“Can you cook curry?” and other stories.

It would really be an understatement to say that I originate from a foodie’s paradise. You want it, we got it.

So, when the Singapore JETs were leaving for Japan, many were exchanging recipies and carrying a whole lot of ingredients and spices and lamenting how much they’d be missing the Chicken Rice and Mee Goreng.

For me though, I felt a huge disconnect. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home food just as much as the next person…but I’m a lot less sentimental. As I left Singapore, I never once thought “Damn I’m gonna miss the food”. At most it was a “Damn, I’m gonna have to cook for myself!” I occasionally wonder if there are people who can relate with this (I’m sure there are…I mean, the world is huge).

I came to accept very early on that I was far from being the cook that my mom and grandmother are. So I’d make pasta or bake or find stuff online and try it out…or on some occasions, improvise stuff up. And it’s not like I make BAD food…but I’m far from knowing complicated recipies that take 2 days to prepare, at the tip of my fingers. I’m even further from being able to host parties and prepare everything from scratch. That’s the kind of mom and grandmother I grew up with and I have a HUGE amount of love and respect for these 2 women…but what they do requires SO much time, patience, energy and practice.

The summer before I first arrived in Japan, I actually visited India for a bit and tried to learn how to make some decent Indian food…and I did! I could make Chappatis and a decent Channa Masala (I actually talked about this in a previous post somewhere)…and then I forgot how to make it. :/  I know how this makes me sound like a terrible representative of my own culture, etc…I’ve been chastised enough (being a woman has NOT been helpful in this case)…but just hear me out on this.

Can you make curry?
I’ve lost count the number of times people ask me if I can make curry. What curry? Cuz if you mean the Japanese type that requires me to plop the roux on my veggies, I’m amazing at it. Indian curry tho…I can MAAAYBE manage 2 or 3 out of the HUNDREDS that exist. Indian food is complicated. Till maybe last month, I had no idea you could add cashewnuts into curry and blend it all into a smooth paste. I’d watched mom do it…vaguely…but never really registered it.

There’s a whole world of spices and curry powders. Depending on what is added and when it’s added and the amount added, the resulting curry would be completely different. So can you really blame me for forgetting? I’ve made enough bad curries to be weary of curry making. I miss one step, and suddenly I’m stuck with a watery, overly-spicy, meh-looking…mix of things in a pot. And while I’m all for learning from my failures, it’s also incredibly draining and time-consuming.

Mind: All that cooking’s fine and well, till the cleaning part happens.

If you read my other posts, you’d know that my schedule is just insane. This means, any kind of cooking leads to piled up pots and pans in the sink for a WEEK. Indian cooking requires a lot more than one pot. So the washing and smells add up. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

What Singaporean food do you miss?
And don’t get me started on what I miss about Singaporean food. Because, honestly, the thing I miss the most is the availability of GOOD vegetarian salads, sandwich, wraps and soups. A good salad, sandwich, wrap or soup should be a filling and satisfying meal. A good mix of fresh crunchy vegetables with some tofu or veg patty, topped off with a good dressing….mmm. That or a hot bowl of soup with some bread on the side on a rainy day.  Being vegetarian in Japan isn’t impossible, but it definately decreases all my sammich-on-the-go options.

I’m unsure about the rest of Japan, but where I’ve been posted, there are no vegetarian sandwich options in the conveniences stores  and Starbucks is a hit or miss thing depending on the seasonal offerings. We have Doutor which makes fresh sandwiches but I need to tell them not to put in the non-veg stuff and still pay the same price with no extra veggies to compensate the lack of non-veg.

I want to make it very clear that I’m not complaining when I say all this. I knew what I was getting myself into when I came to Japan. But the point I’m trying to make (long winded as it may be) is that I miss my sandwiches more than any particular Singaporean food and I have problems articulating that to people (both Singaporean and non-Singaporean) because of the reactions I get to that statement. It makes me look like a terrible cultural embassador of both my country AND my culture.

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WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LIKE ABOUT A SOY PATTY BURGER?!?

 

What should I eat in Singapore?
And then the famous: What should I eat if I go to Singapore?
I really struggle on this one because truth be told, it’s everything. You can’t possibly understand Singaporean food culture by eating JUST roti prata or laksa. Singapore is complex because of it’s roots in trade and it’s diverse population of about 5.5million people.

How to answer liddat?
(Singaporean English for: How am I to answer in a situation like that?)
I’ve dealt with this by telling people to visit food courts or hawker centers in Singapore. That’s where they’re going to find all that diversity at very cheap prices. I try to explain why it’s not as easy as telling a foreigner in Japan to eat Sushi. So far, the response to that answer has been good.

But, I mean, I TRY…

I can’t however be accused of not trying. I have a lot of love for a South-East Asian flavoring called Pandan. It’s a type of leaf that’s boiled for its’ essence and the essence/extract is added to cakes, jellies, jams, etc. The taste is really unique and whenever people ask me if I want/need anything from Singapore, I usually ask for Pandan essence.

So, recently, when my school asked me to appear on a TV programme in collaboration with the broadcasting club, I was all for it. They asked me if I could do anything “Singaporean”…so I offered to show them how to make Pandan Agar Agar Jelly. Litterally, it’s the ONLY Singaporean dish I can make with confidence because of how easy it is…and it has Pandan.

I’ll add the link in here so you can take a look, but it’s all in Japanese and you’ll have to skip a bunch of other stuff to see me make the jelly (or you could just watch the whole thing!):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBbctAZZMEc

So…
There’s so much pressure to live up to your culture or country’s image…people always want to know about Singapore and Indian food culture. But, as harsh as this sounds, it feels very performative for me. Performative because, in that instant, I’m being expected to be a role-model Singaporean-Indian. In that instant, I’m being expected to be a cultural showcase of food even if there’s no ill-intention behind the questions.

I stand on a fine balance. I don’t want to be rude and tell people that all I need/want in life is some good tea and some sandwich/salad/soup/thing. At the same time, I don’t want to be the Singapore Tourism Board. I don’t enjoy giving model answers that I don’t believe in. So I give lengthy answers that satisfy both parties. I talk about the culture behind the diverse food culture I come from and explain why it’s so hard for me to give travel guide answers to them.

For most part, it’s been good.

 

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Inward Bound, #amazingtoyama

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Credits: Airika Takeguchi, Amaharashi Beach

So, with ALT placements coming out, I thought a Toyama post would be good!
Japan’s an amazing place. Everywhere, there’s something. Well almost everywhere…

If you read some of my earliest blogs, you’d know that I was COMPLETELY clueless when I was first placed in Toyama. One of the first things I reacall reading was of how Toyama was the home to YKK, the zipper company. At that time, zippers did not sound all that exciting to me, and I WAS quite nervous as to what Toyama would have for me. As it turns out YKK is the world’s LARGEST zipper manufacturer! I’m really looking forward to visiting their factory one day.

Luckily, Toyama also has a lot more than just great zippers and I’ll be compiling a non-exhaustive list of things to see and do around Toyama. Even as I publish this, I know there’re a lot of spots that I’ve missed…but I’ll keep updating this one.

I cannot express in words, the wonder I felt when I first came to Toyama. The towering mountains. The vast blue sky. The train tracks that wound on endlessly like a Ghibli movie. Toyama is truly a blessing.

Enjoy…

TOYAMA CITY

Toyama Castle Park
Castles are EVERYWHERE in Japan…and by castle standards, the Toyama one is pretty modest. But hey, you can never really complain about a castle that’s this accessible, can you? Just pop-by when you’re in the city 😀 It’s also good to visit during the Sakura season when all the road-side vendors are out selling street food! 
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Kansui Park, Home to The Most Beautiful Starbucks (of 2008)

Every time someone visits me, I bring them to this place. I mean, who DOESN’T wanna see the MOST BEAUTIFUL Starbucks (of 2008)?

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Credit: Ong Kai Ching

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Suh Romantix

Kureha Hills: Gohyaku Rakan (the 5 hundred buddhas)
From atop Kureha hills, you can see an amazing view of the Tateyama range on a good clear weathered day. Not THAT often, but when it happens, its SO amazing.

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As much as I love this photo, I’d be a liar if I said Toyama looked like this everyday.

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Matsugawa (River in Toyama)
I’m in love with the Sakuras that bloom along this river. The reflection of the trees really made me doubt reality…I’m not even that big a Sakura or flower nut…but this sight is just so dreamy. IMG_2885

YATSUO
Owara Kaze no Bon
Go down to Yatsuo between 1st and 3rd September to catch a glimpse of the Owara festival! It’s so hypnotising to watch, I could have just watched them forever. Yatsuo itself, is just a hidden gem that you’ve GOT to explore.

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NAMERIKAWA
Firefly squid museum
I’m not the biggest fan of this place to be frank. I went in expecting to see the Firefly squids or Hotaru ika as they call them here. Unfortunately, I don’t think they deal with the squids kindly…there are mini shows where they pull them out of water, just to show you how they glow.

All that said, if you REALLY really HAVE to see Hotaru ikas…they’re here.

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Credits: Airika Takeguchi

UOZU
Buried Forest Museum
My friend was visiting me when I went to this museum. It’s so so worth it and under-rated. It’s not at all crowded and the trees form amazing sculptures that look so otherworldly.

This museum preserves and displays Uozu buried forest designated as a national monument. Uozu buried forest is the ruin of the virgin cedar forests buried from about 1500 to 2000 years ago.
http://museums.toyamaken.jp/en_museum/e_uozu_buried_forest_museum/

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Credits: Airika Takeguchi

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Mirages
I’ve never seen any mirages personally, but if you go to the Buried Forest Museum and you happen to be lucky, you could see a Mirage!

KUROBE
Kurobe George(ous)
Take a Torroko, open-air train through the Kurobe George. It’s Japan’s No.1 V-shaped George. I didn’t make it up, it’s on the website and all. It’s breath-taking especially in Autumn when you see the amazing red-orange-golden colours surrounding you and the blue blue blue water below.

Sometimes, AJET excursions book trips in autumn, but if it doesn’t happen, you can always make a booking for yourself! Website to book your tickets, especially if you wanna catch the autumn leaves: http://www.kurotetu.co.jp/en/ 

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TATEYAMA
The Tateyama Mountain Range
Tateyama has a lot to offer and you should definitely visit this beauty more than once. My recommendation is to check it out in all its seasonal glory (although, you might also want to check how the weather’s gonna be up there).

When I first climbed it as part of the Toyama Orientation (Yes, you get to climb it), I cried because, I’d never felt so humbled and overwhelmingly happy to be somewhere in such a long time.

If you want to book your tickets (especially for the autumn leaves and the snow walls), you wanna book them through this website:
http://www.alpen-route.com/ticket/en/index.html

  Oyama Shrine : there are 3 of them in Toyama, one near the mountain peak, one in
Tateyama town and one more in Iwakuraji. They’re said to be power spots!

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   Bijoudaira

Legend of the Beautiful Woman Cedar

1,300 years ago the man who opened up Mt. Tateyama was betrothed to a beautiful princess. However women were forbidden from entering Mt. Tateyama. The princess, sad at being separated from her love, climbed up to Bijodaira and told her sad tale to a beautiful cedar tree. She beseeched the tree “If you have a heart, please listen to my wish”. Later her wish was granted and the couple were happily married. From that day this tree has been called “Bijosugi” or “Beautiful Woman Cedar” and this area has been known as “Bijodaira”.
http://www.alpen-route.com/en/about/highlights/tateyama.html

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Model: My brother

   Midagahara

“Midagahara lies at an altitude of 1900 m and is one of the largest alpine wetlands in Japan. The hiking course is surrounded by a variety of alpine plants. In July 2012, this area was also registered in the Ramsar convention as one of the world’s most valuable wetlands.”
http://www.alpen-route.com/en/about/highlights/tateyama.html

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Credits: Ananthanarayanan Sankar (le bro)

   Murodo
Murodo is the place you want to explore if you want to see the famous, yet elusive Raichou or Rock Ptarmigan. It’s the Toyama bird and its tricky to spot due to its camoflage. Murodo is also the place to be if want to see the snow walls in Spring.

Be sure to drink some of the Oishii Mizu or Delicious Water, straight from the source.
It’s laced with crack by all the terrifyingly fast climbing old ladies who want to ensure you stay in Toyama forever. *this is a joke.

From Murodo, you can either climb the mountain OR you can take a cable car and head towards Kurobe Dam!

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This was the first time I cried since coming to Japan. It was stunning.

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All those WALLS!

Kurobe Dam
Did I hear you say “DAYUM!!”? Suh Punny.
But really, Kurobe Dam is a sight to behold. The power of the water gushing out and the Natural beauty surrounding it is really something.

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Credits: Serena Toh

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TAKAOKA CITY
Takaoka Daibutsu (Big Buddha)
This guy is one of the top 3 in Japan! I only visited him very recently and boy am I glad I did! He’s a real looker and I can see why people wld go Buddhist for him. 😉 Totally my type.

IMG_9738_2 Zuiryuji Temple
Don’t miss out on this National Treasure if you’re in Takaoka. This Buddhist temple is really close to the Takaoka station too, so it’s really quite convenient!

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Kanayamachi
Fancy walking down a traditional shopping street? Well then, Kanayamachi, in Takaoka is just the thing for you. I admit, I haven’t been here much, but the 2 times I visited, it’s really photogenic with some traditional craft stores and even a mini exhibit to explain what Takaoka was like in the past.

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SHINMINATO
Special thanks to Brandon Bewza for this info! I’ve never visited Shinminato, but the photos look SO good, I’ll update this page with photos of my own once I visit!

Kaiwomaru Park

There’s Kaiwomaru Park down in Shinminato. Big bridge, big ship, and a cool seafood market. In October, there’s the best festival in Shinminato and in August an awesome fireworks display.
-Brandon

 

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Toyama Canal

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NANTO-TOGA
Gokayama

Gokayama is a lovely village nestled within the mountains of the Nanto area. The roofing is very unique and you’ll be very charmed by all the mountain food and culture! Access to this area though….I’d suggest getting a ride if you don’t drive. It’s realllllly OUT THERE.

Since the village was registered as a World Heritage site in 1995, the village house’s unique architectural style called Gassho-zukuri has attracted much attention for its appearance and structure. The natural beauty surrounding the villages is also very impressive.

Attraction of Gassho-zukuri, however, does not lie only in its unique appearance. You will be more interested in Gassho-zukuri if you learn about Gokayama more, including climate, people’s life and wisdom, the tradition and culture which people have passed down from generation to generation by their efforts.
http://www.gokayama-info.jp/en/

 

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Shogawa

Travel down Shogawa on a Pleasure Boat. No really, that’s what they’re called. See nature surround you as you boat down for about 30 minutes…

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Toga Village (Suzuki Company of Toga)

Annual summer theatre festival (with free tickets!)
That’s right, every summer, Toga village is the host to quite an internally famous theatre festival! The Suzuki method has be taught around the world, including my school, and to be able to watch these shows free of charge while camping out in a tent in the mountains where Toga is nestled in…So worth it. Also, the people who attend! They’re so different from the people I usually meet.

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KAMIICHI
Oiwa-san, Nisseki-ji
Ever wanted to see the figure of the guardian deity , Fudō-myōō (Acala), carved into a mountain and then proceed to meditate under a waterfall (without dying)? This place is JUST the thing for you then. This one is also quite out there in the boonies, so I recommend hitching a ride or you’ll have to get there from Kamiichi station by bus.

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HIMI
Amaharashi
Know what’s amazing about AMAZING TOYAMA? We got lucky with nature. We have the mountains, we have the gorges, we have the waterfalls, we have the great blue sky, we have the sea of Japan…boom di yada boom di yada.

The majestic view of the Tateyama mountains range looming 3,000m above Toyama Bay changes with each season and is breathtakingly beautiful. This view was much loved by the Manyo poet Otomo No Yakamochi, who wrote many poems about it. The area stretching from the Amarashi coast to Matsudae-no-Nagahama in Himi has been designated as “One of Japan’s Best 100 White-sand and Green-pine Beaches” and “One of Japan’s Best 100 Beaches”. There still exists the Yoshitsune rock, where Minamoto no Yoshitsune waited for a shower to clear up on his way to Oshu. This is also where the name Amaharashi (lit. “rain clearing”) came from.
http://foreign.info-toyama.com/en/spot/?spot_id=48

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The train running by the sea…it’s gorgeous.

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Credits: Airika Takeguchi. Banana Bomb.

TONAMI
Tonami Tulip Fair
Sick of all the Sakura hype? Probably not…buuut, here in Toyama, we have another amazing flower. Every year, Tonami hosts the biggest tulip fair in Japan! My suggestion is to ask a friend in Tonami for tickets to this fair. Tonami locals get free tickets every year and they actually throw them away.

If you can’t get your hands on the free tickets, you can always buy them at the gate.

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Model: My mum. She’s got her flower appreciation thing going well.

I truly hope you enjoy #amazingtoyama as much as I have, if not more.

LINKS:
I stumbled on this great website one day, when the weather was amazing outside and I wanted to do something. It was written by an former Toyama ALT.
https://trinitraveller.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/10-must-do-things-in-toyama-japan/

 

I also found THIS website and it’s categorised really well!
http://foreign.info-toyama.com/en/

When everything froze.

DISCLAIMER (man I love these): This is not in any way a professional article on dealing with clinical anxiety or anything of that sort. If you’re facing that and reading this….I hope this serves as some kind of reflection…but definitely not any sort of solution.

In the months following my move to Japan, a lot of people told me I looked happier.
I looked happier in Facebook photos and sounded more positive on Skype
And, I  really am.
But, I recently started to wonder WHY this was the case.

Even before I left for JET, I knew I wanted to get over some of the issues I had with myself in Singapore. I’d been under my parent’s care for too long. Independence was foreign to me. Responsibility scared the crap out of me despite training to be a director and I was constantly seeking validation or acceptance of some sort.

There was also a lot of unhappiness and dissatisfaction that I had begun to harbour. I had a lot of days when I’d go home after doing theatre and just not feel the happiness I’d felt in the past. That was the scariest part because, falling out of love with theatre felt like a part of me had just gone hollow.

There was a huge part of me that was just an anxious, nervous mess about 80% of the time. I still tend to have a horrible paranoia that I’m doing something wrong. Or that I ought to be doing something more, something better, something more important. I fear that someone with more authority than me is going to swoop down on me and tell me that I’m worthless or that I’m wasting my time.

It was only very recently that I started to see that this way of thinking was not only ridiculously toxic, but also completely unhelpful in accomplising anything. If anything, it prevents a person from moving forward at all.

I got some insight on my trip back home from 31st October- 7th November 2015.

Going back home, I was faced with the question: Have I overstayed in Japan? Will I lose a place to return to? Am I gonna be jobless when I come back?

My imagination runs wild a lot… and it creates the worst situations in my mind. My breathing gets kinda shallow and for a while, I my brain just zeros in on the “problem”. I get a kind of depressing black-hole-esque tunnel vision and I start tuning out the rest of the world. I still harbor a lot of this anxiety.

However, one good thing came out of my trip home. I ended up meeting a lot of my friends and collegues and mentors. As much as possible, I stayed away from the toxic. Again, many were talking about how much less stressed out I looked and how much more carefree and happy I came across. Everything from my attire to my attitude to life came across as positive and I can hazard a guess why.

Recently, I’ve become more aware of what is toxic (to me at least). People, characters, places, topics…all kinds of things that were once faceless demons that weighed me down…I’ve started identifying them.

At the heart of it all, I’m working on not allowing myself to be bullied into things and to relax.

It really takes a lot of work though, coming from a place that values perfection, employment, money and sucess. Despite my firm belief that failures are a great learning platform, I’m so resistant and the world just freezes.

A problem is not a problem once you know it’s a problem.
It’s only a challenge.
It’s when you don’t know that there’s a problem.
That’s a real problem.
-this was on one of those cheezy motivational poster cards my dad gave me years ago.

I wish to make a note that, while I’ve enlarged and zoomed into some of the challenges I face, it’s not like I’ve stopped living. I’m moving forward and I’ve got a generally positive personality that doesn’t allow me to wallow. However, these tiny blips cause unnecessary panic which I would love to be rid of.

End note: As humans, we’re all works-in-progess. Getting over this issue doesn’t mean I become perfect…Just a software update.

 

 

Race against Racism

I began typing this article before Singapore officially turned 50 after I expericed some not so nice situations. I’ve glazed over most of my experiences as I don’t believe in naming and shaming and also because I don’t need the details to get my points across.

Disclaimer (because these are dead handy when I speak from personal experience): The article is going to touch on race, language, religion, skin colour and then some more. If you’re not up to it, by all means avoid reading this article because I think it IS a heavy topic. Also, because I speak from personal experciences, I will try not to sound like a know all and see all and will also try not to make sweeping statements. However, I ask for your forgiveness and understanding if I do.

Sometimes, being a brown person can be difficult. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been aware that being brown was not the best thing to be in the world. At some point in primary (elementary) school, a part of me wanted to be Chinese so much, I cut my eyelashes short. Obviously that didn’t work out well and thankfully my lashes also grew back.

I’m pretty sure most people don’t go about trying to be Chinese the way I did and people might ask me why I did that. At that age though, I’d already been the butt of more than one anti-Indian slur and I’d faced my fair share of bullying just because of what I was born as. Now, imagine having your presence ignored, being told you had worms in your brains, offering help but being kicked away, be in a group discussion and suddenly have the meeting conducted in a language you don’t know and have people whisper behind your back in another language from the age of 4. Pretty sure that’s not very fun.

By Junior College (high school) though, people seemed to have gotten better (at least in the sensitivity department) and I had a wonderful time and made some great friends who were some of the least judgemental people I’d met to that point. The topic of racism (we studied it in class) seemed like a distant concept of the past…or something only seen in history books when the Holocaust was mentioned.

Then of course, Arts College happened and I really had the best days of my life there. People were broad minded and accepting, I had a lot of freedom to question and debate on a whole ton of issues…the world felt like it had opened up and people who met me after that told me that I’d become a better person. Prejudices or judgemental views I never knew I had came to light and I had to deal with them. All in all, Arts College was the best thing that happened to my soul.

So you can imagine the shock I had when I came out.

To give a little context, Singapore had begun facing a spike in the number of new citizens, permenant residents and foreign talents. This included people from Europe, America, Australia and of course other Asian countries. Suddenly, I’d be riding the cab, and I’d be asked if I was really Singaporean. Even if I said yes, they’d ask WHEN I had come to Singapore. I’d have to put on an exaggerated Singlish accent and laugh it off to get some people off my back.

Somedays, it can be very painful. My maternal grandparents are Indians living in India. My paternal grandmother has been a Singaporean PR with an Indian citizenship since she got married to my paternal grandfather who came to Singapore from India and got his Singapore citizenship. My Dad is Singaporean (born in Singapore, did his NS) and my Mum’s a Singaporean PR with an Indian citizenship. My brother was born in Germany, but he’s a Singaporean (did his NS!). 4 years of my early childhood was spent in Germany where I learnt phonetics and phonics. So, I learnt Singlish a lot later in life and it still doesn’t come to me very naturally. SORRY!

Do people need to know all this?
Will people leave me alone if I told them all this?
Why am I expected to prove myself?
So WHAT if I were Indian?
What must I do to be Singaporean?
What IS Singaporean?
How are some of these Singaporeans better than my PR Mum who’s done so much for the country in her 26 years here?

Then to make matters worse, the Little India Riots happened.

I don’t even know where to begin with that one. I started to see statements like “All the AH NEH (anna in tamil means brother) go back home lah!!” appeared on the net. Suddenly, there was talk of keeping foreign workers in a ghetto like place. Suddenly, these workers were being used as volunteers for anti-rioting practice.

Then I started to see racism popping out more and more and not just against Indians.
Maybe it had increased, maybe it was always there and I had learnt not to see it…

In any case, it made me nauseous.
It was like Primary school all over again, except it was on a national level.
Still, the country uses it’s multi-racialism/culturalism as a selling point.
Sometimes, it looks like a bad joke…and I’m guilty of selling it too.

Then of course, I applied for my job on the JET programme and got in.
I don’t think I’ve had a clearer view of racism…

Racism in Japan definately exists. I’ve had people compare skin tones with me and comment on my darker skin tone while applying entire bottles of sunblock lotion. Many people assume I’m from India when they first meet me. People have asked if I can speak English. I have been told very bluntly that people of some countries are ALL smelly and disgusting.

Japan is an (almost) mono-ethnic society.
I also live in a relatively unexposed rural part of Japan.
I don’t think this should defend their actions/statements but it isn’t my home.

At the same time, I was hearing very similar racist comments being made by fellow Singaporens.
These were Singaporeans who were by no means uneducated or underexposed.
Neither were they from terrible underpriviledged backgrounds.

I find it extremely hard to wrap my mind around this.

Singapore is a very very dear place to me.
I believe it has so much potential.
When I was still in school, we used to recite the pledge before the Sigapore flag every morning:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language, or religion
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

Perhaps I’m an overly patriotic fool to some, but I truly believed every word I spoke and I still do.
So for SG50, amongst many many things that are being done, I wish people could take a look within.
You don’t need to walk on eggshells. You don’t have to go the extra mile.
Just treat people equally.
If something wrong is done by a person who isn’t a majority, don’t use race against them.

It’s really not that difficult. Is it?

Extra reading:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/02/issues/claiming-right-japanese/#.VcFkJrdO7IV

The Blur of Leaving

So the following entries will be a little verbatim cuz I really couldn’t bring myself to phrase everything nicely…A lot of it was typed as and when a memory popped into my head on my plane ride to Japan.

At that time, my head was in a bit of a mess…so I just decided to type this out to organise all the events in my mind.

Enjoy…

August 2nd 2014
Last Day

Decided not to go for the NDP preview and this proved to be a good choice. I was emotionally exhausted and wanted nothing more than to be at home.

Day started with going to Mariamman Temple with family and Chitta, Chitti and Nandini.

Chachi came back home around 5pm. We spent some time goofing around, and then I called up Sistic to settle some ticket matters for Amma and Patti and went down to Tampines mall to collect the tickets for them.

End of the day, when everyone had gone off, I sat with Amma, Appa, Patti and Chachi…they gave me some good real life advice. Don’t let ppl into the house w/o knowing who they are…keep safe…don’t give away personal information uncessarily…if you (at anytime) feel like you’re in any danger, get out of that place…never hesitate to call home about anything at all… don’t hesitate to ask home for help (amma was very insistent that if I felt like I needed help at any help at all, I should not feel ashamed to ask for help)….eat well…drink milk…if people can’t respect me for who I am, I shouldn’t give them a time of my life (Sankar’s imput)…

Then I went back to the room and managed to send out last minute e-mails to the school where I’d be conducting a summer camp and to a project that I was doing some documentation work for. Sending these e-mails was like a huge weight off my chest. I didn’t have anything to worry about in Singapore anymore.

August 3rd 2014
Departing Singapore for JET Programme

The day started at 4:40am. Woke up…a kind of blank feeling permeated my mind. I am happy, but at the same time there’s so much apprehension. It already feels so much bigger than how I saw it at the start of the application process. So many responsibilities to shoulder and I wonder every now and then if I’ll be able to shoulder them all.

Mum has already given me the option to call her at anytime about anything…but I didn’t decide to go on the Programme only to depend on my parents for everything that doesn’t go my way in life. It’s something I need for myself and it’s a now or never thing. But it’s scary to decide NOT to depend on them.

So back to my morning… I woke up, checked my hand phone (as usual) and went about getting ready. Had thosai with milagaipodi and thayir for breakfast…it felt so normal…but surreal at the same time because it was gonna be a long time till I saw home again. Seeing my life, all packed up finally hit me like a ton of bricks in the gut.

And then we were off.

Chachi and Appa went by cab with one luggage and Amma, Patti and I went by car with another 2 luggage.
We arrived at Changi Airport, Terminal 1, Counter 9 and checked-in with little problem. I’d been packing for the past 1 month, so I’d have been shocked if there was any weight issue. The lady at the counter spoke to me in Japanese before looking up and realising I was Indian, found that kind of hilarious.

Some of the other JETs had also checked in and I went to report my presence to Chayama-san who was overseeing all the travel bookings for us. She told us to report to the departure gate by 7:10am and I was free to be with family till then.

Sankar and I were joking around about being Kaijuus…and then Abhi (with crutches and bandaged foot) and Atthai arrived. Abhi gave me a cd with a letter (which I didn’t look at until I was in the plane) and then we waited around for Nannan and co to arrive. Amma was stressed. Super stressed. And then chitti, weenie and chitta arrived but said Nannan had slept in. Ok…that kinda sucked for a while and we decided to go to the coffee shop, but chitti stopped us and told us to wait for a while…which was odd…until she said Nannan was just in the washroom and on her way. Waw….this family and surprises…really don’t get along huh… HAHAHAHA, still it made me happy to know she’d come to see me off.

We finally made a move to go to the yakun kaya and starbucks and I saw a couple of the other JETs around. Jane had brought her kawaii dog in a bag…seriously….it’s super kawaii… And saw Serena sitting with her family…

And then as I stood in line for my green tea frappe (seriously, not sure why I wanted this of all things) Makishi-san came down…and we thought we were being called for something…turns out, we weren’t… but I spotted Syaf who’d come down to see me off. There’s something really touching about seeing a friend come to see you off at 6:30am in the morning (granted she lives in Tampines) But, hahaha, thanks syaf!!

So I collected the Syaf Makcik and we went back to the yakun party of people 😛 And somehow Syaf fit right in. Sankar made a comment at me asking who wore scarfs in a tropical country…and Syaf was conveniently between the 2 of us wearing a Tudung…so I pointed at her…and finally got chachi to shut up about pretentious scarfs while he backtracked saying it was ok if it was religious thing. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

All too soon, it was time to fly off…so we took all our many many pictures…and all our many many hugs…mum tried to keep me back saying “everyone else is still here!

Plane ride: typed on 5th October (better known as the Day I FINALLY got internet at home)

and then we were all getting ready to board…the plane ride remains a blur…and i remember eating the oddest plane meal ever. it looked like a cross of indian and western and god knows what…but it was pretty ok…

everyone was super super hyped.

and 7 hours later, we were in Tokyo.

Waw. the feeling of being back…was just….pure…waw.
We were ushered down a different path for JET participants, got our employment cards, and basically skipped ahead of the queues.
….
the rest was basically covered in my previous article….but really, WAW it’s been one hell of a ride. I’ll slowly try to attempt an update.

My linguistic journey.

In 2011 June, with just a smatter of 日本語, I set sail (ok no, I took a plane) to Japan. And everyone was praising me with, “日本語上手ですね〜”, and I was basking in all the praises and I came back thinking that I must be FANTASTIC at this.

On hindsight, I probably sounded like a neanderthal murdering the language with non-existant grammar and crappy vocabulary. Here’s a good example of what I might have said: “今、食べ物で行く” which probably translates to something like, “Now, I go food” OK….maybe not THAT bad….but I certainly didn’t know how to use any of the grammar rules at that time.

So after graduating from Lasalle, I admitted myself into Bunka Language School and I’ve never looked back. Ok so this isn’t advertising for them, but I’ve truly enjoyed learning Japanese with every teacher at Bunka. From a neanderthal, my Japanese improved enough to work as a surtitle operator for a theatre show. I could work as an Artist liaison  officer during the M1 Fringe Festival and best of all, I was able to communicate with Yukio Ninagawa who I wrote my thesis on. I was also able to read hiragana, katakana and some kanji within this short period.

All this within a year. It was amazing.

Owing to my freelance schedule that’s always changing, I’ve never really had one consistent teacher during my journey with Bunka. My Elementary 1 and 2 was with Ishii-sensei, my Elementary 3 was with Kobayashii-sensei, and Inter 1-4 was with Nakaya-sensei and now in pre-advanced 1, I’ve had both Takatsuka-sensei and Shida-sensei.

I’m very thankful to Nakaya-sensei in particular since she went out of her way and wrote a wonderful recommendation letter that helped me get in the the JET programme. She was also the teacher I learnt under the longest and her lessons were always full of hilarious jokes and easy to understand. 🙂

They’re all very different people with different characters. But I’ve always enjoyed their lessons and more importantly, I’ve never once felt stupid when I ask questions or make mistakes (especially in Kanji). As teachers, they’ve all been amazingly supportive and they’ve been a huge driving force behind my ambition to one day do translation and interpretation for the Arts.

The lesson structure between Elementary and Intermediate 4 is also absolutely fantastic. And because of the clarity of the structure, I was able to constantly revise my lessons and my grammar and vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds.

Now at Pre-Advance 1, I have to admit that Kanji is an uphill climb. At times, I feel like I’m lagging behind my classmates who have Chinese background in understanding the characters. But I also think that Kanji is something that is best mastered with constant usage. Which is why I’m so excited to be moving to Japan under the JET Programme come August. I’ll be in an atmosphere where Japanese will no longer be a choice but a necessity. When I return, I hope to do my teachers at Bunka proud with a greater understanding of this wonderful language. 🙂

So THANK YOU Bunka for giving me such a strong foundation in the Japanese Language!
I truly couldn’t have asked for more.
Happy 29th Birthday!

 

Indian cooking

Nandini, my cousin, recently told me that as an Indian I should of course be able to do Indian cooking.
I think in many cases this might seem like an obvious statement, but I guess it just wasn’t the same for me. So to reply to her comment, I decided to make a post of this entire topic matter since it got me thinking.

I love Indian food. But then again, as long as something is vegetarian and well cooked, I’d eat it with equal happiness. That’s just me. But prior to this year, I’ve never seriously tried to learn any Indian cooking. I’ve got Italian, Mexican, British, Japanese…all kinds of cooking under my belt. But not Indian.

Which sounds really odd to many people… but I have a good reason for it.
My mum and grandmother are both super-duper awesome at what they do. And in comparison, I’m nothing short of sloppy and I do a lot of things at my own pace. I’m not particularly self-conscious about this, and neither do I feel inferior to them (I still trump them at international cooking :P)…But when it comes to Indian cooking I found that I just couldn’t REMEMBER the damn recipes every single time.

I realised recently that this probably came to be because I’m not used to taking cooking instructions or naming my ingredients in Tamil. : \ oh boy, that’s another can of worms there huh? *shoots foot*

BUT, I like to think my cooking skills aren’t too shabby either. Before I ship myself off to Toyama, mum and I were determined to get me to learn as much Indian cooking as we can. So during my India trip, I managed to pick up the art of chappati making and how to make some easy side dishes for my fantastic Chappattis.

And to be honest, it’s really heartwarming to eat my own Chappati and Channa. I nearly cried, and I’m not saying this out of self-praise….but just the feeling of “ah, so I can do this!” made me feel extremely satisfied with myself.

So MUST Indians know how to cook Indian food? I’m still inclined to say no, cuz I’m sure there are many Indians out there who just never grew up cooking or eating Indian food everyday and I’m sure there are Indians who just don’t like Indian food and I’m sure there are Indians who live in places where the ingredients are just NOT THERE.

And who am I to judge?

But I DO know that this cooking will ward of at least 10% of potential homesickness so I’m grateful for that.

2 more weeks…

On 3rd August, I shall board a flight that will inevitably change a lot things in my life.
That’s about 2 weeks from now. So life has become a mad rush to meet people, sending off last minute e-mails, packing, getting gifts and learning as much as I can about Singapore. A mad rush indeed.

I find it quite ironic that prior to the month of May (for about 6 or 7 months), any and every information was like a drop of water in the desert and now for the past 2 or 3 months there’s been a tidal wave of information and things to do.

Of course, I’m super grateful for this tidal wave….all the same, I’m overwhelmed with all the information.@_@

OMIYAGE 

Anyhow, I’ve been out visiting museums and omiyage shopping with fellow Singapore JETs over the past few weeks. The Peranakan  museum and National museum were great and besides the photo taking opportunity it also gave me a chance to soak in what Singapore was made of.

Additionally, we also found some awesome FREE Singapore NDP themed postcards at/near these museums! Wah! Free stuff lei!! Not bad hor?? Not only that, all these Museums also have FREE touristy maps!! So naturally I took them all. 🙂 Bueh Pai Seh mah?

Shopping at Bugis was also good to get tourist-y singapore keychains at 24 for $10, Appolo buiscuits at 3 packets for $3.30 and HAWFLAKES!! at 3 packets for $1.30. Not sure if this is a rip-off, but it was convenient to buy it all at the same place. After that, we also went to Mustafa Centre (after getting lost *cough cough*) to get the much sought after Sandalwood soap at 6 for $5.70 and also managed get tea that was in a nicely crafted merlion box for about $6.70.

Yet another FREE treasure was at the MRT station. MRT maps are free for all!!!!
NDP also started distributing FREE Singapore Flag badges which I collected from SAFRA and the Tanjong Pagar MRT Xchange!!!
FREE! FREE! FREE!

My Omiyage List:
1. Set of Indian table mats
2. Indian shawls
3. Sandalwood soap
4. Singaporean keychains from Bugis Street
5. Hawflakes
6. Appolo Chocolate wafers
7. Dried pineapples
8. Dried mangoes
9. Durian cakes [preserved kind]
10. Magnets from Malaysia
11. Wooden craft pencils from Malaysia
12. Hand towel from Singapore Zoo
13. Elephant keychain from Singapore Zoo
14. Singapore badges
15. Singapore postcards
16. Singapore MRT maps
17. Flower shaped candles
18. Incense sticks
19. Singapore Tea

NOTE: It looks like a lot, BUT I might end up eating some of these myself and because most of these are FOC, I thought to myself, why not. Also, I’m only taking 1 or 2 of most of these items so the omiyage set is just gonna be diverse.

PACKING

This one’s a little tricky. I’ve packed, unpacked and re-packed several times now and it’s kind of like a weird ritual. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it will be complete till the day I leave.

Everyone has their own advice to give….and Amanda gave me some really good advice. She said “Don’t take what you want. Take what you need. And don’t take what you think you will use. Take what you WILL use.”

Question is….what DO I need? :S

Somehow, I’m coming to accept that no matter how much I pack, I’m sure to forget something. And no matter how little I pack, I will have too much of something else. That oddly comforts me.

SELF-INTRODUCTION

As I spoke to my predecessor and my supervisor, I decided to prepare my self-introduction presentation in advance and get it approved ASAP.

It’s split into:
1. About Singapore
2. About Indian Culture
3. Places of interest in Singapore
4. Theatre and Me
5. My Family
6. My Hobbies

Happy to say that my supervisor is really happy with it! 🙂 So that’s one thing off my to do list for now, yay!
She’s advised me to have English in writing and to present it orally in English and Japanese.

JLPT N4

I don’t think I bombed it…but then again, I don’t think I was brilliant at it.
The odd part is, I don’t feel terribly upset about it either.

Don’t get me wrong. I love and adore Nihongo, but something about leaving to Japan and the thought of doing nothing but listen to Japanese being spoken all day made me lose my drive to study Japanese during my time left in Singapore. :\ not entirely sure that this makes sense, but I wanted to speak  in English as much as I could.

I guess, the listening section was the easiest of the 3 papers (for me at least). Kanji as usual was….not pretty, to say the least. But I’ll live. 😛

VISA
On 9th July, we went over to the Japanese Embassy and submitted our visa applications with fellow JETs and then had a 2 hour long orientation session. We were briefed on what to expect upon landing and what the Tokyo orientation would be like and how and what to tell our students about Singapore.

We also raised our concerns about luggage weight limits, and clothing concerns during the Q and A.

And at the end of it all, we got our passports with our employment visa! woohoo! It’s a single entry visa, but I get to stay for up to 3 years with it. waw, fantastic baby!

OBSERVATION AT SJSS

Also, the Japanese Embassy kindly arranged observation dates at some of the Japanese schools in Singapore. I chose to observe an entire school week at the Singapore Japanese Secondary School between 14th to 18th July.

The school was amazing and both the teachers and students were amazingly kind. Special mention goes to Ishibashi-san who took care of me the whole time there. An extremely kind lady who made my short stay at SJSS a wonderfully memorable one.

Thank you for the fantastic memories.

Thank you for the fantastic memories.

The only problem was that it’s allll the way in west coast road. =_= 遠い。。。BUT, that said, I learnt a lot!

Of course, many of the lesson structures were unique to this school because of it being in Singapore, and I’ve been told to expect students of a MUCH lower English level. But, I got plenty of teaching ideas anyway.

Teachers often played games to teach the students grammar rules. One teacher had a students pair up PLACES with PURPOSES. For example: “Beach” would go with “to go for a swim” and make a sentence “I want to go to the beach to go for a swim.”

Another was a game that I like to call Forehead Charades. This involved one student having a card with an image strapped to his or her forehead. They would then have to guess what the image was by asking yes or no questions. I could be food, animals…etc.

Ishibashi-san also gave me 2 whole sets of J-dramas at the end of the week which took me completely by surprise. One was Hana Kimi and the other was Scrap Teacher which she gave to me saying “These are high school dramas, so maybe you can get some ideas!” :3 優しい!!!

Haiz, I’m really gonna miss the school.

REFLECTIONS
So with 2 weeks left, I wanna treasure the things around me as much as I can. But a year will fly by very quickly and before I know it, I’ll be back at least for a quick visit.  So it’s not like I’ll never see this place again.

My only hope for this country is for it to turn into a more gracious, accepting and loving society when I return.

This is home after all…..

Special People :)

Whatever I’m doing today, whoever I’ve become, I owe it to some very special people in my life.
I’ve also promised some of these special people that if I ever write a book, they’ll get at least a chapter dedicated to them…. And well, if I DON’T write a book, this will have to do 😛

EL FAMILI
Mum, Dad, Chachi, Granparents 
and really the entire clan of Indian relatives I’ve got have been amazingly supportive of all my crazy choices since day one. They’ll always have my heartfelt thanks for backing up my choices and for being the biggest supporters in my life.

I think I’ve told a lot of people about my Mum who really should be called Superwoman. She manages the house, cooks, cleans, finds time to drive me to and from work at really really odd hours, puts up with my nonsense and still manages to love me unconditionally. She’s watched every one of my show and has grown to appreciate Theatre and Japan despite having no personal connection to either of these. She’s my biggest critique and supporter, every show she’s come to she’s given me invaluable feedback that I’ve always cherished. Of course like any mother and daughter we have our disagreements, but really, I wouldn’t trade this fabulous cute mother for any other in the world.

Dad the ATM ;P ok, that’s just a running joke. But Dad’s the kind of person who comes to my shows admits that he doesn’t understand everything I do and still manages to say with all the sincerity “I’m very proud of you”. He’s a feminist in ways that I don’t think even he comprehends and he’s never brought me up to think that “girls couldn’t do it”.  He’s the one who’s gotten me into Lasalle and helped me proof read a ton of applications throughout my life. He’s also the Jiminy Cricket conscience voice in my head…although at times he does some really crazy things like adding honey and cinnamon to pancakes…milk…tea…actually he’d add honey and cinnamon to just about anything if no one was there to stop him. That and he shops like a maniac at NTUC…hahaha.

Dear dear chachi boi….what can I even say about it. It chooses nature over humans, it’s happy about me flying off cuz it can get my room, it resembles a huge coconut tree and it loves snakes. IT also happens to be my younger brother. Sometimes, it’s hard to say nice things about a person who behaves like a cactus on it’s period most of the time, but he’s a lovely person with his heart in the right place. A tsundere if I’ve ever seen one. He comes to my shows, calls me a pretentious hipster, asks me for free stuff shamelessly, demands me to cook what he wants and very seldom listens to what I have to say. But that’s what younger brothers are for. But he also cares about everyone in the family and he always there to spread logic and reason to the world. 🙂  So i wuv him too.

And my grandparents who’ve never once looked down on all my very queer choices and who’ve taken the time to listen to why I do what I do… On days when they appreciate my theatre work, on days when they ask me more questions on what I do, on days that they cheer me on, on days when they pray for everything I do to be a success (never mind that I might be doing a show about homosexuality or something equally puzzling for people of their generation), I feel incredibly incredibly blessed to be born into this particular family.

Of course, I have to give a special shout out to all my brilliant cousins and aunts and uncles and family friends who’ve ALL been there for me, cheering me on.

I know of so many women and girls in my life who don’t get to do all that I’ve done because it’s just not “traditional” or “economically-safe” or “right for a girl to do that job”. No one in my family has ever been that way. They have plenty of questions to ask, but never have they shunned me for what I am.

Theatre buddies
Cherilyn Woo and Amanda “hamhamottlinguito” Teo 
two amazing people who never stopped insulting me every time i thought Japan was nothing but an impossible dream. They’re ruthless and don’t take any of my bullshit which makes them supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-unicorn-rainbow people.

My defining moment with these two was after I’d graduated. We’d been sitting at Polar Puffs at Toa Payoh hub, discussing the future as usual….and I talked about Japan…again…at which point Amanda told me that I’d grow to be a regretful person I didn’t go there sooner or later. And at that time I did, as Cher might call an “Oh me…oh my” thing and I had no idea how I’d be able to pull it off and where I’d get the money for it…etc, etc….but here I am, and I’d never have gotten the guts to do this without these 2 ladies.

To be perfectly honest, Amanda and I didn’t start out as super awesome buddies. And if you ask either of us, we’ve had our crazy rough patches. But having worked with her over several productions, we’ve both learnt how to be brutally honest with each other. She’s also been there to ground me every time I start panicking and she’s always there to reason with me when I get another one of my crazy impulsive ideas. I also have to thank her for being an amazing amazing dramaturge and critique of my works. There’s a lot more I’d say about her, but if I talked about all the crazy things she’s said and done to me, she’ll kill me.

CHER!!!!!!!! Cherilyn (i spelt it right) Woo is an enigma. A person from a completely different time. I’d call her a princess, but Amanda might get jealous….a fellow directing grad from lasalle, I’ve lost count of the number of nights and skype sessions we’ve spent on bitching about directing woes that we believe no one else in the world will understand….Honestly, not sure what anyone would think if they tapped in on some of the late night skype sessions we’ve had over the years. Some of my most memorable conversations with her include analysing Howard Stern’s interview with Tiger Wood’s mistress. But honestly, with all the cupcakes and awkward smiles and insults, she’s a great person to plot the worst ideas with….really she’s a terrible influence. But we’ve pegged ourselves as amazing jiniuses….or so cher would like to say. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH.

Real conversation with this woman. Not made up. You can ask her.

Real conversation with this woman. Not made up. You can ask her.

Really, these 2 deserve separate posts dedicated to them, but its getting waaay awkward dishing this much praise to these 2 people who I spend more time insulting and arguing with more than anything : P And I’d go on talking about all the fabulous people in my life…but then I wouldn’t shut up…so this is it for now.

I thank my stars for whatever good karma that earned me this good fortune.

Why Japan.

“Do you want to be Japanese or something?”
When I first expressed my interest in Japan and started researching and gushing over Japan, that was the question that a lot of people asked me. And to be honest, it made me very very confused and for a very long time after that, I kept asking myself “Why Japan?”

Now I can easily say “No, I don’t want to be Japanese, and I’m really happy to be who I am.” because I’ve come to realise that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate Japan the way I do without my current cultural background. Me being a Singaporean, Indian, Vegetarian, 20-something theatre girl makes me see Japan in a very different way from how a 50 year old Japanese man might view the very same Japan. And I’m glad for this.

So I’ve made a list of the things I love about Japan and how I view Japan at the moment. I suspect this will change after living in Japan for a year, and I’m fine with that. :

1. Japanese traditional theatre.
This really made me appreciate the smaller things around me. It slowed time down and made me remember how to breathe.

2. Shounen Manga and Anime
A life-saver in times of stress and angst. One Piece, Bleach, Yakitate Japan!, Shingeki no Kyojin…all of them there for me to unwind at the end of the day.

3. Natural/Muji clothes and Layering
I developed my love for Natural clothes after graduation from Lasalle and boy am I glad I did that. They’re comfortable, look decent, aren’t too tight or too baggy, gives you just a little bit of kawaii and on the whole makes me happy. For a long time before that I’d struggled to portray a certain “image” of myself as a director especially at Lasalle. But the “professional” clothes never made me happy, until I found this style.

4. Language
I can’t get enough of hearing Japanese being spoken. It’s pretty as hell and I can listen to it even if I’ve got no clue what’s being said…..if only Kanji came to me in my dreams. : [

5. Architecture and Nature
Somehow I think architecture and nature blend really nicely in Japan. Not sure why, and I don’t feel like analysing this.

6. Philosophy
Somehow everything comes back to sounding pretty and aesthetically heart-warming and calming in Japanese philosophy. Or at least the philosophy that I’ve read thus far anyway…

I’d go on, but this is the core of what attracts me to Japan in most cases. I think you’ll see that I’ve said pretty and peaceful a lot…or at least that idea resonates with me a lot. And I guess that’s what I appreciate Japan for the most. Japan pleases my aesthetic appetite both visually and mentally.

I’d also like to go on to say that I’m not blindly in love with everything and anything Japanese. I SHOULDN’T love anything blindly or totally because everything has it’s flaws and NOTHING is perfect. There ARE aspects that I don’t like/disagree with. But these are not things that affect me directly. Nor are they things that matter so much to me, that I might boycott Japan entirely. So my love for Japan remains intact.

“But what about your Indian culture? What about being Singaporean?”
What about it? I’ve never been ashamed of it. I’ve never given it up or denied it’s existence in my life. Actually, I don’t think that’s even possible. I can’t deny my roots. I’ll always get a certain happiness out of eating home cooked Indian food. I’ll always have a place in my heart for Tamil. I can’t possibly give up what little Singlish I know because it’s so damn effective when I want to communicate to so many people. I can’t give up my love for multi-cultural/inter-cultural/multi-lingual interactions that was made possible by the fact that I live in Singapore.

I can’t NOT be who I am.

Being Indian is in my blood and Singapore is my birthplace and where I grew up. That will never change EVEN IF I were to change my change my citizenship some day. And this identity will always colour the way I see Japan and how Japan sees me. And that’s ok!

“So what are you gonna do with Japan/Japanese/Japanese culture/Japanese theatre?”
I don’t know. Sure, I have ideas. But the future has a funny way of working itself out. The thing is, I’ve started out this exploration, and I’ve got no intentions of being “half-assed” about it. I started studying Japanese and I don’t want to drop it half way. I’ve studied Japanese theatre and worked on it for my Bachelor’s thesis.

How all this will fall in line in my life however, is beyond me. I want to translate, I want to collaborate, I want to direct, I want to create, I want to teach. So many wants….but only time will tell.
.

.

.

.
So my bottom line is that I’m at peace with myself and who I am.
Once upon a time, I was ashamed of my love for Japan because I didn’t know what to do with it, or where it came from, or why. But I’m not that person anymore. And I’m glad for that. 🙂

PEACE. 

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