Japan: Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe (Part 1)

In between transitioning jobs, I asked Charlie to go with me to Osaka (and tour the nearby prefectures) since it seemed like the perfect time for vacation for both of us. It was the first time I’ve visited Japan in summer (an earlier trip with family happened in May, just as spring was ending, where the weather was cool and perfect). I may have gotten feet tan lines and facial irritations (getting better now, thankfully!) but experiencing two summer festival events made the trip worth it!

Of course, it needn’t be said that everything was made better because Charlie and I finally get to take a break from this Long Distance Relationship thing. 

We just stayed at an Airbnb in Osaka for all eleven nights, then went out on day trips to Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe. We took it slow because it’s supposed to be a vacation, and I didn’t want to be too exhausted just before I start my new job, heh.

Continue readingJapan: Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe (Part 1)

Building confidence while traveling

 

It’s been a while since I traveled ‘alone’. When I studied for a semester at NUS, living alone abroad was a very liberating experience that pushed me to become more independent and I missed it. Since then though, I’ve mostly traveled with friends and family.

When I had to fly to Hong Kong alone for UXHK yesterday, I realized that I’m not as confident traveling without company anymore. I try to be confident, less worried, more optimistic.

I did my best to keep calm, even when I was passing through airport immigrations, scared that I might face some kind of discrimination because I’m Filipino and because I’m alone. When my credit card didn’t work with Handy and I had to make a cash deposit instead, I tried not to worry too much about how much money I had for spending left. I needed to make a decision and I felt more secure if I could fall back on the internet in case I get lost, even at the cost of giving up shopping for this trip.

When I realized that the dollars I had left was only enough to pay for the UXHK ticket (since I was going to pay at the venue) and some left for train fare and perhaps not enough for full meals for 5 days, I told myself I’ll find a way. When my ATM card didn’t work either, even when I already went to the bank before to get the Cirrus activated, my heart beat fast as I thought of how to budget all I had. I decided to survive on some bread and the snacks and cocktails from the events that I would be attending until I built up courage to borrow some funds from friends who will be arriving later that evening. But it forced me to spend my time walking around, finding ‘free’ things to do and places to visit. I mustered up some courage to explore unfamiliar places alone, even without really talking to people because I also felt shy. I walked to the Mei Ho House near SCAD, enjoyed the museum, and found inspiring designs in the shop there.

I met up with my friends eventually, and felt more secure knowing that I could turn to them for help (and company!) when I needed it. But there’s a strength that I’m slowly building up as I do some things on my own again. I had so much daring when I was living alone as a student in Singapore; I want to find that much confidence while traveling again.

Going out of town and re-energizing for the week

Last weekend, Charlie and I went with our friends to Tagaytay and did nothing but eat, drink some good wine and beer and alcohol, play The Resistance (which messed with our friendship so bad), and meet some work deadlines. The weather was so cold (Manila standard of measurement) and the place was so very beautiful. When we came back to Manila and Monday happened, I noticed that I was more focused with my work. Projects that were moving slow were getting done in the speed of light (kidding! But ideas were coming to me pretty quickly) and well, I feel motivated to design and code and finish projects in general.

I guess the city squeezes your creative juice out, and Charlie and I regretted not going out of time more often. Just for leisure, basically. Not the exhausting trips we have when we go abroad, but more like a few hour’s ride away from the city, sleeping overnight at some new place and just chilling and drinking good wine while eating good food.

Lumia 520

I want to get a Windows 8 Phone. I really do. Charlie just bought the cheap Lumia 520 (it cost 7k in Greenhills) and it’s really cute (the plastic looks better than Samsung’s stupid silver borders on the S4).

I used the phone for a bit and decided that like the Windows UI more than Android’s (Windows has been creative this way. I don’t really like the Windows 8 Desktop because they only “skinned” it, but their UI works on the mobile phones). It’s not a bad phone, I thought. It’s a phone that I would have loved to use, I thought. (If it were my pre-iPhone phone, I thought.)

The Lumia 520 is cheap but pretty, and it looks like I’d get my money’s worth (compared to the more expensive Lumia phones, which doesn’t make sense because I could spend just as much money for a Nexus 4, which probably has better specs). Plus that yellow and other bright colors. Really lovely.

I have some money to spare. My iPhone 4S has a broken wifi and bluetooth, after all, so I can’t even use it for a hotspot. I’m not looking for a phone with good camera capabilities because I just got a Lumix LX7, which was ideally the compact camera I bring with me all the time. I looked at my screen wondering if I really need my iOS apps. Since my phone’s wifi broke, I stopped using my phone for anything other than browser testing, texting, calling, and social networking.

There were already some apps that I could migrate to, should I get a Lumia temporarily until the next iPhone (and big paycheck, haha):

  • Feather Notes – for Simplenote, since I use Notational Velocity on my mac
  • DotDot – for App.net (not that I’m active there, but still)
  • Blueprints – for Tumblr
  • the default Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare apps that come with the Windows 8 phones.
  • Fiction Book Reader – for ebooks

There was one app that was missing, and I really wanted though: Path. There was no alternative on the Windows App market that I could find. I’m always on Path and without an alternative to it, I don’t see myself switching. Do I need Path? No. But I want it. I really, really want it.

My iPhone isn’t really that broken yet. So I don’t really need a new phone right now. I kind-of want to get the Lumia 520, but eh, no Path, so I’m not sure yet. I think Path is that one app Windows should maybe be paying their $100,000 to. :)

Chinese class, last day

Today is my last day of Chinese 1 class at the Ateneo Confucius school. Even if my team epically failed the final activity this afternoon, it was still fun. I think I’ve learned a lot: I just need to practice more. I’m not so sure yet if I’m going to enrol in Chinese 2 in July because I’m not very proficient with the lessons from Chinese 1. I’m thinking of reviewing and self-studying the lessons all over again before going to the next class.

I had a pretty interesting lunch with my classmates. The great thing when you have older classmates (or at least, they may be your age but are also working adults), is that the conversations are more varied than the topics I have with most people in college. We talked about politics (which is really dirty in this country, I’m beginning to see most people have just quietly accepted the fact that it will never change and I’m not quite sure I’m ok with that), some business and even app ideas, weddings, military in-laws, among other things. I love it. I should really hang out with other people more often.

I also saw Mica (who works with Sulit), who was taking Chinese 4 with some friends. They were having lunch in the same place, and I got to sit down with them for a bit. I felt like I made new friends. :)

Manila sidewalks

Walking from my office to Charlie’s — sidewalks are narrow and everything is not very pedestrian-friendly. But like Ron says, you get used to the concrete, the smells, the puddles, the urban decay.

First is the odd smell of the creek. There is a tiny karenderia right beside the creek (is it a creek, really? There’s a bit of water down there, and it’s too small to be anything like a river). I’m sure they don’t pay to sell food there.

Then the sidewalk with its surface chipping off. Sometimes you have to either stop to let someone else pass, or walk on the road next to a car hopefully slowing down because the walkway is too narrow. It’s next to the MMDA Impounding Area and I’ve always wondered why they never bothered to smoothen the bumps and fix the road that pedestrians have to walk through right in front of the entrance.

There are faded lines of what-had-been-a-pedestrian-lane once. I’m never sure if it’s legally permitted to cross at that section of the street, but the sidewalk runs out if I walk further so I decide to cross there instead. I find myself under the fly-over, a little neat it is except it never looks friendly. Another set of faded lines can faintly be seen across, and this is the path I take to go to the other side.

If the pedestrian walkways aren’t narrow, it’s very uncomfortable to walk on. The cobblestones that they must have thought was decorative is unmerciful to anyone who wears heels. The rest of Ortigas is just as unforgiving.

Beneath the yellow overpass, there used to be some kind of office. Maybe somebody lived there. It used to be decorated with potted plants. Not anymore though. The walls have been pulled down and the plants gone and there were no more voices to indicate habitation.

This isn’t Makati with its flat and spacious sidewalks, and most of the time I miss the connected walkways. This is Ortigas, where the pedestrian areas have been abandoned to unpleasant smells and deterioration.

Lumix LX7

Yesterday I bought a Lumix LX7 (thanks to Peter) after hours of looking for one at Hidalgo. All the shops have run out of stock, save for a White one that they were selling at P16k (the black one was available for P14.5k in one store but like I said, they were already out of stock and I didn’t really want to go back to Hidalgo for a few thousand difference).

We were warned by one of the shop owners that the Lumix LX7 has been discontinued. They weren’t releasing stocks anymore, I think, though a few ones might still be coming in at Henry’s camera shop. There’s a newer Lumix coming out sometime soon (Googled it and they said either this year if it starts becoming like Apple, or next year if it will follow the usual product refresh time). I’ve decided to still get one anyway because (1) I wanted a new camera for Vietnam next month and (2) I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference for me since I’m not really a Pro user.

After last night, I think Peter decided he also wanted one, but we thought it would be better for him to wait for the next Lumix since he might not need a new camera so soon.

I could have bought the camera for less than PhP16k, but even that by itself was already cheaper than the Canon Powershot S90 that I bought three years ago.

We tested it out during the Nanay Mo album launch (though it was actually Charlie who did most of the testing).

I’m sure the quality of the photos were due to Charlie’s skills (because I myself aren’t that familiar with photography yet). Most of my photos were overexposed! But I wanted to show how the nicer ones turned out in different conditions:

  • The stage photos were pretty sharp for a compact camera, with the proper camera settings.
  • The flash + cam settings made the photos look decent!
  • Charlie played around with the exposure for a bit so we had a bunch of those light/party photos.
  • Then again, even just as a normal camera with flash inside a bar — the photos were pretty sharp and way better than anything I’ve tried to take on my S90. (Though I actually blame that on my lack of skills than anything, haha.)

All for 16k. The Powershot S90 was more than P20k during its time — and I didn’t really get to maximize the use of that camera much. I gave it to my mom now so she can have a new toy.

Now I just need to practice and understand the camera settings more on the LX7 to prepare for Vietnam next month!

Dashboards

I’ve been working on dashboards. Not very often, but I’ve had a few projects, and I usually start out feeling lost and confused about where to start.

I recently signed up at froont.com to check out their responsive-making tools and was greeted with this pretty simple dashboard.

Damn, I really need to work on my design skills more. When I try to do something minimally, it usually just looks boring. :(

Better, better, better

  1. Tying up some lose ends in work.
  2. Stay firm in saying ‘no’ to projects for a while, until I get my shit together.
  3. Have a little faith in myself.
  4. Relax and enjoy Taipei.

My sessions have been very helpful, I’d like to believe. I’m told I will continue to struggle with some things but I just have to remind myself, always, while being conscious of the things my doctor has told me. I have those bad moments, but they always go away eventually, and I can look back at them as something that I felt instead of an experience that’s still ongoing.

Taipei is happening too soon and I didn’t even notice. It’s going to be fun, I’m going to take a breather — and maybe things will be better. :)