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  

Move to the Beat

What do you think of when you think of New Years?  For most people, and I included, think of holiday festivities, family and good times with friends and loved ones.   It’s also a time when many people without family or friends feel the pinching pain of solitude.  These are the two overriding theme one often thinks about during the New Years.  Life, work revolves around this notion of “New Years” and the calendar.  We work and aim to finish all before year end so that we may enjoy the changing of the calendar.   This New Years, however, I realised that one’s health moves in altogether different timeline.  It cares not what day of the calendar it is nor what month it is.

This New Years, an uncle-in-law of mine spent his in a hospital room, lying in bed and missing a limb.

Just a month or so before New Years, uncle had gone to the hospital for a seemingly normal doctor’s visit complaining of leg pain.  He had thought it would be some muscle pain that could be cured with a simple prescription from the doctor.

Life would not be so easy.

The leg pain was caused by a tumour.  It had spread to his leg and he had two options: 1. continue to let the tumour take it’s course  or 2. slow its spread by having his leg amputated.

My uncle-in-law decided to have the tumour removed, the procedure resulting in the removal of his leg.

I cannot imagine, nor will even try to say I understand how it feels to have to make that decision.   It’s not easy and a decision that has no right or wrong.  Whatever you decide, anything could happen.  There is no guarantee that having the tumour removed will prevent its reoccurrence.

What inspires me though is the upbeat spirit of my uncle-in-law who despite having his tumour removed, did not let it put him down.  Knowing that his life will never be the same, knowing that he will forever be a changed man, he is still getting up each morning and making the best of each day.

Roughly two weeks after his operation he was hobbing around the house and even took the car out for a short round by his house.   He is a fighter.   He isn’t letting an obstacle stop him from living his life, and that is an inspiration.

So if you are feeling down, feeling depressed, get off your butt and just simply move to the beat of life.

Here’s a positive thought…catch it!

A strange kind of peace seems to have transcended since the New Years. Maybe it is because I am just getting a little older and a little calmer. Or maybe it’s because I have been enjoying the time truly having some much needed “me” time reading books and being alone with my thoughts. I think being able to just stay home with uninterrupted time for a few hours on a weekend is indeed a time to cherish and value. It allows one time to really prioritize and define what is indeed important in life.

This year I thought about why we all like Christmas and New Years so much. I always enjoyed it but never really gave much thought to why we can’t spend the rest of our year thinking it’s Christmas or New Years. Wouldn’t life be so much more pleasant?

For me, I discovered that Christmas and New Years are a good time for one to re-tune and get back in touch with those most dear to us. It’s when we often go out to eat with our friends, reunite with those we haven’t met for a long time and truly enjoy the company of others. It’s a time of positive thinking and positive energy. It’s when we have the chance to just sit back and enjoy a good conversation without feeling rushed. It’s a time of catch up and make amends. It’s a time when we get to ‘slow’ down a little.

It’s also when we gladly buy gifts for others and enjoy seeing others’ happiness upon recieving gifts. It’s when the focus shifts away from only thinking out “me” and towards “you.” It makes the mind clearer and lighter. What’s more important is that this positive energy is contagious. Positive energy given out will result in more positive energy generally, I find.

Why can’t we all be such pleasant beings the rest of the year? Let us remember this positive feeling. I want to, so am sending everyone positive thoughts tonight!! 🙂

Catch it before it falls!

2012: A year you call your own

It’s 2012. It’s the year the world as we know it is supposed to end. There’s a whole movie dedicated to this year which I haven’t seen yet, but many tell me it is strikingly familiar with earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and any kind of natural disaster you can think about. Whatever happens, let’s not live in fear about what will or could happen. Let’s approach 2012 from another perspective. Let it be a year of new beginnings, new adventures and new life.

Let it be a year you can say was your year.

Life for me is a lot about what you make of it. New Years is a good time for us to reconsider what is important to us, what it is we want to accomplish this year and most importantly, what it is we learnt the past year.

 I know I’ve learnt a lot and there is still much I have to learn.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt though is that your life is in your hands. If there is something about you that you don’t like, you don’t have to dwell on it and forever be in a state of sorrow about it. You can take action and make things better. It doesn’t always have to be external factors like losing weight or getting fit, it can be internal things like the way you think.

For example, many of us (and I included) like to see the negative side of things. Sometimes we see events or view things from a negative side and as a result become unhappy, sad and emotional. If we let it eat into us, we will be living our life in sadness, bitterness and sorrow. What sort of life would that be? Perhaps one grey and sad like Ebenezer Scrooge’s world before he realized what life should be about.

So let’s think positive. Let us enjoy the year ahead of us. Even if the economy is bad, even if something happens we don’t want to happen, think of it this way: Bad things happen to us so that better things can happen to us.
So find the “positive” side to anything that happens to you this year and let 2012 be a blast of a year! It is what you make of it. Let not others run your year. It is yours to run. 🙂 No need for a list of resolutions. Just this one I think is enough to keep one busy all year round.

I know not if half way through we will all die or if I will just happenly succumb to a heart attack and die young. Who knows what will happen. I might just choke on a spoon of water. These things do happen. When it does, lets hope we can look back during that brief flash before we die and be proud of the life we have lived. Happy New Year 2012!

Christmas Weight Tip: Ramp up your running

Since the flood prevented me from exercising regularly and now that it has gone, I find myself in the festive season with my weight going uphill.  I gained 3kgs last week (now 2kg down and 1kg left to go) which is the most I’ve ever gained in the last year or so.  It’s during festive times like these when our weight go up and up. (I mean it’s a time for meeting friends, hanging out and having fun.  What this means is a lot of eating, drinking and late nights.  A routine that is wonderfully suited to gaining weight. )  Fear not, with some exercising planning, you can keep your weight in control and get it back down before you find yourself unable to fit into the pretty dress you had ready for New Year’s Eve.

Of course, in between meals do not forget to also watch what you eat.  The more you eat the harder you have to work at burning it out.  Since I gained 3kgs, I had to find a way to get it down and fast it must before it reaches a new steady state.  When the weight is in a steady state (meaning at a level for a longer period of time), it becomes harder to burn it off (for me anyways).

What to do?  Add an extra day or two to your weekly exercise routine.  For example, if I used to run two times a week, I now run three.  If I feel like I’ve been eating like there were no tomorrow, then I will run four times a week.  The more I eat, the more I run.

If you can do it, running two days in a row will also just push that metabolism up and burn burn the fat away.

Don’t forget to give yourself an hour rest after the running before your next meal.  This lets your body burn fat for an extra hour after you run.

So yes, beat the Christmas weight gain and go run!  If you want to eat, then you gotta run! Good food makes running worthwhile. 🙂

Happy Songkran!

Happy Songkran everyone!!  To those unfamiliar with Thailand, you might wonder what is it?  Songkran is basically the Thai New Years and it’s a holiday one shouldn’t miss.   In Thailand, we have our own calendar system which follows the buddhist cycle and traditionally the date would be according to astrological calculations.  Nowadays, it is fixed from April 13th to April 15th which also happens to be one of the hottest times of year in Bangkok and so a great excuse to splash water.

Following tradition, this would be the time of year when we visit elders, families and friends.  New Years in Thailand I suppose is like New Years elsewhere, a time for reunion, celebration and good deeds.  When visiting elders,  Thais will bring along a jasmine garland as a sign of respect and offer it to the elder. Thai fragrant water garnished with rose and jasmine petals would then be gently poured over the hands of the elders to give them blessings and in return recieve blessings from the elders.   This is a time when we remember those important to us.

It is also a time for religion and prayers.  During this time, Thais will take down the Buddha images from their altars and bathe them in this fragrant water.  It is an annual cleanse both physically for the Buddha images and mentally for the soul.  Everywhere you go, you’d find buddha images out for everyone to cleanse whether it’s in sports clubs, supermarkets, department stores or friends’ houses.  Those passing by will make some time to cleanse the buddha image.

Temple visits are one aspect of the celebration and its a time when all go to pay their respects and make New Year resolutions.  It’s a peaceful time for the heart and soul.  Up north, there are also more traditions regarding the building of sand jedis brought by those paying respect, but it is less now in Bangkok.

Songkran now has become more of a water festival when everyone splashes water at everyone.  Although the water is meant to cleanse the body and soul for the New Years,  now it is done mostly out of fun.  By roadsides, you’d find groups of children standing next to a barrel of water, splashing water at whoever passes by.  Sometimes those also playing, will ride up on their motorcycles or pick up trucks and shoot water out of a water pistol.  It’s party time!  It goes on for days and days. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a water fight, but I remember how much fun that was.

Not a lot of people now celebrate it traditionally, but I think it’s a tradition that should continued to be followed.  It calms everyone and lightens the soul.  Doing good is always something that should be done.  It doesn’t matter how often, what matters is your intention 🙂  Happy Songkran and Happy New Years!! 😀

Christmas Gift Tips

I love Christmas, I love New Years.  I love this time of year when everyone is in a festive mood and everything is just fun fun and fun.  Organizing parties, get-to-gethers, and gift raffles.  This is the time of year when everyone “gives” to everyone else.  It’s when we forget ourselves a little and think about those around us. During this time of year we celebrate family, love and friendships.   Shopping malls are packed with people and everything is packaged in gift sets.  There are always long lines of people in the days running up to Christmas and New Years as last minute shoppers come out to get that special gift. 

Here are a few gift tips on finding the perfect gift for those who need a little inspiration. 

Tip 1:  Think of the person you are going to give the gift to.  What do they like? Do you remember them eyeing something at the store?  Remember, expensive doesn’t always means its going to make that person fall in love with you.  Its the thought that counts and if you find something that really touches them, it’s perfect.  It could be things like a bag they’ve been eyeing or a yoga mat.

Tip 2:  Don’t give perishable items unless its for a dinner party.  The reciever might not have enough time to eat the food or the fridge might be full. 

Tip 3:  When giving to a lady, pay attention to the giftwrap.  She always like beautifully packaged items no matter how small they are.  For guys, I think this is not that much of a big deal.

Tip 4: Remember what you bought last year.  You don’t want to give the same gift every year!

Tip 5: No gift vouchers.  Although efficient, that just spoils the fun of getting a gift for Christmas!  Everyone has a child inside who just loves to open gifts.

Hope this short tip list helps!  Any other suggestions welcomed. 🙂 Merry Christmas everyone!  I wish you all a very happy Christmas and lots of happiness. 🙂  I’ll be writing on and off the coming week as of course it is the festive season and one just has to go out and celebrate a little.  Don’t forget to check back in later though,  I’ll be back in full steam next year 🙂