Paying it forward with Pann Imm

The past few months has toppled the world upside down and inside out. Lives for many will have been changed forever. It’s been around a hundred years since the last pandemic of the Spanish flu and we are the generation that have been born at a timely manner to experience this special time. It’s a devastating pandemic but there is some good to it.

The pandemic is bringing out the best in people and encouraging each other to help those less fortunate, to reach out to our friends, and to be more caring and attentive to those we may have lost touch with due to “life” as we used to know it. These are just some examples but one such project that I want to share with you is a local crowdfunding program called “Pann Imm.” The name means to share the feeling of “being full” as in after a good meal.

The program was initiated to help the vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic. They are usually the service providers we rely on and who are paid for a day’s work and cannot afford to lose their jobs. These “temporary workers” are usually the first to go when companies make cost reduction decisions. As a result, millions have lost their jobs in Thailand without adequate savings to see them through the month. Imagine the situation now that this has lingered on for over a month. We all have families and mouths to feed and with everything in shut down, life isn’t easy.

The program helps by “Paying it Forward.” A friend of mine, together with local businesses, has worked together to put in place a system where meals are paid for in advance by donations. A sign in front of the restaurant indicates the number of meals available for those in need. Those who need a meal can then come to the restaurant for a meal or even ask to bag some back to their family.

Although less than a week old this program is already making a difference. If you want to make a difference, you can contact the administrator via her facebook page “@pannimm” – https://www.facebook.com/pannimm/ – and you can discuss with her regarding developments. I’ve known the founder of this wonderful program for twenty years and she has always had a heart of gold, helping others. Make a difference and help Pann Imm pay it forward.

Japanese Perfectionism

In the several times that I’ve been to Japan, I’ve always been at awe at the Japanese strive for perfectionism and dedication to work. This Japanese concept of “kaizen” of continual improvement in the pursuit of perfection or “kodawari” is noticeable the moment you step off the plane and onto Japanese soil.

I remember my first few times landing in Narita and noticing a unique phenomenon while waiting for baggage.  Typically for me, waiting for baggage is something I feel happens  in a daze. In most cases, I get off a long flight, and walk the walk through immigration and to the baggage claim. I find a spot and watch the bags roll off onto one another and onto the belt. Everyone stands and waits patiently for their bag to come and if you’re a small lady, you might struggle if your bag happens to have fallen on top of someone else’s bag.   In Japan, however, efficiency is key.  As airports most likely want to move people in and out of the airport as fast as possible, design and process are important. To help the travelers, as bags roll onto the conveyor belt, a man helps stack them in order. The bags are placed vertically, with the handle facing up and lined next to each other. They stay on the conveyor belt perfectly lined up waiting to be picked up.

It’s a simple action but is one that makes your travel so much more enjoyable.  There’s more space on the conveyor belt for other luggage and it’s easier for everyone to take their luggage. Travelers are efficiently and politely moved out of the airport. You enjoy a seamless customer experience.

Earlier this year on our snowboarding trip I saw more examples of this Japanese dedication to perfection.  When getting on the ski chair lift, the chair lift operator would without fail know perfectly where to brush off the snow before you fall on the chair.  For example, when I took a four seater chair lift by myself, I noticed that in the split second that the operator had time to brush off snow from the seats, he would accurately brush off the snow precisely where I would sit and lean back. The other three seats had snow, but where I sat, it was nice and dry.

Another example Alex and I noticed was when we were resting at the restaurant looking out onto the slopes. By the restaurant was a little slope area that had been cordoned off by ropes. Over time the rope had slacked a little but it wasn’t noticeable unless you really observed. In many other countries, I’m sure this would have been overlooked. The observant and dedicated Japanese slope patrols however noticed, and we watched them stop to pull the rope just that little bit tighter.

I believe it’s this Japanese dedication to perfectionism or “kodawari” that also makes their products so desirable. Japanese products are well known worldwide for their craftsmanship and unique designs. Everything is made with care and whether the customer sees it or not, as much care is given to the outside as to the inside. Every detail is thought of.  This is also reflected in their excellent customer service.

I wonder though, if future Japanese generations would continue on to carry on this culture of perfectionism.  If future generations lose this sense of perfectionism, then one of the  unique charms of the land of the rising sun would have been lost and their products less desired.  For now, let’s hope that we can all adopt a bit of this Japanese perfection into our work ethic. Let’s all continue to improve and strive for perfection. Let’s remember “Kaizen” and “Kodawari.” Good night!

Hanamaru Sushi @Sapporo

I like to try to make good use of my time and waiting in line for restaurants isn’t usually my thing. These past two days I’ve been waiting in line for over an hour to have lunch at the same place just because it’s so good. In Japan, I guess that’s what you do if you want to have good food. At the moment I’m in line waiting to have sushi at Hanamaru Sushi in Sapporo.

I had it yesterday and so I thought I’d write a little review on why we love it here. Hanamaru Sushi has several locations and the most convenient for us while waiting for our evening flight is a Kaiten Sushi place at Stellar Place or the Sapporo JR Station. It’s on the 6th floor next to the Daimaru mall entrance and you can’t miss it with the long line in front of it.

The first thing you must do is to quickly get a number from the receptionist machine. You key in the number of people and choose what kind of seating you want. They then ask you if you want to key in your mobile number so they can call you. We don’t have a number so we just wait. Its in Japanese so watching the person in front of you is a good idea.

They have an english menu so if there’s something that isn’t coming around, just write down the number on the paper at your table and give it to sushi chef. Don’t forget to ask them for the menu as they have seasonal specials.

The dishes are colour coded for the price starting from around 160 yen to 350 yen with the blue dish being the least expensive. The English menu has all this translated for you complete with instructions so it’s pretty easy.

What about the sushi? The sushi is absolutely delicious and fresh. The small rice balls with long pieces of fresh fish taste absolutely divine. Maybe it’s the wait that makes it all the more special but we still love it. The price is also very reasonable compared to the quality of the fish. We ate for the world with yellow tail, uni, and eel and the season’s special shirako for a total of almost 20 dishes and it came to roughly 4,000yen.

Ok, I’ve finished writing this very long post and we are still waiting in line. Getting hungry! Itadakimasu

http://www.sushi-hanamaru.com/la_en/

Back on the Writing Bandwagon

Waking up to cool breezes and sunshine without having rain pour down is heavenly.  Suddenly it’s November and year-end is approaching. I realize I haven’t written since January and I hit myself on the head.  I have so many stories I’d like to share with you. So many stories that remain swirling around in my head like dreams floating around in a cauldron.

I say this all the time and I’ll say it again, time flies. Time waits for no one, and each second, the clock continues to ticks on. If you’ve been following me, you know I’ve a big thing for “Time.” The fact is we all have 24hours in a day. The question is what are we going to do with those 24hours in a day?  What are some goals you would like to achieve? What are some places or things you would like to do? What do you want to do before you die?  I’ve been working on a few of my personal goals this year, but that is still no reason. There’s always time, you just have to allocate it well.

Today, I wanted to thank a dear friend (you know who you are) for pushing me back onto the writing bandwagon by recommending me to write for Urban Affairs, a new and upcoming magazine for Bangkokians. You’ll find it distributed at Villa supermarket and a few other places in Bangkok.  My first article will appear in the December issue and I’m excited.  Reading and writing have always been my passion and I’ve always loved and thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experiences with my readers. I hope to be able to keep doing this for a long time.

I promise I’ll write more often from now on. See you again soon my readers. Now it’s time to go out and enjoy the awesome Bangkok weather. Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

A Memory Stuck and New Years in Tokyo

Written on 2nd January 2017
I’m in writing heaven. I’m sitting on a train looking out at snow covered trees and rooftops and thinking about a moment roughly ten years ago. Some moments stick with you more clearly than others. About ten years ago, I came to the realisation that I should stop buying stuff I didn’t really need and instead spend my money on traveling and collecting memories. It’s liberating. I still have random spending plurges but they are significantly less frequent. I am also donating vociferously.

This year, Alex and I decided to take a trip to Tokyo during New Years before we head up north to Otaru and Kiroro for snowboarding. It’s out of the norm for us. Usually New Years is spent at home. Now that we’re out, I realise that it gives the trip a different kind of flavor. Every country has their own tradition during New Years and the vibe is different. 

If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, you’d know how crazy busy it can be with everyone on schedules and rushing to get to the destination. The Japanese are orderly, so no matter how busy it is, it’s quiet yet buzzing. Try standing still at Shinjuku station on a busy workday morning and you’d know what I mean.

During New Years however, the vibe is different. From the 30th to 1st, every thing slows downs. People are still hurrying around, but it’s with a suitcase and luggage to go home for the holidays. Faces are relaxed and the general atmosphere is one of relaxation. You can feel it in the air.

Restaurants and shops close early on the 31st so plan your eating schedule well. On the 1st, many shops and restaurants are closed though apparently more and more are remaining open. Even though they are open, I feel that the English speakers seem to be fewer in number.

On New Years Eve and New Year Day, people go out to pray at temples and shrines. We went to the Meiji shrine. It’s also a day of shopping. From the 1st to 3rd, shops go on sale and people go crazy shopping. More details to follow. 🙂

We’re almost arriving at Otaru now. xoxo  

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year my readers! First of all, I’d like to thank all my readers for your comments and for sharing your updates with me. Although I have not written as much as I would have liked to, some of you have continued to keep touch and in the meanwhile inspired me as well. 
Looking back, 2016 for me was probably one of the craziest, funniest and unexpected years in a long time. There were so many changes going on both globally, in Thailand and within my work itself. Changes to challenge us all. I’m also grateful for all my family and friends. It’s been a year of reunions with friends from times past and a year of unexpected happenings. So much is going on, the question now is what are we going to do in 2017?  
For 2017, I hope you continue to stay healthy, exercise and have some ‘Me’ Time. With those things, we can achieve anything we set our minds to. Stay focused and ‘just do it’ I wish you all lots of success in all you endeavour.

Lots of love from snowy Japan somewhere in between the airport and Otaru.

PS. I’m going to start blogging about Tokyo, Otaru and snowboarding now so keep posted!

Lunch with Chef Cayito

Living in Bangkok, I am fortunate to have so many options for good food.  From street food to the fanciest restaurants, you can find almost anything to your taste and budget.  A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be invited to savor delicious food by Chef Cayito and days past the taste still lingers on in my memory.  Having good food served beautifully whilst chatting with good friends is an experience all in itself. Experiences to be enjoyed, cherished and memories formed.

What did we have?

We had so many dishes, I had to look at the photos to remember what we ate.  The menu offered us a variety of tastes leading us from one dish to the other.  The first dish was a mix of yogurt and granola with some fruit sauces. ( I didn’t ask what sauces they were, I was too busy eating). It was just lovely and light enough to get your taste buds ready.  French onion soup was next with just the right amount of crunch and flavors. There’s something about warm soup that just seems to soothe and relax the soul. Trained in French cooking in Spain and coming from Mexico, our dishes were a mix of French and Spanish influences.  Grilled octopus and mussels in marinara sauce reminded me of our trip to Spain many years ago.  The sauce was so good I requested extra bread to dip into the sauce.

Main dishes arrived with a light tomato salad to accompany the grilled lamb with raspberry sauce and duck confit.  The grilled lamb was tender and melted in your mouth whilst the duck confit was divine with crispy skin and meat melting off its bones.  Duck confit has always been one of my favorite dishes when dining at French restaurants and Chef Cayito’s version was so good I would have more if I weren’t afraid of rolling out the door.  In case we wanted some more accompaniment, gratin dauphinois followed. A lover of cheese and anything creamy and hot, no matter how full I was, I had room for gratin dauphinois.  Our dessert was a wonderful surprise of light pancakes with strawberries and blueberries to end the meal. Perfect.

There’s something about having European food that always makes my heart smile a little more. It’s perhaps because it reminds me of growing up in Europe and the many trips we’d have enjoying the good food. If you want to sample Chef Cayito’s cooking, you’lll have to find him at charity events.

Sweet dreams readers. I now have to get myself a snack.

To Love or Not Love the Rain

It’s been a long time since I last wrote and what better time than to write on a lovely cool morning after the rain has stopped. How I love the rain varies from time to time.

Most times I love the rain when it’s just light rain or drizzles. I love it for the greenery and freshness that comes with it when it stops. Lawns become so green and life beckons. Birds chirps and splash around in the puddles that form along the driveway. Snails and slugs appear along with other types of insects moving about slowly in their slow way of life. Toads hop around in my garden and give me a surprise everytime one unexpectedly moves in a dark corner. My dogs equally like it (I think) as they lie happily on the porch with the cool breeze that passes through.  I practice my guitar, and life is just wonderful.  I feel calm and settled.  I feel home like when I grew up in cloudy, rainy Brussels.

Other times, I feel less tolerent of the rain especially when it’s pouring down hard coupled with thunder and lighting.  The heavens roar and you wonder if Thor was having a fight up there.  On Earth, the grass grows at exponential speeds and if the rain is follwed by the sun, ticks and fleas re-emerge.  Roads get flooded and commute to and from work takes a couple hours.  The light reflecting on the road makes it harder to drive and accidents happen.  You see news of people’s houses with roofs broken and neighbors with water pumps working to drain water from their houses. 

In the end, do I love or not love the rain?   It depends on how much rain there is. I love it when there’s just enough of it to cool the skies and make pitter pattering sounds on the window pane. I don’t particularly love it when it’s accompanying by thunderstorms and lighting and comes in such large quantities that it floods. 

I suppose this is much like human emotions. Sometimes you like something but if you have too much of it, you might not like it so much anymore. For example, I love choux cream but I wouldn’t be able to have it everyday.  Emotions, like the rain, has ups and downs.  It all depends. What do you think?

Wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday ahead.  Have some ‘me’ time. 

Our Journey Together:  Join our “Having Me Time” Community 

It’s a lovely cool day in Bangkok today after a blistering hot few weeks.  It’s 25 degrees celsius  outside, lovely breezy winds and just heavenly.   Perfect for reflecting and today thinking about my life journey these few years. Its been a little over five years since I lost my unhealthy me and 15kgs worth of weight.  That 15 kg was a big part of my life and I’m still adapting to my healthier body.  Being healthy and fit comes with a completely new lifestyle. It requires an altogether different frame of mind that often wants to get bumped off track tempted by all the junk food advertisements.

It’s amazing how many advertisements for burgers, ice creams and deliciously devilish desserts are around.   It’s amazing how much sugar is in everything and how much Thais love sweets.

The healthier lifestyle means having more balanced diets with vegetables and fruits.  Good food and quality now prevail over quantity.  Of course, the old fatty me would say, “Hey have both! Have both good food and in high quantities!”   Now, before I indulge, I wonder if it’s worth the calories and the exercise that follows.

Five years on, I still get my lazy days and weeks when I don’t feel like going to the gym. Sometimes I feel like just having lots of processed foods and ice-cream.  What keeps me going and motivated though is when I hear from readers of “Having Me Time” who are now pursuing healthier lives and on their new journey to a new and healthier person.  A few days ago, I heard from a reader who completed her first triathlon and is now signing up for an olympic length triathlon! Congratulations!  You did it!

You definitely are an inspiration. (You know who you are)

To my readers, my proposal is this:  Let’s all continue to inspire and motivate each other so that we don’t get bumped off track to the unhealthy life.  Together, we’ll embark on the second part of our journey that works best when we have a community of people helping each other and sharing our stories, and our journeys.  If we could each support one another, we would all be on the healthier and happier track.

Please feel free to share your stories on our wall or if you would like to share your personal story on Having Me Time, please email me your story  🙂

I’m excited, are you? 🙂 Let’s do it!.

Bangkok Activity: Snowboarding @ Ski365 Future Park Rangsit

It’s been a busy busy year and am glad to have a few days off year end. It’s amazing what just a few days off can do to your soul.  It’s wonderful to wind down and hear yourself think for a few days. It’s wonderful to have ‘me’ time.  Today, I want to share with you this new place Alex and I just discovered. It’s an indoor skiing and snowboarding training playground.

Yes, in 35 degrees celsius Bangkok we now have an indoor skiing and snowboarding training place. I couldn’t quite believe it when Alex sent me the website.  We plan to go snowboarding in March and having never snowboarded before, we wanted to practice. Alex and I last skied many years ago.  We decided to check out Ski365 on Christmas day.

It opened in late November so parts of the facilities are still under construction They are, however, open for skiing and snowboarding.  We booked for the 1 hour trial lesson and had a slope all to ourselves with an instructor.  Equipment (snowboard, helmet, boots) are all included.

The lesson was exactly what we wanted.  Having read and studied about snowboarding, we haven’t had the chance to put one on and try it out. This place allowed us to do just that.  We got to practice heel slide and standing up on the board from a seated position. By the end of the lesson, we could both slide down the slope and stop fairly well.

Will we go back? Yes we will.  We want to be able to master a few basic techniques by the time we get to Japan so we can enjoy ourselves in the snow.

How was the overall quality of instruction? It was okay.  The boards were not customised to height and the instructor seemed a bit timid. To get information, you had to actively ask, which is great because we prefer instructors who don’t talk to much.

What do you wear? Wear comfortable clothes that dry quickly because you will get wet. I wore my yoga pants with a lose top. The slope is infused with water so when you sit, fall over or roll over, you get wet. Bring clothes to change, but their changing rooms are not finished yet so we had to use the mall bathroom.

What is the slope like? The slope is like a giant treadmill. There’s no ice involved and no fake snow. The slope is covered in synthetic material infused with water. They can keep the slope moving so you never get to the end of the slope, but being beginners we didn’t get to try the feature yet. We liked being whisked back up to the top of the slope once we’ve gone down the slope.

How does the slope feel? It feels like packed snow that is starting to melt. It’s like snow when you go skiing at the end of the ski season.

Overall, I think it’s great if you plan on going skiing or snowboarding for the first time and you want some basic training.  It saves practice time in the snow so you can enjoy more of the slopes when you get there. If you already know how to ski or snowboard, I think it would be a good place to brush up on your skills before you go.  My recommendation for now is that they get rid of the mosquitoes in the facilities.

Ski365 is at FuturePark Rangsit on the 3rd floor by the new Zpell mall.

Website: http://www.ski365.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ski365.zpell?_rdr