Saturday, October 8, 2016
It's been more than a month since I went to Japan. Suffice to say, I felt what I mentioned above at Haneda airport while counting down the minutes to my departure back to England. New and old friends patiently waited with me as I queued up to checked-in, ate with me my last Japanese dinner bought at the convenience store, and took an abundance of digital memories. These things made it all the more difficult to let go and leave. I put on a smile, wide enough that even my own consciousness is fooled, laughed loudly, assuring myself and the others that I will be back the following year -- the same promise I made the previous year.
But life is unexpected and plans are ephemeral.
The inital aim of this post was to reflect on my time in Japan (which was no less exciting as the previous time), but I guess it ended up sounding a little more melodramatic than intended.
Weather induced moodiness aside, I really did enjoy my time in Tokyo and Minami-Aizu. The feeling was, in a way, different than I had expected. As I had been to some of the places before, it felt like I was going home and seeing the people from, say, a hometown I had not seen in years. There was this sense of familiarity when I walked down the streets of Shibuya, or when I took off my soiled shoes at the genkan of Cloud Camp in Minami-Aizu. The confidence I felt navigating the streets of Yoyogi or dining in Japanese restaurants. But somehow I felt like I was the only one feeling this sense of home (out of the other participants), and rightly so since I was the only returnee. It would've been amazing if I met up with everyone from Experience Japan 2015, but perhaps, that day will come soon in the future.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
I realised something. Sitting in the departure hall of terminal two in Heathrow two hours early, I read a book -- Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto -- to kill time. Opposite me are a British (I think) couple, probably in their fifties, with eyes peering through their spectacles at the ipads held between their slightly stubby fingers. And here I am, reading a small, thin novella, 150 pages, with a glaringly pink cover. As my own tired eyes (five hours in the bus is no joke) and foggy mind struggled to comprehend the printed words, relaxing and unwinding, a thought, quiet as a passing whisper, struck me like a gong. I've always enjoyed reading physical books where I can touch, flip its pages and smell them, feel its weight in my hands. Electronic devices like tablets have been introducing new features with each new model; the feeling of flipping a page, the sound of flipping the page, all without the hassle of weight and with extra capacity. But, obviously the very experience of reading an actual book in hand has been compromised.
Now, the reason I've gone on talking about this is because, without that base thought, this revelation wouldn't be as profound. Coming back to the the initial point of the post: I realised something as I was reading. Words printed in books, inbued into its parchment, it's black ink against brown or white, there is something permanant about it, as though they were etched in stone (or paper, if you're being literal). Whereas electronic words are ephemeral. One touch of a button and your words disappear, refreshes, changes. The very content you had been reading -- now old news -- is replaced by something new and exciting. I don't think this is an issue in itself, but rather the fragile state of the words, and information and experience it gives the reader. Compared to books, you can't change anything without ruining it, say, with liquid paper or strikes of ink or carbon. It is, as I said, etched forever, until the book disintegrates, lost to the merciless hands of time.
But what is the reason for this post, you must wonder? Ah, my dear reader, there is no reason. No reason at all. Just listless thoughts in the airport.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
I think God taught me something today -- that's not to say that he doesn't teach you something everyday, but today, for some reason, after getting my pay I was, in a way, placed in a couple of situations where I was forced to use that money (for reasons I won't state) instead of keeping it for my saving's account like I always do. The lesson only struck me as I sat down for a relatively cold dinner: money is not meant to be kept and never used. You don't earn money to hoard it all, admiring the numbers that increase each time you deposit your salary, but to spend it on the things you need. Money, if you think of it in this way, is essentially not yours. Sure you earned it, and have every right to claim your hard earned cash -- but it's not yours. If you think about it this way, it is God's money you're spending. Why? He's the one who provided you with the job. He's the one who gave you the means and chances to hone your skills to get that job. He's the one who gave you the talents to even learn those skills, etc. Etc., you get my point.
It's just like the parable of the talents, roughly, anyway. The main point? Everything you own is not yours completely. This thought is what, I assume, drives people to greed and to stinge like that old man in The Night Before Christmas -- which I realise I'm slowly becoming. So, I guess it was a good lesson. Not exceptional, but good. And besides, money can be earned back. What's the point of keeping it, if you're not going to do anything good about it?
Sunday, June 12, 2016
I've been watching films for inspiration while doing my writing assignments, and right now as well (when I should be writing my quota of 1000 words a day). I've watched about four films this week when I usually wouldn't even watch a film a month. I have to say this has really helped me out of my 'creative drought', as I would call it. I watched Whispers of The Heart just now and I was utterly surprised at how it took me back to my high school days when I was obsessed with writing stories in my many brown, exercise books. I didn't care about the grammar, or whether it sounded 'correct', but I was all bent on spilling my heart and soul into my writing. I even got caught in class once and had my book confiscated, but that didn't stop me from starting all over again. I had forgotten what zeal felt like. I had forgotten why I wanted to be a writer at 13. But I've already given up that idealistic dream, though. Reality is harsher than what my 13-year-old self had conjoured up in her mind. But after watching that film, I feel it coming back - that spark of flame. I could feel all the pent up frustrations of the protagonist as she struggles to write a novel in a mere span of two months (sorry, spoilers), how she is absorbed into the world she created, and how she felt totally incompetent and her work meager, compared to the boy she likes who's off pursuing his dream in Italy. I totally understood that (except the last part) and it brought tears to my eyes. The joy you feel when you let someone read your raw material, your first draft, your unpolished gem, and receiving positive feedback from it is euphoric, and it was depicted beautifully in the film. Even though it was just a simple scene, but it resonated with me and brought back the once lost memories of when I would shamelessly let my schoolmates read my work, and reading their encouraging feedback would always inspire me to continue writing.
I enjoy how Miyazaki is able to express people's desires so vividly in his work and how they are able to inspire so many hearts to keep doing what they love. My work's still not great, and sometimes I hate how I'm unable to phrase sentences that make sense, but a little inspiration goes a long way.
Enough ranting, for now. Back to telling stories.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Had my final Japanese exam (writing and listening) right after Easter holidays (didn't even realise it was that soon omg /panic) but I think I nailed it. As a result of desperately prepping myself in a span of a week, I started a Japanese blog on Ameba/Ameblo. It's such a strange and interesting place. I mean, it's almost like Friendster and Myspace all over again (minus the super bling-ed profile pages)! I still can't read 90% of the stuff over there but at least there's the 10%, right? I did pray for tangible improvement, and I guess that prayer is answered? Three weeks ago, I wouldn't have been able to construct sentences, let alone write (super short) paragraphs. And now I have a blog. Let's hope it doesn't turn into a sad case of abandonment.
If I told my younger self of 5 years ago that I'd be doing a Masters in the UK, starting a Japanese blog and actually enjoying myself, my younger self would look at me funny and say 'yeah right.'
Anyway, there's at least some kind of deadline every week. And by God's grace, I'm managing to handle each efficiently. I wish I was this effecient in undergrad. Things might have been much more different. But then again, who am I to question fate?
Asides from the mundane things, it's been super cold this week-- a ridiculous 4°C, which seems to be the average for now. For goodness' sake, it's almost May. What happened to SPRING? I know winter seems to be the permanent resident here in Britain, but seriously, is this even a joke? Apparently it even snowed this afternoon for a bit. I was too busy working the counter to even notice until my friend pointed it out to me. By that time, it had already stopped (lol).
Nothing else seems to be happening much asides from that. Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but when you're a broke student, 'healthy' seems to be a much more illusive goal than usual.
P.S: For some reason, my brain is thinking in Japanese (style of speech and writing). I don't suppose that's a good thing, right?
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Monday, February 15, 2016
First of all, let's look at 2 Corinthians 6:14-15:
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship have light with darkness?  What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?"Now, the first part of verse 14 is often quoted when speaking about/to a couple, where one partner is a believer while the other isn't. However, we have discovered that (or rather, tried to understand the context of which Paul is saying this in) 'unequally yoked' does not only necessarily mean marriage. It can also mean partnerships, friendships, companionship, etc. But you may argue, 'Didn't Jesus call us to spread the gospel to the unbelievers?' Yes, he did. Verse 14 speaks about the two extremes of belief (or lack thereof): righteous, wicked; light, darkness; believer, unbeliever.
Ipsomniac explained (paraphrased) it as: "Would you be friends with someone who hates your parents? Let alone want to get together with them and marry them?"
Would you be friends or get together with someone who was evil/bad, or someone who hated/disliked/disagreed with the heavenly being you worship? Would you be partners with someone who would constantly disagree with whatever you say/think/do?
Let's continue on with verses 16 to 17:
" What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: 'I will live with them and walk with them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'  Therefore, 'come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.'"Here, Paul is specifically talking about idols and idolatry. (under the obvious subheading in bold in the NIV: 'Warning against Idolatry') Of course, logically, this would also mean that a believer is not to be married to a non-believer, too. Is this a commandment? Personally, I'm not sure. Some say yes, some argue no. Is it, then, an advice? Perhaps. Bear in mind that I am but a curious person wanting to understand more about this so that I am able to explain it better, so please withhold any spiteful comments about the way I am interpreting this.
What I do believe, is that this is stated so we wouldn't get hurt. Imagine being with someone who does not share the same ideas, goals, and beliefs as you do. Wouldn't that be conflicting? Wouldn't that just hurt you and the other person in the end? Also since people tend to mimic those around them, wouldn't it make sense that being with people who are 'evil' and 'idolatrous' would lead you down that path too? You could argue that the opposite may happen as well, but let's be honest, we're more inclined to follow the ways of the world than the ways of God, because we're sinful by nature and human.
Okay, before jumping for the nearest weapon to swing at me for my comment, understand that I, too, have many friends and family that would be considered 'idolatrous' by Paul's standards, but I do not see them as 'intentionally evil', so it's up to your discernment. The main point Paul is trying to make (in my humble opinion), is to stay away from people who would intentionally lead you astray from your walk with God and cause you to sin.
Anyway, so does this mean we cannot marry a non-believer? Let's look at 1 Corinthians 7:12-16
"To the rest, I say this (I [Paul] not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.  And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  But if the unbeliever leaves, let is be so. The brother or sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"
Okay, that's a pretty chunky text. It looks less intimidating in my bible lol. It's a bit contradicting as it reaches the end, in my opinion. So if a child(ren) born from the union of a believer and unbeliever is considered unholy if the believer divorces the unbeliever, then wouldn't the leaving of the unbeliever make the child unholy too? I have no idea how this works. I mean, I think I can kind of get it that the responsibility lies with the believer of the couple, but my stating that could potentially open a can of worms.
Anyway this passage (and the verses before this) talks about the reasons for whether divorce is applicable in certain circumstances, and about marriage with an unbeliever. So my argument here is: marriage with a non-believer can happen, and no I don't think God would condemn you for it, and neither should the world and the church community. Although, the couple would have to face the consequences of the marriage. Let's face it, God lets certain things happen for a reason, and He makes the good out of them. Maybe you got a calling or some sort of conviction to go out with this person, even marry them. I don't think you should feel guilty about it. Who knows, perhaps God is using you to impact someone's life.
At the same time, dating is not a ground for missionary work. Don't date just so you can convert the other person, or with the intention of changing them. Their conversion should be his/her choice, based on their own conviction, not because of wanting to impress you, or being forced to. Freewill, remember? (Also a heavily debatable topic, but our mediocre sense of logic can't wrap around how God works anyway) Furthermore, God has called us to be at peace. If there is no peace in your heart, pray about it. Discuss about it with your fellow believers. Talk about it with your non-believer partner/friend/companion, and then plan your next course of action.
A partner should be someone who is willing to protect you, respect you, trust you and nurture you into a better person, and vice versa. And if you fall, God will always be there to catch you, in any way, whether it's a way you like, or not.
Finally, this is just my two cents, my opinion and my interpretation. I am not some holy believer who has absolute knowledge and understanding of the Bible and how this whole Christianity-thing works. There are still many things in the book that I'm trying to understand and come to terms with. We're all still learning anyways.
1 A group where believers come together and discuss and share about the bible and its word↩
2 Yoke here means to carry a burden, not an egg (which was what I thought as a child right though teenage)↩
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Plus, breaking the fourth-wall while addressing Hollywood's film making system, rocks; which is basically this film in a nutshell, including all the listed above.
Friday, January 1, 2016
2015 has been a blessed year. When I mean blessed, I mean for myself. I've been given crazy opportunities to travel; far more than I can ever dream. It may have given me a brand new perspective in life -- a new mind, perhaps. At least that's what I hope I've acquired after all that.
Thinking back on the year, I do suppose I've achieved a lot.
I graduated with a second-upper; made my family, friends, and myself proud. I traveled parts of Europe; an experience I never imagined myself doing. I spent ten beautiful days in Japan; a dream I had convinced myself wasn't going to happen, but it did. I was accepted for that Masters degree; an opportunity I've never considered taking, but did. Wonderful relationships were made, celebrated and mourned over; a truly humbling experience.
The world is also not without it's fair share of increasingly frequent troubles. No need to list them here, for there are far too many to even keep up with on my daily facebook newsfeed. Despite that, we've gone through a lot together as mankind, it's just whether we learn from our mistakes and avoid making them in the future (which I highly doubt because we as humans are annoying, stubborn creatures.)
That's not to say that my life in this year has been blissful. I've had my ups and downs, my fair share of troubles and miracles.
Now, enough of all this melancholic nonsense (though I don't think they are nonsense lol). I'm just really grateful for this year to be honest. It's been a pretty eventful year in my life, and dare I say it, far more than any other so far. What I think is going to happen in 2016, I don't know. Maybe that's the year I die, or maybe that's the year I contract some life-changing illness. Maybe it'll be a year of new prospects; voluntarily stepping out of my comfort zone. Maybe I might even find someone to coddle me (Not even attempting to be funny here!) In any case, I don't know what the future holds. The only confirmed possibility would be graduating (again).
I really do want to return to Japan again though.