About Chewbacca

Meet Chewbacca, aka Chewie, aka Trouble, aka Bitty.

IMG_9746 (1)

She is bitty (hence the nickname), loud, shameless, knows no boundary (well, she’s too young to be trained with squirt bottle– a genial idea from my friend Bonnie about how to discipline your cat: squirt them with industrial-style squirt bottle. Oh, the caveat: you need to chase the cat down with the squirt bottle (I know it sounds cruel, but this is necessary), otherwise they’ll think it’s a game and the squirt bottle won’t work anymore). Where was I? Oh yeah. The Bitty. Anyways, we got her from the same pet-rescue organization who rescued Scribbles, Hawaii Cat Friends. She was adopted at 6 weeks old and when we told one of the ladies who was there during our adoption process that we had a cat at home, she told us they’ll be fine, just have them meet face to face and they’ll be fine.


The cats hissed at each other the first time they met and Scribbles was so unhappy, she hissed at me and Jeff! (never happened before). So after a quick read, we separated them for a week and they could only hear or smell each other from behind closed door, re-introduce them a week later slowly. Sounds simple, right?


We had two weeks of cat drama: them hissing at each other through the closed door, Scribbles refused to eat, Chewie had little ‘accidents’ (yes, plural) outside her litter box and other head-scratching/frustrating moments (to the point when I wanted to sent them BOTH back to the rescue center — kidding…)

But after two weeks, finally the hissing subsides, and one day, they started to do this:


And then this:


And my heart melts….


The cat….

walked all over my keyboard, ruined my report, and when I scolded her, she ran to the kitchen and hide behind the microwave.

And when I looked, this is what she was doing:






About life in Honolulu: the first month

Once every blue moon, my husband will check my blog and read the entries, and last week, it’s that moment. And his first comment was: how come there’s no post here about your life in Honolulu? So here it goes:

Marking the first month of life in Honolulu, my biggest achievement will be: surviving the first month living under the same roof with my husband without killing each other, lol! Just kidding, but seriously, well, no one’s spent the night at the dog house (yet) :D. And the other significant progresses are:

1. We unpacked all boxes both from my husband’s old apartment and from Japan, and turned our current apartment from post-WW2-wreck into a place where human being can actually live. Most furnitures were bought and assembled (most of those that I assembled needed some adjustments by the husband, oh well…), now we are in the long process of decorating (which might take years, but that’s OK, we want it that way anyways, you know, filling the house with the small pieces that matters).

2. We found a marketplace 3 blocks from our apartment which is the famous Maunakea Marketplace, where we can buy fresh produce, meat, Asian herbs and sauces, and even parts of animal which I consider the best part of such animal and disgust my husband to no end (cow gut, intestine, liver, and so on) :D.

3. I managed to go around by bus. Honolulu bus system is actually pretty easy to understand. And thank to google map (no thanks to apple map), I could even get a live  bus schedule. Bus fee is a flat $2.5 with 2 hours permissible transit time, which is relatively cheap especially if you want to go to the other side of the Island. My first trip was to University of Hawaii at Manoa to attend an Indonesian gathering. A small victory of a day in Honolulu, I’d say.

4. Set up my bank account, got the temporary instruction permit card (still waiting for the plastic one to show up in the mail), got the SSN,  got the permanent I-551 a.k.a Green Card, Insurance, etc. I even got my teeth cleaned since I missed my last biannual dental cleaning in Japan due to the hectic weeks of moving. And yeah, even with the insurance, dental cost in the US is EXPENSIVE! Oh well, at least my dentist and his team are super nice. They even sent me a Birthday email, and also a welcome card, signed by all staff in the clinic. Cute :p

5. Started to drive around and try to get use to driving in the wrong side of the road :D. And I found that driving here is more stressful than driving in Indonesia. Even though the roads are wider and nicer, the signs are clear and everywhere, so, it should be easier, right? Errr, no, I have a strong feeling that I won’t pass my road test for my driving license at the first attempt (which thanks to Honolulu’s DMV crazy schedule, is going to happen on December 11. I know! That is the soonest I can take the road test, unless I want to try to take it without the appointment a.k.a walking-in schedule, which requires getting in line from 4 AM. Errr, no thanks, I’ll wait for December). The husband said I should be OK though, and he thinks I should be able to pass on my first attempt. Yeah, I suspect the reason why he said that is because he doesn’t want to stuck with having to go with me each time I drive! lol! (In case you read this, I’m just kidding, hunny! :D).

Well, that’s for now and more to come!


Waikiki, taken during one of our weekend morning bike-ride (and weekend morning visit to IHOP or Denny’s :D)

About Japan: The last week

Never thought it would be that hard. But life goes on, and here goes the last Japan (as a life-in, and for now, maybe?, who knows, right?):

Farewell at the lab. We were suppose to have it at a restaurant. But we’re at Yahaba (read: in the middle of nowhere). So, the farewell happened at a seminar room. I got a nice surprise of bouquet and a fancy pen, which the Prof said for signing the agreement with the Uni that I will be their visiting staff. Right. As if I need ANY encouragement 🙂

Where I found myself (or sort-of, after battling with the realization that being a researcher was a doable-life): Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, First Department of Clinical Microbiology, Iwate Medical University School of Medicine.

The last day at my workplace. Never thought I would miss working in the middle of that not-so-wide-and-organized-chaotic-place so much!

A picture my student sent me, taken during a quick farewell at Starbucks, which almost-didn’t happen (due to my crazy moving stuff that took so much of my time, and their busy schedule at the hospital). I am glad they insisted on meeting me, and I am grateful for the chance that was given to me: teaching them. I pray that someday, they will become someone that they can be proud of, who will put humanity above all, in the profession that they choose.

A sign my friend Mariko made me.

The farewell 1: so glad they made it so I can say goodbye and hug all of them!

I wish I can put all of the pictures of my friend here. Well, they will always be in my mind (or in my facebook, lol!). And I am, grateful for them 🙂

PS: The last 3 pictures are the courtesy of my friend Jason Hill, a talented photographer (hence the difference in quality compare to other pictures). Check his awesome work here!

About Japan: The random moments

So, it’s a wrap. 2 days from now, I will no longer be a Japan Resident, something that I have been calling myself for the last 7 years. It has been an amazing experience, with all the ups and downs (and the love-hate relationship between me and life-in-Japan-experience), but all in all, it has been a great adventure.

7 years. I can’t even begin to start writing all I want to write about it. And I can’t even decide what I want to write about it. And it’s harder. You see, it’s different from when I left Indonesia. I might leave, but it’s my home country, so I knew, I would be back to visit and to live there again someday.

So I will just write as I go. As I want to write. And this time, it’s those random moments.

Random Moment 1

I was walking along downtown Morioka, when I saw my friend Alice. We stopped, and talked, and we were talking somebody called my name, and it was Hitoshi, the manager of Sundance (a Tex Mex Restaurant with Irish Pub in it :p). Or the next day when I was about to cross the street and somebody waved from across the street, and it was my friend Dean. See, Morioka is like the American TV series ‘Cheers’, you know, the theme song that says: ‘where everybody knows your name…’. Well, perhaps not as literal as that, but it’s pretty close. You go to Starbucks, almost always, you will meet someone you know there. That’s what I love about Morioka. It’s not Tokyo, it’s small, but it’s friendly. You live alone, yet you rarely feel lonely.

Random Moment 2

It was raining, and as always, I forgot my umbrella. I was standing at a large crossing, waiting for the red light to turn green, when suddenly an old lady stood next tome and shared her umbrella so I didn’t get wet. And she just simply said to me: ‘this red light usually takes a long time to turn green, so  let’s share the umbrella so you won’t get wet’. Total random kindness.

Random Moment 3

I came home from a long day at the lab, feeling terrible having to work all day while fighting a cold that had been annoying me for days. And there they were, hanging on my apartment door: a bag with oranges in it, a bag with bento boxes full with food, and a note from my friend saying: ‘I heard you have a cold, here some food so you don’t need to cook, Let me know if you need more stuff or if you need me to go grocery shopping for you’. Sometimes I wonder what I have done so I deserve such nice friends.

There are many more moments. Many more memories. And before I start to weep, here goes: I am grateful. For my friends. For the support. For the life I had in Japan.

About one sunny Sunday

Location: in front of Belle One Grocery store, and it was one of a seriously hot and humid summer day. 3 blocks away from my apartment.

Situation: I carried my tiny purse and nothing else, and the husband was carrying two heavy grocery bags.

Me: It’s hot, I wanna take taxi home…

Husband: errr…OK…

Me: I know it’s close but I am tired….

H: Okeee…..

Long story short, we were inside the taxi, with full blown AC.

Me: I know, I know, I’m a wuss…

H: That’s OK, you might be a wuss but you’re MY wuss…

M: *grin*

And Happy Eid to those who celebrate! From the wuss and her husband 🙂

About Japan Tax

This post is a dedication from someone who is about to leave Japan for good to those who are just about to start their life in japan. Yokoso Nihon! Welcome to the land of raising sun, folks! 😀

Switching status from ‘student’ whose income solely came from scholarship to ‘working woman’, or as Japanese calls it ‘sarariwoman’ (read:  salary woman) means an additional headache in the form of Japan Tax. For those who work in a company and have only one source of income from that company, it is easy. The company will take care of your taxes, withhold the tax from your paycheck every month, and by the end of the year, all you need to do is sign the form, update your status (i.e married, having dependents,  etc), and you’re done (sometimes when you’re lucky, you got that little extra something called ‘tax return’).

However, for someone who gets extra income from other source, then here comes the nightmare calls ‘kakuteishinkokusho’ aka Tax return form. And yeah, there is no English version for the form. Only Japanese. This is the form/report that you need to file in March/April of the following fiscal year for your previous year income. And of course, you can always hire an accountant to do all the hassle for you, but be prepared to pay over 25,000 (around $300/IDR 3 million) to pay for such service.

So, in my craziness (or should I say stinginess), I decided to tackle it on my own and surprisingly, it’s not that complicated!

First, here are the helpful links to help you to understand how Japan Tax works:

Japan National Tax Agency

This is a very useful English version of a complete explanation about how Japan Tax works. And it’s really worth reading to make you understand your obligation and more importantly, to prevent you from paying too much tax, lol! Don’t be intimidated by the number of pages. You can skip most of the part (i.e the pages explaining about retirement income, that is if you’re not retired, how to fill your name, etc) and just get into the part that is related to you.

The second link is a website made by wonderful people who explain about tax deduction in English, called Gaijin Tax.

This website will explain to you in excellent detail about how to calculate your deductibles.

Both links should cover your basic knowledge need about to file your tax, but here are some additional tips/information from me:

  1. File your tax as soon as possible. So, in case there’s additional paperwork you need to file, you will have time to submit it before the deadline. And be prepare of the long line during the tax return period. But, you know how Japanese are good at being organized. In my city, they rent a special hall at the Prefectural hall and assign many extra staff to help you with your tax, so the line will still be long, but at least they are trying ;). And be prepared of the non-existant of English-speaking staff. If your Japanese is not sufficient, ask a friend’s help to go with you.
  2. Don’t worry about the staff. They are really nice and helpful, actually. They will try to be fair about how much tax you have to pay, as long as you are honest and completely open about how much money you’re making and how much is your expenses.
  3. Prepare the income paperworks. Japan is surprisingly very lenient about the receipts and pay stubs. They are nothing like IRS, for example, and you don’t even need to submit ANY of your expense receipt, they will just take your word for it (ain’t that great for someone as forgetful as me?), as long as it makes sense. But you have to provide them with your proof of salary (the withholding tax form you get from your workplace, and any additional income you get that year, i.e the contract stating how much money you get for a year contract, copy of invoice, etc). So be prepared and bring all of the documents listing all of your income source.
  4. Even though I said they don’t usually ask for receipt, but for big expenses, it is always a good idea to have them handy. I.e, a receipt from Apple Store where you bought your iMac which you use for your work. They usually don’t even ask for a copy (I just showed them the receipt that Apple Store emailed me on my iPhone, and they just checked it and told me that it was enough, they didn’t need a copy of it), but showing them the receipts will help them judge how truthful you are about your expenses.
  5. Do NOT underestimate your expenses. This is a big mistake I made due to my lack of knowledge of what is deductible and what is not. If you work, say, as a technical consultant like me, all the expenses related to it is tax deductible. Here are the list that I would never thought as tax deductible but apparently (according to the very nice staff at the tax office) they are:
    1. Your suit/shoes/working attire: When you work as a scientist which doesn’t require you to have working attire other than jeans, T-shirt and Crocs clogs (you have to wear lab coat/sterile suit all day long anyways), and you buy a nice Ann Taylor suit and a pair of Jimmy Choo pumps for a meeting as a consultant, then the suit and the shoes are tax deductible. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can buy Ferragamo every month and file them as deductibles, but the staff will calculate the reasonable amount you can file as deductible in a year. Not an extravagant amount, but still, it makes me happy!
    2. Keeping the tradition=tax deductible. Giving ‘omiyage’ aka souvenir is one of Japanese traditions, and sometimes even though you’re not Japanese, you follow suit. And when you buy a $100 souvenir for the CEO of a company that your work as a consultant for (it’s the CEO, of course you can’t just buy them a box of $10 strawberry mochi, lol), then it’s tax deductible. Imagine if you visit the country/company 4 times a year, that is $400 deductible there!
    3. Being nice=tax deductible. When you pick up the researchers who you are going to train as a part of your job as a consultant, then the train fare, etc is tax deductible. And it doesn’t stop just there. They just arrived from a long flight and haven’t had lunch yet. So you take them to a nice restaurant and pay for their lunch (you are being nice and it is a common courtesy to do that), and yes, the whole cost is tax deductible. So keep the receipts just in case!
    4. If you also work from home (having two jobs as an assistant professor at a University and also as a consultant makes me have to work from home as well), then 50% of your apartment rent and utilities (gas, electricity, oil heater, internet connectivity, etc) are tax deductible. This is very important since this is going to be a huge part of your total deductibles and as explained to me by a nice staff at the tax office, is sometimes forgotten by those who have to work from home. Sometimes they will only file 30% of it if you work only 30% from home, but they will calculate it fairly for you. You just need to let them know that you sometimes work from home.
    5. Your welfare= tax deductible. Like your gym membership. I kid you not. The guy at the tax office asked if I was a member of any gym club since the membership fee is tax deductible (which I am not). But yeah, all related to your welfare, extra health insurance, travel insurance, gym membership, yoga class membership, all are tax deductible.

Well, those are the things that I can think of right now. And remember, the amount of your taxable determine how big your resident is tax as well. So, better crunch those numbers to help reduce another nightmare calls ‘City and Prefectural Resident/inhabitant Tax’ (I am sure those who lives/lived in Japan and have to pay the resident tax on their own know how terrifying checking your mailbox in the end of May/early June can be, lol!)

Last but not least, my late Father in law once said, there are only two things that are certain in this life; death, and tax, so don’t mess with them. I can’t agree with him more!