May 28, 2015

Cultural Exchange with Elementary School Children in Japan

I took part in an event which was organized for exchange students called ‘Cultural Exchange with Elementary School Children’. It is an event where knowledge is exchanged between elementary kids and exchange students of Seinan Gakuin. I and the other exchange students were guided to the elementary school which does not lie far from my university’s campus.

When we arrived at the elementary schools hall we had to put off our shoes and wear slippers. A teacher came to show us the school; it was an English teacher from Australia. I was astonished by the luxury of the school because there were better bathrooms, dining rooms and class rooms than I ever had at my school. It turned out to be a private elementary school which has very high tuition fees. Furthermore, the teacher showed the chapel where the children regularly pray (it is a Christian school). I noticed that the school was very clean which shows that the pupils are very disciplined.

After the tour through the elementary school, we had to go to a room where 70 children were waiting for us. I only had to say my name and from which country I am from by using a flag and point it at the world map. After the introduction we had to sing along to an English children song with the pupils and the teacher. It was funny to see the teacher in a business suit because it seemed way too formal for an elementary school. I guess it’s the rule of the elementary school to show that the teacher is a professional in the subject they are giving.

Also, I had to teach pupils English by asking questions such as ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘How many pets do you have?’. After every 3 minutes I had to go to another group of children and ask the same questions. I also had to play a board game where children had to guess which English sentence belong to which picture. The children were very excited and wild about the board game that they forgot that the exchange students were there to help them out. At the end of the event, I had to eat together with the children in the cafeteria. They all had cute white uniforms so their school uniform does not become dirty. It was an interesting day!

May 27, 2015

Who has time to Declutter?

Yesterday I found myself perusing the 'decluttering' books on Amazon. There's a new one by a Japanese woman, and guess what - there are at least 598 others. Every time I'm in a bookstore, I pick up one of these books. I have a few on my bookshelf at home as well. Maybe it's time to throw them away?

It's a constant battle, to be organized, for some of us. Others, (or so I've heard), have problems with compulsive cleaning/tidying etc. The grass is always greener somewhere else, but I do I wish I were more balanced.

As a little girl, I remember my dad coming into our bedroom, (ok, it was my cabin), and dumping the giant pile of clothes that had gathered on the extra bunk onto the floor and saying - "Now, tidy it up!" Yup, that helped.

Years later, I sometimes would ask a friend to sit with me as I'd declutter a drawer or two. The company helped a little.

Now I'm a grownup, a mom, a 'role-model' (?Oh God, what a thought!), and I still have a pile of clothes on a chair next to my bed. It never goes away, along with the piles of papers, bills, things I 'need to keep' in the living room, various plastic things in the kitchen, etc.

My clutter follows me around like the dirty secret it is.

Every time I discover a new method, I'm overjoyed (for a while).

  • I have used the GTD method (yup my files are in order except for all the papers scattered around the rest of the house) and I even have a label printer!
  • I have the app. Yup, it's virtually empty and yet there's a list of things to do fluttering around in my head.
  • I have lists on paper.
  • I have lists on the computer.
  • I have a lovely partner who reminds me what to do and when (although sometimes not at the most inopportune moments, like when we are out to eat, when he reminds me to pay the bills...).
  • I have boss(es) Yes, you (!) who create more work with various other apps.
So, how do I still hold down my job(s), get almost everything done, and still manage to do a little gardening, art and writing and feel relaxed?

First of all, I'm not so relaxed (that's what Headspace is for!), but I do make CHOICES. One of those is the choice not to feel guilty about everything I'm not doing.

I also alternate - stuff I gotta do urgently (get that class prepared for tomorrow!) - then fun stuff (blogging!) - then more stuff I need to do (correction work...) - then more fun...

I still don't know the answers, but I don't hate myself. Every once in a while a corner gets decluttered and that is a great feeling - but hey family, don't get used to it!

May 26, 2015

Eggplants galore

So today we went to the garden center - it's what you do when spring has finally arrived to the Netherlands. 

And my daughter, who recently got her license, was allowed to drive us there.
Apparently this put her in an amazing mood, so much that she begged us to let her buy an edible plant for the garden. 

Yup, this is my "little girl" girl! It used to be pink clothes and Barbies and eventually a unicycle, but now? It's vegetables!!!???
(As long as they aren't carrots or ginger!)

The choice eventually came down to yellow bell peppers, cucumbers or this amazing eggplant "bush." 
What do you think we choose?

May 22, 2015

Blog 5: Midterms at NTU

Blog 5: Midterms!

The mid-terms were coming up! This week I will have two mid-terms for Service Marketing and Global Market Strategy. Stress! The library was packed with students studying for their midterms. It opens at 8 AM and closes at 10 PM. From 9 AM, it is already full and all seats are taken. The funny thing is that some students are sleeping on their desk.

Singaporean students are very dedicated and motivated on getting high grades. Exams are graded using a bell curve. This means that it is difficult to score high, which pressures exchange students to study hard as well.  Some say that they study for 3 weeks straight for one exam! However, the midterms turned out to be very easy. I even scored above average.

The exams at the NTU are in my opinion better than those at the HVA. An example of a question would be: What are the 5 forces of the Porter’s 5 forces framework? This type of question would not test the student’s intelligence or understanding of the theory, but rather his memory. A elementary school student could answer this type of question if he memorized the theory. You don’t even need to understand the theory, whereas a question at the NTU would require you to implement this theory on a certain case. For the Global Market Strategy Mid-Term, I was required to research the Cosmetic Industry and bring my findings to the exam. On the exam I had to write a market strategy for a company in the cosmetic industry.. These types of exams test the student’s intelligence, creativity, memory, and understanding of the theory. This is something I have noticed the first time I started the exam, which I would like to see changed at the HVA.

May 20, 2015


I have always been interested in writing, whether this would be a blog, a column or a novel. I just never have. When I had come to think of it I realize one of the reasons I never have is – besides, no inspiration or no time (well, poor time-management I found to be embedded in my DNA probably has something to do with it, I will get back to this in my next blog), because it has been hijacked. Hijacked by criminals known as ‘hipsters’. Now, I know you frowned upon the word criminals and thought ‘’well..that’s a big word to use here..’’ But think about it. Webster defines a criminal as a person involved in illegal activity, a wrongdoer, an offender, a sinner, a malefactor. So, if a criminal is ‘’morally doing wrong’’ why couldn’t hipsters be called criminals. The crime they are committing might not be unlawful and will not get them in jail  any time soon – unfortunately our justice system is just not so far developed yet-  but it nevertheless is very comparable.
Hipsters are involved in the intentional hijacking of products, clothing items, styles and activities  –both tangible and intangible- from people using them for the purpose they were originally designed for in order to claim them being a part of their own identity, style and taste, when really their weak mindedness made them great victims of marketing which in turns triggers feelings of insecurity as well as encourages the attempts of reaching perfection(omg this is actually genius.. I mean what’s more lucrative to this industry than having a bunch of narcissists and people with self-esteem issues as your target market?) and they are just the main instigators and contributors to mass conformism in fashion trends and the consumerism that goes along with it.
Now, what bothers me is not the fact that they are so desperately trying to keep up with the next big thing or going out of their way to prove they are ‘’different’’ and ‘’unique’’ -unique has a particular look nowadays which everyone seems to be wearing- or the fact that their excessive consumption  behavior plays a significant role in boosting our economy. Au contraire mon frère, that I actually appreciate. BUT as soon as this skindeep philosophy called hipsterism is starting to affect me myself personally, that is where I  draw the line (and by drawing the line I mean writing a sarcastic blog about this with a hateful undertone, ha!).
I mean I think my aversion to hipsters is justified when I can no longer say I love to work out without the other person automatically assuming that by working out I mean going to the gym 5x a week to lift and put down heavy objects in squatting position to ‘’get bigger buttocks’’. Or because since about a year now I have to buy quinoa for literally double the price because hipsters have come to the decision that ‘’eating clean’’ is now also considered hip and should be part of their code of conduct. Or when at work I sell performance running shoes for advanced runners to people who have no clue they’re actually running shoes but just want to wear them under their jeans which they for some reason they all seemed to have neatly rolled up to an above the ankle length along with their lumberjack shirts they bought from a vintage shop (because obviously as a hipster you want to support independent retailers: buying stuff from obscure retailers gets you on top of the social hipster hierarchy..!) Or when I open my Instagram or Facebook account, which by the way are the epicenter and hotbeds of collective narcissism (why do I still have these social media accounts? I honestly do not know) and see all these nonsensical posts (which is fine..I occasionally like nonsense too but) which more and more seem to come along with a caption in which a wise quote or saying of wonderful iconic men and women in history is being (ab)used as a pathetic attempt for that post to come across as ‘’deep’’.
It’s actually starting to become scary..scary like a zombie apocalypse or Ebola, when you run into someone you always thought of being immune to the epidemic and then see that same person, now a guy with a streamlined haircut pointing either left or right ,or a ‘’sloppy bun’’ with which of course a full grown beard and a pair of Roshe Runs cannot miss, or run into a girl who wears a pair of Clarks, a Herschel bag and ‘’nerdglasses’’ obviously totally going for the ‘’academic, intellectual hipster look’’.
Anyhow, I think it’s pretty clear that these hipsters need to stop. Stop ruining people’s identity. Stop with the corruption of individualism. Stop associating the wrong things with each other. Stop dressing your children in the exact same outfit as yourself (or is it the other way around?) Stop being lame. If you’re reading this and you think ‘’Crap..I’m one of them..’’ I’m telling you it’s okay. Awareness and admission are the biggest steps towards change, towards freedom! I know it is scary to let go of it all, especially since you have no idea what you as an individual and apart from the influences of hipsterism would look like and what your daily activities would be. I mean you’ve always believed you were different and awesome and that you were self-expressing but on the contrary, hipsterism is actually exactly the same, if not worse, than being dressed by your mother. The only difference is they could convince you to like this and your mother couldn’t.  But it’s never too late for a change.

Instead of trying to express who we are by what we decide to wear, say, and do,  we now live in a society in which people try to be what they are dressed like. Now that seems super exhausting to me so I say honey if you’re not really into sports, stop wearing running tights and sneakers all the time, and if you don’t care about your micro’s and your macro’s, stop buying superfoods and reading the back of packages because you know you don’t really care anyway. The world is already complicated as it is, stop making it worse. We don’t need any more hipsters. We need normal people. Be a breath of fresh air in this society. (I would kindly like to ask all hipsters reading this not to hijack this message too and turn it into a trending hashtag, or a text on one of those long t-shirts  for men with side splits and a very deep V neck or something, thank you)

May 17, 2015

Blog 4: Accommodation in Singapore

Blog 4:The apartment in Singapore

After re-reading my old blogs, I noticed that I never told you guys about my apartment and who I lived with.

First of all, accommodation is a very big problem the Nanyang University has. There are two options an exchange students gets, which are On-Campus accommodation and Off-Campus accommodation. Every student is able to apply for On-Campus accommodation. The Campus is facilitated with a swimming pool, gym, convenient stores, track field, tennis court, basketball court, football field, library, and many more. So because of this, every student wants to stay on campus.
There were more than 500 exchange students who applied for this, and only 200 available spots. Of all 9 students from the HVA who applied, 1 lucky student got a On-Campus spot. Most lucky students are from the USA, Canada or nearby Asian Countries. This is due to the connection the universities have which each other.

The other unlucky students, including me, face the challenge to find Off-Campus Apartment. Before going to Singapore, couple of students and me were searching for possible apartments. The Singaporean housing prices are twice as high as in the Netherlands! So the first few weeks in Singapore, a friend and me, stayed a student dormitory where 10 people slept in a room. Not very convenient to sleep in as most men there snore in the sleep.

The university assigns agents to search the appropriate place to help students to find the appropriate place to stay. Then it happened!  A lovely family of four people, two adults and two kids, offered a room for two for a budget price. Another exchange student and me immediately accepted and moved in.

The best things about this place was the amazing swimming pool this apartment had. It was almost like a Hotel.
Every morning,  I went for a morning dip. Also, the family had a maid! If we asked, the maid would cook and clean the room for us.  However, out of respect for the maid, we hardly ever did. The children in this place were still 8 and 6 years old. They make the loudest noises in the morning. But this still beats the intense snoring at the student dormitory!

Visiting the shopping centre of Fukuoka called Tenjin Core

I went to the shopping centre of Fukuoka with two other friends which is called Tenjin Core. It takes about 10 minutes to reach the shopping centre by subway from the dormitory where I was staying. When arrived at Tenjin Core we got lost because there were so many exits… Apparently it was located just above the subway station. There were few traditional Japanese shops such as a kimono shop and souvenir shop. A friend really wanted to buy a kimono, so we went to the kimono shop which was quite expensive! Anyway, I tried to fit a kimono which I definitely could not try on by myself, I needed help. The shop attendant helped me and it looked really difficult how she wrapped the kimono and the other belonging pieces around me… The sleeves were a bit too short which looked less beautiful in my opinion; I guess the size of the kimono was too small. There was also a spectacles shop with many different types of glasses in various colors which I haven’t seen before; they even sold glasses that were made specifically for computer use. I really wanted to get one of them as I am a glasses wearer myself; however, it looked weird on me because the bridge of my nose was way too tall. I guess I will have a hard time to find items that fit me, since my body and face structure is very different compared to that of Japanese people.

Furthermore, since me and my friends love to watch anime and read manga, we went to look for those kinds of shops.  The one shop that I was really curious of was Mandarake, the largest vendor of used anime and manga-related products. When we approached the shop I was astonished that there were manga browsing shelves placed just outside the shop, and I wondered whether if it would eventually be stolen. Inside the shop there were tons of anime, manga , games and figurines, all used but in very good condition. There were many things I found interesting and many things I found weird. There was a shelve full of old dinosaur figurines which indicated that collecting these items was a huge trend during the Godzilla era and still is today.  These angry looking standing dinosaurs weirded me out a bit but that is what to expect when walking into the infamous Mandarake store. Furthermore, I could even find the latest manga (comic) books for a bargain price which made me happy as an anime/manga lover and poor student. Also, manga is a good way to practice reading Japanese! I will definitely return to Tenjin Core, as there are many other shops that I would like to visit, but this was it for today.

May 6, 2015

Cleaning the dormitory

I and other exchange students of the Japanese university Seinan Gakuin were guided in the I-House by the dormitory manager/janitor. He showed us how we had to clean the I-House, because each week the dormitory had to be cleaned depending on which floor you live. I have never seen a person explain cleaning in such a devoted way.  He speak English, but the instructions were crisp and clear. We had to learn how to mop a floor. So after each mopping instruction by the dormitory manager, each student had to show whether he or she could understand it by demonstrating.  It was a funny but informative experience, because I never mopped a floor before and some students were really clumsy. Moreover, he showed us where to take the garbage and how to divide the garbage. Funny thing was, there were alcohol bottles, and use of alcohol is prohibited in the I-House, so this was quiet contradicting and everyone had to laugh about it. I wondered whether rules really had to be strictly followed and what would happen if someone broke a rule. There is a rule that girls and boys may not be in one room after a certain time in the evening. A person that already stayed for one semester told me that a couple broke this rule by staying in one room during the night. This was reported and the university was really mad about it and they had to write how sorry they were for what they did, they were really embarrassed and shocked. I think it is quiet hard to prohibit because during my exchange semester more than half of the dormitory residents had a relationship with each other, many lonely people haha. Anyway back to the cleaning talk, the cleaning of the kitchen was explained by the advisors of the I-House, whom are Japanese students of the university. On each floor there is a kitchen available for use by anyone. I can’t really cook and I did not quite like the unhygienic look of the kitchen on my floor, so I would rather go to the cafeteria next to the school campus which has affordable dishes anyway. 

The dormitory

Blog 3: Sarcasm and Chinese New Year

Blog 3: Sarcasm and Chinese New Year

These last few weeks, I have experienced many new things regarding the Asian Culture. Let me start of by saying that all my school projects started. Fortunately, I have local Singaporean project partners. This brings up the huge challenges related to cultural differences.

In the last two blogs,  I forgot to mention how the courses at Nanyang University started. Before applying for a semester at the Nanyang University of Applied Sciences, I applied for five marketing courses. All these courses were rejected because the classes were full. So the first two weeks, I had to apply for new marketing courses again.

The course I ended up were Global Business Strategy, Service Marketing and planning and Strategic Management. As already stated earlier, I am grouped with several local students. Since Singapore itself is populated with different people from different countries and cultures, this made it even more difficult for me.

First of all, the project I am doing for Service Marketing are with people from Indonesia. The main thing I noticed  throughout the beginning of the projects are the meetings and deadlines. When deciding to meet each other for discussion around 9 AM in the morning, does not mean we will meet around 9 AM in the morning. Around 9 AM for me means during the timeframe of 8:30 and 9:30. For them, this means meeting around 9:30 and 11:30.

Another thing I experienced Is, Singaporeans do not know what sarcasm is. Using humor or jokes to try to start having a relationships with Singaporeans can be a disaster. For example: a project partner told the group by text messaging that he will not be able to attend class because of another appointment. He asked the group to inform the professor on the day of the lecture. On the day, he again text messaged the group, however saying that he will be able to attend because his appointment was delayed to another day. Me, with my extreme funny humor and jokes (kugh kugh sarcasm), tried to make a sarcastic joke saying that I already informed the professor with a written letter containing his apology that he would be late. I added that I also sent the professor some chocolate and flowers to value his apology. In addition, I even said told him that he will sent presents to the lecturer. All this was ofcourse a joke. Later that day, I met him at school and he believed everything I said. At first he was first thankful but then asked me why I went so far just for him! I was so amazed about this. There was no way in my mind that a person would think that my sarcastic joke could have been taken serious.  Also, when I said that something was good, when something was obviously bad, they still misunderstood.

Additionally, everyone in Singapore was preparing for Chinese New Year this week. At the University and in the City. The funny thing, however, is that most Chinese-Singaporeans tend to go to China during this week to celebrate new years with their family, This includes all the Singaporean friends I made who were spending it with their family. So I ended up spending the new years with other exchange students.  

There were so many events in Singapore, including a fireworks show at the Merlion. Crowded streets full decorated with red lamps, red envelopes, red lights. People on the streets are selling delicious street food. Entertainment with Lion dances, Opera performances, Chinese Calligraphy and ethnic costumes. All in all, definitely a great an fun experience.