2018

Another year has passed and here I am, looking back at the year that’s coming to a close in a few hours.

I started the year 2018 without new year’s “goals” or “resolutions”. This was the first after a few years of having diligently written down goals, even setting quantitative ones. Always on the list were to lose weight (5-10 kg) and write a number of blog posts (6-12). I went through this year without such calculated goals and decided to let it flow. I just had an idea of what I wanted to do: host a family trip, go on holidays, continue running my book club, volunteer regularly, and be better at playing ukulele (yes, I started last year :)). I looked back at my year just now and did a tally.

I had time to rest this year – I went on three holidays: one trip to Vietnam with friends, hosted one family trip to Japan, and went to Indonesia for a wedding. It was fun and different to explore Japan with my parents and brothers: we saw robots in Tokyo, visited a bamboo forest in Kyoto, ate okonomiyaki in Osaka, and visited my office in Hayama. The highlights of this trip were visiting temples in kimono and meeting a Japanese business icon whom my father adored. The holiday trip to Vietnam was a success too, my crazy friends made it an exciting trip full of laughter! 😀

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Arashiyama, Kyoto

I went to Indonesia for a wedding later in the year. In fact, I attended two special weddings this year! The wedding in Indonesia was an intimate one, a garden party with less than a thousand guests (many people in Jakarta invite around that number), family and friends helping out, and homemade decor. Not only that I went to the reception, I also went to the traditional ceremony (one full of anecdotes and kinky jokes). Similarly, the wedding in Japan was also self-organized and kept small for close family and friends. It was the first time for me to see a wedding performed without a religious ceremony, and with a celebration of diversity. I’m so thankful I could be at these weddings. 🙂

I also went on other trips for business: seven trips to eight countries. To observers’ eyes I know business trips look fun, but trust me, there are more pressure than it seems. Nonetheless, I (and my bosses) dare say that most of this year’s trips were successful. And I could enjoy most of them. My own highlight was organizing an event in Bogota, Colombia. The event went well, and, what a thrilling country it is! Colombia is still waking up from its hibernation due to the drug industry and high crime rates which held back economic development opportunities. But I felt that the citizens were humbly excited for what’s to come, eager for the future. And that’s a great atmosphere to be in.

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Zipaquira, Colombia

My last business trip was to Poland to attend UNFCCC COP 24. The trip reminded me of how much I love international relations and politics, which brought me to Italy in 2011 to obtain a master’s degree and start this career in international development. I want to continue working in international development in my life.

In between all of these trips, I tried to maintain different hobbies, volunteer activities, and friendships in my daily life at home in Japan.

I haven’t written anything about it, but I’ve been organizing a book club through Meetup.com. This year we discussed George Orwell, The Sympathizer, and Homo Deus, among others. The club isn’t that big – I prefer a group of 4-6 people – and we had a few friendly and relaxed sessions. I experimented with places and ways to discuss. One of the feedback that I received was that the club provides a safe space for free discussion, without judgment. That feedback made me so happy. On the other hand, I also felt sorry, because in the latter part of the year I couldn’t organize more sessions. One reason was that I read many books in Bahasa Indonesia without translation available. When I did read books in English, my weekends were robbed by business trips.

I volunteered with Second Harvest Japan eight times this year. This is also something I want to write about in the future. Second Harvest is a non-profit organization that runs soup kitchen and distribute lunch boxes to people in need. Most of their beneficiaries are homeless people in greater Tokyo – there is around 1,500 homeless people in this area of 9 million (2015). They are quite well sponsored, but of course always raising funds. They also always need volunteers. There are people in need everywhere and a little help goes a long way.

I performed ukulele three times with my humble Ukulele Club at the office. This year our group of six people, plus one sanshin player, performed twice at the office and once at a disabled people’s organization nearby. We played simple and familiar songs like “Daydream Believer”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Nada Sou Sou”, Merry-Go-Round of Life“, etc. Our last concert was in December around Christmas time, and we had a large audience, bigger than ever. Therefore came the old nemesis – I was struck again by the daunting stage fright, the thing I thought I’ve banished since the previous performance! I couldn’t play half of the first song because my fingers were shaking. A friend suggested to me afterwards to say something to the audience at the beginning in order to cool down. That was solid advice, because I was the MC for our summer open rehearsals and I did swell. So, I should say hello or something at the next performance.

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My dear ukulele

Finally, the big act of the year was…moving from Tokyo to Zushi in the summer. Yes, I moved again! :p For some time I’ve felt that the 3-hours daily commute was eating me alive. Of course I enjoyed living in Tokyo with close proximity to urban entertainment, dynamic modern life, awesome buildings, hustlers, city lights, and city noise. But even when I lived in the city, I couldn’t enjoy the excitement in work days and trading off these limited pleasure with long daily commute became too much after two years. So I decided to take a (mentally and physically) healthier way of living, reside close to work and see urban life in the weekends. I’ll write more about living in this town. For now, I’ll tell you that Zushi is 75 minutes from Tokyo, down south/west towards the Miura coast. It’s a beach town! What’s not to love about a beach town?

Some other snippets from the year were running a relay marathon with office colleagues and going to Fuji Rock Festival, mainly to see Kendrick Lamar. And many house gatherings in Tokyo and Zushi.

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Come on, I had to make a “V” sign. :p

I enjoyed many dinners, lunches, trips, karaokes, parties, pottery making, boardgame nights, with amazingly kind friends. Sometimes involving thoughtful talks, sometimes involving silly games, most of the times just food and nothing else.

 

Upon reflection, I had a delightful year.

I ended this year looking back to the pictures I took and felt immense joy for having all the online chats, offline meetups, all the things I wrote above. Not having new year’s goals didn’t set me back.

I’m so thankful to work in a field that I love, to have friends, near and far, who understand the oftentimes-distant me and always cheering me on. To have a family who lets me find my way.

I thank myself for allowing myself the freedom to be myself, to express or to hide myself, to get rid of insecurities and self loathing to almost zero this year.

I pat myself on the back for telling myself that it’s fine to fail sometimes, to not meet some plans once or twice.

I hug myself for still letting myself care for people in a romantic way, for expressing my interest despite the never-ending failures, and for accepting that it still doesn’t work. I hug myself even harder for talking to other people about the pain caused by it. I’m still trying to comfort myself over a loss.

But I’m thankful for a stronger inner peace.

I look forward to accomplish more in 2019. Next year, I want to perform difficult songs (secret :p) with ukulele and sing along. I want to meet my book-reading goal. I want to transition into living as a lacto-pescetarian.

Whatever your plans are in 2019 — whether you made a “list”, whether you’ve set a number on each goal, whether your aim is to make it through the year with health, inner peace, and self love — I wish you a lovely, great year ahead.

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