Sep 28, 2008

A short trip to Soma, Fukushima

Just a short break from the nostalgic stories in QBS..

Yesterday we went for a short trip to Fukushima buy pears. Oh well, since the pear farm is located in Soma, where the HQ for communication device is located, I was also meeting an ex-coworker who was an expat in Malaysia a few years ago.

Soma is located about 90 km from Furukawa, the place where I live in. We departed at about 8am, along with Sato-san and Kono-san (both were also assigned to Malaysia years ago) in separate cars. The journey was quite long, we went on highway at first, but on small streets around some mountains later.

Finally at about 11 am, we reached the pear farm of Odawara's. The pear was soooo big. Sato-san, as usual bought boxes of pears. I think around 20boxes and each of the boxes has at least 10 pears. Odawara-san peeled one for the kids, and I am sure it was sweet and juicy (we were fasting so we could not eat).

Odawara-san invited inside for some hot tea, as it was a little bit cold outside. Odawara-san was also an expat to Malaysia when he worked with the same company so he can understand Malay a little. I then ordered one box, grade 1 pears 10kg to be sent to Prof Shutto in Fukuoka. The pears was 4000yen, and the packaging and shipping cost another 2000yen. Oh well, Prof Shutto told me once that he likes pears very much, so grade 1 pears should be good enough for a present for him.

The Odawaras were very friendly, we talked about Malaysia, about how he started his pear farm after quitting his job etc.. He told us that it was difficult to raise pears, especially when it comes to the fertilizer things. He learnt pear farming from a veteran farmer, but since he was unsatisfied with the fertilizer because it was 100% chemical, he experimented new fertilizer ingredients. It took him hard work,and to his surprise, he managed to raise much better pears than others. Before leaving the Odawaras gave us a box of pears for free (rezeki, alhamdulillah).

Then we went to somewhere near Soma port, to buy some fresh fish. While the non-Muslims and the kids were having lunch, I bought some fish and seafood products at a market beside the restaurant. The fish was a little bit pricey, but they were really fresh.

Next was the meeting with my ex-coworker, Toita-san. He was the youngest expat in the company, so he was quite popular among the girls (even the operators) back then. Baby-faced and fun to mingle around with, too bad he was too busy for a girlfriend. Perhaps he should slow down a little bit to find one :)

We didn't have much time because he was going to attend a wedding ceremony at 2pm. I met him last year, when I came to Furukawa to visit my husband during the summer holidays, so it was exactly one year since then. It was fun to get to see him and update with the recent news on both Japan and Malaysia sides. He said he is coming to Malaysia end of this year, so if his schedule permits maybe we can meet again later.

At 2, we said goodbye to each other and we departed for Furukawa. We took a different route this time without taking the highways. That was really slow because of traffic jam , we finally reached Furukawa at about 4.50pm ( I dropped by at a vegetable shop run by a local farmer on the way). We were all tired and sleepy (didnt sleep since sahur at 3am) so we just had iftar with some octopus sashimi, home-made onigiri (riceballs), a slice of cake (or half because we shared) , milk and a cup of coffee. Will save the sweet and juicy pears for tomorrow's iftar.
Everyone, especially Papa, otsukaresamadeshita...

* Nice blue autumn skies in the middle of the traffic jam in Sendai

Sep 14, 2008

QBS life : ICABE in Nanjing, China 2008

ICABE (International Consortium of Asian Business Education) is a consortium run by Kyushu Univ. Business School to promote networking, share substance and know-how for Asian business education, which many educational institutions have separately developed. And one of the activities of ICABE is student exchange with universities in China. For the first and the last time, I participated in this program held at Nanjing University, China, sponsored by Toshiba International Foundation in Feb, 2008, just before graduation.
Nanjing is located about in the middle between Beijing and Shanghai. This was my 2nd trip to China, the first one was to Shanghai, about 10 years ago. I definitely expected a huge difference as China now is fast growing country after joining WTO.
There were 10 students with 2 proffesors and 1 asst. prof in the trip. We disembarked at Pudong International Airport, Shanghai before taking a chartered bus ride to Nanjing. Actually we were divided into groups and were expected to give presentation on a given topic at Nanjing Univ. Unfortunately, our group was still unprepared so my friends and I took the opportunity to make discussion on the bus.

At last we reached Nanjing and that took us 5 hours from Shanghai! The first activity was a factory tour to Phoenix Ltd, a German company making connectors. Many people at the crust of this company pursued MBA at Nanjing Univ.

Then we moved to a hotel for dinner. Today was the 60th birthday of my supervisor, Prof Shutto. In Japan, 60th birthday is special (called "kanreki") where people celebrate it as the sexagenary cycle completed and restarts at the 60ths year. Simply said, it is like "Life starts at 60".heheh.. Prof Zhan treated him with a birthday cake and I also gave him a small present. Prof. Shutto made sure my food is halal, and I was very thankful for that. One thing I learnt from the dinner is that how drinking is very important in building relationship (ie business) with the chinese. It is not only the drinking thing but also how they do it, the protocol and rules is what matters. Of course I don't drink because I am a Muslim but I feel that this experience is valuable to understand the Chinese.

After dinner, we went to the hotel we were staying. I shared the room with Cho-san (the Chinese girl)from the 5th batch. As we haven't finished doing the presentation material, we went to the boys room for discussion. And that was not really a discussion, the boys were so funny! Lalalalai!!

But we managed to complete the task, at last, late that night. Before returning to our room, the boys promised to accompany me for breakfast the next morning, because of my Muslim diet.

The next morning, we walked the streets around the hotel to find something I could eat. It was the moment when I saw something written in Arabic opposite the side we were walking. We all approached the shop and walla! it was a halal noodles shop! I knew it was halal because the shop had "清真" written on its signboard. A chinese classmate once told me that 清真 means "halal" in Chinese, and I could understand it from the word. To make sure, I asked the cook if he is a Muslim, and he said yes. So..I was so excited to be able to taste the Chinese noodles, in China for the first time ever. I ordered a beef noodles and an extra fried noodles for all to taste. It was so yummy! We took a picture with the shy, young cook before returning to the hotel.

At about 8 we departed for Nanjing University. I was excited to meet friends from Nanjing Univ. who were on exchange program to QBS the previous year. We always meet in QBS study room because I usually stayed up late writing my thesis so most of them know me, at least. After listening to the lectures of prof. from both universities, it was the students' turn to present. We presented on "Where would China go after the Olympics" (that was not the exact title but what we presented) and we made the Tokyo Olympics as the scenario to compare. Well, at the end we brought the discussion to "ECO" issues...ok. to much about that.

After the lecture hall activities, we were brought on a tour to Nanjing Univ Business School. Guess what, the school operates hotel rooms on one of its floors! The rooms are managed by Mandarin Oriental..and it was damn like a hotel. So next time when we come to Nanjing we can stay for a reasonable price, if the rooms are available.

The night we were treated with dinner in the university. Again I was surprised that the Univ has a high class restaurant, and I mean it! Round tables, chinese ala carte menu...we nearly forgotten that we were in campus area.

After dinner, the asst prof asked if we wanted to join her for a massage. I have never been to one except at my cousin's who runs a salon at her house, so I joined the group. To "protect" us, Prof Shutto joined our all-girls group, and there we were, all of us enjoying the foot massage.

The next day, we checked out the hotel and went for a trip to a world heritage site in Nanjing. It was a an ancient castle ruin of Tang Dynasty. From there, we went to Nanjing Station and took a bullet train to Shanghai. All along the way I could see the large gap between the rich and poor in China, and I was a little bit sad about that.

In Shanghai, Hanada-san, Suthep-san and I said goodbye to the others because we were heading home first. The others stay for another night in Shanghai. My classmate, An-san brought us around the busiest streets of Shanghai and somewhere near Shanghai Tower. There were so many people they walk on the bus lane! However, the air was smoky I already felt a sore throat. Anyway, the view of the surrounding (minus the sky) was great.

Later we took a ride on the fastest train on earth (I think) , the linear motorcar. It took only 8 minutes to Pudong International Airport from the city center. See how fast its maximum speed is.. 431km/h!

We finally reached Fukuoka at around 7pm. Thanks to ECO group for all the fun and Prof. Shutto for making sure of my diet.

Sep 10, 2008

QBS life:Trip to Malaysia 2007

This trip is the most memorable thing I've ever done with my friends in QBS. One day, all of a sudden I had this strong desire of introducing my classmates to Malaysia during my planned trip for holidays home. I was the only Malaysian in QBS, and I think there might not be many, if not none, Malaysian taking up this course, as it requires high level of Japanese proficiency, apart from English, and of course not many people would think of Japan to pursue MBA.

My target is to make the trip valuable and memorable, so I targeted to get an appointment with Tun Mahathir (Japanese respects Tun very much), besides arranging for a study trip to university and Malacca. Frankly, I know nobody and was clueless on how to reach Tun until I found about The Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya. One day, I wrote a very simple e-mail to the manager, and woooshhh! her quick reply suprised me with a promise to help get an appointment with Tun! That really motivated me, so other arrangements were done in no time- my uncle introduced me to his friend for the bus, booked 14 rooms at Cititel Midvalley (only 4 persons sharing twin room) and I got an OK from MMU for the study trip. (I chose MMU because I wanted to introduce the Japanese to Multimedia supercoridor),also an OK from JMC/JAD alumni for dinner.

Only by spreading invitation email to my friends, at last there were 16 people joining the trip including 2 Taiwanese and 1 Chinese.Too bad our lecturer could not join because they had to attend an important scheduled event at school.

So the first day, I met the first group at KLIA and we went straight to Cititel Midvalley. Actually I was surprised to see the bus. Besarnyeeeee dan cantiknyeee...thanks Busu Nuar. The night we went for dinner at the 3rd floor foodcourt. My Japanese friends found it hard to choose from so many kinds of food.Heheh, I didn't really eat because there were another 2 friends coming from KLIA.

The second day was our day in KL. We went to KLCC by train. The weather was nice and hot so KLCC's view is magnificient. During Zohor prayers, I brought them to KLCC mosque, to introduce them more on Islam. It seemed interesting to them; one even took a picture of the toilet in the mosque! (maklumla kita kan pakai air)..Coincidently, it was Saturday and there were many school children who came for a trip, so my friends took the chance talking to the locals. In the evening, we went up to the tower bridge. It was also my first visit there, and I think it was very nice to have a bird's eye view on KL. We then went to a hotel in Ampang to meet JMC/JAD alumni committee members. Most of the top position were from my batch whom I haven't seen for quite a while, so it was like a jejak kasih for me! We had very friendly sessions, everybody was excited and enjoyed the north Indian meals. I think we reached hotel at about 11pm.

The next day, Sunday was our trip to....MELAKA! On the way, we drop by at Cyberjaya to visit MMU's MBA program. We participated in one of the class and had simple lunch, mingle around with the MBA students.

Nearly at noon, we reached Melaka and the first thing we did was visit Taman Mini Malaysia, Ayer Keroh. Too bad the facility was not well maintained so I was actually a little embarassed/dissappointed about that. Next, we went to Banda Hilir. We walked along Jonker Street and they were amazed to see a Chinese and Hindu temple, and a mosque all at one road. At the mosque, we joined the kids who were playing sepak raga and ping pong. One of the Malay boys could speak Chinese, so my Taiwanese friends "interviewed" him. Then we walked up the St Paul's Hill. The cool breeze of Straits of Melaka took away the heat..bestnye.. We walked down to A Famosa and then went for a drink at Dataran Pahlawan. At about 7pm, we moved to Umbai for ikan bakar dinner. I showed them the area where my house is located on the way (too bad I couldnt invite them to my house for some reasons). As we reached the medan ikan bakar, it was sunset. And that was the sunset that would remind me very much about this trip. My mother, sister, her friend and my children later joined in. It was my mother's birthday so we got her a cake and presents to celebrate! Time went so fast, we only board the bus at 10pm and arrived in Cititel midvalley about 12midnight. Esok nak jumpa Tun early in the morning!

There came the morning we were waiting for. I was well-dressed (pinjam baju adik) in kebarung and my friends were also in formal attire. It was the time when I read the newspaper while waiting for my room mate to get ready when I saw this tiny article: TUN WAS ADMITTED TO IJN. Oh dear....what should I say to my friends..?

As usual, we assembled at the lobby and I conveyed the news. Everyone was shocked, but the plan was still on. We went to Perdana Leadership Foundation, and were welcomed by Puan Zarina, the manager of the foundation. She also informed us about the bad news. Anyway, Puan Zarina is an elegant, softspoken lady, her English is so good and she treated us very well. She guided us through the facilities and activities of the foundation.We were then invited for a tea (what they say) which for us was equal to a decent lunch. Tsuruoka-san asked if we could enter Tun's office, and she contacted Tun's aide to get the permission. There we were, posing in Tun's room and checking out what Tun was reading. Our group photo is certainly incomplete without Tun, but we were very thankful to the staff for the nice treat.

Since the second group came later on Saturday, we then returned to KLCC for shopping and such. It was raining heavily as we were moving back to KLIA(some were boarding the evening flight). That night Tsuruoka-san, Wakasugi-san, Watanabe-san,Fu-san and I went to Bangsar for dinner. They were very excited to experience eating at stalls. Furthermore, one of the stalls provide shisha, so the guys tried that. It tasted apple, they said.

Only Wakasugi san and Fu san stayed till the last day. Early in the morning, we went to Dataran Merdeka to visit a museum next to it and posing in front of Bangunan Sultan Abd Samad. Fu san left for Taiwan in the afternoon, so I brought Wakasugi san to Jalan Masjid India. Wakasugi san wanted to watch a Tamil movie, and we did so for only about half an hour. Again to KLCC, had tea, and said goodbye to Wakasugi-san. The moment I stepped into the commuter, I did not remember anything--I felt like the clouds were on me. Again when I reached Nilai, I was nearly unconscious. ...slept like a log.

This trip really challenged me to the limit because I did everything single-handedly. Except for not being able to meet Tun, I am very satisfied and proud to myself when my friends told me they were very satisfied with the trip. And that sunset on the Straits of Melaka put me and the trip members in tears when the photo was showcased during our graduation dinner's finale.

Sep 7, 2008

QBS life : Reduce Reuse Recycle

Japan is a country that has little resources compared to its domestic needs. The country is rich with mountains, volcanoes, had not much of land to use and also does not have much/at all natural resources like petroleum, gas or minerals.

So, unlike us in Malaysia, people in Japan are very concern about what they throw, because they have little space to dump all the garbages. And one good thing is that the Japanese act in groups and this behaviour is one little secret of their success as a civilised society. So when the government outlined that everybody must separate the garbage before throwing it away, everyone does it without much complain (I mean not as much as us in Malaysia).

Some criteria that must be fulfilled when you want to throw garbage in Japan is

1) Identify what type it is (burnable, unburnable, pet bottle, glass bin, large size (like furniture, electrical appliances etc)

2) Put the thrash in the designated garbage bag (you have to purchase a standard garbage bag) and throw it at the designated place on the designated day. (ie, in front of your apartment, every Tuesday and Friday for burnable garbage, once a week for plastic)

-> so you will have to stand a pungy smell in the house until the specified day if you produce mountains of kitchen garbage

3) If you mix up the garbage, chances are you'll get it returned in front of your door with a notice.

If you are coming to stay in Japan, don't worry you will be provided with pamphlets on how to throw away rubbish correctly the day you register with the municipal.

If you are outside, just find the correct bin to throw away the garbage.. But it is not that easy to find one. Everyone here bring his/her own plastic bag to picnics and barbeque to bring the garbage home. We also did that on every similar events we do. This is because no garbage bins are provided..and still people don't leave the trash for the sake of the environment.

Another good thing from this is that, people recycle a lot here. To throw away an electrical would cause you about 3000yen (that is about RM100). So what they do is they sell it at very cheap price or just give it away for free. And there is when I come in...getting every thing for nearly free. My TV with TV rack, large refrigerator, table, cabinet, bicycle, dresser etc..were all used item but at very good conditions. I got all the information from message board in Fukuoka Now, a website for dedicated for foreigners living in Fukuoka. Nani's clothes and toys were also from the recycle center or flea market. And the tradition is that, when the person is leaving, the things will be given away to other Malaysians for free.

To my surprise when I first arrived here, Japanese recycle the milk container, not by merely putting it into a specified garbage bin, but before that they will cut open, wash and dry the containers before throwing it into specified garbage bins usually provided in supermarkets. Man.. thats a lot of hassle but generally people follow it. The box will be recycled to make tissue papers.

The picture below is about Aeon (Jusco) activity of recycling biomass plastic (plastic made of plants) from plastic to wrap vegetables -> egg container. And if you tell that you don't need a plastic bag (because you bring shopping bag etc), you'll get a stamp which you can exchange with a discount coupon when the qty is enough.

Their effort is endless to tell, but the result is there. Longkang belakang rumah ni macam anak sungai yang bersih betul airnya. I was told by a Japanese friend that long time ago, when Japan was a developing country, water pollution was bad, worse than Sg Klang, but with their hard work (not by cleaning the water macam govt buat kat Msia, but the effort of the society), the rivers now are crystal clear.

I really hope the day Malaysians be as environmentally concious as the Japanese will come. And I would like to help my brothers and sisters of my alma mater with that...Tgklah macam mana..

Sep 5, 2008

QBS Life: QBS classes

It has been a while since I last wrote. There is some job I have to do, deadline next week. So for now I will just jot down simple but memorable stories of QBS. One of it is the QBS class. QBS classes are at night to cater working adults. The classes started at 6.20~9:30 pm with 10 mins break in the middle (already changed in previous sem). Nearly half of our lecturers have responsibility in giant companies, and they sit top positions. We also have lecturers invited from other organizations and overseas universities, during summer hols. I took up one class called "Asia Business Management" and the prof. (Prof. Zhao, pic mid->don't mind about me in the pic ,ok..not my latest size) was from Beijing. From the lecture I learnt that making business with Chinese in a sense is no different from the Japanese; "relationship" is heavily required. You have to get yourself into the circle and once you are there, it is easier to do business with them. And to do that you will have to understand their culture, language and etiquitte. I experienced more of this during my visit to Nanjing, China which story I will write later.

We in QBS are like a family. We helped each other and the lecturers also helped us a lot. There was a time when Nani had a high fever, her temperature was 40℃ for 5 consecutive days and everyone was so worried about that. I merely had sleep that in the International Business class I went to the lecturer to ask questions, but I couldn't say it. In Intellectual Property class, I missed the last class because of this and a classmate helped explain the requirements for the final report. I did exactly like what he said and I was praised sky high by the lecturer, saying that the report was one of the best in the class! Arita-san, I owe you one!

MBA classes are very interesting for me because we can say almost anything. The students also evaluate the performance of the lecturers and the management of QBS itself at the end of each semester. I remember once in Organizational Behaviour I asked the lecturer this question, "Do Japanese think that a person who quits a job an works somewhere else a traitor?".Even the lecturer was shocked to hear it, but I think that was a question I really wanted to ask a Japanese...heheh, I did get an answer for it of both Yes and No sides.
I also like writing reports for the class, because we are given freedom to choose anything we want to write about an addressed issue. For the accounting final report, we were asked to evaluate financial performance of 2 companies we like, and I chose the company I worked for previously and its competitor. Man..that report cost me more than 40 pages to finish but I really satisfied with it.

I really missed the days in QBS. I wished I could turn back time. The only thing I hate about it was that I had to be away from the family, that's all.

Sep 1, 2008

Ramadan's here!

Yesterday, 31st Aug, marked the 51th anniversary of Malaysian independence. It was also yesterday that in Malaysia, the 1st fasting day of Ramadan determined. And today, has been proclaimed as the 1st day of Ramadan. In the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat, drink and are also obliged to follow other restrictions from dawn to sunset.

Ramadan in Japan is very much different from one in Malaysia. We do not have Bazar Ramadan, which sells so many kinds of food especially as the breakfasting time is approaching and most importantly we do not have the chance to savour mom's dishes..At the moment, the dawn and sunset time is also different, 3.30am to 6.00pm (as in Miyagi) so we have to wake up earlier to eat some food before starting to fast.

But one thing we enjoy fasting in Japan is that the weather is not as hot as in Malaysia. Daily temperature is generally 28℃ max so we don't feel as tired. And another thing is that when we have breakfast gathering with other Malaysians. It is usually potluck style where we bring our own dishes to share with our friends. These are also the time for the bachelor kohais (junior) to show off their talent in cooking. See pic, teh tarik depa kaww..siap buat kuih keria lagi...

When I was in Fukuoka, the Muslim student association holds breakfasting and terawih prayers (special prayers only in Ramadan) every day at school and one big event on Sundays at the International Students Hall. In the Sunday event, many people will come, including women and children so every country will have to take turns preparing food for breakfasting. Usually Malaysians will work with some other countries with small population in Fukuoka.

During the days when I had classes at QBS, I remembered asking my lecturer for permission to have a bite on biscuit for breakfasting. QBS classes are at night, usually from 6.20pm~9.30pm (2 periods) so if I don't eat, pengsanlaa..Not to mention that I was also working during the day, from 10 to 4. Time in Ramadan was very short because I had to wake up as early as 2.30am to eat (I don't sleep after eating), do assignment or housechores, prepare for work and Nani's kindergarten..and sleep at about 11pm after finishing school at 9.30pm. In one Ramadan, I lost about 8kgs...(but now bounce back..heheh)

Ramadan this year is the last one for me in Japan. The last chance to lose weight too, before returning to Malaysia. For all Muslims out there, enjoy Ramadan!