Wednesday, 30 November 2011

An alien in Japan

My previous blogs have never been about travelling but this time, I just can't resist myself... I want to write about my travelling to Japan.

I am writing in the kitchen of my sister's house in Chiba over a cup of coffee with baked sweet potato breakfast. This is my second time here, the first trip earlier this year disrupted by tsunami thus less enjoyable.

I am here to be with my sister who just gave birth to a baby girl, Maya Murakami, three weeks ago. I am supposed to take turns with my mother in assisting her with housekeeping, cooking, baby sitting and keeping her sane during the first one month after delivery. Malaysians would call me the confinement lady, Indonesians would call me Inem and the Japanese would call me the lovely sister...

Since I am here on a mission, not for sight seeing, I practically spend my days at home or at grocery shops. We live in the outskirt of Tokyo so I rarely see any foreigners or anyone who can speak English. Although I had Japanese language for 2 years during my high school, I lost them all. I am dumb and mute in Japanese now and I accidently left my Japanese phrase book in KL. So, my first trip to grocery shop made me nervous.

I love grocery shopping in foreign countries. I enjoy looking at the fruits, vegetables, meats, dried goods, and other things that I can't find at home. Everything here is pre-packaged and labeled. I can't find any weighting machine there. Onions, spinach, gingers, fish, fruits are all cleaned and wrapped, so I can just grab and go. All beef is boneless, sliced thinly and has light pink colour due to the high grade of fat marbling. Chicken is cut into parts and mostly boneless. I can't find whole chicken. The only chicken part with bones is chicken wing thus it's quite impossible for me to make tasty chicken broth. I had to settle with ready-made chicken or beef stock.

When I approached the cashier, I got panic... She mutterred something in Japanese and I couldn't understand. I told her, "Nihon go wakarimasen." meaning I don't understand Japanese. But she keeps on talking until I paid, took my change and the goods that I bought. When I told my sister about this, she asked me to ignore it. She said all cashiers mutter some welcoming sentences and have standard questions that need answer yes or no. If I ignore it, it means no. she also needs to tell the price of each item when it's scanned thus making her talking non-stop. That's a new experience for me compared to the Malaysian cashiers who do not even look at me, keep her lips tight throughout the scanning, paying and putting the goods into bags.

As a muslim, eating out is very difficult. Tokyo has few halal restaurants serving mostly Indian food. I can't find any halal restaurant in our area except for sushi shops. Sushi here is more expensive than it is back home and I can't eat sushi all the time. I don't want to go back to KL with scales and gills. Most of Japanese foods have pork elements in them, from ramen to bento to curry to instant noodles. Yes, we can get shrimp and vegetable tempura but to eat that everytime we eat out is like putting more oil into my already oily scalp... yuuucckk.!!

I use buses and trains everywhere. They arrive on time up to the minutes. There was time when I waited for a bus that should arrive at 8.24pm and the bus didn't arrive at 8.25. I began to panic thinking I must have stood at the wrong station. Then when the bus arrived at 8.26, the driver apologized again and again and again...

I notice that nobody travels in group. Everyone gets on and off the buses and trains alone. Nobody talks, eats, chats, laughs, giggles or even whispers in buses and trains. Everyone is either reading, sleeping, texting or playing with psp, oblivious of the surrounding. I am amazed on how those who are sleeping on a train can wake up just in time at the designated stations. I think even the biological clock of Japanese bodies are fully tuned to be on time.

Everything is done following procedures and rules, accurately...

I don't know how long I can last in Japan until someone reports me to the immigration and deports me. I love whole chicken, with bones, head and feet. My brother-in-law will faint if he finds some chicken feet stew on the diner table. I am a self-confessed foodie in KL but here, i stare at restaurant menus, don't know what to order.. I am not always on time... I have missed few buses by few seconds. I am a rule breaker, jay walking near traffic lights. I chat, laugh and giggle in trains and buses with my mom and sister.

I am really an alien here... A happy and legal one.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Whose fault is it?

Mornings drive me crazy... I savor the extra 3 minutes snooze of the alarm clock. It goes off like 5-6 times until I m fully up. Then I rush preparing my eldest for school, making breakfast, having my coffee, showering, preparing my youngest for school, sending her to school and buying groceries. When I get home, most of the time I am still not awake...! I am just a slow starter in the morning...

Becrause of my slow motion in the morning, sometimes my youngest arrives in school late. I feel guilty about that and try my best to be faster in the morning, to let go my 3-minute snooze, and to have stronger coffee.. But nevertheless sometimes she still comes late to school, not only caused by my slow motion but unexpected traffic jam, can't find parking spot, sudden stomach ache, bring wrong bag so have to turn around, forget to bring her book, my bad hair day, etc etc

When those things happens, she usually doesn't care because her kindergarten teacher doesn't scold her. But last week, when we were late, she asked me,"whose fault is it that we are late?" "Is it your fault or my fault?"

I was taken back by her questions. I didn't like the sound of her voice and definitely I didn't like the fact that she is trying to find who to blame, which was me of course..(i couldn't let go my 3-minute snooze).

Long time ago in one of the management classes, i learned to find "what is wrong" when something unpleasant happens, not so much of "whose fault is it". I tried to practice it in my work life as well as my personal life. It was frustating because very often my instinct told me to ask "whose faults". We love to find someone to blame. It gives us a feeling of being better or even smarter.

While it is ok to ask who did the wrong thing to find out what happened so we can correct the mistakes, very so often we stop at that point and concentrate on blaming, scolding, or even hitting the person until he/she looks like an oxymoron surrounded by einsteins. We forget on correcting the mistakes. What we usually do after that is telling other people that the disaster was caused by an oxymoron who deserves nothing but a severe punishment. Then people start talking like they are the smarter ones who never make mistakes.

Usually in that situation I would interrupt and try to get people start finding solutions to the problem and leave the oxymoron alone so he/she can open the window and jump from the building and go crying on his/her mommy's shoulder.

But when I do that, people think I am being a defence attorney of that oxymoron and start talking to me as if I were the one who created the whole disaster or part of the disaster makers.

Because of that, I started to be quiet when things go bad. I would just listen and only react when people ask me for help. I know it's wrong and I do feel bad about it. But there are times that I just want to be selfish and mind my own business. I just play safe even if it makes me look more stupid than an oxymoron. At least I don't need to deal with loud accusing voices that can break my eardrums. We all know how expensive and uncomfortable it is to have a broken eardrum fixed, right? Just not worthed.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Pillow talks and partner in crime

I love spicy food...
She can't even stand the tiniest chilli powder on her food

I only drink ice water after meal and I drink lots of it
She hates drinking water, only tea and coffee will do

I shop only when I need something
She can find lots of excuses to buy everything on impulse

I enjoy cooking
She doesn't even know the difference between stir-fry and deep-fry

I dread going to gym and do anything that makes me sweat
She is an exercise junkie... She can go to gym twice a day

I am hopeless in throwing parties
She can't live without hosting breakfasts, lunches, teas or dinners less than once a week

I dress up and put on make up only when I have to
She follows the latest fashion trend and can't go out from her house without her eye-liner and lipstick

I love working with numbers
Numbers give her headache

I am obsessed with food
She eats only to avoid starvation.. If pills can make her live healthily without food, she would probably have boxes of those pills and not a single grain of rice in her pantry.

We are so very different, yet we are so connected.

We don't see each other often. For some... not even once a year. But when we meet again, it's like we were never separated. Facebook has made it even easier for us to update each other.

I am so blessed to have my BFFs... All of them are so different from me yet we can understand each other completely.. No explanation needed...

I used to think that friends click because they share the same hobbies, same passions, same social status, or even same taste of clothes/food/boyfriend.

But when I think about my friends... Most of them are different from me... Our differences actually complement each other and make the friendship more interesting.

In this world, people tend to stick to "their own kind". They group themselves based on the same race, same religion, same social status, same skin color, or some other silly things. I believe that no matter how different one person to each other is, everyone can still get along fine when he/she stop thinking that his/her race, religion, skin color, or social status are superior than others.

I thank Allah swt for blessing me with different types of friends who have been my shoulders to cry on, my partners in crime, my personal drivers, my party mates, my body guards, my pillow talks, and my food tasters for the past 20-30 years of my life. If they have the same personalities with me, nobody would have forced me to exercise, reminded me to put on make up for my husband, stopped me when I keep on eating and eating, and saved me from wearing the same old clothes over and over again til the point of embarrassment.

Let's embrace diversity and live the world in full colors.


PS : My dear friends who read this blog, you know which one is you.. ;) Miss you and love you all....