Wednesday, 28 January 2015

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Eve Sake Barrel Breaking Ceremony

January was such a busy start of the year that I didn't even have time to fully absorb the fact that it is already 2015! 

The only new year's resolution I have is to go out more. Kinda odd resolution but I have a severe case of cocooning myself in the room and sticking to the laptop all the time. Truthfully I always look forward to go home to my laptop after work because I love watching dramas. English dramas especially. But I've spent the last 6 months (June-November) doing just that, so from December onward, seeing there's more people in Niseko now, I've no excuse not to hang out more often.

December I spent most of my time working, after my day job, I worked at the restaurant at night time (Post about this coming up next) and then during certain days, I babysit. Sometimes when colleagues plan for a staff outing, then I'll make sure I've nothing scheduled for that night to spend time with my colleagues. 

December passed like a flash and January was slightly calmer. I've taken the initiative to invite people out to hang out at night since I've more free time during January after putting on pause for my restaurant job. 

Some nights were great especially if there's more native English speakers to hang out with. Certain nights I was the only non-Japanese speaker among all and I did felt left out. Jokes in Japanese where thrown around and everyone burst out laughing, I was there just smiling and sipping my drink and ate my food. Throughout the dinner, whenever they were speaking in Japanese, I tuned out and just enjoy my food.

Though my Japanese friends could speak very good English, this still do not stop the fact that they prefer to converse in Japanese. It's weird to hear them speak in English to each other anyways. I can say the same for myself, even if I speak to non-Malaysian English speaker, it's still not the same if I were to speak to a Malaysian English speaker, I'll just instantly feel closer to the person! Same goes to Singaporean and all Singaporeans are considered neighbour to me!

Then this incident brought me back to thinking during university days where most of my classmates were foreigners, did I make them feel left out when we were hanging out with more Malaysians than foreigners? Truly isn't a nice feeling so I'll be sure not to do the same to others in future.

So, pros and cons of going out. Do I feel happier hanging out with more friends and then feel left out during dinner and spend so much for dinner versus staying home and watch my favourite dramas and not spend any money?

I feel like I have to hang out just to show others that I'm not a loner. But at the end of the day, who am I really impressing? 

I got stood up twice by my friends as when I suggested to go out, they said yes but when it's time for the outing, nobody turned up. My effort to hang out more just seems not worth it? More so for new friends as I've friends that I've known for years and are working in Niseko and I've no problems scheduling meet ups with them and they will not bail on me.

Well, so far my new year's resolution seems to be going well, I've enjoyed most of the meet ups and the trick to not feel left out when I'm the only non-Japanese speaker is to invite more non-Japanese speaker! Not a ground breaking solution but it seems like the best solution for me.

February will be even more exciting than January and I'm so looking forward to go back to Malaysia for CNY!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Part time babysitting

Prior to taking up a part time job as a babysitter, I actually had no interest in babies as I realized I don't know how to entertain babies at all. But after my baby cousin came along, I don't feel so awkward around babies anymore!

So I've been taking up more babysitting jobs to pass my time. 

For my first babysitting job for this season, I was back to feeling super nervous! And thankfully the family was super super nice. The mum showed me around and explained to me about the kid's schedule for bedtime, what to do, and etc. She showed me the fridge and said that I can eat or drink anything I like. There was a crossword puzzle that she was working on and she said feel free to complete it if I like (I tried and it was too hard). Then she showed me her Ipad and said I can use it if I want to. And lastly, she told me if the kids are asleep and I can take a nap too if I'm tired. I was like What??????

She has got to be the BEST parent to babysit for, I have so much freedom!

And in case you're wondering, Nope I did not use the ipad or ate any of the food or completed even one crossword puzzle or obviously take any sort of nap. I just browsed the web using my phone. I didn't want to watch TV or listen to songs as I want to be more alert in case the kids cry (They didn't)

So it was a lovely babysitting job to start off the season. These are the best of the babysitting job to get, let the kids play around for around an hour, then put them to bed and the rest is relaxing time and all you have to do is to wait until the parents come back from their dinner date.

I'm fortunate that I have more good experiences to bad ones. A few memorable ones has got to be when I spend time playing with them and observe the kids and just marvel at how well they behave and interact among the siblings. There was this little boy, he's the oldest child and probably just about 5 years old, he's hands down the most caring kid that I've ever seen! His sister was a bit upset that the parents left for dinner and she didn't throw any tantrum or anything, just kept quiet to herself. Her brother kept checking on her, stroking her head, and asked her what would she wanna play and they can play together. He's doing a much much better job in babysitting than I am. The whole night I just observed at how well behaved they are and that even though the parents are so rich (Stayed at the penthouse) but yet they are not spoiled at all.

Sometimes, instead of leaving them as they are, I'll join in playing with them and keep them entertained. There was once when I went to the accommodation, I chit chatted with the parents, and then watch over the kids a little and after the parents left, 2 kids started wailing like mad. It took quite some time to calm them down. Though I'm just thankful they didn't run after the parents or screamed at the top of their lungs or start abusing me. But they were just standing, together, and wailed. It was actually so cute to watch but I can't spend the whole night letting them cry so I successfully distracted them using the magical Ipad. Played a movie and the wailing slowed down, then stopped, and all of us started watching movie together. In the end we played together and had so much fun, then they dozed off and I waited patiently for the parents to return.

As memorable are the good ones can be, the bad ones are unforgettable too.

The worst babysitting experience I had was honestly wasn't that terrible, it's just that I failed at my job in taking care of the kids. The little girl had a glimpse of me when I arrived for the job and she was too tired so the parents send her off to bed. After the parents left, I then spent some time with her elder sister playing some games and watch a little bit of TV then sent the elder sister to bed. Just when I thought it was time for me to relax, the little girl fell off the bed while sleeping and started crying. I rushed to pick her up and put her back to bed but probably that wasn't a good move to make as she went hysterical once she saw me. No matter how much I consoled her it didn't work at all and she just want to escape and stay away from me and cried for her mum. I believe she cried for about an hour? Even though her elder sister consoled her, it didn't work. I called her mum and passed her the phone and she refused as well. So in the end, the best thing is to stay away from her and let her cry until her parents return.

I truly felt so terrible when the parents return as I clearly didn't do a good job in taking care of the kid. But the mum actually said she has never seen this strange behavior by her child before and assured me it's alright. I got paid and then left promptly.

And probably the worst part is this is a 2 days job and I have to babysit her again?? The parents initially requested for the same babysitter for 2 days. And I'll feel even worse if I bailed out on this 2nd job. With much reluctance, I braved myself and went back for the 2nd night and surprise surprise, the kid was so sweet to me! We cuddled together while I read her and her sister a bedtime story. Put them to bed and then it was smooth sailing until the parents return.

So after all, it wasn't that bad of an experience.

Super sweet baby that was so easy to handle and really friendly towards strangers!
I was using my leg to block her from falling down.

Kid spent hours playing with this amazing sandbox! 
It's also quite sad that the kid has to play with artificial sand while indoors instead of playing with the real sand on the beach. 

And through babysitting, it really opened my eyes to observe on how the parents communicate with the kids, and I would say 8 out of 10 parents would talk to the kids and kiss them goodnight before leaving. And when they are back from dinner, they would want to hear from me on how did the kids behave. It's nice to also be exposed to how different cultures raise their kids.

Raising kids are so tough, it's nice to be more exposed and observe how other people raise theirs in preparation for my own. Babysitting also unknowingly brought flashbacks on my childhood and what a nightmare kid I was! I can't ever complain about other people's kids in this case....

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Seoul Trip - November

Had a short getaway to Seoul as I managed to book a super cheap jaw dropping flights! Seriously couldn't pass up the offer as it's just too cheap

Y15,000 for Sapporo - Tokyo - Seoul - Tokyo - Sapporo. 

And it was definitely a much needed getaway to end the summer and get prepared for winter. 

After booking the flights, I pretty much researched everyday regarding the best food to try in Seoul. Past few trips I traveled alone and didn't manage to try most of the food where the minimum order is 2 person. This time I finally had a travel buddy who is equally a big eater as me. 

After weeks of research, we've came up with a packed itinerary and have planned breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. What we didn't really plan was the activities to do in Seoul as our main motive was to eat. We threw in some shopping time, some typical touristy things to do and basically just chill apart from that. 

First Day

Best view I've seen from a plane yet

Arrival during lunch time and first meal for me was jajangmeon! I missed this dish the most after my previous trip half a year ago. Ordered both jajangmeon and jjamppong and fried pork to share. Awesome meal indeed!

After lunch, rushed to watch Nanta for 2 hours. Nanta was interesting but generally I'm not too into musical performance though..

After Nanta, rushed to Lotte department store to have the super popular Softree ice cream. Honeycomb on vanilla ice cream. After having it I'm really not sure if it's a great combination though, the ice cream became too sweet and after I've eaten all the honeycomb, the remaining ice cream became tasteless. Not to mention the wax sticking to your teeth. Trying once is really good enough.

After Softree, we moved straight to Palsaik Samgyupsal, Korean BBQ. I wasn't even hungry at all but we gotta do what we gotta do, eat! 

8 flavours of pork and will be cooked one by one. My favourite was the miso flavoured. The stew provided beside the BBQ was included in the set and we didn't really touch that as we were too full.

After dinner, we went to do some souvenir shopping! Since for Japanese culture, one who travels will have to buy some omiyage (souvenir) for the colleagues when they return. And it was really fun as well to shop for snacks. 

Best strawberries are from Korea!

After shopping we chilled in our room and then went for supper after that. It's something I really wanted to try for a long time but unable to do so when I was alone. The minimum portion to order in Kyochon is 24 pieces of wings and drumlets. That's madness for one person! And even both of us couldn't finish everything. We each ate 8 pieces and had another 8 pieces for takeaway. 3 person would be perfect for this. Or probably we were still too full from dinner.

Second Day

The next morning, we headed to the fish market, the famous Noryangjin fish market. We already knew what we wanted, just that we couldn't make up our mind on which stall to purchase from! Eventually we just bought what we wanted from a random stall and headed to a random restaurant and passed our goods to them to cook / butcher.

Horrifying Gaebul....

The food I bought were meant to be eaten raw so it got served real quick. But I overestimated myself and I had a real hard time shutting my brain and just start eating. Till now I still can't bring myself to try it again if I were given the chance to do so. It was the first time ever for me to put something that's still moving into my mouth! 

Next up, I was starving obviously as I only had a few tiny pieces of squid legs. We quickly moved on to our next restaurant that was meant for lunch but we went for brunch instead.

Mies Container was recommended by my friend and it was really really good! Western cuisine meet Korean and it worked! The bulgogi cream cheese was fantastic, generous cheese and best eaten hot! 

The famous seafood spaghetti was delicious as well, do be warned that it's deceptively spicy!

After brunch, we went shopping for a while and then rested in Starbucks.

Super love this tumbler! But just too expensive.

Later on we went to do some shopping at Myeongdong and then back to Hongdae. Hongdae really has everything! Cheap shopping, street food, night life. My friend and I joked that we really don't need to leave Hongdae at all, everything we need is there.

Dinner place is in Hongdae itself, we tried the cheese spare ribs by HongBrick! From the picture we researched on the Internet we were already drooling, and it was indeed very delicious!! Be warned that it is very very very spicy. The staff asked us do we want the normal spicy or less spicy, we went for less spicy and it was still like volcano in your mouth!

Don't worry about dirtying your hands though as gloves are provided. 

After polishing the ribs, leave some of the cheese and order a portion of rice and the staff can cook fried rice for you.

After dinner, we went to chill at a snack bar. 2-fingers glove were provided so once again, no dirty fingers were involved!

Third Day

Interesting plant spotted! 

Breakfast was toast with injeolmi. I actually regretted ordering this as there's really nothing special about it. Cream on top of the toast was a little odd for me.

Gave Softree ice cream another try again but this time with chocolate instead of honeycomb. 
Once again, nothing special.

Best part of the third day's meal was this! The much hyped Myeongdong Gyoza.

Based on the name, gyoza is the highlight of the store but me being not a huge gyoza fan, I opted for the knife sliced noodles. And it was indeed good. Perfect for the cold weather and the kimchi was the spiciest kimchi I've ever had! Still I went for 2nd round refill for kimchi. 

After my early dinner, I went for a stroll around Dongdaemun and spotted this pomegranate stall. Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice?? I'm so up for it but it was too expensive! I couldn't bring myself to pay so much for it...

It was so fortunate for me that during the period I was there, Dongdaemun Design Plaza has a LED lit roses for display for a limited time.

Truly truly beautiful sight! Ample sidewalk space to take pictures too!

Went for my all time favourite street snack at Ewha University. Fried chicken with rice cake in sweet sauce!

Ended my night with patbingsoo!

It was such a short trip but I truly did managed to recharge myself and get myself prepared for winter. It was also one of the rare trips where I traveled light. Brought only 1 small luggage and 1 backpack. For the past few years, most of my holiday has 1 huge luggage and 1 small luggage plus a backpack involved. So this trip I could really just travel light and didn't pay to check-in for luggage! More money for shopping then!

Since I've been to Seoul for more than 5 times now, for my next trip I look forward to travel with someone and not to travel alone as if I were to travel alone, there's really not many new place I could explore alone anymore. 

Hope for more holidays to come!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Living in Niseko during December

Started winter with lots of restaurant tasting invitation, best thing ever!

As I'm helping guests book restaurants (Not the best job ever), the good thing about this is i'm in frequent contact with the restaurant's reservation team so they will remember me and invite me to the tasting party!

Tasting 1: Cheese raclette on warm potatoes. Best dishes in my opinion.

Tasting 1: Seafood and vegetables terrine

Tasting 1: Beef  

Tasting 1: Salmon

Tasting 1: Apple pie and brownie brulee (My favourite brownie and brulee in one. I am speechless)

Tasting 2: Quite interesting presentation for me, best to use fingers to eat. 

Tasting 2: 20 types of vegetable salad

Tasting 2: Abalone and risotto. Best dish of the night for me! Best abalone I've had.

Tasting 2: Before and after. I noticed others didn't touch the black part which is the eggs, it was so good though.  

There were many more restaurants I manage to visit, the above 2 were the memorable ones. And also which were the ones where the pictures turned out bright and clear at least.

We had a lot of snow in the beginning of december and then it kinda stopped snowing after that. It even rained one night for goodness sake! I can understand when everyone's not in a good mood with no new snow. The weather picked up only towards the end of December with lots of fresh snow. But still I find that this season's quite slow and the snow is just not meeting our expectations... 

Apart from the snow, it's so great to have more friends to hang out with as compared to summer. I'm totally enjoying myself with my roommates! Thank God for my funny roommates and all of us get along so well with each other. Also for ex-university mates that's also working in Niseko, we had a few cook off session already and I truly appreciate my friends inviting me over and prepare 3 course meal for me (no joke). I'm truly blessed.

My favourite part of it all was to hang out together and just chit chat, snacking, drinking and playing games! Last season I found a pictionary game left by a guest and i took it home with me, I didn't touch it at all during summer and when winter came, I played it for the first time with my roommates. We laughed so loud and so much! Definitely a great way to bond. After that I took it with me to for the staff party and we had a blast. Now I know my drawing skills needs more improvement.

And of course the fact that most of the restaurants are opened by mid of december, yay to more food choices! But surprisingly my total spending for Dec was only less than 30,000yen!

Tsubara-tsubara is opened throughout the year which is absolutely crucial for me.

French crepes! I always opt for the sweet ones.

Chilling with a cup of affogato. One of the rare days where I drink coffee related beverages.

Work wise, it's quite nice to finally meet the guests that I've been corresponding with for months. I really like the fact that I took care of them from the beginning till the end. Beginning would be when they enquired about the room rates, then to booking guest services, then to check them in, and take care of their needs during their stay, and send them off when they check out. This is so awesome! Its something I won't get to experience if I were to work in a big hotel. 

Thankfully most of the guests I've taken care of are super nice people, feels like I've known them for a long time now. For certain guests, I liaised with the secretary instead and we became really comfortable with each other! One Indonesian lady even asked her boss (that's coming to niseko) to pass me a gift which was a bag full of indomie. Likewise I asked the guest to pass some cookies to her secretary as well. 

Since this is my third season, I'm already so confident with guests asking me any sorts of questions. Probably not like advanced skiing related question but I'm already very familiar with the basic information of Niseko. I had a few colleagues who were struggling with the sudden rise of numbers in guests and their demands and one eventually broke down in tears. It pains me to see them struggling and since then I've reminded myself to make sure to help them and just check on them if they are doing fine or not.

For now, winter has been very exciting, it's time for me to put on my skis and get out to the slopes!