Thursday, July 24, 2014

Purpose Driven Lunch

I always take time to read all company emails and I've blogged before that I'm happy to be part of an organization that provides different communities for work life balanceadvocacy and even inter-faith. Yesterday was my third session for the Purpose Driven Life (PDL) lunch series, where I  met with my Wednesday lunch buddies, composed of 16 other colleagues who signed up for this activity. 

When I was on my way for the first session, I was excited but shy at the same time. I arrived early so I decided to stay on the pantry area, that was surprisingly almost empty, considering its lunch time. I sat beside a young lady, who looks like a fresh graduate, she smiled and asked me if I'm attending PDL as well. I smiled as we introduced ourselves, aside from she's friendly, it also helps that I don't have to awkwardly go inside, alone. We decided to go to the assigned conference room, I opened the door and we're greeted by smiling faces. Honestly, I'm comfortable in meeting new people, in fact, don't feel shy (LOL) while speaking on outreach activities but for some reason I get nervous on sharing about my faith.

Fortunately, the organizers are pros, they held ice breakers by letting us introduce our name, give a brief project background and say 1 interesting thing ourselves. After that, to manage both our expectations, they discussed what is expected on the participants and what would be accomplished during the 7 Purpose Driven Life lunch sessions. We committed to attend the sessions with open mind and open hearts. There wont be quick fixes for a problem, no one will judge or scoff anyone. I came back to my work station with a satisfied heart.

The following Wednesday, we're supposed to watch Rick Warren's video but we encountered some technical difficulties so the organizers improvised and discussed what's on the video. They also distributed our own copy of PDL books and the "40 Days of Purpose - Small Group Curriculum" booklet. We agreed to read 1 chapter per day so that we can absorb what it means. We were divided into small groups that would serve as our "core group". After introducing ourselves and exchanging contact details, our core group's session ended with a prayer. It was a new experience for me.

The third session was moved because of Typhoon Glenda, also, at that time I was on bereavement leave for my Inang. Yesterday, we're finally able to watch Rick Warren's video which discussed the pros and cons of knowing your purpose in life. There was a part in the session when I said a prayer for the first time that officially made me accept God in my life. I've been a Catholic since birth, I've been on Catholic schools from elementary to college but they said that when you utter that prayer, that's when finally you accept the Lord. July 23 marks my spiritual birthday. 

After reading the chapters for day 1-14, I've found my life verse
"You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you." - Isaiah 26:3 
Because of my parent's work schedule, my family don't go to mass together unless it's Christmas. I've been trained because of my Catholic education to go to mass every Sunday. When I was in school, I attend because we have a mass attendance record. Even after graduating, it became a habit that I require myself to hear mass even if I'm alone. Going to church on Sunday, hearing the gospel and homily gives me strength to face another week. All along, my faith has been personal so its really a new experience to have a core group who prays for each other, read bible verses then share experiences. The last time I experienced this was on a high school retreat. It feels like I took a new step on my faith because now I'm able to share it with other people.  I know that I'm a work in progress,  but I'm happy that I'm a step closer to my new life goal - perfect peace.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tokyo Experience: Meiji Shrine, Takeshita Dori, Harajuku

Harajuku is the "kawaii" or cute capital of Tokyo but it also offers historic sights such as Meiji shrine and shopping areas like Omotesando Hills and Kiddy Land.
Is it Harajuku train Station or a church? 
After getting off the train station, cross the street that leads to Takeshita Dori where you can spot cosplayers and trendy Japanese teenagers.
Takeshita street
There's a lot of fashion boutiques, Harajuku crepe stands and fast food shops in Takeshita dori. If I remember correctly, this is the only place where I've seen a McDonald's store in Tokyo. Similar to Seoul, the local food and fashion industry is alive in both cities.
local fashion is booming
100 Yen paradise! I went inside Daiso Harajuku and just as I imagined, it's a three-floor building where you can find almost anything and it costs 100Yen or 43Pesos =))
A 30 minutes leisurely walk from a forest like area leads to the Meiji shrineI noticed that the structure of Meiji Shine is similar to Gyeongbokgung Palace in terms of how wide the area that leads to the main halls.
We also passed by barrels of sake that were offered to the shrine
Similar to Asakusa's Sensoji temple, we did a water purification ritual before entering the shrine. Under this healthy, broccoli like tree, visitors can make wishes.
You can buy an Ema or wish plaques.
100yen ema plaque
Your wish can be displayed for good luck and with the help of the shrine spirits, it can come true. 
Ema or wishes written on different languages
Meiji Shrine is truly "a peaceful oasis in the heart of modern Tokyo". It is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken who reigned from 1867 to 1912. The emperor is the equivalent of a king in Japan, Emperor Meiji was instrumental in opening their country to the outside world. 
the main shrine

Tokyo Experience: Food Trip

Aside from the cultural attractions and natural wonders, nihon ryori or Japanese cuisine is one of the highlights of my trip. My first meal after almost an hour of train ride from Narita Airport to Ueno Station is "omurice/omuraisu". The next day, I was happy to share to my Tokyo guide, Kumi, that it was my first meal but I was shocked when she told me that its not a Japanese food. I've watched 9 episodes of Japanese series,"Lunch Queen" where a family preserved the secret sauce of their "omurice" so I really believed that its a Japanese food!! Anyway, I did not regret eating an omurice lunch set.
Japanese rice omelette
Japanese food craze is all over Metro Manila so I had to experience an authentic ramen & Asahi beer in Akihabara, sushi in Shibuya and tonkatsu set meal in Takeshita Dori, Harajuku. Tonkatsu Teishoku - a set meal of tonkatsu (deep fried breaded pork cutlet), rice, miso soup, yellow colored pickled radish and shredded cabbage.
ham and cheese tonkatsu
It's often called the Japanese pizza or pancake but it literally means "cook what you like". I've tried the negi (spring onions) and mochi flavored okonomiyaki in a restaurant in Asakusa. Good thing that I was with my guide, Chiaki, because the serving is too big. We sat around the bar area while the chef prepared our food. After choosing our preferred ingredients, he mixed the batter, placed it in the hotplate and flattened it into a pancake shape. He used the spatula to flip it and cooked it for another 5 minutes before we started digging in!  
okonomiyaki and sake at Asakusa
Takoyaki or octupus ball snack and mango pudding at Narita airport
Mango pudding influence from My Boss, My Hero drama =))
A-set Gyudon (beef bowl) meal.

From Yonghwa's guide to Japan
Kaiseki is the art of presentation that enhances the food. A good kaiseki dinner can be very expensive, a bento or boxed meal is the cheaper way to sample this art. I've tried the Kaminarimon bento box from a restaurant in Asakusa.
They used the red lantern as symbol of Kaminarimon Gate
My 2 layer bento box has mochi & vegetables on the upper layer and  kome (rice) topped with ebi (shrimp) and vegetable tempura on the lower layer.
It comes with a free green tea but I can't resist to order dessert - a plate of sliced fruits, anko (jam from red azuki bean), mochi (rice cake) and yokan (sweet red bean jelly).
mochi balls, sliced fruits and red bean paste
On another night, I tried the anko or red bean paste dessert from a restaurant in Asakusa.
sliced fruits and red bean paste
I tried the famous Harajuku crepe at Takeshita Dori

Chocolate cake Crepe
Another crepe from Shibuya Station
Y110 crepe <3
I sampled a lot of red bean desserts and even the green tea ice cream burger in Nakamise dori, Asakusa.

I wasn't able to try eating in an Izakaya (japanese pub)or Shabu shabu restaurant, maybe on my next trip? :)