Thursday, November 29, 2007

剣道 Kendo

During my stay in Japan, I had the oportunity of practising kendo, a very japanese martial art. Kendo means "the way of the sword" and the main feature is a bamboo sword called shinai which is used as the main element. In my opinion, after reading some books by Mishima Yukio 三島 由紀夫, I associate Kendo to Yamato spirit ;-)

Naoko's father was very kind and taught me a bit about the basics of the sport, including some basic movements. Naoko's sister is also very good at kendo and A-chan as well! Every Japanese is potentially very good at some martial art!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Naoko's birthday, 誕生日おめでとう!

20th November, just one week ago, it was Naoko's birthday and we celebrated it all day long!

First of all, we woke up really early to take a train which was taking us to the mountains in Gunma prefecture. There, our plan was going to Takaragawa Onsen, a very nice hot spring in the middle of the mountain. What we did not expect was there was snow around! But first we traveled like 3 hours by local trains to arrive there.

The landscape was so beautiful! Now, Japan is in the colour changing leaves season and all the trees are becoming brown leaved. The result is breathtaking landscapes full of colours: green together with brownish and redish colours. And snow up in the mountains!

After that long trip, we were finally there! Takaragawa onsen! The atmosphere was incredible: a traditional Japanese onsen... to be bathing at 45 degrees when just outside there is snow... and in that scenery! Wonderful! (or priceless ;-) )

And of course, having some rest in the resting room!! Makura to tatami fuka fuka ne!

When they closed, we took a shinkansen and back to Tokyo!! To Nishi Shinjuku, where we were going to enjoy a nice yakiniku dinner in the floor 54th of a skyscraper. The view was again really nice... and so was the dinner... Korean bbq is always nice!

And of course, macha icecream for dessert! I really like it!

By the way, this was the view from our table in the restaurant:

Afterwards, a short visit to an izakaya in Sendagi...

and back home to blow some candles and eat some cake we just bought from a nearby convenience store!

And Naoko destroyed me in a go game just before sleeping ;-)

A great day to celebrate Naoko's birthday! Once again: Tanjoubi Omedetoo!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Coming back to the Netherlands

This last week I have been doing so many interesting things that I did not have time to write some lines here. I have practiced kendo, met many of my friends in Japan, sung in karaoke bars, visited many izakayas, gone to a fish market in Ibaraki and eaten in a rotatory sushi there... and of course, celebrated Naoko's birthday on Tuesday with a visit to an onsen (hot spring) in the mountains of Minakami and a gorgeous dinner in the 53rd floor of a skycraper in Nishi-Shinjuku.

Tomorrow in the morning, late at night in Europe, I will have to head back to the Netherlands... but, seriously, I would rather stay here!! It is a pitty I have to come back, I have to remember my obligations are with ESTEC for the time being ;-)

Therefore, from Monday, life will come back to routine and I will be back in this blog, where I will post some photos of the different things I have been doing these almost 15 days in Tokyo. See you soon Japan!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fugu 河豚

Fugu is the Japanese name for blowfish, a fish which has a lethal poison but whose flesh is really delicious. As many things in life, the best and the worst are together, showing the two sides of reality.

Last tuesday, my second day in Tokyo, I went for dinner with Professor Ito, and Naoko and Yuuka came along. The dinner, as you can imagine from my introduction, was fugu. The chosen place, a fugu restaurant in Ueno/Okachimachi.

There we could enjoy a very nice dinner and get up to date in our present and future projects. For me, it was the first time I ate fugu and I can say I really enjoyed it! It was served in many ways: sashimi, fugu nabe (shyabu shyabu style) and with rice porridge afterwards, sake burnt with fugu dried fin, fugu skin with vinegar...

Thanks again to Professor Ito for such a nice evening and hope we can meet again in Japan soon.

Friday night in Shinjuku

Now in Japan, it is 00.30 and I just came back from Shinjuku, where I had dinner in a typical Japanese izakaya with some friends from JAXA: Okadakun and Shimizukun, with their girlfriends. Naochan couldn't make it because she is really busy ne. Daijoubu desu. I will try to put some more photos from the previous days when i have some free time, but as you can imagine, now i am too busy meeting people and enjoying this fantastic country.

Friday, November 9, 2007

My last weeks at work

First of all, let me apologize for not updating this blog as often as I used to. These last weeks have been quite busy at work and I did not have much spare time at home…

As I already explained to you in a previous post, I had decided to move to a new section in ESTEC. As a matter of fact, that change has been made effective! Now I belong to the Antenna and Sub-millimeter Wave section and not any longer to the Microwave section. But before the change was effective, I had to submit many reports, make presentations and talk to many people… Today I will move to my new office and the section change will be consummated.

Now I will be working on two projects, more related to radiation and electromagnetics than my previous project, related to mixers. In my opinion, my professional situation will improve, as I will have more involvement in the section and I will be working with people who seem to be nice. My work with Finnish has not been satisfactory at all (sorry Seppo, but you can understand from our conversations in Leiden ;-). As a matter of fact, I have not had real supervision so far at ESTEC… maybe I should blame my previous supervisor instead of his nationality. This week he proved all his tactlessness, but that is something not to be talked about here… 

By the way, from last Sunday and for 15 days, I will be in Japan, mostly in Tokyo but with some visits to the Northern and Southern areas, maybe even Sapporo and Kyushyu (for the ones who know about Japan). I will bring my laptop and I will have internet connection… therefore, I will try to continue updating my blog during this period! Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Frase del dia

"Los bosques serían muy silenciosos si en ellos sólo cantaran pájaros de canto hermoso."

Ayer, Los de Marras

English Translation: "Forests would be very silent if only lovely-singing birds sang in them"

Monday, November 5, 2007

Museumnacht 2007

Before getting down to the writing of this post, I want to introduce new features in my blog... from time to time, I will include some music so you can listen to something while reading these lines ;-) and normally, this music will be what I was listening at the time of writing!

Yesterday night, Amsterdam museums held another edition of the Museumnacht. This means museums were open till late (2am) and some interesting non-usual events were taking place in them: special food or cocktails served, hands-on activities, live shows... For the price of the ticket (around 16 euros), you could go to any of the museum participating in the organization of this event and take any public transportation in Amsterdam, including two special boat lines. Last year, I already went for it and I enjoyed a lot! Therefore, this year, I decided to join again and I went along with my YGT friends. As usual, some photos come now!

First thing in the evening was taking one of the boats in order to enjoy the pretty view of Amsterdam canals! However, that first boat broke down and we had to get off... but no problem, the next boat came in a few minutes! At that time the initial group was composed of (from left to right) me, Sandra, Aurelien, Daniel and his girlfriend.

After the boat ride, we met a larger number of YGTs and started visiting museums. The first one was De Apple museum. It was a modern art museum and could have been nice it there wasn't so many people! In my opinion, the rooms were large with small pieces in order to generate some sort of "making your internal feeling arise"... it required some intimacy to properly appreciate the museum. However, there was quite a lot of people and that killed the visit (this is my personal feeling, maybe other people enjoyed!).

Then, we moved to the nearby FOAM Museum of Photography. This museum was the most disappointing of the night... there were no photos in it!! The name of the museum was completely misleading... and the contents were not very interesting if you couldn't understand Dutch. At least, I got a USB pendrive with some photos of Amsterdam stored inside. The building was interesting too. Some rooms looked like archives and had vault-type doors. Marco and a belgian YGT (sorry, but i am really bad for names...) were pretty interested in the doors (in view of this photo) ;-)

The next museum was the Van Gogh Museum. As last year, this museum was really good, both the paintings and the atmosphere. There was even a band playing some music!

Finally, we made for the Stedelijk museum where we found an Andy Warhol exposition with some imaginative and thought-provoking stuff. A very pleasant surprise! Here, Marco playing around with a "killer bonsai".

And here, Sandra trying to block my image out of the screen with a shooting star. I would be behind the star in the screen XD When we realized, we were all playing like kids! This place had a very strong effect on us! hehe

If not, check out this video! We were playing with a balloon... :)

The only problem was it was exhausting! Just standing and walking from 7pm to 3am is quite tough...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Italian Halloween Dinner

Yesterday, it was Halloween and Carolina and Maurizio invited me to their place to enjoy a nice Italian dinner together with Salvatore, Ilaria and Mireia. Carolina and Ilaria prepared pasta from scratch and they used squid ink to make it look black! Have a look at what Carolina has in her hands! the black tagliatelle came from that after using the machine to make pasta which is below in the photo.

And here, Salvatore pretending to help in the kitchen! XD

Of course, all the menu was Halloween oriented... didn't we only have black tagliatelle but also witch shaped ravioli and pumpkin resembling desserts!

And after dinner, some Wii among friends! Here, Salva and Mau were too focused on the game! ;-)

In short, a very nice evening with really good and imaginative food!!