Thursday, 31 October 2013

Book Review: Precarious Japan by Anne Allison

The only reason that I didn't burst into tears while reading this book is because of extreme self-control. And considering this is a non-fiction book, that is definitely a huge statement that I'm making about this book. If you need me to write it down, here it is: this book is that moving that it will make you want to cry. Repeatedly. It will rip your heart out and make you feel guilt for taking money from the Japanese government.

For such a gut-wrenching book, the subject matter is curiously simple. Japan is balanced on the edge - i.e. it's in a precarious position. The book aims to explore the ways that Japanese people experience instability in their lives, and how it's affecting Japanese society.

To be honest, this book was a real eye-opener. All, if not most, of my friends are 'normal'. Normal in the sense that their families are stable and that they have hopes and dreams that are quite conventional. But after reading this book, I can't help thinking that this version of typical may not be so typical after all.

I mean, if we think about it, we're so privileged to be given money to study and live here. When you read of people who can't even get married because they don't have enough money, I don't know, my heart broke. And if you love your family, well, reading about Japan's aging society and how some elderly have resorted to renting a family just to fill their emotional needs, I wanted to run out and start helping. It reminds me of the poor in one-room flats in Singapore. I used to volunteer at an organisation that helps them, and every time I saw their flats, I'd want to cry.

The only thing that annoyed me was the overuse of romaji (but I also do that on this blog, so I guess I'm guilty of the same thing). Plus, I think some of them were written wrongly. But the main problem was that it interrupted the flow and I started trying to mentally soundout the words in my mind.

Read this book. I mean it. Read it, and realise how lucky you are. Then next time, when a volunteer opportunity (or really just an opportunity to help someone) comes up, grab it. Or even if it doesn't come up, remember to call your family and tell them how much you love them.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

P.s. If you want to read more of my book reviews, head over to my other blog - Inside the mind of a Bibliophile!

Pssst, if you want to buy this book and support me at the same time, do click this affliate link to buy from Amazon. I get a small cut, but you don't get a price increase. Buy "Precarious Japan" from Amazon.com

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Happiness is .... (#6)

Getting a free yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato)

It's the one at the top. Look at how large it is!
As you can tell from my first Happiness is.... post, I really like roasted sweet potato (and food in general). So when I got a free yaki-imo from the yaki-imo guy today, I was over the moon! Apart from getting free samples every time I buy some, I'm apparently enough of a regular customer to get more!

Also, yaki-imo is delicious when turned into ice-cream.

Happiness is..... is a mini-series I do on this blog to document the smalls things in life that I'm thankful for. There are probably a lot that I missed, but these are the ones that caught my attention. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

On Homesickness (A Rant)

You know, I can't remember if I've written about this before

*Goes to check archives*

Ok nope. And I'm pretty emotional now, so I'll be talking to myself (or to an imaginary interviewer, if that makes me sound saner) so that you can make sense of what's going on.

So why am I writing this? 

Well, lately, it seems as though one of my homesick (or to be accurate, gaidai-sick) friend has decided that I'm the perfect person to talk to. And while I try to be cheerful and sympathetic, I think it's sort of affected me, and I want to talk about a little bit about homesickness.

Are you sure you've ever been homesick? You're blog is too cheery! 

I'm actually the type to make the best of things. To my mom, I'm never homesick, because while my sister would text her at 2 in the morning to say "I miss home", I've never done that. To me, if I can't sleep at two from the homesickness, there's no way I'll be able to get up for school the next day. I'll call/text during business/waking hours kthxbai.

Which is another way of saying that I'm slightly more practical when I do get homesick. I try not to make a huge fuss of it (I admit, I fail sometimes. You can ask Rena about when I called her because I couldn't stand being lonely). When I do get homesick, I try to fill my days with activities and plans. If I force myself out of the house, I tend to feel happier after it.

So... Homesickness is bad? ):

No! I'm not saying that homesickness is bad. In fact, I want everyone to know that it's possible to feel homesick even when everything is going well. It's possible to feel lonely even though you have tons of awesome friends. It doesn't mean you don't have friends, it means that you miss your friends back home. It's possible to feel like you're out of your depth even if your classes are going well and you don't seem like you'll fail anything. It's normal - we're learning in a new country, in a new style, in a new language.

What makes you homesick then? 

For me, homesickness is triggered by really really tiny moments. My most recent bout of homsickness stems from the fact that I couldn't find the knitting needles I brought with me from Singapore. I'm ready to cry over something I can order online. Think about that for a while. Although thinking about it, I'm actually worried because my grandma's not feeling so good. So I suppose the needle thing is just the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Another trigger is when I think about my friends. You see, one of the strange things that I miss/get homesick about is the lack of guy friends here ('here' meaning Kyushu University). I don't know why, but most of my good friends here are girls, and yes, I know I was in and all girls school for the first 10 years of my schooling years, but I was the minority in AC! And the only girl in the robotics club. I mean, when I think about it, most of the friends I met in Singapore were guys.... (ok, this may be partly because the guys are stuck in Singapore during NS).

But still, I miss have guy friends that I can randomly sms things like "A little kid asked me who I was going to marry. I was like, I'm only 20 then I remembered that Elizabeth Bennet was only 19 when she married Mr Darcy" and not feel strange about it. (If you're one of my awesome friends, you know that I lurve you all <3)

Oh yeah, and the above text? I really did send it. To a few my friends and my cousins. One of my friends went "yeah, we're old. But tell them you're marrying a prince!" (my BFF Raychely, who also happens to be the only girl I sent this too). My other (guy) friends went "yup, that's random [admittedly, I prefaced it with a 'random message of the day' thing]" and "Hahahahaha, why?". For not freaking out, I give them imaginary stickers for awesomeness (I know at least one of the two of you read my blog! So here *sticks random sticker on your forehead*)

My cousins sent a random string of LINE stickers.

And let's not get started about food. It will end up with me wishing I learnt how to cook in Singapore.

Ok, enough. What are you going to do now? 

I'm going to make myself go for Kendo. I'll feel better once practice is over, and trust me, I really need a good night's rest.

Also, if I annoy you with text messages, please tell me. I know everyone has their own busy lives, so yeah, sometimes I randomly stop texting people cause I feel bad about annoying them.

My incredibly awesome cousins and siblings and I.
I wish I had a friends and family photo to post but....
(I shall do that next year, on my 21st birthday!) 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Cream Puff and Eclairs Recipe

At long last, I've typed out the recipe for Cream Puffs and Eclairs. This is for +Micha Fire, who requested it (although I'm guessing +Carrie Canup and +Dirk Reul will be interested in this too)

Makes about 10 3-4cm cream puffs and 10 10cm eclairs

Cream Puffs/Eclairs

Ingredients
Unsalted butter - 55g
Milk - 60ml
Water - 60ml (Note: If you want to substitute the milk with water, that's fine too)
A pinch of salt
Cake flour - 70g
Eggs - 3

Instructions
1. Add the water, milk, butter and salt in a bot and heat it till it boils.
2. Remove from heat and add the flour
3. Heat with a strong flame
4. Put it in a food processor and mix in the eggs
5. Pipe it out (works best with a 1cm nozzle). For eclairs, pipe out long lines, and circles for the cream puffs (ok, this may be a bit too obvious). Place the cookie dough on it and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes or 150 degrees Celsius for 7 minutes.

Cookie Topping (for Cream Puffs)
Cream puff with cookie topping

Ingredients
Unsalted Butter - 30g
Granular Sugar - 30g
Cake flour - 30g

Instructions
1. Mix the butter and sugar
2. Add in the flour.
3. Roll the dough to a 2mm thick sheet and cut out circles of about 3cm in diameter.
4. Lightly place the cookie on the cream puff before it goes in the oven.

Custard Filling (for the cream puff)



Ingredients
Cake Flour - 16g
Granular Sugar - 40g
Milk - 250g
Egg Yolks - 3
Vanilla Essence

Instructions
1. Sift the flour and granular sugar together. Open a hole and add in a part of the milk. Add in the egg yolks and mix.
2. Heat the remaining milk and add it to (1)
3. Return everything to the pot and boil it under a strong fire.

Cream Filling (For the eclair)
Now that I think about it, it might taste really good if there's
and additional layer of dark chocolate on top.

Ingredients
Cake Flour - 16g
Granular Sugar - 40g
Egg yolks - 2
Milk - 200cc

Instructions
Make it in the same manner as the custard filling for cream puffs, and then add in the caramel cream (recipe below)

Caramel Cream
Ingredients
Granular Sugar - 50g
Water - 20cc
Raw Cream - 50cc

Instructions
1. Add the sugar and water in a pot and make caramel.
2. Mix in the warmed cream.

Tada


I shall do my best to translate more of the recipes I have (as well as sign up for more classes(; )

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Typhoon, Lessons and Others

For the record, I really really do have blog posts that I want to share. Like the second part of my Tokyo Trip, my Yonanas Maker (that I just got), and a bit more. But, lessons have been so hectic recently.

To make this post a little less disorganised, I'll be talking about what's been going on lately (personal stuff, blah blah blah, if you're only looking for MEXT/Uni info, feel free to skip), and then about the Autumn Term in Kyushu University.

What's going on Eustacia? You've hardly been posting? 

Yes, I know. And I'm so sorry. But you see, even though I arranged my class schedules so that I have Monday off, I'm taking 16 classes in the other four days. So basically, on average, 4 out of the 5 period school day is filled from Tuesday to Friday, and I'm in school from 8.40 (normally earlier) to 6.10. Or as I tell my friend, I'm alive on Tuesdays, but from Thursdays to Fridays, I'm 死んでいる (shinde iru - dead). I've even mixed up the days of the week. TWICE.

I'm not sure how I'll survive NaNoWriMo this year. And oh yeah, I have to edit An Excuse For Company in a little less than a week (that I'm looking forward too though).

So, although I'll try my best to post, I might be limited to one post a week, unless I get super productive during the three day weekend and not only finish my schoolwork but write two blog posts so that I can post one on Wednesday or something. If you really love/need the stuff I share, can I encourage you to follow me on Google+? It's much easier for me to write a short post and share it on Google+ using my iPad than to go onto blogger. Plus, I do post pictures and stuff (on Wednesday! As part of the WordlessonWednesday meme!)

Like this photo! 
But if you really want more posts, why don't you write a guest post? You can write about anything related to MEXT/Japan (I really really want to hear the experiences of the kouhai's too!).

Last but not least, you may have been aware that Japan has been hit by two typhoons recently (and it looks like a third is coming). While I wasn't that affected by the much worse typhoon, I did get to experience Typhoon Danas. (Link leads to MindChicClub, one of the sites I blog for).

九州大学後期 (Second Term at Kyushu University)

As you may know, I didn't really think much about my GPA when I picked my classes at first. Thankfully, I got pretty decent grades and didn't fail anything (I really, really thought I was going to fail Psychology).

So this term, I used a little more strategic planning. And by strategic planning, I mean that for my science classes, my friends and I were exchanging info about which classes were easy to pass. And that I went to the syllabus website for Kyudai so often that once I type in 'S' on my iPad, it auto-fills itself.

But, I'm still taking quite a few classes that I like (I have principals - my classes must be those I like, and those that I can probably pass). One of them would be Technology Marketing II (in English), which is awesome because it looks way fun. We get to try a software/simulation game! And from that class, I realised that one thing about Kyudai is that we have an entrepreneurship program called QREC (I didn't know about this when I came), and not only are the classes interesting (I'm definitely going to take more classes from here if it's not too late!), most of the teachers come from Industry, which means that they have experience in the real working world (i.e. they didn't spend their whole careers in a university). Here's the link to the QREC website if you're interested (it's in Japanese, but there is an option for English)

Another class that I'm taking is called 外国語プレゼンテーション (gaikokugo purezente-shion: Presentation in a foreign language), which is really fun so far. Okay, that may be because I've also made new friends. But it's also because the teacher gives us interesting activities to do (or the fact that there are activities to do). I wanted to present in either English or Chinese, but since which language is my mother tongue (母国語 bokokugo) is rather 微妙 (bimyou - it means tricky, but it's another way of saying no one really knows) because I was taught in English, but in Singapore, my "mother tongue" lessons were Chinese classes - and the language I speak depends on the person I'm speaking to anyway), I'll be presenting in Japanese. That was a long sentence to say "I'm presenting in Japanese".

And it's because of classes like these that I'm not going back early. They're all either 4th or 5th period classes (or 4th and 5th period classes), so I figured I'd rather stay late and study what I enjoy than to go back early.

Oh, and I'm continuing Ancient Greek (Latin is clashing with Technology Marketing II, so I'll take that again next year).

Doesn't it look cool? This was my homework last term. 

If you've been reading this post to get a feel of how classes are, I hope I've managed to introduce some interesting classes to you!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Happiness Is ... (#5)


Finding a Takoyaki van outside your house and realising that the season for roving vans selling warm food has started.

I'm so getting fat(:

Happiness is..... is a mini-series I do on this blog to document the smalls things in life that I'm thankful for. There are probably a lot that I missed, but these are the ones that caught my attention. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Autumn Term has Started!

So, school has started and a bunch of stuff occurred. I'm so glad that school started on a Wednesday instead of a Monday (I'm so tired as it is).


Other interesting things that happened:

One of my classmates realised that I'm here to stay for the four years, and no, I am not an exchange student.

When I was practicing English with my friends, one of their seniors came. So when he heard me speak Japanese, he got a shock.

The clouds looked really pretty - like staircases. Although apparently it may also be 地震雲 (jishingumo - earthquake clouds), which herald an earthquake (I hope not!)

The sun is setting earlier too (that I don't like)