Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Turnover

2015 does not feel like a particularly an eventful year. I guess I spent too much time inside my room, just doing my thing (painting, watching movies or TV shows, sewing, etc.) or in the kitchen (baking and cooking. Nevertheless, there's a fair number of highlights:

  • I went back to school as a part-time lecturer.
  • I started painting again. I also started with pointed pen calligraphy.
  • I started kendo last March, which I really liked. I made new friends at the kendo club. Unfortunately I had to stop last September because of various leg and knee injuries. However, I was able to return this December and our team even won in the beginners' division tournament.
  • I traveled northern and central Vietnam with my co-workers. We went to Hanoi, Ha Long, Ninh Binh, Hue, and Hoi An.
  • I went to Boracay with friends.
  • My Kindle broke and thus decreased my reading capacity. I can't read in the dark anymore-- which used to be my favorite before-bed ritual.
  • My dog got surgery. It cost me a lot, including medications but I'm just glad he's fine now.
  • I colored my hair (well, parts of it) with blue, purple, pink, and green. Not necessarily all colors at the same time.
  • I got the best, albeit a few days late, birthday gift to date: a scholarship for postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
  • I re-read the whole Harry Potter series.
  • I traveled central and western Japan by myself. I went to Nagoya, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kamikochi, Osaka, Himeji, Kobe, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Iwakuni, Kyoto, and Nara.

Ah, 2016.

This is going to be an eventful year, I'm pretty sure. On February, I will start postgraduate studies in Auckland. A couple months ago, it was pure excitement but as my departure comes closer, I'm getting more and more anxious and scared than excited.

It's going to be my first time to live alone for that long and to be so far away from home. I can take care of myself (cooking, laundry, cleaning, budgeting, etc.) and I travel alone in places where I don't even speak the language so it's not like I'm gonna get lost or whatever in Auckland. However we know studying abroad is different. I'll have to cope with the cold weather, loneliness, homesickness, culture shock, etc. I am, however, determined to make the most out of my year abroad.

Some of my goals for 2016 include:

  • study and work hard, get good grades and make a quality research project
  • join a kendo club in Auckland
  • make new friends in NZ
  • bungy jump
  • travel New Zealand and hopefully Australia too

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Back to Kendo

Last August, I suffered six different injuries. I suppose that's what happens when you have a sedentary lifestyle and suddenly take up a high-impact sport like kendo. I had to rest and go to physical therapy which can be time-consuming and expensive too.

Now, I've been discharged from physical therapy and I can go back to kendo but I still have to do strengthening exercises for my kneecaps to return to normal. I've also been swimming to aid with therapy.

Last Saturday, IGA Kendo Club held a Christmas Shiai (Tournament). I joined the beginners' division, which is a team tournament.

Everyone lined up
(photo by my clubmate, Darwin)

I lost my match and didn't score a point but I did my best and I'm happy with that. One of my favourite senpai (club senior) told me that I did well and that my form was good. That's what really matters, I guess.

Getting ready
(photo by my clubmate, Darwin)

Anyway, our team won.

Our team with our sensei, our club manager, and some of the children club members
(photo by my clubmate, Darwin)

Posing with my first kendo medal during the Christmas party held the day after
I missed kendo so much. It's good to be back! This time, I promise to take care of myself better (proper stretching, proper rest) in order to prevent injuries.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Autumn in Nami Island

On my last day in South Korea, I decided to go on a day trip to Gapyeong, where Nami Island (a place made famous by the Korean drama, Winter Sonata) is located.

Nami Island is not very close to Seoul but it's quite accessible through the following means:
  1. Take a shuttle bus from Insadong in Seoul (KRW15,000 round-trip). The shuttle bus leaves Insadong at 9:30am and leaves Nami Island at 4pm. 
  2. Take the subway. It takes around two hours to get to Gapyeong Station depending on where you're departing from.
  3. Take the ITX (high-speed train) to Gapyeong Station. The trip takes about an hour and costs between KRW8,200 to KRW9,600 depending if you're taking the reserved seat or the standing area and on which station you're departing from. If coming from Seoul, you can choose to depart from Yongsan or Oksu.

If you're taking the subway or ITX, you still need to take a bus or a taxi from Gapyeong Station. There's a Gapyeong bus outside that costs KRW5,000. The Gapyeong bus stops at famous landmarks (including the Nami Island ferry terminal) and the ticket is good for a whole day (unlimited rides). It's practical to buy it if you're going on a day trip to Gapyeong. Just make sure not to lose your ticket and to check the bus schedule.

At the Nami Island ferry terminal, I lined up and bought an admission ticket (KRW8,000) and then proceeded to the docking area.

I was in awe by the surrounding mountains. I had no idea Gapyeong was this beautiful.

Beautiful houses across the island

Sequoia trees

Books in the restroom

Autumn colours!

There were lots of people in Nami Island, even on a Monday, but it was not crowded. The weather was nice and cool, albeit windy. I didn't spend a lot of time there because I think Nami Island is a place that's better enjoyed when you have company. It would have been really nice to have a picnic by the lakeside. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed exploring Nami Island.

Monday, December 14, 2015


I've been away from blogging for months, I don't know where to pick up again! Life has been getting in the way and I will tell more about it in the next posts. Meanwhile, let me share photos of the cakes I made during the few months I was gone from blogging.

I made red velvet cake for my birthday. (Ah, yes, I've been baking my own birthday cakes for years now.) I had some leftover white fondant so I cut them into cherry blossom shapes and put them on top of pink cream cheese frosting.

This is a Japanese cheesecake (also called 'souffle cheesecake' or 'cotton cheesecake') that I made for my dad's birthday. It's a lot more fluffier than the American version and that's the way I like my cheesecakes. I don't think I'll ever go back to making American cheesecakes, honestly.

Below is a basic sponge cake. I was only trying out the recipe that day so I served it bare, without any frosting. It was gone that same day.

Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting piped into roses. I've been raring to make this frosting flower design and they're not perfect but I'm glad they turned out quite well for a first time. 

I love ube! Below is an ube chiffon cake with ube buttercream. I didn't use any artificial food flavour or colour because my mom is not allowed those. The ube flavour, as well as the colour, is much more muted than the commercially-available ube cakes but my parents loved it.

Yes, I love cake.