Archive for June, 2006

Long time no post

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Last week was very busy. I don’t remember everything, but I think I stayed at work late a few days. Friday I got home early because Yuping was showing up. We cancelled our going away party for one of our staff because not enough people could show up (travelling, sick, with guests) so it was fun – we ate lasagna, drank beer, and chatted.

Saturday Naoko went off to work, Yuping and Zen and I took the bus to Little India and wandered around, went to Mustafas, Yuping was searching for a change purse. Nice. We went to Khansama to eat lunch, then a taxi home so that Zen could go to sleep, and he said that he was so tired when we got out of the taxi, but then he didn’t sleep for an hour – silly boy. When he got up, Naoko was home and we went off for a picnic at West Coast Park, which isn’t such a great park but it has lots of fantastic play areas for kids. The picnic was fantastic,although it was dark just soon after we got there. We hung out – Yuping and Naoko chatted while Zen and I kicked the soccer ball, or hung out at the jungle gym.

Sunday it was a rainy morning, although it cleared up around 10:30, so we went off to Clementi to do a bit of shopping and hanging around before lunch at one of the hawker centres. Went home, Zen slept, Yuping swam, Naoko and I chilled out, then in the evening Naoko went off to a farewell party for a colleague, while Zen and Yuping and I went off to eat Indian food (again) on Upper Bukit Timah Road. Luckily, we saw two trains pass by, it was very nice. Then we went off by another taxi to the Night Safari. Boy, we took a lot of taxis this weekend. Got there, bought tickets, went in, took the tram around, saw tarsiers and tapirs, barybusa and mountain deer of the Nepalese rain forests. Also some lovely bull elephants and tigers, hyenas, and all sorts of other night creatures. Zen was too spooked to walk along the paths, so we took in the show. It was your usual hyped up thing with not so much great stuff, although there was some educational side to it – they made fun of a guy who seemed to have brought his pet snake to the zoo show (he was clearly an actor), and was then mocked for buying exotic pets to keep in his HDB apartment. Happens enough I suppose – there are plenty of Singaporeans eccentric enough to keep tapirs and barybusa in their 3-room HDB apartments – but it was a bit tiresome for the rest of us. Went out, and saw a very sexy stage show of young Bornean men and women dancing around spinning flaming torches, then breathing fire – yes, the women too!! Very nice. Got home late, slept.

Monday was an OK day, went out afterwards to karaoke with my departing colleague and a few others, it was a lot of fun. We sang songs by Wu Bai, ABBA, the Carpenters, Nathalie Imbruglia, Gloria Gaynor, Black Sabbath, Celine Dion, and all sorts of other fun stuff!!

A picture taken in Mustafas. This dummy looks like someone I know…

Peter and his clone

Yuping and I in Little India

Zen took this picture of Yuping and Yuting at the Khansama restaurant

Zen in Little India

We took a picture of Zen at the Khansama restaurant

Our Little India food

Indian food at Khansama restaurant

Zen in action

Zen running with snake

Zen with rambutan 1

Rambutan Zen

Zen with rambutan 2

Rambutan Zen

a visit from Mitchan and Manae

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

Hey, Mitchan and Manae were here all day today almost. Last night was a tough one – Zen was sleeping on a matress on our floor. At some point in the night he crawled in our bed. Normally he rolls around so much, you don’t get much sleep when you’re in bed with Zen, so I moved myself to the matress on the floor. Yes, I was kicked out of my own bed by my four-year-old son. In a way. We had a nice breakfast, the five of us, then Zen went off with them to their Sunday activity. There were due to be lots of kids around, so that was fun for Zen. Naoko and I hung out here, I got back to writing in my novel – yay, 750 words last night, 2,000 today!! I also got started on fiddling around with the “The Hand That Feeds” track and did three versions – a reggae, a digital hardcore, and a stripped version. All of them sound great. I recorded my own vocals for some of them too, fun. Next week I get started on my masterwork!!

Mitchan and the kids came back, we hung out, then went for a swim. Zen was reluctant at first, and cried and fussed, but eventually got into it. Frustrating. He’s drinking a lot of water, so he goes pee a lot, and didn’t want to eat much pizza for dinner. Pizza!! Silly boy, pizza is much tastier than pool water!

These kids were supposed to hug each other, but they seem a little reluctant…
Zen and Manae

Zen and Manae at the computer playing the Thomas racing game. Yay yay yay! Yippee!!! I won!!!! Faster!!!!! Faster!!!!!!!
(Staring down a lifetime of computer usage… ouch, the kids are growing up.)
Manae and Zen at computer

Zen took these pictures. Can you tell?
double chin Pete

Bite The Hand That Feeds

Saturday, June 17th, 2006

Hey, got started recently on playing with the Nine Inch Nails file I downloaded recently. That is a file of “Bite The Hand That Feeds,” a song from the recent NIN album “With Teeth.” It’s a pretty good song (maybe the best on the album!), and Trent Reznor made it available in GarageBand format, so that anyone with a recent iMac can take it apart, play around with it, and have fun. I’m trying to put together a reggae version, see if that sounds any good or not.

This week was relatively uneventful after the fun-filled week I had last week, but I did finish off a bottle of duty-free gin – yummy! Went out for drinks after work with office people two nights this week, which was unusual. Wrote four articles, which was nice. I love writing.

Here are some pics of Zen and I at the Science Centre today. They had a bunch of casts made from real dinosaur bones that are kept in the US, but in Singapore it’s quite all rightt to make fanfare about something that’s inauthentic.
Peter by Zen

Another picture that Zen took of me. This one turned out quite nice, I thought.
Zen and dinosaur

today is the greatest day that’s ever been

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Hey, today was a good day – I took Zen to see the Malaysia train and he saw FIVE trains. That must be a record of some sort!! We came back, had Naoko’s lovely hamburgers, and then got working on stuff. Finally, my DVDs – which had been stalled for four hours – came through and were completed, and we watched some of that before Zen and Naoko went to sleep, great, great, great. It is 12:34, I will go to sleep soon… In the meantime, here are some funny pictures of today.

Here are some great pics of Naoko that Zen took:
Zen took this picture of Naoko 4
Zen took this picture of Naoko 3
Zen took this picture of Naoko 2
Zen took this picture of Naoko

Zen with his new model of the Tokyo Tower. It was a gift from our friend Negishi-san in Tokyo, from the day we visited, but we waited until we came here to assemble it:
Zen Tokyo Tower

Nice pics of Naoko and I that Zen took:
Naoko and Peter
Pete Zen

Zen with his funky Comme Ca du Mode shirt:

We three reservoir dogs: I’m Chris Penn, Christoper is Tim Roth, Christian is… Jonny Lee Miller?
Peter Chris Chris

back from Hong Kong

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Hey, another week gone by, and another chance to enjoy the weekend with my family and update the blog.

The week gone by was a pretty busy one. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were your usual busy days at work. Nothing unusual, except that I started to have lots and lots of strange IT hiccups – my new cell phone (from my brother) wouldn’t charge, my MD walkman’s batteries seemed to be running out of energy when I had just recharged them, and my AA-size battery recharger needed over 24 hours to recharge them. Weird. But happily they have been resolved now. I worked until late on Wednesday night, went to sleep at midnight, packed for my Hong Kong trip, and went to sleep at Midnight. Woke up at 4:15 on Thursday morning, went to the airport by taxi, checked in, had a lousy breakfast in the airport, got on the plane, took off. Some time after take-off, we found out that there was a medical emergency on the flight, and we were turning around and flying back to Singapore. Got there, medics came aboard, and a shaky old man was led off of the flight with his unhappy family in tow. Seemed like he had passed out after take-off and couldn’t be revived, although when he returned to Singapore he came to. Scary. We refuelled and took off, I had a lousy lunch, tried to sleep a bit, got to Hong Kong, took the train into town, yum yum yum. Met up with two colleagues, went to eat 2:30 half-price dim sum. The restaurant was empty, service was way slow, and most of the food wasn’t so great. Good thing it was half price! Had meetings from 6:30 to 11:30, went out for food again at midnight. This place was very cheap and very yummy, much better than lunch. Great! Went to sleep after 1:00. Friday was our event, got up at 5:45, had breakfast, reported for duty at 7:00. The event ran all day, and it went really well. I met a lot of bankers, we saw presentations, gave out awards, I did interviews, collected material, and had a pretty good time. Everything was over around 11:00. We got changed, met up in the lobby at 11:30 or so, went to the Intercontinental for drinks. I had an over-priced beer, watched the opening World Cup match of Germany vs. Costa Rica, watched the two attractive Thai individuals near us flirt with funny-looking people in the pub. I’m positive the one with the big breasts was a guy (the shoulders and wrists were a give-away), but I’m pretty sure the other one was a real woman. Got back to the room, had a beer, went to sleep. Got up at 6:45, had breakfast with my roommate who had gone out to meet friends of his own and ended up drinking Chivas Regal until past 3:00. Showered, packed, dressed, met in the lobby at 8:30, went to the airport by taxi – would have taken the train but we heard that flooding on the tracks had delayed the airport express. Flight back was uneventful, just hung out, had a good time, and Naoko and Zen met me at the airport. A happy reunion, we went back home, Zen was nearly falling asleep to take a nap but Xavier came over to play with him and then no nap, he justt played a lot and had a good time. In the evening we watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on DVD. It was a bit scary for Zen, but he pulled through and watched all of it. Went to sleep late, though, 10:30. I got to sleep at midnight, very tired. Sunday I did a bit of work on my DVD of the Japan trip, set it off to burn, hope that works well. Zen and I went for a swim, then had lunch, and now he’s sleepying. Sleep…

My fantastic weekend

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

I had a fantastic weekend. I didn’t start so great, in a way, because on Friday and part of Saturday I was suffering from the same blahs I’d been suffering for most of the week, since Naoko and Zen were still not back, but that all changed when the flew in Saturday afternoon.

Friday night I went out for drinks with co-workers, something I’ve almost never done, but I knew that if I went home early I’d just go batty. So we went for drinks, it was OK. Got home, and I watched a bit of TV. Saturday I woke up relatively early, did a bunch of boring chores and errands, basically killed time until the mid-afternoon when I went out to the airport. Naoko and Zen were arriving 30 minutes early, but I was still way early. I read a bit of Gormenghast, then I spotted them behind the glass looking for their luggage. My spirits lifted immediately. Naoko was wearing a bright orange shirt I bought for her in Thailand, Mr. T saying “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane” or something. This is Naoko being ironic, although probably unintentionally. I wonder if anybody spotted it. When they got their luggage, they came walking to the exit. Zen spotted me and ran towards me saying “PAPA!!” I took him in my arms, it was a really emotional moment. Naoko came out, we took a taxi together home, Naoko unpacked her rice and goodies, then I took Zen for a swim, and I cooked them dinner. We drank gin and tonic as we watched videos of the past month on the computer. Zen went to sleep before 9:00, he must have been tired (they left at 6:30 in the morning, he watched King Kong on the flight and also napped). Sunday we woke up, tidied, went out to the wet market to get coffee and look for fish goods (crappy, didn’t buy anything) to re-stock the aquarium. I took Zen to the Bukit Timah station at noon to see the passenger sleeper coming through, first time for that. Got home, ate lunch, Zen slept, I edited the Japan video, then when he woke up we took him to swimming lessons. He was just as reluctant to take part as he had been before, but finally warmed up a bit at the end. He once swam off with the rubber ring, as if playing hooky, but when he got to the other side of the pool he came right back. Had a fantastic dinner of Japanese food that Naoko cooked that was probably better than all the food I had since she was away combined, really yummy. Watched the Incredibles (again) in the evening, gave Zen a shower, Naoko read him a Japanese children’s book that she had just bought – her favourite from her childhood – and he went to sleep in our bed, where he still is now. I can look over my shoulder and see him there.

Japan Trip

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

On May third Naoko and Zen and I took a trip to Japan together. It was an exciting moment – the last time we had been on a plane together was probably in early 2003 when we had been to New Zealand and a bunch of other places together. Wow. We left early for the airport, had a lovely breakfast there, and climbed on board. Zen was really excited. We took off, then he watched King Kong for the entire trip – he napped, but he proably saw it twice. I read the Economist, Goldman Sachs cover (this is all before Hank Paulson was appointed to be Secretary of the Treasury). Got there, took a bus to Kobe, then a train into Himeji. Got out of the train, then realized that we had left orchids that we had bought for Naoko’s mum on the train. D’oh!!! Were 30 minutes late meeting Naoko’s dad, as we tried to sort out the problem – the train had gone out of service, and was heading for the trainyards to get cleaned and spend the night. Went home, had a great dinner, hung out, went to sleep. The next moring, we went off to pick up the flowers from some rural train station where the trainyards are. Got the flowers, headed back, stopped at one spot where we could see bullet trains whizz by. Got home, surprised Naoko’s mum with the flowers (she was getting a bit suspicious about our trips to the countryside on our first day back). May 5th we went to visit Naoko’s grandmother, and did a lot of cleaning in our boxes – looking for the stuff we wanted to take back to Singapore, throwing out (some of the) stuff that we would probably never use again. May 6th we went off to see friends in the Osaka suburb where we used to live. Went first to Kobe, transferred on the train to get to Nishinomiya. Zen was so happy to be on the JR trains again. Went to Nishinomiya, walked around looking for the Wexford Tavern where I used to drink beer. It had closed, I thought “well, that’s just one of those things”; then walking down the street, I looked at a building – its whole second level was the site of the NEW Wexford Tavern. Seamus had struck it rich! Congratulations, dude!! Waited 45 minutes to meet one friend, ate lunch, drank Chu-hi, then went off to see other friends. Jason and Yukiko with their firstborn, 3 months old, and Matt and Mami with their second born, 2 months old. Amazing. Yoshihiro, their first kid, is older than Zen, but also a Spider-man fan. The kids played and had fun. Jason showed them some Simpsons episodes, it was a fun time. I drank a bunch of Chu-hi, then the pizza came. Fantastic afternoon. May 8th I took Zen to Tegaraiyama, which is a fantastic city park on a hill, with a great cascade staircase, castle architecture, turrets, and a great lookout over the city, not to mention great gardens and greenery. Naoko’s high school friend Wassan works there, so after we had taken our fill of watching bullet trains whizz through Himeji, we went to see Wassan. Thirty years ago, there had once been a monorail that connected Himeji station to Tegaraiyama. The city had bought high quality titanium monorails from Lockheed, which had been sitting for thirty years in storage after seven years of use. Wassan took us into the storage to see the monorails. It was spooky and weird, but really very cool. May 9th we went off on our first of seven days of JR pass rail ridery. For foreign visitors of Japan, and their Japanese immediate family (i.e. Naoko) 7-day train passes can be bought for only US$300. Since transportation is the single most expensive thing, it was a deal we couldn’t resist. So we started riding, and Zen had his first bullet train trip – finally! We rode only for one hour, and we were in Hiroshima. First we went to Miyajima, which is an island very near Hiroshima to the south. Took JR to get there, then the JR ferry over to the island itself, and wandered around admiring the boulevards, the deer, the old buildings, the greenery, the Japanese gates. The high point of Miyajima is the towering red temple gate built out in the bay. At high tide it is flooded at the posts, but at low tide you can walk out. We were there at low tide, so after visiting the temple and checking out the lookout, we also wandered out to see the big thick posts, see the cocklers, and then move back towards the ferry. Ate some lunch, then got into town on a small local line. We had been travelling a lot, and Zen was tired, but he kept on going, and soon we were at the A-bomb dome peace memorial park. The first thing we saw was the ruin of the A-bomb dome, not far from the epicentre of the bomb, and the T-shaped bridge that apparently was the target for the bombardier aboard the Elona Gay. Hiroshima is surprisingly green today, despite having been singed by plutonium. We wandered around the park, saw the thousands of paper cranes that students fold for peace, then went into the museum itself. Lots of tourbuses full of schoolkids – Hiroshima is where nearly every school kid in Japan must come it seems. Zen was cranky, so we sped through, but it was impressive, with a model of 1945 Hiroshima before and after the fateful day. A chart describing nuclear incidents – nuclear near-confrontations as well as a long list of nuclear accidents – were as chilling as the nuclear shadows burned into rocks or atomized lunch boxes and schoolgirl uniforms. Went off in search of an okonomiyaki shop – that took some time, but eventually we did get our grub and beer, then off to the train station and our ride home. Just before we got to Himeji station (Naoko and Zen were sleepin) the skies opened up and it poured rain. May 10th we headed off to Yokohama. We got on the train and arrived 3.5 hours later in Shin Yokohama without incedent. Great scenery, nice seaside spots. Didn’t see Fuji. Nicole picked us up in the van from Negishi station, a five-minute car ride from their home. The first thing Zen said to Evan was “here is a present for you,” and gave him a toy bus, and Evan talked about some new light that he had gotten from the 100 yen shop. He eventually played with the toy bus when they got home, and a few of the wheels went missing. Took the kids to a local park, and Zen and Evan and Lauren walked hand in hand. It was really beautiful. We played on the swings and the see-saw, then went back and ate dinner, and drank some Chu-hi, then the kids went to sleep. Ralph came home later, we hung out, and went to sleep. May 11th, our first full day in Yokohama, we went to Sankeien in the morning before we were supposed to meet a friend at noon. On the way, dropped in on a friend of Ralph and Nicole and the kids, Yoshie, who works as a volunteer guide at Sankeien. She showed us around the garden. It started to rain lightly, we could only see about half of it. Some plum trees growing there have been featured in a famous painging, and I wanted to show Naoko the trees, but there was not enough time, so we walked on home. The rain got harder, and we were feeling pretty tired, but off we went to meet our friend. Junko, we had last seen as backpackers in Turkey ten years ago. In the meantime we had had a baby and moved to Singapore, and she had learned how to be a chef in China. Together we went to Kamakura. Got there, found a nice place to eat ramen, then off we went on the Enoshima railway line (E-no-den), which Zen is already quite familiar with from one of his books, and is apparently famous all over Japan. Rode it along along, got out at a station and went back. The station platforms are very narrow, the train itself feels like it is sneaking through back alleys in the way that the back of buildings comes so close to the passing train walls. Also, some people have to cross the train tracks to get to the stairs leading up to their houses. Some stations didn’t have staff, the driver had to get out and run to the ticket wicket and collect tickets. The train went along the coast at one point. Very nice – coast line with stormy seas and a few surfers. This area has been made famous by the songs of the Southern All-Stars, kind of like Japan’s ’80s answer to the Beach Boys. Went to see the Kamakura big Buddha, a large metallic outdoor Buddha. Although it is smaller than the Nara Buddha, the fact that it is exposed is quite impressive, with the emerald hills providing a backdrop to his beatific stare. Just like in Hiroshima, many visiting schoolchildren were there, and in the light rain saw lots of group photos being taken in front of the big Buddha. Took the train back to town, then went to Yokohama Chinatown, walked around, bought pork buns, went back home by (very crowded) bus, then back to eat with the Hofliches. Zen and the kids ran around naked and had a good old time, but Zen didn’t feel like sleeping over in Evan’s room. He never did any other night either, sleeping in our room always. May 12th was our confused trip to Tokyo. At least the weather was nice, but we didn’t really know where we were going. First we went to Tokyo station, and walked around part of the foreground to the Imperial Palace. The weather was superb, the best yet. We saw a blimp doing advertising for BMW. Went off to Asakusa, a maze of touristic spots, and finally arrived at the Reimon, where all tourists to Tokyo must come. Lots of tourist shops, and Zen attracted to every one that sold toys, in front of a temple, then off we went back to Tokyo to meet with our friend Negishi-san at the Tokyo Tower. The tower was very cool, and we went up up up, saw all of the cool Tokyo buildings, plus the amazing glass floor that had a great view of the city. Negishi-san bought a nice model of the Tokyo Tower for Zen, which was so nice of her. She told us about a doule decker bus tour that we could take from Tokyo station – oh, we’d just been there earlier the same day – so we took a cab there through the traffic. Got there late, but the bus was late so that was fine and we got on with confusion and only a few minutes to spare. The tour was nice – drove us around the Imperial Palace and through the government area, as well as along the Ginza and all the brand houses. I spotted about four branches of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, a recently merged mega-bank which is now the largest in the world (although it mostly just has Japanese clients). Went back from Tokyo To Shin-Yokohama by bullet train (only one station), then by regular train to Negishi. May have been less crowded – normally, the rush hour trains out of Tokyo in the evening are murder! May 13th, Nicole’s birthday. Selfishly, we left them to do all of their birthday prparations, which included preparing for a barbecue, and embarked on a trip to Sendai. There was nothing in particular that attracted us to Sendai, but none of us had ever been to the part of Japan just north of Tokyo, and the idea of taking a long-distance bullet train to the north was appealing. Unfortunately, just getting to Tokyo station so that we could start on the trip took quite some doing. Got on a super fast train to Sendai, which sped us along past gorgeous rice paddies at blinding speed, fantastic. Got to Sendai, hung out for 45 minutes, saw what might have been snow (!!!) falling from the sky – it was cold – then took another train heading back to Tokyo. The scenery was fantastic – rice paddies, hills, tunnels, villages, old houses, shrines in the middle of nowhere, crops of forest stopping and starting, and small towns, villages, cities, hills, mountains. Got to Tokyo, took a train towards Shin Yokohama. But unfortunately, the train didn’t stop there!! It just kept shooting past, so off we went to Atsumi, or wherever, and we got out, headed back to Shin Yokohama, arriving there over an hour after we would have. Got to the party, just about 5 minutes before everybody left. Heard a bunch of names, then said goodbyes. Oh well. May 14 was the aftermath. We got ready in the morning, did webcam, then climbed into the minivan, got strapped in and took off. Evan sits in the back seat in his chair, and he wanted Zen to sit next to him, but Zen wasn’t keen at all. Weren’t sure if we should try to get Evan’s mind off of it or try to convince Zen to go along with it. Finally, through negotiation we got Zen to agree to sit in the back seat if Naoko was next to him. Fine, off we went. I was in the front seat, so I got reminded of the madness of being a foreigner trying to navigate the Japanese road system, but Ralph did a great job and got us to Kamakura. We drove past the main temple, down the street, got gas, passed a jazz festival on the beach, kept going in the direction of Enoshima. Unfortunately, the road got real crowded and things slowed down to a crawl. Decided to head back to the festival, where the jazz had become hula dancing. The skinny, long-haired Japanese maidens looked great, and I saw male hula dancing for the first time ever then too. We had a lovely picnic lunch there, and drank hot tea. Naoko was waving her cheese bagel around in the air, then – SWOOSH – one of the circling hawks swooshed down and snatched it from her hand! Wow!! She could have been hurt, but luckily she was only pissed off that the yummy bagel was gone forever. Other bagels were dropped accidentally in the sand, or knocked accidentally out of people’s hands, so it wasn’t all the fault of the hawks. Walked along the shore a lot, the kids played witht little Japanese kids, no communication needed, just sand castles. Passed by the professional sand castle makers with their buckets and shovels, then Zen begged me to use a stick to draw a bullet train in the sand, which I did. We went back to the parking lot, but discovered somebody had set up a mini-train track in the gravel parking lot. Cool! The kids had fun riding that (for free), then we went over to an antique bus from 1955 that was parked there. Apparently it belongs to some museum or something in Tokyo. Sat inside that, they started up the engine, then shut it down. Went across the street to a lovely old Enoshima Dentetsu coach sitting there doing nothing, then went to the car and drove off to Enoshima itself. Took a while, and we drove in silence as the kids slept. Got there around 4:30 or so, parked, walked up along the lovely hill, past shops and inns and hot springs and up to the shrine, another shrine, and a gorgeous lookout on some lovely Japanese coast scenery. This is one of those spots from which Mount Fuji should be visible, but this time it wasn’t – the misty May weather meant that it was probably out of view for most of the day every day. Went down the hill, found the car, and drove back, had dinner, chilled out. May 15 was our last day in Yokohama. We woke up, chilled out, got ready, said goodbye to Ralph, then Evan as he went off to school, Zen and Lauren watered the flowers, then we drove off to Negishi station. Zen gave Lauren a lovely kiss, and off we went. Rode rode rode to Osaka, where we got out in Shin Osaka, met Aki, and went to Starbucks for coffee and tea. I wandered around, found a funny spot where there was a Sumitomo Mitsui bank in between two outlets of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (one had been BoTM, the other had been UFJ, but with the merger they stayed and took on the same branding – yuck!). Went back to Himeji, ate, slept. May 16, our first day not going anywhere for quite some time indeed. Tidied up, hung around, didn’t do much. Rainy day. In the evening, Naoko’s uncle Hayao came over and we ate lovely food and drank sake and other stuff. There was a nice cake for Zen, and we sang “happy birthday to you” to Haruka. I guess it was also a sayonara party for me too. May 17 I left for Singapore, carrying a big suitcase, a case with Oma’s old radio in it (finally can try it out in Singapore, where the voltage is the same as in the former East Germany), and my backpack. Drove in to town, had a tearful goodbye, took the airport shuttle bus, the bus drove very nearby where Naoko’s parents live (full circle for the day), then onto the highway. Read, sleep, drink beer, and a few hours later I was at the airport, checked in, got on the flight, watched three movies – Match Point, Bend It Like Beckham, part of Underworld:Evolution, and half of Rumor Has It. First two were good, the others mere curiosities and kind of crappy actually. Took a cab home, slept. May 18, first day back, not so great but OK. Kind of sleepy.

Most of the next two weeks was kind of hazy, but there were two highlights: I wrote 15,000 words in my novel on the first weekend, and I watched season 4 of the TV series Twenty-four. It was OK. Also, I went to see some live music in Wala Wala pub in Holland Village one Saturday night with my friend Brad. I wasn’t expecting much from the type of cover band that Singapore tends to nurture, but this one was fantatstic – they played very unlikely songs – Doobie Brothers “Listen To The Music,” and a bunch of funky songs, including a cheeky version of “I Will Survive” which was about a girl who gets a guy home and is horrified to find out that his penis is very small (“use toothpick dip dip in chili sauce”). They also played Everescence, Guns ‘n’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine, and Cranberries “Zombie,” but then did wacky stuff like the whole “Another Brick In The Wall” song with intro, note for note I suppose, but with a sassy female lead singer. Nice, good. They also did a great version of Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love.” I requested Black Sabbath, and then they actually played “War Pigs”! I was surprised to think that anybody in Singapore even cared two bits about that band. I requested AC/DC, and they played “You Shook Me All Night Long” (of course). Great, fun night.

Zen in the airport May 3rd, 2006, on our way to Japan.

Naoko and Zen in the airport going to Japan, May 3, 2006

Zen just before he got into his first bullet train, travelling from Himeji to Hiroshima on May 9th, 2006.

Eating a yummy eel rice lunch in Hiroshima/Miyakojima

the famous gate at Miyakojima shrine. at high tide it gets flooded, but at low tide you can walk out

Somebody came here to get married.

Zen’s checking out the beach deer

Zen and Evan are good buddies.

Zen and Lauren watering the flowers

Family pic at Enoshima temple.

Evan Zen and Lauren in front of an antique bus

Zen Evan Lauren inside an antique bus

Lauren Zen Evan watching TV

Spider-kids flashing gang signs

Holding two heavy boys in my arms

Zen and Lauren are good buddies.

Zen and Lauren chilling out in Sankeien garden in Yokohama.

The Three Bums.

Zen reaching for the sky on Tegaraiyama in Himeji

Great Himeji skyline

Zen and Yoshihiro as Spider-kids, flashing gang signs.

Zen’s so excited, he has to show off his tummy…

Reunion of friends, with Jason, Yukiko, Jotaro, Naoko, Zen, Yoshihiro

Zen and his grandpa

Yummy lunch in Himeji

Zen Haruka Nanaka in Himeji

March and April

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

The website and the blog had been down for a while, as has my email (sorta). So I wasn’t posting at all. But that is all sorted out now and I would like to kind of write a bit about my March and April, although just hitting the big points. March 26th I took Zen to the science centre. There’s a funny picture from that day down below. It was a lot of fun. The following weekend we went to Kuala Lumpur, again by train. This time we didn’t make any of the mistakes we made last time (like missing the train in Johor Bahru!!), although because we didn’t book early enough, the Saturday-up-Sunday-down tickets were sold out, so we took a day off work Monday and just went up on Sunday, came back on Monday. Sunday morning we took a taxi to the main train station in Singapore, which is not far from where I work, and hopped on a train. Had a funny incident where we dumped the yummy lunch that Naoko had prepared on the floor, and there was less to munch on. Oh well. When we got to KL, we checked into the Mandarin Oriental, which is right next to the Petronas Towers (until recently the highest buildings in Asia, also the setting of that Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones flick “Entrapment”). Went for a nice rooftop swim, then down to the San Francisco Wharf (or something like that) restaurant for a lovely outdoor dinner, then up to the room to hang out, take a bubble bath, and be chilled. Sunday, April 3rd we woke up, went for breakfast (not so great), then when we were going back I found the right moment in the lounge to give Naoko her anniversary present (actually, I slipped it to Zen and asked him to give it to her). She opened it, it was a simple silver Tiffany ring. She was so happy to wear it. She had wanted to have a Tiffany engagement ring, but when we went to the shop in Kobe to check it out in 1996, she was disappointed by the poor selection and the outrageous prices. Now, nine years after the wedding itself, I got her one. She was so happy. After that, we went for another swim, checked out, went for some shopping, then to the train station for the long long long ride back to Singapore. Nice. Fun! April 9th I went to a rughby sevens event. Rughby sevens is a quick, slick, down and dirty form of rughby where matches are only 14 minutes long, great fun. We had been invited to sit in the corporate section, so we had an air-conditioned room to grab food from, plenty of elbow room in the seats, and people coming by to ask us if we wanted another (complimentary) beer. I went with my friend Sean, and I met my colleague Chris and his dad there, both of whom are big rughby fans. I didn’t understand what I was watching, but the atmosphere was great fun. Left before the semi-finals so that we wouldn’t have to endure drunken madness getting home. Left the stadium and saw a great sunset over the harbour. April 20th I had a great birthday. That whole week happened to be parent visit days at Zen’s new school, so I took the opportunity to request that day and I took half a day off work (I would have taken the full day – a day off work is the ultimate birthday present of them all – but there was too much stuff piling up at work so I only made it a half day) and went in to Zen’s school. Zen was very happy to see me there, and tried very hard to excel in his class exercises. It was during the week of Chinese lessons (he has a full week of English emersion, rotated with a full week of Chinese emersion). So the teacher drilled drilled drilled Chinese words and the sentence permutations. She also asked me to read a book to the kids, so I chose a book that tells a tale about a bird looking for his mother, kind of like “Are You My Mother”, but with a twist. The kids went out to the playground for stretches and play. The teacher asked for a volunteer to lead the exercise, and Zen jumped up. He didn’t do so well, but I was happy to see that he was so keen to do well when I was there. I ate lunch with Zen and the kids, then they all sang “happy birthday to you.” It was sweet.

Zen and snail
a close-up of Zen’s favourite snail

a close-up of Zen’s snail.

Zen loves his bubble bath

science centre ugly kid pic
For some reason, the Science Centre has this picture of an incredibly ugly kid…

Naked Chinese 2
Zen loves doing his Chinese homework, even while naked!

doing Chinese homework naked
Naked Chinese

Zippy Zen
This is from the Zippy comic strip. This “elf” looks a bit like Zen?

Peter in Zen school
I read a book to Zen on parents day in his school.

PNZ Peter birthday cake
I turned 37 and this was the cake I ate.

Japan 31 Canada 0
Canada didn’t do so well in the Standard Chartered Bank rughby 7s tournament against Japan. I was supporting both teams, so I’m glad that Japan won and I’m sad that Canada lost.

Peter Chris rughby 7s
This is Chris, a really cool guy!

KL tub
We took another bubble bath in KL.

KL toy bus
Zen was a bus driver in Kuala Lumpur.

Zen and Garfield in KL
Zen rode next to Garfield in Kuala Lumpur.

Zen loves his umbrella.