last night we relocated to another place for dessert.  As we were about to leave, i went to the toilet.  Unfortunately once i unlocked the door after using the facilities, the door wouldn’t open!  Not exactly ideal for one with claustrophobia.  i had enough composure to ring the mobiles of the people i was with. i called several times, several individuals but no one picked up.  It was not until my son looked for me after several minutes (but it felt like an eternity to me) that i told him i was stuck inside. i was so panicked that i considered climbing out the window without my walking frame but the blinds didn’t want to open (it was hard to know because i was already in a panicked state.  Between me pulling and my wife pushing we were able to open the door.  i’m not going to lie: it was a very harrowing experience for me – generally, i face my fears but that is one i have yet to overcome. i’ve been told that writing about is part of “processing” it.  While i’m generally “cerebral”, fears are by their very nature irrational – it is cold comfort to me despite statistical probabilities not to “catastrophise”.

btw, we informed the remaining staff member of the incident and need to look into the issue.

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stranger in a strangeland (2)

November 17, 2018

i’m a sucker for good food.

and most of what I ate was tasty.  It reminds me of Melbourne (where I studied for a year) in that on almost all street corners you could get a decent cup of coffee (kudos to the Italians!), it was like that with food.  Not that the food wasn’t good in Melbourne (like New York, it clearly was influenced by the plethora of immigrants) but the food in Tokyo was something else (they have the most Michelin restaurants in a city in the entire planet after all).  If possible i prefer “cheap” grub (but like my sister says:  “Nothing is cheap in Japan) but i’m known for saving so i can spend for an “expensive” meal – i just value experiences over things.  To paraphrase Antony Bourdain:  good food is often simple food.

over there they seem to like their KitKat ™ (apparently this translates to the Japanese kitto katsu, meaning good luck or surely win   which explain its popularity) .  They’ve got the most assortment of favours i’ve ever seen:  strawberry, apple, Tokyo banana (a lot of their snacks have a combination of this fruit with chocolate), ube (purple yam quite popular in the Philippines) , wasabi (a type of Japanese horseradish), maccha (two variants of green tea – a “sweeter” one for the kiddies and a more intense one for adults),  miso (fermented soybean), sake(there were two variants of the rice wine alcohol:  Masuizumi or plum), and soy sauce.   Those were the ones we saw.  Apparently, there are also cherry; lemon; kiwi; mango; pineapple; maple; cappuccino; blueberry cheesecake; cookies plus; apple vinegar; azuki bean (more commonly known as the adzuki bean); apricot seed; baked potato; chocolate and  grilled potato; white peach; white and yellow peach; chocobanana; banana minis; bitter chocolate; i-stick (frozen dark chocolate);  pumpkin; baby pumpkin; sports drink; strawberry fromage (French for cheese); blueberry fromage, strawberry milk, French Bretagne milk; French salt; salt watermelon; fruit parfait; college tater (which i assume is a form of potato); double berry (a combination of blueberries and strawberries);  anko (red ben paste) and maccha; red bean paste; sweet bean paste; Yubari melon (a type of Japanese cantaloupe); Nasu Kogen (geographic highlands in Japan) milk; soybean powder; strong soybean flour; Houji tea (Houjicha is a roasted, Japanese green tea); jasmine tea; maccha milk; Muscat of Alexandria (a white wine grape variety); and brandy & orange variants. I’m guessing not all were ‘successful’ or that some flavours were only available for a limited time.  My philosophy has always been to try food – if you don’t like something then fair enough, at least you tried it (that’s why it took me awhile to taste rabbit because growing up I had them as pets – forget that they’re technically rodents).  I found the Tokyo banana and “dark” maccha okay but found the ube, wasabi, and “light” maccha too sweet (i suspect they were blended with white chocolate).  i missed out on trying the soy sauce and sake variants because of “quantity” issues.

we tried McDonald’s there:  not because we craved the familiar but because they are prone to localisation.  In the Philippines, they’ve got Fried Chicken (with rice if you want) and Spaghetti prompted (i guess) by the local competitor Jollibee (and as far as i know, the only place in the world where they are ranked second as far as hamburger chains go).  My wife & i had the Ebi (Japanese for shrimp) Fillet and my son had the Chicken Teriyaki burger. For dessert, we tried the Choco Pie (not the “white” one, the other one tasted like the hazelnut spread) and the Cinnamon Melts(it was good and “deconstructed” but i’m a sucker for a decent Cinnamon Roll)).

we ate at two places that our niece recommended: a sushi and a ramen place.  Both were “cramped” and my wife had to feed me (as I needed both hands to hold onto the tables there).  The sushi restaurant was like a sushi train in that there were no servers.  Instead, you ordered your item from a touch screen and it was delivered on one of three “tracks” (i think they must have corresponded to the price).  It was “good” and my son had seven plates.  i had more but “stopped” myself as i’m trained to eat a lot.  It was a “cheap” meal and you could tell as the rice easily separated from the fish (but i prefer sashimi from sushi anyway, although the hallmark of great sushi is supposedly the quality of the rice and not the seafood).  On the other hand. you had to pre-order your food from the ramen place using a vending machine.  you could even order the house ramen to take away – we didn’t as we didn’t want the hassle of dealing with fairly strict Australian Customs.  Both were off the beaten path and hidden away,  prospective patrons were unlikely to just wander off the streets of Shinjuku and the restaurants probably relied on word-of-mouth for custom.

i first had my taste of Uni (Japanese for sea urchin) at the “cheap”sushi place.  i also tried it at an “expensive” place.  Frankly, i’m obsessed with the uni  they serve in Japan.  It tastes different and MUCH better than the ones in the US, OZ or the Philippines (regardless of the price-point).  My working theory is:  since a lot more people order it in Japan so any stock doesn’t have to be stored for a long time so it is much fresher and, therefore, tastier.

i gained some weight because as my wife puts it:  what i had in a day, i’d usually consumed in a week.  She noticed more as she had to push me around.  It was not until i got back to OZ that the difference was obvious to me:  i became heavier there but at least the kilos seemed “distributed”, here i get a “ponch” on my tummy first.

aside from seeing the sights, we try to “eat like locals” when we can – i think it opens your mind further.  As Andrew Zimmern puts it:  “Food is a passport to adventure”.  And to paraphrase the late, great Anthony Bourdain: Travel changes you.

TBC

 

 

 

aspiration vs. inspiration

October 23, 2018

it might just me being pedantic but I prefer the latter term. Sure, there’s a need to be careful that it’s not presented as ‘inspiration porn’ (as it’s known in disability circles).  In my view, if it makes you want to become a better person and it’s not a short term thing then that’s fine with me. It’s the temporary fixes that I’ve got issues with (I know the rules of grammar state you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition but sometimes it just reads and sounds better).  It’s when people look at others in a worse situation to (effectively) feel better about themselves or their lives.  If you had empathy (in my mind at least), you’d feel sadder and not necessarily more thankful – I’m not a very positive person but that feels like the focus is more skewed towards the negative – like the schadenfreude people get from reality tv or the internet.

I consider (big surprise) Prof. Stephen Hawking to be inspirational but not aspirational.  I’m nowhere as smart as him (nor do I pretend to be anywhere close). It’s unrealistic reference points that seem to me the source of so much unhappiness and ‘malcontentment’.  Be your  best self, not what ‘others’ expect you to be (much easier said than done).  Measuring up to certain aspects of him (he’s only human after all and thus imperfect) is foolhardy.  To paraphrase from the book:  “The Spirituality of Imperfection”, it’s not about the outcomes wise men achieved but seeking what they sought – it’s more of the process of ‘enlightenment’.

There’s always a danger with role-models:  emulation is desirable but putting someone on a pedestal can easily morph into ‘blind’ (pardon the pun) idolatry or ‘paragonism’.

sing

November 6, 2017

 

last week a choir performed this song.  I haven’t heard it in awhile being in OZ but it’s one of my favourite hymns. It made sense that they sung the English version so that most people could understand.

Strangely, the original is by St. Ignatius of Loyola and for some reason my personality clashes with the Jesuits.  The point is (regardless of spirituality), we should always aspire to be more selfless.  I don’t claim to be so inclined but the reminder to be generous is always welcome.

The English lyrics can be found below but I find the Tagalog version more beautiful and expressive.  There are many versions (most of which you can find on YouTube)  but I still prefer the one by the Bukas-Loob Ministry.

To paraphrase St. Augustine:  “Those who sing pray twice.”  A certain person inadvertently was mistaken  when he claimed to originate the saying (having received an Augustinian education I’m reasonably certain).  I’ve grown to be an admirer, who doesn’t like a good redemption story (I think that requires a seperate blog entry).

I may no longer have the ability to do it outwardly but in my mind, I still sing.

PRAYER FOR GENEROSITY (with English lyrics)

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous
Teach me to serve You as I should
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labor and ask not for reward
Save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will

 

PANALANGIN SA PAGIGING (PRAYER FOR GENEROSITY in Tagalog)

Panginoon, turuan Mo akong maging bukas palad
Turuan Mo akong maglingkod sa Iyo
Na magbigay ng ayon sa nararapat
Na walang hinihintay mula sa Iyo

Na makibakang ‘di inaalintana
Mga hirap na dinaranas
Sa tuwina’y magsumikap na hindi humahanap
Ng kapalit na kaginhawahan
Na ‘di naghihintay kundi ang aking mabatid
Na ang loob Mo’y siyang sinusundan

Panginoon, turuan Mo akong maging bukas palad
Turuan Mo akong maglingkod sa Iyo
Na magbigay ng ayon sa nararapat
Na walang hinihintay mula sa Iyo

worse for wear

October 10, 2017

i won’t lie – I’m bit upset.  Just came from my NeuroPhysio and although my Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) test wasn’t too bad it was the first time I can recall it getting worse. This coupled with my recent falls (of which I rarely did), the return of what seems like the “shaking” of my hands, and my recent battles with anxiety is genuinely concerning to me.

She agrees that it would have been much worse if not for my exercising daily (and I have to do “quite a few”). Improvements have always been unrealistic – our goal was always keeping it from getting worse.  Because the doctors still can’t identify it, there is no timeline I can refer to – it may go downhill rather quickly at any time like it did at the onset before it “stabilsed”.  She gave me additional exercises to see if these help.

I’m naturally pessimistic but stubborn.  It’s not my nature and was raised not to wallow but have learned that I can’t keep everything bottled in like I usually do.  I think I’ve got the right to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  I felt afraid so I cried.  It was cathartic and necessary for me to move on.

reversal of fortune

August 30, 2017

apparently, lobster was once fed to prisoners then eventually became quite pricey.  In contrast, peanut butter started out as a “staple” of high society before it became common and widely available to the masses.  The course of history and marketing can affect how a food is perceived – a colleague notes how certain meats are considered consumable by humans while others are taboo.

My philosophy has been to try it at least once ( it’s difficult to be prescriptive about acquired tastes).  If you don’t like something then fair enough.  My point is what I might find delicious other’s might find disgusting.   Case in point. I quite like okra but my wife loathes it – it’s reversed for mayonnaise.   We are all different and there’s no one size fits all when it comes to taste.  I’m glad to be Filipino which has made me open to all kinds of fare whether they are deemed peasant food, street food or “delicacies” (like offal, goat, chicken feet, pig ears, etc.).  Some food is “discovered” by necessity.

food glorious food

February 20, 2017

my family and I spent a month in America. We all gained weight and had our waistlines expand (more so me). It’s quite understandable that some people I know who now live in the US are “healthier”.  Even if most of the food is too salty or too sweet for my palate, the food which I consumed was quite “rich” and caused me to put on a few kilos (although I find pounds a much more meaningful measure).

I do enjoy (and seek out) food.  I find the word foodie overused and abused.  I prefer the previously coined term of gastronaut because I find the implication of exploration appropriate.  Perhaps it’s me just being pedantic or wanting to differentiate myself.

Our niece recently (and temporarily) moved to Melbourne which made me think of the places I used to eat in a few years back as a student.  Hopefully, the food they serve is still delicious.  Mekong at Swanston in the city used to have “decent” Vietnamese Pho – so much so that a former US president tried it.  Enri’s at Richmond is one of only a handful of Argentinian restaurants in OZ – although it was the chicken in brie sauce I liked.  Later on there’s dancing on tables (admittedly I was inebriated to even attempt this).  Brunetti at Lygon Street (although I think their other branches now but from my experience the original is still the best) is a “good” place for desserts and coffee.  Casa Del Gelato at the edge of Lygon where I used to go for a treat.  It’s been open for nearly 40 years and was full even during winter.   I proposed to my wife just outside the shop with a makeshift ring – a solo diamond earring set in a cable “twistee”.

I’m looking forward to our nephew and his girlfriend taking us to sample various food trucks – I’ve always believed good food is good food regardless of “pedigree”.