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Third Time Lucky

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Do you notice that there are some people around you that really care about you? Well, I do notice. They really make my day enjoyable, and even those hard days would feel tolerable with their help. Some (or most? :-) ) of them are even care about my relationship status, and was eager to become matchmaker when they found out that I was still single :-). One of them was Mr. K, who played that role for me several times.

The first ‘encounter’ happened several months leading to my departure to Japan. I was helping Mr. K with a project, and we spent quite a time together, tried to complete it on time with ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ played at the background (we prefer to called the song ‘Parking Lot’, though :-), and it was supplied by G who also worked in the project). It was then that out of the blue he asked me the million dollar question :-): ”Awan, sorry if I’m asking you this, but do you have girlfriend?”

I was in a relationship at that time, so my reply was, “Yes. Why is it, sir?”
“Well, actually I’m thinking about introducing you to a girl. She’s the Al Quran reading teacher of my daughters. She’s a fine girl...”

As surprised as I was to hear the question, you can guess that the topic didn’t go far from that. Later Mr. K informed me that the girl actually already had someone, and I remember Mrs. E (Mr. K’s wife) commented, “You should have been able to tell that both of them are already not available...” :-)

Moving forward 5 years later, the second ‘encounter’ occurred, this time I was already in Japan. Out of the blue (again :-) ) we received email from Mr. K. What I meant by ‘we’ here were A, M, Z and me, the member of FPE group, a research group under Mr. K back in my undergraduate days. Mr. K asked us whether we know someone that could be introduced to a girl and willing to explore the possibility on having serious relationship that hopefully would last for all eternity..., or to make it sort: someone who is interested in matchmaking :-). A quickly mentioned me and B (quasi-member of FPE :-) ) as candidates. At that time I was still not thinking about marriage, but I said I wouldn’t refuse because it’s a good chance to make new acquaintance, and Mr. K was okay with that.
“Good then”, he replied. ”Do you have facebook account? I think it will be easier to do it via facebook.”

And by this, now you know why I have a facebook account... :-) 

Similar to the first one, this encounter didn’t progress further. I did open a facebook account, however, I was busy finishing my doctoral curse, oops, course, I meant :-), and preparing for work, so I didn’t take any follow up on the talk. I even didn’t do much on facebook, didn’t put any profile picture and other detail for several months. When finally the dust from my doctoral defense and newcomer training had settled and I got a chance to take a breath, I completely forgot about the whole matchmaking talk - until along came that historic day :-).

This time I already work in a University in Japan, and I got a chance to visit my former university for a business trip. It’s been a while that I didn’t meet the professors, so when there was a chance I slipped out of the meeting room and visit Mr. B, my thesis advisor, who later brought me to Mr. K room. Mr. K looked glad to meet me again, and after some small talk, he proceeded to ask me, this time with the million and one dollar question :-): “Have you married?”
“I simply replied, “Not yet.”
“That’s okay. I’ll introduce you to someone”, he looked around his room, stopped his stare at F who by fate :-) was there, and then continued, “First, I would like to introduce you to F.”

We greeted each other, but again, no magic seemed to happen. We continued our conversation and that was it. A couple of weeks past, and when I thought that the matchmaking talk would again dissolve into thin air, I got a message from Mr. K.
“Awan, do you remember F that I introduced to you the other day? Don’t you want to know about her a bit more? I asked her about you just now, and she just smiled, so I think she’s not refusing.”

I really didn’t know what made Mr. K really wanted to pair me with F, but I thought F was a fine girl, so I didn’t mind to give it a try. Later I knew from F that actually Mrs. E was the one who told Mr. K to let me start the contact. When Mr. K was busy asking F about what she’d think about me (and F was busy pretended to ignore :-) ), Mrs. E told him to send me a message instead and let me start the connection. And fast forwarding several months into the future (exactly 2 years ago :-) ), we took the picture above.
(Actually, a lot of things happened during that ‘several months’, but it can fill another note, so I won’t write it here :-) )

From this whole matchmaking process, I realized how important the combination of chance and preparedness - or I prefer to call ‘luck’ here. I could have entered Mr. K room one or two years earlier, and I might still found F sitting there, but there was no guarantee that our story would unfold as smooth as this. One or two years earlier, I or F might still not thinking about getting married, and the matchmaking talk could end up like the previous two. I think it was because both of us were ‘ready’ when we got the ‘chance’ to meet - or simply said because we were ‘lucky’ - that finally we decided to bring it on only in a matter of months.
(Anyway, both I and F have some experiences before our meeting that made us feel like we were prepared for our encounter. Whether that was real or just our feeling, only God knows.)

And I don’t mind at all that we were just ‘lucky’ to have found each other. I believe God never plays dice on us (yeah, I know Einstein possibly didn’t tell the quote for this meaning, but I like to use it that way anyway :-) ). I believe there should be some reason behind the luck that was bestowed to us. So if you want a piece of advice from me: just prepare for it if you want something, I believe that the chance will spring up in front of you by the time you are ready.

And for Mr. K and Mrs. E: Thank you very much for never give up on me :-).

Universal Communication Device

Friday, March 24, 2017

When I was in Charleston 7 years ago, on my way to the grocery I saw this big man carrying his small daughter. Our eyes met (the child I meant :-) ), and she smiled spontaneously. It’s really hard to resist a beam from an angel like that :-), so my lips automatically formed a grin. The father who saw me smiling looked at his daughter, and when he found that she smiled, he also smiled at me. The mother that followed behind him also smiled, and the grandmother even took the time to stop and chat about how fine the weather that day was with me.

Now, it was in Pursat, and the ‘angel’ was a boy. I saw him standing with his father when I went to a market, and after looked at each other several times, we just start smiled at each other. The father who saw that also smiled at me, and later we were even waving at each other. We stood quite far from each other, so we didn’t have the time to hold a conversation - well, even if we were standing close enough, I think we still wouldn’t talk because of my Khmer lexicon that was limited to words such as fish, delicious, and thank you :-) - anyway, the smiling and waving really made me feel welcomed.

Regardless the culture, a smile, especially from a child, can almost always melt a heart. Maybe because they do it so sincerely, so it blows away all the suspicions. Even though it is one of the most primitive way of communicating, as long as it works, I don’t mind at all to always use it, because it can represent thousands of cordial words. The most sophisticated communication device could sometimes get in the way and ruin our communication anyway, so the trendy stuffs are not always the best :-). Moreover, Rana was really good at communicating using smile to me and Farah. He often used it after he did mischievous things such as emptying the box of tissue or tearing off a page from a book :-), and we usually just forgot about what he had done. Well, with a cherubic smile like that, who can hold a grudge against him for a long time? :-)

(Now I really miss Rana (and Farah too... :-) ) )

Metal Bonding

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

(Well, the content of this note is not related to the type of bonding that responsible for the ability of some materials to conduct electricity (even though I do have some educational background in chemistry and engineering), nor it is related to the type of music that heavily uses electric guitar and drum (even though all the 6 music groups on my favorite list in Facebook play this kind of music, including the idol one). Anyways, if you notice the picture of the post and happen to have some knowledge in RPG, you might be able to guess where this post heading to :-). )

Having too many stuffs in your storage box often made you lose count of what you have there. And because Farah read some books by Mari Kondo recently (do some googling if you want to know who is she), we decided to follow the advice and do some cleaning of the storage. And indeed, I found tons of stuffs that I’ve already forgot I have them (like: “why did I keep this cat ears band?” or “so there where the other half of my socks went” :-) ).

It was then when I stumbled on the Nintendo DS that had been covered by dust for several centuries (Exaggeration of course. We had just moved to this apartment less than a year :-) ). Long time ago, when I was still young (oops!), I used to play dragon quest in that Nintendo DS. I was wondering whether Farah ever play such games, so I showed her the DS.
“Have you ever played dragon quest?”
“I’ve never played RPG at all.”
“Then you should try this. This is fun!”

I still kept some of the game ROMs, so we played. We were into it, therefore later we searched the net for a decent used Nintendo DS and bought it, so we could play Dragon Quest IX multiplayer together.

Some of you might think that our home would fall silent after that, because both of us too busy with our game to hold any conversation. But it was not. We still talked as usual, but now some of the conversation was altered to stuffs from another dimension

If you ever played RPG, you might have known that you need to increase your level in order to gain strength and more ability such as spells. This level gain can be achieved by battling monsters and accumulating experience. In dragon quest series, the best way to level up is by battling metal monsters such as metal slimes, since they will grant you loads of experience points. However, the trouble with them is that they are very hard to find, and it requires some decent strategy to beat them efficiently. In dragon quest IX, since a player can travel to other player’s game, we often visited each other world and did metal hunting together. It’s basically a more efficient way, because by doing it together, the area that could be covered to find those metals will be wider, and of course it was easier to beat the monsters together.

So, during the metal hunting, it was normal to hear us call to each other like “come to the upper left corner, I stumped on a metal here” or “where are you? I found two of them here.”

And since the places where the metal monsters exist usually also be inhabited by strong creatures, the calls sometimes turned into distress calls like “come here quickly, I’m cornered by Earthenwarriors!” or “help, I almost got stomped by living statue!” That’s why we need also to watch each other back there, providing each other with medicinal herbs or magic water if the HP and MP are already low.

And suddenly we realized that playing this game could turn into another way of bonding.

In contrary to conventional believe that suggests playing electronic game will diminish communication, it can also be used for bonding to make the players get close to each other. I’m not by any way trying to promote dragon quest here :-), I just want to mention that sometimes games can also give us benefit if we use it the right way. (And I recommend Dragon Quest IV or V if you’re looking for good story :-) ).

Now I am thinking to introduce the game to our children too (if we bless with some) when we think the time is already right for them to play it. Rather than forbid them to play a decent game and then have them play behind our back, I prefer to let them play, thus we will still be able to give some guidance. Moreover, by doing so, I could show up by demonstrating how to blow a liquid metal slime with thunder thrust, or perhaps they could also watch their mother sweeps king metal slime with hatchet man (I used spear when I hunt metal, while Farah use axe :-) ).

One thing for sure, the game definitely added to the memory share by me and Farah. So, when one day you heard us having an absurd conversation like the following, you would be able to guess why. 
“Do you remember the time when we visit Bowhole, love? The one near the Wormwood Creek.”
“Was it when we almost be swept by Dracularge, dear?”
“Yes, it was. And the Harmours were also hard to beat...”

Stamp Saga Sequel

Monday, January 18, 2016

I first came to Japan in 2003, and the first 年賀状 (Japanese new year card) that I received was for the year of 2004 - the year of monkey. Since 2016 is another year of monkey, I came to realize that 12 years had passed since the time I received those cards with monkey bathing on an 温泉 (Japanese hot spring spa), or was it a 銭湯 (Japanese public bathhouse)?, anyway, they used the monkey to decorate the stamp.

And guess what, not only Star Wars saga that got a new sequel recently - it looked like the monkey also got a sequel in his bathing saga :-). If you compare the stamp of this year 年賀状 to that of 12 years ago, you’d see the monkey was no longer alone. An infant bathed alongside him. Japan post office left the explanation about the relation between the monkey and the infant to our imagination, but for me it looked like they are parent and child. Twelve years is a long period of time, and a lot of things must have happened on the monkey - including having an offspring :-).

Life is full of lessons, and if you ask me what can be learn from those monkeys on the stamp, I’d say it is the fact that life always changes, and you need to change for the better as time pass by. Come to think about it, I changed a lot compared to the boy that came to Japan 12 years ago - and I hope it was for the good :-). Well, unlike the monkey, I still don’t have an infant bathing together with me right now :-), but at least I’m not alone in my recipient address of this year 年賀状 - Farah is here now. But similar to the monkey, a lot of happen in the last 12 years span, both good and bad. I couldn’t control what happen to me, but at least I can choose what kind of impact it has on me, so I hope I was able to make use good of them – either the good things or bad things, I hope they were all left a good mark on me.

By the way, the 2004 new year card in the picture above was from Yanagida, and this year we were still exchanging new year card. The way to see it, how we change from complete strangers more than 12 years ago to a good friends like now, I amazed on how big the power of time - it can make you strengthen thing, or make it worse. Again, it is all up to us. And I’m glad I used the time to strengthen the friendship :-).

Rose by any other name

Monday, December 07, 2015

(I wrote posts on my father’s birthday and also on my mother’s birthday before, so today, I’d like to write one on my wife’s birthday - which actually the same day as my father’s :-) )

I think many already know that Farah and I met for the first time only around 6 months before our wedding day - and over that 6-months span we only met for 4 times. Her parents even just met me once, and that was one day before our wedding. Thus, no surprise that lots of my friends - and Farah’s too, I suppose - were a bit amazed and began mass interrogations on me :-), on why we were so bold to get married in such an ‘express’ manner :-), and also wonder why our parents let us married without taking much time to know each other (well, specially her parents: how come they let their only daughter being ‘kidnapped’ by a stranger live in a galaxy far far away... oops, a country far far away, I meant :-) ). Now that we’ve got married and got a bit settled, we were able to start thinking about it more clearly and be objective, and to be honest, I got quite intimidated on how fast everything proceeded during those days, and so did Farah :-). But if you ask me whether I regret my decision, I will certainly say no (and I hope Farah feel the same :-) ). Like, of course we had some arguments after we got married, but we also argued several times before, so there were no change in that respect. Moreover, there are several things that we could learn about each other only after we got married and live together like now, so even if we were postponing our wedding for several months or even years in order to know each other better, I think we wouldn’t be able to know each other the way we are right now.

Well, back to the mass interrogation then :-) 

If I were asked why I was dare to get married in such a speedy way, I think that’s because both of us concern more about the essence rather than the superficial thing. That 6-months span between first meeting and wedding day might be short, but it was not hollow - we were talking a lot about each other, almost on daily basis. The fact that she was open about herself - to the level that even Farah herself was surprised about it  :-) - really help me to know her better. It would be a lie if I say that I knew all about her within that short period of time, but it was enough to make me believe that I would be able to hold on if she was the one. To know all about her would need more than a lifetime - and that’s why I decided to spend the rest of my life with her.

Even though Farah (often? :-) ) like to chat about random (trifling) things from time to time, on fundamental matters, she really seeks for the essentials. For example, when I asked her whether we should make our relation ‘official’ by being boyfriend-girlfriend, she just said that she didn’t need such kind of things. She said that as long as I was really serious about bringing our relation to the next level, she did not need that kind of pseudo social status.

Likewise, I try to see her essentially as she is now, not like the way she said she was. Several times she said that she was not good enough and that she was afraid she would let me down, but still, I like her the way she is. She’s not perfect - she might have flaws, she might have past - but all of her positive characters are far better, outshining those weaknesses. Quoting loosely from Shakespeare, even though we call rose by any other name, it will smell as sweet - so do her, how many time she try to be humble by mentioning her own weakness, her charms will be felt even more, eclipsing everything. 

Therefore, for Farah: happy birthday, wish you always ‘smell as sweet’, literally and figuratively :-)

How to Be a Ninja

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

After visiting Naruto exhibition today, I just realized that even though the word ‘ninja’ or ‘shinobi’ had been known widely, I haven’t found a ninja definition based on the kanji meaning on the net. And since I’m a bit ‘free’ today, I’d like to write one here :-).

Ninja is written as 忍者, and the second kanji simply means a person – which emphasizes that ninja is just a normal human. What makes a ninja different is shown by the first kanji: it can be read as ‘nin’ or ‘shinobi’ (thus the term to say ninja in other way), and the meaning is to persevere, to have patience. The pictograph itself depicts a blade on a heart, and referring to kanji dictionary for elementary school :-), it symbolizes ‘the ability to hold on even though a blade being pressed against one chest’.

Based on the kanji definition above, it can be concluded that a ninja is just a normal human. He doesn’t need to be very strong, because the quality of a ninja is on the patience, on the ability to persevere. And of course it takes a lot of training to be a ninja, and to successfully complete the training, again, you’re gonna need a lot of patience.

Well, since my religion told me that God is with those who are patient, regardless you want to be a ninja or not, patience is a very valuable quality to have :-).

(And about the reason why I picked the picture above as cover picture despite there are countless pictures of ninja that I can use instead, well, I just would like to underline the fact that ninja is just human: they also need to eat :-) (the picture showed Chouji brings box of lunch for Shikamaru – check Naruto wiki if you would like to know about them :-) ). During battles, a ninja might get hurt and lose their appetite to eat, but again, they need to persevere and swallow all those food, so they’ll be able to finish what they are meant to do. So, please don't forget to eat if you want to be a shinobi :-).)

The Unchosen Hero

Monday, February 23, 2015

Alfred: Now, detective Gordon has promised you that he will find the person that killed your parents.
Bruce: Do you really believe he will?
Alfred: He will try. Of that I am certain.
(Gotham, The Balloonman)

I'm not following American TV drama recently, so I don't know what's up there, but on my flight last week I happened to see drama entitled 'Gotham' in the entertainment list, and, as a Batman fan, I automatically opted to watch it. And I wasn't disappointed at all. Well, it's not about Batman himself - Bruce Wayne was still the frail kid, and even Selina Kyle was still 13, even though she had been able to kick some asses :-). It portrayed many of the main characters in the series during their early days (well, once everyone were young, even Batman or Joker :-) ). Anyways, I won't spoil the fun for those of you who haven't watched it, I just want to tell you why I like it: it was filled with good messages. Like it can be seen from the quote above, it shows that Alfred decided to tell Bruce the truth rather than giving him a false hope, despite how he wanted to reassure the kid that the murderer of his parents would be brought to justice. Moreover, it conveyed the same message as the Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan about the principle of a hero (it can also be inferred from the quote above): it is 'the efforts' that tells whether someone worth to be called 'hero' or not.

Other movie/drama on superhero usually give a 'standard message' on this: the hero is the chosen one (Superman return: "Even though you've been raised as a human being, you are not one of them."; Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility"; Green Lantern: "The ring, it chose you"; Flash: "I don't think that bolt of lightning struck you, Barry. I think it chose you."). Thus the logic was, you are chosen, so you are the hero. On the other hand, this drama used a different logic: you do heroic thing, so you are the hero. It is all up to us to start it, without the need to wait for some superpower to be bestowed upon us.

In a wider sense, it is also all up to us to be or to get what we want, without the need to wait for everything to be set ready for us. Anyways, opportunity comes to a ready mind, when we start to get moving, all the pieces will fall into their places, at the right moment. I don't tell you that it would be easy, the obstacles might make you grumbling and ranting (cough), but once it all passes, all that remains would be a fine memory to cherish.

So, master Bruce, 'wipe your tears' and get yourself ready for the battle ahead. I'll be here (to get all the grumbling and ranting :-) ).