Studying in cafés

If you’re anything like me, you may find it difficult to study (or work) when you’re at home. Being productive in general is considerably more of a challenge when you have a couch to spread out on, a loud TV in the background and a fridge full of tasty treats. Going to a café is a possible solution to this problem: personally, I find it easier to concentrate on a specific task when I’m surrounded by other people doing their best to get things done… Or at least that’s how most people sitting in cafés look like to me. If there’s nice background music that’s a plus, as it helps focus and discover new music at the same time. If it only was a little bit less expensive I’d surely go study in cafés more often.

Do you find it easier to concentrate at home or in a café?

Keeping a journal

“Dear diary,” I’m sure that most people started (or at least thought of) writing a journal when they were young. I certainly did when I was in elementary school. My “secret diary” was a safe place to store my deepest feelings and weirdest stories. After a while, however, I completely stopped writing new entries ― just like everybody else I know who’s tried keeping a journal. A few years ago I found that very journal in an old cardboard box forgotten in the garage. I dusted it off and started reading the first pages. As soon as I finished reading it, I rushed upstairs and got ready to burn it (which I eventually did) but I can’t hide I was deeply moved by what was written in those pages: feelings and words and how you express yourself are part of your identity, and being able to see how that changes with time is priceless. Honestly, I wish I kept updating my journal for longer back then.

What are your thoughts on keeping a journal?

Little shout-out to ebooks

I recently rediscovered the pleasure of reading. When I was in elementary school, I used to devour dozens of books and I wasn’t afraid of trying out new genres. Now I’m living in another country and I don’t have enough time to read as much, nor do I have enough physical space to store and carry around paperback copies of my favorite books. When I experienced my first long-term stay in Japan a few years ago, I realized that I could read on the go by buying digital books and have them available on all of my devices. I can’t say that I am a full-time reader now, but I buy myself at least a new book a month. Whenever I start reading I end up being caught in another world, and that’s exactly how I used to feel when I was a kid.

Do you read e-books?

Coffee?

If you’re not a coffee addict yourself, I bet you know at least one person who loves coffee like crazy. Coffee’s popularity around the world is due in part to the addictiveness of caffeine, but also to its health benefits, such as lowering the risk of mental and physical diseases, enhancing brain functions and boosting metabolism. To maximize its beneficial health effects, it’s important to drink it when the body produces less cortisol (which is about three to four hours after waking up) and to avoid adding too much sugar. Since drinking non-decaffeinated coffee too often can cause anxiety and disrupt sleep, I decided to limit my coffee intake to one cup a day, which I religiously drink every morning to start my day.

When do you usually drink coffee?

Karaoke in Japan

Karaoke is very popular in Japan and other Asian countries. ‘Karaoke’ is actually a Japanese word originally meaning ‘empty orchestra’. The term spread quickly and is now widely used all over the world, even though its pronunciation and meaning suffer slight changes from culture to culture. In Japan, karaoke is a place people go to with their friends to have fun, or, less commonly, on their own to practice their singing skills; it’s also possible to eat and spend the night at a Japanese karaoke! I enjoy every minute I spend there: it’s like an alternate reality where shy people are not afraid of letting their voice out, where literally tone-deaf people get pumped up by their friends’ sincere claps, and where people with beautiful singing voices bring the room to religious silence, which culminates in incredulous amazement. It might not be the cheapest way to spend your leisure time, but the overall experience is worth the money big time.

What are some of your favorite karaoke moments?

Writing about food

We’re always surrounded by delicious food that lets us share happy moments together and brings joy into our lives. I think there is a strong connection between food, memories and cultural identity ― I am a big food lover. Of course, I’m still skeptic about some ingredients and combinations, but I’m learning to be more open as I travel to new places and meet new people. I love sharing pictures of meals I enjoyed with friends and family, but writing about it is a different kettle of fish. Whenever I go through my pictures and I see something delicious I ate in the past, I get this mouth-watering feeling that soon turns into huge appetite. I have many ideas and pictures (so many that this could be a food-related blog) but I fear I’d end up rushing to the kitchen every time I write about something that makes me hungry.

How is food special to you?

Bed or futon?

A bed is a piece of furniture likely to be found in every house around the world. However, beds come in different shapes and “colors”. For people raised in a Western society, a bed is composed of: bed frame, mattress(es), pillow(s) and all sorts of sheets, covers and blankets. The first time I came to Japan I discovered the futon, a simpler interpretation of the concept of “bed”. While there are variations, a classic futon is basically a Japanese mattress with a big blanket and a pillow. At first I thought that sleeping on a relatively thin sleeping mat on the floor could have repercussions on my health, but after a whole year I didn’t notice any substantial differences. I am currently considering reverting to the futon lifestyle: it’s relatively cheap and it would help free up space in my bedroom.

Which one do you prefer and why?

Procrastination

Do you ever feel overburdened with work? Do you ever have so much to do that you start questioning whether you’re ever going to make it? Unfortunately, many students and workers seem to experience this all too often. Some get stressed out and start putting off stuff they have to do, stuff that stacks up and creates additional stress. Others simply stop doing anything productive and go on complaining about their situation. I know for sure that it’s possible to get out of this mindset, albeit with a little effort. I still fall victim of procrastination once in a while, but when it happens I quickly give my head a shake and plan my days ahead of time. Dividing big tasks into smaller ones and using a calendar to schedule events is surely helpful ― an organized workflow prevents me from wasting time on figuring out what I should do next.

How do you stay on track when you’re running out of time?

Sudden rain

I’ve never been the kind of person to regularly check weather forecasts for the upcoming days. As a matter of fact, I hardly ever check them at all. After hopelessly trying to get such habits to stick, I decided to stick a folding umbrella in my backpack instead, just to make sure I’d be ready at all times. It's curious how minuscule H2O particles falling from the sky can heavily influence people's mood and actions, isn’t it? Personally, rain makes it a challenge for me to ride my beloved bike, and also makes me worry about my laundry not drying up fast enough. On the other hand, I love the sound of rain at night when I'm tucked up in bed or when I spend time in my favorite cafeteria, as it helps me focus and relax. Depending on the circumstances, I’d say that rain can potentially either make or break my day.

How does rain make you feel?