March 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
I have just finished four different posts across different social mediums.
And am just beginning to ask myself… why do I seem compelled to write in so many differing channels?
March 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’m pondering on returning to Japan for a short trip. ‘Maybe flights will be cheaper now?’ I naively assumed. And after some research…
United doesn’t fly to Japan as a destination alone, but as a stopover to the States.
And oddly, when I did a further search, no longer registers any stopovers in Japan.
They must be very frightened. Or my search techniques are severely lacking.
Cathay Pacific is $610.60 for a 9hr 35min flight, but arrival at night.
If I want to arrive in the afternoon, it includes a stopover in Hong Kong.
China Airlines is $712.20 for a 18hr 22min flight (!!) with stopover in China. (Nooooooo!!!)
ANA is $1132.22 for a 7hr 15min flight but only 4 seats remaining.
So many people traveling back??
JAL is $1150.05 for a 6hr 55min flight.
SIA is $1449.60 for a 6hr 45min flight, arrival in the morning.
Looks like flights aren’t as cheap as I thought they would be.
I wonder why?
Doing some further research for Mother (who has yet to get a data plan after a week being in Japan), I chanced upon this very useful blog (click above image for link). Although it features temporary plans for the visitor (helpful for me), it also contains several nuggets of information for the long-term resident using an iPhone/iPad.
Now the problem is, how in the world do I explain all that to my 62 year old mom?
I sent the pertinent details to her anyway and am hoping the nice chap she meets at the Apple store will be able to do a better job than I can. She’ll be venturing forth into town tomorrow, and one of the to-dos is yes… get a data plan. I gotta admire Mother though. She’s probably the most techie woman in the elderly town of Atami right now.
I remember a taxi-driver I once met there, who proudly told me that he didn’t have a mobile phone, didn’t use the internet and basically stayed away from all things digital because they were for the younger generation. Odd then, that prior to the earthquakes, the elderly care home (where Obachan resides) was shifting to HD cables & television sets for all their occupants.
I wonder if they’d have noticed the difference, seeing how so many need their glasses & hearing aids.
I mean, today, on Skype, we were hollering at our laptops, trying to communicate with my 92-year old grandmother… when she suddenly remembered that she hadn’t put her hearing aids in. Nice. And all the while, I thought it was because of the Skype upgrade I recently installed. Although I have to say… after the upgrade, my video & audio connection seemed to suffer more lag than usual.
Okay. Enough rambling. Now back to research.
This time – music for work.
March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
Today was the first day in many years that we didn’t speak with each other.
You were always there, seated at the dining table in the mornings. You were there when we traveled to work together. And even through the weeks when I was working so hard I knew neither day nor night, your presence was always felt. You never failed to send me a text message or email, asking if I was having dinner at home or staying back at work late. Back then, I thought you were just ‘checking’, like all mothers do. Now I know, it was your simple way of reaching out to me, without being intrusive.
I still have to resist turning my head towards your desk, when I walk into the office. And for a split second this morning, I thought I heard you in the dining room… that’s how deeply ingrained you’ve been in my life. I’m not sure how many other daughters get the chance to live and work with their mothers. Some might scoff and shudder with that very thought, and if they do, I wish I could lend you to them to show just how sweet and rich a mother’s presence can be in a child’s life.
And we all are someone’s child, aren’t we?
Today, I sat in the office during my lunch break, wanting to be alone for a bit… when a scene flashed across my mind.
I was about three years old, seated on our old kitchen table, reading a book that you gave to me. It was a favourite of mine, I think, because you read it to me every single day. And on that particular day, I was proudly reading back each word to you… the sense of accomplishment thrilled me.
‘Mommy! Mommy! See… I’m reading all by myself! Are you listening?’ I remember saying as you busied yourself with the cooking. I didn’t know then the mental struggle you were going through because Father had left the family. Neither could I even begin to understand how much pain you felt each time you had to leave me with the babysitter’s when you went to work.
All I can remember is that you turned around, looked me in the eyes, and smiled.
‘I’m listening.’ You said.
And you were telling the truth. You never did stop listening, even when years later, as a teenager, I refused to hear you out. I would rant, shout my frustrations, cry because I thought no one understood me… and still, you listened. It came to a point where I didn’t want to talk anymore and determinedly shut the world – and you – out of my life.
Yet you waited, your ear inclined to me.
I sought the comfort I once knew with you, from my friends and other worldly fillers, but there were no replacements. The harder I searched, the lonelier I felt. That’s when I opened the door to my heart… and found you there.
There was no repayment that needed to be made. You picked up right where we left off, as though my wandering years didn’t happen.
And like the child who sat on the kitchen table, who read back the words you once read to me… I began listening to you as your stories unfolded, because mommy dearest… the seeds you planted in me were never lost.
‘You are my mother’
And though we are many miles apart, I just wanted to let you know…
I am so proud of you, and what you’re doing over there in Japan. I’m always here for you – whenever, wherever – so please don’t ever think you’re intruding or that I’m too busy. Because no matter what happens on my side of the earth, no matter how chaotic my hours might be, as long as you ask me, ‘Are you listening?’ My answer will be consistent, just like yours always was.
We will get our perfect endings, not because you’re a perfect mom or me, the perfect daughter… far from it. It’s simply because we know the Dream Maker wrote our story. And well, He likes happy endings.
Love you so much,
March 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
Here’s an interesting story for today.
Written by Jake Adelstein from The Daily Beast, it reminded me that there is no real true ‘bad’ or ‘good’ person out there. People make choices. But what they do doesn’t define who they are. They are still human and very much a comrade in times of extreme adversity.
In a singular, defining moment, a person can switch from doing what we deem ‘wrong’ to something ‘morally worthy’. Does that then change who they are?
‘What separates you from a murderer or thief?’ I was once asked. ‘Can you say that there’s not a single part of you that is able to do great evil? And at the same time… great good?’
It stems then from the deepest place where all choices are made.
Who or what holds your heart?
“There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.”
– a yakuza member
The worst of times sometimes brings out the best in people, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japanese mafia, the yakuza.
Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, opening their offices to those stranded in Tokyo, and shipping food, water, and blankets to the devastated areas in two-ton trucks and whatever vehicles they could get moving.
The day after the earthquake the Inagawa-kai (the third largest organized crime group in Japan which was founded in 1948) sent twenty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper diapers, instant ramen, batteries, flashlights, drinks, and the essentials of daily life to the Tohoku region.
An executive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest crime group, even offered refuge to members of the foreign community — something unheard of in a still slightly xenophobic nation, especially amongst the right-wing yakuza.
The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the leadership of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the country to the public and been sending truckloads of supplies, but very quietly and without any fanfare.
The Inagawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has several “blocks” or regional groups. Between midnight on March 12th and the early morning of March 13th, the Inagawa-kai Tokyo block carried 50 tons of supplies to Hitachinaka City Hall (Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture) and dropped them off, careful not to mention their yakuza affiliation so that the donations weren’t rejected. This was the beginning of their humanitarian efforts. Supplies included cup ramen, bean sprouts, paper diapers, tea and drinking water. The drive from Tokyo took them twelve hours. They went through back roads to get there. The Kanagawa Block of the Inagawa-kai, has sent 70 trucks to the Ibaraki and Fukushima areas to drop off supplies in areas with high radiations levels. They didn’t keep track of how many tons of supplies they moved. The Inagawa-kai as a whole has moved over 100 tons of supplies to the Tohoku region. They have been going into radiated areas without any protection or potassium iodide.
The Yamaguchi-gumi member I spoke with said simply, “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be associated with us and we’d hate to have our donations rejected out of hand.”
– excerpt from article by Jake Adelstein
While I don’t agree with what the yakuza has done in the past, I applaud them for the way they stepped in when no one else could.
To read the full article, head here.
March 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Been staring at this blank, white empty space for a long time.
I feel much. But my mind is like this void, which I don’t know what to fill with.
Breathe. Normal again.
And the cycle repeats itself.
‘How have you been?’ the Amazonian texted me just two days ago.
‘Well, I discovered something new today.’
‘Which is?’ she asked.
‘It’s very difficult to brush your teeth and cry at the same time…’ I replied.
‘Shit. I felt that,’ the Amazonian texted back.
‘How are you?’ the Sister asked me.
‘Aside from breaking down at weird moments for no apparent reason? And being a total emotional-ass? Pretty good,’ I replied.
‘Me too… darn it! I’m starting again,’ she said.
‘Hope your mom is good and well,’ the Visitor texted me.
‘She’s good…’ I answered, and began detailing her travel plans, before ending it with, ‘I miss mom.’
‘Even after all these years, I still miss my mom,’ the Visitor said, explaining that his mother had passed on years ago… and this time… I felt it…
Reminding me that we both are our mother’s children… and what we miss most about them, their strengths and unique abilities, are what we’ll find surfacing in our lives, over and over again. Truth is, they aren’t ever that far away from us.
‘I’m doing my best to encourage myself,’ Mother wrote to me. ‘I was having a conversation with Obachan and to tell me something, she took me from the north pole to the south pole, to Timbuktu and Iceland… and I got lost somewhere. I miss living with you all.’
And all this while, I thought Mother was doing fine without us. Little did I know…
‘Did you cry?’ I asked her during our skype conversation today.
‘Yes… on the plane. I did.’
And from that point onwards, we could barely make out what the other was saying amid the sniffles and shaky voices.
Standing there during the service, it was hard to raise my hands. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. No. I was afraid that if I allowed the words to enter my heart, to sing with abandon like I usually do, I would crumble. I didn’t need to let anyone else see how messy my insides were.
‘But you understand, don’t you?’ I asked the Dream Maker. ‘I mean no disrespect.’
‘Yeah, I do,’ He said. I felt His hand gently hold mine that were tightly clasped together. The love almost made me start crying.
‘I’m losing it!’ I whispered to Him through gritted teeth.
‘Right,’ I heard Him laugh softly.
‘What did the Big Boss say?’ the Mother asked later.
‘There was so much! Hold on…’ I grabbed my notebook and began reading out the lines I took down. Oddly, after letting the words pass through me again, I felt better.
‘Ahhh… I gotta go. Obachan got up and says she’s hungry. Tomorrow?’ Mother asked, Obachan’s voice beckoning in the background.
‘Tomorrow.’ I replied with a smile and shut down the connection.
‘I made you some lemon bread… and lemon bars,’ Kitty smiled a little bashfully.
‘Oh my… thank you so much,’ I replied. She knew that lemons were one of my favourite fruits. And I was always griping about how it’s hard to find the perfect lemon-y tart, cake, bread…
But it was more than a lemon-y thing that Kitty made. I felt her hug through the items she made.
‘I’m just glad they made you smile…’ she said.
Then there was the newly-wed couple who were just there. Knowing, and ready to be, well… there for me.
Spike who didn’t want to ask too much, but who wanted to show he too, understood.
Cutesy and JapGirl who took over my work while I was gone.
The Husband who sat by my side, quietly, patiently watching over me even when I wanted to be alone.
The little boy who climbed onto my lap and cried with me.
The little girl who held my hand, committed to being there for me.
Signs of love written on the wind. They were every where I turned.
I am not alone.
‘Well, at least this shows things are getting better. CNN/BBC etc are all reporting on other news now, like robbers and politics,’ a fellow Japanese twitter-er posted. He was of course, referring to the deluge of Japan-related news that dominated the headlines of every news agency the past week.
And all I can say is, I am likewise doing better.
I know it because the blank space that imprisoned me for the past few days isn’t quite so blank anymore.
Life is interesting again.
Thank you dear friends for just being there.
For sharing your stories.
Those few minutes helped. More than you probably knew it.
And the Dream Maker? He never stopped reaching out to hold me.
March 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
15 minutes late for work, I got off the train at my usual station and joined the mob rushing towards the escalators. I had just turned my head to check my card, when a shadow at the corner of my eye made me look up.
Swish, swish, swish… He was a cleaner I hadn’t seen before.
Swish, swish, swish… Elderly, hunched and quietly doing his job, I’m not sure why but I was entranced by his lone figure.
A few minutes later, the crowd was gone but I was still standing there, hidden by the station’s signboard, watching him. My mouth was filled with words, but I was afraid to give them voice. My intellect didn’t quite know what to make of my heart’s odd behaviour.
I walked away.
Just as I reached the lift lobby, another cleaner walked past. He had a hole in his throat.
‘Throat cancer,’ the Mother said to me. ‘And because of the operation, he now has to breathe through that hole.’
‘How does he speak?’ I asked.
‘He doesn’t… well, not the way you and I do. He had to learn how to articulate through that hole.’
Walking through the corridor towards my desk, I passed by Crazy. She was a video editor that I worked regularly with.
‘Morning!’ I chirped but was completely ignored. Something’s not right…
I saw JapGirl and immediately asked her if she’d noticed anything about Crazy.
‘She’s going through something, but I’m not sure what,’ she replied with a sad smile. I understood that look. Crazy was one of JapGirl’s best friends.
‘Should we say something? Do something?’ I asked.
‘I’m not sure. It looks like she wants to be left alone.’
So I left her alone.
‘I am so sorry I’m late!’ the Dancer exclaimed as we sat down at our favourite eatery for lunch. ‘Things were just mad at work and I couldn’t get away.’
She was an hour late but it was fine with me. I had work to finish too, and truthfully, I was a tad reluctant to leave the office.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ I smiled as we tucked into our beef goulash. ‘So how have you been?’
And it all came pouring out – her problems with a team that she’d worked with for years, a horrid misunderstanding still unresolved, the sleepless nights that left her tired, the frustrations with her inability to dance because of her injury…
‘i just don’t know what to do!’ she wailed.
‘Then you’re in a safe place,’ I said. ‘You’re an accomplished woman. You’re famous because of what you’ve done in the past… I mean, come on! I can google you! How many people can I do a google search for information on credentials and history? But now, you find yourself in places where you can’t be strong… and while I know it’s frustrating, maybe this time, it’s about the journey, not the end-goal. Can I ask… what was your deepest desire when you first came in to church?’
‘I once asked myself that,’ she slowly stirred her cold soup, ‘And I had no answer. So I took a pen and began to draw. For reasons I didn’t understand then, I found myself drawing trees. Big, strong trees. One after another, till they became a huge forest. And then I got it. I wanted to grow people, to see them become strong trees, to help others who can’t do whatever it is they want to do.’
‘What do you think you’re learning, from all these things that are happening around you?’ I pressed in a little more.
‘I’m not sure… I just feel so out of control.’
‘Maybe that’s what you’re supposed to be learning,’ I smiled. ‘To let go. To not be in control but to let another greater power work through you instead.’
‘I think you’re right. I’ve never felt this way before…’ she said. Then with a loud wail, ‘But noooooo… it’s so difficult!’
We laughed and then I had to run. I was 30 minutes late for my next appointment.
Back-to-back meetings and coping with a shoot that was scheduled at the last minute, the day passed by and before I knew it, it was 8pm. With a sigh of relief, I packed my things and turned off the lights. Walking out, I passed by Crazy again but she looked no better from the morning.
‘Love you…’ I texted her but hours later, hadn’t received a reply.
Hurting people with untold stories. When do you leave them alone and when do you intrude into their world?
See the woman on the train, the man driving the cab you’re riding in, the guy seated at the bus-stop, the colleague beside you… there are hurting people everywhere.
‘Is there a reason why I was placed in this precise spot on earth?’ I asked the Dream Maker. We were watching the non-existent stars in our night sky.
‘What do you think?’ He asked.
‘I think there is. But how do I help anyone?’
‘But how?’ I wrinkled my brow.
‘Smile. Look at them in the eyes. Let the love be genuine. Sometimes, that’s enough for the day.’ He said.
‘That’s enough?’ I didn’t get it.
‘Build it daily, one brick at a time. You’ll know what to do when the time comes…’
‘Easy for you to say,’ I laughed, chucking Him on the head. ‘You’re God!’
‘And you’re Mine. What makes you think you won’t know otherwise?’
This time, I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts.
– Hebrews 10:16 (MSG)