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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 was a year of firsts,

the first time I cooked for friends (a 4 course meal at that)
the first time I drank heavy alcohol (and mmm there's something so fun to it, like the sensation of Absinthe down your throat)
the first time I went to church with a friend
the first time I celebrated NDP with friends
the first time I worked (and earned $170.50 in two days :D)
the first time I fired a live round (from a SAR 21, NPCC and NCC would probably scoff though)
the first time I shot friends (at rounds travelling more than 300 feet per second, worth every cent)
the first time I went stark naked into a hot spring with peers. (awesome. I mean the relaxing of course :P)
the first time I went clubbing.

Of course, there were alot more, some of which having indecent content, but these are some highlights. Not as impressive as others I suppose, but I must say, it's been a great run. Guess you know when you were the ones who shared those moments with me, Every year overdoes the next, and I'm hoping 2009 won't fail to promise. Cheers all, and he's to one darn year too close to adulthood ><

penned by joel at 11:06 PM


lunch n dinner

No bacon and no fresh mushrooms, so I decided to experiment today with chicken thigh and button mushrooms!

2 servings,
200g Spaghetti/Linguini
1 can button mushrooms
2 chicken thighs, de-boned and sliced
4 shallots
5 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp butter
1 chilli padi

Olive oil
Italian herbs

I melted the butter in the pan and lathered the sides with olive oil, throwing in the diced shallots and garlic when it started to sizzle. In went the chilli next, plus the chicken slices. The aroma was present already without any marinate. The sliced button mushrooms went in next, and finally, the spaghetti that was already cooked.

Cheryl experimented and it seems like if you put the spices in later, rather than at the very beginning, there's more flavour. Like it's more even-ed out once the mass of pasta goes in. Interesting, to me at least.

My parents made a booking at Casa Verde in the Botanical Gardens for a new year's eve dinnner tonight, and I'm kinda glad they did. It's been too long since we went for a stroll and took meals easy and slow. Plus, they had in mind ample time to soak in the lush greenery before settling down for dinner, something bonding for a change.

For example, I can't even recall the last time we went to town for the day, looking around, or even window shopping :\ So I think it was a great night, family-ish.

Not really soaking anything in for the new year, never really have.

penned by joel at 4:11 PM


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Travel programmes are getting addictive. Japan Hour, Globe Trekkers and Lonely Planet; Best in Asia. Pity I didn't have cable, or not I'd be catching more. I'm not too sure what the job title actually is, perhaps travel journalist? Whatever it is, to have such a jetsetting job with new experiences everyday certainly appeals to me.

Above, the effectiveness of crime prevention in Japan, a collapsible vending machine lookalike. Pretty inconspicuous in times of frantic, I'd say.. There were rooms full of just vending machines in Japan, it's like a mama shop that never closes :/

Cuisines, climate, culture, the immersive-ness may not be complete without a year long stay, but to see different sights everday could probably become adverse if they were to finally settle in one country. Sudden boredom.. If there's something I wanted to do before I die, it'd be to see the aurora australis in New Zealand. Kills two birds with one stone, since the scenery there is supposed to be unrivalled across the globe.

penned by joel at 11:29 AM


Feed me!
Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hey, in the midst of changing blogskin, I lost some links. I can't dig them out from the old html cuz it doesn't reveal them, so please don't hesitate to write your URLs and I'll link em again (:

penned by joel at 3:34 PM


Friday, December 26, 2008

Haven't been blogging cuz every free time has been spent making cards. Christmas cards, that would only be received after Christmas :\ Hope those who get it won't mind, after all, I've spent a good four days making a total of 10 cards.

It's more personal, so I decided not to take pictures of the cards for the blogshop, or this blog too. I did though, just for a sense of teeny accomplishment, take a picture of the finish. But They're all enveloped up. Just wanted to note that man, it really used a huge lotta effort and patience, and lots of materials. Glad to get em done, but wished I could've gotten them done by christmas..

Only 6 here. I made 4 earlier for the cruch till christmas, and I made a different design for each one so none would be the same.. A bit more personal I guess?

On another note, here of course, is new blogskin. Credits to Joseph for the design, and Yi Chen for the coding. Owe them lotsa gratitude, thanks for it all! Still some work in progress here and there, but I'll do it progressively. A bit plain, but more unique and has identity I guess.

Had a short two day stint at Hong Xiang's mom's workplace earlier this week. It was really rewarding. First job experience, and the staff there were very friendly. Most of them were Japanese, it was Nihon Keizai Shimbun Singapore, part of the Nikkei business news corporation. Kinda interesting, and constantly reminded me of the Japan trip.. His mom gave me a lift to the barbeque with the Japan trip people after work on the first day too. Really nice (:

It was pretty okay, cooked and chatted and such, and Chicky brought Jim Beam. Before we put out the fire though, there was remaining Jim Beam. So I had a silly idea of throwing it into the fire. It was really brilliant :D We threw in butter oil too, disgustingly melted. A bunch of other stuff went in, extremely fun, reminding me about what Niki used to like to do to leftover food, haha!

In the end we set it out and chatted for a while, before heading home. Next day had work again so couldn't be up too late. Plus, Brandon, Shermaine, Cheryl, Hong Xiang and I met up after work for a christmas dinner thingy plus exchanging. I never exchanged gifts with friends before, cards at the most, so this was kinda new. Plus I wasn't prepared with gifts, only knowing at the last minute ><
Lately I feel kinda detached, haven't talked as normal to someone for a long time, and it seems like it's been hard trying to, too. It hogs my mind every night I go to sleep, and I haven't got a clue if any thought's mutual..
Not one bit of homework done so far.

penned by joel at 6:11 PM


Saturday, December 13, 2008

(whoa this took long) Where do I start, there's been so much that happened, it seemed like it ended all too quickly. Perhaps before departure, the few briefings we had. On hindsight, I think it was kind of naive for me to think that without knowing a large proportion of the people, I wouldn't have fun on the trip.

Initially all I knew were Matthias and Reza, the latter being from my primary school, and these were 2 out of the 26 participants. By the end of the trip, I pretty much knew everyone else, and shared lotsa stuff here n there. A really rewarding trip, and a great photo opportunity too. Here goes..

So the first day, or rather, the night before at 10pm, we reported to terminal 3. Matthias was the only one there from our presentation team, having to rehearse before the flight. In the end the rest were so late, we didn't rehearse, but that's okay considering we could do some interaction already.

We checked in shortly after, and I nearly lost my camera, having left it alone at the counter. Luckily the staff handed it to the teacher :\ We had a mini briefing before heading into the duty free area. They don't sell the miniature Absolut Vodka bottles anymore! Augh.

Meridian's band left on the same day as us, coincidentally, and were due to return one day before us. Skipping to the flight, it was an old carrier that forced you to watch the movie as it ran, no stopping, no pausing, no restarting.. I can't remember what I watched, but I caught Nadal on some tennis game.. We arrived in the morning sometime at 8am later.

Soon after, we boarded number 88, a bus from the Rising Sun transport company. I found the immersion very apt and apparant already :\ En route to the hotel, we stopped by the Atsuta Shrine, with the Nagoya castle within the grounds. Dunno if I got that right, my memory ain't all that good.

So this is where visitors wash their hands upon entering, first the left, then the right hand, and if game, a gargle. problem is, it's said that PRCs gargle and spit the water back into the well, rather than into the drain by the side..

Matthias on the right, we were both roomates, but there was only a double room for the last hotel. Other than that, it was 5 to a room for most of the nights, and a single for another. There was epic symphonic snoring for the 5 sharing room, reminiscent of camps.

The typical well wishes and aspirations, tied so neatly. The country seems so prim, it's unusual adjusting back to Singapore..

Bamboo on macro, I used this as a cover to the video presentation to be presented when school reopens.

There're more scenic pictures than people pictures, partly cuz most of you won't know who those people in the pictures are anyway. Here's one I like, above, the orangey golden leaves, day by day trees bacame more barren.

The weather wasn't as cold as I expected it to be, it was probably 14 deg C? Not too sure, but long johns and jeans, with a shirt and a cardigan seemed ample. Until we reached Takayama though, that place was a bit bleak, and much colder. Rustic though, and alot of charm, that place..

I didn't really know anyone yet on that day, but I figured I would sooner or later, and snapped group pictures cuz or not, the first few days would be pretty hard breaking any ice :\

Evening on the first night. We didn't accomplish much on the first day, even though we touched down at 8am. All with the travelling, but going to the hot spring on the first night was really interesting.

Of course, we were all a bit uncomfortable with the idea, even those who were game had their reservations as the time drew closer. Eventually, with the serenity of the surroundings and the Onsen, it was kinda relaxing and nekkid-ness didn't matter much.

There was an icy cold pool too, near the heated one, and it was absolutely freezing. Dipping into the ice pool and the hot pool was amazingly tingling, addictive. It really shoots your senses awake, and according to the teacher, improves blood circulation alot. We hit the sack that night in futons, quite immersed already.

The next morning, we went around sight seeing again before heading to the high school. Forgot where this was though ):

I love this picture, the sunlight streaming through woods. Told Phyu Phyu this was one of the shots I always wanna take, so was kinda delighted when I saw this opportunity.

Reza here, from TKPS. I like the candid-ness of this shot. It was nice catching up since our primary school years. A really entertaining guy with a humbler personality than I thought. Affable (:

Trees which had these bark pieces or wooden sticks tied round it's bark meant these trees had singnificance, in terms of age, among other stuff.

These fish looked so aluminium, it deterred me from trying a sample. Reza tried it though, it's the sort full of bones, meant to be edible..

Animals in their society are so repected, even strays are fed so well. I don't see how, since trash is so hard to find. Who feeds them then? This domestic cat was so pleasantly plump, it walked with a sluggish pace before fixing itself on a stool resolutely, probably waiting for it's next meal.

Not exactly the iconic London post box, but Japan's is similar. I bought a porcelin mini replica of it.

I know, it's inappropriate being in Japan, but I wouldn't know how to write in it Japanese anyway. I often opened the window of the coach, cold winds against my face as I looked out. It was really refreshing, considering I didnt' like to sleep on buses.. I tend to drool when I don't sleep in proper positions.

Dinner that night had udon with cold dipping sauce, one of my favourites. It's kist noodles and sauce, plain, I don't know why I like it that much heh.

The next morning we headed to Takayama, a village that's more laid back, and much much colder, around 1 deg C. Much to my stupidity, I forgot to pack my gloves. My hands were numb as we toured the old folk village, hence I didn't make full use of the admission, hurrying out of it and into the warm confines of the souvenir shop><

5 Sharing again that night, with a spacious room. Hardly a sight in land-starved Japan. The accomodation that night was comfortable, but I fell sick, probably because of the ice pool-hot pool mixing so many times. As a result, I missed the snowball fight. Can't believe I forgot to pack my gloves too, even if I weren't sick, my hand would've frozen in the snowing weather. Such a shame to miss it..

The freezing cold bridge that led to the breakfast area. Certainly a way to perk up your morning.

Takayama morning market. The milk there was rich and creamy, and above all, warm. Fruits like Fuji apples paled in comparison to the local ones here, roughly 13+ cm in diameter, and a price to boot too.

Rest stop with lunch, and a cute baby chair. We were given pocket money of 1000Y for lunch to order what we wanted from meal ordering vending machines. It was more than enough, allowing us to keep the remainder (:

The Sea of Japan if I'm not mistaken. The sea breeze was icy freezing, and I saw Starbucks there too, with Mt. Fuji vaguely in the backdrop. There, the Starbucks coffee actually costs less than normal meals, around $8-9. Makes you think how expensive the food there is, and how hard it can be to put meals on the table.

Macdonalds meals cost roughly around $9-10 if you're curious.

Dinner that night at a restaurant within a shopping mall. From left, Wilson (who know's Cheng Chong :0) Hou Yi, and Dzul. Sat next to Wilson on the flight there, an avid anime/manga dude, I figured.

Reza, and behind, Larrison. The latter being from basketball, whom I mistook to be a bit beng-ish ><>

We stopped by MacDonalds downstairs, and I was kinda impressed with their efficient trash sorting. All customers do it obligingly, zoom in the picture for a look at what goes where. Cuz of that, MacDonalds in Japan needs no cleaners, or at least I didn't see any at the outlets. Tidy country man..

Makes you wonder the labour behind sorting the trash, when in Singapore, we don't separate combustibles from non combustibles..

Clockwise from left, Ms Sukhvinder who's got really spiffing english, Mr Adrian Tan the frequent traveller, Ms Angela Quek the spunky teacher in charge,Hou Yi, Wilson, Dzul, Davin who's Hong Xiang's sec school mate, bubbly Matthias, Larrison who's funnily sarcastic, and Sean, head of the presentation team of ours.

Carrying on, Reza, myself, fiesty but chummy Olivia, cheery Jessica, Li Ying who can be a bit cold (heh), Meng Guan the combini store proprietor, and Chicky aka Jia He, the feet shuffler. This was taken at the garden of the Hamamatsu Castle, where I collected some rocks like I always do every country I go to..

Self explanatory, self service yourself to a lol :D

Everyone's in the picture, but due to the moving escalator, I didn't have time to adjust the lighting before people got off it. Lotsa people here so I won't bother tagging..

Sean here representing TPJC in the arts fest, the exchange of their gift to us. A last minute scrawl of well wishes, but hey at least the pikachu on it was cute..

There're a few more untagged here, the jet setting Veronika with remarkable critical thinking and english. She's on the right of the girl boosted tallest in the picture, Sheryl, both from Hai Sing I think, the latter being a really funneh gal. On her left, Wei Ting, didn't get to talk to her much though :\ so don't know much about her..

Below Wei Ting, the sarcastic but laid back Amanda, Hai Sing-ian too if I remember correctly. Amanda's 2o' clock is Paulina, an eeriely smart girl who topped the physics online questionaire, and is still topping, accomplishing J2 topics. Really friendly, but didn't think she was capable of such physics powah.

Amanda's 8o' clock is Grace, who knows Hong Xiang as a classmate too. Feel like I haven't talked to hx in a loooong time.. Aiyah they're all bubbly, it's easy to get used to. I like her dressing style, simple but looks a bit classy. Finally, on Grace's left, Xin Hui, didn't talk to her much though.. ):

The LED blue laced around the trees at the malls, found it pretty heh.

Animae-to apparently, as it's pronounced. Huge otaku haunt, with nude anime figurine models sold at coin turning machines. The open-ness is surprising, but nothing interested me there so I headed next door to the scrap booking store, much to the comment of some girls already there.. :S I couldn't find Ramune at any supermarket in Japan!! Bugger.

Huge LED shristmas tree that lighted along to christmas songs with alternating patterns. Stunning, and nearby there was a public telescope that allowed you to look at the moon. Only the cloud cover was thick, and we didn't wait our turn for the skies to clear..

We went for a cuppa and a snack at Starbucks and Macs, later on, it was fun to Japan-people-watch, and hear the teachers talk about them.. Like 'look at that girl's heels, so silly, so high just to look good, see, she can't even run in those to pass the traffic light!' Lol coming from another adult that's not your own, chiding, it's pretty funny..

Sun streaming through the clouds the next day. The next hotel had no lift, so the guys lifted bags for 4 storeys, good workout considering there was just eating and sleeping heh.

Tommy Lee Jones, I wonder if he knows how famous he is, his face is on millions of vending machines across Japan, even at the rural countrysides. Its as if it's a manufacturing requirement!

At the harbour to the ferry to Hakone. I've been there before with my family, so this time it was interesting to see what's changed. Pretty much nothing actually, although it's been only 3 years..

On the ferry. A cheeky Japanese tourist had her hand at Mr. Rumbucket's crotch, gleefully smiling at the camera before Olivia and Davin posed.

A stout figure perched at the mast, was a nice angle with the light to cast it darker.

Land ho!

Museum of Western Art, we passed it by the last time I came here, not knowing what it had inside. At least when I returned, I covered the other areas I missed, kinda completes the trip.

I can't remember any art piece names so I'll let the pictures do the talking.

We got into this building that had a huge netted network of suspended rope. It was like a huge kids playground, really awesome. Climbing here and there, finally got to the top and I was estatic, it was so friggin FUN! Jumping here and there, falling and rolling. If I were years younger, It'd be heaven with some friends.

The colour was really nice too, so got some pictures taken there. The best part was, this was all an art piece. We spent nearly 45mins bouncing around, then we had to rush off quickly later back to the bus.

Here's it when I was there, and below is when I was there 3 years ago, with muh family excluding Gabriel. Not much contrast, and I should've taken my photo there!

The sulfurous heat and stench billowing away, soon we were gonna be close up with it.

Here's us in 2005, I'm on the right most, with the road sloping down, so no I wasn't that short heh.

Rushed down for the self timer, here's a colourful shot (:

The fields of orange as we headed next, to the Little Prince Museum. I never finished that book, being the fickle person that I am. Somehow I'd just link that book to Luna Lovegood sorta thing

The above two on infinity then macro, and a spout of bubbles emitting from a fountain at the entrance. Dreamy, and the lack of other visitors meant that the place was kinda free to roam for us. It no longer seemed like Japan, the streets turned french, a rustic beauty that was replicated well.

And the lil' prince himself, 3 ft tall I think. His author-pilot had loads of imagination, and his life story was told in a prop room by room display, where no photography was allowed.

Heh now on the way back.

That night, I didn't bother going into the onsen. The guide was pretty succint about the PRC tourists behaviour, and at this particular hotel, it was swarming with them. they smaoked with thier food, cut queues at buffets, spat everywhere, and finally, knocked my scalding bowl of soup that stinged muh finger.

I didn't need to think what they'd do in the hot springs, so I didn't go. Of the fearless who went, there was much to witness. They spat into the hot spring water, shouted across to each other, smoked whilst in it, and who knows what else they added :X

The next morning, we left the hotel with clear skies, and the view of Mt. Fuji was really spectacular. For some reason it didn't immediately strike me as something magnificent, but as I exited the hotel and climber down the hill to take nicer shots, it was breathtaking. Out in the cold, it spanned panoramically before you, really takes a moment to take it all in.

The bus left shortly after, and as we drove by this extended avenue, the guide requested for a stop, to allow us some time to snap away. A really great opportunity.

We were rushing off already, and everyone was getting pretty much the same shots, so I tried looking for a different angle, and captured this bare tree and the gate with it. Doesn't spoil, but rather accentuates the emphasis on the volcano I think..

On the road off to the next stop, and the song Life Is A Highway got stuck in my head.

Asakusa Kannon temple, back for the second time too! I can't believe we ran into Meridian here, plus Joseph's classmates too! Some malay dude tapped me on the back and exclaimed, Joel?! Kinda surprising, but then again they left on the same day as us. Still, to be there on the same day.. They left a day earlier than us, which was the day after already.

We bought our BB guns from here, I remember, but didn't find any this time around. Some stores had a tinge of familiarity, kinda nostalgic, and reminded me of my parents whom I didn't see for over a week already.. We went into the temple that time though, unlike this time where we just strolled the shopping promenade.

Here's us heading for dinner, most of the guys. From left, Meng Guan, Wilson, Chicky, can't tell the further three, Reza, Larrison, Hou Yi and Dzul.

Matthias in our double room. He was no trouble at all as a roomie, didn't snore nor stink, heh. Nice guy, glad to know him and his famous laughter since DMSS. Yet another cramped room.

The nightlife of Shinjuku, the red light district. The alleys led to maid cafes and sleazy shops, as we snaked our way through the touts and teens, ang mohs amongst the crowd. We ended up at a ritzy looking shabu shabu restaurant. The food was plain and simple, but the atmosphere was nice.

Got stuck with the few I didn't really mix well with though, so found myself a bit out of place. Still, pleasant dinner, and the walk back to the hotel was nice, talked quite a bit on the way and got to know others much better.

The next morning, we headed for the museum of modern science and innovation, and took some skyline-ish shots while on this suspension bridge. Some famous bridge apparently, but the river canal that passed beneath stood witness to the Japanese surrender ceremony back in 1945-ish.

A live feed of satellite imaging flashed on this huge spherical display, and it oscillated as it feeded, the Earth shifting as you stood there watching. Pretty amazing, the technology on showcase there..

Wierd brand name above, and wierd offer below.

The two respectable teachers in charge, neither of whom I knew prior to this trip ><

Deparature the next day was early, wake up call at an ungodly 5.30am. The two on the left in the front row are Jiamin and the tour guide, the former from the arts stream with a DSLR to boot. The tour guide is Singaporean, and comes to Singapore annually for the NATAS Fair. I'm interested in catching it the next time around.

Narita Airport, this time without the 100Y /half hour internet usage computers around. So squeezed off last minute shots before the flight, which was moved froward by a half hour.

Those four said this picture was kinda ugly, dunno why, but I like the tee print so gonna just put it up. Very common print but I guess it's their spur of the moment purchase, cuz silkscreen could probebly do it for under $5.

And now, final departure. There many more photos I got from the rest, but I'll just post mine only, this post took wayy to long, but no longer than the Australia trip :\ Overall, it was a fantastic experience for a really cheap cost of $1240. All meals and tickets included, and a pocket money of 15000Y which converted to about $234 from my parents, it was one cheap holiday that surpassed my expectations by miles.
The few of us have already met up after the trip, hoping for another get together on the 24th soon for a barbeque. I think it's really efficient to get to know new people when you live with them and share entire days together. Like a personality crash course. Really glad I got a chance to go overseas with friends for the first time too, and maxed the overseas funding every student gets a chance at.
Off for lunch now with Joseph, gonna work with Hong Xiang on monday and tuesday at $11/hour at some office job, man he came through and I'm really thankful for his offer. Year's coming to an end, resolutions soon? :P

penned by joel at 11:06 AM