Category Archives: People (Unreal life)

“Just Like a Woman”: Let’s Support Each Other

Dear Friends,

It’s incredible how much is happening with a few of my girls around the globe. They’re so incredible that I wanted to share two stories with you all. Maybe you’re out there doing your thing too, or looking to start something, or looking for some fantastic woman to be motivated by, so let me introduce you to Merci and Taryn:

Merci: No one loves traveling or Jamaica more than Merci. No one. She lives in NY, but visits Jamaica so much that people think she lives there. She may even have a post office box, who knows? Every chance she gets she’s on Jet Blue to Norman Manley International Airport; and then, she tortures the rest of us in colder climates with tales of steamed fish and bammy, or escoveitch, dips in the cold rivers of St. Thomas, sticky mango juice dripping from her fingers, the trials of sand in her bathing suit or dinner at some outdoor restaurant.

She sent me an email the other day that really thrilled me, because she has now combined two of her greatest loves (travel and JA, in case you forgot) into a business. She’s giving package tours of the island: the fun places, the places all tourists want to see, the places that’ll make you want to stay in Jamaica and forget your 9-5.  I lifted this from her pdf (without the fabulous accompanying photos):

We’ve Got Jamaica’s Best Kept Secret!

4days/3nights Will Be the Time of Your Life

with *ECO R&R TOURS WITH MERCI*

 JOIN US AS WE TAKE AN ECO/R-N-R TRIP TO JAMAICA & EXPERIENCE THE NATURAL ESSENCE OF THE ISLAND!

 Next Flight Out …November 29th—December 2nd, 2012

 THESE TOURS WILL BE OFFERED ON A MONTHLY BASIS—PRICES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE

 Please Contact: Merci, Your Travel Consultant

World Time Travel & Tours * (877) 597-3466 Email: ecorrtourswithmerci@yahoo.com

Sights Include: Bath Fountain, Reggae Falls, Reach Falls, Boston beach/Jerk Center, Rafting on the Rio Grande, Somerset Falls, Winnifred Beach, Blue Lagoon, Frenchman’s Cove, & much more…

 Accommodations Include: 4days/3nights Hotel Stay DBL occupancy with Breakfast, Dinner available upon request (minimal cost), Selected Tours, Airport and Hotel Transfer.

Tokyo’s flippity-flopping between warmth and cold, and God knows, if I wasn’t twenty hours away, (and richer), I’d go to the land of wood and water for a little break. A break from nothing exactly, but steamed fish, steamed bammy, and a Red Stripe always does a body good.

Oh Jamaica… now, time for some parrot fish.

Taryn: Taryn has been encouraging and inspiring women for years, first in NY, then in Los Angeles, and now in Berlin. She has been in Berlin for a few years now conducting yoga classes, and most recently workshops, which stretch not only the body, but the spirit. Years ago, a few female friends, Taryn included, and I created a group, which we called The Circle. Each week, we’d set goals that we wanted to fulfill in all aspects of our lives, and hold each other and ourselves accountable for our spirituality, work goals, and general life groups. At the time, she and another member were distant members (NY and D.C), which proved to us that distance was inconsequential when it came to helping another, building relationships, and “being there” for someone. The group served its purpose (and then some), as we grew in many ways over the course of two years. We haven’t kept up with The Circle, but Taryn has gone a step beyond by developing empowerment workshops that aim to strengthen women in every way. Check out her site when you get a minute: http://tarynhughes.com/www.tarynhughes.com/Home.html.

The exciting part: Just this week, Taryn sent us an email telling us that she has created a yoga dvd. In her words, “It’s a 7 video series of YOGA FOR CAREER WOMEN: Complete wellness package. In the end, I am happy with the results, as I think it offers career women and busy mom’s a realistic way to fit yoga into their everyday lives.  That was my goal.  There are short and long practices, which are complimented by a guided foot massage, anti-stress mediation, office yoga and “yoga chocolate” so you can skip your afternoon fix.”

If you’d like to see more information about the video, please click the link:www.udemy.com/tarynhughes. Amazing, isn’t it?

I’ve said it before, but you know I love to repeat myself, so I’ll say it again– this life has been a blessing; to encounter, and know, and love the people that I have (whether still in contact or not) has been a gift.

Love,

Val

Chiaroscuro 5:

There’s a black and white photograph on the floor:

The woman’s moving in it. She’s beautiful. (Wonder if she knew that then.) She’s young. Maybe 30, maybe 35. (Can’t tell.) She’s earnest. She has an afro that’s not perfectly round or picked out. She has smooth milky-chocolate skin. Kohl rims her eyes. Unlike the girls in the background, she wears her own lashes. Unlike the girls in the background, the hair on her head isn’t a wig. Her nose is round, an in-between shape. Her lips are full and glossed peach.

She’s singing in the frame. Oh, yes dear. Her large orb earrings swing with her movements. She’s swaying from right to left. She’s saying a little prayer with her heart. At work I just take me some time, and all through my coffee break time, I’m saying a little prayer for you; oh, yes, I am.

She’s roundish. Unlike the girls in the background, she’s wearing a loose dress. Maybe, she has another life with her. Maybe, there are more than perfect notes in the pit of her soul.

She’s young here. She knows little, only what she has known. (We know more, don’t we?)

The Apt: Small and Sweet

Hi Friends,

Today’s an exciting day! The other day DS asked me how my move was going, and I confessed that I’d been so busy with work that I hadn’t packed, moved anything into the new place, or even bought a futon. When I waited for the gas man two days ago, it was on the comfort of the hardwood floor. (I managed to fall asleep, so I can sleep on anything.) Point is: DS heard what must’ve sounded like a cry for help, and offered to not only take me to Nittori (a home furnishings store) in Minami-Sunimachi, but to help me move in. We did it all this morning and afternoon. (Mind you, when he came over, nothing was packed.) He told me I’m a very lucky person. So true! (Forgive my over exclamation mark usage, I’m thrilled/psyched/happy).

My Moving Savior didn’t want me to take photos of him, but check these out:

* The shower and toilet are separate.* The shoe closet.

That’s it. It’s 22 square meters of bliss. (First get together, next Saturday.)

See you soon,

Val

p.s Nothing to do with this post, but I’m hooked on this song, after only one day:

An Interlude: Life’s a Musical Thing

In music, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. – Alan Watts

Dear Friends,

This evening, I met up with R in Ginza to belatedly celebrate his birthday. For those of you who don’t know or remember, R is my fellow American and incredibly awesome housemate from Borderless House. He’s a friend in whose company life becomes “more”: more special, calmer, brighter, and just all-around better.

He led the way to the restaurant in Ginza, Isola Blu, a comfortable, yet spartan in decor, three-floor, Italian restaurant on a quiet side street. We arrived before the dinner rush (if they have a dinner rush), and for almost two hours had almost the entire second floor to ourselves.

We ordered a Margherita pizza, a rich gnocchi, warm bread, and glasses of wine. The  creaminess of the cheese sauce on the gnocchi created such feelings of rapture in R that he closed his eyes after almost every bite.

For dessert, he ordered the Amaretti pudding, which, if our dining experience were a boxing match, kicked my Hazelnut and ricotta tart’s behind. Ridiculously smooth, amaretto-soaked, and heavenly.

* The delicious loser.

Over coffee, we continued to catch up. (It’s been a long time, since we’ve each seen other.) While on the subject of getting the most out of our everyday lives,  R introduced me to Alan Watts, a British philosopher (who has been blowing my mind from dinner until now. Three hours later, I’m still listening to his lectures on YouTube.) Before R and I parted, he reiterated that life’s a dance and encouraged my urge to wander Tokyo by bike.

Though a tad muggy, a slight breeze blew, so with Alan Watts in my ears, and a quiet mind, I danced across bridges and down alleyways. What a wonderful night.

Smile everyday, sing everyday, dance everyday.

We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end– success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven, after you’re dead. But, we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance, while the music was being played. – Alan Watts

Take care (and dance),

Val

Burning Rice Fields and Other Things

I know you’ve come a long way baby, but you don’t need that heart of stone. You proved that you can do it baby, you can make it on your own. But, you can’t keep running away from love, ’cause the first one let you down. – Shalamar (The Second Time Around)

Dear Friends,

1) It was my extreme pleasure to teach M again, so soon after I wrote about him in the previous post. (M‘s the student who told me about “catching purpose”). Whenever I’m supposed to teach M, quite the opposite happens and it winds up that he teaches me a multitude of practical lessons and life lessons.

Practical lesson:

* I go into the class with the text; I open to the appropriate page; I say, “Okay, let’s get started.” Then, he does his own thing, takes the marker, marches to the whiteboard, and starts teaching me a bit of Kanji. What am I to do? (I love it).

Life lesson #1: I asked M what he’s going to do when he retires in six years, and he confided that the plan is to go back to school, preferably UC Berkeley, to brush up on Physics. He majored in Physics at Kyoto University, but claims that there are many things he’s forgotten and he wants to know if there are any new developments. (I don’t even know what the old developments were in Physics.) His passion for learning at an advanced age, like so many of the retirees I’ve met, my mother among them, is truly inspiring. It’s never too late to do anything; no time for excuses.

Life lesson #2: He told me that after the rice harvest, the fields are burned, so that the soil will be ready for the next season. The fact that the fields are destroyed to make way for new beginnings struck me. Endings aren’t bad; after a flaming, fiery end, there’s regeneration, regrowth, rebirth. If a rice field can do it, why can’t I?

* Rice paddies viewed from my train window on the way to Hakone.

2) Sadly for me, but not necessarily for her, another of my classmates is leaving Tokyo. She’s on her way to hotter, more humid temperatures in Asia, and all who had the pleasure of spending time with S will miss her. She’s laid back, cool, and completely unassuming, all the things I’d like to be. (Soon.) On Saturday, we gathered at an izakaya near her school to bid her adieu, good luck, and crossed our fingers that she doesn’t like her new country of choice too much. It was my re-entry into the world of alcohol, and what a serious education it was.

 

3) I received this great message just today, “Remember to enjoy your wonderful city.  Twelve million people in Tokyo, so there should be lots of great people in your future!”

4) Speaking of love, you all know how I feel about my bike Lucy. Last week Tuesday, in the typhoon that hit Tokyo, Lucy was the only bike standing outside my school. She’s fortified.

* You’d think in the middle of a typhoon, I’d have better things to do than taking pictures.

Two nights ago, I was talking to a friend about the fact that I took my bike to the bike shop to get looked at for a few different reasons, and I felt how a parent probably feels when they take their kid to the pediatrician. He started laughing, and then asked, “You do know that your bike’s an inanimate object, right?”  Well yes, of course, but…. In other news, I’m soon to inherit another bike; it’ll be my “going to the supermarket and running errands” bike, because it has a basket. (I wonder if it’ll feel that I favor Lucy– like a stepsister kind of envy?)

5) We’re going to stop with five, because it’s the number for rebirth and this post is all about starting again. What could be better than a picture of steaming ramen noodles, friends who refuse to keep it clean (though I plead), and my favorite place in Ningyocho (after Brozer’s of course)?

See you soon,

Val

Soup

Soup: 1: a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food.

Dear Friends,

This post has a lot of liquid and a few things of substance. Life soup with the week’s events cut and diced.

1) Yesterday, my student M told me that at his alma mater, Kyoto University, students who major in Science fields have the option of staying in school anywhere from five to eight years. When I asked him why and how it’s possible to be an approved, perpetual student, he told me that the university is well-aware that “catching purpose” takes time. It’s clear to me, since I took that extended path of learning, for my undergraduate degree, that Kyoto University was where I should have gone. It’s also clear that for years I’ve been trying to “catch purpose,” and it’s proven as hard to grasp now as when I started reaching for it. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Chopra defines dharma (or “purpose in life”):

  •  Each of us is here to discover our higher self or our spiritual self. This is the first fulfillment of the Law of Dharma.
  •  The second component of the Law of Dharma is to express our unique talents.
  • The third component of the Law of Dharma is service to humanity– to serve your fellow human beings and to ask yourself the questions, “How can I help?”

2) Speaking of dharma, last night, on Skype, I caught up with Tan, a friend I’ve known forever and a day. It seems that she’s caught her purpose in life and it’s gold. As long as I’ve known her, she’s said that she’s wanted to help children. Years ago, she’d spoken of opening an orphanage, so it was no real surprise to me when she told me that she, her husband, and one or two others had founded a school in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The school, The Academy of Science, Technology, and the Arts (ASTA), which opens in September, plans to empower seventh and eight graders to think critically, in a non-traditional way. Their website states:

The academy is built around the principles of critical thinking and logical reasoning. The academy offers the traditional Caribbean secondary curriculum to students, utilizing traditional and non-traditional teaching techniques aided by technologically advanced tools and good practices.   Encouraging the use of critical thinking and logical reasoning, emphasis will be placed on the disciplines of Science, Technology and Arts and their practical use. Through interactive sessions, practical applications and utilizing a holistic approach ASTA aims to achieve academic excellence and produce well-rounded students who are mentally and emotionally prepared for international tertiary education and equipped with the necessary life skills for the real world.

I forgot to ask her if they’ll accept older students, because it’s increasingly clear that I have not been “equipped with the necessary life skills for the real world.” (Go T!)

3) Last week, a fabulous woman who I had the pleasure of interacting with at my old job in the States visited Tokyo. We happened across a free concert at a temple that was promoting energy conservation and general harmony. The surrounding areas of the temple were lit only by candlelight, and even the lights of Tokyo Tower were turned off for a few hours (happens only once a year).

She, as I have, fell in love with Tokyo and she asked me what my future intentions were in and for this great city. After a brief summary of my days, and what’s been going on, she advised me that to make life complete, it was necessary to get out there and date. Honestly, I hadn’t been pressed for a minute about dating, though in truth, a few months ago it was on my mind. (I’ve deleted the February post where I spoke of my crush– I wish life were as easily revised as this blog).

Emotional landscapes, they puzzle me. – Bjork

Dating’s never been an area in which I excelled, like say spelling, so I cringed when she suggested online dating.

* I went on one good date with this guy; and one evening, I’m sure I became his least favorite person in the world. 

I shared with her as I did with you all my woeful attempts at online dating with Match. com, and how I vowed never ever to online date again (See December posts). However, she said something I’ll never forget, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” I do recognize that failure is inevitable and that it doesn’t mean that I should stop trying. Though her words resonated with me, I didn’t sign up for the dating site until 2am two nights ago, and regretted it the very next morning when I received this message:

Hi M here , how are you i want to know you and see you soon, i am in tokyo working here . i live near tokyo tower in azabu east. i am alone want to meet you and make good friendship with you , waiting for your quick response if you have any skype or messenger please do share with me , or share your contact number so we can meet in a day or two. Plz reply. Can we have date soon . i love black beauty. i am also great at love you will like and love our meeting for long time.

I’ve also received normal messages, but it looks like I’m gonna soon have to hit up some of the cute guys that are checking out my profile and not sending messages. Honestly, I’m not cut out for online dating, when I went to check a message, and my profile showed that I was “Online,” some guy started messaging me and I promptly signed out. Hopefully, it’ll be worth it. (Giving it more than a week.)

4) Speaking of love, I went to Thong, a Thai Restaurant in Coredo Nihonbashi, last night with B and the waiter served us dessert in a heart-shaped bowl. (It’s also definitely time to have meals with guys who’re not romantically entangled, completely head over heels with other women or aren’t just friends.) My male friends here are beyond cool, but it’d be nice if the next time I see something heart-shaped, it induced something more than laughter.


* Sticky rice, mango, and coconut milk.

For our entrée, we shared Tom Yum Talay (spicy) soup.

Sayonara,
Val

Fantastic Asakusa

Dear Friends,

On March 21, my friends and I formulated a list of twelve things we had to do while in Tokyo; among them, my three that have been completed thus far are: 1) Visit Tokyo Tower 3) Visit Sensoji in Asakusa and 4) Take a trip to an onsen in Hakone. Slow and steady wins the race. Tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, I’ll tackle number six: ride my bike to the Imperial Palace and tour the garden. For the complete list, please see the original post: http://lettersfromval.com/2012/03/21/my-last-first/.

I visited Asakusa today, three months after writing that list, due to a lucky encounter with N. It was my good fortune to teach her two weeks ago at a time when I was supposed to be teaching another group that couldn’t make it. It was her first day of re-starting English lessons, after a long absence, and her enthusiasm and love of language made the group come alive. As often happens, we were starting the food chapter, and after the lesson, N invited me to lunch and a tour of  her neighborhood of Asakusa. Of course, I jumped at the chance to be guided around Asakusa by someone who has lived there for more years than I’ve been alive. N, whom I’ve already dubbed my Japanese mother, (she sounded exactly like my mother, “You can do anything, you’re clever, etc., etc.), treated me to a really special day. Visiting Asakusa on my own, while leafing through a Frommer’s guidebook, just would not have filled me up (literally and figuratively) the way this day has. Let’s look at Asakusa, starting with… you guessed it–food.

1) N took me to one of her favorite Italian restaurants, because she wasn’t sure if I was a fan of Japanese food. Very often my students express surprise when I tell that I’m a huge fan of sushi, sashimi and wasabe. We lunched at Ristorante Giardino, that has an outdoor patio for dining, where we enjoyed one of the lunch set menus: an appetizer, two main dishes in perfect Japanese sizes, dessert and coffee.

*Prosciutto, potato cream soup with shaved pistachios,  grilled chicken in pesto, greens, and a small omelette. (Definitely Japanese inspired Italian).

*Spaghetti in tomato sauce with shrimp and green beans.

*Grilled fish.

* Chocolate cake, tiramisu, and coffee gelato. At the restaurant N taught me to say “I like cake” in Japanese, but it’s the coffee ice-cream that rocked my world, and I quickly changed my “I like cake” to “I love ice-cream.”

2) After our long lunch, N suggested that we tour Asakusa by rickshaw. She’d never ridden in one before, and I never even take taxis, so we were both hyped for the adventure. Our very lovely rickshaw guy (and by lovely I mean personality and (such) a cute face) carried us down multiple streets where I touched three silver statues of raccoons for good luck, beauty, and prosperity, saw the Japanese version of Robin Hood perched atop a building, and passed countless restaurants, shops and tourists. He went out of his way (it wasn’t a part of our package) to show us the amusement park, and then he carried on with the famous sites: the Buddhist school, the hall for comedy and magic, and the sidewalk with the impressions of celebrity hands. The weather in Tokyo, today, was warm, with a cloudless sky, and it was nice to feel the breeze on our faces as he made stops to point out various landmarks.

* Look up on the building, a robber who steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

* The Tokyo Sky Tree Tower, the tallest radio tower in the world, in the distance.

* For 19, 800 yen, you too can look like a geisha.

* Parting is such sweet sorrow. 

3) The Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo, has swarms of tourists year round. Though it was a Thursday afternoon, there were many  groups of schoolchildren, locals and foreigners from all over the world, some who wanted to pray, shake a good fortune out of a wooden box, and others who simply wished to marvel at the beauty of the temple, the gates, the shrine, and the surrounding grounds.

* Kaminarimon Gate

* The God of Wind

* Under the lantern is this image of a dragon guarding the gate.

  

* N showed me the right way to pray at the temple; first, wave the smoke towards you to rid yourself of darkness and negativity, then take a ladle filled to the brim,wash both hands, rinse your mouth (spit), then pour some water on the ground for the ancestors.

* After purifying oneself, it’s time to pray. For obvious reasons, I didn’t take photos before the shrine, but after I said my prayer, I did get a shot of the ceiling.

We descended the steps, and though we were less than ten steps away, we left the bustle and high energy of the temple behind, .

A few days ago, my daily inspiration from Brahma Kumaris was, “Great souls take advantage of every moment and every opportunity to give happiness to others through kindness in their thoughts.” On my journey through life, I’ve been blessed to meet some truly great souls, not just great but fantastic. Fantastic N, had not only kind thoughts, positive actions and a willingness to share her neighborhood and culture, which she holds dear, but she gave me the gift of her time.

Kaizen, Tying it Up, Last Night, and Supernovas

1) Yesterday, I taught Hiro K. Correction, I had a student named Hiro yesterday who taught me. At my language school, we’re told to follow “the method” closely, and to use the book which lays out the way a lesson should progress (in detail). It’s easy, and sometimes quite boring, so it’s the student that makes each forty minute session different. I’ve said it before, but for me it’s more about the overall experience than them simply learning to say some English expressions. I want them to have fun (and clearly, I want to enjoy myself too). We’re sometimes monitored (the rooms are rigged!), and I have been asked to rein in the “free conversation” a bit. However, it seems unnatural to me to open the text and just begin.

I’ve met some great people, exchanged email addresses with a few, Facebooked one or two (when I was on FB), and one (childless) older woman has been baking cakes and cookies for me. When I sent her an email that she really doesn’t need to give me treats, my friend B asked me if I thought about his needs when I sent that email. Truthfully, I never should’ve sent that message, to which she never responded. Two days ago, I sent an email to ask her about her welfare, and she promptly replied that she’s baking next week and will bring a cake to the school on May 24.

My last class of the evening, I met Hiro. He’s inspirational; started his own company in his twenties, retired in his thirties, got recruited to a large company in his forties, and now in his late fifties is the president of that company, which has a number of subsidiaries, to which he travels every month. One instructor passed by and said, “Oh, you have my favorite student.” Another came into the room, shook his hand, and told me that Hiro is the reason he’s pursuing his art. He makes you feel like you should be taking action… doing something.

Hiro told me to formulate a 3-month plan, a month plan, a ten-day plan, the essence of Kaizen. Plan, act, check progress, do it again. I’d never heard of kaizen before, and he looked at me as if I had three heads, and then started mapping it out for me. The basis of kaizen is constant improvement, both long and short-term. The goal is the mission, but each task, each day is also the mission. Every detail is important (i.e, in the mission of getting in shape, drinking a glass of water is as important as running a mile). In a role reversal, I started taking notes. Kaizen: Write what you want to accomplish, the things you need to do in the immediate future, then chart the progress. If things were realized toward accomplishing the goal, check them off. The unrealized tasks go back on the list and are worked on again. For more kaizen info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen

2) The universe works in conjunction. With Hiro’s lesson firmly implanted in my mind, my mother came along on Skype with the reinforcement of getting a plan, working towards something and reaping the reward of that action. We started talking about Jamaica and how I’d like to visit in October or November when fares are best. My mother told me that as much as she’d love to see me that I need to “tie up the money.” She told me not to come home, not to buy such an expensive ticket for a few days. Her words really hit home, because let’s face it I’m not financially secure. I make money, I spend money (not to mention that Tokyo’s as expensive as heck). God forbid an emergency arises. My philosophy has always been to enjoy life, life’s short. I’d espouse that I shouldn’t sit on a wad of cash when nothing’s promised. In four months, I spent the retirement plan I’d cashed out from my last job– one long vacation. Life’s for living, right? However, I see now that the future always arrives. It comes when you least expect it. So, I’m going to anticipate and plan for the future. While the yen is strong, the plan is to save for a few years and actually invest in my future. As my mother would and always does say, “Build a foundation.”

3) A part of investing in oneself is treasuring one’s time. Deciphering what’s valuable, what’s worth it. (It’s no accident that we use the same terminology for time and money, is it?). Let me tell you what happened last night, and how I know that I’ve turned over a leaf in my mind where I only do the things that will bring me some fulfillment. Last night, a friend and I rode from Kayabacho to Roppongi, which took us about an hour, because we got a little lost. No matter, it was a warm, slightly breezy night and the ride was enjoyable. We met up with another friend, and a friend of hers who was celebrating a birthday. It was Ladies Night in Roppongi, which means that in almost every bar we passed ladies drink free champagne and cocktails.

Twelve minutes in (after entering Vibrations– a basement spot), I assessed the situation and left. Maybe, five years ago, or even five months ago, it would’ve been a blast, but last night the scene was just so tired. What was the point? While everyone was drinking shots, I was drinking club soda, being cloaked in cigarette smoke from everyone around me, and not finding any redeeming feature about the situation.

On my way home, I texted my friend D, who I’d invited and didn’t make it. Here’s an excerpt of the exchange:

V: Haven’t been to Roppongi in a minute, and have quickly decided that I don’t care for it at all. Yikes.

D: I’m not gonna make it. Roppongi might finish me.

V: I left. On my bike trying to get home.

D: Yep. Happened to me recently. Walked home two hours.

V: Just not my scene anymore. What’s happened to us then?

D: Honest answer or feel good?

V: Aging?

D: Yes. Maturing. Becoming cynical.

V: So, why didn’t you tell me “Val, Roppongi’s a bad idea. Save yourself two hours?” I would’ve listened.

D: It’s much more effective if I let you touch the stove.

He’s right. I’m glad that I touched and left, didn’t linger in misery or annoyance as I would’ve done years ago. (Now, hours later, I’m curious about the feel good answer).

4) What happens when a star dies?

Throughout the life of a star, it burns up its fuel of hydrogen. As it hits rock bottom of hydrogen, sometimes, if it is large enough, it can fuse together other elements into heavier elements until finally, it cannot fuse together the final heaviest element anymore and the star dies.

Huge stars die out with a bang called a supernova.

We lose our stars, but we don’t forget them. We shouldn’t. That light, that shine, that specialness stays with us.

We love you Donna!

Prodigal Sons (A Beginning)

 The younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (Luke 15:13 ESV)

1) CJ‘s a Brit who’s lived in Japan for sixteen years. He’s a thirty-five year old father of three sons. He hates Japan, but loves it too. True ambivalence. I asked him why he doesn’t just go back to England, and he said that he can’t leave, because his ex-wife wouldn’t ever let him see his eldest son again. He informed me that Western men have no rights to their children once they divorce their Japanese wives. The men are foreigners, “gaijin;” the children, like their mothers, are Japanese.

CJ has had quite a history in Japan. He was imprisoned for practicing self-defense. He’s been stalked by an ex-cop turned mafioso, because the ex-cop thought he was cheating with his ex-wife. He was giving the ex-cop’s ex-wife private English lessons and the guy thought that a lot more than English grammar was going on. It must be his incredibly long lashes that made the cop irate. (I know I get jealous every time I see them). “What was going on CJ?”

He says nothing happened, but the cop couldn’t be convinced otherwise. He visited the ex-cop/ex-husband at his house one day to reason with him, but he wasn’t there. On his way home, a car pulled up to him, and told him not to worry anymore; the situation was “taken care of.” “Who were the men in the car?”  Unknown.

He wasn’t in love with his private student, but he did fall in love with a Japanese woman ten years his senior. She wasn’t interested in him. She thought he was too young. Maybe, she though he was too different. (I don’t know). He pursued her for five years, despite all her “Nos.” Maybe, despite her Japanese version of “Oh, hell no White boy.” He wouldn’t let up. She met another man, and was going to move to Hong Kong with him, but CJ sabotaged the other man. He got him fired, and the move to Hong Kong never happened. It seems horrible, but how could I not be impressed by the lengths he would go to for love. Love, obsession or passion? Whatever it was, he won. He’s now married to her, and they have two sons.

“Why are you in Tokyo CJ?”

“For the same reason everyone else is here. We’re all running away from something.”

“Are we?”

“Of course we are.”

It makes sense. Why move five thousand miles away from your family for a prolonged period? Why never go home? And when you go home, if you ever do, will it ever be the same again?

2) DL‘s a twenty-eight year old American who at first glance seems to be nothing more than a handsome playboy. He’s usually talking about some beautiful young woman who he has temporarily fallen in love with, had drinks with, partied with or turned from vegetarianism into a ravenous carnivore akin to Fred Flintstone. He changes women with his smile. He’s not charming and has called himself a jerk. He tells women, from the very first meeting, “I’ve just got to let you know, I’m an a-hole.” He said it to a good friend of mine, and still she found him magnetic. They all do. A mutual friend said to him recently, “I don’t know what it is about you and these women. I find you completely resistible.” It’s his spark. Some people are wet matches, and some people blaze the room every time.

He’s a divorced military man who claims to have built his house with his father. True or untrue? Undecided. He’s never been single, not even after his divorce, not even during his divorce. He told me the deal breaker, the end, was the mention of children. She wanted one, he didn’t. What did he do with his pain at the end of his marriage? Immerse himself in reading classics, Tucker Max’s blog, books on psychology and emotional intelligence, Norwegian Wood, alcohol, his university studies, Japanese everything: culture, food, women.

He’s been in Japan on and off for eight years and wants to leave. Maybe, he will leave one day, but Japan has a hold. For now, he’s improving his Japanese, and reading six books at once.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.   (Luke 15:20-24 ESV)

3) PO has lived in Tokyo for five years. He, also, hasn’t spoken to his father in five years. He longs to go home to Nigeria to see his brothers and sisters, to see his parents, to feel the sun on his head and eat his mother’s stew, but he and his father have an ongoing rift. He hasn’t forgiven his father for not allowing him to go to university in the United States. He took the SATs and got a high score, but he was told that he should stay at home and help out there. Go to school in Nigeria. So, he did the first thing that came to mind, borrowed some money and ran from home.

He worked as a cook in a restaurant in Roppongi for the first few months that he was here. He didn’t have enough money for a place or for food, so the restaurant owners let him eat and sleep there until he got on his feet. He learned Japanese at the restaurant. He told me that Tokyo’s simultaneously easy and hard for Black people. He said that we must be “small” here, fit in, not make too much noise. When I told PO that I’ve never had a hard time anywhere, he laughed and called me naive. (I am– thankfully). He says that Nigerians are maligned in Tokyo, so it was hard for him to get an apartment once he showed his passport. However, he loves Tokyo and wants to remain for a few more years; he loves the nightlife, the food, the friends he’s made. Yet, he wants to go home to Nigeria, not to live, but to hug his mother and be hugged by his father.

If I ruled the world, I’d free all my sons. I love ‘em love ‘em baby. – Nas (If I Ruled the World)

“If You Listen Carefully Now, You Will Hear”

This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

It’s a Bob Marley kind of morning. The snow’s pelting. Blustery. Cold. I’m in a foreign land. Went to work for 7:45 am. Bob could relate. “No sun will shine in my day today, the high yellow moon won’t come out to play.” A completely different morning from today would also be a Bob Marley kind of morning. If the sun was high in the sky, there was a humming breeze, a hammock was nearby, or a daybed under a tree, the low droning of insects and the sounds of birds calling to each other in my ear, that would be a Bob morning too. A Sunday in bed on an eighty-five degree day or a Wednesday morning on a thirty-four degree day. A song for every mood, every day.

Things are not the way they used to be, won’t tell no lie. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

I picked up my keys yesterday from the Sakura House offices. I can officially move into my new place in Suitengumae; it’s a shared house with seven private rooms, and it’s only fifteen minutes walking from my school (one stop on the Hanzomon line). However, the snow in Tokyo has halted my moving and my desire to do anything arduous. (Truth be told, I never have any desire to do anything that requires too much energy( ex., meet a friend in Shibuya for coffee when it’s snowing or raining).

As much as I’m anxious to be in my own living space, and won’t be far away, I’ll miss my housemates. They’ve shared so much non-materially, and since I’ve forgotten to replace things when I’ve run out, they’ve also shared quite a bit of goods: mainly, spaghetti, olive oil and toothpaste.

One and all got to face reality now. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

Last week, I signed up to work mornings. One can teach from 7:45am -8:25am for bonus pay. It seems many Japanese businessmen wish to cram forty to eighty minutes of English in before a twelve to thirteen hour workday. How I admire these men (I haven’t seen many women in the morning). The hardest part is waking up, since I’m Superman and mornings are Lex Luthor. (Am I super late in realizing that Lex Luthor sounds like Lucifer?). The reality that I had to face is that I like to shop more than I ever thought I did, and I also want to travel, thus need to save. The lessons have been rewarding for me, if not for the students, because each person has a story to tell. Somehow, we always get off topic, and I’ve learned about the Edo era in Japan, shoguns, spas in Hakonae and Hokkaido, how to fix a broken nose oneself, various Japanese foods that I still haven’t tried, and the bubble era in the eighties and nineties where people were spending thousands on business lunches. At the end of every lesson, I thank my students for teaching me something, and they often tell me they enjoyed themself. It’s the experience as much as the learning, isn’t it?

My mother sent me a timely email this morning about saving. She told me to follow the example of one of my father’s brothers who “overbanked.” He saved every penny, and though I could never in life be as stingy or withholding as my uncle, I will save. She advised:

OVERBANK!  my beloved daughter and learn the stock market so that you will be financially independent.

Now, that’s advice I can easily swallow and appreciate… heaven knows, it’s needed.

This could be the first trumpet. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

As everyone who knows me knows, I like to make public declarations. (Why do bloggers blog, even when no one cares? I’m not quite sure). In the beginning of the year, my friend A encouraged me to join her on a month-long cleanse (fruits, vegetables, natural juices, etc). I joined her in the detoxification quest for two days… or maybe three, told myself that life should be lived in moderation, then overindulged in many things. However, I’ve been having stomach pains, and since the internet has always been my closest ally, I diagnosed myself on Web MD. Sadly, the advice was to detox– no gluten (I honestly don’t even know what gluten is), little sugar (if any at all), and little alcohol. Friends, what will I do? March will be the month of detoxification…

Though I know it’s impossible to go living through the past, won’t tell no lie. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

A Bob Marley kind of evening. I don’t smoke weed, but once in the hills of St. James I experienced a great high. I accompanied two friends to one of their cousins’ house far up in the hills. The air was crisp. There was a basic school on the corner. A small church down the street. Too many stars to count. We sat on the rastaman’s porch. You could hear the crickets calling each other. We wore t-shirts, and needed sweaters. The ras’ rolled one big spliff, and then another, and another. This wasn’t college, there was no sharing, no shared spit. Everyone got their own. All I needed was three or four clumsy, coughing puffs. Then, light. The night was brighter. Everything made sense. I wrote a book in my head that night, tried to write some of it down. Without the weed, that’s the clarity I yearn for.

If you listen carefully now, you will hear.