Friday, December 31, 2004

The heavens weep

For the second straight morning, I woke up earlier than my missus to prepare breakfast.

She is still coughing rather badly.

I feel quite terrible because it was probably me who passed on the germs to her.

Despite her condition, she could not help but to supervise me on how to toast the bread and spread the cheese.

I shook my head gently, inviting her to relax, and let me do it my way.

It was sleeting on this gray morning as we solemnly munched on our pizza toast.

It seems that the heavens are crying for the victims of the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami.

The Japanese observe the first of January as their new year.

I believe they switched the New Year commemoration from the lunar calendar to the Gregorian calendar during the Meiji era, that is, the late 1800s.

I recall many years ago, most of the shops are closed around this time of the year.

I would be hard pressed to find a restaurant open.

But these days, there is just about one convenience store at every couple of kilometers, and the hamburger joints always seem to be opened.

So there is actually no fear of running short of food.

Even supermarkets open on first of January these days.

My missus sent me to go shopping alone.

I thought there would be few shoppers but I was surprised.

There were so many shoppers in the mall, buying loads of food.

Until last year, I had spent all my Japanese New Year holidays at my in-laws' place in Kanagawa prefecture, which is about 30 minutes by train from Shibuya.

My father-in-law had passed away two years ago and we are still in the mourning phase.

Today, the world slides deeper into sorrow as the death toll creeps to 117,000.

The heavens continue to weep on this final day of two thousand and four...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A prayer... on a rainy day

It is a quiet day here at the university.

The offices have closed yesterday and there's not a shadow of activity to be seen.

The incessantly distressing news on the earthquake and tsunami disturbs me deeply.

I gaze out the window.

The delicate, soothing rain seems to amplify the sadness I feel.

I am reminded of how fragile life is.

Malaysia is apparently lucky to have Sumatra shielding it from the full tsunami vigor.

And, the Batu Ferringhi beach lifeguards who warned beachgoers to retreat inland upon seeing the rough seas at the horizon.

But the folks in other nations did not have it so lucky.

A leg here, a limp there
Body flung up in a tree, as if crucified...
Flies hovering over the open bluish cuts
Bloated bodies strewn all over the heap of wreckage...

I sit here

As my heart goes to the millions of people,
suffering from this tragic disorder...

Monday, December 27, 2004

Earthquake, thunder, fire, and father

Ooh, that gigantic earthquake and tsunami.

The lastest news say that the fourth-largest earthquake in a century has killed more than 13,340 people and has left millions homeless.

Here in Japan, we were inundated with so much news on the recent Niigata earthquake.

Compared to the 9.0-scaled Indonesian earthquake, this Niigata one is a minnow.

The NHK radio just announced that the Indonesian earthquake packed a destructive force of 300 times more than that of Niigata's.

The most powerful tremble I have ever experienced was a mere 5.0 on the scale.

It was scary enough.

I have been reading the updates by the many Malaysian bloggers.

Penang apparently suffered the most destruction, followed by other states.

In my home state of Kedah, the northern coast and the island of Langkawi were most affected.

My paddy field kampong is probably too far inland for the tsunami to reach.

I wonder how bad Tanjung Dawai is, as this quaint little place is our favorite spot to drive to whenever we are back for a holiday. And, for a bite of the ikan bakar.

In old Japan, they had the four most fearful elements.

These were earthquake, thunder, fire, and father, in that order.

The changing times have thus rearranged the order.

The father is out, irrelevant, and no longer feared as before, while thunder and fire together dropped in order.

In comes typhoon as the second most feared element, while earthquake remains the most terrifying of them all.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Roaring with the Lions

Kayren on stage (C) Lrong Lim

Attended a 'Christmas' party held last night by a local Lions Club.

This club has some arrangement with the Lions Club in Malaysia and each winter, they play host to a young student or two from Malaysia.

On this occasion, a young lady called Kayren Au who hails from Kelantan, is the guest.

I had the opportunity to talk to her and was impressed with her English and the impeccable way she carries herself.

At 16, and away from home in a foreign land in the cold of winter, I would have been just a wide-eyed cuckoo, clueless on what to do.

But here she was, making a speech in Japanese, and exchanging flags and all with the President of the club.

I have been a regular invited guest to this yearend family gathering.

I would not be exaggerating to say that over 90 percent of the folks in the hall were non-Christians.

But, no matter.

Most of the Lions Club members are bosses of their own firms, or dentists, lawyers, or politicians.

Over the years, I have managed to cultivate a really good relationship with them.

Among other things, I had one element working to my favor; that is, academicians are highly respected within the Japanese social fabric, more so if one is a foreigner working in a national university.

As in every year, I was among the 'honored' guests invited to make a speech before the ceremonial toast.

I always come away with a blissful feeling every time I meet up with these folks.

They are so kind, and what more, they always call me 'sensei' (teacher).

I was, and remain humbled to be referred to as such by these folks.

Many of these folks are my father's generation; they are my seniors in the journey of life.

They are past 70 years of age. Almost none of the members are below 40.

Our relationship started a few years ago, when one of them asked me if there was something they could do to help make life easier for foreign students here in Kagawa.

The timing could not be more perfect as I had just founded the Kagawa University Foreign Student Association.

My intention was to provide the foreign students a vehicle to exert their presence within the Japanese community.

I was prepared to go low budget on the operations.

And, here it was, the Lions Club offering to financially assist our activities.

Through the last 8 years, we have conducted many an event for foreign students, with this particular Lions Club as our major sponsor.

The hall suddenly became dark. Then, candles were lit. The party has begun...

And, it was drink, drink, drink... for the Japanese, but not for me.

I 'float' too easily on too little alcohol.

The Japanese folks are sometimes quite persistent in offering me alcohol.

I feign a small sip and use my fail-proof excuse; I have to drive afterward.

The food was always excellent, and the atmosphere, most cordial and certainly warm.

The only bone that I can pick on is the smoking habits by some of them.

(With regards to smoking in restaurants, Japan is bottoms compared to Malaysia.)

There was some karaoke singing and games, followed by a lottery.

As in countless occasions, I was not lucky.

The consolation prize was a box of fine rice crackers, Kyoto-made, and packed by Mitsukoshi.

I recall reading an article that the Japanese sometimes do the silliest of things at get-togethers.

However, the article added: silly they may be, but they serve one powerful purpose.

And I can attest to that.

These 'silly' things establish and/or reconfirm their bonds to each other within the group.

With this, as in every year, we ended the party with everyone forming a large circle and singing an old popular Japanese song 'Till we meet again'... raising and lowering our hands in unison... establishing new bonds and unmistakably, re-enforcing old ones...

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Bicycling on Christmas day

Bicyclist at Yashima Ohashi (C) Lrong Lim

I love riding my mountain bike to work.

Driving is fun too, except for the morning jams and the occasional ill-mannered driver who literally cuts into your face as he (normally, as observed) skids into your lane.

I recall a Philippine friend, gnashing: you never learn how to swear until you learned how to drive.

In bicycling, there is little need for gnashing as I can take my own sweet time to cruise.

I get to 'exercise for free', and I get to enjoy the views along the way. For free, too.

In winter days like now, the sights of the migratory birds feeding at low tide near the river mouth is indeed a pleasure to see.

What more, there are designated lanes for bicycles (and pedestrians as well) in the city, so chances of getting knocked down by a car is pretty slim although one can never be too sure.

I penned a letter yesterday and submitted it to Malaysiakini for consideration of publication.

I have had the honor of seeing about three or four of my letters published by this admirable Internet newspaper of high integrity.

Just as I was about to leave my office, I noticed an email from an unknown sender, Steven, with the caption, Re: Seasons greetings.

Oh no, not another one of those scam emails from some tin-pot African nation, I thought.

But no, it was from Stevan Gan, that... yes, that Malaysiakini Editor.

In verbatim, he said, 'Dear Lrong, Thanks for your message and for your kind words of support. On behalf of the Malaysiakini team, I'd like to wish you Merry X'mas and a very Happy New Year to you and your family. cheers, steven'.

I was so pleasantly floored...

Indeed I was... as I bicycled home to my nest...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Cool as Ice

The Japan Times reports, 'Iceland tells U.S. to butt out; Fischer still welcome'.

I like that 'butt out' statement... yes, the sound of it. It is so macho. Icelanders got guts, man.

Many a nation can learn from Icelanders in this swap to the 'big brother'; don't tell us how to run our business.

While I am clueless in the game of chess, I cannot understand the fuss being kicked up on the former US chess champion Bobby Fischer.

To me, all he did 'wrong' was to violate the U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia when he played a chess match there in 1992.

He is currently enjoying his sushi and sukiyaki here in Japan, but is a wanted 'hamburger' in the United States.

The US could do more good by going after the butts of people who committed more serious crimes against mankind.

Like that Hermit Crab of the Last Bastion of Communism.

Anatomy of a cold

(C) Lrong Lim

Whenever I see this picture, I want to return to Mabul Island.

That tiny island in the Celebes Sea is a jewel, a paradise, at least for divers.

My missus and I stayed at the Sipadan Water Resort at Mabul Island last September.

We had the time of our lives, diving the pelagic waters of Sipadan as well as the macro world of Mabul and Kapalai islands.

This picture was taken on the night of the full moon of the eighth Chinese Lunar month.

Quite amazingly, we did not make any conscious plans to spend that particular night there at the resort.

It just happened. And what a beautiful night it turned out to be...

Tried extremely hard to fall asleep last night. I started to meditate at about 11.15 pm.

I usually end up dozing off in about 5 or 10 minutes, leaving the transistor radio with no listener for the rest of the sleep-mode hour.

Not this time.

The throat was itching constantly and each time I thought I could sleep it off, I would spring up like jack-in-the-box to deliver a couple of powerful coughs.

The body ricochets. Now, I am wide-awake.

I repeated the process. Spasms of coughing, body ricocheting.

It must have been an ungodly 3.00 am when I finally get to knocked off in my futon.

This cold of mine is getting on my nerves. It is screwing up my activities.

I just had to cancel again, a session of orange picking with some students.

I did not get to attend five yearend parties because of the unrelenting cough.

I did not get to go to Osaka to attend a conference.

Nor to Matsuyama to deepen our relationships with the Korean students.

On 13th December, Monday, I was just finishing off a 90 minute Japanese class that I am teaching to three foreign students.

At that moment, bang!

I knew I had it when my throat felt a sudden sharp pain.

The next day, my body laid horizontally on the office sofa from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm, struck motionless.

My missus was prodding me to see the doctor the next day, but I procrastinated.

That night, my body oscillated from cold to hot to cold to hot and back again.

I sweated endlessly. The coughing intensified. The pain in the throat, worsened.

On Thursday, 16th December, I finally went to see the doctor.

I felt better on Friday, Saturday, and even on Sunday.

The cough has almost stopped. Or so I thought.

But I was to return to the jack-in-the-box, spasm-and-ricochet routine again two nights ago.

I saw the doctor for a second time. He said, you catch cold frequently, don't you?

Is this what they call, rubbing salt into the wound?

I put my thoughts to Mabul.

And to the majestic bumphead wrasses. My favorite fish, not for eating, mind you, but for company underwater.

The bumphead is also aptly called the buffalo fish, the 'karibaus' of the oceans... named for their distinctive yet graceful, grazing habits for food at the coral heads...

I long to be there... underwater... gazing at the graceful, gentle, grazing karibaus....

They don't catch cold, do they?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Daffodils from the garden

Copyright by Lrong Lim

Daffodils presumably originate from Spain and the surrounding area.

It belongs to a group of hardy spring-flowering bulbs, with the botanic name of the genus being called Narcissus.

This greek mythodology character, Narcissus, was renowned for his great beauty.

One version of the mythodology tells us of a nymph, called Echo, who loved him, but could never get his devotion.

Narcissus was riveted to the water's edge, entranced by the beautiful boy he thought he glimpsed within, and she eventually pined away longing for him...

...until nothing was left of Echo but her sad, pleading voice. (source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I just received a Christmas card from an 'old' friend that I have never met in my life.

We corresponded as pen-pals in the 70s when email and the internet was still in the wind.

Back then, young Malaysians like myself were very much involved with making friends from the world over.

I had pen-pals from UK, Sweden, Ghana, on top of the few from other parts of Malaysia.

It was an excellent way to improve the English, I must say.

I am so lousy in sending cards. I must apologize to Lucie. Profusely.

Somehow we stopped writing, I think in the late 70s. I was a struggling young man, directionless and more or less, lost as to what to do.

Then, two years ago, I think, I wrote a card to her at the same address.

To my surprise, she responded and we are back in the swing. More or less, that is.

She is now married to a handsome man, and has two good looking kids.

Seychelles is a long way from Japan.

But, I dream some day, my missus and I shall be there to visit her and her family.

Will this just remain a dream?

here is a pair of daffodils...
beautiful, and fragrant as they are,
trumpeting for you, my dear friend...
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones...

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Traffic lights and tolls

Arrived at a cross junction this morning as I cycled to work.

The traffic lights were out and three or four men were working on gas pipes by the side of the road.

I was surprised to see that six men were controlling the rather sparse traffic at the junction.

One stood right in the center of the junction, swinging both his hands like a traffic policeman.

The other five stood at the crossings, heralding the few pedestrians and bicyclists.

This, in a Japan where factories are automated and robotized to the hilt in the name of combating dwindling manpower due to the aging population.

In Vietnam the other day, I saw very few traffic lights at the junctions.

The traffic was, immense.

There were some junctions where instead of lights for the traffic, there were lights for pedestrian crossing the roads.

Quite amazingly, the traffic stopped each time for the pedestrians to cross, thereby simultaneously allowing the traffic running on the perpendicular road, to proceed.

Talking of traffic, the Malaysian government is under heavy criticism for increasing the toll charge by 10% for the North-South Expressway starting from Jan 1st 2005.

The toll operator, supposedly an independent company but largely controlled by government linked interests, points to the agreement that allows it to raise rates by 10 per cent every three years for the next 25 years to 2029.

Wow, a fat cat they got there.

Citizens can’t help but to feel duped by this 'agreement' between the toll operator and the government.

They are organizing a peaceful protest to this daylight robbery.

I am thinking. How many times can the citizens tolerate the increase in toll charges?

Assuming that the raise goes through this time, can it do so again and again and again once every three years, until the year 2029?

I say, fat cat they got there...

Monday, December 20, 2004

Kagawa University rises in stature

The Japan Times report, reproduced in verbatim...

TAKAMATSU, Kagawa Pref. (Kyodo) An international conference on electrical engineering hosted by Kagawa University has gained recognition from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the world authority.

University officials said Sunday its Faculty of Engineering, which has been concentrating on medical engineering in a bid to boost its presence, has set up the conference to exchange research related to this field.

"It is rare that the IEEE formally recognizes a conference held by a university other than those like the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University," said associate professor Guo Shuxiang, who set up the event.

"Regional universities face the need to display unique characteristics to survive, and their quality of research is likely to improve" with the creation of the conference, he said.

Kagawa University held the first conference this year and all 190 articles presented were included in an international database, the school said.

The Japan Times: Dec. 20, 2004
(C) All rights reserved

When I saw the headline, I suspected that it was on the two cases of power abuse at Kagawa University. Thank god, no.

Anyway, it is great to see the engineering faculty doing well.

Kagawa University used to boast of its economics faculty, relying on the fact that the famed Takamatsu College of Commerce was its predecessor.

There was a time when graduates of the economics faculty headed many major Japanese companies.

Not anymore. The level of reputation of the economics faculty has slumped tremendously and there seems to be no concerted effort to put a stop to that.

Meanwhile, the relatively new engineering faculty along with the agriculture faculty, and to a lesser extent, the medical faculty, is surely on the road for more recognition.

The key is, collaborations with and exposure to the international arena.

Many staff members in the social science faculties (economics, law, education) are living in their own world.

They know not what happens outside, and no one outside knows what they do.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Sunday at the office

My situation deteriorated. Was coughing so badly last night that I feared, with the next gigantic swoosh, out comes my liver.

My throat was itchy to the edge, and the cough was a reflex of that uncontrollable irritant. And, I thought I was on the road to recovery.

I should be on the road today, actually, heading towards to Matsuyama city, to meet up with the Korean student delegation.

Anyway, under such a pitiable situation, you cannot stay in the house either, not even on a Sunday, because the mistress of the house does not want you to spread the germs to her.

So, out you go. And where else to go to, in this cold weather, besides your own office.

Vacuumed the office immediately after I entered the room. God, I wonder who brought all these dust, these dirt, into my office.

My supervisor-professor for the masters program, a very kind man, was terribly tardy in keeping his room clean.

Whenever I asked to borrow a book, he had to step on and trip over heaps of papers on the floor, squeeze himself through behind the chairs and other equipment, so as to be able to dig into the books perennially piled on the table.

Once he served us some green tea. A female student brought the cups to wash at the basin. The next moment, she was screaming her head off.

Ah, a cockroach. I recall thinking to myself, head shaking from left to right and back; girls will always be girls, and cockroaches, cockroaches.

My supervisor said, mundanely: oh, that cockroach must have sneaked in here by itself from outside.

Yeah, like the dust that found its own way into my office.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Malaysian prime minister pontificates

The prime minister spoke to the over 1000-strong Malaysian community in Dubai.

He said, 'Adherence to hard work, good governance, pride in the services, efficiency, quality - this should be the Malaysian characteristic'.

'In whatever you do, think of the country and people and make us proud'.

'Do not do anything that could cause us shame'.

'You must be able to compete, otherwise you cannot succeed'.

To me, it looks more like pretty good 'advice' that should be given to everyone back in Malaysia.

Particularly to the civil servants, who are infamous for their sloppy services.

To the police, who should be protecting rather than harassing the people.

To the variously inefficient government-sponsored companies.

And to the educational institutions, the universities, which are undergoing declining standards.

Excellent words. But really, anything new in that?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bribery and sexual harassment in the university

Couldn't decide if it was influenza or a mild case of food poisoning.

I conked out from 10.00 am to about 3.00 pm yesterday, snoring away, covered up by a blanket.

My body ached, and my stomach felt loose.

I drank cups after cups of powdered green Japanese tea, believing as the Japanese do, that the tea will kill the germs in my body.

I also gulped in a few cups of bitter gourd tea, which I made from the dried leaves of bitter gourd I planted last summer.

Luckily, I managed to recover, albeit very gradually, and attended the first of the series of parties.

This was a university party hosted by the president of the university.

The president started off with an apology of two unfortunate events that just hit the university.

One was the bribery case involving an official from the medical faculty and a medical equipment manufacturer while the other was a sexual harassment case committed by a well-known professor from the education faculty.

Not unique cases at all, as it happen quite commonly elsewhere, but equally regretful, no doubt.

Makes me marvel why screw up a reputation that one has spend almost a lifetime nurturing.

Pocketing some bribery money (in this case, a mere 800,000 yen, or about 8,000 US dollars) will obviously not enrich oneself.

Sexually harassing someone may bring about good feelings for a minute.

But if caught, it is hell all the way.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Feeling a little giddy today. A most boring television drama drove me to sleep at 9:30 pm last night.

Woke up at about 2:30 am, and never got back to snoring again. I found myself rolling to the left, and then to the right, and back again.

Body a little aching here and there. Could this be influenza?

Before leaving for Vietnam, I went for an influenza jab in mid November, so I hope the jab works for me.

The yearend period in Japan is full of parties such as the Bonenkai (literally, forget-the-year party), Christmas party, sayonara party, social exchange party, send-off party, and what have you.

Each year, I find it quite comical to see the Japanese celebrate Christmas in their parties.

This week, starting from today and continuing till Saturday, I have five parties to attend. Every evening.

Wonder whether my body, in its current flaccid state, can take the beatings.

Petty big events

Bernama News Agency made two recent reports on the deputy prime minister Najib.

The first was his attendance of the wedding of an Umno division member's son.

The second was his golf game with members of the media at a golf club.

Bernama is a statutory body set up by an Act of Parliament in 1967. Its top people are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the king of Malaysia.

The homepage description boasts of 'Bernama's role as a source of reliable and latest news, which is well known among local & international media including government agencies, corporations, universities and individuals nationwide'.

But, wedding attendances and golf games of a mere politician?

May I ask, are there no other more worthy reports to spend the citizens' money on?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Korean students come to town

Been very busy with work these days.

Yesterday, a group of Korean students came to my university as part of a study tour of Shikoku. Will be here for three days.

I was requested to play a relatively large role in guiding these folks around.

All of them major in the Japanese language, and are pretty good in the language.

I personally enjoy attending to these young folks. Will be chairing a discussion session between them and a bunch of Japanese students.

With the historical love-hate relationship between these two countries, I wonder what a Malaysian can do to spice up the situation.

Luckily, the ongoing 'Korean craze' for the heartthrob 'Yong-sama' is helping to cool things for now.

Hence, the catchphrase for the moment: 'love'.

I am looking forward to an enjoyable talk session with the young people of Korea and Japan in an hour's time.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Spanking Haneda

Just got back from a short trip to Tokyo. That place is forever full of people.

On one train ride towards the city center at about 9:00 am in the morning, which was way past the morning rush hour, the train was packed.

As more and more passengers flooded in, I occasionally found my body firmly compressed against that of a young lady.

Fearing that she would scream 'chikan!' (molester!), I made sure that my two hands were up in the air, holding the bars for all to see.

Believe it or not, she appeared to be blissfully dozing off in the crammed train.

The weather was really pleasant. A very warm 25 degrees in the afternoon. Weird weather right in December. As they say, global warming in the works?

Haneda Airport had just opened its spanking new Terminal Two on 1st December.

All Nippon Airways, my favorite Japanese airline (there is not much to choose from, anyway) is the primary tenant, along with the minnow, Air Do.

Japan Airlines gets to occupy Terminal One by itself.

The airport has three runways while a fourth runway is in the planning stage.

It serves mostly domestic flights. So, there is quite a bit of inconveniences for passengers with international connecting flights.

Due to the distance of Narita from the city center, some top guns believe that there is no reason why Haneda should not revert to serving the international flight segment.

Terminal Two boasts about 90 shops, covering a variety of restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, and bookshops.

The crowd was unbelievable. I happened to fly in on the first weekend after the opening (Saturday, 4th December 2004).

The observatory deck was like an amusement park. There were so many couples, hugging lovingly of course, and families with little kids running around.

I was with my missus on the return leg. Though the crowd was slightly thinner, the lines at the restaurants were just as long.

We managed to slide into a tempura restaurant. My eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets upon seeing the set menu my missus ordered.

It was one paltry piece of mixed vegetable and seafood tempura, spherical like a hamburger patty.

Along with this, a tiny bowl of miso soup, and some skimpy Japanese pickles. The most delicious part of the meal, she said, was the hot roasted tea, served with compliments.

All this, at the equivalent price of a full buffet dinner (fresh seafood, all kinds of mouth-watering cheese, a range of sweets and desserts to fill you up for days, sushi, deliciously steamed giant grouper, beef steak, Chinese barbeque duck, etc. etc...) at a top five star hotel at Saigon.

The cost of living in Japan, once again, baffles me to no end.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Pulsating Vietnam

I managed to return to my office, physically okay but mentally, groggy.

Yes, I got in and out of Vietnam in one piece but I cannot recall any other place besides Hanoi where I had to wait for more than one hour just to get past the immigration counter.

And yes too, I managed to slurp the famous 'pho' noodles (a couple of bowls actually), as well as to see the very unique water puppet show.

I once went to see a Japanese Bunraku puppet show. It was interesting for the first ten minutes or so, after which I doze off.

However, the Vietnamese water puppet show captivated me throughout the one-hour show. I yearned to see more as the curtains fell.

And, I didn't get pick-pocketed (yeah!) but was shortchanged by a street moneychanger by about 1000 yen in Hanoi (that wretched woman!).

Furthermore, a taxi man at Ho Chin Min city or rather, Saigon, took me for ride. Duh! (more on these episodes when I have time to pen...)

Vietnam, in one word, was exhilarating.

The few days spent there have been a feet-aching (due to too much walking in too short a time period), titillating (the sights, smells, and sounds coming from everywhere at the same time) as well as an eye-opening (the decades-old, huge trees that line the roads, the buildings and churches from the French era) experience.

Vietnam is replete with vigor radiating from her people, the riotous roads, and the thousands upon thousands of motorbikes.

My trip purpose was to operate the university booth at the two Japan Education Fairs in Hanoi and Saigon.

Interacting with the students there, I was left with a strong and positive impression of the Vietnamese youth.

They struggled with their English and their Japanese. But give them a few years and I am quite sure that they will be at the forefront, leading Vietnam to great heights.

For, there was little doubt that inside, they have this fire... this look of hunger to make it...

I say, watch these folks...