5 for ’12

Dear Friends,

Just one more day to a fabulous new year. (Can you believe it?). The other day I taught my holy hotness of a student, S, and our topic was “Setting Resolutions.”  He told me that he didn’t see the point in resolutions; “Why don’t we just do the things we should?” “Why do we need a list?” Good questions from S, but I strongly feel that setting goals/writing a list helps one stay on track. (Can I just tell you all that Holy Hotness ended the lesson commenting on my legs, so all in all it was a good night).

In numerology the number five symbolizes divine energy, new beginnings, and creativity, so here are my five for ’12:

1) Exercise This isn’t an original resolution, I know that. It’s probably topping most people’s lists and rightly, it should. 2012 is the year to get healthy inside and out (after New Year’s Eve and the first week of January of course). Tonight, it’s gonna go down like LD did it the other night:

After Jan 8th, goodbye pizza in bed, multiple cans of Red Bull a day, sake/whiskey combos, and lack of sleep. It’s gonna be yoga, detoxing with my friend A, fresh fruit-eating, at least six hours of sleep, and biking to work. My friend J‘s taking me to a bike shop in the next two weeks, and we’ll find a nice bike and helmet. He’s also promised to ride to work with me, not only to show me the way, but to prove how easy it is to navigate Tokyo’s traffic.

2) Paying Karmic Debts- In my last post, I noted Bob Marley’s encouragement for us to love one another (“What’s wrong with loving one another?”). Folks, I’ve placed my feet firmly in the Love Movement, and I’m so happy to see that so many are with me. The responses on FB and by email are really wonderful. The Love Movement isn’t about romantic love; it’s about kindness, creating positive energy, empathy, and trying to right past wrongs. The Love Movement isn’t a big, hippy orgy, it’s about being love; however, if you want to hug me at any time, feel free. Who could say it better? That’s right:

3) Resolving My Crush- Let’s speak about romantic love for a second though. Months ago, I had two crushes, now I have only one. I tried to squash it, but it’s not working and I’ve been encouraged to confess. Though I absolutely don’t want to say anything at all, because a) it’ll be awkward b) it could go horribly wrong and c) I’m nervous and feel ridiculous, I think I will soon. (Stop pressuring me!– you know who you are). Don’t ask me about it, because I may not do it

4) Keeping in Touch- I’ve already bought stationery and intend to make good use of it. A good friend just sent me a great letter, and it made me so happy to receive it. One hundred emails can’t take the place of a letter in the mailbox. Fifty emails can’t take the place of a card; so, it’s letter writing time for me. I also resolve to answer emails in a more timely fashion, call my nephews more, and let people know that I’m thinking of them. I told my friend Tlee the other day that I love her and she expressed shock. She said, “What? You never use that word– ever.” Well, I’m going to reach out more and let you all know that I love you.

5) Start Giving Back-  “For to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” Luke 12:48

My friends, we’re blessed. Of course life’s crappy sometimes, but that’s a part of the journey. It’s repeatedly said that it’s the journey and not the destination that’s important. How true. We have much to do, much to be thankful for… so let’s start. Happy New Year!!

“What’s Wrong With Loving One Another?”

Ye are the sheep of my pasture, so verily, thou shall be very well. – Bob Marley (So Jah Seh)

Dear Friends,

All has been well. Life has been good… has been great… more than well. The days have been filled with good friends, food, drink, merriment and life’s unexpected gifts. Actually, everything just mentioned are the gifts. “Puss and dog can get together, what’s wrong with loving one another?” Love is a gift.

A gift: I signed up to work on all the holidays, because I figured if I were here in Tokyo anyway why not make some extra cash. (We get paid overtime rates for working on the holidays). The other night when I came home from a pretty long day, I was hungry, dragging and not at all in the mood to eat anything I had in the cupboard.

My housemate R gives me the gift of his spirit, his outlook on life and his enthusiasm; but that night, he gave me the gift of a home-cooked meal. He made me dinner… and it was good! (A nice spicy bowl of deliciousness).

A gift: A few days ago my co-worker B introduced my tastebuds to an orgasmic experience. You’re going to scoff and say that there’s no way a burger can be so divine, but the hamburgers at Brozers are heaven. B tells me that there are even better burgers in Tokyo (one that costs $20 somewhere in Omote-Sando), but I don’t believe it. He took me to Brozers in Ningyocho twice after work, and they were closed. For some insane reason, they close at 9pm. So, we decided to head there for lunch on a free day, and folks it was well worth the wait. We ordered two burgers and split them (a bacon cheese burger and an avocado burger), and I’m thinking we should’ve ordered three. The beef was medium, juicy, packed between freshly-baked brioche bread, and served with slightly seasoned fries and pickles. One word- yum.

* The burger was bigger than my head, and y’all know I have a big head.

* I dug into the fries before the picture was taken… did I mention that it was also lightly coated in bbq sauce and mayonnaise? My god, the memory.

A gift: On Christmas Eve, four of my housemates and I bumrushed R‘s room and watched Love Actually. My friend Viajera dislikes Love Actually and actually wrote that in one of her blog posts, but it’s my favorite Christmas movie. If you haven’t seen it, why the hell not? It pertains to different kinds of love (some situations realized, and others unrealized), friendship and lasting relationships (all to a fantastic soundtrack). Love is the message, the carrier’s are gorgeous and funny and sweet. Friends, let’s make the remainder of this year and next year and all of them after that about love. “We don’t need no more trouble, what we need is love” – Bob Marley (No More Trouble).

A gift: On Christmas Day, I came home at 7p.m., and the house was already packed with guests.  There were about thirty-five people here, all festive, happy and full of high spirits. Literally and figuratively. My housemates and I had asked our friends to bring an inexpensive gift (maximum 1000 yen) for a gift exchange.

There were gifts galore, some people had bought two. We played musical gifts (just like musical chairs), drank a fair amount of alcohol (considering most of us were working the next day), and thoroughly enjoyed our Borderless House vibe.

* Our Santas

 * This guy is amazing… he knew every lyric to MJ’s Thriller… even “Baby Be Mine” (my favorite).

* It’s not easy being Santa…

Gifts: Family/old friends/new friends/shelter/employment/food/health/moderate temperatures in winter/the internet/music/youtube/flowers/chocolate/the moon/countless blessings/my friend Armin’s surprise package/ my winter clothes arriving just in time/daily confrontations with beauty/love/love/love.



“Yes mi fren,” an “All in one” Christmas

Dear Friends,

There isn’t  a medley created that could better encapsulate/capture/comprehend every mood/aspect/facet of my December like Bob Marley’s “All in One.” The All in One medley includes: Bend Down Low, Nice Time, One Love, Simmer Down, It Hurts to be Alone, Lonesome Feeling, Love and Affection, Put It On, and  Duppy Conqueror.

Bend Down LowBend down low, let me tell you what I know.

My last student tonight, Noriyuki, was such a wonderful, vibrant man, that I had to introduce the word “energetic” into his level 1 vocabulary. He practically jumped after every utterance, and even my two Red Bulls weren’t enough to keep up with the energy that belied his years. Not once did I look at my watch, or daydream, or fantasize about anything (shoes/men/french fries). Toward the end of class, he asked me where I was from and what I was doing for the holidays. I told him I was from New York, via Kingston, and then I drew him a map because he thought Jamaica was in South America. As a new arrivant to Tokyo, it didn’t make sense to me to go home for the holidays; the plane ticket, plus the airfare, and the requisite gifts would’ve been an expense that just didn’t seem logical. However next year, my Christmas season will be filled with warm beach days, rum-soaked fruit cake, crimson sorrel liberally laced with rum, all night movie marathons in bed with my mother, parties with friends, lazy afternoons, and ackee and saltfish breakfasts on my mother’s terrace.

Nice TimeLong time we no have no nice time, do you think about that?

It’s been almost three weeks since our last Borderless House party. The last party we had at the house had me so done in, and uncharacteristically embarrassed by my behavior, that no alcohol has passed my lips since. However, my housemates and I decided that it just wouldn’t do to let Christmas day slip by uncelebrated. Un-tequilaed, un-beered, un-saked.

My housemate Yuki has said to me that “Life is short, so just enjoy it and don’t think about small things.” She’s not only sweet, but so right. Let the past be in the past. Three sentences ago, I was embarrassed by my behavior three weeks ago; now, I am no longer.

One LoveOne love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.

My Japanese housemates will be in the house as it’s New Year’s and not Christmas that’s a big deal in Tokyo, and my fellow American, Smith, is sticking around too. I’ve been informed that Christmas is huge for lovers (kinda like the Japanese Valentine’s Day), and it’s also a big shopping and “Sales” day. Though, I’d like to know, which day in Tokyo isn’t big for shopping? (The stores are always overcrowded and people use money like toilet paper). For Christmas, we’ve invited about fifteen to eighteen people and planned a potluck dinner/games/drinks/all-around debauchery and  a promise from me that I won’t molest anyone.

Simmer DownSimmer down, you’re licking too hard.

I don’t have too much to say, but I was simmering and stewing over a situation that I can’t control and upon my deathbed in 100 years won’t be a big deal at all. Okay, I’ll tell you: That same damned attraction to a guy that I’m trying my hardest to not like/to avoid/to resist. Futile. To reiterate, “Zinsei wa mizikai”– “Life is short,” I’m just gonna live/love.

Love and AffectionThis one’s called true love and affection.

Every day in Tokyo is a good day. Two days ago my friend Todd sent me an email asking me why I like Tokyo so much. I’m not even sure if I’ve answered him yet; and if I haven’t, I’ll copy and paste the reason that I’ll write here. I’ve visited and had passing fancies with quite a few cities, but Tokyo’s the total package. Some places have great food, some have great people, others have great tourist sites and cultural events; some have great parks, history and fabulous fashion, some have hot men and nice clubs, Tokyo has it all and more. It’s a city’s city. The only real problem that I have with Tokyo is that the trains stop running way too early.

Japanese cuisine has always been one of my favorites, but I never realized how limited my choices were/ how much I was missing out on. Looking back, I see how criminal it is that many Japanese restaurants in NY only offer sushi, sashimi and tempura. (C’mon!) Japanese customer service is  a whole new level of outstanding/polite; some of my expat compatriots get annoyed or frustrated by it. As a Jamaican and a New Yorker, it surprises and thrills me, and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve never been to a store, or a bank, or any customer-oriented place where I wasn’t immediately greeted upon entering. Every time. When one leaves any store, the employees thank you for frequenting their store, even if nothing’s purchased. I worked in retail for enough years to know that in NY, we’d not only actively avoid the customers, but roll our eyes if they entered too close to closing time, or break time, or almost anytime. The point is, I don’t care if the attitudes portrayed here are perceived as “fake” or not, I appreciate it…. love it. Let’s not even get into a discussion about the hotness in men/clothes/overall “style,” that’s for another day, but as I’ve told my mother I’m unsure of how any future city will compare, since no past city can compare. I understand why I’ve met so many people who’ve come here for a year or two and have been here for a decade or more (that’d be my entire workplace actually).

Duppy ConquerorYes mi friend, we deh a street again.

Friends, we’re here– less than five days to Christmas. With or without family nearby, we’re going to create that “family feeling.” We’re going to be kind to each other, like we should be all-year round; we’re going to show “love and affection;” we’re going to eat and drink ’til our “bellies full;” we’re going to remember those who aren’t with us, because they’re separated by distance and remember those whom we still love and are no longer with us. I’ll raise my glass to all of that.

And the sums from whence the parts came:



As a Child

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. –  1 Corinthians 13:11

1) This has been a quiet week. It took seven whole days to recover from last Sunday’s house party. I can’t even think about any form of alcohol touching my lips at the moment; everytime I think about drinking I feel a bit nauseous. Oh, last Monday was not a day to remember, as much as Sunday night was a night to remember. Not only are the memories of my hangover lingering, but photos have popped up of a very inebriated, and therefore “affectionate” V sitting on the laps of my housemates and others.  Remembering only seventy-five percent of the night disturbs me a little, so no drinks for me until our Christmas house party. (Then it’s on).

a) I went to an izakaya in Shibuya with M, J, and R a few nights ago and only drank milk (in case you don’t remember what an izakaya is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya).  When I ordered my first glass of milk, the waiter repeated it three times, “Milka?” He asked it once in amusement, once in surprise, once in pity. (At least it wasn’t cranberry juice). We had a grand time at the hole in the wall in Shibuya; we ordered two four cheese pizzas, oysters, fried shrimp salad, a plate of sausages, and fish and chips (fries here are amazing).

b) One of my days off was spent entirely in bed, undercover (and under covers, with the heat on 75 degrees), eating a personal-sized, jalapeno and anchovy-topped pizza, watching The Biggest Loser. The day was so wrong and at the same time, ridiculously right. After inhaling my pizza, I fell into a carb-induced coma, and didn’t reawaken until 6p.m. (I should be ashamed, but I’m not). Shame arose when I tried to get rid of the pizza box in secret and my housemate RT saw me with it. “Pizza again, Valerie?” he asked with a tone that I’ll classify as disbelief mixed with unbelief.

I should mention here that my housemates never eat, only drink, and have recently placed a scale in the living room. Yes, a  pink scale is in the living room beside the couch. I should also mention that the men in my house weigh less than most of my female friends everywhere. I don’t know if all Japanese men are weight conscious, so I won’t make a sweeping generalization, but my housemates surely are. Let’s get back to the pizza, why should I be ashamed to eat the most perfect food: bread, cheese, and tomato sauce? Pizza has been nothing but good to me, and I shall remain faithful to it.

2) When I was 14, I ate a medium, Dominos, cheese pizza everyday for a week. Alone. Towards the end of the week, I ran out of money and paid the delivery man entirely in coins. Ten dollars in coins. I don’t have to tell you that he wasn’t very pleased, and warned me to “never do it again.”  When I ran out of my allowance and all the coins in the jar in my mother’s closet, I grew desperate. I needed ten dollars to feed my pizza a day habit,  but my mother refused to shell out anymore cash for pizza. So, I did what any feening, pizza addict would do, I decided to make my own pizza from scratch. How hard could it be, right? Wrong. I got out the flour, water and tomato sauce, and started slapping the dough like I’d seen the guys in the pizzeria do it. I kneaded for a maximum of three minutes, then I threw it into the air. It never came down (there may still be pizza dough on that ceiling in Long Island). My mother gave me ten dollars that night.

3) I’m a woman who hasn’t put away childish things. Not even a little. (I’m not ashamed).

Sunday Night: Friends and Takoyaki

Hi Friends,

Two days ago, my father sent me an email which began, “I hope this email finds you sober.” To hear him tell it, I’m a hardcore partier, something which couldn’t be further from the truth. His email cracked me up, and I had to share it, because I don’t drink much… well, not all that much….well, not everyday.

However, last night my housemates and I had a get together at our house, where we invited some great people to come to our Borderless House.  For  four hours we imbibed grand sake, wine and beer, and ate takoyaki and chicken nabe. I must tell you all that I have vowed not to drink on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights anymore, because waking up for work the next morning is just too difficult and it’s really hard to teach with waves of tiredness washing over me. Not to mention, I also don’t understand why I woke up in someone else’s sweater, as well as my sweater, my dress and my tights.  I must say that partying in one’s own house is great; at the end of the night one simply crawls into bed.

Some pics:

*Takoyaki being gently nudged by chopsticks.


* Playing Wii… at least I think that’s what they were playing.

Flashing the peace sign is the most popular way to pose for photos in Tokyo.

 * See what I mean…

* Chicken nabe in the pot, a huge dried squid on the plate.

* Holding Yebisu, Asahi Dry and Asahi Clear… Japanese beers represent!

* These guys are way too cute… can’t wait to see them at 40.

And here they are again; the direction: “Look intelligent!”

* Clearly, the ladies look more intelligent… not that it’s a competition or anything (but isn’t everything?).

* The direction: “Look hip hop!”

Round 2

Round 3

*Yi, a godsend.

When our guests left, Yi made a large plate of fries, which was the best possible thing she could’ve done. The best advice my brother ever gave me.


e was “To avoid a hangover, eat greasy foods.” Amen.



“It’s Getting Frosty,” but “I Hear Music In the Streets”

We keep the wall between us as we go. – Robert Frost (Mending Wall)

Hi Friends,

For the last two days, it has been rainy and cold in Tokyo. However, this morning I walked to work in the rain, grinning like a fat cat, singing “Borderline,” followed by Fulton Street,” then “Victim.” I paused in my tracks for a second, wondering why in hell I was feeling so euphoric, despite the settling chill. When the temperature drops below sixty and the sun’s nowhere to be found, my mood is usually in the toilet. And there I was, on a blustery day, singing on the way to work. To work! What the hell? I wondered if I’d finally gone over the edge into such a state that the only thing that could happen was a sudden and unhappy crash. Then, I got a grip on myself and continued to sing. Why not enjoy a moment for as long as it lasts?

My fear of fleeting happiness wasn’t unfounded. It seems in the past that when I have been deliriously, giddily happy, it was often followed by a period of sadness. Maybe I should rephrase that and say that it was hard for me to hold onto joy… largely because I was unable to bring down the many walls that I’d erected around me over the years. There is an art in appearing to be open and revealing nothing, an art I perfected. Let me tell you that in conversations, deflection is key.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall (…) –
Robert Frost (Mending Wall)

It always seemed the only way to protect myself from being emotionally crushed/devastated was to not let anyone get too close. There were people, who refused to let me push them away, but for almost every close friend or lover I had (the lovers were few), I rejected them when I felt we’d reached our peak of closeness. I’m still not quite sure why up until now I haven’t laid on a strange man’s couch (a professional that is). I systematically, subconsciously, made myself miserable. Things couldn’t be too good; bliss couldn’t be trusted.

Thankfully, many of my friendships were able to recover my temporary insanities. I’ve asked my friends how they would know if I ever truly “lost it,” as many of my past actions have pointed to the road of crazy. They assure me they’d be able to assess my level of crazy and tell the doctors to let me have the bed with the view. Somehow, I feel this note is repaying one small karmic debt.

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour. –
Robert Frost (Nothing Gold Can Stay)

Life is fleeting, but for as long as we’re here, our happiness doesn’t need to be. I can trust my feeling of contentment and hold it close; I won’t dim my joy to make others who want to be miserable and complain feel better.  Sustainable happiness can be achieved by adhering to the spiritual laws laid out so clearly and concisely by the gurus; the messages I’m holding close to my heart are: Don Miguel Ruiz’s “Don’t take anything personally” (from The Four Agreements),  Deepak Chopra’s “This moment is as it should be, because the entire universe is as it should be” (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success) and the Bible’s encouragement to “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18).

Only good things friends, only good things.

Ciao for now,




Letter from Tokyo: “The Waking”… “I Know What Time It Is”

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
–  Theodore Roethke (The Waking)

Hi Friends,

I just woke up with a huge smile on my face. Today’s not only my day off, but my first day off in the first pay cycle where my fellow orientation members and I have received a full paycheck (the last check we received was for a five-day period). We were all suffering and broke, but not one person to whom I spoke regretted the decision of moving their lives to Tokyo. Some of us came with more cash, and were thus a tad less miserable; some of us borrowed from family; and, some of us ate ramen every day for the last three weeks (and even the ramen eaters were thankful to be here). No more ramen this week! (We’re unbroken!).

I’m meeting up with my orientation classmates tonight to celebrate our elevation from poverty (we’re kinda like the Jeffersons… without Florence), but first there are so many things to do in the day (go to the bank, head to the supermarket to buy something to eat with my Wonder bread– probably butter (if I’m feeling generous with myself– cheese), buy some lotion for my ashy elbows, etc..

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I want to start feeling more and thinking less. My problem has always been overthinking, overanalyzing, and not simply being in a moment. I was talking to my coworker B two days ago about my attraction to two younger guys and asked him what I should do, and he said “You’re really overthinking this. That’s a problem with women.” He’s right. Being attracted to, and possibly hanging out, with younger guys (and not even that much younger) doesn’t require as much contemplation as I’ve devoted to it. It’s not a big deal, especially since we’re all grown. My  favorite cliché is “Life is short,” so why forget that? Starting today, it’s going to be about live live living, and encouraging my entire being to   “dance from ear to ear.”

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Life is good, isn’t it? Another thing I’ve said before, which I’ll reiterate, is that living in a shared house brings with it  an immediate group of people to hang with/watch tv with (albeit bad Japanese shows)/talk to ’til the wee hours/and party with. In my Borderless dwelling, we’re all on the same page (well, except one housemate, who’s extremely reserved). My housemates have planned a party for this Sunday, which in essence without labeling it “party” is something we do every weekend: food, snacks, alcoholic beverages, and a bit of giddiness. The party will be a nabe party; I’ve been told that nabe is a large pot of beef, rice, onions, and other things thrown in. (I didn’t pay attention fully, as I won’t be a part of the preparation– just the consumption).

My housemate RT asked me last night why I seem so happy. He said that it wasn’t natural that someone who’d uprooted their whole life would have no sadness or yearning for home. I’ve been here for less than three months, and thus am planted in the Honeymoon Stage, but even after the three months are up what would I yearn for? My friends are scattered around the globe, my parents are in Jamaica, Skype allows me to speak to everyone who’s also on Skype, there are enough English speakers around to not have a language deficit, everyone here is so polite (!) and there is absolutely nothing in NY that’s not in Tokyo (except snow). There’s nothing wanting or missing… life is full. Wait, that’s a lie– I need some black haircare products (I’d go to NY to pick up some Organix leave-in conditioner and fly back).

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

I know nothing. The older I get the more I realize that I know nothing, and it’s starting to appear that no one else does either. It just doesn’t make sense; it would seem the older one got the more answers one would have, but it seems there are just more questions. I’ve been listening to Kool Moe Dee non-stop for the past two days, and his question “Do you know what time it is?” has been reverberating in my ears/head/mind. What time is it?– not the hour, but in the other sense? He knows what time it is, but what time is it for me? Time to explore/create/be joyful/be bold/”be”/paint the broad strokes and not just the details/write some letters/again- time to live live live. What time is it for you?

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Adrenaline flows through me. The shakiness I feel is the best possible kind; the uncertainty that comes from being open to whatever life presents and the anticipation of what’s waiting for me. I can only “learn by going where I have to go,” so I’m going to get dressed and face this Happy Thursday.