Sunday, 5 July 2015

Awesome Sunset - Edited vs No Filter photos

I have no idea what's been going on with the weather this week, but there were two days with absolutely unbelievable sunsets. I'd be sitting at the computer, checking my email when I look up, and through the spaces between my laundry, spy a pink sky.

Obviously, when you see something like that, you have to run out and walk around the neighbourhood to get the best view for photos. Oddly enough, I forgot my DSLR the first time, and only had iPhone photos.

(Another odd thing: the two sentences in my first paragraph both start with "I", and the second both start with "O". I didn't plan that, promise.)

And while the iPhone camera is way better than my previous phone, it still couldn't capture the awesomeness of the sunset. So I edited it before uploading to Instagram and Google+ and sending it to my family. And since one of my cousins is in art, she saw through the edits really easily (until then, there was one who asked if it was a #nofilter. Sadly, my skills aren't that good).

So I figured, why not share the before and after photos with everyone?

Photo #1

No filter, which is really subdued compared to real life. 

Filter/edited version

Photo #2

No filter, and the sky is already pretty awesome. 

Filtered (although the difference isn't as great as the first photo, I think)
Photo #3 (that hasn't been uploaded anywhere)

No filter, so the only thing you can see is the sunset. 

This is so obviously edited. 
So there you have it, the before and after for my photos. In case you're wondering, the app I use is Snapseed, and I think it's already integrated into Google photos (at least it is on the web, I'm not sure about the app). 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Unstoppable: Surviving is the the Beginning - Book Review and Guest Post

Hey everyone! So this is post is really different from what I normally post about (even if you're looking at the few books I review on this blog). But, I think so many of you guys are people who take risks, who are doing something different. Studying in Japan is definitely a huge risk, and in this book, Gigi Stetler basically shares her life with the reader, and her life is not the norm.

When I first heard about this book, I was instantly intrigued. Since I'm a business student, stories of women succeeding in business, especially in male-dominated fields, are the inspiring boosts that I love reading about. At first, I thought I was going to be reading a part-advice, part-memoir book, but as it turns out, I was wrong.

Unbreakable is a memoir by Gigi Stetler, and she has been through really tough stuff. Her home life has never been good, and every time she becomes close to success, someone betrays her, and she has to start from scratch. I don't know about you, but if that happened to me, I think after two, maybe three times, I'd just give up. But even though Gigi encounters setback after setback, she never gives up.

To be honest, there's very little business-related advice in here. Yes, Gigi does talk about her various ventures, and how she seizes on opportunities, but if you're looking for broad guidelines, well you're out of luck.

Overall, this was a riveting memoir written in a conversational, easy to read style. It's an inspirational read, and a reminder for us not to give up. Today, Gigi has written a guest post on her philosophy, "Work to Learn, Don't Work to Earn". I hope you enjoy it!

Work to Learn, Don’t Work to Earn
By Gigi Stetler

Graduation season in full swing, which means thousands of new grads will be turning in their caps and gowns for suits and ties—if they’re lucky. But whether they have a job lined up or are still on the hunt, my top piece of advice for success: work to LEARN. Don't work to EARN. This way, you can get everything you need to be successful in a business of your own.

As an unfortunate 10th grade dropout I needed to navigate my own path to success, and that did not come easy. But the key ingredient that led me to success was my determination to be successful at any cost.

The first and most important skill I learned at a young age was sales. I learned to sell anything and everything from school candy to time shares, and everything in between. Looking back, it wasn’t how much money I was making that made a difference. It was the experience that I gained from dealing with so many different kinds of people, learning how to satisfy their needs and creating good customer relations skills that I still use today.

Moving into my mid-teens, I jumped into the world of retail, soaking up every bit of knowledge that an entrepreneur needs to be successful. That meant taking a job as a cashier at K-Mart and earning minimum wage. After just a few weeks—and a lot of hours—I found myself filling in shifts in all departments, because other employees weren’t showing up. I wasn’t trying to make this a career for myself, but I knew it was an opportunity to gain experience in the real world, and that’s something you don’t learn at school.

It’s significant to note that when you obtain a degree, you pay thousands of dollars for very little on-the-job experience. Most likely, you still have to intern or work for minimum wage. Whatever your career aspirations, you have to understand that when you start out in the job market, you’re not going to be earning much anyway. But, if you’re smart, you’ll be learning—a lot. Take full advantage of these early years and soak up every piece of knowledge you can find. Get as close as possible to high ranking individuals. Stay late. Ask questions. And most importantly, learn from all the mistakes that others make, so that when you move forward, you’ll know what NOT to do—and how to do it better. It may be difficult, and it may take time, but eventually, you’ll earn from what you’ve learned.  

Gigi Stetler is an accomplished businesswoman, entrepreneur, and single mother. The owner of RV Sales of Broward in south Florida, she built the business from the ground up to become queen of a male-dominated industry and entirely redefine its business climate by establishing an all-new RV timeshare program, the RV Fun Club. As an accomplished equestrian, Stetler has turned her love of horseback riding into a business venture by creating Riding in Style. She has also developed her own all natural supplement line, Solongpain. Stetler continues to rewrite the rules…while writing another book.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Another ACSian visits!

As you might or might not know, I'm an ACSian. Basically, I went to ACS (and MGS), two of the best schools in Singapore (in my opinion). And as you can see, we tend to be very proud of our school. Before I start going down this tangent, I'll go back on topic, which is that this year marks a momentous occasion: two ACSians have come to visit me in Japan!

The first was James, who came in April. We went to a bunch of places, including Fukuoka Castle and Huis Ten Bosch, to see SM Town Theatre and ride the One Piece boat. This week, Nicholas came! Since it was only for three days, and because I have school, we didn't get to go to many places.

But, I managed to bring him to the owl cafe, and yes, they recognise me by now.

Do the owls like each other? 
I don't think I'll ever get tired of the owls (:

The answer is no. 

One interesting thing I learnt. Apart from Chip (from "chocolate chip", due to the pattern on her feathers), the shop staff can't tell the gender of the other owls. I may have mentioned it, but apparently, you need a DNA test to tell if an owl is male of female.

After we went to the owl shop, we hung around Tenjin for a while. And in this case, "hung around" means "we went to bookshops and stayed at the English section."

Another new thing I learnt: some English books are much cheaper in Japan, even if they're new. I think Nicholas got a History's Greatest Speeches for about 700 yen, and a Haruki Murakami book for just over 1000 yen. According to him, that's really, really rare in Singapore. At least since Borders closed down.

Even I, who wasn't planning to buy anything, succumbed. We were at BookOff, and I found this:

Doesn't it look cool? It was only 108 yen! (Apparently it didn't sell, so they reduced the price).  There was another one that I was thinking of buying, about Historical Crime Fiction, but then we realised it was about modern writers writing in different time periods, rather than taking crime writers from different periods in time, which would have been much more interesting, since you can study the change in style and type of crime fiction.

When we had wasted enough time, we went to the Izakaya that one of my friend works at. Well, it's mostly my fault for making a late booking - I thought we needed a lot more time.

It was my first time there, and it's a good thing my friend works there, because I had no idea what's going on. I just know that we got this for free:

Tofu and I think, motsu? Not too sure. 
 We basically just went "we'll have the set", and I think something about portions were mentioned, and I was like "ok, you can decide". It's a good thing my friend didn't decide to rip us off :p The only thing I "chose" was this fried potato covered in mentaiko sauce.

And it was awesome. 
Dinner was basically talking and catching up. I finally got to hear Nicholas's love story! It was really sweet!

The next day, I wanted to bring him to Sushiro, but there was an hour's wait. So er, we had a pre-dinner snack. But at least I finally got macarons?

I don't know if anyone else will come visit me this year, but I'm really glad that two of my friends have come. And Nicholas went to Dazaifu, which I haven't been to since ROCs, so I'm currently asking him if he'll guest blog about it.

Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Making Friends in Japan

So last month, I asked for blog ideas, and Elvira Yunitan (sorry, I can't seem to tag you!), came up with a really interesting topic.

Text: "Hi eustacia, i would like to blog but i am not an undergraduate student, just a D2 college student. But I wanted to share my experience so that people know the life of a D2 college life as well. Anyway, i want to know your story of making friends with the Japanese people, maybe at the start of your university till today? Is it hard to blend in and what makes it hard to blend in? I would love to hear more of your friendship stories :)"

I couldn't reply to Elvira's comment directly (I commented as a separate comment, but I don't know if he/she saw it), so:

a. I have no idea what a D2 student is, but sure! MEXT isn't the only way to come to Japan to study, so feel free to email me using the widget on the right, and we can talk more about your guest post.

b. That is a great idea!

So, here goes the "making friends in Japan" post. Of course, all this is purely my own experience, and I'm sure everyone has a different tale to tell (if you want to share it, let me know!). Oh, and in case you're wondering, I did get permission from my friends to upload a photo with them(:

Part 1: Friendship History (from Kyudai Year 1 to now)

So, this can be divided into two sections: Kyudai Year 1 & 2 and Kyudai Year 3 (this year). Unlike my TUFS years, I don't actually have that many friends from bukatsu (club). It's probably because after the first year, I decided to practice at Hakozaki, where almost no one practices. And not attend any club events. More my fault than anything.

Kyudai Year 1 & 2

My first two years, I basically hung out with the same group of people - my (female) classmates! I actually met 2 of them before school started thanks to Tamahiyo, which apparently I didn't blog about >< Anyway, it's like a pre-orientation, and it's optional. But it was fun, and it helped in the making-friends part.

Another one of my friends, I met at the setting up your computer thing. We were the only two girls with MacBooks, and I uh, forgot to bring the MacBook (I thought just my iPad was enough), so we got to talking). She seriously helped me a lot that first year, and it's thanks to her that I wasn't completely alone for the first few weeks (or during orientation).

Then, we have the official class meeting. I would like to say that you should be careful what you blurt out. I have a friend who's name sounds like "Alyssa", and upon hearing that, I said something to the effect of "Oh, that's like an English name, it's easy to remember." For some reason, it came up a year later. But yeah, it was at the first day of orientation that I met everyone, and I was nervous. Way, way nervous, although two and a half years later, I'm like "why?"

It could be that I got exceptionally lucky, but my classmates are all really awesome people, and we've managed to become friends. From the first year onwards, they've been helping me - sharing information about classes, going for lunch together, studying together, we've even gone on trips together. I couldn't be more blessed when it came to friends :3

Last year, four of them even visited Singapore! *happy dance*

Us at Gardens by the Bay
I was like yay, I get to bring them around! And feed them food ahaha, I think they enjoyed it. Hopefully.
Two of them actually came for my 21st birthday~ They were the judges, and for that, I'm really grateful!

Also, Google+ made me this funny GIF combining all three of them.

I may not post much or talk much about my friends, but it's not because they don't exist (see above photos for proof that I have at least 4 friends [I have more. I promise!]). I don't blog about them because I have no idea about how much of our friendship they want on the net, and to continually ask "do you mind if I blog about this" makes me feel like I'm just using them for the blog. Which is most definitely not the truth, so I prefer to keep stuff about them private.

I'll just say that two of them are currently studying overseas, and their absence is really noticeable. I can't wait for them to come back :D

Kyudai Year 3

You might notice that up to know, all the friends I've mentioned have been girls. Well... there's a reason for that. Actually, I have one guy friend I consider a pretty good friend, but he's in a different faculty and campus so... (Wait, there's another, but he's not Japanese)

And for some reason, it seems like they don't really talk to me much? It might be because I don't go to the kurakon's (class party), or that I'm scary (true story. I was called "scary" during an English class). Or maybe during that one kurakon I went to, well... it was awkward for reasons.

The bottom line is, I didn't have many guy friends until this year, ok. But all this changed because I entered zemi's that are mostly guys. And no pictures here, cause none of them know about this blog, so I didn't even ask.

I thought that this was going to be really tough and awkward and lonely, but so far, I've been proven wrong. While I'm not like, best friends buddy-buddy let's-have-lunch-together with the guys, the fact that I can chat freely in the LINE group, and in class, is good enough.

One time, I asked one zemi for help renting a video to watch (and write a report on) for the other zemi. While no one had the movie, one of them offered to go borrow it for me. And it wasn't an empty offer, he really borrowed the DVD for me. SAVED.

So yeah, that's about the level of friendship I have. And since we're going to be in the same class for two years (or for one year, for one of them), well, it's either going to get better, or just stay the same. Either way, I think we're off to a good start.

Part 2: Blending in (or not)

So, blending in. I'm not even sure if I blend in - it depends on how I feel each day. There are basically two levels: appearance and then there's actually blending in.

Appearance, well, as a Singaporean, I look sort of similar. At least, I thought so. Apparently, there's someone from my level living near my place, and we were at the station at the same time on a few occasions. I had thought that the guy was a year younger, but according to my zemi friend, the guy was from my year. And how did my zemi friend know? His friend asked him to check where the foreign student was staying, because he thought he saw her. OTL

So while I'm don't stand out as much as say, Simone or Mira or others, apparently, most people sort of know who I am. Even appearance-wise, I don't blend in as much as I hoped I did.

Speaking-wise, uh, any extended conversation is going to have me going "wait, there's this word. Uh, uh uh....". So yup, not blending in.

Conversation, well, I don't have the experience of growing up in Japan. Quite a few of my friends knew each other from high-school. I have no such history. There's not much I can say when they talk about their childhood, although comparing the differences between the two countries is always a good conversation topic. This term, we have a class about employment in Japan, and the teacher is basically talking about how females are very disadvantaged in the job-field. It basically makes me very demotivated to find a job in Japan, every single week for every single lesson. One day, I mentioned it to my friends, and was quite surprised when they told me not to take it too seriously. But then we talked about how it may be that because they grew up in Japan, they're used to it, and since I'm not, I react strongly.

So yeah, to answer the question, I'd say it's hard to blend in. And what makes it hard is that I have no shared history with them, and that Japanese is not my native language. But sometimes, I think it's good that I don't blend in.

Elvira, I hope I managed to answer your questions. Everyone else, I hope you enjoyed reading this. If there are any topics you want me to talk about, let me know, and I'd be happy to share my experience/thoughts (I'm not an expert, but I do have an opinion).

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Osaka U-Program (Guest Post by Devangi Yadav)

Hey everyone! As you know, I've been asking people to come and guest blog about your experience about MEXT. I mean, I'm only one person, and I only went to TUFS. And for all you people wondering about Osaka U, well, you should really be thankful to Devangi for guest blogging about the Osaka U-Program. 

She covers the dorm, the room (which automatically makes this more detailed, because my TUFS post was only the room, if I remember correctly), her schedule, and she drew a self-protrait!

And unlike what she said, she was not annoying at all. I'm really glad that she's my kouhai now. 

Devangi: Thank you so much for doing this, and I hope the rest of your MEXT life is equally fun! Ganbatte for the September exams!


Hello everyone!

My name is Devangi and I will do my Bachelors in Japan under the MEXT scholarship for Undergraduate studies, I started this year so I’m just at the beginning of my journey and I’d love to introduce you to the place where it started, in Osaka! For those of you who don’t know: the Undergraduate Program scholars are split into two groups, one goes to Tokyo University of Foreign Studies or TUFS (like Eustacia Senpai 3 years ago!) and the other group goes to ‘Center for Japanese Language and Culture’ (CJLC) in Osaka University, for their Language training.

So we are basically called the ‘U-Program’ students over here, you can find the basic information about our program in Osaka in the following link:

About U Program

Moving on, I’d like to share some pictures of my Dorm.

I know everyone says this before the share these pictures, (I'm looking at you Eustacia Senpai ) but viewer discretion is advised, the following pictures of my room are a bit messy! (There are a lot of pictures)

Common Facilities:

Each Floor has their own kitchen, laundry room and common seating area.

(Note from Eustacia: Devangi gave me this very nicely arranged word document, but Blogger won't let me put two picture next to each other without combining them into one image. So in case you get confused, images first, then explanation)

Kitchen! We share our Kitchen, but it’s pretty cool since we also eat together some times.

The Laundry Room and Our Mail Boxes

Elevator and the Common Table where we sometimes eat. (My Floor)

The Common Area of Dorm 2, A TV, Ping Pong Table ☺

Souvenirs from different parts of the world! Left by previous senpais. (That is in Dorm 1)

That is a picture of Dorm 2 and the one beside it shows a part of the Osaka University, Minoh Campus.

Dorm 1 has 4 floors for Boys and 1 for Girls, It has shared bathrooms. Dorm 2 is Girls only, and also private bathrooms!! ;)

Link to the street view of the Campus:

In front of the Dorms!

My Room!

It really is very messy so I'll use a sketch to show how it is.

Hope you get the Idea!

I am in the Natural Sciences – A Category so this is my schedule:

Btw if this crazy question popped up in your mind,

“Is this all in Japanese?”

- “Yes, it is.”

But don't worry, I didn't know any Japanese either. Yet, I am alive!

That is a random sketch of me!

It was really fun making this, because I enjoy it here a lot. So I wanted to give people something to look at while they waited for the loooong MEXT selection process to get done with (I annoyed Eustacia Senpai a lot and also stalked her blog day dreaming all the time ;))

It's going to be one of the best experiences of your life, I am not whining (yet) because the September Exams are still quite a few days away!

Best of Luck to everyone who applied for this!!

Thank you Eustacia senpai for allowing me to do this post!

 - Devangi Yadav 
Mext Undergrad 


I hope you enjoyed this really informative post. If you're a MEXT scholar and you have something you want to share (about application, your university, or your own take on TUFS/Osaka U/Kyushu U), please drop me a comment or an email. I'd love to feature more of your stories here! 

Friday, 12 June 2015

These Animals Should Not Be Here

In the past two days, I saw two animals that I don't think belong here.

Yesterday, I opened my door and saw this:

The consensus is that it's a crab, but what is a crab doing outside my house? I mean, there's a river, but it's quite far and you have to cross traffic. Yet it's not squashed.

And today, while walking through the campus, I came across this:

You may not be able to see it, but it's a snake. SNAKE. I didn't dare to go closer (though the bestie claims she would have gone up close). And now, the question:

"Why did the snake cross the road?"

"Because the girl refused to walk unless it went away."

And to give a short, school-related update, I had two presentations today! One was for a newspaper report (result: the teacher wants everyone to present in English from now on. I'm sorry). And the other was for Industrie 4.0. I posted for help a few days ago, and got some good recommendations, and now, we're narrowing down our field of study to Singapore. There is exactly one paper that mentions "Industry 4.0" and "Jurong Eco-Industrial Park" (the industrial area for Singapore), and one of my awesome friends is interning for that project!

As always, having two presentations stressed me so much that I ended up making this:

Oreo and Cheese truffles with white chocolate drizzled over it. It was actually a success (Oreo is going to be my new favourite ingredient at this rate), and I'm planning to make more to give my friend as a birthday present when I next see her on Tuesday.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

My First Flower Arranging Lesson

Hey everyone! The really busy two weeks are over, and I can't believe I said that. I have a presentation next week, but after two weeks of two or more presentations per week (or was it three weeks?), just one presentation seems fine. Even though, you know, I have a ton of research to do.

But enough grumbling, today, I wanted to share pictures of flowers! I was at Infini, and one of the classes today was on flower arrangement. But more like, how to arrange flowers for every day, not for fancy stuff. It's about making life seem that much more pleasant, by having flowers greet you at the door, and reflecting the season. The class also taught us how to pick flower shops and how to cut flowers and take care of them.

And there was how to mix colours, and to keep in mind where you place the flowers (is it a 180 degree view, or a 360 degree view).

Ok, ok, flower pictures! First, mine:

I've already forgotten the name of the leaves, but these round ones can be formed into a cone, and the roses placed inside. If the leaves are small, you can staple two together to form the cone. And when I wanted to cut off the stalks from the leaves, I was told not to, so they can get water too. (Must remember that these plants are living things too).

And according to the teacher, if you have this arrangement at a party you're hosting, you can just give each guest a rose when you leave. (I had extra roses though, so I placed them within the bouquet to fill the gaps)

The next four arrangements are by the other students!

I'm not sure why this picture is so yellow, but basically, this arrangement stands tall. The back leaves are stapled together, but the front most isn't. Flowers are sort of stacked according to height, if that makes sense.  Apparently, the leaves can last quite long, so you just need to change the flowers every few days (I think the leaves last a week or so?)

For this one, the leaves make up the bulk of the arrangement, and you don't need that many flowers. Still so pretty!

One of the ways we were taught to use the leaves is to use them as a sort of container. At first, I wondered what you can do with a plate, but it just goes to show what creativity can do.

This one is adorable, not least because it's in a teacup! It also uses leaves, rolled up, to help hold the flowers in place. It's so sweet!

And apart from this, the teacher also brought in a few arrangements. I didn't take pictures of all of them though ><

Apparently, these cups belong to the school. So just by stacking them and using a few flowers, she created this striking arrangement!

Another arrangement which uses leaves to hold the flowers in place. One more thing we were taught with regards to colour is to consider the colour of the vase/container. Plain is easier to match, and something simple (like the cups above), is better because you can stack them and combine them easily.

I love this last one! According to the teacher, these glasses are from the 100 yen store. And you can place cakes/sandwiches on the bottom plate. Or, you could put flowers on the lower two levels, and then put a floating candle, or fill the top glass with chocolate. I'd actually like to try this.

I don't know why, but I quite like this shot. 
Anyway, this picture is of the same arrangement, but it's for me to remember that the glass is slippery, so I should put a leaf at the bottom to make sure the flowers don't slip about. 

All the pictures are like inspiration for bringing flowers into the home. Of course, with me, I don't think I'll be buying bunches of flowers every week any time soon. Apart from the fear of dengue (thanks Singapore Anti-Dengue Campaigns), I'd rather spend the money on food or books. Or save it because it feels like I'll need to spend a lot on internships, which will be another post. When I can collect my thoughts. And that reminds me I need to start revving up the internship stuff too. 

Now that relaxed feeling from the afternoon is gone.

Back to looking at nice pictures of flowers. Then I'll try to study.