Oct, 24th, 2014

It's a fabulously beautiful day today!
The weather finally cleared up after two days straight of rain.
I don't have anything urgent to do this morning, so I've been studying English, listening to CNN.
A doctor in New York seems to have tested positive for Ebola.
He recently came back from Guinea, where he was working for Doctors Without Borders, and started to show severe symptoms like high fever yesterday.
I guess the authorities must be busy now tracking all those people who might have come in contact with him.
This outbreak, the biggest one on record and claiming one life after another, has shown no signs of turning around.
I really do hope that this doctor, who put his life on the line trying to treat patients in Africa, will recover steadily from this deadly disease.
Speaking of Africa, I've just finished reading a memoir about a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. He was an ordinary boy whose life suddenly took a nosedive when rebels attacked his village.  
He fled his home and wandered aimlessly through forests before he was forced to fight rebels as a member of the government army.
This book contains lots of gruesome scenes where rebels or the army commit barbaric acts against civilians, which sometimes disgusts me, and it breaks my heart to imagine the sufferings people in Sierra Leone have been through, but it makes me realize the importance of appreciating our peaceful life that we can lead everyday here in Japan and the international community absolutely should work closely to make sure people all over the world, especially children, do not experience the same predicament in the future.
I'm planning on reading this book again. This time I'm going to do it with a stronger focus on how the words are put together.
I want to read attentively and sear the phrasing into memory, which I believe is an effective way to make passive vocabulary convert into active vocabulary.
Niwahiyake man

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Sep, 5th, 2014

I woke up at 4 am.
(Funny how waking up very early reminds me of birdwatching with my family in my childhood.)
Decided to take a morning stroll to try and catch the sunrise.
I walked all the way up to the top of the hill, guided by the light from traffic signals and vending machines that lined my route.
It's always nice to be out in the open air, wandering the completely empty streets(and reciting the English sentences I've just encountered and learned by heart!)
There's nothing quite as soothing and pleasing as experiencing nature in the raw early in the morning, listening to the dawn chorus of the birds and the morning buzz of the insects. (I wonder just what it is the crows are aiming at..)
Watching a dark sky gradually turning lighter blue never fails to reinvigorate me, however tired or sleepy I am, as it makes me feel I have my whole life ahead of me.
I'm not sure what today will bring, but I'm just going to do everything I can to be the best version of myself.
Niwahiyake man

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It's already August.
A year goes by very quickly.
One year has passed since I started working on improving my speaking skill in earnest.  
Up until one year ago, I had never been confident in my speaking/writing skill.
I always came out of the conversation demoralized and disappointed.
My level of speaking was far behind my listening/reading ability.
I knew I definitely had to do something with my speaking, but I was just lazy and thought there would be a limit to what I can accomplish without studying abroad.
However, starting Twitter and getting to know all those English learning enthusiasts sent my English learning journey in a whole new direction.
Seeing these people put lots of time and effort into language learning, I felt like I was getting left behind, and they gave me the urge to tackle English from all possible angles.
I've since been making explicit effort to get myself as much exposure to real English as possible, copy down whatever phrases I find useful and try to memorize them bit by bit.
Luckily, I've got several opportunities to speak English on skype in the past year and for the first time in my life I've been gaining confidence in speaking. It feels like my progress is skyrocketing!
I get the unsurmountable pleasure from becoming fluent, and that keeps me going!
(It's much easier for me to talk on skype because there's not so much pressure from having someone physically in front of me..lol)
I'm just figuring out how essential it is that you read and listen to a lot of English, write down phrases or sentences that you think will give you more expressive capabilities in English and memorize/recite them till you can say them effortlessly.
It's certainly a lot of hardwork and there should be some extent of dedication and discipline that goes into it, but if you can stick to this routine and persist with it, I think it wouldn't be that hard to make progress in speaking.
Having said that, my speaking is nowhere near enough and I've still got a long way to go.
I must show up everyday and keep doing what I think works for me at this stage.
Niwahiyake man

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Good morning.
Today I'm so happy because a nearby shrine has been holding the summer festival since yesterday.
I've already paid three visits to the shrine to offer thanks. lol
I feel a deep affinity with this shrine, because this is the one I've been visiting on important occasions ever since I was a kid. A sense of nostalgia is evoked whenever I visit this place. It reminds me of my childhood when I bought choco-banana and okonomi-yaki on the day of the festival, ran around and had a good laugh with my friends. (If only I could go back in time two decades to those happy days!)
I always look forward to seeing people parade the portable shrine around the neighborhood.
The images of them carrying the mikoshi from place to place amid a landscape of paper lanterns and banner flags lining the path symbolize both the spirit of Japan and the spirit of summer.
It is in these moments that I'm proud to be Japanese.
I think it is a good chance for the local people, who usually don't visit the shrine, to get close to the guardian god of our community. (The deity is transferred from the shrine building into the mikoshi.)
Tonight we have a firework display, which marks the end of the two-day event.
Considering the size of our shrine and the festival itself(Not a large scale at all), I think it is rather unusual that we even have firework displays.
And, luckily enough, I don't have to go anywhere to get a glimpse of them.
I can get a clear view of the pyrotechnics from the staircase landing of my house!
How lucky I am!
Seeing the starbursts in the dark sky and listening to the laughter of people.
I'm so grateful that we have something to relish communitywide.
Hope the sky clears up in the evening. (Localized downpour is expected around my area throughout the day,,,)

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Good morning.
I woke up fairly early today.
Rather than sitting around and surfing the internet, I decided to write a blog again.
Recently I learned that the leaves of mulberry, a deciduous flowering fruit tree that grows in Asian countries, have some health benefits.
We have one small mulberry tree in our yard and always look forward to eating the fruit it bears when spring rolls around.
Its leaves, food for silkworms, seem to have some obvious good effects on our body.
In China, mulberry leaf tea has been treasured as herbal medicine since ancient times.
I've been drinking mulberry leaf tea every morning these days, trying to follow in Chinese people's footstep.
Evidence from human studies shows that mulberry leaf significantly reduces the rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal, thereby suppressing fluctuations of blood sugar levels before and after each meal. (Some web pages say this amazing characteristic can be attributed to an ingredient known as DNJ.)
Therefore it could be used to treat diabetics and to prevent diabetes.
Mulberry leaves are also high in various minerals. They contain 25 times more calsium than milk and 10 times more iron than spinach!
The extracts are effective in regulating blood pressure and lowering blood cholesterol levels, and are helpful in treating constipation as well.
What a wonderful natural gift!
There're a myriad of things we don't know in this world...
Got to keep learning!
Niwahiyake man

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