she has loads of useful information. She's gonna be talking about a lot of things that I don't have information on (for example, on inter-racial relationships - I'm the forever alone type haha), so do pay her a visit!

If you're at a loss as to what to read first, check out her article on when you should start packing and Japanese superstitions. Both were really interesting, and the packing one reminded me that I wanted to do a post on what to pack when you go home for a visit :p (Someone remind me again if I forget? Pretty please?)

If you're on Google+, here's her Google+ Profile too!

ETA: I totally forgot to talk about this in the original post, but I have friends coming over from now till end of September. I probably won't have enough time to blog (although I will try to post to Google+), so expect the next post to appear in October :D 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Language Apps/Websites Review: Memrise

After a long, long delay, I'm finally here with the second review in this series! In this post, I'm going to be talking about Memrise, a site that uses Space Repetition System (SRS) to teach you.

What is SRS? Simply put, the site tests you on the vocab that you've learn just when you're about to forget it. In a way, it works a bit like Anki, but I find it much easier to use and more addictive to play.

Memrise has both a webpage and a free app, so here's my review of each:

Website

My profile page
You need an account to register for anything, but once you do, you can see that everything is really nicely arranged for you. The Pinned courses are the first few courses you choose (or the ones you specially select), and they're a useful shortcut if you have many many courses at one go.

While you can have friends, I haven't found a way to search by username yet (anyone know?). I've had to get the link to add people as friends ><

Courses page
You can also search for courses. That is slightly easier to navigate, although if you're searching for a course created in something other than English, remember to change the "I speak _______" section at the top left (just below courses, and above "top categories"). As a matter of rule, the more people taking the course, the more reliable it's likely to be, since there's tons of feedback. Of course, if you're taking a niche language, there may not be that many learners.

The real beauty of this website is the "Create" a course function. This makes it the perfect supplement to your Japanese language class/course. You can use it to create an effective way of revising. I can personally attest to the efficiency of that - I used this for my Bahasa Indonesia class and I got an A! It made studying a lot easier for me, because I am not the best at memorising vocab.

App
The app while loading
Memrise has a free app as well, but the iPad version seems to be a scaled-up version of the iPhone app (not sure, since I haven't tested it). It's not hard to use, but it's not optimised for the iPad.

My app homescreen
The app is useful for revision, but not for creating courses (I don't think it's possible) or for searching for a new course (possible, but very difficult). I find it easier to revise on the app than on the website, but easier to create a course on the website than the app.

There's also the ability to save courses to revise them offline (otherwise, it's no internet. no revision), but I don't like that. When I tried it, it didn't synch my results, and I ended up having to do everything again. Rather annoying, even if it is good revision.

Overall
Price: Free

Pros:

  • Very customisable
  • Effective for remembering vocab - with some ingenuity, you can use it to practice grammar as well. 
  • Convenient to use (There's an app and a website)
Cons:
  • There are bugs in the website and app
  • If you're not going to create a course, you'll be dependent on the community to create a reliable course
Bottom line: This is a great site/app to use as a supplement to your Japanese class/self-study course. There is no software to download, it's easy to create a course, and most importantly, it's effective in helping you to remember the vocab. 

If you need more detailed instructions on how to create a course or you just want to add me as a friend, leave a comment or drop me a message! 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

According to the Chinese Calendar, today is 15th day of the 8th month. So, it's Mid-Autumn festival!

We used to have a huge celebration when I was younger and the extended family was living together, but now, with most of us grown up and living in separate houses, it's a much smaller affair.

All my brother and I did today was to go to the library and buy a lantern for the night.

Children's section of the Central Library
I read about the eco-treehouse a while back, and it's so cool to finally be able to see it! It's a pretty good place to sit and read (all I wish for are some cushions, but that isn't very practical)


My brother chose a seal lantern this year^^


It's so cute!
The bro playing :D 
 From what I know, the mid-autumn festival is about Chang-e and Houyi. Houyi was a super talented archer. One day, all ten suns came out to play and scorched the earth. So Houyi shot down nine of the suns and saved the world.

From there, the legend differs. One version says that after he shot down the suns, Houyi received a pill for immortality. However, he didn't want to leave Chang-e, and so, didn't take it. However, one day, a disciple of his betrayed him and tried to grab the pill for himself. Chang-e refused to let him have it, and ended up eating it. So, she ascended to the moon, taking with her only a rabbit.

The other story has Houyi becoming a mean and vicious king. And Chang-e eats the pill of immortality before he can eat it, and ascends to the moon, taking the rabbit with her.

Personally, I prefer the first version, because when I was younger, I watched a drama of the first version starring Fann Wong and Christopher Lee. Plus, it's nice to imagine that Houyi didn't turn evil.

In both cases, Chang-e only takes the pill to save others. She basically condemns herself to a life of loneliness. The rabbit is either pounding medicine (for the pill) or making mochi, depending on which version you hear.

And of course, we also eat mooncakes:

Snowskin mooncake. There's also baked mooncakes and many others.
From what I've heard, mooncakes were the way the Han Chinese rebelled against the Mongolians a long long time ago. They would smuggle the messages in the mooncakes, then eat the mooncakse, destroying the evidence. That's why in modern day mooncakes, we have an egg yolk in them.

Hope everyone has had a great Mid-Autumn Festival, and a good start to the week!

ETA: I forgot to share! Chinatown has been decorated for the Mid-Autumn Festival! So here are some photos that I took:

Tree!


You can totally tell this picture was edited


Friday, 5 September 2014

Huis Ten Bosch Dinosaur Escape Game + Robot Ice Cream Boy

The day before I came back to Singapore, I was in Huis Ten Bosch. Yes, again. Although in my defence, it was Yiyin's first time there. So I was sort of acting like a tour guide (let's not think about the fact that I invited her to come with me).

My main reason for going there was to try out the Dinosaur Escape Game, which runs until the end of September. You can read about it here, although the link is entirely in Japanese. The game is marketed as only having a 1% success rate, so I was really really excited about it!

WARNING: Extremely picture-heavy post ahead.

Entrance
The game is located at the Adventure Park, close to the entrance. You can't miss it because it looks like it came out of a Jurassic Park movie.

Ticket - 500 yen per device
The ticketing system was... unique. 500 yen is the cost of one handheld device, so you can have a group of people going in with one device. But, only one person can advance to the second stage (there are 3 stages in total), so if everyone wants to go forward, it may be better to get one device each.
The boots were free. 
 Before you even enter the arena, you have to go through a pathway. It's not that muddy, but the first-stage arena is. So you should definitely use the free boots.

Woohoo - I was all excited.
They even had this dinosaur! I want to say "cute", but I doubt that was the effect that they were going for.


And here we are patiently waiting.


The game devices had four languages - English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. While all the explanation is in Japanese, there are translations written out (and shown on the screens during the video time). So it's pretty foreigner-friendly, in my opinion.


The situation is that the Japanese have discovered a way to revive the dinosaur using super DNA. However, terrorists have broken in, and the head scientist hid the vial of super DNA in his office. We have to go and find the super DNA before the terrorist get their hands on it.
3 of the 4 screens with different languages on them.
Stage 1 is to use a QR code reader on the device to collect parts of the dinosaur. There was 10 minutes allocated for this.

Example of a QR code
While the QR codes were hidden in plain sight, most of them are dummy codes. A few of them will even wipe out your progress. And, each different device responds to different codes, so good luck following someone around.

Can you see part of my dinosaur?
 Photos were not allowed, so that's all I have for the Dinosaur game. But basically, the first stage arena was in a "dinosaur park", with the dinosaurs in the various cages. Like I said, the QR codes are in plain sight, so it's really just climbing around, and making sure you don't fall into the mud (it rained heavily the days before).

And.... unexpectedly, Yiyin and I made it past the first stage! I got there at the ten minute mark! So close!

The second stage was inside the lab. Instead of QR codes, we have to find number codes that flesh out the dinosaur. There's a time limit of 10 minutes, but only the first person who completes the dinosaur code can go on to the 3rd stage. Sadly, I didn't even get to flesh out one part of my dinosaur. I guess I'm not a very good mad scientist.

But, there was this little kid who was forever playing his DS in the same group as us. And scarily, he's also the first person to finish both stage 1 and 2. Either he's played this before, or he's a genius at this.

The rest of our trip to Huis Ten Bosch was pretty normal (nothing that I haven't shared yet), except for my new friend - the robot ice-cream boy! I noticed his cart because he "sings". And of course, I can't help but buy some ice-cream from him!

Frantically searching for money.
I look like a mess from the game, but here's me and my new friend!

He's really cute! You can't really see it with the glare, but he's cute!
I can't remember all the flavours, but I ordered vanilla ice-cream with strawberry sauce :D
Robot-kun serving the ice-cream
 Ice-cream was pretty good too, but then again, I hardly ever dislike Japanese soft-cream.

One last shot:

I have a feeling I'll be eating from this stall each time I visit Huis Ten Bosch. It's really too cute for words!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Random Update Post is Random

Alright, let's see if I can get back to a semi-regular posting schedule after disappearing for more-or-less the whole of last week.

Excuse/Explanation:

Ever since I've come back, I've been busy with golf lessons, picking my brother up from school, and of course, checking out books from the library (about 10 at the time). And party preparations. So, I haven't been checking my phone, Google+ or my computer very much lately.

I'm really sorry if anyone comments/emails me, and I don't answer for a day or two. I'll try to get to my computer every night, but sometimes, I find myself doing other things.

And since I'm being random, I might as well share pics from my first ever Haagen Daaz Chocolate Fondue. (We were celebrating my cousin's birthday, and this was dessert :D)

Random Fact 1: In IB, I learnt that Haagen Daaz is a made-up word, for the sake of making the company sound foreign (and therefore posh?)

Random Fact 2: I played Zerg Rush while waiting for the photos to load.

Non ice-cream side

Ice-cream side


I honestly did not know that the chocolate would harden until
someone pointed it out to me. My brain is really on vacation.
I shall make a proper post tomorrow (if I have time - I'm volunteering at my old school) about the Dinosaur Escape Game at Huis Ten Bosch. It was really really fun! (And you can see photos of me and my new friend, the robot ice cream guy).

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Singapore Natsu Matsuri (シンガポールの夏祭り)

Before I even begin, I want to apologise to whoever looked for me at the Study in Japan talk at RI on Friday. I really wanted to go, but I caught the stomach flu after I went to ACS(I) on Tuesday and ended up hibernating from Wednesday to Friday.

On Saturday, I emerged from my sleep to muster up the energy to go to the 夏祭り (natsu matsuri - summer festival) held at the Japanese School (Changi Campus).

Why?

Well, it's the only summer festival (that I know of), and I already brought 2 Yukata's back - I'm not going to have brought back the extra baggage in vain! So I went over to my bestie's house in the afternoon to get ready!

Also, the bestie made ramen eggs. They were so delicious I
might just stow her away in my luggage. 
I got over to her house pretty early, since we both didn't know how to tie an obi and wanted to figure it out on the spot. Thankfully, there's Youtube, and we managed to follow this video for a simple bow at the back:

And... tada!

Yukata!
And the bow turned out great as well!

And, we even got a lift from the bestie's parents. Thank you so much!

Entrance tickets
Entrance tickets to the fair were SGD$2, which I think was fairly reasonable. Being non-Japanese, we had to queue up to buy the tickets (instead of reserving them), but since the queue moved quickly, there's nothing to complain about.

The fair was set-up like this: A stage in the field, for performances, and games stand to the side. On the first floor of the school campuses, four areas selling a variety of food and drinks.

The field. Not enough chairs and tables :p
Apart from normal Japanese fare, people were also selling snacks. The Japanese import sweets looked horrendously overpriced to me (because I just bought the exact sweets for about one-third to half the price in Japan), but we did find these cute macarons! Only $2 a packet!

Love the colours!
My favourite part was actually the performances.
Yay! Happy face!
There was this really cute dog wearing a dress:


And a bunch of really cute kids running around! They were chasing after bubbles and screaming.

Most of the performances were dances (I even saw a Hula dance!), although the "climax" was the Bon-odori. But I really like the taiko by the little kids! 
Getting ready
There was this segment where they leapt into the air, beating the sticks. I don't know why, but I snapped quite a few shots of that.

I heard that they practice five times a week, and at home, they practice on the sofa! Now that's dedication.

Games stalls. The queue was terribly long. 
It really feels different from a natsu-matsuri in Japan, but it was really really fun being able to wear the Yukata. I think I may prefer the one I attended three to four years ago, before I left for Japan, but that fair had a bookstore where I bought a Roald Dahl recipe book (and some other stuff). Things with books tend to win out in my memory.

But this fair was awesome because I got to go with the bestie! And also because we successfully put on a Yukata with obi by ourselves! 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Language Apps/Websites Review: Lang-8

Like I mentioned in my previous post, one of the things I want to blog about this summer would be to review the different language sites and apps that I'm using. Not all of them will be Japanese-focused, but more of a language-based thing in general. Of course, if there are Japanese versions, I will be looking at those two.

So, the first website that I want to talk about is Lang-8. To sum the site up in one sentence, Lang-8 is where you go to practice your writing.

My profile page
Lang-8 can be used to practice any language that you want. You simply indicate what you want to learn, type in that language (it can be any length, you don't have to churn out an essay on your first try!) and wait for a native speaker to correct you and give advice.

And while you're waiting, it's only nice to go look at the entries of people who are practicing your native language and correct their sentences. You can get points for correcting entries too! And you don't have to correct the whole entry, you can choose to mark a sentence "perfect" or just correct certain parts, adding an explanation of why you choose to correct it a certain way if you want to. 

I basically used Lang-8 to help practice my written Japanese while I was in TUFS. Back then, I didn't have many people I could ask to help with my essays and stuff, so this was the ideal resource for me. However, when I entered university and most of my classmates were Japanese, stopped using the site. Instead, I correct my friends English papers, and they help me with my Japanese essays.

Price: Free

Pros:
  • This site is good if you're looking for native speakers to correct your grammar. The community already exists, so you don't have to search for members. (You can also follow users, which means you can create a community-within-a-community.)
  • It's fairly easy to get corrections. I think all my entries have at least one correction, and many of the explanations are thoughtful as well. 
  • You can set whatever language you want to learn, and it's fine if you want to learn more than one language. 
Cons:
  • You're trusting the users to be accurate. If a lot of people are giving differing corrections and explanations, it can be confusing at times. But, that being said, with a voting system in place, it's possible to weed out the bad corrections. 
Bottom Line: I recommend Lang-8 to those who want to practice their writing in Japanese (or whatever language you want to learn), because it is an easy way to find a group of native speakers to help. Think of it as crowd-sourced editing.

I'm not really active there now, but if you are on, please let me know! I might start using the site more often if more friends were on there :D