Suddenly winter

News report from Osaka! In just two days, the average daily temperature fell from mid 20deg to around 10deg! Freezing! Didn’t even get to wear autumn fashion and it’s already going to be winter T-T

But I know people in Northern Europe have it worse, so I should be grateful that it wasn’t that much of a drop in temperature I guess. Dress warmly and gear up for the blazing cold!! >.<

Just a little weather report before I work on my next post! Stay tuned! 😉

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Being a Singaporean

Hey everyone!! So sorry I haven’t been blogging for weeks! New school term just started in October and I’ve already been loaded with tons of homework T~T On top of that I still have to work on other projects in order to beef up my portfolio for graduation, which is in less than 2 years! Plus I also have part-time work >.< It’s a busy busy busy period for me >.<||

But anyway, something interesting happened so I thought I just wanted to share it here!

Every Friday, my school has (basic) English lessons in the afternoon, which of course I don’t have to attend. Instead, I attend this talk session with native English teachers and Japanese students who are keen to brush up on their conversation skills. The purpose of this programme is of course to encourage Japanese students to speak up more, but of course, being the shy people they are, it is native English teachers and the English-speaking students who talked the most.

So last Friday, I was at this table with an American-Chinese teacher and a few other female students, and the teacher started asking me about strange laws in Singapore. It started out with the standard no chewing gum law which almost everyone who have heard of Singapore would know.

And then he kept asking me for other interesting laws in Singapore. At first I couldn’t think of any, like what else is there aside from the chewing gum law? But then I dug deeper into my memory and then I realised, boy, Singapore is such an authoritarian country with so many draconian laws! I recalled my General Paper (GP – like general knowledge) lessons in Junior College (Singapore’s equivalent of high school), then I remembered my teacher mentioning some draconian laws which still haven’t been removed (but not reinforced either).

One such example is not being able to go out in groups of more than 5 people. Ok let’s be serious, the state is not going to actively reinforce it. There are big families with more than 5 members, and there are class outings which definitely exceed 5 people. The state can’t possibly stop all these gatherings. That’s too draconian. But the thing is, the law existed for a very lame purpose: to prevent people from holding public demonstrations.

I’ve tried searching for it on Google but I can’t seem to find it. Maybe the law has finally been removed. But as far as I can remember, it was still part of the law at least when I was attending Junior College 4 years back.

(But yes, public demonstrations are still illegal in Singapore. Or at least you need ask the ministry for permission before holding one. Like will they ever say yes?!)

Another one was erm no oral sex. Yes oral sex is illegal. Along with other weird sex laws and you can find them here: http://www.dumblaws.com/laws/singapore

Like, who cares what people do in their bedrooms? But you see, that is how much of a Big Brother our city state is. They want to have control over every bit of their citizens’ life to make sure that they have absolute power and that they stay in power. What intelligent ministers we have!

If I were still in Singapore, I wouldn’t give a shit about all these weird laws. Like yeah whatever, that’s just the way Singapore is. I wouldn’t think that being ranked near the bottom for press freedom was such a big deal. To put it in other words, I didn’t know we were fucked, nor did I care.

But after having travelled around the world a bit and then living in Japan for more than a year, and meeting a lot of people from different countries, I realised Singapore is really as screwed up as what people say. Being ranked near the bottom for press freedom IS a big deal. Having no rights to protest IS a big deal. Having the same political party in power since independence almost 50 years ago IS A DAMN BLOODY BIG DEAL.

The last question that the American-Chinese teacher asked me was, ‘So is the Singapore government good?’

Of course I gave him an immediate flat NO.

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A heartwarming part time job

One of my part-time jobs is to take part in a role-play session (in English) called Global Program, which is to help Japanese high school students familiarise with various scenarios that might happen to them when they are abroad, since most of them have never been outside of Japan before.

Some of the scenarios we would role-play are checking in at the airport, being onboard a plane, home stay, checking in at a hotel, and so on.

The scenarios seem very easy but most students are very shy and terse so it’s really difficult to get them to speak up (even though they just have to follow the fucking script), let alone to engage them in conversations, which is part of our job as well. These guys have probably never used English in real life before so they always feel very embarrassed and would rather not talk for fear of making mistakes. My job is actually really easy; just follow the script for the role-play and talk to them and I will get 3000yen (about 30UsD) for 2 and a half hours. But the script is really short so we always have to engage them in small talk when there’s nothing else to say in the script. I totally hate this part since they would always withdraw themselves, either because they didn’t understand a word I was saying (I made sure to speak slowly and clearly, but still…) or they didn’t know how to reply.

But the last session was quite different.

The students who took part in the Global Program this time were students from the school of the deaf.

Interacting with people who are hearing-impaired means something special to me because my own parents are hearing-impaired themselves. But unlike my parents, the students this time round are much luckier than my parents, in the sense that they could still go to school and receive a proper education.

And of course, like any other normal Japanese student, they get to learn English too.

At first, all of us were like, how is this going to work? We were told they could lip-read so we just have to put emphasis on our pronunciation and speak slowly so that they could lip-read. But we were going to speak English, a foreign language to them. We didn’t think it could work so well.

We were provided with writing materials as well, so that if they don’t understand, we could still write to them. Ok, I thought that might help a little at least. That is how I always communicate with my dad anyway so I was more comfortable with this form of communication than lip-reading.

It turns out that we didn’t need to write anything at all. With lip-reading and a little bit of sign language, they could understand us perfectly. And boy I was surprised with their pronunciations! They tried really hard to speak English right despite their hearing disability. I was so touched. I had a terrible ulcer that day but I tried my best to give my best smile because I knew they were trying so hard. They have put all the other Japanese students to shame!

Then I realised that these students aren’t any different from normal students. The guys are rowdy and tease each other, the girls always talk excitedly and animatedly to each other, and all of them make fun of one another. It isn’t any different from what normal students do! I guess we as a society are conditioned to pity and sympathise with people less privileged than us (no thanks to charity TV shows that try to garner support by making these people look as pitiful as possible), but we have failed to realise that we are all human beings and we have a shared humanity. Just because they are disabled doesn’t mean they think or act any differently than us. We are one and the same.

Given my family background, maybe I should have volunteered in a charity for the deaf or done something for the cause. I think I would like to do that someday. It sounds like I’m selfish or making excuses, but I feel that I should put my parents as priority before giving my time and effort to charities. After all, who should I help most other than my own parents?

This session just reminded me of how much my parents have struggled and while I don’t quite agree with their parenting methods, they have done their best in raising two perfectly sound children within their capacity.

I miss my family.

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Singapore’s Phoenix Wright

I was reading this article and then it struck me that the defense lawyer M Ravi is very much like Phoenix Wright.

http://anyhowhantam.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/well-done-m-ravi.html

For those who have idea what Phoenix Wright is about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Wright:_Ace_Attorney

Fictional characters are usually very extreme (that’s they are fictional and don’t exist in real life!), but for someone in real life to resemble a fictional characters in terms of fighting spirit… I must say, well done, Mr Ravi!!

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Chasing an ever-changing dream

I just had a conversation yesterday with a friend whom I have not seen for a while. He’s Jordanian with Ukrainian blood, speaks four languages (Arabic, English, Japanese and Mandarin in the progress) and he’s an extremely funny guy. While I normally wouldn’t think of discussing my problems with a joker like him, I’ve been thinking about it so much that I would tell it to anyone who’s willing to listen.

And to my surprise, he’s also a very good listener! He did give me pretty insightful advice as well, but after thinking through it carefully, I think our outlook in life is just too different.

Can you imagine an extremely interesting and funny guy coming from a place like this?

Ok, so my problem is that I had been regretting so much about giving up my dream to read law in my country’s top university, NUS (National University of Singapore). My high school (we call it Junior College, or JC for short though) grades weren’t good enough for law school, but they weren’t that bad either. I could have at least just given it a shot. But I didn’t even bother to apply. I was stupid enough to take a gamble where my odds were actually pretty low and went straight to the Singapore Airlines interview for cabin crew. Well, I might have been stupid, but I was lucky haha. I got recruited and had the time of my life.

Ok sorry this is not me but I did get to wear the somewhat legendary uniform and I still have it in my closet!

(By the way, when I was flying all over the world, I didn’t have the time or energy to sort out my thoughts and write it down on my blog, so that’s why there’s a two-year hiatus before I started blogging again recently. Well, ok, not exactly a hiatus, I did write one or two posts in two years. haha)

Back to my Jordanian friend. He told me his story and why he came to Japan, and it’s a long story so I shall not post it here (maybe another day). In a nutshell, he told me not to give up on my dreams. He didn’t and he is now happy everyday, doing what he loves and working hard for his dream feels like having fun everyday because that’s what he loves to do. He added on that if I give up on my dreams for someone else, my feelings for that person may change (not like love to hate, but just maybe love to like, according to him lol), but my dreams will never change. Everyone’s individual dreams will never change. So I may not regret as much if something were to happen between me and my boyfriend (touch wood!), but I would regret for my whole life if I had given up on my dream.

I pondered carefully over his words. It’s true that I admire his courage and determination in pursuing his aspirations. But I don’t believe that dreams don’t change. Dreams DO change. I had wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid and then a singer and then a music producer and then an artist and then a designer and then investment banker and then lawyer and then what-have-you. Ok, most of these aren’t exactly dreams, more like daydreams, but I had seriously thought about being a singer lol. I was too much of a chicken to go for auditions but hey I did send a tape recording of my singing to a record label. At least I’ve tried… is the best I can say *sighs*.

Ayumi Hamasaki was my inspiration back then!!

I realised that it’s near impossible for me to be a big star unless I were to go to Tokyo – or any other big cities where the entertainment industry is thriving – and try to get recognised, which is way too much an effort and way beyond my ability (I was just a dumb kid wanting to be the next big thing, but still, at least I’ve tried lol). And so I decided that being a lawyer would allow me to be more financially stable than being a singer would, and therefore, I buried myself in books, studied and studied and did nothing but studied in high school all for the sake of getting into law school. Heck, my school was just right next to Orchard Road, a shopping haven, but I only went there with my classmates after graduation.

Although I did not eventually achieve my goal, hey at least I’ve tried. That draws the line between daydreaming and dreaming I believe – having putting in effort or not.

My dreams change all the time; I want to be one thing now and the next moment I’m gonna change my mind. Is this what they called being young? Don’t mean to brag or anything but maybe this is a tendency that most young and inexperienced people possess, I think.

Ok why do I suddenly have this pre-career crisis now? It’s all thanks to the two-week internship that I had just completed last week.

hehe ain’t this picture cute!

We did a lot of mundane stuff; we had to research on 30 different business news everyday, because if you know nothing about the world, you can’t design a single thing. Ok, fair enough, but we had to do so many other things, there wasn’t exactly enough time to read in fine detail every single article. Heck, I resorted to reading only the titles to save myself time.

We also had to make a rough draft for a flyer, and in order to do that we needed to do lots of research. Lots and lots of research and writing. I felt like I was back in high school or something. Sure, we have textbooks in the design school, but we hardly did any academic stuff so our brains were rusty.

It was also my first glimpse into what designers really do. I like what they are doing, sure, but I didn’t like the long hours and low pay. Fuck, bankers and lawyers work fucking long hours as well but they can afford nice cars and houses. Why are designers paid so little?!

That’s when I thought, shit, I need a career change. Yes, right before I have even started on my career. But this is not what I want as a career – drawing and doing artsy stuff is a hobby and should’ve just stayed as such. I realised it a little too late, but still I thought I need to hit on the brakes and u-turn before it’s really too late.

Well, I have the option of just getting married and have kids and not work a single day anymore like a lot of the other women in Japan. I bet the main reason why women in Japan want to get married is because they don’t want to work anymore. No wait, I think that IS the reason. Cooking and cleaning is still so much easier than having to deal with bosses and difficult colleagues and clients on a daily basis!

But NO! Of all the countries that I could have been a part of, I had to be born into Singapore, and in Singapore the government doesn’t give a damn whether you live or die. Yeah, all they are interested in is getting as much money out of their citizens as possible so that they can give themselves a big fat paycheck.

If all these greedy ministers would just give up half of their annual salaries (and they would still be the highest paid ministers in the world – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203513604577146911772677518.html), EVERY Singaporean would be able to have access to free education, free healthcare – and most importantly for my parents right now – pension! We have so much more money sitting in the reserves than any other welfare state, and yet our senior citizens don’t even get a single cent from the government after retirement? What fucked up logic is that?

So with no pension, it means that the elderly either have to save up (A LOT) for retirement, or depend on their kids to support them until they move onto the afterlife. My parents have spent a lot on our mortgage (again, the government’s fault. We would never have to get a new place if not for the damn government. Another story for another day), on our education, and basically everything parents would have to spend on their kids. They have nothing left for themselves, and I don’t really like the idea of it but they have invested in my brother and I, and so we are obliged to pay out the dividends on that investment.

The poor and the elderly in Singapore still have to work while retirees from other countries enjoy the last phase of their lives without worry.

So yes, that explains why I need a well-paying job. I certainly don’t want my parents to end up picking up cans for a living. I want them to enjoy their last phase of life peacefully and happily, like the French, Australian and Scottish retirees in the comic strip above.

And that’s when I realised I should have at least tried to apply for NUS Law. If I had been successful at the application, I would have graduated by now and started working… maybe not as a lawyer but definitely a well-respected job with reasonable starting salary…

Had I been a lawyer right now I would be able to scream ‘Objection!’ all the time! Nah just kidding.

Anyway, I couldn’t take the stress on my own, so I decided to share my long-winded story with another blogger whom I admire. He has kindly replied me pretty quickly, and he told me bluntly that my chances of getting into law school are very slim. Somehow, instead of getting depressed and moping over the fact that I’ve got zero chances of getting into law school, reading his honest opinions kind of lifted a heavy stone from my heart and freed me from many days of worrying. I did email NUS but at least, it was just simply an inquiry. I’m not expecting anything from it. All I needed was someone to tell me that it’s impossible, and that would get me to give up very easily.

It’s a complex feeling. Am I too weak to take on a huge challenge? Or do I still not know what I want? And when someone tells me that law is out of my reach, I’m actually relieved?

He did give me a positive advice though. Given my language skills, I could actually easily get a job at a banking corporation looking to invest in the Far East economies – albeit this would mean I have to get out of Japan for these firms are usually in London, New York, Singapore etc. And he didn’t mention that a degree was necessary. Hmmmm…. a good career prospect. Might consider it haha.

… Or maybe I should just work for myself and be an entrepreneur! Solves all problems I think haha.

Ok I’m definitely NOT daydreaming this time!!!

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Daylight Robbery – Softbank

Who needs robbers when you have corporations that technically tries to wipe out your whole bank account (legally)?

Photo 3-9-13 10 41 29 AM

(For those who do not know, Softbank is not actually a bank. It’s a fucked up telecom company that tried to overcharge its users time and again.)

52,923yen in phone bills. That’s like, 534.045 USD or 674.349 SGD! And it isn’t even the bill for the whole month, it was just two weeks!!! Can you imagine any telecom company having even the NERVE to charge this much for just TWO freaking WEEKS?! Fucking ridiculous!

…Ok, I’ve gotta admit, it was partly my fault. I thought I could circumvent the system by inserting my Softbank SIM card into my unlocked iPhone, which I did not buy from Softbank. I mean, people (all over the world, except for Japan) do this all the time, inserting SIM cards into other phones. It’s perfectly legal since most contracts will not bind the user to just one phone. Telecom companies already have the business of customers who sign SIM card contracts with them anyway, so does it really matter which phone they use? In fact, it is an infringe in one’s personal rights if they even try to restrict their customers’ choices of phones.

BUT Softbank gets away with this. This is because they have stated in all their contracts that customers are NOT allowed to insert SIM cards into any other phones other than the ones that they have signed up for, otherwise they will not be responsible for excessive charges. Fair enough, they have written down in black and white in their contract, so yes it will be the user’s fault if they fail to comply with this. So the user deserved to be charged with sky high bills right?

…but wait. How dare they even put this kind of ridiculously stupid thing down on a contract? Which conscientious, decent telecom company would even set up this kind of contract? This is a blatant infringement of rights on one’s personal freedom to choose what kind of devices one wishes to use.

Moreover, most decent telecmos would warn their customers BEFORE the charges skyrocket, for eg if the user has carelessly forgotten to turn off roaming services when he is travelling. The telecom company would usually have a limit and once the bills hit that limit the teleco will send a warning to the user and remind him to fucking turn off the roaming services.

Yes, I did get a notification from Softbank, WAY AFTER the charges have hit the ceiling and broke through it and launched straight into space. That’s when I logged into my Softbank page and had the shock of my life.

I am not the only one who had been charged this much. Just Google ‘$1000 Softbank phone bill’.

And the stupid thing is that it is blatantly obvious that Softbank is just trying to profit more from overcharging the hell out of people. Telecom companies already profit more than enough from contracts alone. The unnecessary charges just go into pockets of greedy bastards.

Let me tell you why Japanese teleco companies are fucking greedy. Well, on those fancy adverts they tell people that their data packages are cheap and all, but underneath those deceiving adverts are all other unnecessary charges like paying for the fucking phone. Yes, they break up the cost of the phone itself into monthly installments. Doesn’t that totally defeat the purpose of signing a contract? People get contracts because they don’t want to pay for the phone in full. If you sign contracts, you usually get a phone for free or at a discounted price, right? Nope, doesn’t happen in Japan. You still have to pay in full whack, either up front or over 26 months. Confusing payment methods and differential treatment also happens. See here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2012/12/04/how-tos/softbanks-policies-on-foreign-customers-hard-to-pin-down/

I should have scrutinized my contract more, but I think I’m not exactly paying for the phone, but rather paying for having the phone – which means that I’m renting the phone! It doesn’t make any fucking sense to pay 1500yen (about 15USD) every month for 26 months for a fucking cheap-looking flip phone.  That’s 390USD for a freaking lousy phone!

Yes, the colours are cute, but it’ not even a fucking smartphone. It’s hard to type on these things and the things you can do on it are pretty much limited to mainly calling and sending messages only. Can you imagine paying 390USD for a Nokia 112?

Heck, for 390USD and a 2 year contract I could have gotten a brand new 16GB iPhone 5 in US.

Ok, I want out. I fucking hate Softbank, I don’t want to keep paying them ridiculous amounts of money anymore. But guess what? Softbank just wants to make its users hate it even more by slapping all sorts of penalty on breaking the contract:

Photo 4-9-13 8 21 31 PM

If I were to break the contract, not only do I have to pay for the penalty (which is just about 10000yen or 100USD), but also I have to pay the full cost of the fucking phone (even though I had already been paying for it up till now), and every month until the end of the contract I have to pay them an additional 8000 plus yen. AND petty-minded Softbank wants me to pay their inefficient employees their administration fees, which is about 2100yen (21USD). Ok, Softbank, YOU WIN.

To begin with, Japan’s telecom services are fucked up. It’s overpriced and users are always at the corporations’ mercy. But it is overpriced because the average Japanese people don’t give a fucking damn. They don’t doubt any fucking thing. And if they are overcharged or taken advantage of and they know it, they will just shrug it off and say ‘shouganai’ (what else can we do?). The fuck?! Now this is where the Japanese should learn a thing or two from Singaporeans. Complain a lot and raise a lot of hell until the corporation’s reputation is completely tarnished. If even then the corporation doesn’t even offer a single apology, then there’s the power of the internet that will make the corporation look so bad that they will need A LOT of PR to get back up on its feet again.

Ordinary folks need to regulate the market or else these greedy corporations just get away with anything and everything!!

Oh by the way, if you want to know what happened to that 52000yen phone bill, thankfully Softbank had agreed to lower the bills for me, because I had received inadequate information from the Softbank shop staff (which is totally true, I had inquired before I inserted the SIM into my unlocked iPhone. The guy didn’t explain adequately). But this incident gave me a mini heart attack and I will never ever renew my contract with them again. Not over my dead body!

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Merlion!!

Ok, I was so excited when I was talking about my cousin’s friend who just had an unbelievable surgery that requires cutting squares in her corneas that I totally forgot to mention that we had gone to the Merlion Park lol.

So here it is!

Mini Merlion!

Mini Merlion!

Yes it was raining, unfortunately, so please pardon the umbrella. Lol at first we thought the Merlion was too tiny, but then we hadn’t seen the big one which was behind. Heng ah. Certainly wouldn’t want to go all the way to the Merlion park just to see that tiny shit.

IMG_1143Aaaaand like any other tourist at the Merlion Park we did funny shots as well.

Oops I'd just kissed it

Oops I’d just kissed it

This was taken by ze bf

This was taken by ze bf lol

Aaaaand not to forget the new landmark of Singapore! Marina Bay Sands!

IMG_1140Ok we didn’t actually go there but it was visible from the Merlion Park. Close enough!

 

 

 

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