New Blog!

Hey there! I've decided to continue blogging at a different blog. The MEXT archives and some of my travel posts will remain here, but I'll be moving some stuff over. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Birthday Part II

I actually planned to post this yesterday, but my friend didn't upload the photos until today. In fact, she only uploaded the photos from school so far....

Alright, I was too tired yesterday, but I have more time and energy today (mind you, I spent today making mooncakes for tomorrow so....)

Anyway, even though my birthday was on Friday, it actually started on Thursday night, with a surprise party! I was partly surprised, since I guessed when Rena did her "try-to-be-natural" voice halfway through :D But Stella and Simone are awesome actresses (maybe it's a Kyuudo thing?)

The party was quite small (about 10 people), which is actually the optimal number. I probably would have been overwhelmed with any more people, and it's not a party if it's too small. The highlight of the party was when I received my present - a Hello Kitty costume.

Apart from putting it on straight away, I also wore it to school (I've been wearing weird things since I come to Japan). But it's an .... interesting way to celebrate my birthday. I took it off after lunch though, there's no way I'm wearing it until 5.30 p.m.

So we took the opportunity for a class photo. 

After that, it was Pepper Lunch (I love Pepper Lunch here, so delicious!) and walking around Kichijoji. We came back fairly late (around 9/10) and I spent time skyping my family before going to bed. It's a good thing that there's not Kendo practice today, because I really needed to sleep in. Too bad the baseball people woke me (and Rena) up early though. So I gave up and closed the window and turned on the air-con.

I'm really touched by this handmade card from Beckah in Australia 

And my parents sent me the cutest jewelry ever! 


Friday, 28 September 2012

It's my birthday!

Normally, I'd wait until I'm rested but I'm too excited! I turn 19 today! And because I'm 19, it means today is my Western and Chinese birthday! So I'm 19 twice over~

I celebrated with Disney last week, a really cool surprise party yesterday and Pepper lunch for dinner today. More details to come(:

For now, enjoy some pictures (of my dinner)

I love steak! (I can never be a vegetarian)

Birthday card from Moomin. Isn't it cute?
Watch out for part two, when I actually share what happened. For now, good night!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Sunset Today

Recently, the sunset around the school has been glorious. So beautiful. Such as today. Rena and I have an informal habit where we rush out to take photos when there's a wonderful sunset.

Seriously, how can you not rush out to take pictures of these?

And if you think this is all due to filters, here are the unfiltered versions:

It's really the gradient of orange and blue that I love:

But sadly, this means that it gets dark very early. The next photo was taken about fifteen minutes later, at 6.10 p.m.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tokyo Disneyland

I meant to blog about this yesterday, but I forgot (I was making macaroni and cheese). So anyway, on Saturday, I went to Tokyo Disneyland for the first time. This means that I've officially been to every Disneyland in the world!


While I love Hello Kitty, I love Disney more. How can't I? Disney is my childhood! (And if you didn't watch the classic Disney movies growing up, you had a deprived childhood. But it's ok, you can start now). So obviously, I love Disneyland. I love it so much I couldn't sleep the night before and I was up early on the day itself.

I went (as an early birthday present to myself), with Rena, Simone and Tomomi Senpai. It was really fun, but very crowded (imagine an average wait of two hours per ride). But since I was with such a fun group of people, I didn't really mind the wait. We talked about a range of random topic, most memorably, about "natural" photos (the definition, then trying them out). And we were learning Spanish too! (Tomomi Senpai's major is Spanish).

So without further ado, here are a selection of photos from Disney:

My ticket! Personally, I prefer the HK Disneyland Ticket. It's prettier. 


Peter Pan!

Team photo! We all bought the same shirt to match!

Jimmy Cricket :D 

Now this is a natural photo~

No matter what, you need a jump shot. 
Rena and I are planning to go back during the Christmas season (and go to DisneySea sometime). We didn't get to see the fireworks this time (I had Church the next day, and we have exams to prepare for), but we're definitely going to watch the Christmas parade and fireworks! (I wanna stay at the Disney hotel....)

Friday, 21 September 2012

With Loving Hearts and Joyous Song

To those who recognise the title, yes, this is the first line to the School Song for MGS (Methodist Girls' School). If you're wondering why, it's because yesterday, Stella and I decided to wear our MG uniform (we are both old girls) to school. Despite the fact that we're in a pre-university course and have graduated 3 years ago.

If you're wondering, no, neither of us brought our uniforms over. But you may consider this almost as "bad", because we got our parents to send them over to us.
You can totally tell who altered her school uniform. Although to be honest,
both of us had infractions that would have gotten us booked ;)
I'm not sure if I should be sad or happy that I still look the same as I did three years ago (which means I can pass for a secondary school student....)

And while our friends and teachers are fairly used to us appearing in a school uniform-ish outfit once a week, they were surprised to see us in an actual uniform. It did make for a very interesting day though. And somehow, quite a few of the other girls want to wear their uniform. Only it's either in their home countries and/or they already threw it away. But personally, I think it'll be awesome to have a day where everyone comes in their school uniform.

And of course, we wanted to express this emotion through wearing the uniform:

I love you MG.

Once an MG girl, always an MG girl.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Book Review: Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz

Previously, I talked about how Tell Lies for Fun and Profit taught me a bit about writing. Well, after that, I went to hunt down  more books about writing and found Writing Popular Fiction by Dean Koontz. And you know what? It taught me a lot about plot.

Basically, the book deals with category fiction, and then in each category, discusses the basic plot-types, plot pitfalls and things that are absolutely necessary to include if you want your book to sell. In fact, compared to Manual for Fiction Writers, Writing Popular Fiction is mercenary in terms of how it assumes that the whole point of writing (or being an author) is to sell something. 

The category fiction discussed in the book is: Science Fiction and Fantasy, Suspense, Mysteries, Gothic-Romance, Westerns and Erotica. If your future novel is going to be in any of the above categories, you should definitely take a look at this book. But anyway, there are quite a few chapters on writing in general, which make it worth looking at even if you don't think you are writing in any of these categories. 

My biggest takeaway from this book was that it made me realise that my NaNoWriMo novel is going to be very close to (if not actually) Science-Fiction. I don't have any new technologies or such, but I'm definitely writing a "In The Near Future" story. And from that section alone, I have a lot more things to consider about the background of the world I'm creating. I may not include all the information, but I have to consider them if I want my novel to feel realistic. 

Towards the end, some of the advice gets very dated, especially when he talks about submitting your manuscript (and typewriters). In the age of e-publishing, you can completely by-pass the traditional gatekeepers if you're so desperate to get your book out. Even if you want to be a traditional published author, I have a feeling that the submissions method/getting an agent process if different. But then again, I don't work in the publishing industry so I don't know. 

If you're stuck on plot, this is definitely the book to read! 

Monday, 17 September 2012

Attending another Piano Concert

I'm working on my next post for MindChicClub, and it reminded me that I haven't shared about the Piano Recital I attended last week. I really think that since I've arrived in Japan, I've been attending more classical concerts, thanks to the YWCA.

The concert itself was held on Sunday (I was rushing after Church), at this place that is one stop away from Shibuya. It's organised by the YWCA, so my okaasan was in charge of the tickets! But anyway, this concert was fantastic! I can't play well, but I love to listen to the music.

And is it just Japan, or do musicians everywhere explain the pieces they play before they actually play it? I didn't understand a lot, but it was cool hearing about the history of the song, the period of the time, and the link to the pianist's life. It's an added motivation to get better at Japanese.

I got to meet the pianist afterwards too! He's a really nice guy, and hopefully, I can attend his concert in December (I think he's having a concert in December).

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Happy Birthday Stella!

This is two days late, but Happy Birthday Stella! I'm super happy to tell everyone that we managed to pull of a surprise party. And I think I'm starting a tradition - making gui ling gao for everyone's birthday (everyone in my class anyway).

Although, I had problems getting Stella into the kitchen (I was supposed to get her there without any suspiciouns). Unfortunately, she saw Randy and bolted, thinking it was a prank. I had to drag her to the (suddenly dark) kitchen where she was pleasantly surprised (not pranked!).

 And this is Stella's present, that I got from BookOff ;) I know she likes manga, so I tried to get her titles I think she will enjoy.
And if you are wondering, these are the titles.

And now, on to some party pics!

 Instead of a cake, I got her Krispy Kreme donuts!
 The donut says "HAM", short for "Hamham", Stella's facebook name.
 And we (Mira and I), used the rest of the donut pen to write on Stella's arm :D
The girls of D Class!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block

As part of NaNoWriMo preparation (and just because I like reading and writing), I decided to read Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block, nevermind that I've never even heard of him before. And I realised that even if you've never her of this pulp fiction author, you should definitely read this book if you're interested in writing!

The book sounded boring at first. The first few chapters had stuff like "Setting your Sights" (about how to "discover your options as a writer"), "Studying the Market" (the "mechanics of market analysis") and so on. It sounded like a boring book that only had the aim of turning people into publishable writers. I'm so thankful I skipped the content page and summaries because I might have given up on the book.

Because from the first page onwards, the book is engaging and humorous. While it isn't one of those "follow your heart and everything will be ok", it does have emphasise on writing what you like. The difference is that book also insists that you have to know your strengths as a writer and then follow it.

In addition, the book also covers things like motivation (raising the very valid topic of Sunday Writers) as well as nitty gritty details like narrators and plot. Each chapter is fairly short but has a lot of content and entertainment value.

Speaking of Sunday Writers, the book spends a chapter discussing them. You see, in other arts, it's perfectly fine to carry it out as a hobby. You can be an ammateur painter, pianist (ok, maybe not pianist in Singapore), knitter, etc and not expect to make a living/acheive fame. But for some reason, if your hobby is writing, you have the urge to make as many people as possible read what you have wrote (and ideally, praise it).

I suppose that things like NaNoWriMo are there to just make writing fun. I was having a conversation with my friends and one of them was complaining about how it's going to be near impossible to reach the 50k word target recommended. And in one of my wittier moments, I replied "draw deep from the well of bs (bullshit)".

And you know what? That's true. Writing is fun because you can to write all sorts of things you'll never think of writing otherwise. Most of the time, the things we write are boring - reports and such (I mean, we do tend to stop writing fiction after we leave secondary school). So this is when we can indulge our over-active imaginations and write whatever we want.

That's the fun part, and well, we should be happy that we are writing. There's no need to get published/an agent.

Coming back to the book - I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more books by Lawrence Block

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

牛丼 (Gyuudon)

I actually decided not to post anymore pictures of food here, but I can't help myself! I'm way too proud of my 牛丼 (gyuudon - beef bowl). I decided to make it because it seemed simple, and because, actually, because it seemed simple. The beef was quite expensive though ):

And as an added bonus, I have managed to make the onions edible! (Ray, remember when I first came, and you told me in an email to learn how to make gyuudon so we can eat onions? I've done it! I'll make it for you when I get back~)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Introduction

Hey! How many of you have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? Well, it's originally from the States (if I'm right), but now, it's world-wide! Basically, it takes place two months from now, for the whole month of November. The goal is to write a novel (which is supposed to be 50 000 words) in that one month.

It may seem like a crazy thing to do during aki-gaki (the most punishing semester), but hey, it's as good a time as any. I'll probably be able to find excuses every year. So this year, I've gathered three other friends (maybe I'll get more by November), and we're going to encourage each other.

So, take a invisible bow: Rachel, Nic and Becks! Somehow, I'm not surprised that we're doing this together(: (And next year, maybe Grace can join us too. She'll probably blow all our socks out of the water though).

It's the first time for most of us, although Rachel (Ray, I'm calling her Ray from now on) has done this before. It's a bit daunting really.

So, in the two months leading up to NaNoWriMo, I'll be thinking about my characters and plot (I somehow managed to create a plot outline), and reading books about writing. I'll share the books with you guys, of course!

By the way, if you're wondering what a writing event is doing on a blog about Japan instead of the book blog, that's because this is my personal blog, and NaNoWriMo is a personal thing for me.

Does anyone else want to join me? We could add you into our skype group!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

明鏡大会 (Meikyou Taikai)

Today is the second day of school! But honestly, I'm still not used to going for lessons (and I miss going for kendo - I have to miss practice because they're at 10 AM :/ ) But the very day before school start, my Kendo club hosted the 明鏡大会 (Meikyou Taikai)

So the day before (to be accurate, the week before), we were preparing for the whole Taikai. Things like doing the calligraphy for banner, moving chairs and tables, getting the materials we need and preparing the court. We're a really small club, so it was a really good thing that another university's (I forgot the name) kendo club came to help out on Saturday.

On Sunday, Rena and I (Simone wasn't there, she was at Kyuudo Gashukku) arrived at 7.45. Which means I woke up at 6.30 O...TL Then again, after I finished breakfast, I went back to sleep from 6.40 to 7.10. Still, I was sleepy the whole day.

Our duties were mainly in the morning. I was assigned to the judges room (to serve tea and snacks), while Rena was assigned to the directors room. Oddly enough, Rena had nothing to do while I was kept busy. And since the sensei came to my room, I had Kouda-kun to talk too! As a contrast, Rena was stuck in a room full of people she didn't know. I had that too, but there were also senpai's and fellow first-year.

During the taikai itself, we were just filming the different matches. It's a good thing we had our hand phones, because we were reading from them a lot. Rena and I learnt that we are neither morning nor night people (so I guess we're sleeping people). And I introduced her to Psychology Today. :D

Lunch was... interesting. Rena, if you're reading this, DON'T WORRY, I WON'T TELL. HAHAHAHAHA. (If you whatsapp me though, I'll be happy to tell you :p)

The most interesting thing that happened was that we had a two-hour plus power outage at the end (did I mention it was raining really heavily throughout the day? So, we had to do things like lug heavy tables up four flights of stairs (the elevator being useless) while being dressed like this:

Yes, like OLs (Office Ladies). I really don't like wearing suits in the first place (unlike Rena - see who's gonna be a professional when she grows up?), but wearing a suit in the rain while lugging things? I wish I could say the power outage made the task more fun, but it was just darker. I woke up the next day aching all over.

Well, it did get really fun at the end, when even the reserve electricity gave up. It was around 7 then, which in Japan means it's dark. Very dark. Rena's biggest weakness is the dark, so we had fun screaming. I spent the time we were climbing up the stairs wondering about whether our school was built on a cemetery, mentioning the name Sadako a few times and singing the last line from Cappricio Farce. And then, when we got to the fifth floor, I started chasing her.

The fact that we made our senpai laugh proves that when Simone is away, Rena and Eustacia becomes the new gag team.

And since we spent 12 hours there, Rena and I left as soon as we could. But not before taking a commemorative photo:

Actually, we are more tired than we look.

And at the end of the day, well, I can honestly say that only two bad things occurred:

a. My umbrella got stolen.
b. My only pair of court-shoes broke (so I have to get a new pair before the next taikai).

They were a good pair of shoes. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Kendo Milestone~

I thought today would be a fairly ordinary day (except for having to stay back and prepare for the Taikai tomorrow), but practice was very different from what I expected!

Hosokawa sensei (the kantoku) was here today, and he announced that the four newbies who have put on the bougu would participate in a practice match today. To be honest, I was very shocked when I heard this, because I have no idea how to fight. I don't know how to points are scored or how to score them. So basically, I was winging it.

Well, I wasn't so much winging it as getting thoroughly defeated. Sensei paired me with another foreign student, who was way stronger than me. So basically, he blocked all the hits I tried to make, and I got hit a lot. Naturally, I lost the match.

After that, we got to train one-on-one with the kantoku. I was actually pushing my limit, but I didn't want to keep having to sit out of practice. Thankfully, it wasn't very long, and the advice Lars-senpai first gave us was true. Somehow, screaming does give you strength. Now, I have to remember to actually scream during the match (and try to hit more).

Tomorrow's the taikai hosted by TUFS! I'm just serving tea and such, but I still have to wear a suit :/ Oh well, I'm sure it'll be interesting. And I'll definitely tell you guys how it went(:

I realised I never did show you guys the wonderful picture my cousin (Elena Yeo) did
for the kendo team. If you love her pictures, you can go to her website here.