The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Book #23. (2016)

This is the most difficult Murakami read for me and it took me a long time to finish. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, it is actually a very good one, it just took me longer than usual to comprehend what Murakami is trying to tell me. 🙂 I’ve read somewhere that the English translation by Jay Rubin cut three chapters from the Japanese version. Maybe the deleted chapters would have helped me understand the book more. Anyhow…

I don’t know how to say this right but for me, the book isn’t a total page-turner compared to his other books. Not because the story isn’t interesting enough. It is actually very interesting, however, it took me time and effort to digest its content. Even halfway through the book, I still didn’t understand where the story is heading.

Toru Okada resigned from a job he finds meaningless, but also refused to get a job because it is what the society expects. And so begins Toru’s dropping out of the society. One day, he was cooking spaghetti. The phone rings. A mysterious caller. The cat disappeared. A few days later, his wife, Kumiko, disappeared as well. Toru drops further and further out while in search them. An ordinary start that lead to a very complex story. So, even if this was given to me without the author’s name on it, I would certainly identify that this is a Murakami work.

The Manchurian thread are the best parts of the book for me though I don’t really quite understand how it would resonate with the rest of the book. Or does it have to? And what exactly is he trying to say about the war? Is it to show the violence in Japan’s past? It’s one of the reasons I’m left unsure after I finished reading. Should the different plots fit together? Are they meant to fit together? Really, I’m not sure. The confusion, lack of closure and the loose ends are all probably a part of the plan.

I would definitely recommend this book to everyone but would also advise you to read it when you have the time to commit. After reading this, you will never look normally at your cat again or the ordinariness of spaghetti. Man, I think I need another vacation… A vacation at the bottom of a well.

Quotable Quotes :

“People don’t always send messages in order to communicate the truth… just as people don’t always meet others in order to reveal their true selves.”

“Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another? We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”

“I realize full well how hard it must be to go on living alone in a place from which someone has left you, but there is nothing so cruel in this world as the desolation of having nothing to hope for.”

“A life without pain: it was the very thing I had dreamed of for years, but now that I had it, I couldn’t find a place for myself within it. A clear gap separated me from it, and this caused me great confusion. I felt as if I were not anchored to this world – this world that I had hated so passionately until then; this world that I had continued to revile for its unfairness and injustice; this world where at least I knew who I was. Now the world ceased to be the world, and I had ceased to be me.”

“Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding at times, maybe even get them going. But curiosity evaporates. Guts have to go for the long haul. Curiosity’s like an amusing friend you can’t really trust. It turns you on and then it leaves you to make it on your own – with whatever guts you can muster.”

Rating : 5/5

Gia Rai Tomb

Gia Rai is one among the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam.

Funeral rites for the Gia Rai people are complex and expensive. Water buffalo and cows are usually offered as sacrifice. They follow a custom that all the people of the same matriarchy family must be buried in the same tomb when they die. Below is a replica of a Gia Rai tomb displayed in the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.

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Thirty dead people can be buried in this tomb. It is also said that the tomb house is for the dead in the afterlife. There are totally 27 carvings surrounding the tomb and the most prominent are carvings of sexually-explicit figures of men and women and children seated in the corners of the tomb house.

The pictures below are some funerary statues displayed inside the museum.

 

Photo of the Day

A view worthy of the 2-hour hike!

Petra, Jordan

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Book #22. I am not a runner but picking a Murakami book is not unusual for me.

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This is a memoir of Murakami’s affair with long-distance running. He talks about the joy running brings to him, the places he visits and the things he do in preparation for the events, as well as the ups and downs of running. Moreover, he talked about the change running has done to him and how it helped in his writing.

I’ve read several books by Murakami and I love every single one of them. So reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is refreshing because I get to know more about the man behind all the madness! I didn’t know that he is a dedicated runner, joined 25 marathons and also entered the world of triathlon. He runs not to win events/races, he runs to stay healthy and active. He runs because he wants to. And through running, he developed endurance, dedication and focus which we can clearly see mirrored in his writing.

So whether you are a runner or not, a Murakami fan or not, I recommend you give some time to read this. Whatever your passion is, the book will in one way or the other motivate and inspire you.

Quotable Quotes :

“I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

“When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.”

“In other words, let’s face it: Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that’s unfair, I think it’s possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won’t seem to be worth all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.”

“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”

“It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself.”

Rating : 4/5

Bun Cha

I love Vietnamese food. Last month, I had the chance to go back to Vietnam and as an avid eater, I tried to eat as much as I could. There’s nothing I didn’t like. Everything was wow just like the first time I’ve been here and tasted their food.

For this post, let’s have bun cha…

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Bun cha is said to have originated in Hanoi. It’s basically rice noodles, grilled pork in cold broth and herbs. So in a small bowl, you just have to mixed them all together then add some garlic, chili and lime. Most places include fried spring rolls when they serve bun cha and it perfectly complements the meal.

I noticed that bun cha is mostly served for lunch but I can eat it any time of the day. 🙂

The best place, for me, is the one in Hang Manh.

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Yes, there are tables on the sidewalk, and that’s normal. 🙂

Ede House

The Ede (or Rade people) is one among the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam.

Below is a photo of a typical Ede House.

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This Ede Long House was originally built in 1967 and was reconstructed in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in 2000. The house reflects many aspects of Ede culture. I learned that Ede families are matriarchal. The head of the family is a woman, children bear their mother’s surname, daughters inherit family assets, the groom moves to his bride’s house after marriage, etc. A new compartment is added every time a girl in the house gets married. It is said that the longer the house, the more prosperous the family is.

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An Ede House is divided in two parts: the Gah and the Ok. The Gah, basically the living room, as shown in the photo above, is used for gatherings. Jars and gongs are kept and displayed in this part of the house for the rich Ede families. The Gah occupies around 1/3 to 2/3 of the house and the rest is the Ok, mainly the area for sleeping.

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The most interesting part of the house for me are the staircases. For rich families, there are two staircases in front of the house, one for males which are just plain and another for females, where a crescent and female breasts are carved.

Photo of the Day

Enjoying a view of The Treasury from the top of an opposing cliff. It looks rather tiny from up there. 🙂 But awesome nevertheless.

The Treasury, Petra

After a little more than a kilometer walk in The Siq, you will be fascinated by The Treasury — the most iconic sight in Petra. Despite its name, it is believed to be a royal tomb. I find it hard to believe that this carved structure is more than 2000 years old because the design and details are still very well-preserved.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Book #21.

The book is about Rachel Watson, an alcoholic who forgets things including what happened on that one crucial night. The night when Megan disappeared. Megan lives near Rachel’s previous home which she happens to pass by everyday on a train.

The story switches between three narrators: Rachel, Megan and Anna. All cleverly flawed characters! Rachel, a divorced alcoholic in her early thirties, obsessed with her husband and living with her friend (who doesn’t know Rachel got fired and is unemployed). Megan, the woman who disappeared, the woman Rachel sees everyday from the train. And Anna, the new wife of Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband.

The author, Paula Hawkins, without a doubt understands psychology and suspense. And she did a great job to make her readers despise the characters, I think!  I’m not sure if everyone will agree with me, but yes, I despise them all. However, I still have to say that I like the way the book was written, it just wasn’t enough for me.

So this isn’t exactly a book I’d recommend but maybe for people who wants to try suspense and psychological drama, this ain’t a bad choice.

Quotable Quotes :

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

“Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.”

“They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”

“Nobody warned me it would break us. But it did. Or rather, it broke me, and then I broke us.”

Rating : 3/5

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Book #20. I just had to read it because it’s Gillian Flynn!

This is a short story with all the usual thrill present in Ms. Flynn’s books. It’s a story about an unnamed narrator who was first a beggar, then a “therapist” who gives a hand job to customers behind a psychic’s shop. She later became a palm reader or spiritual healer of some sort because she likes reading and she makes use of what she reads wisely to survive.

Though this is very short, it is very engaging. It definitely shows how the author’s imagination can go beyond her most popular novel, Gone Girl. It makes me want more!

Quotable Quotes:

“But I wasn’t a well-read bookworm; I was just a dumb whore in the right library.”

“People are dumb. I’ll never get over how dumb people are.”

Rating : 4/5

Red Cave Restaurant

I decided to have dinner here in Red Cave Restaurant just a couple of hours ago after reading good reviews about the place. I love the ambiance the moment I came in.

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I have been drinking lemon with mint since I got here and their version is definitely the best!

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I ordered mouhamara for starters…

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And Bedouin Ghaliyah for my main dish…

Bedouin Ghaliyah

The service was good, too. The staffs were friendly and willing to assist you. So all in all, it was a great dining experience for me!


I’d definitely recommend Red Cave Restaurant to everyone visiting Petra. The food is tasty at reasonable prices with hospitality at its best!

Photo of the Day

St. Joseph Cathedral, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Quote of the Week

Real love doesn’t meet you at your best.

It meets you in your mess.

-J.S. Park

Quote of the Week 

There is no pit so deep, 

that God’s love is not deeper still.

-Corrie ten Boom

Quote of the Week 

Jobs fill your pocket,

Adventures fill your soul.

-Jaime Lyn Beatty

Photo of the Day

This photo is one of the many homes lining the walls of the canyons in Little Petra. I liked how casually the Bedouin man sits on his spot. I later had a photo of myself there, too. 😊

About Yesterday

My colleague and I were starving since around lunch yesterday and so each of us had a sandwich but still ended up eating in a Thai Restaurant after work.

The place is just a 5-minute walk from the office and is just a small space with four tables that can sit four people. Luckily yesterday, the restaurant wasn’t busy.

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It wasn’t our first time to dine here so it was easy for us to choose what to order.

We ordered tom yam soup with shrimps, chicken satay with peanut sauce (of course!) and stir-fried shrimps with basil and chili…

We also had seafood fried rice and shrimp pad thai…

We had a very satisfying meal. Generous servings and very reasonable prices. I can happily recommend it. 🙂

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The place is A Roy D Thai Restaurant located in Al Muthanna Complex in Kuwait City.

Happy Thursday, homo sapiens!

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

He suddenly disappeared. No explanation. Four years later, Julia has a letter that might lead her to him… Book #17.

This is the story of Julia who traveled to Burma in search of the truth behind her father’s disappearance. In Burma, she met U Ba and learned of the story of Tin Win and Mi Mi. If I continue to tell more about the story, I would surely spoil it for you so I won’t say anything more.

I have never heard of Jan-Philipp Sendker before but I will surely look for more of his books. He knows well how to write a very inspiring story. And this book speaks of that — inspiration, life, love, heartbreak, loss, hope and believing.

The simplicity of the prose and the passages in this book were beautifully written. It may even sound old-fashioned yet it is so powerful.

A must-read!

Quotable Quotes :

“Life is a gift full of riddles in which suffering and happiness are inextricably intertwined. Any attempt to have one without the other was simply bound to fail.”

“Love makes us beautiful. Do you know a single person who loves and is loved, who is loved unconditionally and who, at the same time, is ugly? There’s no need to ponder the question. There is no such person.”

“Only a few days earlier he had explained to her that he did not merely read books but traveled with them, that they took him to other countries and unfamiliar continents, and that with their help he was always getting to know new people, many of whom even became his friends.”

“We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes as uncomfortable. We respond with doubt and suspicion. We misinterpret the signs. We do not understand the language. We accuse. We assert that the other person does not love us. But perhaps he merely loves us in some idiosyncratic way that we fail to recognize.”

“…there are wounds time does not heal, though it can reduce them to a manageable size.”

Rating : 5/5

Galbitang

Korean food has become really popular for the last few years and I can really understand why. I work for a Korean company and yes, we get to taste their food every now and then. But my friend and I usually go together in a Korean restaurant near our office and yesterday was one of those days.

Yesterday’s meal was galbitang (갈비탕). It’s become one of our favorites this year (I think?) and it’s really good. It’s a beef ribs soup which I think has very little ingredients served in a stone pot/bowl but it really is very tasty. Even tastier when it’s spicy.

And of course, I have to mention the free side dishes. Kimchi, kimchi pancake, fish cake, cauliflower, spinach and pickled cucumber were served last night.

Happy tummy! 🙂