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Finding My Mother

Scene 1: German Cofffee Shop, This Sunday Morning

I am seated at the Germany Coffee Shop near Korinbo 109 in downtown Kanazawa, having a cup of coffee, a hamburger and another piece of bread whose name I know not (it is Sunday brunch). I am not taking pictures of my food for Instagram, instead I am reading an incredible story on Facebook, a story that I am somehow involved in, but only at the very edge. I am fighting hard to stop the tears from flowing. The central character to this story is one Rodel Mc Felpe Aliwalas, who will narrate his story shortly. Seated next to me is Harumi Manabe, who is part of our Sunday-after-church-coffee routine. Yes, these days I attend church but that is a story for another day. One my other side is Kei-chan, also a part of the crew. Seated opposite us are Matilda, another Kenyan doing research here and Natsuko-san, a Japanese lady who is also involved in the story.

Still keeping up so far? The five of us are listening to the background of the story in a mixture of English and Japanese over coffee and bread. My part starts with the previous week on Sunday, when Harumi gave me a name and told me to look for a certain man named Rodel Mc Felpe Aliwalas. Being bad with names and instead of writing it down, I chose the easier way of taking a picture. They had tried to find him earlier but the only profile they found was a sketchy one on linkedIn. His mother, Edona, was a friend of theirs and had asked them to find him 6 months ago but they had had little success so far. She had come to Japan from Philippines many years earlier and was then married to a Japanese man.

Modifying the search parameters a little, I was able to find a profile on an Arabic job website that looked recently active. LinkedIn had not worked, they wanted me to upgrade my account before I could send a message (can you believe it?). The profile I found matched whom I was looking for: a mid-30s guy from Philippines who now appeared to be working in Qatar. I had one credit to send one free message to a member after signing up, but it was all I needed. I now had to compose my message, something that he would actually read. Spam messages from strangers are often titled: Urgent, Please Read, Hello Dear and such like. I finally settled on “Looking For You”; since the email was coming from a jobs website, maybe it would imply that the sender was looking for him in a professional way and would incite enough curiosity to be read. I hopped that it would at least be delivered to their actual email and so I included my email address in the message, crossed my fingers and waited.

In a few minutes, I got a reply from him! Unbelievable, I hadn’t thought it would be that easy and was prepared to track the company he said he indicated for in Qatar to get his contact. I immediately chatted with Harumi on Facebook, telling her he had replied. He asked me questions trying to establish authenticity on part; I would then ask Harumi on Facebook and back and forth it went. It was midnight here, and we continued the exchange until around 1am. He wanted so many answers but I had never met his mother so I could not answer him, and he had to wait for the following day when he would call Harumi and get some answers.

The initial email exchange
The initial email exchange

That was last week. Exactly one week later, we are back at the coffee shop and I am reading Rodel’s story, how he finally found his mother, and wondering if I should share it on the blog, with his permission of course. I get back to my room after coffee, and I find an email and I find an email requesting me to share the story my blog! Below, read it for yourself.

I found you and you are gone

It was summer of 2002 and I was a young 24 years old when my mom called me and she told me that she have a stage 4 breast cancer.  She was in Japan at the time living with my Japanese stepfather and my 11 years old half-brother Sadato.  After that phone conversation, my mom didn’t call me again, no letters, whatsoever.  I’m trying to call her on their land line and no one’s answering.  I tried to write a letter and sent it to her address but there was no reply.  Days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years and there’s no news about my mother.  I tried to ask for help in our Philippine embassy and Japanese consulate but there were no results.  I asked my friends who happen to have Japanese friends but there’s no luck.  I can’t find my mom.  I cannot think of any reason why she suddenly disappeared and so I thought that she’s already dead.  Having a stage 4 cancer is something serious and cannot be taken lightly so I made up my mind, my mom is dead and I need to go on with my life.  4 years later I married the second woman I love, first woman was my mother.  How I wished I had my mom with me to accompany me to the altar while I’m waiting for my future wife walking through the aisle.  A year later, my wife gave birth to a lovely princess. I don’t know what’s with this thing loving a woman, now I was given another one, a pretty little one.  Again I remembered my mom, I was imagining her reaction if she saw my princess Adaiah, her first granddaughter.  I’m sure she will be happy to have a baby girl.  Besides, she already has two boys in me and my brother.  I built my own family since I don’t have one to begin with.  My wife’s mother, brother and two sisters are all living with us in one house.  I treat them as my own, I took care of them and given them all they need.  How I wish my mom would see this, of how I became.

Years passed by, I went abroad, December of 2009, I went to Doha Qatar to work.  I promised to myself, I will not do to my wife and daughter what my mom did to me which is to leave me alone in the Philippines while she went abroad and live with her husband and my half-brother.  Now I’m doing the exact same thing, I went abroad and left my wife and my baby girl in the Philippines.  It was very hard for me.  I’m trying to convince myself every day that what I’m doing now is for them, though it is really for them, still it’s a burden for me.  My life went through, there are challenges here and there but I guess the biggest challenge for me is yet to come.  There’s nothing that came to me that I wasn’t able to conquer.  I was a strong and abled man.  I was able to give a better life to my wife and daughter.  I gave my wife a car, a house (not yet finished but almost done), I sent my daughter to an exclusive school, and I was able to provide them more than enough.  All in all, I can’t complain with my accomplishments in life.  Then again, I remember my mom, how proud she would be if she saw me doing well in my life in spite what happened to us.  Wherever she was, I know she’s happy.  Besides she’s with our Lord God almighty now watching me from above and guiding me all the way.  It was thirteen years to date since the last time she disappeared and all those thirteen years, all I did are things that my mom would be proud of.

Then the biggest challenge in my life came to me, January 26, 2015, a Kenyan girl sent me an email.  The Kenyan girl’s name is Harriet.  She’s a student and a blogger who’s currently living in Japan for a scholarship.  She’s really good at computers as she found my profile in one of the public job sites in the Middle East and sent me this email.  While staying in Japan, she met a Japanese woman named Harumi Magane and this woman is looking for me.  Harumi asked Harriet for help to find me as Harumi wanted to speak to me about my mother.  It was a surprise of my life, I felt numb, and I was crying while driving my way home and cannot wait to speak to Harumi.  I took Harumi’s number from Harriet and waited until January 27, 2015 at 7 am Japan time to speak to her.  I was so nervous and don’t know exactly what to expect.  And so I spoke to her and she has a warm voice, she sounded sad and she asked me if I knew about my mom, she said my mother died 6 months ago!  I was in total shocked, I couldn’t speak, I can’t believe what I’m hearing, and where was my mother all those 13 years?  Then she went on with her story.  We spoke for a good one hour. I asked Harumi why all these years my mom didn’t communicate with me? Harumi said my mom was ashamed for the kind of life she had given me, she’s ashamed of me because she left me in the Philippines alone, she’s ashamed and she thought that maybe I was angry at her and blaming her for all the bad things that happen to my life.  She couldn’t forgive herself and so she chose a life without me instead of having me in it.  My tears ran down, I can’t bear to hear all these things from Harumi.  She continued, she said that my mother was so proud of what I had become, she said my mother knew that I’m already married, she knew that I already had a daughter, she knew that now I’m working in the Middle East, she knew that I’m doing great in my life.  She knew all of these because of my wife’s facebook.  She’s checking it every time, watching me from the pictures and following me every step of the way.

She knew all these things and yet she chose to hide and never show up.  I have lots of questions but all those will not have an answer, she’s already gone and she is for real with our God Almighty.  I wanted to blame myself, that I gave up easily and stopped searching for her.  But Harumi told me that it’s my mother’s choice, it’s my mother’s choice not to interfere with the life she wishes to have for me, I already achieved the things she wanted me to achieve and so she chose to just let it go by sacrificing her own happiness and letting me live my new life with my new family.  I cannot question her decision, I’m not in the position to question what’s good and what’s not good, after all, mothers always think for their children’s well being.  By not having my mother on my side, I strive, I became mature, I became afraid of failure and so I made sure that failure is not an option.  I made my mother an inspiration as I always put in my mind that her sacrifice should not go to waste, what I’m having right now are all because of her.

Wherever she is, I want to thank her with all my heart, I wanted to tell her that I don’t hate her for what she did, I don’t blame her for how my life had become, I wanted to tell her that all the things that I have now is because of her, because I want to make her proud.  Yes I was so sad, for the past few days. I cannot help sometimes, I look up and ask, why I didn’t have the chance to tell my mother all these? But then again, I answer my own question. God has his reasons, this is what God wishes for me. God always has a plan, everything happens for a reason and it’s not by chance, it’s by Gods will.

Harumi said my mother’s ashes were still in my stepfather’s house.  I made Harumi a promise that I will fetch my mother, I will go to Japan to meet my brother (whose now 23 years old) and take my mother’s ashes and bring her back to Philippines.  I want to give my mother a Christian burial and that is what I will do.  I cannot promise when but it will be very soon.  Wherever my mom is right now, I know she’s looking at me with a smile in her face. Thank you mama for giving me this wonderful life.  I LOVE YOU AND I ALWAYS WILL. Rest well and let me take it from here.  You’re hard life will not be wasted; it will be treasured and loved as long as I live.

(The photo captions are my own words)

Edona left, with Harumi on the right. Edona loved singing.

I heard she was a good singer. They often went to Karaoke with Harumi and co.

She was beautiful, wasn’t she?

 Edona with Natsuko (whom I earlier mentioned was with at the coffee house today. She was her best friend I believe)
Thank you Rodel for letting me share your story. 

Join the Total Eco Challenge

It is always one thing to be vaguely concerned about the environment, it is another to actively take part in environmental sustenance activities. One obvious way to do this is to plant (the right kind of) trees in your area. You don’t have to do this alone, you can be part of the Total Eco Challenge, and at the end of every year, they actually award individuals and organizations at annual gala dinner who have contributed significantly in increasing Kenya’s forest cover.

The TOTAL Ecochallenge program was started in 2002 with the aim of inspiring and helping all Kenyans to plant trees in every possible place. The target was 100 million trees per year, every year, for ever. Today, the program has more than 5,000 projects that have seen the planting of over 800 million trees since its inception.

Total Eco Challenge
Total Eco Challenge

On the Eco-Challenge Website, you can find information regarding what kind of trees to plant where, places where seedlings are available, and you can also join the Eco-Challenge as an individual or organization.

To ensure the success of the program, Total Kenya  has employed the services of an in house TOTAL EcoChallenge Advisor, commonly known as FORESTER, who is a trained expert in issues relating to plant species, habitat safety, ecological structure among others. The advisor is readily available for consultations reagarding tree agricutlure and can be contacted through the below contacts:

So go ahead and do your part in making this world a better place! If you have always wanted to plant trees, here is a starting place!

Bouncy Monkey and GoJimmyGo Android Games

Whenever I meet kids, one thing we can always bond over is the applications on my phone/tablet. Show them an interesting game and you have made instant friends. On the other hand if you have nothing going on in your phone, then what else will you talk about with kids who only speak Japanese? It is definitely easier to talk with adults than with kids when your grasp of a language is basic.

I came across these two apps developed by my former classmates during my master’s degree in Strathmore University.

Bouncy Monkey

I started by playing Bouncy Monkey. It is a nice enjoyable game with easy instructions, tap to jump and tap continuously to use the parachute*. It’s easy to play so it quickly becomes addictive, as you try to beat the high score. I managed to unlock about 4 levels the first time I played it. And of course when you clear a level, you get a screenfull of bananas! You are a bouncy monkey after all! Extra features include the ability to choose the colour scheme you want. There are in-app ads but well, since it is a free game you have to live with it! It’s easy to ignore them though.

Tap and hold to jump and start playing the game right away

Bouncy Monkey Screen1
Bouncy Monkey Screen 1

When you finish a level, there is celebration! It’s bananas!

Clearing a level in Bouncy Monkey
Clearing a level in Bouncy Monkey

I continued playing trying to increase my high score! This is how many levels I have now unlocked.

Unlocked levels in bouncy monkey
Unlocked levels in bouncy monkey

Suitable for all ages, get the app here! Let me know what you think.


In this game, a little boy called Jimmy is not only running from a dog, but he also has to navigate obstacles ahead. It is like Temple Run for kids, the concept is the same at the very least. I am still trying to unlock the first level though!

The dog just won't stop chasing Jimmy!
The dog just won’t stop chasing Jimmy!

Still stuck on level 1. I want to unlock the 9 levels and then see what lies beyond!

GoJimmyGo Level 1 :(

Get the game from Play Store here.

At least I will be once again, a cool aunt to the kids I meet with these games :)

The Kenyan Blog Awards 2015

For the last 3 years, the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has brought you the annual Kenyan bloggers’s awards. For me, they are always a chance to discover new interesting blogs I can follow (as if my reading list is not full enough already!). Anyway, do you have a blog you think is worthy of an award? The nomination phase is now open and you can nominate your favorite blog.

Mr. and Mrs. Ben Kiruthi who won last year's best photography blog category.
Mr. and Mrs. Ben Kiruthi who won last year’s best photography blog category.

The 2015 BAKE Kenyan Blog Awards will have 18 categories. This comes after the addition of one category, a “Best Education Blog” category. This category will reward blogs about education matters and those run by educational institutions.

The inaugural BAKE Blog Awards was held in 2012 and it had 14 categories; best technology, photography, creative writing, business, food, agriculture, fashion, politics, sports, general and corporate blogs as well as giving out awards for the “tweeps” of the year. 300 blogs were submitted and 10,000 people voted. The gala event to award the winners was held on 5th May 2012 at the Nairobi Serena.

The second edition of the awards which were held in 2013 and had 15 categories. The ‘Lifestyle/Entertainment’, ‘Blog of the Year’ & ‘Travel Blog’ were added as categories and the two Twitter categories i.e. Best Individual Tweep & Best Corporate Tweep. Over 500 blogs were submitted and 50,000 people voted. The gala event to awards the winners was on 4th May 2013 at Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi.

In 2014 the awards were held at Intercontinental Hotel Nairobi and it had 17 categories. 2 new categories “Best County Blog’ and ‘Best Health Blog” were added. Over 800 blogs were submitted and more than 50,000 voted in the 2014 awards. The 2014 awards produced a tie on the Best Sports Blog category which was a first for the awards.

The timeline for the awards will be as follows:

  • 1. Submission phase – January 9th 2015 to February 18th 2015
  • 2. Judging phase – February 19th 2015 to February 28th 2015
  • 3. Online voting – March 2nd 2015 to April 30th 2015.
  • 4. Winners Gala Event – May 2nd

This year, the awards will have 18 categories with the addition of ‘Best Education Blog’.

  1. Best Technology Blog
  2. Best Photography Blog
  3. Best Creative Writing Blog
  4. Best Business Blog
  5. Best Food Blog
  6. Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog
  7. Best Fashion/Beauty/Hair/Style Blog
  8. Best Politics Blog
  9. Best New Blog
  10. Best Corporate Blog
  11. Best Topical Blog
  12. Best Sports Blog
  13. Best Entertainment/Lifestyle Blog
  14. Best Education Blog
  15. Best Travel Blog
  16. Best Health Blog
  17. Best County Blog
  18. Kenyan Blog of the Year

To submit blogs into the competition, bloggers and fans of bloggers should visit


The rainbow bridge in Odaiba


Over the winter holiday, I went to Tokyo to see the New York of Japan (for some reason I kept calling it New York).

One thing for me defines Tokyo. It is not the skyscrapers,  not crowds of people with a number of foreign faces bobbing through… it’s the trains. Tokyo has an expansive railway that is the lifeline of the place. Coming from Nairobi where there is only one railway line, serving only a few routes, I was really impressed by the railway network in Tokyo.

The Nairobi Commuter Train Route.
The Nairobi Commuter Train Route. Image from

The subway was up to 7 floors down.. on each floor below the ground, there was a different line running. I was actually excited to be riding the subway, riding a tube under the ground was like being in the future :) Bear in mind that the map below is just the subway, the (normal) railway line, JR East, is not included.

The Tokyo Train Map.
The Tokyo Metro Map. Image from

The Journey to and From

Japan’s total area may be less than Kenya’s, but it is a series of islands stretched wide and long. So moving from one part of Japan to another takes quite some time actually, it will take a number of days (driving or train) to move from Hokkaido in the North to Okinawa in the South. It takes about 4 hours by train from Kanazawa City to Tokyo, but 2 hours by the Shinkansen (bullet train) which one can take from April this year. Trains are not so cheap, it costs about 10,000 Yen (Ksh 8,000) one way! However, there was an offer by JR Railway where 5 people buy a ticket for about 10,000 Yen but only using local trains. We went to Tokyo in a group of 10 people, used only local trains (stopping at every small station along the way),  and transferring a total of 6 times. We took 11 hours to Tokyo, having watched Japan’s beautiful countryside in winter. Coming back, I took a night bus for about 8 hours and slept through most of the journey back.

Japan countryside in winter
Japan countryside in winter. Much of the countryside was covered in a beautiful layer of white.
At one of the transfer stations along the way
At one of the transfer stations along the way

Sometimes we caught a glimpse of the sea.

A glimpse of the Japan sea
A glimpse of the Japan sea

In Nagano,  a renowned ski area, the snow was window-high and if it continued then it would soon be over 2 meters high. Perfect for skiing and snowboarding. I hope I can go skiing or snowboarding end of this month or early the next.

Look at the height of the snow!
Look at the height of the snow!


Chiba is a neighbouring prefecture of Tokyo. I met a number of Kenyans living there, including my friend Anthony with whom I got the MEXT Scholarship. He taught me how to ride a bike (it has been embarrassing to admit that I don’t know how to ride a bike, but now that is behind me!).

The Edogawa river in Matsudo, Chiba
The Edogawa River in Matsudo, Chiba

We traveled on the 23rd and on Christmas, had dinner in at Australian restaurant in Chiba. the portion sizes were huge. We told ourselves, “ganbarimashoo”,  the Japanese expression for let’s do our best!

Christmas dinner was a feast at an Australian restaurant in Chiba
Christmas dinner was a feast at an Australian restaurant in Chiba


This place is famous for various sights such as its giant robot (my camera doesn’t take good photos at night so I couldn’t capture this well), the rainbow bridge, a replica of the statue of liberty, a beautiful walk near the sea and various illuminations during the festivals, among other sights and sounds.

Illumination at Odaiba
Illumination at Odaiba
The statue of liberty at Odaiba
The Statue of Liberty at Odaiba

The Rainbow Bridge is beautiful.

The rainbow bridge in Odaiba
The rainbow bridge in Odaiba

Tsukuba Kenyan party

On another day, I joined Kenyans having a party at Tsukuba at the JICA center there. Tsukuba is a city in Ibaraki prefecture next to Tokyo. The road there was beautiful in winter, I am sure it will look great in spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming on the trees lining the road below. There was ugali, sukuma wiki and chicken stew, there was pilau, chapati and beef  (just writing this is making me salivate). We also attempted some nyama choma (barbecue), braving the cold outside. A good time was had by all!

The road to Tsukuba
The road to Tsukuba


This area in Tokyo is defined by its skyscrapers. Exiting West from the Shinjuku Station is like being in the West side of Moi Avenue in Nairobi. Exit East and you walk into a multitude of people, and it is here that I first saw a homeless man living in a tunnel! He surrounded himself with cardboard boxes and warm blankets, and he appeared to be staring at some poster in his hand.

During the earthquake in 2011, these skyscrapers were swaying from side to side ( you can even hear the sounds they make as they sway, watch this video if you are strong enough), a testament to Japan’s engineering ingenuity. If they were inflexible, they would crumble from the pressure of the quake!

Shinjuku Illumination
Shinjuku Illumination
Skyscrapers in Shinjuku
Skyscrapers in Shinjuku

Fascinated by the building below:

Shinjuku skyline
Shinjuku skyline

Tokyo Sky Tree

This is the second highest structure in the world (after the Burj Khalifa in the United Arab Emirates), standing at 634m high (picture 600 meters on the ground.. seen it? Okay, then make that vertical and you can picture what you are looking at). However, as a standalone tower, it is the highest in the world. I wanted to get up there, and take in the areal view of Tokyo. However on the day I went, there was a multitude of people, and we were told to come back 3 hours later, to start queuing! We gave up.  I will be in Japan for the next 3 years at least, so I will save some places for next time.

My friend managed to go up however, and you can check out her breathtaking pictures of Tokyo’s skyline here.

On a related note, if the Japanese got a very thin, long wire and added it to the top of the Sky Tree, it could go back to being the highest structure in the world, no? When will Kenya make a remarkable contribution to the world’s skyline? Now that we discovered oil, isn’t it high time?

The Tokyo Sky Tree jutting into the Sky, highest tower in the world.
The Tokyo Sky Tree jutting into the Sky, highest tower in the world.


Of course no trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to its entertainment district! Somewhat dodgy, a little dangerous I hear, but otherwise fun. However, we went on a Tuesday evening and were told the dance clubs are closed until Thursdays onwards. There were lot of sports bars though.. Irish, British.. the British pub we went to was run by this guy who is half Japanese, half Ghanaian.  On that day, there didn’t seem to be much happening so after one drink and a round of darts, we left. Trains in Tokyo don’t run all night, they stop at midnight. So if you want to party you must be ready to stay till morning, or take a (fairly expensive) cab home. Anyway, place earmarked for next time :)

At the end of the 8 days, I was actually glad to get on the bus and go back to my fairly quiet city of Kanazawa. I had missed it.

And that dear readers, is my winter holiday report. Now rate it below.


The Ishikawa Zoo

(There are times as a blogger (writer) when you will be sitting at your computer, fingers poised over the keys, cursor blinking, and a hot cup of coffee/tea or cold beer/wine just within reach, but the words just won’t come. The mood is right, the time is right but the words are stuck in your mind. Sometimes you give up altogether, and switch to other mundane stuff, like watching videos of The Real Househelps of Kawangware on Youtube. And then you ask yourself, whom am I writing for? Then I finally realized that I am not writing for you readers (sorry!) but for myself and now my mind is finally free, I can write more easily. On that note then, back to blogging.)

There is a class I am taking, there are actually two classes I am taking that are not compulsory (but they somewhat are). One of them is a free-conversation class, just a class for Japanese students to meet international students and vice-versa. We do fun activities like Christmas parties and presentations about each other’s countries. In the last week of classes last year, we had a visit to the Ishikawa Zoo which is about 30 minutes from here.

The visit to the zoo was interesting and depressing all at the same time. I think this is my first visit to a zoo, does the Nairobi Orphanage counts as one? I was impressed by its diversity. Despite its small size (relative to our wildlife parks), there was a wide range of animals (the number was not much, but the variety was big), from birds to tropical reptiles, to fish to bigger animals like the giraffe and even an elephant! However, while the smaller animals  and the aquatic ones seemed to thrive, the bigger animals and the primates seemed lonely and and their sadness was tangible and infectious.

It was a beautiful winter day at the zoo and we walked around in groups of about 5 people each admiring the animals (plants, maybe not so much).

Ishikawa Zoo
Ishikawa Zoo

There was a lion lying in the weak winter sun trying to bask in vain. Now that is not something you see everyday, an African lion in snow. You get the feeling that it isn’t right, it should be roaming the extensive Savannah plains of Africa, running freely in pursuit of its meal or lazing with the pride under a tree licking its jaws and giving a satisfied roar. Instead, it lay there just beyond the glass and when it saw us, turned and gave us its back! But before that it gave a thundering roar that would have been scary were it not for the glass between us. But maybe it’s a lion that grew up in an orphanage or in a zoo and does not know what life in the wild looks like, and might not survive there, I comforted myself. But does it feel the call of the wild, a thought persisted? Judging from its roar, it probably did.

Lion at the Ishikawa Zoo

Lion at the Ishikawa Zoo

The lion giving us its back

The lion giving us its back

We had gone to the lair of the big cats first, so we saw a lioness in a tiny room where we could peer at her up close, but no good stills of her were possible as she paced restlessly up and down. The tiger in the next stall also paced up and down as if in synergy or is it resonance. By contrast, the leopard in the next stall sat still in a depressed stance, barely blinking as we gaped and took photos.

The lioness paced up and down her cage
The lioness paced up and down her cage, she couldn’t be still

The tiger(or tigress) in the next room paced too

The tiger(or tigress) in the next room paced too
Clearly photography is not my strong suit but then the best place for photographing animals is in the wild

The next subject was more still. Too still if you ask me.

The sad leopard
The sad leopard

Wait, not all the animals at the zoo were sad! The snow leopard was cheery, running around its habitat and sometimes ambling silently over our heads. We had to stare at him through the glassy ceiling as he (or she) also sought some sun.

The snow leopard at the Ishikawa zoo
The snow leopard was more cheerful, thankfully!

After that, the mood grew lighter as we saw numerous other small animals playing, eating or just sleeping.

Cute and sleeping
Cute and sleeping

We then stepped into what was a recreated tropical rainforest environment, complete with the heat and humidity. The vegetation, fish and animals are all thriving in the artificial micro-climate.

The python looks really comfortable up on that tree
The python looks really comfortable up on that tree

And resting below is the giant Iguana lizard, I didn’t know it’s name and had to ask on twitter. Thanks for the answer, 

What are you looking at?
What are you looking at, it seems to be asking. I guess the vegeterian meal wasn’t so satisfying?

There were penguins being cute, and rodents called Capybara that are the largest rodent in the world. These love being in hot baths and they had and even had a running jacuzzi (ofuron/onsen), very convenient in winter, don’t you think?

Kapibara at the zoo
Kapibara at the zoo. That’s what their name reads in Katakana. (Capybara)
Penguins at the Kanazawa zoo
Penguins at the Kanazawa zoo

Lots of birds, but you know.. caged birds. Amazingly, they have also at the zoo a giraffe and an Asian elephant. However they were too huge for the tiny rooms they were housed and being behind metal bars.. I am not even going to share their photos. Instead, look below at this fantastic image from Mutua Matheka’s blog of an elephant in Ambosel! After that, continue visiting the website to download new wallpapers every Monday or even using the Android App.

Elephant in Amboseli

Elephant in Amboseli

The seals were really fun to watch. They did flips in water and swam with grace. We watched one being fed fish and it seems as if it was also being taught something (not sure what) as it was patiently fed one fish after another. Initially, I assumed they were sea lions and had to Google to see the difference, learning a lot in the process.

A seal swimming
A seal swimming

Feeding of the seal:

A seal being fed at the Ishikawa zoo
A seal being fed at the Ishikawa zoo

Can you believe all that lasted just an hour? There was no time to linger at the zoo, it was a touch and go (or glance and go) moment, and it was a lovely experience, sad animals notwithstanding!

When was the last time you went on a class tour?

Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship 2015 Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Dr. Anita Borg (1949-2003) devoted her adult life to revolutionizing the way we think about technology by dismantling barriers that keep women and minorities from entering computing and technology fields. In honor of her vision, Google is announced the Google EMEA Anita Borg Memorial scholarship, which awards a group of female students a € 7,000 scholarship for the 2015-2016 academic year. All recipients will also be invited to attend a networking retreat.

Anita Borg
Anita Borg

Deadline to apply: February 2, 2015

To be eligible to apply, applicants must:

Got a Petrol Engine? Try the Total Quartz Engine Oil

I still don’t know much about cars, in spite of owning one for over a year now. There are a few things you must know though, like what important liquids it needs: engine oil, ATF, fuel and wiper fluid. You should check them every day, but I never did. Sometimes I’d go for a week or two, and all I did was top up my fuel weekly (I’d fill my tank). Which is why when my engine oil was leaking, I never noticed and had to push my car off the road when it stalled. Embarrassing? No. I look at it like an adventure.

This is why I want an electric car. No fluids, period. No hood full of  sputtering liquids and complicated wiring. But that is a wish for another day.

In a quest to find the perfect engine oil (which is important for lubrication of the moving engine parts as well as keeping it clean). You can get oil which you change after every 10,000Kms or every 20,000Kms. If you cover long distances daily, then you should choose the 20,000 Kms one.

Regularly servicing your car will improve your engine efficiency so you burn less fuel per kilometer. Before, I was quite indiscriminate on where I serviced the car, but after that embarrassing episode, I serviced it at a reliable mechanic’s and also got Total Quartz Engine Oil. There’s a smoother feel afterwards, but I don’t know about fuel consumption, I didn’t measure it.

So today I am checking out what others say about this engine oil, is it any different from what they used previously? All the reviews on Amazon are good, 4 or 5 stars (17 out of 22 reviewers gave it 5 stars). Here’s another review from a motorhead. The engine is an integral part of your car, and every day, scientists are trying to create the best products for it. If you want more out of your car, you have to take good care of it!

So have you tried the Total Quartz Engine Oil? If you have, please share your experience!



Okonomiyaki – My Favorite Japanese Dish

Every time I do a post on Japan, I will find a way to talk about food! Yep, I love food. The eating part, the cooking not so much. I have tried many Japanese dishes, although I am yet to try the seafood delicacies that are served on special occasions like New Years  Eve/Day (Christmas is not that big of deal in Japan, but it is somewhat celebrated). They include delicacies like Octopus and crab. Someday I shall try them.

Japanese food for New Years's Day
Japanese food for New Years’s Day

For now, my favorite dish is okonomiyaki. In Japanese, that is お好み焼き. And there is this restaurant where I have been to twice, they let you make your own. Fear not, it takes about 10 minutes to cook once they bring you the ingredients. It is a dish that’s pan-cake/pizza-like. It has various meats and veges inside, and then it’s cooked on a special pan.

The end result is then decorated by a soy-like sauce, fish-dressing (can’t remember the name), sometimes mayonnaise and it should look like this:

Okonomiyaki.. delicious
Okonomiyaki.. delicious

The restaurant we went to is just 2 minutes walk from where I stay. It’s called 古川, which means Old River. They give you a menu and you get to choose what ingredients you want in your okonomiyaki.

Ingredients for okonomiyaki
Ingredients for okonomiyaki
Friends mixing up the ingredients before the cooking begins
Friends mixing up the ingredients before the cooking begins
Pour everything onto the hot plate, already oiled, and watch it cook
Pour everything onto the hot plate, already oiled, and watch it cook
Flip it over and decorate
Flip it over and decorate

The end result? Does it look like anything in the first picture? Hmm.. close enough.

Was it delicious? Totally. おいしいですよ!

The end result
The end result

Washed down with a beer, it’s the perfect Friday night meal with friends!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The movie adapted from the book was released in November of 2013. I am glad to say I haven’t watched the movie, but it is finally in my laptop and I plan to watch it soon. I am sure I will not enjoy it as much as the book, same as The Fault in Our Stars book/movie. The girl did an awesome job, the boy in the movie, Augustus, didn’t quite live up to the boy in the book. Just my opinion!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Anyway, The Book Thief is set in Germany during the second world war. It is narrated by death. Death has its way around words, I can tell you that. The words are beautifully woven to create scenes and images that stick around long after the book is finished, like warmth in a hearth long after the cooking is finished. The story’s timeliness might be confusing, as it goes back and forth from present to future, to past and back to present again. The chapters can also be brief and at the beginning of the chapter, there is a little introduction and for the obsessive like me, you will spend quite some time trying to decipher what is ahead.

For all that, it was a well written book about a girl called Liesel. She loves reading, even if at first she is not quite good at it. War being the terrible time that it is, and she being a poor girl living in foster care, books are a precious commodity. She didn’t so much steal her first book as she neglected to give it back to the owner who had dropped it. The story starts with her being in a carriage headed to Munich, with her brother and her mother. Her brother never makes it, and she never sees her mother again (at least not in the scope of the book). That is shortly before the war breaks out.

We get to watch the war unfold and its effects on ordinary Germans, including Liesel who is at the center of this story. I don’t want to give away too much, but I would re-read this book in perhaps another year. And as I said before, if I can re-read a book, then that’s my definition of a good book.