رحلة مسلمين في اليابان

IMG_0430قبل انطلاقنا في رحلتنا إلى اليابان حيث شاركت ميسم في المؤتمر الآسوي للتغذية بمدينة يوكوهاما اليابانية، لم يكن لدينا الكثير من التوقعات عما سوف نشهده في ذلك البلد، غير أننا كنا متحمسين للقاء اليابانيين و التعرف أكثر على شغفهم بالتكنولوجيا و اختراعاتهم التي تملأ العالم، بالإضافة إلى أخلاقهم العالية.

كوننا مسلمين كان قلقنا الوحيد متعلقاً بنوعية الطعام التي سنتناولها، ولكننا لم نفكر بها ملياً حيث كانت الخطة بأن نتحول إلى نباتيين ل 10 أيام. لم نكن لنتوقع بأنها ستكون مشكلتنا الأكبر خلال الرحلة!

شوارع اليابان مليئة بمطاعم السوشي و الشعب الياباني يعشق الطعام البحري، على عكسنا تماماً! المشكلة الأكبر كانت عند اكتشافنا بأننا لن نستطيع شراء أي شيء مقلي، حتى و إن كان نباتياً فهو بأغلب الأحيان مقلي بزيت مستخلص من دهن الخنزير!

عدم معرفتنا باللغة اليابانية زاد من المشكلة، حيث و بالرغم من تعلمنا لكلمة (كحول) و (خنزير) لتفادي شراء أي شيء يحتوي على أي منهما، فإن اللفظ قد يختلف بحسب استخدام المكون في الطعام. مما يعني بأنه و لو قيل لنا بأن الطعام لا يحتوي على الكحول أو مشتقات الخنزير، فإنه بالأغلب يحتوي على أحدها ولكن اللفظ على علبة الطعام مختلف عما تعلمناه.

كنا قد تعودنا على أكل سندويشات الجبنة أو النوتيلا أو زبدة الفول السوداني و بعض الفواكه و الخضروات (التي نعرفها) . بقينا على هذا الحال حتى وجدنا تطبيق على الهاتف مخصص للمسلمين في اليابان يدعى HalalNavi – يعمل التطبيق على إعطائك اقتراحات لمطاعم حلال أو مطاعم نباتية، مع طريقة الوصول إليها و اقتراحات المستخدمين الآخرين للتطبيق على جودة المطاعم المقترحة.

ليس ذلك فحسب، فقد أرشدنا التطبيق إلى مطاعم تركية  حلال. و عند الوصول إلى المطعم اكتشفنا بأن المطعم شركسي تركي! لم نكن يوماً لنتخيل بأي شكل من الأشكال بأن نجد مطعماً شركسياً في وسط العاصمة اليابانية طوكيو!

رغم أن زيارتنا كانت قصيرة، إلا أننا لم نقابل إلا أناساً في قمة الأخلاق و التواضع. لدرجة أننا كنا قد بدأنا نشك بمصداقية هذه الأخلاق التي لم نقابل مثلها لدى أي شعب على هذا المستوى الواسع.

 في أحد الليالي ،، وفي طريق عودتناإلى الفندق في يوكوهاما،كنا نستقل المترو ،،  صعد أحد الشباب اليابانيين و جلس بجانب زوجي الذي كان يجلس على المقعد المقابل لنا ، كان واضحاً على الشاب علامات الشرب ، فقد كان فاقداً لتوازنه يتمايل يمينا و يساراً، حتى غلبه النعاس و بدأ يميل برأسه  ويغفو ، بدا و كأنه قد شعر بأنه وصل إلى سريره  فرفع رجليه على المقعد. نظرت إلى زوجي ، كان الغضب واضحاً جلياً في ملامحه وكان وجهه قد احمرّ من شدّة الانفعال ! قلت في نفسي: “رح يتقاتلوا – مافي مجال.” و ما كان من زوجي إلا أن دفع قدمي الرجل إلى الأرض بقوّة و قبل أن يبدأ بالكلام، انتفض الشاب و بدأ بالاعتذار مراراً و تكراراً حتى خرج من المترو تاركاً الدهشة تعلو وجوهنا.

تذكرني الحادثة ببيت شعر جميل للشاعر السوري بدوي الجبل:

أغضب صديقك تستطلع سريرته … للسر نافذتان السكر والغضب

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خلال الأيام العشرة التي قضيناها في اليابان، لم نقابل سوى امرأتين أو ثلاث من المحجبات فنسبة المسلمين في اليابان لا تتعدى الواحد بالمئة لذلك لم يكن لباسنا مألوفاً للعوام. أثناء سيرنا و تنقلنا، كنا نشعر بنظرات المارة و تساؤلاتهم عما نرتدي، و لكن و من شدة أدبهم و حتى لا يضايقنا أحد منهم بنظره إلينا ، كان الجميع يزيل نظره عنا ما إن نستدير باتجاههم.

قابلنا الكثير من اليابانيين الذين كانو يقفون و يشيرون إلى حجاباتنا سائلين عنها أو مطرين عليها. سمعنا كلمة “كاوايي” كثيراً و هي تعني جميل باللغة اليابانية. فأغلب الظن أنهم كانوا قد أعجبوا به. كما أن البعض طلب صورة تذكارية معنا.

 على الرغم من  الصعوبات البسيطة التي واجهناها في البحث عن طعام مناسب، فقد قضينا أجمل أيام العمر خلال تلك الأيام العشر. و رغم أن لباسنا و شكلنا لم يكن مألوفاً لدى اليابانيين، إلا أننا لم نقابَل سوى بالترحيب و حسن الخلق من هذا الشعب الرائع.

Tokyo, Japan | 15 May 2015
Tokyo, Japan | 15 May 2015

Read the post in English.

Leave your cash at home. Let’s Beam!

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Technology has been thriving to make things easier by concentrating one device with everything that a human being would use on a daily basis. If you are living in the 21st century, then you must be aware of the fact that the most important part of our lives is having a smartphone that can get almost everything done for us. You have your contacts, calculator, reminders, to-do lists, books, music, clock, camera…and the list goes on, in one place. But let’s get into the fancy stuff that is slowly and gradually helping you get over the necessity of carrying a wallet.

Tech giants consider having a wallet a burden, which to be honest really is a burden, at least to me. Now, if you are thinking that the idea of a wallet has been replaced with a debit or a credit card then you are certainly wrong. What if I told you that there is a smartphone application that would let you ditch your wallet?

I was delighted when I first heard about it and most of the people who are sick of carrying a baby dinosaur sized wallet with them. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I certainly don’t like to have to carry it around whenever I need to grab a cup of coffee from the coffee shop next to my office or even go grocery shopping for the house at the end of each week. Fortunately, there is a way around this, you now only have to carry your smartphone with an application named, Beam, installed on it. Beam lets your phone act as your credit card, so you no more have to carry around your purse or wallet. Simply open the application and walk into a store that supports Beam. Open the application and with the touch of the screen you can pay for that of you wish to buy. You also get extra points whenever you pay using Beam, which you can redeem later on in the same shop, which we can all agree is always a bonus!

You must be wondering about the pay-offs while using the system and I cannot think of a single payoff that one has to compromise on for using the system, keeping in mind the smartphone device is now much more secure than a couple of years back. Beam is a very secure way of payments and you don’t have to wait in queues or don’t have to worry about an ATM machine not working properly, because you no longer require the use for keeping cash on you.

Beam is growing with a very swift pace, as of now it is being supported in 1200 stores throughout the UAE and the network is growing every month. You can now use Beam at Carrefour, Subway, ALDO, Tommy Hilfiger, Geant, Inglot, Nine West, VOX cinemas, Circle K, Chillis, Tim Hortons, Costa and more. I have already stopped carrying my purse and the extremely uncomfortable coins when going to these places, when are you planning on joining the cool club?

Download Beam Wallet from App Store or Google Play now.

~ Sondos Shapsogh

From Dubai to Tokyo – Tips

I can’t walk down the streets of Japan without finding something unusual or peculiar. It’s just so stimulating.” – Michael Booth

If you’re from Dubai and plan on going to Tokyo, or the other way around, here are some things to keep in mind.

Similarities:

It’s VERY clean!

If you are from Dubai then you probably know all too well how clean the streets are, after all we are known for it (cleanest city in the region). Just when you thought you couldn’t find a city to match Dubai’s level, think again. Tokyo really goes above and beyond to keep their malls, streets and even public toilets at an A grade of cleanliness!

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Streets look like they’ve just been freshly painted.
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This is a PUBLIC restroom

Diversity

When travelling to different countries in the world, you may sometimes get the feeling that you don’t quite fit in. That you stand out because of how you dress or the color of your skin which can make for an uncomfortable vacation. This is not so in Japan. The country is highly diverse and welcoming to visitors from around the globe, so there is no need to worry about feeling like a stranger in this already wonderfully strange land!

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more welcoming countries

Excellent Service

It seems no matter where you go in Japan, the service is outstanding. Whether you are in your hotel, eating out at a restaurant or relaxing in a spa for the day, the staff go above and beyond!

Great food options

If you have a craving for it, there is a high chance that Japan can supply! It’s amazing how varied their food options are, which ties in with how diverse the country is as a whole. A word of warning though; with less than 1% of the Japanese population being Muslim, they haven’t quite mastered vegetarian or Halal dishes just yet!

Super safe!

Like UAE, the crime rate is low in Japan which makes for a very relaxing trip however, this doesn’t mean you can disregard all common sense and think that nothing bad could ever happen! Be cautious but relax and enjoy your holiday knowing that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world!

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Source: Global Peace Index 2015

Family Oriented

If you are planning a getaway with the family to Japan then you are in luck as just like Dubai the country is geared towards families offering attractions and services to meet the needs of all ages. On a side note, there is no need to worry about clothing as the Japanese are really quite modest themselves!

Differences:

Transportation:

We have all heard about the mayhem which is the Tokyo underground. With their map offering little to no reassurance, you really should add on an extra half an hour to your journey as the “helpful” map is a language of its own! It may be a little hectic at first, but unlike Dubai, public transport in Japan can get you anywhere you need to go for much less than a cab charge. Just remember that all services stop running at midnight, which isn’t too much of a problem when all the shops close by 10pm anyway!

Tokyo Transportation Network
Tokyo Transportation Network

Pay before you eat anything!

Have you ever walked through supermarket and started sipping on a bottle of water you just selected from the fridge before you have reached the register? Well if you do as Maysm did and tried this stunt in Japan then you would be in for quite a shock as our attendant freaked out when we passed her the bottle of water we were drinking!

Being adventurous with food – Maybe not

Now, when we are travelling to exotic and foreign lands, we always strive to try new and weird delicacies with the motto “Well if I don’t like it, I’ll just throw it away!”. Not in Japan. There is a distinct lack of garbage cans ANYWHERE which means if you don’t like what you have just purchased, you are stuck with it till you get back to your hotel!

Why’s that? – ‘You can’t find a rubbish bin in Japan because of a religious cult that killed 13 and injured 5,500 while trying to install a messianic yoga instructor as the new Emperor of Japan.Full story here.

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See those little ones on the side? Yeah. That’s all you get.

Be quiet

The Japanese people are extremely polite, but they are also VERY quiet. To the point where speaking loudly on the metro or trains is not allowed and even your phone in these areas MUST remain on silent. image4

Selfie sticks

With the era of the selfie stick in full bloom, you may be tempted to slip in a shameless selfie with you and your friends whilst at one of Japan’s theme parks. This wouldn’t be a wise move as selfie sticks are completely banned with signs dominating the parks, looks like you will have to do it the old fashioned way and ask someone nicely!

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Travel in the right direction

Japan is one busy place, we all know that. So when moving with a large crowd or up an escalator, make sure you keep to the left to allow enough space for people to overtake you!

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Queuing

Just like in England you will queue for everything, there seems to be a line for just about anything you can imagine having to wait for. So if in doubt, join the back or make your own line, just to be polite!

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Be on time

Things in Japan run like clockwork. Literally. A lot of Asian countries might be known for being laid back and “late for everything” but Japan is different. It could be said that they are ahead of time and if you walk into a restaurant with a 7pm reservation, they will not greet you or seat you a minute before!

We’ve all watched this video, right?

 

Language barrier

Unless you are fluent in Japanese then you are bound to encounter a huge language barrier as not many people speak English. It’s best to be prepared with a few common phrases, a translator app like Google Translate and also, keep the name and address of your hotel written in Japanese on a piece of paper. Picking up a business card from the front desk to show taxi drivers and locals is another great tip!

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Source: Young Japanese desire English Report

ATM’s

For a country so forward thinking and highly developed in all areas of technology, there is a distinct lack of ATM machines that will accept foreign cards. So, to avoid a sticky situation, always keep some extra cash on you until you can find an ATM which will accept your card!

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Your best bet.

Tap water

Japan’s tap water is 100% safe to drink, really!

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These are pretty much everywhere.

Tipping

If you are coming from a country where tipping is mandatory or just seen as polite; then leave your guilty conscious at home because contrary to Japan being an extremely polite country, tipping is considered VERY rude! Servers are paid a good living wage unlike those working in places like the US so if they owe you a single yen in change, wait and receive it.

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Japanese people are so wonderfully friendly and polite, even though you could probably get away with a certain level of “mistakes” because you are a tourist, it is always much nicer if you follow the simple tips above to begin with.

~ The Shapsogh Sisters

Understand that NO marketing campaign is geared towards you

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In today’s economy everyone is looking for the best deals and the best ways to save a dollar or two. Marketers have honed in on this demand and supplied an ample amount of “solutions” to help you save a dollar, at least in your own mind. However, if you observe and calculate the costs of these marketing ploys (for that is what they are) you will realize that your dollars are being taken from you. Understanding how these marketing schemes work is the first step in making money work for you and not you for working for money.

The Savings scheme

Consumers are looking for a deal. If something can be offered at a discount, rarely do they take the time to read the fine print or even analyze the practicality of the offer. For example: Wal-Mart recently posted an ad that said .10 off of every gallon when you purchase 3 cokes for $4.50*. Now when you looked at the * you find that there is a limitation that you only can use the discount up to 15 gallons. So this is not a deal. Here is why:

.10 times 15 = $1.50

If you have to buy 3 cokes for a total of $4.50 then you actually pay $3.50 for your “savings”. Even if you drink usually buy a coke the price difference does not add up. Most vending machines offer coke for about $1.00 to $1.25, so you still end up paying.

The bottom line is that you are always going to pay.

The pay for shipping scheme

Another common financial scheme is to lower prices and have you just pay for shipping or offer free shipping for a product. This is where things get a little tricky. You need to take note of where the product is being shipped from. In most cases, you are paying more than what it would cost to buy directly from the manufacturer. How is this so?

The rate of exchange (which we will cover in another blog) is a big cash cow for many online commerce sites. For example: If the U.S. Dollar is worth about 3.67 AED  and it costs 1000 AED to manufacture and another 100 AED to ship, then the equivalent would be $275 US dollars. However, you will not pay that amount. You will pay $500 US dollars with free shipping. See how this works?

1000 +100= 1100

$500 converted = 1835 AED. They make a profit of 735 AED.

The Warehouse Price Scheme

I find it somewhat comical that there is a great draw to the “buy at warehouse prices” scheme. For one, anyone consciences of their finances should ask “whose warehouse is it?” A warehouse price just means that you are paying the same price that someone else paid to buy in bulk and sell it to you (before their mark up to you). Warehouse does not mean manufacturing price. What it does mean is that you will probably spend your money on a bulk item that is either defective or that will not sell easily in the market. Consider, if I have a highly profitable item that is in high demand, would I reduce the price and offer it to competitors or would I increase the sales price to yield a higher profit? Common sense would say that you would raise the price.

So what marketing is catered to consumer?

None, and that is the point. Do not be drawn in by the gimmicks of marketing with the premise of saving your money. Your best bet in investments is to seek local businesses when possible. Smaller businesses are ideal as they have to compete against the major corporations and therefore will offer a more competitive rate in order to stay in business. If you have to buy a product in bulk (for example if you are an Ecommerce store which offers products from other vendors) do a bit of research to see where the product is shipping from. You may come out cheaper buying directly from the manufacturer, especially if you can point out the excessive exchange markup.

Money makes the world go round. We have to use it to live, but at the same time we do not have to become a slave to it. It was once written “All things may be available to me but not everything is profitable for me”. This is very true when it comes to finances and in investments. You may have many options, but not everything which is offered is going to help you make or save money. Understanding how to invest your money from the ground level up to the higher ended investments and portfolios will make money work for you, not you for money.

~ Sondos Shapsogh

Earn Money On The Go With ‘Task Spotting’

unnamedEarning money through the internet has grown to a very popular extent, which forced a lot of people on leaving their jobs and stay at the convenience of their homes making a very handsome amount of money on the internet. Freelancing is a new concept for several people and it is even useful for the people who intend to have some extra cash while still being affiliated with an organization on a full-time basis.

However, there are some clause that keep several people from jumping into freelancing. Firstly, you need a Desktop or a Laptop computer, which in several cases people dislike carrying around since everything can be dealt with using the smartphone. Secondly, you need expertise in a certain field, for example, you would either have to be a writer, a programmer, virtual assistant etc. If these two points have been keeping you from making extra cash, then you have landed yourself into the right place. Thanks to technology and some genius people who invented the concept of “Task Spotting”.

How to become a Task Spotter?

Task spotting is a concept that marked its origin from the UAE, the basic idea behind task spotting is that you just simply have to download an application that is available on both the major app stores, namely, the Apple Store and Google Play. After downloading and installing the application on your smartphone, you will be required to complete your profile by entering your date of birth and some very common information about yourself, that is, you have just stepped into the arena for Task Spotting.

How does Task Spotting Work?

After building up your profile on the application you would be required to input your location, you can either pick missions/tasks from your current location or you can choose between the missions that are irrespective of the location. The tasks are very simple and they can be easily completed, without the use of any technical knowledge or skills, which qualifies any person who has a smartphone and can use the application, no prior experience is required for making money using Task Spotting.

If you are lazy enough to pick a mission every time you travel around the country, you have still got a solution, the application on your smartphone is smart enough to check your current location and allow you to set a radius around your current location in which it can sniff missions within that radius. So basically, whenever there is a new task within the preset radius, you will be automatically informed through a notification on your smartphone.

How will you get Paid?

With task spotting, you are never limited with choices. The application allows you to link your PayPal account with the application and you can transfer your funds to your PayPal account with the help of a touch. However, you are not just limited to your PayPal account, you can also get paid in hard cash by visiting one of the 130 payout points across the UAE. Task Spotting also lets you donate your money to the charity that you are supporting, and that is too directly done from your smartphone application.

~ Sondos Shapsogh

A Muslims Journey to Japan

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Before departing on our trip to Japan where Maysm was attending a conference in Yokohama, we had very few expectations of the country we would be visiting. All we expected was to witness first hand the Japanese’s love for technology, their innovative inventions and their overly polite nature. Our only real concern was regarding food. Being  Muslims, we were curious as to how we would find the food options available to us, but we thought, it’s only for ten days, if we have to give up meat and go vegetarian, it’s not the end of the world! We soon came to realize that it wouldn’t be that easy. We happen to dislike seafood and with sushi bars dominating the streets of Japan and their need to include some sort of seafood in every vegetarian dish, we were hitting some unexpected obstacles. An even bigger problem revealed itself when we couldn’t even grab a bowl of chips because they would have been fried in pork fat.

The language barrier only exasperated the issue. There was so much variation on the words alcohol and pork that even if we were told a dish was free from both, it probably wasn’t. This problem persisted until we discovered an app that would make things a whole lot easier; HalalNavi. The app contained a whole bunch of restaurants and would show which dishes were free from pork products and also present alternative options.

The app managed to magic up other wonders like directing us to a Turkish Halal restaurant which turned out to be a Circassian restaurant! With such a small minority of Circassians in the world, we couldn’t believe we found one in Tokyo of all places!

Even though we only stayed for ten days, we couldn’t get over how polite everyone was. At first we were slightly dubious about how genuine their kindness was until we took the Metro one evening to get back to our hotel in Yokohama. A rather intoxicated Japanese gentleman was sat next to my husband and proceeded to what I can only imagine was to use my husband as a human pillow. Gently pushing the sleepy intoxicated man off, he suddenly regains consciousness. Oh no! I thought, please don’t turn into a fight! On the contrary; the man couldn’t be more apologetic for his actions. Wow. Now these are genuinely nice people!

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The sweet people of Japan.
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Kafkas Restaurant | Tokyo, Japan

Over our ten days in Japan we only encountered two other women wearing Hijabs. With less than 1% of Japanese residents being Muslim, this was not a common sight. As we walked down the street we would get the feeling we were being stared at, only to turn around and for that person to look away quickly. On that note, at no point did we ever feel isolated or threatened by these stares. They were looks of pure curiosity, nothing more.

After accidentally stumbling across a festival in Tokyo we were confronted with a lot of curious locals. They would point at our Hijabs and mutter a question in Japanese. I can only imagine they were asking us a question or maybe paying us a compliment. A word we got rather used to was Kawaii, meaning cute in Japanese.

Even though we had a few obstacles with finding suitable restaurants; We loved our time in Japan and even though there is only a small population of practicing Muslims, we were greeted with only curious and polite looks from the locals (a few requested to have photos with us!) and a ton of great memories from our short trip to this fast paced land.

Tokyo, Japan | 15 May 2015
Sanja Matsuri Festival | Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan | 15 May 2015

اضغط هنا لقراءة القصة بالعربية

~ Sondos Shapsogh