Friday 27 December 2019

A look back at 2019 in Nagasaki

2020 is just right at the door and now is such a great time to look back with a keen eye and a reflective mind over the past year. As for me, 2019 is such a huge milestone because it marks the first time I have ever lived by myself, far away from the family and in a different country. There have been some struggles at the beginning of the relocation and a bit troubles due to language barrier, but everything seems to be just fine now, thanks to the support from my supervisor, Miyu-san (my tutor) and all of my new friends.

For the past 3 months, I have made friend with a lot of people from many parts of the world. Some may argue that even in Vietnam it is still possible to have a lot of international friends. Yes, it is definitely possible but somehow if I were still in my comfort zone (i.e. living in Vietnam), there would be not much motivation for reaching out and forming a new social circle. The interaction with those from different countries has provided me with new insights and perspectives. Discussions about similarities and divergences in our languages and cultures never seems to grow old. Sometimes, we also gather to share our traditional dishes or even try to teach each other how to make our country's unique food. Numerous memorable experiences have been made in just a very short time.

I would say that it will be such a waste if I do not make good use of the time living in Japan to enjoy its scenic views, unique cuisine and fascinating culture. Hence, in the last 3 months, I tried to explore the city of Nagasaki as much as possible during my day-offs. Followings are some of the activities that I have done since arriving in Nagasaki.
Halloween at China town
Mountain climbing
Making "Pho" - Vietnamese traditional rice noodle for The Nagasaki's international culture day
Miyu-san's concert

Making mochi with Japanese
As 2019 is coming to an end, I would say that it is a memorable year of mine in almost every aspect. Before setting any resolution and expectation for the new year, let's just chill out a bit and enjoy the holiday atmosphere of the winter break.

Happy new year and wish you all the best!

Sunday 3 November 2019

Preparation for moving to Nagasaki

Moving to a new place has never been an easy task for anyone, especially when the destination is a whole new country. Hence, after almost two months of getting used to life in Nagasaki, I would like to share a short insight regarding things one should do/prepare before going to Nagasaki. Of course, this article is my personal perspective and everyone has their own necessities and preferences, so please take it with a grain of salt.

Okay, let the fun begin.

1. Sneakers - A good pair of walking/running sneakers

As I mentioned in the previous article, since my arrival in Japan, my daily walking count has sky-rocketed in comparison to when I was in Vietnam. However, I will not complain about the walking distance, cause it does not cause me much trouble, excepting the hill-climbing part. And it is safe to say that Nagasaki is the city of steep hills, so please take this information seriously before you come.
Buy a very good pair of sneakers and your feet and knees will thank you later.
One minute for advertisement
Optional: A pair of water-proof shoes. you can bring them along or buy them in Japan later. Will absolutely need them for the rainy season.

2. Japanese language pre-acquisition

The university does provide free Japanese class for international students and it would be definitely useful IF you at least learnt the Hiragana and Katakana before your arrival. Why do I say that? Well, from my observation, the lessons seem to be quite fast for those does not know any basic Japanese in advance. Both teachers and students have a hard time communicating with each other due to the language barrier.

Followings are some good materials to kick start your Japanese learning:

3. Mini folding umbrella

I found that the weather in Nagasaki can change very quickly. Today, it may be warm and sunny; tomorrow, it can become cold and rainy. It sucks to get wet, I suppose, especially when the temperature is getting lower. Hence, it is a good idea to always carry an umbrella in your backpack.

Tiny but mighty even in a sunny or rainy day
Optional: A good rain coat.

4. Some instant foods, spices and seasonings from your hometown

This is very straight forward and does not need any comment. Not everyone can get used to Japanese food right away. Even if you can, navigating through the sea of Japanese spices and seasonings is a challenging task as (a) there are too many of them, (b) almost all the labels are in Japanese and (c) it is very likely that you can barely speak or read any Japanese. My friend, who is very good at cooking, had mistakenly put vinegar into the meat instead of oil when we made Vietnamese food at another friend's house, cause of the labels are all written in Japanese. So beware!

Closing thought
Although moving oversea might seem to be challenging at first, it will gradually get better and there will be a lot of fun once you get used to the neighborhood and make new friends. Hope you do enjoy the article. Cheer.

TICAD 7 and summer internship in Yokohama

The history was made yet again from the 28th to the 30th of August 2019 as we witnessed over 10 000 participants composed of heads of states and governments from the 53 African countries, 52 development partner countries, and 108 international organizations, public and private sector groups, and NGOs gather in Japan at Yokohama for the seventh episode of what is famously known as the “Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7). I was privileged to also be in attendance not only as a beneficiary of the ABE initiative scholarship program born from TICAD 5 in 2013 but a trainee of Hinode Sangyo as well - a company which specializes in the treatment of wastewater.  

The theme of the conference was about the advancement of Africa`s development through human resource development, technology, and innovation. We listened with enthusiasm the presenters as they tabled the progress made so far in as far as the topic is concerned and their strategies towards achieving same. Of utmost importance was also the rich networking platform aimed at exchanging knowledge and ideas on many different aspects of global concern.

During plenary session 
Listening to presentations  by  heads of states and governments from Africa

Hinode Sangyo booth during TICAD7
Networking time with colleagues and government officials from Lesotho 

The venue where the conference was held
On one hand, the internship program was highly fruitful as we had hands-on experience in the operation of the company`s wastewater treatment facility. We also took several excursions to other wastewater treatment plants such as Morinaga wastewater treatment plant as well as municipal wastewater treatment plants in Chiba prefecture which use the CAS system. The pictures below show some of the highlights.

The miniature of Dispersed bacteria treatment process from Hinode Sangyo 

Hinode Micro Bubbler in operation
A prototype of a HMB
Standing by the activated sludge system of Morinaga company
Conventional activated sludge system of Morinaga company

Saturday 5 October 2019

First impression of moving to Nagasaki from Vietnam

Well, don't let the title fool you, the following article is about my thoughts after having completed the first few weeks living in Nagasaki, Japan, BUT most of the experience has just happened around Nagasaki University Bunkyo Campus and not Nagasaki city in general. Anyway, if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree at Nagasaki University, this is obviously a good start.

Done with the introduction, so here we go.
  1. Impression no.1: The street is really clean!
So, the myth is real. My friend from a cleaning equipment and vehicle manufacturer based in Germany once told me that he and his competitors couldn’t sell any outdoor street sweeping vehicle in Japan cause the street is always insanely clean, which is equal to no demand. I used to find that claim was a bit exaggerated but being here for a while I somehow got a sense of what he had talked about.

Wild fishes in the river
The environment here seems to be well reserved. Born and growing up in Hanoi, I haven’t seen as many wild animals in the city as in here (the zoo isn’t counted, of course). Those belong to the cat team should absolutely consider coming to NU as there are a lot of cats roaming freely on the university campus.
  1. Impression no.2: Tea is everywhere!
It is safe to say that you are at the heaven of tea. You can find any kinds of tea, in every shape, size and package from vending machines, stores or supermarkets. Definitely +1 point for tea lovers. For those who can’t live without coffee, bad news for you as some of my friends told me that the coffee here was considered as mild and bland compared to their hometown’s counterpart. Well, this is just what I heard though and everyone has their own preference. Anyway, this is none of my concern as caffeinated drinks has never been my cup of tea.

From vending machine...

... to supermarket
  1. Impression no.3: You have to walk a lot more!
You may not want to hear this, but if you are having a sedentary lifestyle now, then you will have a hard time getting used to life here. I considered myself a moderate-active person, but it took me a while to adapt. My step counter easily scores at least 13.000 steps a day, while in Vietnam I usually have to incorporate a jogging or running session in order to reach the infamous 10.000-step-per-day target. The problem doesn’t lie in travelling distances, but climbing and/or carrying parts. Going to the university is easy; coming back, however, is literally an uphill battle.

Going down is easy...

... coming back is the real battle, whichever the way you choose.
  1. Impression no.4: Labour cost here is way higher than in my hometown, Vietnam.
During moving in, there was a small problem with the faucet for the washing machine in my friend apartment and she had to call the plumber for help. The cost for the faucet’s nozzle replacement was 5.400¥ (~4.7$) in total (labour and replacement kit cost included) and luckily the apartment owner was kind enough to cover this expense. The same problem, if happened in Vietnam, may be solved for less than 500¥ (~4.7$), I suppose. Another example is that I have taken a taxi once and it costed me around 960¥ (~9$) for less than 2 km. For your comparison, the taxi rate in Vietnam is just about 55¥ (~0.5$) per km. Therefore, if you are on a budget, opt for walking and public transport as much as possible and/or considering buying a bike. Also, Do-it-yourself skill is definitely an asset.
So far so good, the overall experience of relocating to Japan is very positive until now. This is the end of today article and I do hope you may find some good insights after reading through this. Hopefully see you in other articles in the future. Cheer!

Friday 10 May 2019

Student life at Nagasaki University

Starting abroad had always been my dream since middle school with the inspiration drawn from a couple of my high school science teachers. However, when such a moment presented itself and I had to go to Japan in pursuit of my long awaited dream, I was very scared chiefly because I was going miles and miles away from my family where distance would deprive me to see them more often. Furthermore, despite the fact that I had read a few good things about Japan its safety, technology, and culture, I was still uneasy given the huge cultural, social and economic gap between these two countries (Lesotho and Japan). Upon, arrival, at Nagasaki University despite the hot humid weather and torrential rains coupled with terrifying typhoons and landslide, I got a very warm welcome. The support of the international support center and the department of water and environmental engineering to which I am a student, can not be overstated. The normal wandering about of new students in many universities during the registration period was never a problem for me here in Nagasaki University as I was assigned a tutor to help me complete every single process with ease. Several months now in Japan, I am happy to mention that the integration into the Japanese education system, culture, and social life is going quite well. Lastly, my research on membrane fouling mitigation for forward osmosis membranes using biocides has taken to a quick start with foreseeably far-reaching outcomes.

Tanki Mochochoko