The Kinokuniya flagship store is located on Orchard Road–Singapore’s iconic shopping district. I’ve always found the entrance to the bookstore rather modest and inconspicuous. The moment I walk in, however, I am always spellbound by the impressive 33,000 sq. ft. space that houses an extensive collection of more than 400,000 titles from all over the world.
Many people travel for personal and professional reasons. But to actually leave home, uproot yourself and plant yourself in a new country is a whole different ballgame. Over the years, I’ve met many expat kids who get hauled from country to country because of their parents’ jobs. I’ve watched many of them enter adulthood wondering where ‘home’ is. I can’t say I fully understand the sentiment.
I generally think it’s impolite to talk behind people’s backs. If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face. Be honest and upfront. If you’re the two-faced type, ultimately people won’t trust you. But in this part of the world, this is the norm. And it isn’t even personal. Too many people would rather preserve a surface harmony – and save face – than thrash out a conflict and be done with it.
The tourists are everywhere. They seem to exist in a separate space to the locals. Paris is somewhat reminiscent of Tokyo: with the too many travellers who have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. Like the Japanese, the Parisians are also not fond of speaking English. In Tokyo, it’s relatively easy to differentiate a local from a foreigner. In Paris, not so much. I’ve already lost track of the number of people who’ve tried to strike up a conversation with me only to receive a raised eyebrow and an awkward smile.
It’s official. I’m leaving Japan. The past week has been a celebration of my past 3.5 years here. Since Friday night last week, it’s been one farewell party after the next. Old friends. New friends. Colleagues. Bosses. And so on and so forth. And the party isn’t over. The celebrations are still in motion. There’s lamb slow-cooking on the stove as I write this.
You take the mini spatula and slowly slide a little bit over the hot plate till it’s brown and slightly crunchy. You have to do it a little at a time and very very slowly if you want to get the desired results – slightly burnt and crunchy baby food. The whole experience is pretty damn mendoksai troublesome. When I take my first bite, I like it. The flavours are fairly mild so we douse it with chilli flakes, seaweed and fish flakes. It takes us close to an hour to get through the first one.
The table is set for two. It’s been a while since I cooked for another human being. A while since I planned out an evening. A while since I embraced being in the kitchen. A while since I listened to Tracy Chapman and sipped on red wine while nibbling on Camembert cheese. This whole process feels really old to be so new.
I was only in Singapore for a week – but the sakura had already bloomed and were beginning to fade into nothingness. The whole time I was back home, my friends in Japan were annoying me with pictures of sakura on Facebook. I personally prefer autumn to spring – but missing out on sakura season is a sacrilege. Whether you like it or not – you have to celebrate it.
I’m a huge huge fan of Uzbek food. Actually, I’m a huge fan of all food that has a lot of lamb. I’m a big lamb lover. Unfortunately, the Japanese don’t share my fondness for the meat that is often described as ‘gamey’. BTW – it’s only gamey if you don’t know how to prepare it. Cooking lamb well is an art form. And the Uzbeks are brilliant at it.
Everywhere I turn, people are speaking Spanish – America’s unofficial second language. I’m surprised that I can still understand the language fairly well – considering that I haven’t spoken it in some four years. I learnt a lot of new languages in my twenties – but Spanish is my still my favourite. I hear a whole plethora of other languages, too. Some I recognise. Others I don’t. I breathe in and out. It’s my first time in San Francisco, but I feel at home for the first time in a while.